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March 21, 2010
BUFFALO, NEW YORK
Syracuse Â– 87
Gonzaga - 65
THE MODERATOR: A couple of notes before we get started. The 12 threes by Syracuse is an NCAA record for the program. Syracuse is 12-0 when Wes Johnson has a double-double, which he did today. And the 31 points by Wes Johnson is a career high.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Boeheim, congrats.
JIM BOEHEIM: I thought Wes was tremendous early in the game. You know, when Scoop came in, he gave us a lift. But then when Brandon went back in and made a couple -- he made a couple of big shots, and that is how we got the separation.
Gonzaga has been very up and down shooting the ball. When you don't make threes against us, it's going to be a tough day. They did everything they could to get it inside and move the ball as well as anybody has against us. But if you're not going to make those shots, you're not going to win.
Again, I thought Brandon and Scoop really -- and Wesley the first half. And then Andy came out. When he gets it going like that, he's not missing in some of those situations. He knocked everything down. As well as we played, I told Mark this is as well as we played all year. It was a tremendous performance from our guys.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. I'll take questions from left to right for Andy, Wes or Scoop at this time.
Q. Wes, now number one question is about whether that hand is all right.
WES JOHNSON: I think it's fine now.
Q. For Wes, it seemed like you came out with an effort -- with a conscious effort to shoot early and often. Was that the case and what was behind that?
WES JOHNSON: Really, my mindset was to be aggressive on defense. So I think that carried over to the offensive end. My shot was falling. The guys did a good job finding me, and I did a good job shooting.
Q. Wes or Andy, when Rick picked up his third foul and had to leave the game in the first half, did you say anything to DaShonte when he came in and what were you thinking?
WES JOHNSON: Honestly, DaShonte has been playing against AO and Rick the whole season in practice. When he came in, really just told him to play big and use his length. He played with a lot of confidence today and he gave us a real big spark off the bench, making people take tough shots.
Q. Andy, you came out obviously in the second half looking for your shot, maybe just tell me a little what you were thinking in that respect? And also maybe put your national team hat on and give me a scouting report on some of the guys out there. Sacre and Kris Joseph looked good.
ANDY RAUTINS: Try to stay aggressive and set tone for the second half. That's been one of our flaws in the first half of the season. We didn't come out intense in the second half. I thought we did a great job of that. Teammates were running me off screens and doing a great job getting me open. Just look for my shot. When Wes and I are hitting our shots we're a tough team to beat. I thought Canada had a pretty good performance. Robert Sacre is probably going to have some bragging rights. He got a dunk on me. Overall I think we played pretty well and I'm proud of our guys.
Q. Scoop, did you guys come in here with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder? Everyone was talking about what Syracuse couldn't do because Arinze Onuaku was hurt. Lost your last two games. Did you guys come into this weekend thinking we need to turn some heads and remind people who we are?
SCOOP JARDINE: We go into every game thinking that way. We try to play with a chip on our shoulder whenever we go out there. It was a team that was doubted in the beginning of the year. Every time we go out there we try to take it one game at a time and play Syracuse basketball. Coming into the tournament, we had lost two games straight. People kind of turned their heads. Then we lost Arinze Onuaku. We knew it was a good team all year and we could stick together and just play basketball.
Q. For Andy and Wes, when Jack picked up his third foul was there some sense this is it, this is the moment we all need to pick it up?
ANDY RAUTINS: Sure. You get a sense of that. But I mean like I said, this team has had such great cohesiveness all year no matter what five guys are on the floor. We're all on the same page. We're more than confident in DaShonte stepping up and having big minutes. He's progressing every day. We have confidence in whoever is on the floor.
WES JOHNSON: When he went out me and Kris took it upon ourselves to get to the boards. When DaShonte came in, we knew we would be fine when he came in. We would have to crash the boards more and really make an emphasis on defense to get out to the shooter and make it tough for them.
Q. Andy, the way Brandon played today, is that the way Brandon played all December through January a little bit?
ANDY RAUTINS: Absolutely. He's a key part of our team. When he stays aggressive and looks for his shot, and he looks to take it to the basket, he's a strong physical guard. He's proved himself throughout the season. We know what he's capable of when he stops thinking and goes out and plays. He's a very valuable guy for us.
Q. For any of the guys. What's it like playing in front of this crowd? It's practically a home game. Two-hour ride. Did it help in that run? What's it going to be like in Salt Lake City?
SCOOP JARDINE: Our fans have been supporting us all year. It's great to play in front of a crowd like this. It's like we're playing at home. I think our fans did a great job all year supporting us no matter what we played at.
