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March 11, 2009

Wesley Matthews

Jerel McNeal

Buzz Williams


Marquette 74
St. John's 45

COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS: I've never been here obviously so I wanted to make sure that I followed the appropriate protocol.
I thought we were much better this game than we have been in the previous four from a defensive perspective. Obviously when we're able to get consecutive stops we're able to score much better playing downhill than we are taking the ball out of net.
I think that the thing that was best for us and we spent a lot only it St. John's set 88 ball screens on us at Marquette when we played and yesterday against Georgetown they set 55 ball screens and so it was paramount for us to have a chance to win from a team defensive standpoint that we would have to guard their ball screens and then once the shot goes up, they were leading in conference play, they were averaging 37 rebounds a game. We had to block out and make sure we secured the defensive rebound in order to finish the possession. We were able to do that at a very efficient and high rate particularly in the first half. We shot 13 percent and then in the second half there were some breakdowns for us, not only on out-of-bounds plays but in half-court situations. In general we were much, much better defensively. We're not the same team when MARK roar recently to is not playing and that's the first time in a long time that he picked up two fouls that early. I thought that the guys, Cubillan was big for us. The last ten minutes of the half and all of the other guys were able to step up and play around him. We're thankful for the victory. And we know that we'll play the Coach of the Year, the most improved Player of the Year, the 6th man Player of the Year in the Big East tomorrow and the last time we played them they shot 73 percent in the last half that we played them, so we'll have our hands full.
JOHN PAQUETTE: Questions, please.

Q. Buzz, you stressed defense so much throughout the season; was the first half a perfect defense?
COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS: They scored three baskets so it was relatively close (laughter). We did a much, much better job. It's not that we haven't been working on it, I think that Dominic definitely changed us defensively because we're able to put so much pressure on the ball and keep the ball high on the floor and I think that each game Maurice has gotten better as have the rest of our guys because we're so deficient inside, we have to keep the ball on the floor and we were able to do that. They had 7 offensive rebounds in the first half but only one of them translated into a put back. That was less than a minute to go in the half.
Then other thing where we struggled over the last four games, we've been giving up an average of 19 and a half points in transition and for the game they only got 7 and so that definitely helps. That will be the story of tomorrow's game in regards to how many points we can give up or not give up in transition.

Q. What did this do for your psyche getting back in the left-hand side of the column?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: It feels good. We were never down on ourselves as a team with the four straight losses because I mean in three of them we were up. We had the lead in the second half. At Louisville we were within a MARK one possession game the whole time so we were never completely down, never completely out of it. We just kept fighting and working. The tide was going to turn, the ball was going to bounce our way and get that break. That's what we did tonight. We had two great practices focusing on defense and really showed it and it just feels good for the work to pay off.

Q. Does this game, is it an indication you've adjusted now to the loss of Dominic James both strategically and psychologically?
COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS: That's probably the best question I've had in a long time. I think it's probably something that you progress through possession by possession and I agree with Wes MARK not to stand up for one of our players, but I really don't feel -- I mean this genuinely -- we've lost the last four games but I don't think it's been because they weren't confident in what we were doing.
They were confident. We had won 23 games and were 12 and 2 up until that point and we do the same thing. It's Groundhog Day every day at practice. They know what we're doing.
I think that there is -- the result is the efficiency on both ends and I think we were much more efficient in our possessions defensively and offensively and I think that's continued to get better. We weren't getting whipped from start to finish in any of the previous four games but there were sections of those games where we weren't efficient on either end, and I think they've continued to get better each of those games and I think today we were much better overall from start to finish and so I hope that it continues to trend in that direction.

Q. What do the players think about that, about adjusting to the loss?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: Like coach said, it's a process and Maurice (Acker) is playing better every game. Even Jimmy has been playing well every game. We've got to make sure along with Lazar that we did the same thing that got us the 23 wins that we had. Like Coach said, putting together full, full possessions. We were never out of any game. We just got to make sure that we play a full 40 minutes and I think that's what we're going to adjust to.

Q. Buzz?
COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS: You want Jerel to talk? When you say players, Wes is going to talk so you got to say Jerel. He wants to know.
JEREL McNEAL: Okay. Going off of what Wes said, when you got somebody like Dominic who is such a vital part to our team as he is, it's hard to replace but like you said, Mo (Maurice Acker) has been doing a really good job stepping up, filling the role and he's been getting better each and every day in practice and with each and every game, just as far as the team standpoint, you can't make up a loss with somebody that's that important to your team, just one, two guys stepping up. Everybody got to step up.
COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS: The one thing I would say -- I'll let Todd, ask a question. It was partly Dominic in that he started 127 games and 127 games in prior to his injury, there were built-in decisions that we didn't ever have to talk about because they're built in. That's not just on offense, that's on defense.
And these are our two best players and because of their character, they wanted to absorb as much of Dominic's loss as they could, and as I've told both of those guys, I told Wes there the other day, I understand that they want to absorb it but when they try to become what Dominic was to us, then we lose what Wes and Jerel is to us. So they've got to go one step towards Dominic but they can't go nine steps towards Dominic because then we lose who Wes and Rel are on both ends of the floor.
When those built-in decisions those decisions now become the responsibility not just specifically to Mo but they become the responsibility of everybody and that includes me and that's why ten days -- when Dominic got hurt there were ten days left in the regular season. From a practice standpoint, all of us had to figure out from a responsibility perspective how we could shoulder more because it wasn't Dominic's points, he was field goal percentage. He was the worst player on our team. He wasn't shooting a lot from the free throw line but it was what he gave us. He created a lot of opportunities for these guys to score. His pressure created a lot of opportunities for us in transition.
So it's not all just Mo, it's not actually just Jerel or Wes, it's Buzz and the assistants and everybody. We've continued to get better and we've been accountable even though our record is 1 and 4.

