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March 17, 2011

Dwight Hardy

Steve Lavin

Dwayne Polee II


Gonzaga – 86
St. John's - 71

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by St. John's. Coach, if you want to begin with some general comments on the game.
COACH LAVIN: Just start with giving credit to Gonzaga for a well-played basketball game from start to finish. In particular, you know, their size was able to dominate at the rim and in the lane at both ends of the floor. That was a concern coming in. It played itself out, 43-20 on the boards, I think it was 21-8 at halftime. That was a consistent theme throughout the game.
Then their shooting percentage. As I mentioned, leading into this game, I thought they were the best offensive team we faced this year. Their numbers demonstrate that with 53 in the game, 57 in the first half.
We played them fairly equal in the second half, but we had dug ourselves a hole, could never get out of it. With the couple opportunities we had, came up empty.
You have to credit Gonzaga, played an excellent game at both ends of the floor and then sustained both the level of effort and execution that was as impressive as any team we faced this year.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Dwight, you didn't get a bucket until maybe there was seven or eight minutes left in the first half. Did it have to do with defense? Were you tentative?
DWIGHT HARDY: Every time I went to make my initial move, they was just swarming me. Once I beat one defender, two more would step up. I'm a very unselfish player. I didn't want to force anything. I was just trying to find my open teammate.

Q. Dwight, I know it's a tough moment, but can you appreciate where this program was and where you brought it to?
DWIGHT HARDY: Definitely. I mean, making it to the NCAA tournament is one of the biggest achievements for us this year. The program hasn't been here since I believe 2000. I got nothing but respect for this program and the coaching staff that have come in and worked with us to get us there.
I'm just thankful that I got the opportunity to play here my senior year. It didn't work out for me the way I wanted it to. But we achieved our goals. We just got to move forward.
DWAYNE POLEE II: I mean, we finished 18th in the nation and 3rd in the Big East. Coming from where we were, where they were last year, that's a big improvement. I give all the credit to the coaching staff coming in and putting a new style of basketball in place for us, and then us just following their lead because they have so much experience with this game of basketball. It just changed our style and our whole mindset.
So, I mean, that's just a credit to the coaching staff.

Q. Dwight, can you describe a little bit what it was like in the locker room right after the game. Emotional loss.
DWIGHT HARDY: Very silent. A lot of tears shed. That's part of life, you know. We know after this loss we just took that we won't get another chance, the seniors won't get another chance to play in this atmosphere again.
I mean, we crying right now. But on the other side we can always look back and say that we had a chance to do something special our senior year, and we made it to the NCAA tournament. Nobody probably thought we would make it here.
It's part of life, man. I don't see nothing wrong with crying. We hate to lose. We feel we should win every game. We come and play our hearts out. It was just silent and a lot of people crying. It's very emotional in there right now.

Q. Did you feel extra pressure going into the game at the beginning?
DWIGHT HARDY: No. For myself, I didn't feel no pressure. I just treated it like another game. Just the stakes is more higher. You know, we just wanted to come out and play our style of basketball. We got to give credit to Gonzaga. I mean, they gave it to us in the first half.
In the tournament, it's hard to come back from large deficits. I think we fought hard in the second half. I think if we hadn't dug a hole in the first half, it would have been a totally different outcome.
DWAYNE POLEE II: No, we don't try to put added stress onto ourselves just because we know we're playing on a bigger stage in front of thousands of fans and millions of viewers on TV. We just tried to come out, play our game, get the ball moving around the perimeter and create offense off our defense.
THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss the student-athletes and continue with questions for Coach Lavin.

Q. Can you talk about the size difference, really how it impacted you guys.
COACH LAVIN: Yeah, it was a concern coming in. We talked at length this week in preparation for the game about their depth, size, length, and skill, which was the best of any team that we had seen on film. Then it played itself out today. So you just have to credit them. They're a handful on their frontline.
Sometimes you have a bruising frontline, like Pittsburgh, but maybe not as adept or skilled in terms of being able to step away from the basket but also play down low with their back to the basket, the ability to read and execute all the fundamentals of the game in terms of passing, making the jump shot, putting it on the floor to create for themselves as well as their teammates.
It's a really unusual frontline in terms of combining size, length, strength with excellent skill and basketball acumen.

Q. Obviously this has been an emotional journey for everybody involved. Talk about what you feel right now. Can you put everything in perspective?
COACH LAVIN: You know, what I said to the kids right after the game was, while losing is heartbreaking, losing in the NCAA tournament is heartbreaking, that when they get out a month, two, three months, you know, a year, five years from now, they're going to look back and realize that they brought St. John's basketball back. I just put the numbers on the board, 21 wins, 12 for Big East wins, 3rd for being tied for 3rd place in the NCAA for having a berth in the tournament. Just how much joy they gave to the students on our campus, faculty, administration, alumni throughout the country, former players, Coach Carnesecca came to our Selection Sunday practice. That was a first in terms of coming to share some thoughts and spend some time with them. So that's significant when he does that.
I really wanted the team, the players, to be aware, while it doesn't take the sting away from this loss, they set the bar high for anyone that follows. This young group coming in next year will be the youngest team in the country, youngest team in St. John's history. They have lofty standards now to live up to because of this group of 10 seniors that put the foundation in the place for the future of our program.
They gave our coaching staff the ride of a lifetime.

Q. Do you think after tonight's game that Gonzaga could compete with any team in the Big East?
COACH LAVIN: Absolutely. I said yesterday I don't know if they'd be first, second or third. Someone asked a question kind of similar. It's hard to know with the unbalanced schedule, how it would all play out. But because of the way they're built, you know, championship basketball teams are built from the inside out at both ends of the floor through the history of the game at any level. Both ends of the court you build your teams from the inside out. As I said, this was the most skilled team offensively we've seen all year. Because their frontline is so dominant, you know, they're going to be a handful for any opponent in any conference in the remaining field of the NCAA tournament. They're definitely a Final Four-capable team, national championship-potential team.
Again, you have to win all the games. You have to play them. In terms of their personnel, firepower, talent, they're as good as anyone we faced this year, and we faced some pretty good teams.

Q. Talk about D.J., do you think it played a factor not having him?
COACH LAVIN: He's our leading rebounder, and obviously rebounding was the difference in this game when you look at the numbers. We haven't been out-rebounded like that all year. We were even on the boards with Pittsburgh, the leading rebounding team in the country at the time, 38-38 on the boards. We out-rebounded Syracuse. Some pretty good size.
And then more than just the rebounding with D.J. it's his experience, his versatility, the fact that he's a crunch time performer. Late clock, late game situations, he's someone we can play through. When he rebounds, he leads the break for us where he can see over the top, can finish at the rim, but find teammates and bringing the ball up the floor with two bounces because he's so long.
We're missing that component offensively and we're missing him at both ends of the boards at the rim. His poise, play-making ability, across the board, he was a key part of our success. We wouldn't have been here without D.J. Kennedy.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, coach.
COACH LAVIN: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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