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MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE MEN'S TOURNAMENT


March 1, 2012


Greg McDermott

Doug McDermott

Antoine Young


ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

THE MODERATOR:  Please welcome Creighton.
COACH McDERMOTT:  We're thrilled with our finish after having really one tough week all season where we lost three games, a couple on the road and one at home.  To be able to end with four straight wins is something that we desperately needed.  I'm really proud of my team for that.
It's difficult to overcome adversity when it strikes for the first time in the middle of February.  Fortunately we had the maturity to do that, and we've had the good fortune of winning a couple close games.  That obviously could have gone either way.
It's just my belief that when you have what I would consider a special season, which is what we have had this year, you'll look back and look at five or six games that could have gone either way.¬† It's just the reality of the world we live in, and we live in the game of college basketball when you play 30‑plus games, they're all not going to be perfect.
But these guys are stuck together.  They worked extremely hard.  They've got a tremendous belief in one another, maybe more so than any other team we've been around.  They've been more enjoyable to coach.

Q.  You only have one senior on this team, and you guys have a lot of experience in Arch Madness, you have Josh and Ethan who started in this tournament.  And you've got just about everybody back from last year.  Talk about the experience and how that's going to help you?
COACH McDERMOTT:  Obviously, Antoine's played a lot of basketball here, and that's what it's going to take to come down here and be successful.  Our guys have been a lot of difficult situations this year.  We were down 17 at San Diego State to come back and win.  We were down double digits at Wichita to find a way to win.
Even at home, sometimes when you're at home, it's even more difficult than when you're at home.  You feel the pressure and air going out of your arena.  We're down 16 with 7 or 8 minutes to go against Evansville, and came back to win.
This team understands what it takes for us to be successful.  It's different than a lot of teams.  Our execution on the offensive end is really critical to us.  It's been able to hide some shortcomings that we have on the defensive end and maybe mask some of those somewhat.
But like I said, they've got tremendous belief in one another.  Regardless of who is going to take the shot.  We've had a lot of different guys step up in key situations.  So I think they come here confident.  I think they come here excited for another opportunity to win a championship.

Q.  The versatility of this team, Doug, of course you've had a great year, but just the depth of this team, what are some strength suits there, and what sticks out when you think of the depth and versatility of this group this year?
ANTOINE YOUNG:  We obviously had a lot of weapons, especially coming off the bench, which we show with our freshmen, Austin Chatman and all those guys coming off the bench.  They're extremely talented as well as our front five.  Doug brings a different level to our offensive game and so does Greg.  So many different weapons that attack you in different ways.  I think it makes it difficult for us to guard.
DOUG McDERMOTT:  We're a really unselfish group of guys.  Our bench has been great all year.  Ethan comes in and knocks down shots.  He's had a little slump here, and I think he'll pick it up here soon.  Josh is playing with a lot of confidence.  And our starting lineup, Gregory's been great all year controlling the paint.  And Grant Gibbs is probably the most unselfish dude I've played with ever.  So it's been a blast playing with all these guys.
COACH McDERMOTT:  We've been fortunate that, as I mentioned earlier, we've had a lot of different guys step up at critical times.  Gregory making big baskets late.  Josh Jones late against Evansville.  They scored the last five points.  I believe Antoine's hit big shots to win games for us.
We've had our freshmen come off at different times.  Avery Dingman gets 14 against Evansville.  Austin Chatman has played more minutes as the season gone on.  And Will Artino is in at Drake when the game's being decided and has a big game for us.  So we can turn to a lot of different people.  It's not necessary.  We put so much pressure on one or two people's shoulders.
The reality of it's the two guys sit to go my right or left, when they play well, we're pretty darn good.  For the most part this season, they've played really good basketball.

Q.¬† If Drake ends up getting past Bradley and you do end up playing Drake, Jahenns has done a good job on Ben Simons in the match‑ups, but how do you slow down Rayvonte Rice?
COACH McDERMOTT:¬† It's difficult, because he's so powerful going to the basket.¬† Guarding the dribble isn't our strength, and that's what Rayvonte does best, getting to the strength and getting to the free‑throw line.
And in my opinion, Coach Phelps has done as good a job coaching in our league this year as any other coach given the injury problems he's had this season with the starting front line and Ben Simons goes down with an illness for four games and still finds a way to get him in a tie for third.
What I feel like, if Drake does get by Bradley tomorrow night.  We're essentially playing a team that's got a third place team in the first round instead ave 7th place team.  I think Mark's done a terrific job.  Any time you have Simons and Rice on the floor at the same time, it poses so many problems because of their versatility.  We do things off the dribble this year that he wasn't able to do last year.
He's an unbelievable three‑point shooter, and Rayvonte's so powerful going to the basket.¬† And Kurt Alexander has given them solid minutes at the point guard position and given them a third scorer that really adds offense.

