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March 20, 2009
Dayton Â– 68
West Virginia - 60
MODERATOR: Joining us on the dais is Charles Little, Marcus Johnson and Chris Wright and head coach, Brian Gregory. We begin with an opening statement from Coach Gregory followed by questions for the student-athletes.
COACH GREGORY: Obviously have unbelievable, as I said yesterday, unbelievable amount of respect for Coach Huggins and the team. We just knew how hard we were going to have to play. Do three things extremely well: A great job on the glass, a great job of taking care of the ball, and we had to do a really good job of finishing plays around the basket.
And we did all three. And we did them for 40 minutes. Because if we didn't, we weren't going to win that game. They are long, they are athletic, they are aggressive. And, you know, it just challenged our guys a little bit, that we need to be every bit as aggressive as they were.
It is a big win for our team obviously to advance. The reward is to play Kansas, which is fine, you know. But unbelievable for our program. And these guys helped build a new culture in this program and take it another step and they've done it all year long. It is really pleasing to see them rewarded that way with a win today.
Q. Guys, I just wanted to know how much motivation you guys drew from hearing all week about how superior the Big East conference is.
CHARLES LITTLE: I really didn't draw much from it. I think we were like 4-1 the last couple of games we played the Big East. We are not really caught up in that conference affiliation stuff. We knew when it comes down to us versus them, it is not Big East versus A-10; it is West Virginia versus Dayton. And we will take our chances with that.
MARCUS JOHNSON: Correction, 5-1.
Q. Chris, did you feel as if if they couldn't tie it, that was a big, you know -- if they could tie it or get ahead, then the momentum would fully shift. But they can never hit that bucket to get a tying bucket.
CHRIS WRIGHT: They made a run in the second half and we did a good job of staying poised and sticking to our principals on defense and not doing anything we don't do usually. They made a run, you know. We stood strong. And we knew if this wasn't going to get ahead, we just continue to pressure them on defense and continue to execute on offense, that we would do a good job of staying ahead. And it wasn't going to be no momentum change.
Q. Charles, you know, in the late minutes of the game there, they had been getting a lost offensive rebounds and putting them back in for a lot of their baskets. You talk about the last couple of minutes and the big offensive rebounds or big defensive rebounds, to keep them off the glass and get the big boards and seal the game.
CHARLES LITTLE: We knew going in that they were a really good offensive rebounding team, so that was the key for the whole game was to box them out. They got their -- that's where they got a the lot of the points from.
Late in the game is when, you know, we got to get down and hunker down and get defensive rebounds and that's what we were able to do and they couldn't score.
Q. Chris, could you just talk a little bit about what this win means to you and the team?
CHRIS WRIGHT: It means we are in the second round playing against Kansas. It is the NCAA tournament. We are happy to get the win, but we got to turn around and play Kansas on Sunday. So we got to do a good job of preparing. And that's all it is. That's the only thing.
Q. Chris, I'm kind of wondering, you had a big game. Did you feel anything going into it? Did you feel like today was your day or what was your mindset going in?
CHRIS WRIGHT: My mindset going into the game, Coach was getting on me all the time about rushing and being poised and patient. And today coming into the game I felt that I had a tremendous amount of confidence that I was just going to execute well on offense, and, you know, play our defense, play the best on defense and try to really pressure the ball.
And that's what we do well. Just stick to what we do and it worked out tonight. Or this afternoon.
Q. This is for all you guys. Coach said this is huge for the program. And I'm wondering, it's been like 19 years since Dayton won an NCAA tournament game. Does that mean anything for you guys? Or no, you're living in the moment?
CHARLES LITTLE: I mean, we knew coming into it that we hadn't won a tournament game in however many years, we talked about it, but we had to put it on the back burner and just focus on West Virginia.
Q. For Marcus and Charles, what kind of lift does the team get when you see Chris fly through the air and throw one down like he did today so many times and throughout the season so many times?
MARCUS JOHNSON: I mean, it's a big energy boost. You know, I think our team gets excited. And even the crowd is into it. So that was a big energy boost for us. I mean, it's nothing new. Chris has been doing that stuff all year.
CHARLES LITTLE: Piggyback on what Marcus said, it is an energy boost. He was talking about how they kept making the runs and getting closer and closer. And we fight them off and they get closer. And those plays are heartbreaking to them, they think they are getting close, they are climbing back up and Chris drops the hammer. And that's deflating.
