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March 20, 2011

Bradford Burgess

Joey Rodriguez

Shaka Smart


VCU – 94
Purdue - 76

GREG GREENWELL: From VCU we have head coach Shaka Smart and student-athletes Bradford Burgess, Joey Rodriguez, and Brandon Rozzell. We'll start with an opening statement from the head coach and then take questions from the student-athletes.
COACH SMART: Our guys played great. I thought they did a phenomenal job executing the game plan on both ends of the floor. Purdue obviously has some very dangerous weapons offensively, and I thought we did a good job keeping them on their heels.
And then on our offensive end, terrific job, probably as good a job as we've done all year sharing the basketball. 26 assists, only 4 turnovers, led by Joey, 11 assists and no turnovers. Just a phenomenal floor game by him and really by our whole team.

Q. Joey, you guys said coming into this game that Sweet 16 was your goal all the way. You really wanted to win this one. Now that you've finally gotten it, how does it feel?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Feels great. We've been working four years to get here. Now it's our senior year, and we're here. But we're not satisfied now. We want to keep it going. This is a great moment for tonight and a great moment for the university. But, you know, we got a lot more to do.

Q. Guys, can you just talk about -- you guys scored 94 points on Purdue, a very good defensive team, and how you were able to do that.
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Attacked them. Coach told us before the game just come in and attack them and play loose. That's what we did.
When guys pressure you, you know, you don't want to play on your heels. Tonight we didn't play on our heels at all. We attacked them and made plays. When you got guys around me that can make shots like they can, you know, that's what's going to happen.

Q. Prior to getting scouting reports, how many guys on Purdue's roster could you have named?
BRADFORD BURGESS: Their All-Americans, their point guard, their coach. That's about it.
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Is that four? Four.

Q. Joey, was there a point in the game maybe late in the first half when you felt the tide was in your favor?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Probably -- you know, it was early in the first half actually because we started getting the game going with our tempo. We got a couple stops, and we moved in transition. Sometimes we didn't make a shot, but we got the game going on tempo. Once we got it going on tempo, you could see in the second half they got kind of winded, and it helped us out a lot.

Q. What was it like there in that stretch of the beginning of the second half where time after time you kept being able to get to the rim and make layups? Joey, we can go with you because you ran the offense.
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Felt great. You know, getting to the basket, and we had guys cutting. Like I said, in the second half you could see they were getting winded.
We've been working all year to condition like that, and that helped us tonight.

Q. Bradford, you guys made a big deal out of the lack of respect you got coming into this tournament, but you have lost 11 games. What hasn't worked in those games this year that has been working apparently in this tournament run?
BRADFORD BURGESS: I think our defense and our motivation. You know, I think we lost focus sometimes on the road and against certain opponents we weren't as focused as we should have been.
But I think this time around with our second chance getting in the way we did, we've had an extreme amount of focus and determination to win games and play our style of play.

Q. Joey, people talk about shooters kind of getting in the zone. Is there such thing as being in the zone as a point guard? 11 assists, no turnovers. I mean, that's magnificent.
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: I don't think so. I think it was just -- I was worried about just running the team and communicating with the guys. These last three games, that's all I've been trying to do is be a great leader and make plays for everybody.
I haven't been worrying about scoring or none of that stuff. It doesn't matter. It's just about winning and keeping this ride going. That's all that matters now.
GREG GREENWELL: Okay. Thank you. We'll go ahead and take questions for Coach Smart.

Q. Coach, you must have had something like -- I don't know. I lost count. But I think something on the order of 25 layups. What did you see in Purdue's defense that made you think you could break them down that easily?
COACH SMART: Well, it's a combination of the way we've been playing, which has been a very aggressive style, an attacking style, and also we knew that Johnson wanted to play pretty much the whole game. I think he's fouled 50-some times in a year. He doesn't commit a lot of fouls. So we wanted to really go at him inside and their other bigs and see if he was going to stand up to us and foul or let us shoot layups.
We were fortunate. We got quite a few baskets in the paint. I think it becomes somewhat of a snowball effect. Once you get some in there, then the guys feel like we can keep getting them.
I thought our ball screen actions were very effective tonight against Purdue. We'd set a screen and then really try to attack. And Joey did a great job, when he did draw the defense, of making the extra pass. We got some layups from that too.

