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March 21, 2009

Dante Cunningham

Reggie Redding

Jay Wright


Villanova – 89
UCLA - 69

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Villanova student-athletes and coach Jay Wright. Coach, we'll ask you to make an opening statement.
COACH WRIGHT: Well, that was a fun game to be a part of from our side. I told Ben after the game, we have so much respect for the UCLA tradition. Previously obviously under Coach Wooden and all the coaches since Coach Wooden, but in a separate way since Ben Howland has been there. To go to three straight Final Fours is amazing. You get fired up to play a team like that. It's hard for them every game to have teams looking at them like this is a Final Four team.
I just think our guys really just were aggressive for 40 minutes. Our defense, for us that was good defense. That was really good defense. And we played it for 40 minutes. We've had leads at halftime where we didn't come out as aggressively, and that was important for us to really be aggressive, especially the play Reggie made to start the second half, get a steal, get us going, that was really big.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for the student-athletes, please.

Q. Dante, you had some good success on the offensive glass. Talk a little bit about what your attitude was going into the game.
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: You know, just as the game went on a lot more, we noticed driving the ball seemed to be working for us a little bit.
We drove the ball, they were denying so much that it was just almost a run to the basket, you know, just a jump for the ball. We just kept continuing running and going for it.

Q. Coach mentioned putting two halves together, playing a complete game on both sides of the ball. Talk about that.
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, we definitely made a conscious effort to come out second half, you know, just continue to grind it out with them, not let up regardless of the score.
REGGIE REDDING: Yeah, these past couple games, we only put one half together. Today we talked about putting two halves together. We came out strong in the first half the, and we kept it up in the second half.

Q. Could you talk about that play where Corey Fisher drove the baseline over Dragovic and put that layup in in the second half. Seemed that was a big momentum turner.
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: You know, honestly, Corey does that every day. It was almost, you know, just another layup for him really.
I mean, it was big in the game. I remember which one you're talking about. Looked like he was just going to block it. But he does that every single day - on me, on everyone on our team.

Q. I think three minutes into the game, Josh Shipp got into the lane and was free. You fouled him emphatically, not dirty or anything like that, but hard. What's the importance of earlier in a game letting a team know it's not going to be easy?
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: You know, just like you said, it's not going to be easy coming down the lane.
COACH WRIGHT: Tell him that might not have been a foul (smiling).
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, I didn't think it was a foul (laughter).
On the foul that I got, it's something that we take pride in, not letting a team, just come down the lane and start dunking the ball. Once they get that momentum and that thought that they can just come down the lane and start dunking, it's kind of hard to stop a team from doing that.
REGGIE REDDING: I think it was big for us 'cause we pride ourselves on coming out and setting the tone, letting other teams know how it's going to be for the rest of the game.
I think the first play actually when Scottie got a good foul on Collison, I think that also set the tone and let them know they're going to be in for a battle tonight.

Q. Reggie, did you notice Collison talking to the officials about how rough the game was? Do you love that when you see an opposing player sort of chirping about how tough it is?
REGGIE REDDING: I mean, if he thought we were playing rough... We were playing our game. That's the way we play every game. He's going to the ref complaining, we don't pride ourself on the other teams going and complaining to the ref. We saw it, just kept coming at them. I think we won the battle this game.

Q. Were you in any way surprised how easy this was today?
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: I wouldn't say 'easy'. Definitely was a good game. Coach talked about playing 40 minutes of Villanova basketball. Tonight we definitely played 40 minutes of Villanova basketball.
REGGIE REDDING: I don't think it was an easy game either. They came out tough. It was tough. I just think that today we made shots. We limited them on our defensive end. It was an advantage for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. We'll continue with questions for Coach Wright.

Q. Late in the first half they seemed to pick up a little bit of momentum, kind of cut a little bit of a lead. You got a couple offensive rebounds, then Scottie hit a big three. Did you sense a little bit of a momentum shift there and if that three-pointer kind of squashed it a little bit?
COACH WRIGHT: Yeah, definitely. Dante Cunningham had picked up his second foul. He was out. We were playing a little bit smaller right there. We went inside one time. Dwayne Anderson got his shot blocked. We thought we had a layup, they blocked the shot. That series, we got two offensive rebounds on that, I believe. Missed the first three. Got another offensive rebound. Scottie got another three. I thought that was huge. Without Dante in there, kind of set the tone we could still offensive rebound.

