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March 19, 2009

Garrison Carr

Brian Gilmore

Jeff Jones

Derrick Mercer


Villanova – 80
American - 67

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by American University student-athletes and coach Jeff Jones. Coach, we'll ask you for an opening statement.
COACH JONES: I guess it's disappointing to lose a game in which our guys played so hard. You know, as coaches like to ask, leave everything out there on the court. I don't think there's any question that our guys left it all out there on the court.
Bottom line was I think Villanova just wore us down, and we weren't able down the stretch to keep pace. But, as I told these guys in the locker room, I'm just tremendously proud, not just of their effort tonight but of the season. And for these three seniors, and the other seniors that we have, just extremely proud of what they've done, what they've meant to the program. You know, it's going to hurt to see them go.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for the student-athletes, please.

Q. Brian, can you talk about after going up by 14 early in the second half, what slowly changed the game at that point.
BRIAN GILMORE: I think we knew that Villanova was gonna make a run, they were gonna pressure us and be more aggressive. I think, like coach said, they just slowly began to wear us down with the press, just hitting offensive rebounds. I think that's where they kind of hurt us, got some offensive rebounds, put-backs, got to the foul line, got the crowd started going behind 'em.
I think more than anything, they just wore us down.

Q. You've taken a program that never made the tournament before and you made it in back-to-back years. How does it feel to come out and play a game like this and put up such a game in Villanova?
GARRISON CARR: It definitely feels good, even though it didn't end the way we wanted it to. But I think for us to go to the tournament these last two years, in our last two years here at American, it just set the stage for the younger guys. And in the locker room I heard one of the coaches say that next year, I mean, we set the stage for them and they have to come in and hopefully do just as good as us.
But from our standpoint, it just feels good that we were able to get the program at this level.
DERRICK MERCER: I just think it's a blessing that we had the opportunity to come back here, you know, back to back. Great opportunity to play against teams at a high level. You know, like Garrison said, I think we set the stage for the younger guys. I'm pretty sure, you know, they gonna get theirselves ready to make a statement theirselves. Once again, I think we are pretty thankful and blessed to do this twice.
BRIAN GILMORE: Along with what those guys said, I mean, just continue to say we're thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to be here. Like Garrison said, obviously it didn't end the way we would have liked. But I'm really proud of this team and the other group of seniors that got us this far. There's something to be said for getting back here twice in two years. And that means a lot to us. I'm sure when we look back on it, a little bit of time after this we'll definitely think about what this special group's done.

Q. Derrick, can you talk about what you saw from Villanova, how they adjusted their defense in the second half, especially the press.
DERRICK MERCER: Uhm, in the second half they definitely were more in the paint, trying to stop our dribble-penetration. In the first half I think the lanes were more wide open for myself and Garrison and Brian to get in there and attack the lanes, go up with the big guys.
But I think in the second half, they brought more pressure, and they definitely clogged the lane up so those open lanes we saw in the first half, we didn't see it in the second half. I think that was one thing that they did in the second half to help win this game.

Q. Derrick, it's impossible to pinpoint one single thing that changes a game like that. From an outsiders perspective, seemed to be you had your way early on with Scottie. They put Fisher on you, it seemed to slow you down a little bit. What was the difference between the two of them?
DERRICK MERCER: Both players are great players, great guards. You know, I think Scottie defended me well. I also think Corey Fisher defended me well. Like I said, I just think they were more clogged in the lanes. They forced us to - myself - to kick out to the shooters, forcing me to go the other way, you know, get out of the lane. I think their main focus was just to keep me out of the lane. I think both guards, you know, tried their best and tried their hardest to keep me out of the lane in the second half. I would say they kind of achieved.

