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March 16, 2011
VCU Â– 59
USC - 46
THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by VCU coach Shaka Smart and student-athletes Jamie Skeen, Joey Rodriguez and Bradford Burgess. Coach, an opening statement.
COACH SMART: You guys think Jay Bilas watched that game?
I thought our guys defended terrific tonight. They really followed the game plan in terms of what we were trying to do to stop USC. They obviously have a lot of weapons, but I thought our guys did a really nice job for 40 minutes on the defensive end.
This was as good as we've played defensively. We maybe had one other game this year where we played this well on the defensive end. Early on offensively we were a little jittery, but I thought our guys really settled down and we made more than enough shots has the game wore on. And these three young men to my right led the way, as they have all year long.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You guys know all week long you were the subject of intense speculation from across the country and whatnot. How good does it feel to just come out here and get the victory?
JAMIE SKEEN: It feels really good, because a lot of people were doubting us, and we were able to come out and prove some people wrong. And instead of just talking about it, we were just being about it, we just came out here and played.
Q. Jamie specifically, but, Brad, I guess you can talk about this, too, limiting their bigs' touches down low, Vucevic had five shots and the other guy also had five shots. How were you guys able to do that?
JAMIE SKEEN: We was just -- we just post crushed. So when he was to get the ball down low and it was in a scoring area, we would bring an extra big over to his side and try to make a quick decision or just pass it back out, and then we would get back to our man that we was on previously.
Or even before that we were just trying to limit his touch by not letting him catch the ball at all, and when they screened across we would keep a guard sitting in his lap until a big can get on top of him.
Q. You essentially won this playing their style of basketball. You outrebounded them and you played defense. Talk about how big it is to win in that fashion as opposed to the run-and-gun pressing the whole time?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: I think we're a team that can play two different ways. I thought we proved that tonight. I thought sometimes in the game we got up and down. And that helped us a lot, and we just played defense and got stops, and we knew we're fully capable of that. We talk and communicate, we'll be fine.
Q. Can you all talk about how hungry you all were with this? Because looked like y'all got a lot of loose balls and scrapping, just the heart you showed in the second half, couple times they made runs and you were able to weather them and get back in the game.
BRADFORD BURGESS: Coach just told us to come out intense from the beginning, for 40 minutes. And that's what we were doing. I think sometimes we're too intense, picking up some fouls in the game. But it was just about being aggressive on both ends of the basketball.
Q. Joey, can you address, Coach right away mentioned what you guys saw on TV the other night. UAB talked last night about really being hurt by it. But it didn't seem like you guys were that angry, just seemed like you guys played. Can you sort of explain how you guys -- whether it was part of what you took on the court or whether it was not a factor at all?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: You know, it did motivate us seeing that stuff. We respect those guys, we respect their opinion, but we knew we belonged here. So I thought we did a great job of coming out here and proving it today.
We're not done. We're going to come out and go after whoever we play next.
Q. Jamie, after never been in an NCAA Tournament, how does it feel to get this win as a senior, final season?
JAMIE SKEEN: It feels good. It's just another accomplishment in my chapter book that I've been talking about recently. Like I've been wanting to do a lot of things. I wanted to get here, but I wasn't just -- not going to settle for getting here. We want to win too. So getting this win is just another notch on my belt, and we want to get another win against Georgetown.
Q. Any of you, when you're leaving the court, a lot of your fans were chanting CAA, CAA. Is that something you guys ever talk about, think about; that your conference as a whole, not just you guys, kind of disrespected and this was a stage to prove that wrong?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, we have a tough conference from top to bottom. We have teams that can play with anybody. And we knew coming into the year how tough it was going to be, and throughout the year it was really tough every game.
And it's a testament to our conference and testament to all the teams from George Mason to Northeastern, to all those teams. Playing those guys really helped us out tonight. So, yeah, our conference really deserves this, and we're going to keep it going, hopefully.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Coach, if somebody tells you that this game's going to be in the 40s and 50s before the game, would you have been comfortable with that?
COACH SMART: Well, any good basketball team can win playing different ways. And we've done it before this year. And we prefer the game be a little faster pace. It's more to our liking.
But the reality is when you play your first game in the NCAA Tournament, for most of our guys that's what it was, there's going to be some jitters there.
And both teams struggled to make shots early. That slowed the game down. If we don't score, we can't get into our press. But we did a phenomenal job at our half court defense for 40 minutes and that's what allowed us to win the game.
Q. The last three quarters your team has played going back to the ODU game have been three of the best defensive times your team's been on the floor. What's changed since that halftime?
COACH SMART: Well, I think when you are playing basketball, you have to consistently rededicate yourself to the defensive end. Let's face it, we're not coaching robots out there that every single play you're going to get the same thing from them.
But what our guys have done as a collective effort is they've dedicated themselves to getting stops and playing with great intensity, playing together. Talking is huge on the defensive end. I think their communication has been at a higher level, and that's what's allowed us to have some success.
We're going to have to do that as good or better on Friday against Georgetown.
Q. Can you talk about the impact of Rob Brandenberg, made some critical shots for you and also the zone in the last seven or eight minutes of the game?
