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March 4, 2012

Gregory Echenique

Grant Gibbs

Jahenns Manigat

Greg McDermott

Doug McDermott

Antoine Young


Creighton ¬Ė 83
Illinois State ¬Ė 79

THE MODERATOR:¬† The champions of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference tournament are about with us.¬† We have Coach Greg McDermott, the first coach to win this for two different schools in the tournament to open up with a statement, then questions for the student‑athletes.
COACH McDERMOTT:  First of all, congratulations to Illinois State.  We started the game exactly like we wanted to.  We got the tempo where we wanted it and we were scoring it in transition.  To their credit, they really threw the last punch of the first half, and then it was a dog fight from then on out.
You need to bounce to the ball, you need some good things to happen, and we certainly had that.  But I couldn't be more proud of this group.  As good of basketball players as they are, they're even better people.
We've had a target on our backs since our win at San Diego State when we first entered the rankings.¬† There aren't many schools like ours in a mid‑major conference that are essentially ranked the entire season.¬† The pressure that's come with that, especially in Omaha, Nebraska, where there are a few basketball fans, are really immense.
These guys have handled it incredibly well.  They haven't let it become a distraction.  When we've had adversity, they've hung together and never pointed the finger at one another.  When we've been hard on one of them, they have a way at picking that individual up and getting him back where he needs to be.  And that's rare in college athletics today.  It really is.
To have an unselfish group that doesn't care who gets the credit, that plays for one another.  It doesn't happen everywhere, and I'm blessed to be part of it.

Q.  Grant, you're team captain, did you take it upon yourself to make big shots at the end of the game to take over the game?
GRANT GIBBS:  Yeah, I knew I was going to have some open looks.  One of the last timeouts, Coach said if they're going to leave you open, step up and knock some down.  And obviously Doug and Greg were looking for me, so I was fortunate to step up there and knock down a couple of big shots for us.

Q.  Doug, a lot of fathers and sons have attended this tournament together, and you've had a chance to watch your dad coach here for Northern Iowa.  What was it like to go through this experience with your dad at your side?
DOUG McDERMOTT:  Yeah, it's a really special feeling.  We've come a long ways.  I remember yesterday I was a fourth grade kid on that stage with my dad's team.  It feels good to win one as a player.  Just really thankful and blessed to be in this situation.

Q.  Doug, could you talk about Illinois State got up by six there in the second half and then you just went on a little bit of a tear.  Could you talk about the team's mindset and your mindset at that point?
DOUG McDERMOTT:  Yeah, Echenique had a come threes there and he was feeling it.  We just stayed the course.  We didn't panic.  We had done what we've done all year.  We got some good looks in the post in transition.  That was something we discussed at halftime to do a better job of.  We recognized that and did a good job of finding our post.

Q.  Antoine, as a senior member of this group, could you talk about what it means to do this the last time around?
ANTOINE YOUNG:  It feels great.  It's a tremendous feeling.  I had tremendous fun playing with these guys all year.  It was just another experience and opportunity to go out and have some fun with them and to get it done this last year was tremendous.  I owe it to these guys and the guys in the locker room, our coaching staff and our fans have done a great job.

Q.¬† Doug and Antoine, for both of you guys, I think everybody that watched this game here and on television across the country kept thinking this is a great game.¬† When you're in a game like this on that kind of a stage, do you get a sense when you're out there that there's a timeout and you're standing on the free‑throw line that you realize you're up, you're down by a point or two, that you're in the middle of a really classic game?
ANTOINE YOUNG:  Obviously you think about it.  It's a dog fight all the way.  But I think as a player you have to stay the course.  If you think outside of it and worry about everything else that's going on, it will get to you.  So you have to stay the course and stay focused on the game and hope everything works out.
DOUG McDERMOTT:  Yeah, absolutely.  This is what we all dream of to play on national television for a championship.  This is what we work for.  These are the kind of situations we work for.  There are tough days, tough practices.  We don't really think about it too much as the game is playing.  We just try to do what we do and stay together.