Honestly, I think they are going to be at Salt Lake too. They just come out and support us. We are just happy to be a part of it and be able to play in front of our fans. We have the best fans in the country.
Q. For Wes and Andy, did you guys, when you look at the upsets in the tournament and you know you're playing a live underdog in Gonzaga, did you kind of come out with a real purpose to your game today, a different kind of mentality because you see what's happening to Kansas?
WES JOHNSON: Yeah, you can say that. We really were just going out there -- we didn't want to lose. Honest. We didn't want to go home early. We took it amongst ourselves to go out there and play hard. We're coming off the two-game losing streak and winning the previous game with Vermont. We came here and played our game of basketball. That was the main thing we were trying to do.
Q. Wes, the first 10, 12 minutes Harris had like 16 points against you guys. What did you think of his game? What happened after that? Did you guys do something to keep the ball out of his hands?
WES JOHNSON: He was sneaking behind the defense and getting a lot of points around the bucket and getting "and one." We came in at halftime and talked with the forwards and told them we have to close in and keep an eye on them. When we did that, he tried to step out and shoot shots. But after that it was too late.
SCOOP JARDINE: Definitely.
Q. For any of the players, why is it that you guys really haven't let any team sneak up on you the way that say Kansas and a few other teams that lost in the first couple of rounds have?
SCOOP JARDINE: Coach Boeheim does a great job of preparing us for moments like this or times like this. Been coaching 34 years. He's seen every game you can possibly see. Our leaders, Arinze and Andy, this day, last year, they did a great job of preparing us. Our whole coaching staff. We all come together and try to play together and play smart and don't make bonehead plays like myself.
JIM BOEHEIM: Didn't make one today?
SCOOP JARDINE: One.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you. Good luck. We'll open it up for questions of Coach Boeheim at this time.
Q. Jim, I would like to ask you about when Rick picked up his third there with nine minutes or so to go in the first half. Did you say anything special to DaShonte, and talk about DaShonte's play.
JIM BOEHEIM: I told him get in there. You know, he's been working in practice. He's still got a long ways to go. I think he's actually a little bit more comfortable passing the ball on offense than he is doing anything else. But you know I thought he gave us some really good minutes in the stretch of the game when it was really close there. He made a good steal, made a good pass to Brandon. Chipped a couple of balls.
I thought his stat line doesn't show it, but I thought he was very productive defensively and offensively when he was in there. Ricky has just got to avoid a couple of the fouls.
This is a very physical team. They were banging him in there. There was a lot of banging. When there was a lot of banging, they're going to call one. They're going to call one on them and they're going to call one on you. Their posts really bang in there. That's how Harris got so open. The big guy was banging Ricky so much that he was getting stuck on him and Harris was getting behind us. They caught us on that first lob pass. After that we adjusted and we played pretty well.
Again, they're a good team. When we play like that, when we shoot the ball like that, we're pretty tough to beat. I knew if we were going to get up and play at 12 o'clock, I was hoping to make the game as boring as possible so that they wouldn't have -- they would have struggled to fill space. Players really don't mind playing at 12. It's me. I have a lot of trouble getting up that early.
Q. I would like to ask you the same question I asked the players. Why have they not been really caught off guard or caught napping against anybody this year? Is it anything you're doing or is it something about the make-up of these players that they've stayed focused in the game?
JIM BOEHEIM: I've been doing the same thing for 34 years. I don't know what -- I don't know -- some teams react better. Some teams -- we're usually ready to play. Syracuse basketball is about being ready to play and being consistent. But there can be upsets. I watched Northern Iowa play unbelievable. The problem with college basketball is there's not a big gap. Everybody wants to make it seem like it's a big gap. It's not a big gap. If you don't play well, whoever it is you're playing can beat you. I mean, it's as simple as that. I know Villanova is a good team. I watched the whole game. St. Mary's really played unbelievably well. You look at basketball games, if you watch the games, which unfortunately people don't do, they just say St. Mary's won the game. Shouldn't win this game. They have a great big guy. A great big guy. They've got great guards. They've got great forwards. They have a great coach. If you watch the games, that was not an upset. They're a better team.
This is different from football. We find out in this tournament who the best teams really are. There's no doubt in my mind that yesterday Northern Iowa was better than Kansas. Kansas really -- Northern Iowa made four or five bad turnovers at the end of the game or it would have been a ten-point game.
St. Mary's outplayed Villanova. It's as simple as that. These are good teams. If you don't play really well, you're going to get beat. Simple as that.