Q. Chris, while you're shooting free throws after a couple of your dunks, I heard someone holler, Put them in the hole, Superman. Is that your mom by any chance?
CHRIS WRIGHT: That was actually Mickey Perry's mom. He always say she be yelling, but I never hear it. I guess the place is to big I heard all types of echo. I heard, Put it in, Superman, put it in, Superman. And I knew it was her. I was kind of laughing in my mind, but I knew I had to focus and make the free throw.
Q. Directed to Charles. Three straight possessions, Charles, under 3 1/2 minutes you came up with buckets. What was your mindset during those place and taking the big shots for the team?
CHARLES LITTLE: Overall just trying to be aggressive. Coach is telling me there are caps on the defensive drive. And towards the end, we spread them out a little bit and I got those drives and I was able to put them in.
Q. For Marcus and Charles, how were you guys able to take Ruoff out of the game like you did?
MARCUS JOHNSON: Just pressuring him. He is a good shooter, a good driver driving left. I just wanted to be on his toes on the catch and pressure the ball. And not letting him run everywhere.
CHARLES LITTLE: I didn't guard him.
MODERATOR: All right, if we don't have any other questions, we will go ahead and excuse them back to the locker room.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the job you guys did in terms of perimeter defense, other than Bryant who was 4-6 from 3, I think they were 1-14 from 3?
COACH GREGORY: We did a great job defensively on the perimeter. Bryant is a going to be a heck of a player for them. He's a tough kid and not afraid to take the big shots. We didn't guard him as well as I would have liked, but Marcus said we worked all week, you know, five days to prepare, four days to prepare, just on when to chase guys and when to go underneath some of those screens. They run a lot of movement and a lot of motion.
And the one thing is, Ruoff and Butler are very good, because it's interesting, they have the toughness that Coach Huggins brings. But they still have a little bit of the beeline motion where they can move real well without the ball and cut and so forth.
We just did a good job of staying underneath those guys when we had to stay underneath and chase them when we had to chase.
Our team defense is really good. I think one thing that happens when you pressure the ball you can make some mistakes behind. And because of the pressure maybe they can't see it.
I thought we made some mistakes behind but our ball pressure was good enough to kind of, you know, to help us out in that. It's like getting a great rush in football. If you're getting pressure on the quarterback, the safeties can make some mistakes and that's kind of how we play defense and it worked today.
Q. Brian, could you expound a little bit on you say this is huge for the program, just what it means?
COACH GREGORY: Right. Well, I mean, it's hard to even put in words at this time, to be honest with you. These guys, you know, the first group I think of is Andres Sandoval, Brian Roberts and Jimmy Binnie. Three seniors that helped built the culture of this program and went through some tough times and went through some adversity and never got to enjoy something like this. And they deserved to, to be honest with you. But if it wasn't for those guys and what they sacrificed, we wouldn't be in this position right now.
We have been able to, you know, kind of take the process and the steps necessary to get to this point. We haven't short-cut anything. And I feel proud that we've done it the right way with great kids that really believe in each other and care about each other.
Sometimes when you ask so much of guys, like I do as a head coach, you just want them to be rewarded and want them to enjoy the fruits of their labor a little bit. And when you don't get it, man, it's hard.
But our guys kept plugging away. There was the disappointment last year with the injuries and it never got them down.
You have to remember three weeks ago or a month ago we lost our third leading scorer. And they could have said here we go again, and they didn't. They kept plugging away, you know. It's been 19 years since we've won an NCAA tournament game and we've won 27 games. I think this team needs to go down as one of the better teams that have ever played here.
And they deserve it, because of the effort that they have brought to the court every day. The way that they represented this unbelievable university. And the thing that's really important to me is we have a great tradition. And this team fits those great teams and this tradition.
You know, Coach Donaher was at practice the last couple of days before we left, and that meant the world to me. And he kept talking about we'll see you at practice next week. So he still is the smartest coach in Dayton.
Q. Yeah, Brian, two-part question. The first 20 minutes, if you scored that many lay-ups all year, it seemed like you guys got to the bucket and got to the bucket. The second part, Ebanks had 12 rebounds but very few offensive rebounds. They were mainly clear-out defensive rebounds. What did you do with him on his offensive glass?