Q.¬† Your coach talked about the pressure of being that rare mid‑major team that's ranked all season long.¬† Did you guys feel that pressure?¬† Now that you've gotten beyond this point where you know you're going to get into the NCAA, is there a different pressure, or is the pressure off?
JAHENNS MANIGAT:  I think that we didn't feel that much pressure.  The coaching staff did a great job of letting us do it one possession at a time and one game at a time.  That was our mindset the whole year.  Even though there was a target on our back, we understand understood what the task was, we approached it to the best of our ability, and now we're repeating the benefits of that.
ANTOINE YOUNG:  We're in our conference.  Everybody gives it their best shot.  We were ranked, like Coach said, so that gave them an extra motivation.  So it was tough times, but you know, we fought through it.  Now we're going to the tournament, and it's going to be a whole different season for us.  We'll be ready.

Q.  Doug, given the magnitude of this game and setting a St. Louis scoring record, is this your best game of the year?
DOUG McDERMOTT:  Yeah, it's one of my better games I should say just because of the stage it was on.  This was one of our goals was to win the Missouri Valley Conference title and to step up.  It feels really good.

Q.¬† Grant, how critical, looking back on it, how critical was your three‑pointer to start the overtime?¬† How key were the shots you hit earlier in regulation to give you the confidence to take that first shot in OT?
GRANT GIBBS:  You know, I got some decent looks early and kind of got my confidence going.  Hitting that jumper kind of boost me up a little bit and kind of kept me going through the period.  I haven't shot the ball great this year, but I'm a capable shooter and I have a lot of confidence in my jumper.  And these guys do too.  Doug and Gregory were able to kick it out to me, and I was able to knock down a couple that were big for us.

Q.  Grant, what was the big difference you saw from Illinois State from 33 days ago or so when you guys really throttled them in Omaha?  And how do you think the battle will be next year between the two teams?
GRANT GIBBS:¬† They were just kind of rolling.¬† They had that not holding anything back Cinderella‑type deal, and they're knocking down shots, playing with a ton of confidence.¬† From that standpoint, they're a different team than we played a month ago.¬† They've got everybody coming back and they're going to be really good.¬† They're one of the up and comers in our conference, no doubt about that.¬† You have to give them tremendous credit the way they played today.¬† Played with a lot of heart, but we were able to pull it off.

Q.  Last year you guys left here awfully disappointed.  Can you talk about the growth of this team over the course of the season?
GREGORY ECHENIQUE:  Even though we last year we were disappointed that we lost, we got a chance to play more basketball afterwards, and coach said I think that really helped our team in a way.  I think that definitely made the team a lot better.  Coming into this year we knew that we were capable of winning this tournament.
Also, we remembered how we felt then and we didn't want it to happen again.  So I'm pretty excited.  I'm glad we got through it and we got the championship.
ANTOINE YOUNG:  I remember last year, it wasn't a good one.  Ever since we started practicing together in the Bahamas early summer, we've been working daily, every day, working hard talking to each other.  Trying to get where we want to be.  And we stuck together through adversity, and also kind of dealt with things successfully without going back.
So sticking together and being a team, and getting through adversity was huge.

Q.  Antoine, can you talk about scoring 8 points in overtime?
ANTOINE YOUNG:  I just wanted to make plays in overtime.  Had an opportunity to go to the line and just had to step up and make them.  It was tough in a championship game.  But that's part of our team.  We had guys stepping up to make plays and that's what makes us who we are.  But just one step up and make plays.

Q.  Antoine, you were here through the coaching change.  You saw not horrible times in your program, but you guys kind of went through a down swing.  Can you talk about how rewarding it is to win this championship?
ANTOINE YOUNG:  It was very rewarding.  Coach taught me, I didn't know if I was going to stay what was going to happen.  And Coach Mack and his coaching staff have come in and done a phenomenal job with me.  They feel like my family.
It's just good to have Creighton basketball back where it needs to be, back where it should be as a whole unit.  It's really hat's off to our coaching staff and our team?