Q.  If Bradley were to happen to pull off the upset on Drake, they gave you a couple pretty good games this year.  If you could revisit those games and what challenges they might present?
COACH McDERMOTT:  Well, obviously Geno's done a great job of having his guys continue to play.  In talking to the coaches that have played him recently at the banquet, the thing that everybody said is Bradley hasn't quit.  They're continuing to defend and probably defending better than they have all year long.
What Lemon Jr. and Simms‑Edwards are a difficult match‑up for us.¬† So as you mentioned, we had two very competitive games with them both at our place and at their place.¬† We know we're going to get their best shot, and we know we're going to have to be ready to play.
I really think the difference between a lot of teams in our league is it's really a fine line.  I think on any given night, anything can happen, and I would include Bradley in that conversation.

Q.  Doug, just related to what I asked earlier.  Knowing the players you have around you, how does that give you confidence as the season has gone on even with your play this year?
DOUG McDERMOTT:  Yeah, everyone's just doing a great job of accepting their roles this year.  Antoine's been really unselfish this year finding our post players in transition, and that's something we've done a lot better job of this year too is running the ball at the floor and getting quick baskets that way.
The addition of Grant Gibbs has really helped out.¬† And Jahenns led the league in three‑point shooting, so he's improved a bunch too.
Like I said, our bench, I'm comfortable playing with all those guys.  Josh Jones has changed his role this year, and he's passing the ball inside all the time.  It's just been a great bunch of guys to play with?

Q.  Coach, in your experience in these conferences with Iowa State and Northern Iowa, how much an advantage is it for you to play a team that hasn't played the night before?  Or is it a disadvantage where they've gotten a chance to get out and get their feet wet and you haven't?
COACH McDERMOTT:  Given the choice, I'd rather be the team that's rested.  I wasn't fortunate enough during my time at Ames to experience one of the byes.  I was always the guy that was playing the night before and then played a team.  Actually, I never played a team the next night because I don't think we got by the first round.
But this is the position you want to be in.  I think obviously our goal was to win the conference championship.  We came up short of that.  We lost that to a very good Wichita State team.  If you can't do that, you want to fight your tail off for that second seed because of the fact that you're going to get a team that's not going to get out of here until 11:00, 11:30 tonight.  It's late before they get to bed, and they have to turn around and strap it on at 6:00 tomorrow.  So I think there is an advantage to that.
Once the ball goes up, you're playing the game.  So I'd take the bye every day.

Q.  Doug, can you tell me about what you think the difference or how much better you think you are playing this year, and how much more effective your game is this year versus your first time in this tournament when you were a freshman last year?
DOUG McDERMOTT:  Yeah, obviously last year we fell short.  We were disappointed with our last one to Missouri State.  We were right there with them, which kind of fell apart at the end.  I feel like I've improved a lot this year being able to move on to the next play and not getting so caught up in what I've done wrong with the previous play.  It's got something to do with the leadership of this team.
We're a really confident bunch.  We've got Antoine in the huddle, and it make it's so much easier to play with them.  That part of my game is being able to move on and mentally strong.

Q.  Doug, you were featured in "Sports Illustrated" a few weeks back.  How has that exposure changed anything for you?  What kind of reaction did you get from it?  It?
DOUG McDERMOTT:  It didn't change me much.  It was cool coming to Omaha and spending a couple days with the team.  It was cool getting a chance to talk to my teammates and spending time with me too.  It was a good article.  I'm glad they didn't.  But I wouldn't change my mind, it hasn't changed me as a person.  We've got to keep playing and take it a game at a time.

