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April 2, 2011

Bradford Burgess

Joey Rodriguez

Jamie Skeen

Shaka Smart


Butler – 7
VCU - 62

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with VCU. Coach Smart, if you could give us a couple of opening remarks.
COACH SMART: Tough game. Give Butler a lot of credit. I think for the majority of the game they were the more aggressive team, and that made the difference. That was probably the biggest difference between this game for us and our last five.
I think it had more to do with Butler, though, than, you know, with us. Our guys fought and battled. I'm so proud of these guys to my left, as well as the rest of our team. It's a phenomenal run. It's really an historical run in NCAA tournament history. Something that these guys are never going to be forgotten. So I'm proud of them for what they've done and for staying together.
But make no mistake about it, this one really stings.
THE MODERATOR: Let's start with questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Jamie, Matt Howard went out with 9:22 left with his fourth foul. How frustrating was that? How good was the defense? Were you guys just not running your stuff?
JAMIE SKEEN: I wasn't frustrated at all, actually, just because I don't touch the ball. We got other good players on the team that can score as well. I don't have to touch the ball every time for us to score.

Q. Joey, you guys had that quick start where you had 15 points pretty quickly, had a really good pace going. What did they do that made it so difficult to maintain that?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: You know, they handled our pressure pretty well later in the first half. They made some big shots. Shelvin Mack made some big shots. You know, when you make shots, they get back on defense. I guess that was really it. Just them making shots on offense and us not being able to get the ball off quick.

Q. Jamie, talking about this team, you were the whole year together fighting together, talk about the big experience this season, as tough as this loss is.
JAMIE SKEEN: We'll, we just a big family. This whole season was great. It was a great run. We made history. We kept making history. We went deep into the tournament and we did what everybody said we couldn't do. I couldn't be more proud of my teammates.

Q. Bradford, you guys were getting off a little bit early in the first half, had a run of some threes, getting some good looks. Did you go away from that? Did you want to go inside more or did they change what they were doing in terms of getting out in the perimeter on you guys?
BRADFORD BURGESS: No. A lot of times we missed open shots. We missed a few layups. I mean, we got good shots a lot of times; they just didn't go in.

Q. Joey, can you just talk about the pace of play. I know you guys like to get your press going, get up and down the court a little bit. How you guys didn't quite get that rhythm for much more than that little stretch in the first half.
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: Like I said earlier, they made some shots and it was hard for us to get the ball out. I thought in the second half also we started getting our pace a little bit, especially at the beginning.
And, you know, a couple of our shots just didn't fall. They were open shots, shots we've been making. You know, if we go and watch the tape again, I felt like a lot of those were in-and-outs. I almost felt like it wasn't supposed to happen or something.
You know, it's just a tough feeling, but I'm just proud of everybody.

Q. How did their physical play compare to the other teams you've played and was the 48-32 margin on the boards a pretty good measure of that?
BRADFORD BURGESS: Yeah, I mean, getting out-rebounded like that, we can't win many ballgames like that. Their physicality, the boards, rebounding was an example of that. They're probably the most physical team we played all year, and it showed today.

Q. Jamie, if you could talk about whether another mid-major program beating you makes you want to root for them in the championship? To me it seems like there's something wrong with the small school knocking out the small school, but I guess it had to be done. Do you root for that team after they beat you?
JAMIE SKEEN: No, I never root for a team that just now beat me. I'm not going to be rooting for them. That's just that. I just won't be rooting for them.

Q. Jamie, you said you weren't going to root for Butler. Considering the mid-major thing, is it important for college basketball and just college sports that a team like VCU, like Butler win the national championship to prove that it can be done, that it doesn't have to come from a power conference?
BRADFORD BURGESS: Yeah, definitely. You know, last year Butler, this year Butler and ourselves, it just shows how far mid-major programs are coming and how they're developing with talented players and talented coaches.

Q. Joey, all tournament long you have kind of taken advantage of the fact that you're quicker, more athletic than most teams. Do you think Butler matched up better with you guys than any team you've played so far?
JOEY RODRIGUEZ: I guess you could say that. They went small and they match up with us. Like I said earlier, I thought we were getting shots that we usually made. We missed a lot of layups, just things didn't go our way. We got shots we've been making all tournament. It's kind of hard to say that when we've been doing the same stuff we've been doing, so...
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse the student-athletes and continue with questions for Coach Smart.