Q. Coach, you talked about transition defense is a big key tomorrow. What do you see as some other keys with these two teams and talk about Jimmy Butler and his role on the team since James went down with the injury.
COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS: Jimmy has been outstanding, absolutely superb. He may be as smart as Jerel and Wes even though he's a sophomore. We put him in about as many different positions as we put Wes. His rebounding has continued to change us on both ends of the floor and, you know, a lot of his points he scores on offensive rebounds or he gets fouled. So any points he gives us is a bonus but he's gotten a lot better defensively. He's very intelligent on both sides of the ball.
For Villanova to answer that part of the question, we better get back in transition or they'll score 100 like they did the last time we played them and if they score 100, that probably means they're going to shoot a very high percentage which is why they shot 72 percent in the second half.
In the first half we were up 9 at the 8 minute media time out and we were guarding them and then it got completely away from us in the second half and we were out of character offensively but more so we were out of character defensively. I'm not sure how threes they made. I'm sure you can figure it out before you write your story. They absolutely whipped us, more so than any other team in our league.

Q. Jerel, going off kind of what Buzz was saying, obviously Villanova put that 72 percent shooting on your guys in the second half, especially you taking such pride in the defense; does that kind of fire you up to go play them again like when you saw the matchups for the Big East Tournament? Are you looking forward to the chance to play these guys again?
JEREL McNEAL: Yeah. I mean it's one of the things we talked about just throughout the course of the year. Coach called it out. He told me like almost toward the end of the season we were going to play them in the Big East Tournament, we get a shot at them. I think not only me but the entire time has been looking forward to it because, like he said, they put a pretty good beating on us there at their place, so we're looking forward just to getting back and compete and come out with a different mindset defensively and come out, try to impose our will on them defensively and see how everything else just plays out.

Q. For any of you, Coach and the players, what has it been like to have Dominic on the bench, what kind of things does he bring, you know, in his warm-ups that maybe help, bring to the team?
COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS: Go ahead, Wes. It was an open question. We'll let you answer it.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I've known "Nic" for a while, for the years I lived with him, rolled with him on the road. He's changed a lot and grown up a lot over these four years. If he would have had this injury his freshman or sophomore year, I don't know if he would have been the same person that he is but he's grown up and he's pushing for us and for this team so much and it helps out a lot because he could easily be on the sideline sulking, pouting being mad, but he's not worried about his situation. He still feels as much a part of this team as anything and our success is his success. That's how he feels.
Everything that he sees on the court, he has great vision on the court and off the court it's even better. He can really see what's going on and he tells us what he sees and we all trust him, you know, from his standpoint, from that standpoint and he's bringing a lot, you know, just being a part of it and keeping his head up and not worrying about his situation, staying in this moment where we're at right now.

Q. This is for buzz. Are there any coaching in training or physical preparation differences being that you might play four games in four days?
COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS: Probably. I think ideally you like to have your major players and then you probably have more alternatives. I'm trying to figure out who I can sub Rel (Jerel McNeal) for and it was Rob Frozena. Rob did a good job.
I don't think he turned it over -- he did a good job. Played four minutes and zeroes all the way across. With that being said, I think sometimes you know the question from our guy here, talking about Villanova, the real answer is this: We better beat St. John's or that's the end of it and so we beat St. John's and then over the next 24 hours -- I guess it's 21 hours now, we need to get our guys as best prepared physically and mentally for our next opponent and whoever it is, I don't know because I don't pay attention but whoever it is that we would play after Villanova, there's no need to talk about it because if we don't beat Villanova tomorrow you guys will be asking me why did you give up so many points in transition, why didn't you block out. Man, they shot the ball really well, it was a replay of Villanova at Villanova.
So, let's just make sure that we do it today and I don't mean that in condescending way but we're not a prophet and we're not smart enough to think we're going to beat St. John's.
St. John's won four out of their last six. St. John's played 12 games in the Garden. This was our first game in the Garden. We're grateful for the win and we'll get our guys something good to eat and got to figure out how to give ourselves a chance, not to ensure it, to give ourselves a chance to beat all those guys at Villanova, Coach of the Year, 6th Man of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, arguably the best guards in our league. They've got 8 major players and all have a distinct role on their team.

Q. Question for Wes. St. John's and this ten point first half, 3-22 from the floor. It's very different from who we who cover St. John's have seen.
You took a look at them live and you've also looked at them on tape. In what ways did St. John's look different to you tonight than they have in all of those other viewings of them?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I think it was just the fact that we took them out of what they wanted to do. St. John's, they're a hard playing team and they pride themselves on their intensity and their work and all that and that's the same thing we pride ourselves on.
When they played their hand and we played ours and we were just able to take them out of what they wanted to do. We were able to out-work them on both ends of the court and that's the story.
JOHN PAQUETTE: Marquette, thank you.

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