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March 18, 2011

Bradford Burgess

Joey Rodriguez

Brandon Rozzell

Shaka Smart


VCU – 74
Georgetown - 56

GREG GREENWELL: From VCU we have head coach Shaka Smart and student-athletes Bradford Burgess, Joey Rodriguez, and Brandon Rozzell. We'll open with the opening statement from the head coach then questions for the student-athletes.
COACH SMART: The guys did a phenomenal job of playing with great confidence and going out and believing in each other on the offensive end. Really shared the ball.
I thought we followed the game plan really well. Georgetown has a terrific backcourt, and three very, very talented guys, but I challenged our backcourt guys, these three and a couple other guys, to step up and be better, and they were. Much, much better tonight.
So really proud of what we did. We got two games under our belt in the NCAA Tournament, but we're not done. We've got a big game on Sunday against Purdue. We're going to enjoy this one tonight, and we're going to shift our focus to Purdue. We're going to have to play just as well to win.

Q. Brandon, can you talk about your night. Obviously, you were feeling it out there. Anything different?
BRANDON ROZZELL: No. I mean, I just played my role, you know. I'm playing with a great group of guys from seniors all the way down to freshmen.
Joey Rodriguez, in my opinion, one of the best point guards in the country. He just found me open most of the time and I knocked down the shots. That's my role on the team. That's what I do. I give all my thanks to my teammates.

Q. Joey, I saw you two before the game. You said you're not going to let the pressure get to you and what not. Why are you guys so confident right now heading into all these games that are some of the biggest games of your life?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: You know, we've always been confident. We're a confident group. You know, our seniors, we don't want it to end. We're best friends, and we just want to keep it going. That's really it, you know. Just swagger, and we've just got to bring it every day.

Q. Bradford, can you just talk about the defense that you guys played particularly on Georgetown's backcourt, how you guys shut them down, particularly from long range.
BRADFORD BURGESS: We didn't want to let them get any easy shots, you know, in the beginning of the game and let them get going. It was definitely a team effort, the bigs helping on the screens, on the flare screens, on the down screens, just helping us recover to get back in front. It was just a great team effort.

Q. At what point in the night, maybe it was even early in the night, did you realize that your shot was on and maybe you were poised for such a big game?
BRANDON ROZZELL: I think after the first one went down, I felt like it was going to be a good night. That's a good thing for any shooter, any player playing the game. After the first one went down, I kept trying to find open spots on the court, and the second one dropped.
I just kept going from there. Kept trying to feed off Joey, his penetrating the whole game, Bradford penetrating. We draw a lot of attention on the three-point line when we spread the floor. I just knocked down some shots.

Q. You know, we talked about this a little bit in the locker room, but how much did disrespect leading up to the tournament feed in for you guys, and how much did you guys use that for fuel?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Any time people disrespect you, especially on national TV, it kind of hurts you a little bit. We had an opportunity to come out here and prove people wrong, and hopefully, we keep it going. That's really it.
I respect those guys, respect what they have to say, but hopefully we keep it going and keep proving them wrong.

Q. Any one of you guys can answer. I'll ask you, Joey, because you mentioned how you guys are all best friends. It seems like you guys have a lot of fun when you're out there on the court. How much of that is due to the atmosphere that coach creates?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: A lot of it. You know, coach gives us a lot of freedom. He doesn't let us look over our shoulder. Even more importantly, you know, he's like a best friend. You can talk to him about anything. When you got a guy like that leading the way, it's easy for us to come out here and perform and have a good time. Before every game, to come out there and just have fun.
We keep doing that, we got a bright future, and we're going to go deep in this tournament.

Q. Joey, can you describe what Brandon's like when he has a night like this. Obviously, he's like this in practice a lot. Given the stage.
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: He's great. You know, he's talking out there when he's making shots. You saw his defense today when he was making shots. He's all over the place. Hopefully, we can get him going again on Sunday. When he's making shots, he's one of the best players around.
He's really just a fun guy, good leader, gives everybody energy. That's it.

Q. So when Brandon is talking, what kinds of things is he saying?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: He's open. A lot. That's what he says a lot. He's always open in his mind, to tell you the truth. On defensive end, he's pointing out assignments and stuff. And when he's done with that, he's telling people he's open.

Q. Brandon, are you a little bit -- people are going to be stunned by the margin in this game. Are you a little bit surprised?
BRANDON ROZZELL: Not at all. I'm very confident in my team. When we play our brand of basketball, any basketball game, I feel like we can compete with any team in the country. As well as create a great margin on the court.
I mean, with all due respect to Georgetown, we just play VCU basketball, and it worked out for the best -- yeah, tonight. Worked out for the best for us tonight. There you go.