Q. Garrison, you seemed red hot in the first half from beyond the arc. Talk about how good you were feeling. Were you thinking about the upset? What was the difference in the second half with their defense on you?
GARRISON CARR: In the first half, I mean even in the second half, I was just getting open shots out of the offense, out of the flow of the game. My teammates were doing a great job of just setting the screens and penetrating in the lane and finding me when I was open. And I was just able to knock shots down.
I think in the second half, I don't think it changed that much really, my looks. But I just felt that Villanova was making such a run, from an outsider's perspective they might think that my opportunities were less.

Q. Brian, can you talk about Anderson and Cunningham and how powerful they were inside tonight.
BRIAN GILMORE: Yeah, I mean, those are two dynamic big guys in there. That was definitely part of our game plan, was to stop those guys. Cunningham, he's a special player. He battles with the best big guys in the country night in and night out in the Big East, and you can tell.
We tried to flex down when the ball was given to him in the post, give Jordan as much help as we could. To his respect, he made a lot of tough shots in there. That's tough to stop.
Anderson, he was making shots outside. That was something that we knew he was going to do. But he made a couple tough shots and got in there for some offensive rebounds and some put-backs. Both those guys are very athletic and they have a nose for the ball. When you have two athletic big guys like that, it's tough to stop.

Q. All three of you were in foul trouble the second half. Can you talk about how tough it was to have to watch some of the action from off the court.
GARRISON CARR: I mean, it was very tough being on the bench, but that was the situation that had to occur being as there was plenty of time left in the game with me trying to play aggressive D on their guards and penetrate, put pressure on me, possibly pick up a fifth foul.
But it was very difficult sitting over there, especially while they were making their run. You just feel helpless over there really. All you can do is cheer your teammates on. I mean, it was the right decision to do because I could have easily picked up a fifth foul with eight minutes to go in the game, and that would have been even worse for the team, I think.

Q. Derrick, when you were up 14 early in the second half, you know Villanova's résumé, know who they are, but did you feel at any point that you had them maybe on the ropes and things were going your way?
DERRICK MERCER: I would say we definitely knew that they was going to make a run, and we just had to be prepared and ready for that run. I don't think we let up at all. I think we definitely stick with it. Playing a team like Villanova, who is in the Big East, play against good teams, you never can let up on a team like Big East teams. I don't think we definitely thought we had them on the ropes. I think we definitely knew that they was going to make their run and we were just going to have to stick together and be together to make our run.

Q. It seemed like in the first half their focus was on Garrison. Could you talk a little bit about how that focus opened up some things for you?
BRIAN GILMORE: Any team we play is obviously going to focus on Garrison, being the quality of shooter he is. One of the best in the country. He's going to draw a lot of attention. That's what he did. He got hot. They were flying at him. They had two or three guys flying at 'em. He was able to make good passes out of the traps or however many defenders he drew, and I was able to get some open shots, open lanes to the basket. It's kind of been that way all season. He just really creates opportunities for other guys to score other guys to get in the lane because of how much attention he draws.
DERRICK MERCER: Just like Brian said, Garrison just draws a lot of attention and teams focus their defense towards Garrison. That helps Brian and me to just attack the lane and take good shots, feed the ball to Jordan Nichols and set him up for an open shot. I think in the first half, their focus was so much on Garrison it made it easier for Garrison to just feed the ball to Brian and myself. I think that definitely worked.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. We'll open it up for questions for Coach Jones.

Q. I hear clearly you're not about making excuses. This may be too close after the fact. If you can take yourself away from it, was this just too unfair for a No. 3 seed to have a home court like this?
COACH JONES: I mean, I don't really feel that way. I think the difference in the game -- I may have noticed the crowd two times. That was about it. Again, I think that Villanova just wore us down. I think it's as simple as that. Our guys ran out of gas. A lot of the questions that have been asked kind of assume certain things.
I don't think their focus was a whole lot different. Maybe they played with greater intensity, maybe a greater sense of urgency in the second half. But their defense, the way they played, was about the same. As we got tired, some of the shots didn't go. We still got some pretty good looks. You know, we were making some really nice plays. When they would rotate defensively, we were finding the open man in the first half. I think in the second half, the fatigue just really got to us.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't know that the crowd had really any bearing. I mean, if anything, the delay in us getting in here because of the hoard of Villanova media apparently, that was the biggest thing about being here in Philadelphia that I noticed.