Q. When you took some of your guys out late, it looked like you took a little extra time with them. Could you share with us exactly the message you were telling them.
COACH WRIGHT: It was just -- I think you've all seen it. We haven't really played 40 minutes. We've had games where we've had leads. We kind of got lackadaisical. I just wanted them to understand how important of a game this is. And they played 40 minutes. Look what the results can be, how good they can be.
That was really it.

Q. The play with about six minutes left where Dwayne dove for the ball, Collison was coming down a little bit blasé, does that mean anything to you at that point in the game? The game is done, but is it symbolic at all? Do you care that that play was made?
COACH WRIGHT: Yeah, we care a lot. That's what we talk about, playing 40 minutes. Regardless of the score, if a guy's ahead of you and you're chasing him down, flick the ball from behind. You know, that's what you do.
But you don't back off that play if you're up 18 and there's six minutes to go. If you don't do it there, you might not do it in a game when it's a one-point game. In our program, that was a big, big play.

Q. Would you talk about setting the tone. Reggie mentioned the fact you guys wanted to come out and show the way you wanted to play. What have they learned about setting the tone? How do you feel it worked out today? Was that very important to set it early?
COACH WRIGHT: When you ask players, they're a little macho, it's never our intent to take a hard foul. But those two plays, I thought Scottie Reynolds, on that -- that could have been a jump ball. It was aggressive. But he got two hands on top of the ball. Not that it was a bad call. But we're not going to foul. We're going to stop the play.
I thought Dante's, I was -- I thought he blocked that. But that's not my point. My point is, we're not going up to foul them. But we want to go after the ball, block shots, contest every shot. I think that's where it set the tone - not for the other team, for us. Our guys have to know everybody is in this. Scottie Reynolds 30 second into a game, whatever that was, goes to block a shot, he doesn't give up an easy basket, he's showing, I don't care how many fouls I get, but they're not getting easy baskets. Dante Cunningham, same thing. It's not to the other team. It's to his teammates saying, hey, we're not giving up any easy baskets. Both of those, they were great leadership plays.

Q. Before the game you went over and hugged Rollie. Did he say anything to you?
COACH WRIGHT: Yeah, he's always telling me -- I actually -- he's always telling me, you know, be lose, lighten up on them, love 'em up, let 'em go. I worked with him. He never did that when I worked with them. He's always telling me to do that. Come on, it's tournament time. You got to love 'em up, be above positive. That's what he's been telling me through the tournament. I was with you seven years, I didn't really see that. He's kinder and gentler now (smiling).

Q. Two highly touted guards in Collison and Holiday.
COACH WRIGHT: We played them as a team, we did not want to get into 1-1 on ones with those guys. We really gave help from one pass away on those guys. I think they're really good. I think Jrue Holiday is going to be a big-time player. I think Collison is obviously. You look at his college record.
So we just didn't want to get Scottie one-on-one, Fish one-on-one, open floor for them, because they create so many shots for their teammates and they finish themselves.

Q. Scottie Reynolds has had his share of struggles the last bit. Looks like he found his shot back today.
COACH WRIGHT: I agree. He has had little struggles. But it's so important that a player that's known as a scorer keeps a positive attitude and keeps his leadership qualities and doesn't sulk, keeps playing defense, keeps rebounding when his shot isn't going in. He's been a great example to the younger guys. I thought Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes has great respect for him. As do our recruits coming in, Malik Wayns loves Scottie Reynolds. He's doing so many things to affect the game. Today, it came around, he made some huge plays for us, especially in the first half.

Q. With the 16 offensive rebounds, where does that rank in the things you're proudest of?
COACH WRIGHT: That was big. That was really big. Because, you know, some nights you're just not going to make shots. You've got to find some ways to some easy baskets. Your offense can do it. Your defensive rebounding can do for it. Dante was great on the offensive glass. I think even Reggie had a couple, you know. That's big for us.
I think our defense and our offensive rebounding probably was the difference.