Q. Coach, Butler made it last year to the Final Four. You and Butler make it this year. They're in the final game. What message is being sent by these mid-majors going so far? What message do you think your team sent to players and followers of basketball around the nation?
COACH SMART: Sent the message that we're pretty good, that we're good enough to make it this far.
I think, you know, college basketball's evolved over the past two, three decades. And, like I said yesterday, with the rise of grass-roots basketball, these guys have played against all the good players and teams from all the major conferences and a lot of the mid-major conferences, so they're not afraid.
We went out there and we outplayed five BCS teams we played in the NCAA tournament. So did Butler has done that now. So it just shows, you know, when you have a good program, you've got a senior-ladened team, you got a chance to win.

Q. Coming out of the timeouts you went into zone a couple times, they didn't score against you, you went back to man. The second thing is, every half you start off unbelievably great and you got wide-open shots, then after three or four minutes it changed. What was the change?
COACH SMART: Well, I must have been watching a different game because they did score against our zone, otherwise we'd have stayed in it. We typically, even when we're in zone, if we miss a shot, we go back to man. That's just what we do 'cause I don't like trying to match up out of a miss.
But there were some things that Butler does against zone, did against zone, that were problematic. Maybe I'll go back and watch the tape and see that we should have played a little more zone.
At the end of the day, regardless of what defense you're in, you got to guard the ball and you got to go rebound the ball. And I don't think we did a good enough job of doing either one of those.
In terms of the second question about starting halves, I think they got up 5-0, and then we started playing, got the pace going the way we wanted it.
I thought particularly in the first half, we really let off the gas for some reason, which I can't give you an explanation for right now. I got to watch the tape. But what's brought us success thus far in the NCAA tournament has been, you know, really being aggressive and pushing the pedal to the metal even when we get leads. But midway through the first half, we did not do that tonight.
I do think some of the fouls kind of bogged the game down a little bit. But that's not what decided the game.

Q. You talked yesterday about the pace. You even used the word 'seduced.' You knew it would be hard to get Butler to speed up. There were two times it looked like it happened. I know you're disappointed now, but can you appreciate the way they stayed to what they want to do?
COACH SMART: Well, I thought they came into the game wanting to shoot open shots against the press. They talked about that in the media coming into the game. And they did, and they missed some of them. It got the pace going the way we wanted it.
The second half, they took some shots at the back end of the press, Hahn was able to make a couple of threes, they got a layup against it.
So, you know, Butler's going to play the way they play and I think they're going to take opportunities when they have them. You know, I think style of play obviously is something that we always want to be fast, we always want to get to our pace. But I thought the game was high enough scoring. We just missed too many really easy shots around the basket, gave them too many second shots, and, like I said, we fouled a lot. There were a lot of fouls called on us.
You add those things up, that was the difference.

Q. When Howard went out with the four fouls, how did you see that? Did you want to run stuff for Jamie or did it work out that way?
COACH SMART: We called some stuff for Jamie. He got 17 shots for the game. He got seven free throw attempts. Could he have gotten it more? Sure. But I thought he got the ball a pretty good amount.
I have to go back and watch the tape to look at the stretch you're talking about. There was a couple of plays about four, six minutes left where we kind of had a delayed break, and we got nothing out of it, maybe took a perimeter shot or turned it over. Those are plays obviously you'd love to get back and get the ball inside.
But, you know, we've kind of played a free-wheeling, attacking style all year long. Guys like Joey, Brandon Rozzell, you can't necessarily take them out of their game by slowing them down all the time.

Q. After looking at Butler up close, what do you expect to happen on Monday night?
COACH SMART: I have no idea. I'm not a prognosticator. If I was, I could probably get a better record than some of those guys.
But I don't know. Butler's got a great team. The two teams that are playing right now are phenomenal teams. UConn and Kentucky probably have more talent, Butler has more experience. I wouldn't be surprised either way, I really wouldn't.

Q. You mentioned the physicality of the play. Can you speak to the correlation of them taking the fight to you yet being plus 12 on free throws?
COACH SMART: Yeah, I better be careful about that. My conference commissioner is in the back. I thought the foul disparity was significant. It really affected the game. We'll go back and watch the tape.
There's some teams that have a way of being physical on the defensive end without getting a lot of fouls called on them, and that's a very good attribute. Drexel in our league is terrific at it. And Butler is that way. Not just tonight, but in a lot of games, they really use their bodies well, they know how to position. That was definitely the case in this game.