Q. Jim, how limited was Wes? Can you just speak to his ability to kind of stay with things through that and be productive without being able to really hold the ball or shoot.
JIM BOEHEIM: He couldn't hold it really well. He could shoot, but it was sore. He's just getting back -- if he hadn't had this injury, he would be up at an even higher level now than he is. He was playing at a really high level, and he was getting better. That just took him right back down for eight games, ten games. He's just getting back. I still don't think he's as strong as he was. And he wasn't able to do some things during the last three or four weeks that he would have raised his game even more.
But, you know, there's no question DaShonte did a tremendous job today. But there's no question that when we don't have Arinze, we're just -- we're a different team. We're a different team. When they have big guys like this, those 41 points they got inside would have never happened. He doesn't allow that to happen. He controls that paint area.
These guys are playing good. They overcame it because we shot the heck out of the basketball. If we don't shoot the heck out of the basketball, then those points down in there are going to really hurt you. We're not the same team without AO in there. Guys don't get the rest that they need, and it's just, you know, we're asking Kris Joseph to do things he didn't have to do before. He's not playing the way he's capable of playing.
The big difference is, like in today's game, Scoop and Brandon really stepped up. When those guys -- those two guys step up like that, that makes a big, big difference in how we're playing. Big difference. You're talking 13 points we haven't been getting. Take those 13 points away, you take those threes away he makes when it's a 6, 8 point game. All of a sudden it's 11, 14.
Q. Jim, same sort of question --
JIM BOEHEIM: Don't compliment anybody like that here. If you want to ask me a question, ask me a question.
Q. You're a terrific coach.
JIM BOEHEIM: Especially don't compliment media people.
Q. You're lucky to have my quarter scout. You know it, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, down inside.
JIM BOEHEIM: So deep I can't find it.
Q. When you guys picked up the third foul, what does it say about the maturity of this team that that's when they were able to pick it up and pull away?
JIM BOEHEIM: You know, there's no question that was a very trying moment, because they were playing well, and they've got post people that were hurting us. I thought DaShonte made a couple of plays, it wasn't a lot, but he made a couple of plays in there that made a big difference. I mean, a big difference. And they had two threes, two good looks at threes that they missed. We went right down and I think Brandon hit one and he might have hit two right then. That's how these games change. Ten-point game, they missed two threes. We make two threes. It's a 16-point game instead of a four-point, five, six-point game.
It's about shooting the basketball sometimes, you know. Wesley shot it really good early when they were -- they had the better -- they got to have a better start. They had a five, six-point lead. We really didn't have much going on offense. They were doing a good job on Andy. Goodson was doing a good job on him. But Wesley kept us in there. Goodson is a good defender. He gave Andy about two inches in the second half twice and he made two threes. He really had almost no time, and he made two threes.
But, you know, this team has come to play every game. I've never had a team that's come to play every game. You like to think that happens. In a perfect world, we don't live in, it doesn't happen. And they've come ready every game. The only game that they didn't win was when -- that they should have was when I coached against LeMoyne like some kind of idiot. That was the only game. Other than that, they played every game.
Q. Your team played extremely well today. I'm sure you're going to nitpick something. What does the team have to do --
JIM BOEHEIM: How can you be so sure?
Q. What does the team have to improve on as you advance through the tournament?
JIM BOEHEIM: I think it's a tough turn-around for us. We have to go a long ways. It's always tough. We have to play Thursday. That's not good. I guess now it's better that we played at 12 o'clock today. At least we can get home tonight. They did us no favors, having to go there and play at 12 -- play at -- having to go out and play Thursday. But we have to do what we've been doing. That's the good thing. We don't have to do anything other than play the way we've been playing. That's what we've done all year. We played good from the first game, and we've got to continue to do that. We got a couple more days with DaShonte to give him some good practice time. And get him up to speed a little bit more, if we can. We have to do what we've been doing all year.
In the tournament, there is no changing. You have to do what you've been doing. The first game here we made some really bad turnovers. Tonight we didn't make any bad turnovers until the game was over. So that's an improvement. But we'll go back, we'll work hard. Butler -- I've watched them play all year long. They're one of the best teams I've seen all year. I've had them in the top ten in my poll from the very beginning of the year. I think they have a tremendous team. And so we'll have our hands full.
THE MODERATOR: Last one.
Q. Did it feel like a home game?
JIM BOEHEIM: The fans were great. It's always good to have the fans there for you. But we just played well. We just played well. Sometimes -- I know we've been in this tournament when we played in '03 and we were struggling against Oklahoma State. The fans really helped us. We didn't need their help today, but it was nice that they were here.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks.
End of FastScripts