Q. You talk about the offensive rebounding. 46 points in the paint, 19 more at the free-throw line. Especially after the American game, doing it for all 40 minutes, what was that like?
COACH WRIGHT: That was big. We didn't want to get into a three-point shooting contest with them. They're outstanding shooters. And they find -- they take good shots. We can get a little crazy, as everybody knows. We wanted to get the ball to the rim. We wanted to get the ball to Dante. We wanted to get on the offensive glass. That was a big difference tonight.

Q. With 27.5 seconds to go, you brought your seniors around. You walked to the end of the bench. Dante called Scottie over. Was that when you were giving that message or was that a different message?
COACH WRIGHT: That's exactly what it is. You're right, that was pretty cool, because I didn't realize that Scottie wasn't there. I thought I was talking to the five. That just shows you. A little thing by Dante Cunningham. I know coach wants to make a point. There's probably other things they'd like to be doing. But I'm going to get Scottie in here if he's going to tell us something. That was pretty cool.

Q. We've spoken about Scottie's points, shots, attempts, a more balanced attack. But when he was a freshman putting up those numbers, even last year, could you have imagined here, end of his junior year, you making this run, playing this well, and him not being a 25-point guy?
COACH WRIGHT: You know, in his freshman year, we knew that we couldn't be that kind of team. That freshman year, Curtis Sumpter was injured a lot of that year, but we squeaked into the NCAA tournament. We were in an 8-9 game against Kentucky. Kentucky got us pretty good. We knew we couldn't -- if we would have had Curtis, might have been a different team. But we knew we couldn't just have one guard scoring it. We weren't going to go anywhere. We knew we had to get other guys that could play and could score.
So I think there were games this year when we realized we could be good when Scottie didn't score and we still won because in the past if Scottie didn't score, we didn't win. I think that's where we've developed. I think we had six guys in double figures tonight. That's big-time. That's a good team.

Q. This is your fourth Sweet-16 berth in the last five years. Do you feel you get enough attention, not enough? How important is it to go further this year for you and your team?
COACH WRIGHT: Yeah, I think we get plenty of attention, definitely. We get plenty of attention. Playing in the Big East, sometimes it's overwhelming to me. I'm never worried about attention. I think we get plenty of it.
You know what, it's not -- it's just next game for us. When we come back at the end of the year, we'll look back on all this. There's a lot of things going on here. I think, you could probably tell me, this was the hundredth win for these seniors or 99th?

Q. Hundredth.
COACH WRIGHT: Hundredth. That stuff, you know, they're the winningest class, all that stuff we will definitely take time at the end of the season. But at the end of the season, we're going to have time. Right now we have time to get ready for the next game. That's what you love. I don't want to waste time talking about accomplishments, what we did last year. I want to enjoy being with these guys. I want them to enjoy being together. Who knows, this might be our last game coming up. We want to really enjoy this.

Q. You talk about the Big East. It is a physical conference, brutally physical. When you get into games at this level, is there an advantage to having a team that's used to that physical and tough play?
COACH WRIGHT: You know what, that's an interesting question, because sometimes in the NCAA tournament, it happened a little bit Thursday night, because you're used to playing so physical, there's things you get away with in the Big East, then you get officials from another part of the country, you get called for little bumps. We talked to the guys about that before we go in.
Then sometimes, like today, UCLA is physical. They're a physical team. So you're not shocked, you know. That's when you say, Okay, we've played teams like this night in and night out. Again, we have great respect for them because of that. They didn't back down. They didn't back down at all.

Q. As someone who was there for the beginning of your head coaching career, I know how intense you've always been. When you walked off, it looked like you were down 13, not up 13. Did you want to tell them at halftime, Let's put 40 minutes together, not stop here?
COACH WRIGHT: Yeah, definitely. As a coach, if you tell the players it's a 40-minute game, you better be coaching for 40 minutes, and you better be walking the walk. And we have to do that. We have to set the example. It's just true.
We knew they're a very good team. They've won a lot of games. We know they're going to come hard. We had to make sure we were prepared for how they were going to come at us. We knew they were going to shoot more threes, they were going to pressure us at some point.
It's like at halftime in the American game, you're down 10, but it's the same thing. You still got 20 minutes and you've got to play 40 minutes.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH WRIGHT: Thank you very much, guys.

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