COACH GREGORY: We did want to attack the glass or, you know, off the dribble. And we put in, I will be honest with you, three or four special things to try to attack their pressure because I was very concerned. I'll be honest, I saw the first couple of games. I watch the Villanova game and the Ohio State game. I was like oh, boy, these guys, you know. And we did some -- a couple of things and we needed to execute. We needed to finish better.
There was a game a couple of weeks ago against Xavier we did not finish well around the basket and we really have been working on that. And I think we did a good job of that today and that was a big key for us.
Ebanks is a special player. He has a unique ability to offensive rebound. And we followed whoever was guarding him. He didn't have any rebound responsibilities. He had one responsibility. He had to lay a body on him. Their first possession he got an offensive rebound and they scored on it. So I wasn't very happy at that particular point. But we did a good job the rest of the way.
Some guys just have a knack, and he does. Again, he's a great rebounder, 12 rebounds. I know he had 18 in one game in the Big East tournament. So, it was really, really important, you know. We gave up 15 offensive rebounds, which is a lot, but we battled. And that was, to me, it was more important how hard we battled on the glass than maybe the results.
Q. Chris' line, 27 points 10 rebounds is just huge. And also, London Warren, nine assists and one turnover.
COACH GREGORY: You talk about total team effort. You go down the list, Mickey Perry, we don't win that game without Mickey. And again, Stephen Thomas gives us good minutes in there, even a couple to settle us down. Chris Johnson.
And Chris played very, very well today. He was aggressive. I think he had three turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game and he didn't have a turnover the rest of the way. He really calmed down and played with the poise that we need him to play with. So it was good to see. You know, him just taking what the defense gave him, being aggressive when it was needed to be aggressive.
And then what can you say about London? Last year at this time he had 30 more turnovers than assists at the end of the season when the year was out and now he is a 2-to-1 ratio. Today in the biggest game of his life he goes 9-1. You know, he played like, you know, an NCAA-caliber point guard today. And one that could help his team advance. And we needed that.
Q. Brian, going back to what this game means, what does it mean to you personally, especially considering time Tom Izzo is here and Jud Heathcote in the crowd with your family at the game?
COACH GREGORY: A lot. It really does. Coach hasn't been able to see us play. He watches us on TV. He calls me and let's me know what we're doing wrong. But, you know, to have Coach Heathcote at the game, it means a lot. Those guys obviously were -- Jud gave me the break to get into college coaching and Izzo gave me the biggest break to come back as his associate head coach, and learned so much from those guys and so supportive and have taught me what this profession is about. Not just what coaching and winning games is all about.
And that's, you know, what it means to be the head coach of a program and how to build it. And, you know, the sacrifices that you have to make and that the players always come first. And just so many lessons. And to have coaches, those things he has to take care of, but I know he was back in the hotel checking the score all the time. And to have Coach Heathcote in the stands was unbelievable, you know. And it can't get any better than that, it really can't. It just can't.
And, you know, my family, the time that they've -- the sacrifices that they have made and so forth, and just for our whole university what a great day it is for everybody. I really believe in what this -- the mission statement of our university and what we do as a program fits with that. And I think you saw that for 40 minutes today.
Q. You spoke yesterday a little bit about the edge that you saw in this team, with these players. Is that kind of what came through in the second half there when West Virginia was pushing and pushing and pushing, but yet your guys never backed down and never really seemed intimidated or anything like that?
COACH GREGORY: Yeah, you know, we don't back down. That doesn't always mean we play there. There is a difference. There are times we don't play well, but we never back down.
And, you know, we talk about sometimes when have you a huge challenge in front of you, you need to look at success in the past to so that you can get it done. And we've had that. We've had some tangible evidence. Obviously never at this level. But when we beat Marquette they made a little bit of a run in the second half. The two times we beat Louisville both times, those teams came back on us.
And the one thing we kept talking about in timeouts, just be who we are. You know, we don't have to be anybody different. We need to defend, we need to rebound and we need to run when we get the opportunity. And we didn't need a Superman effort from anybody. It was nice to get a couple of them, you know, but we just needed to do what we do.
And that's been the key to our success all year. We've done it every day. We've gotten a little bit better every single day. And to be honest, I'm really pleased because we got better today and it was a huge challenge in front of us and our guys met that challenge. And that growth, we've struggled at times in these type of games where it is so emotional. We've wanted it too badly and got ahead of ourselves and got away from what we do. And we didn't do that today. So that shows the mature it that this team has developed over the year.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
COACH GREGORY: Thanks, guys.
End of FastScripts