Q.  You scored most of your points during two scoring runs, especially in the second half.  Are you thinking during those moments that this is a point where I need to take over the game?
DOUG McDERMOTT:  Yeah, like I said, all year our guys have been really unselfish.  I think guys like Grant Gibbs and Antoine recognize when the ball needs to go inside or they need to get me or Gregory going.  They recognize that.  You've got to give them a lot of credit.  They've been doing it all year, and hopefully that continues.

Q.¬† The last four or five years have shown us that mid‑majors have the ability to not only get far in the tournament but get to the Final Four and get to the championship game.¬† Are you guys built to be that team?
COACH McDERMOTT:¬† I hope so.¬† I think what we have that not every mid‑major has is what we have on our front line.¬† Gregory gives us that post presence and defensive presence that a lot of teams at our level aren't blessed to have.¬† Then we have another scorer in Doug who can score on the block.
You bring in Will Artino off the bench at 6'11, and Ethan Wragge is a match‑up when he comes in the game.¬† So I think we have some versatility in some positions that makes us a difficult guard.¬† And we have that anchor inside.¬† We also have senior leadership at the point guard.
That is really the recipe for success in the NCAA Tournament.¬† But the reality is it all comes down to match‑ups.¬† As you look back at Butlers and VCUs that have made the runs, they've found a way to win some close games.
I don't think we're going to sneak up on anybody, we've won 28 game this is year, so I don't think anybody's going to sneak past us so our preparation in the next ten days is really going to be important.

Q.  Can you talk about Grant Gibbs, making him a captain before he had even played at Creighton?  His contributions tonight?
COACH McDERMOTT:  I didn't make him the captain.  His teammates did.  That tells you a little about Grant Gibbs.  The impact he had on his teammates in the locker room a year ago when he wasn't eligible to play.  It wasn't like the voting was close.  He was a unanimous captain.  The only person that didn't vote for him is him, because that's what he's all about.
For him to have success on this stage, good things are supposed to happen for good people.  For Grant today, it really did.  He's fought through tremendous adversity with his knee issues and just keeps on plugging.  He practices maybe half the time, so he has to.  His mental preparation is so important because he doesn't get the reps that everybody else does.
But his value to us, as valuable as he is on the floor, he may even be more valuable in the locker room.

Q.  Kind of the same question I asked a couple of the players.  The growth of this team from a year ago from your standpoint, give us an idea of what you've seen?
COACH McDERMOTT:  Last year we lost a lot of close games.  We won our first three on the road in the Valley, and close losses at northern and Drake and Missouri State where we led the whole way at Wichita on Senior Night by a point in the last couple seconds.  You hope that you learn from those experiences and you make the changes necessary that when you get in that situation you don't make the same mistakes again.
I've said before, any coach that's had a season like we have had, a very special season, will look back upon it and point to six or seven games that the ball bounces here or there and it's a difference in five, six, seven games over the course of a season.
We've had some good fortune at times and we've made some of our own good luck at the same time.  But what I will say about this team, and it was never more evident than in the huddle at San Diego State when we were getting drilled in front of an unbelievable crowd.  They did not rattle.  There wasn't any panic on their face.  They just kept saying let's do what we do.  That's kind of their motto is keep doing what we're doing and we'll be fine.
I've said it before.  I think in some ways I think it's a weakness because they don't show the emotion when things are going well that I'd like to see, but it's also what makes this team good.  They don't doubt each other.  They don't doubt themselves.  It's not in an arrogant way.  They're a close group and they've got tremendous belief in one another.

Q.  With the season that you guys have had and now the tournament championship automatic bid, does that put you ahead of schedule?  Like you've exceeded your own expectations?
COACH McDERMOTT:¬† You know, probably.¬† I've never been a coach that has a five‑year plan.¬† I'm about what is the plan for today and how can we maximize what we need to accomplish today?¬† It's come together quickly.
Obviously adding Grant Gibbs to our team was a huge get for us because of the intangible things he brings to the team.¬† Then the development of Gregory over the last year, of Antoine's willingness to not take as many three‑point shot this is year and distribute the basketball.¬† It was a lot of improved players in our league, but maybe none more improved than Doug.¬† He's had such a good year.¬† Nobody's talked about how much he's improved from a year ago.
So Josh Jones, you look at his assists to turnover from a year ago compared to this year, his numbers are off the charts.  So guys have really bought in and worked hard.  They really believe in one another, and I've got an unbelievable coaching staff that's worked extremely hard to make this happen.
You also have to go back to a year ago to Casey Harriman and Kaleb Korver, Kenny Lawson, Wayne Runnels and Darryl Ashford, the five seniors I inherited.  If those guys don't embrace us, there is no chance of us moving this program forward as quickly as we have.
Even though we didn't win as much as we wanted, those guys accepted their roles, even if they didn't like them at all times.  That leadership and example has been critical to the leaders that we have on our team today.
Those five deserve as much credit for our success as anybody that played today.

Q.  Doug seems to have a knack for getting open and being in the right place at the right time.  What is the best thing in your mind about him as a player?
COACH McDERMOTT:  He has confidence without arrogance, and that's hard to find in this day and age.  He's got an unbelievable feel for angles.  And he's got some of the best hands of anybody I've been around.  His teammates understand, just get it close, and Doug's going to make sure it doesn't turn over.  He'll go grab it.
If you watch him in transition in the in the post, he never stops working.  That's probably where he's made the jump from a year ago.  The consistency of his effort on the offensive end, and I'm still picking on him on his defensive end some, but when he gets 33 I'll let it slide a little bit today.

Q.  You talked about the adjustments that Antoine's had to make over the course of the year.  To see him go out on top, what's that mean to you?
COACH McDERMOTT:  You're only as good as your point guard.  Your ability to coach a team is only effective if your point guard will allow you to coach him.  Last year we needed Antoine to score and we needed him take some chances because we didn't have enough fire power.
Doug's body wasn't developed to the point where he could do what he's doing this year.  Gregory was feeling his way through our system trying to figure out what his role was.
Josh Jones was trying to figure me out.  I was trying to figure Josh out.  I don't think I've done that for sure yet.  But Antoine did what we asked him to do last year and he's done what we've asked him to do this year.  His numbers across the board are very similar to a year ago.  Except he's said I'm not going to shoot that three unless it's late shot clock or I'm in rhythm.
And those, I would guess, 70 shots that he took last year are shots that Doug or Gregory are taking.  Are wide open threes by Avery or Josh or Ethan.  That's an unselfish approach.
He deserved to cut that net down.  He's earned it.  I went through a coaching change myself when I was a player.  I know how difficult it is.  And he's embraced us and really allowed my coaching staff to work with him.  He's turned into an unbelievable leader.

Q.  Somebody in here asked the players does being part of a game like this on a big stage, if you looked at Twitter during the game, which I'm sure you weren't, but everybody in the nation was watching and captivated by this game.  What's it mean to play in a game like that?
COACH McDERMOTT:  When you're in the middle of it, you don't think about it.  You're thinking about the next play.  The last time I sat on this stage after winning a championship, it was a game similar to this one.  When you go back and look at it and watch it this week, I think I'll appreciate what a great game it was and how well our guys executed at times on both ends of the floor.
But when you're in the middle of it you're just trying to grind it out and figuring out a way to get the best shot for your team the next possession and get in the right combination on the floor to get a stop when we needed it.
As I've said, we've gone to a lot of great environments.  This is now our 14th win away from home this year.  Four on the neutral floor and ten on the road.  So these guys have been in almost every environment possible, and they've stayed in the moment.  Because they've stayed in the moment, we were able to celebrate today.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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