Q. Seemed like in the final few minutes of the game when it was close some of your guys took some low-quality shots. Do you think that Butler being able to win the close games has to do with their experience? Also, what do you think it is about Butler that they've been able to win so many close games in the tournament?
COACH SMART: They got smart players. They have guys that know how to execute. You know, tonight we were behind. When you're up five or six like Butler was, it's easy to milk the clock and make sure you get a great shot.
To be honest with you, they hit a couple midrange jump shots, I think Mack hit one, Vanzant hit one, those were tough, tough shots, contested shots, those guys stepped up and made them. If you want to talk about quality of shots, we had, I would say, six or eight layups that we missed. So I would say that wasn't the difference.
Butler has an experienced team. They know how to win. They're not going to beat themselves. We knew that coming into the game. We just made a few too many mistakes.

Q. I understand that this does sting, as you said, but are you able to take a breath and comment on what your group achieved since those last five games of the regular season, shed any light on how that was possible?
COACH SMART: Well, it's tough right now to look back and sum it up 'cause I'm so caught up in tonight's game.
What our guys accomplished I think over the past four weeks has been terrific. I think we've played as good of basketball as anybody in the country. Everyone talks about the way that we've utilized the media doubting us. I made the decision at the beginning of the NCAA tournament that we could either ignore what people were saying or we could go right back at 'em.
And with today's social media, today's media, it's so hard to ignore. So our guys did a great job of sinking their teeth into that. And it brought our team closer together, brought our players really tight. I like the way that we executed tonight.

Q. Maybe just comment on Mack. People see Butler. They don't have the name recognition and everything. Shelvin Mack I think was 8-11 tonight. His talent, what he brought them.
COACH SMART: He was a killer tonight. He stepped up and made some huge, huge shots, particularly from behind the arc.
We talked to our guys about taking away his three-point looks, and he was five for six. You know, we had a freshman out there that really learned a valuable lesson because three of those threes were on Rob Brandenberg, who is going to be a terrific player, has a chance to be very, very good for us. But he was there with a hand up, but he wasn't there enough.
And when you're playing against a high-level player like Shelvin Mack, you've got to be even tighter. You've got to be even closer. And Mack made him pay. He's a high-level player. I think he's as good of a college basketball player as any of the guards in the Final Four.
Now, you know, some of the guys from UConn and Kentucky, they talk about their pro projections and all that stuff. I'm not an NBA guy. I don't know how all that works. But I would take Shelvin Mack on my team just as quickly as I would take any of the other guards that played in this tournament.

Q. People a year ago would have said, Don't worry about Butler losing, they'll be back next year. People would have said that was crazy. I wonder, A, if you think that's an unbelievable, incredible feat? And, two, could you see VCU doing the same or do you think this is a once-in-a-lifetime run?
COACH SMART: You don't know me very well if you ask that. Of course it's not a once-in-a-lifetime run. We're going to try to do this every year. It's not easy, there's no question about it.
In our program, we're going to continue to build. This is my second year. You know, we've got a lot of things that we still want to accomplish. This was a terrific run. Are we capable of doing it again? Sure. No question. If we're capable of coming together as a group and playing aggressive, confident, loose basketball, and we have the right guys out there, it's certainly possible.
As for Butler back-to-back going to the national championship game, I'm not surprised. Their program's rock solid. They've got a great coach. They've got a great system. They have players that every time they take the floor do so with a clear head. And when you have a clear head for winning, you have a great opportunity to win.

Q. You had that stretch of threes in the first half that really got you going, then there's a fallow period. Did you go away from that or did their adjustments force you to go away from it or what happened to your three game?
COACH SMART: Well, we got 22 up for the game, which is about I think what we averaged, maybe a few less. One thing they did do, which teams do to us sometimes, is they switched all the ball screens that involved our four-man. Our four-man can really shoot. It's either Bradford Burgess or Jamie Skeen. There are things we can do to counteract that, but what it did for them is it took away open shots because they were switching and they didn't have two guys guarding one.
But I thought, you know, our inability to get out in transition took away from some of the three-point attempts we typically have. Again, they did a great job scrambling and getting out on shooters. We put it on the floor. We got in the lane. We just didn't make enough plays from there.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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