Q. You've had some pretty good players, NBA draft picks, in the last couple of years. What about this group has gotten you to the Sweet 16?
COACH SMART: When we started the year, we gave our team a motto, and it was our time right now. The purpose of that motto was, for our seniors, for our older players, to understand -- Eric Maynard is in the NBA, Larry Sanders is now in the NBA, this is your team. This is our time.
And right now a part of it is it's now or never because, at this point, obviously, in the season, when you lose, you go home. And for our four seniors, this is their last opportunity.
So to answer your question, I think our group over the last couple weeks, our conference tournament and this run in the NCAA Tournament has really sunk their teeth into living that motto.

Q. Same thing I asked Bradford. You guys have lost games and Coach Painter was saying looking at tape, there are games where you looked like you could beat anybody and games you haven't looked like that. What is working now?
COACH SMART: First of all, you can beat anybody. That's college basketball. That's the way you play the game. Purdue beat Ohio State a few weeks ago. Ohio State beat George Mason by 30 today. George Mason came to our place and beat us, and we came and beat Purdue in the tournament. Unfortunately, we're not coaching robots. We can't push a button and play the same way every time.
Unfortunately, fatigue sets in. There's going to be games where, let's face it, on the road you might not be as sharp for whatever reason. I think our guys have done a good job all year following the plan. Some games we've had more energy than others, some games our guys have been more highly motivated.
I think the biggest key, though, is when you get to this time of year, you're playing your best basketball. That's what these guys are doing. That's what this whole group is doing.

Q. What do you think Richmond is going to be like when you get back to town with both you and Richmond in the Sweet 16?
COACH SMART: It's a great basketball town. We have a terrific following in Richmond. We have great fans. It's going to be buzzing, that's for sure. This is obviously, our first trip to the Sweet 16 at VCU. We're excited to share that with the whole city and our whole VCU community from professors to students to athletic administrators.
This win here, these three wins that we've had this week, it's for everybody at VCU.

Q. Yesterday when I talked to you about what it would take to slow down Purdue's offense, you kind of acknowledged that Johnson and Moore were going to get theirs, and it was up to you to stop the other guys. Johnson had a big game, but E'Twaun Moore did not. Even then, Johnson, had 25 and 14 but it felt like it could have been more. What did you do to those two guys to slow them down, and were you happy with what you did to the supporting cast?
COACH SMART: Well, Smith got free for some jump shots against the press. When we play the way we do, that's going to happen sometimes. That's okay. It's collateral damage. We still got the game going the way we wanted it to be. If you told me we're going to score 94 points, I would have been okay with Smith getting some of those three-point shots.
I think our guys did a good job on E'Twaun Moore. Ed Nixon guarded him for most of the game. He's been, to me, one of the best defender ins our conference. He doesn't get enough recognition for it for whatever reason, but he's been our best defender for two years before I got here.
That's the reason we were able to hold E'Twaun to 30 percent shooting.
With Johnson, he's a great player. Our guys did a good job on him. He got free a few times around the basket. I think the thing that helped us is we made him work for everything he got, particularly the first 35 minutes of the game, and that tired him out some, and I think that affected him on our offensive end as well.

Q. Coach, I just wondered if you got a chance to see Coach Purnell at all this weekend in Chicago.
COACH SMART: I didn't get a chance to see him because I've been holed up in the tape room at the Renaissance Hotel. So I wish I would have got a chance to see Coach. He did come to the game on Friday, and he came to the game today. So I got a chance to wave across the court at him.
He's just such a huge influence on me, and as I've said before, the thing that I've really tried to take from him is his positivity and optimism, and that's really helped us these last couple weeks.

Q. Could you talk about Juvonte Reddic and D.J. Haley. They really stepped up early on. Especially Juvonte Reddic with the midrange jumpers.
COACH SMART: They both stepped up big time, 18 points in 19 minutes between the two of them. You're talking about two freshmen out there playing to go to the Sweet 16. It's pretty amazing.
And I want to get them in there more and more and more. But you get in a game like this, and Purdue was playing kind of small. Burgess is so good for us at the four spot, and Skeen's been our best player this year. Him and Brad have been our best players. They didn't get to play as much, but they certainly took advantage of the 19 minutes they got.
They've gotten better and better and better all year. That's what freshmen are supposed to do. They listened. They showed a great level of humility. They understand it's not about them. It's about the whole team. I think they really listened.
Sky is the limit for those guys. Next year they're obviously going to play much, much bigger roles. We'll take a point per minute from them moving forward here as we head to San Antonio.