Q. Coach, can you just talk about overall the team's defense, especially creating 17 turnovers?
COACH SMART: I thought we were terrific defensively. If we can hold a good team like that to 56 points and 24 points in the first half, it gives you a great chance to win. Someone asked about the margin of victory, that's why we won by as much as we won by. We really dedicated ourself on the defensive end, and I thought took them out of what they do.

Q. Coach Smart, you and I talked about this, I guess, before with Joey. Just how did you use the media and stuff and stuff that's said -- I know coaches like their teams to kind of be the underdogs in situations like this. Did you think that made a difference, that type of stuff?
COACH SMART: No doubt about it. Our guys are competitors. They love to respond when people disrespect them, when people doubt them.
We had a game earlier this year where an assistant coach came out in the newspaper and said that we couldn't defend, and we went on that game, and we held that team to under 50 points. So I learned very early in the year about our team that they like a challenge, especially if it's posed by somebody that they can perceive as the enemy, or the opposition.
We love ESPN. We love being on ESPN. We love the guys at ESPN. But let's face it, those guys questioned us a little bit and our credibility as an NCAA team, and I thought the way that our guys responded to it, it was something that we could use as a motivating factor. Today, before we had lunch, we sat down and watched a video of Joe Lenardi saying we couldn't guard him. He said over and over in the video, they can't guard me, they can't guard me. We were showing clips in the video of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. Our guys responded to that, obviously. They did tonight.

Q. Can you talk about how confident this group is right now?
COACH SMART: Very confident. Very confident. It's a very fragile thing, confidence. It comes and goes. As a coach, you always want your team going out and playing with great belief in themselves and each other.
But the terrific thing for us is -- you know, it's mid to late March, and we're playing our best basketball, and our guys are believing in what we do. It really doesn't matter who we're playing against. They know, if we follow the plan and they trust each other, good things will happen.

Q. As you just said, you're very confident in your guys' chance of winning tonight. But were you even surprised that you just so thoroughly beat Georgetown?

Q. So you're showing the guys the video, what, they can't guard me, they can't guard me. What kind of expressions, responses, are you seeing from the players?
COACH SMART: They don't like it. They don't like it. They grit their teeth, and they -- you know, you can see them ready to kind of fight back. That's what we're looking for.
And, again, when the ball goes up in the air, all that stuff that's been said really doesn't matter, but if we're able to use that as a mental edge for our team against Georgetown or against USC the other night, we're going to do it.
I think that stuff's kind of fading now. We've proven over the last two games that we belong here, we more than belong here. Sunday's going to be more about us and Purdue and who's the better team.

Q. Coach, sorry to revisit Sunday night again, but I'm curious why you guys -- you didn't have them gather as a team to watch the selection show like a lot of people did. I know it was uncertain whether you were going to make it or not, but kind of the decision behind that. And then did it maybe help take a little pressure off as you then turned around and began preparation?
COACH SMART: Yeah, it did. I didn't know what was going to happen. I had a feeling I was going to get in because a man I never met but I trust very much, Jerry Palm, said we'd get in, and he was right. What's up, Jerry?

Q. You can guard me.
COACH SMART: Hey, we'll go with you any time. You gave me faith all last week because you had us in. We didn't get together because I didn't know how it was going to go. I knew we were going to play somewhere and someone. I didn't want our guys to be too crushed or too demoralized if we didn't get in.
And then if we did, I wanted there to be kind of an excitement, almost a surprise on their part, and we gathered like an hour later after the selection show, and it was like, all right, let's go.
I think that gave us a lot of energy going into the game in Dayton.

Q. Can you point to something or walk us through the few days between the end of the regular season, the beginning of the CAA Tournament that clicked or kind of you guys got back to playing the way you were playing before that skid?
COACH SMART: We struggled our last two games of the regular season. In fact, we actually lost 4 out of the last 5. They were five very tough teams that we played. In the final two games, we lost by one or two possessions. We were competitive, but we just came up short.
I think our guys knew that, in order for us to win the CAA Tournament or put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win it, we're going to have to play better. So we grouped -- we had some terrific practices.
Our seniors, particularly Joey Rodriguez, began to be much more vocal. I've been saying all year, we're going to go as far as our senior leadership takes us. I think we played very well in that CAA Tournament. George Mason played their best game of the year, and that springboarded us into the NCAA Tournament.

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