Q.  Greg, what was learned during that losing streak they had this season?  What lessons came from that?
COACH McDERMOTT:¬† The thing we talked about is up until that point our offensive numbers were really almost off the charts.¬† We were close to 52% from the field, and 45‑plus percent from the three‑point line through 25 games in the season, which is almost unheard of.
So we haven't had to find other ways to win games very often because our offense usually carried us.  As I said earlier, it covered up some of our mistakes.
Northern Iowa we got ourselves in that position where it was a one possession game.¬† Anthony James hit the three at the end.¬† We go to Evansville.¬† We should go 4 for 22 from the three‑point line after going 4 for 15 at Northern Iowa.
So the things we talked to our guys about is we have to find other ways to win when this happens.  You have to find a way to grind it out or pass up the three point shot to get a better shot, and we were doing that.
Trying to accomplish that without having our shooters feel like we'd lost confidence in them, because the last thing we can have is a group that's relied on shooting the basketball to be successful.¬† All of a sudden, start to have self‑doubt creep in.
We are who we are.  We're not going to win a lot of races.  We're not going to slash or get a lot of rebounds at the top of the square.  But we can execute and we can shoot.
Our message to our guys is we aren't shooting it well right now.  We've got to change what we're doing.  Your repetitions need to change how you approach.  Your workouts have to change.  When you do that, you'll get back in that rhythm, and everything will be fine.
Now the game against Wichita, I'm not sure that particular night as well as Wichita, had we played well, would have been good enough.  I thought they were that good that night.  Then we go to Southern Illinois and shoot the lights out of the basketball and we've made enough shots since then to find a way to win.
I think our guys have learned that there are other ways you can win basketball games we've got an unbelievable fan base in Omaha.  And some of them were ready to jump off a building when that happened.  That did not happen inside of our Locker room.  We maintained the confidence in our guys and our ability to play to the way we played at that point in the season.

Q.¬† Antoine, as the team's only senior, how does it make you feel better that most of the so‑called experts have you projected in the NCAA Tournament right now?
ANTOINE YOUNG:  It definitely makes me feel a lot better.  I've come in here feeling that I had to win this to get in.  So I mean being with this team and playing with coach makes me feel so much more comfortable and confident in myself and my teammates.  Usually before I feel like I came into this game nervous, not knowing what was going to happen.  Knowing that if we didn't win, we might not be able to play together again.
So this year we're just having fun and a lot more relaxed, I hope it does work out for them.

Q.  On the assumption that you're in and Wichita is in as many have, can you talk about the value looking way ahead of having a post guy not just in this tournament who haven't, and the difference looking to the last decade of teams that have gone to the Sweet 16 and gone on to have big guys?
COACH McDERMOTT:¬† I think two things have to happen for you to be successful in NCAA play when you're from a mid‑major school.¬† I think number one, you better have good point guard play.¬† I think that's where it starts.¬† Obviously we have that in Antoine.¬† Secondly, you've got to be able to match a front line that you may see that you don't normally see in your conference.
With Gregory Echenique at 6'9, 270, Will Artino at 6'11, and the versatility that Doug and Ethan bring to our front line, that poses all of a sudden what normally could be a match‑up problem for the mid‑major school becomes a match‑up problem for the high major school.
I think Wichita is much the same because of what Ben Smith brings because of when they bring him off the bench as a power forward.  Well, he's starting now, but they're totally different teams when Ben Smith is on the floor versus Carl Hall.
So I think both teams are having success in postseason play, and I'm hoping we both get the opportunity and we both can make some noise when we get there.

Q.  You guys have a different schedule.  You're coming in a day early and coming in to take in the scenery.  Can you talk about what you guys do tonight, how you prepare and general impressions of being down here at St. Louis?
DOUG McDERMOTT:  We actually just got off the practice at a local school here.  We got a chance to go over some scouting report stuff for Drake and Bradley.  Now we're here to get some shots up and get out and get ready for the game.  I'm sure Iowa's watching film too.  But it's good being down here a day early.  I remember coming here as a kid, my dad's team at Northern Iowa, and it feels cool being here as a player and we're looking forward to tomorrow's game.
ANTOINE YOUNG:  I think it's great that we came down an extra day earlier.  It gives us a chance to kind of relax and get used to things.  We don't really want to change up what we do on the road or at home.  I think we have fun with each other in the shootarounds and at the hotels and stuff.  I think that keeps you relaxed.  We just want to prepare the same way as we would for regular games.
COACH McDERMOTT:  You can tell Antoine's a senior point guard.  We're not changing any routine.  We came down a day earlier.  Obviously, the banquet was today.  But our practice routine hasn't changed.  We're afforded the opportunity to watch a little more film because we've got a little more dead time.  We'll bring the guys over tonight to watch the second half of the first game, and the first half of the game of which we'll play one of those two teams.
Just to get a sense of the environment, and the facility and to be here, so that newness has worn off by the time you get back here tomorrow.  But tomorrow will be a normal game day.  We're not going to take anything that's going on in the afternoon.  We'll have coaches here scouting those games.  But the players won't even know that those games are going on.  We'll be concentrating on the task at hand, and that is whoever we play at 6:00 o'clock.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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