Q. I know you always have a lot of confidence and then thought for sure that you were going to win today. Did you think it would be this easy?
COACH SMART: No, I didn't. I didn't think we would score this easily. I'm not -- you know, I'm kind of at a loss for words because I don't think it's so much a reflection on Purdue. I think it's a reflection on our guys and how well they've executed what we try to do and how well Joey ran the show.
I thought our guys were flawless in the last seven or eight minutes when they did try to pressure us, they tried to trap us. We made all the right passes, all the right plays. We attacked when we needed to attack. We pulled it out when we needed to pull it out.
So I didn't think it would be this easy, but at the same time, I know what our guys have inside of them, and that's quite a bit. That's a whole lot. It's your job as a coach to try to pull it out. That's what our staff has tried to do all season long, but especially these last couple weeks.

Q. Coach, talked to Brandon in the locker room about, when they found out they got in on Sunday, it sort of felt like a second chance and something they didn't want to squander. How much of that do you feel is at play with these guys right now?
COACH SMART: I think it was more at play earlier in the week. Now it's just a matter of our guys realize how good we can be, and I think with each win we're gaining confidence.
Part of the way we play is I try not to hold them back. I try to just let them go. Sometimes the assistants get on me, and they say, you need to pull them -- you know, you need to make sure we're getting a better shot or we're shooting too quick, and that's just not how I roll, I guess. If they got an open shot and they're a good shooter, go ahead. Fling it in there. And it's worked out for us.

Q. Coach, the month of February, obviously, wasn't the easiest, and now you guys are in the Sweet 16, the NCAA Tournament. Can you just talk about the emotions you're feeling right now.
COACH SMART: I feel great. I'm so happy for everyone involved with our program from players to coaches to managers. Everyone that's helped us from our athletic administration, the president of our university, and all of our fans. It's been just a great ride that we've really enjoyed sharing with everybody at VCU.
And the great thing is these three guys up here, as well as their teammates, they don't want it to end. Now, whoever we play in San Antonio, they're going to be a great team. Probably be the best team we played so far in the NCAA Tournament. But that's okay. It's more about us and doing what we need to do.
But I feel terrific. I'm looking forward to getting a little bit of sleep when I go back. But just happy that my family could be here, and I love Chicago. I have a history here. So I'm happy that we could come here and we could win these two games.

Q. Coach, could you talk about the importance of winning the CBI last year and putting together a string of wins against less familiar teams and how this has helped this group of seniors perform.
COACH SMART: That's a good question. It's huge, really big for us. One of the things that happens when you get into conference play is everyone knows what you're doing. They really do a good job preparing to stop you and score against what you do. I think teams in our league have done a good job of that.
When you get outside the league, teams don't know you as well. I think our style has really been effective. Obviously, in the postseason, this group that we've had the last two years, if you add it up, we're 8-0 right now in the postseason. So they're playing -- the best thing about it is these three guys, and really our whole team, are playing our best basketball when it matters most, playing loose.
When you get to this time of year, you know that, as soon as you lose, you're done. And I think our guys have done a great job making a conscious decision, saying we don't want to be done.

Q. Yesterday your players talked about how the Sweet 16 was a goal. Are you worried about, now that they've met that goal, that there might be a little bit of a let down?
COACH SMART: No, not with our group. It was a goal. It's hanging up in our locker room right now. We'll talk about what's next after that.
These guys are hungry guys. Joey's nuts. He wants to win the whole thing, I guarantee you. And he kind of leads the way for everybody. So I'm not worried about there being a letdown. I'm just worried about us getting back, getting our rest, taking care of what needs to be taken care of academically, in terms of treatment, all that stuff, and then starting to prepare for whoever wins this game tonight.
GREG GREENWELL: Thank you, Coach.

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