Q. Since the 2nd Holy Cross game of the season, you talked about managing emotion. How did you try to manage the emotion tonight, especially up 10 going into the half?
COACH JONES: Just addressing the fact we played a very good 20 minutes, but we came to play 40 minutes. We certainly knew that Villanova was an excellent team and that they would regroup and come out and really try to attack us.
While it was certainly a positive to see us get a couple quick baskets and make some nice plays, you could see right from the start, Villanova was attacking. They were much more aggressive. And we were going to have to make plays. And ultimately we just couldn't do it for the entire second half.
I think from a defensive standpoint, the fact that they were scoring, I mean, you look at their shooting percentage, they were scoring, so that meant they were able to get into their pressure. I don't think their full court pressure bothered us that much from a turnover standpoint. We just had to face it every time. So that took more energy, I think, out of Derrick and Garrison in particular. Then they got after us at the halfcourt level. Eventually that took a toll, without question.
But the fact that they were scoring and then we were facing a set defense, that was the difference in their defense, it was because offensively they were being more efficient, they were putting the ball in the basket.

Q. Did the last five, six, seven minutes kind of remind you of what happened last year when Tennessee wore you down? If so, what can a program like this do to prevent something like that?
COACH JONES: Good question. It was similar in the sense that Tennessee a year ago, and Villanova tonight; they made the plays. It wasn't so much, I think, us faltering as them really stepping up.
This evening, you know, I think what Villanova did down the stretch - again, very smart - they pounded the ball inside. They had the three-point shooters outside. We tried to help as much as we could. But Cunningham is a really good player. You know, Jordan Nichols had his hands full, and he did about as good a job as we could have expected.
But they kept going inside. They kept getting to the free-throw line. We just didn't have an answer.

Q. Speaking of the free throws, they made 24 of 26 in the second half, whereas you guys only got to the line once with Garrison, and he didn't sink that. Can you talk about how free throws and fouls affected you down the stretch and why towards the end of the game in the last minute or two why you kept fouling?
COACH JONES: They did a good job on their offensive boards. They got the ball inside. They got to the free-throw line.
As far as why we kept fouling, we were trying to win the basketball game. We didn't come here to play 36 minutes. We didn't come here to play 38 minutes. As long as we had a chance, our guys were going to foul, I could care less whether the crowd liked it or not, our kids came to compete and they did exactly that. I'm proud of their effort.

Q. Given how far this program has come in the last two years, even going back to 2002, where do you go from here and how much higher can this program go?
COACH JONES: I think that's an interesting thing about athletics, an interesting thing about competition, is you don't necessarily know. But certainly this group of young men has allowed us to raise our sights and has motivated I think our program to set the bar even higher.
It's gonna be extremely difficult to replace these guys, for a lot of different reasons. But we're excited about the incoming recruiting class. We feel like we've got some young players in the program that are going to develop and come around.
It doesn't happen overnight. But I think that we understand what it takes and hopefully the new guys have kind of been handed the torch and they're going to take on that challenge and we can continue moving forward.

Q. Steve Lumpkins got a big chunk of playing time tonight. Do you see him as the future of the program?
COACH JONES: I think he has done an excellent job for us on any number of occasions. I was a little surprised. He only played 13 minutes tonight I believe. It seemed like he played more against that, in Holy Cross in the championship game I think he played 15 or 16 quality minutes. So Stephen has been a valuable contributor to our team. We're extremely high on Stephen and his future.
I'm not sure if you said he is the future or part of the future. We certainly consider him a big part of our future. I think he's got a very bright future and will be somebody we'll count on a great deal next year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

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