COACH SMART: He's really good. For a freshman, he has uncommon poise. And we know about his athleticism and his skill. I decided to go with him for some more extended minutes in the second half because I just felt like he was playing with a lot of confidence. He was attacking. And he didn't look scared at all by the moment.
Sometimes when you've got a freshman out there, you worry about him on this type of stage. But I thought Rob and our two other freshmen, D.J. and Donte, gave us great contributions.
Q. Can you talk about your zone?
COACH SMART: It's helped us, it's helped us over these last several games. I don't really like playing zone. The staff -- coaching staff was urging me to do it earlier in the half. And I kept having to kind of wave them off. But USC was making a run on us and they kept getting in the lane. Their guards were doing a great job penetrating.
So we went to zone. I thought it did two things. Number one, it shut down some of their penetration. Number two, it really took them out of an aggressive mindset and they were much more on their heels offensively.
So that obviously helped us, and we did a good job rebounding out of it.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Brad? He wasn't making shots tonight, but he was giving you a lot on the defensive end and rebounding the ball.
COACH SMART: I can't say enough about Brad. These three guys that were sitting up here next to me are our three best players, and I guess I would say they're all co-MVPs, because Brad is as valuable as anybody we have.
He did not shoot the ball well tonight. He was 3 for 13. But he still played a phenomenal game. He played with great energy. We play Brad at three different positions. He's so versatile.
And he did a good job when we did go small of battling with USC's big guys. They've got two 6'10" monsters, and Brad's in there at 6'5" playing against them. He held his own.
Really doesn't bother me he didn't shoot it well. That means the chances are better he'll shoot it well on Friday.
Q. You guys seem to be handling this stuff well in stride and whatnot, but it's your first win in a NCAA Tournament. How special is that for you?
COACH SMART: It's great. It's terrific. It's my first game. So I'd rather be 1-0 than 0-1. But this game's done and we're going to put it behind us. We play in less than 48 hours. We're excited about this game and we feel we have a chance to win if we go play well.
I'm not really going to dwell on this game. I might not even watch the tape. After the season's done, then I can go back and think about what all this stuff means. But we're going to shift all of our focus, 1,000 percent, onto Georgetown.
Q. Along those same lines, can you talk about what your thoughts are on the quick turnaround and the way this is set up?
COACH SMART: I like it. I think it really sets up well for us. We have a win under our belt in the NCAA Tournament. Everybody else that didn't play in the First Four here has been waiting all week, and now they get a chance to play tomorrow and Friday.
There's going to be some jitters for those teams just like there was for us tonight. I like the fact that we have this game under our belt. Now we move on to Chicago. We'll get there as fast as we can this evening. We'll get as much rest as we can tomorrow. We'll fulfill all of our obligations and we'll get ready to play.
But it's a quick turnaround. But that's what you do if you're a player. Growing up as a basketball player, all these guys played game after game after game in AAU. And I told our guys yesterday, the teams that make excuses at this time of year, they find themselves going home. And the teams that endure any type of situations that they're in or fatigue or setbacks, those are the teams that have a chance to advance.
Q. You had played well in the conference tournament, didn't win it, then you had a week off going up against great size tonight. Did you have a feeling that you guys were going to play well, that you'd be able to combat that, or were you unsure of how you would handle the size and a layoff?
COACH SMART: I'm a pretty positive guy so I usually have a feeling we're going to play well. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. I think in our last seven games we've played well. And I think our guys have played very hard. They've shared the basketball, and they've followed the game plan.
So I didn't think tonight would be any different. I knew there were some challenges with USC. I think our guys did a nice job on Vucevic. He's a high-level player, and to hold him to 11 points and only five field goal attempts, that's about as much as you can ask for.
Q. This round has been discussed a lot here this past week. Did it feel like it was part of the tournament? That's a question that a lot of people have been talking about.
COACH SMART: I think that's a silly question, to be honest with you. Not that you're asking a silly question, but a lot of people bringing that up.
This is the NCAA Tournament. We're sitting up here, the NCAA logo is behind me. The game was on TV. It's just a format that the NCAA decided to use with this First Four. And we're happy to be in it. We're happy to be in these games.
Again, it gives us a win. And for it to be anything else, I don't know what else it would have been other than an NCAA Tournament game. It's not the NIT. The regular season's over. And there's a huge NCAA logo on the middle of the floor.
So our guys feel really good about being here and winning this game. Now we get a chance to advance and we'll be a part of the same games that the other 63 teams are a part of over the next two days.
Q. I'll piggyback off that a little bit. You maybe more than anybody know what this arena atmosphere can be. A lot of the atmosphere questions about yesterday, they were dogging it a little bit. How did you think it stacked up to what a normal atmosphere would be at UD Arena?
COACH SMART: It's never going to be the same if you don't have the home team playing. When the Flyers are playing, it's a whole different level. And that's to be expected. This place is as good a home court advantage as anywhere that I've played or coached.
But I thought it was great tonight. And let's face it, that's why they have these games here in Dayton, is because there's such phenomenal basketball fans here and they're excited about coming out and seeing basketball even though they know next to nothing about VCU or USC or any of the other teams that played.
At the same time, I thought we had a great following of fans that came, and we always do. And those fans that came and watched us play tonight were rewarded by our guys with a win.
So if we couldn't play this game at home, this was about the next best place.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Congratulations.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports