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NCAA MEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: SAN ANTONIO


March 27, 2011


Joey Rodriguez

Brandon Rozzell

Jamie Skeen

Shaka Smart


SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

Virginia Commonwealth 71
Kansas - 61


THE MODERATOR: We welcome VCU to the dais. At this time we'd ask Coach Smart to give us an opening statement.
COACH SMART: Once again we felt like nobody really thought we could win going into the game. But these guys believed we could win. They knew we could win. And we talked before the game about how nobody else really matters, what they think. And that's our theme throughout the NCAA tournament since we were selected. And our guys have done a phenomenal job of putting all the doubters aside, putting all the people that didn't believe in us aside and going out and doing their job. Today they did their job to the tune of a 10-point victory over, I think, the team that was on paper, the best team left in the NCAA tournament. And I thought we were dominant in the first half.
In the second half they came back at us and really made a great run. But these three guys and their teammates kept their composure the whole time, we didn't give up the lead and made some huge plays down the stretch on both ends of the floor and now we're going to the Final Four.

Q. Joey, did you guys assume that Broad Street will still be there when you get home?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: I hope so. I got a picture sent to me where you can't walk anywhere on Broad Street right now. It's exciting. I'm sure everybody is going to be out there waiting for us, and I can't wait to get out of here. Sorry guys (laughter.)

Q. Joey and Brandon, they obviously had a terrible offensive performance today shooting-wise. How much of that do you guys take credit for with your defense and how much just the shooters, do you think they were just off today?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: I take all the credit for that, to tell you the truth. I think we wore them out. We came right at them in offensive end. If you go back and watch the game I think every time they shot the ball mostly somebody had a hand in their face. Our wings did a great job of contesting shots and running their shooters off of things.
BRANDON ROZZELL: What you said, yeah.

Q. Joey, when they made their run at the beginning of the second half what was going through your head? Did you guys tighten up at all or feel a momentum shift?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: No. We knew they were going to make a run. Kansas State had a 15-point lead on them at halftime one time and they came back and made a big run. We knew they were going to make a big run. We huddled up, rallied around coach and did what we've been doing the whole tournament. Showed a lot of resolve and a lot of belief in each other.

Q. Jamie, if you could just talk about your match-up with the Morris twins and how well you played against them, going outside, hitting the three pointers early and banging with them inside.
JAMIE SKEEN: I'd like to start off by saying that both of those guys are really good. They're NBA talent, as everybody already knows. I respect both of them. I came in the game thinking that they were not so cool on the court and I thought they were some buttholes on the court, but that's what everybody told me, at least, but when I got on the court I found out they were really cool. We had a mutual conversation. I think they're really good. And I played well against them. I'm glad. I thank God for it.

Q. Joey, you're listed 5'10". What are you really?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: 5'10" (laughter.)

Q. Where do you get your toughness and fearlessness come from? Growing up? Where does it come from?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Just growing up. My family raised me well. My dad was always tough on me. Didn't beat me or anything, but he was just a tough guy. He always pushed me. Always had a belief in myself. And I think it comes from him and my mother and that's it. And just always had belief in myself.

Q. Joey, a little bit more on that, I was going to ask you about the point in the game you took a three from the key, an air ball, and then you went to the hole and got your shot right away. It looked like that would be a time the whole team faded a little bit and lost confidence. Next time down you hit another three and get an assist on a bucket. Can you talk about your ability to fight back?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, been like that all year. I'm short, I get my shot blocked all the time. That doesn't bother me, really. Coach has a lot of belief in me as a leader, he gave me the ball. And Brandon told me, Don't worry, shoot the next shot. That's what I did, came off the screen and they were tired. Nobody was there and I hit the shot. Next time came down, ran the shot clock and coach called 54 and made a good cut, just like I've been doing all year.

Q. Brandon, happy birthday, right?
BRANDON ROZZELL: Thank you very much.

Q. A lot of people say the same thing about Butler, they say the teams that play Butler never shoot well. And it seems that you guys have the same deal in the fact that you somehow, I think Jamie talked about being gnats or whatever. Did you feel like you did that to Kansas today, that they just somehow bothered them enough to where they just didn't make shots?
BRANDON ROZZELL: Yeah, definitely. I give a lot of credit to our coaching staff telling us to be so aggressive with our press. We had to guard for a short amount of time with the shot clock. And Jamie came up and did a great job down the side. Our guards did a great job of talking and working together throughout the whole shot clock and finishing possessions off.

Q. Jamie, we know that maybe the Morris twins are a little bit cooler than you thought. Talk a little bit about going into them and trying to get them and Robinson also in foul trouble and your ability to stretch them outside, as well.
JAMIE SKEEN: I just tried to stretch them out and I felt like they was pretty strong on post, so I tried to take them from the outside. They gave me a lot of open threes. When you have your hand down, I just take a shot. It's called hand down, man down. That's what I did. Took open shots. I take what they give me.

Q. For all you guys, just what the feeling was like going over to the fans and your family after you won the game.
BRANDON ROZZELL: I think we was all very thankful. Our fans stuck with us through everything this year, and as well as through this tournament. Even when Kansas fans got loud and the arena was loud, our fans were right there in that section still cheering us on. They were the loudest and we could hear them and they motivated us to keep fighting.
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: They got really loud when Kansas made that run. Our fans never gave up. You could see them standing up throughout the whole thing. And we just came together as a group. When you have a belief in each other and a belief in your coaching staff anything like this can happen.
JAMIE SKEEN: What they said.

Q. Could you comment and just go into detail on what you thought you guys did defensively and how that influenced Kansas into such a terrible afternoon?
COACH SMART: I didn't think Kansas played terrible. I think they shot 2 for 21 from the three point line. Joey said it had everything to do with what we did. That's impossible to tell. But I'll tell you this, that game was all about style of play. We got the style going the way that we wanted in the first half. And if you watch closely their players were tugging on their shorts for much of the game. When you don't have your legs it's hard to make outside shots.
That's why we play the way we play. That's part of our havoc style is getting people winded, getting people fatigued. And because of that they missed some shots. But I think it's also because we did a terrific job dedicating ourselves on the defensive end on getting a hand up, contesting outside shots. And they rebounded well. They did a great job on the glass. But we got enough big rebounds in the last six minutes of the game to extend the lead.

Q. What's it feel like standing there with that net around your neck? When you won the CBI, did you have the net around your neck then?
COACH SMART: No, I don't think we cut down the net after we won the CBI, but they dumped a bunch of Gatorade on me. It feels nice, I have a dry shirt on. That was a great run, but this is a whole different universe. And for us to win five games and make the Final Four, again, I think it says everything about those three guys that were just up here and their 11 teammates.
We went through some adversity this year as most teams did. We weren't 35-2 coming into this game, but we're playing our best basketball when it matters most, and that's why I'm sitting up here right now with a net around my neck.

Q. Two part question, No. 1, you took that tech early in the second half when Kansas was making the run. If you can, what did you say to your team in the huddle during that time? Two, do you think it kind of gave the team a jolt to kind of knock their run out?
COACH SMART: I hope it did. I try not to get technical fouls. It's the first technical foul I've gotten all year, and the second one I've gotten in two years. I was mad at myself after I got it. I kind of lost it a little bit, disagreeing with a couple of calls. I didn't even say anything, but I guess I charged out there and ran a little bit faster than I should have, which actually is the reason I got the other technical last year, too. I've got to control my pace as I move toward the officials (laughter.)
But what did I say to the team? We got in the huddle. First, I apologized to the team for getting a technical foul, because you never as a coach want to be part of giving the other team points. Fortunately they only made one out of two. But I told our team something that I can't necessarily repeat verbatim here, but it was basically, Forget about the refs, forget Kansas. This is all about us and we've got to do what we've got to do. And we did.

Q. Actually I was going to ask you about the technical, but you just answered it. Do you have any thoughts, I know this is tomorrow, Butler, you and Butler now playing. You're going to be underdogs again. I know Bill Self was saying you guys take your shirts off, shirts and skins, and your players -- he'd like to have your players on his team. Can you talk about how that's going to play into the Final Four now?
COACH SMART: Just the fact that we're playing Butler and who is going to be the underdog? You know, I really haven't thought much about Butler yet, just trying to enjoy this win. Obviously I've followed their program over the years and they've got a terrific young coach in Brad Stevens. Talking about me as a young coach, I think we're right around the same age. He's been a head coach a couple of years longer than me, and he has had a lot more success. They made the championship game last year and now back-to-back Final Fours. Obviously they're doing a lot of things right over there at Butler. And first and foremost their defense.
It will be a great challenge for us. I think what it does say about college basketball is any very good team from any league can go to the Final Four. And you don't have to beat one of the BCS conference teams. I think over the last 10 or 15 years college basketball, the playing field has evened out a little bit. When you have a senior-laden team like we do, you have an opportunity to go make a run like this, because we have as much experience as anybody we're going to play.
So with us and Butler matching up going to the semifinals it's a game for -- I don't want to say the little guys -- but the medium-sized guys and we're excited about it.

Q. Can you just talk a bit about Toby's game. Did you know coming into the game did that he was going to play so many more minutes than usual?
COACH SMART: No, Toby was phenomenal. That's the Toby that we recruited and that we would love to see on a nightly basis. He came in and he really changed the complexion of the game with his energy. Had a couple of big rebounds right away and made his two free throws, as you know his percentage hasn't been terrific, but he stepped up there and he looked like Steve Kerr shooting those free throws. He just played with a bounce in his step.
Early in the game we were struggling defending the Morris twins inside, they were just pistol whipping as I say to the guys, pistol whipping us around the basket. And Toby didn't get pistol whipped. He went in there and battled and fought and gave us 16 terrific minutes. We would not have won this game if it was not for him.

Q. I watched you go up and cut off the last strands of the net. It looked like you paused for a second. I was wondering what was going through your mind when you were doing that.
COACH SMART: Just reflected back for just a second on this run that we've been on, you know, on all the people that go into putting yourself in a position where you can cut down a net like that. And there's so many people that are behind the scenes that don't necessarily get the credit.
But one thing that my family taught me a long time ago is appreciation is the currency of success. My wife said that. She's back there in the back, Pat, she's a much better interview than me. If you want to be successful in life it's all about gratitude and appreciating the people that have helped you along the way.

Q. I'm guessing all 68 teams that started this thing believed they could win, but you guys believe you can do what you've done. This is probably a question that is impossible to answer, but how do you get these guys to believe that?
COACH SMART: To believe that we can win the whole thing?

Q. Yeah.
COACH SMART: Ever seen the movie, Major League? I can't say exactly what the guy says, but they get in some situations, and there's only one thing left to do, win the whole blank thing. And that's all there is left to do. You get to the Final Four, it comes down to four teams, you and three other teams. You get two teams, if you're fortunate to win the first one -- we're not going to lose any belief.
They asked me after the Purdue game in Chicago, they said, Are you worried about going back to Richmond and your mindset changing or your approach change? No, I'm not worried about that. Our guys know what it takes to win big games in the NCAA tournament. We did it in Dayton, we did it in Chicago. We've done it here in San Antonio. By the way, I love San Antonio. Joey said let's get out of here. I don't want to even leave. We've done it in different places now, it's a matter of maintaining that approach, keeping our focus on the task at hand, which in this case is Butler, which is a battle, because the media and all of our family and friends are going to want to pat us on the back. If we do that, we'll be fine.

Q. Just curious, are you going to stay in Texas this week or are you going home?
COACH SMART: No, we're going home. We're going to reunite with all of our fans back in Richmond. They will be there when we get back no matter how late it is. We can't wait to see them. This Final Four berth is for all of our fans in Richmond and VCU and we can't wait to get back to share it with them. Plus we're looking forward to sleeping in our own beds for a few days.

Q. You've been pretty cool and collected this whole tournament. Can you tell me where that calmness and that swagger comes from?
COACH SMART: I don't know. It's just a game. When you're able to win some games people make a big deal out of it. We put a lot into it, so it's a big deal to us. Basketball coaching is not who I am, it's just what I do. And fortunately things are going really well for us right now. But if you're able to step back and understand there's something even beneath all of that, all of that success, then you realize for you and for your coaching staff and for your players, all you can do is go out there and do your best.
One of my favorite books is called The Four Agreements. One of them says do your best. And if you do that, let the chips fall where they may. And that's what we did. And we made history here, winning five games, going to the Final Four, and as I said out there on the floor, we're not done yet.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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