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March 15, 2013

Troy Daniels

Melvin Johnson

Shaka Smart


VCU – 82

THE MODERATOR:  Opening statement from Coach Smart and then we'll go to questions for the players only.  Please address your questions directly to the players.  Coach, go ahead.
COACH SMART:  It's a hard‑fought game.  St.Joe's, give them lot of credit.  They really battled in the second half.  They came at us, shot the ball extremely well, made threes.  We obviously played better defense in the second half.  That's what won us the game was the first half defense, which gave us a ten‑point lead going into halftime.
We shot 50 percent, but we did miss a lot of easy shots, open looks.  We'll make those as we go.  It's good to survive and advance.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for the players.

Q.  Shaka, can you talk about‑‑
COACH SMART:  I think they want you to ask questions of the players.
THE MODERATOR:  Players first.

Q.  Troy, can you talk about the foul trouble and how to manage the roster, you and Melvin adjusted and other guys.
TROY DANIELS:  The young guys, we stepped up.  Once the older guys, talking about guys, they came in the game and gave us a big push.  We needed that.  We're going into March.  We need that, for the younger guys to step up, and they did.

Q.  Melvin, how nice was it to have a game like this in front of a lot of friendly faces?
MELVIN JOHNSON:  It was unreal.  I just wanted to come out, play my best and perform as well as I possibly could  and just get a team win, and I think tonight, I feel proud of myself.

Q.  Melvin, following up on that, in the first half, St.Joe's cut it to three and then you scored six straight points.  Can you just talk about that stretch and what it felt like for you, coming to a game in New York and playing in Barclay s.  Talk about that a little bit.
MELVIN JOHNSON:  I didn't anticipate that.  I just tried to come in and do whatever a team needs.  I didn't want to try to do too much extra to impress anybody in the crowd.  But Coach give me a green light.  I felt as though I had some great coaches.  He ran my play a few times, and I just made some plays.
THE MODERATOR:  Other questions for the players?

Q.  Troy, talk about what happened in the last two minutes?  Can you talk about that?  You jacked up a couple.
TROY DANIELS:  Just went out there playing loose.  We have to play our basketball, and we just attack the ball.  Coach gave us the green light, and we made the shots, and he didn't have a problem with it.
THE MODERATOR:  Anything else for the players?  Thank you.
All right, questions for Coach Smart.

Q.  Shaka, could you talk about how you had to manage your bench in the first half?  You were shuffling players in and out.  Some players hadn't gotten a lot of minutes this year and what your thought process was to keep your team in the game.
COACH SMART:  Well, we planned on using all of our guys anyway, just because this type of setting, if you're fortunate to advance, you have to play back‑to‑back games, and if you advance again, you have to play two games in two days.  We got some good contributions when guys got in foul trouble.  Some guys on the team I'm comfortable putting back in the game that have two fouls in the first half.  And then there's other guys that I don't quite have the same comfort level with.  So they got to come out and need someone else to go in.
I thought Teddy, Jarred, Justin, David Hinton, they did a nice job holding the fort down.  We were really, I guess the best word is outweighed out there in the front line for much of the first half.  They just had a little more size.  But our guys battled and fought, and that was what helped us build the ten‑point lead.

Q.  If they hadn't played as they had, you guys might have been in danger of letting that game get away in the first half.  It seems to me that's the case.
COACH SMART:  No question.  We had other guys on the bench.  So those guys that came in the game had to play at a high level.  Otherwise, you're exactly right.  St.Joe's wouldn't have gone on a run and we'd have gone into the half with a ten‑point lead.  And we needed that.  We needed that lead at the half because our guys did not defend particularly well in the second half and the final margin was three points.

Q.  [No microphone.]
COACH SMART:  He's still making the adjustment.  He's made really good strides.  And I got a text message from his mom yesterday, and she said, "My nerves are shot," and I said, "Okay, well, don't talk to Melvin because we don't want Melvin to feel that way."
But he's a confident kid to come out in this setting as a freshman and attack.  I actually thought, you know, he had 12 points, but there were some balls that he didn't make that could go in.  So it certainly could have been much more than that.  But certainly, the contribution he gave us was huge.

Q.  Coach, how happy were you with the overall poise of your entire team, given the disparity with the fouls, especially in the first half?
COACH SMART:  Yeah.  I was happy with the boys.  I mean, we talk about having great spirit on our team, and that's where we're at, we have spirit.  I think the teams that win this time of year are able to respond when things don't go their way, whether they're bad calls or receive bad calls or, you know, missed shots or the other team goes on a run.  You know, what really helped us with that was our crowd.  There was a phenomenal group of fans from VCU that traveled up here from New York.  And I haven't had an official count, but it looked like we had as many or more than anyone else, and that just says a lot about our fans.  That helped tonight, because like you said, there were some things that went bad, and we stayed tough.

Q.  Coach, Briante, five assists tonight, and five steals.  Can you talk about the skill set he brings to you guys, especially in the context of the system?
COACH SMART:  Yeah, I think with those five steals, he became our all‑time single season guy, record holder for stealing the ball.  He's huge for us, because he really causes problems for opposing ball handlers.  Whether he steals the ball or not, he's always a threat.
I thought he gave us terrific energy.  We hit a lull in the first half, and we had some guys that looked a little tired and a little‑‑ lacked a little confidence in there.  Bri really had good spirit.  He was clapping and energized and getting his teammates going.  He was instrumental in getting Juvonte here to kind of get him going a little bit.  He's got the most swagger of anybody on our team.  And that's really important, because we don't have an extremely confident team for a team that has the type of record that we have.

Q.  Shaka, conventional wisdom says 15‑point lead, two and a half minutes left, you know, you run some shot clock.  Conventional wisdom was almost right tonight.  But can you just give a lecture on your philosophy a little bit?
COACH SMART: Yeah, I don't know if you know too much about our school.  We're not conventional.  Think about it this way.  If you got a wide open trey for Troy Daniels, wide open, on the line, I'll take that.  Maybe conventional wisdom says otherwise.  But I'll take my chances with that.  I've seen that guy make too many shots, and he's made‑‑ I think he's made as many as anyone in the Atlantic 10 except for a handful of guys.
So he was 4 for 13 tonight, which isn't a great percentage for him, but they were pretty much all good looks.  I think he might have rushed one.  That's just what we do, you know.  We're not very good on not being aggressive.
Now, some of those possessions, I'll agree with you, didn't go our way because we missed, and they got the rebound and then not much time came off the clock.  But that's a gamble that I'm Willing to make, because again, that's going to pay off most of the time.
THE MODERATOR:  Two more questions.

Q.  Shaka, can you talk about, there were two testy moments in this game that kind of got you a little bit.  One was the tie‑up when Briante got the ball.  Talk about what happened after that.  And the other was the flagrant foul.
COACH SMART:  Yeah.  Bri also seems to be in the middle of those types of things.  He's a scrapper and we need that.  That's what we're about.  We're not a pretty team.  We're a scrappy team.  And he was in the middle of the loose ball.  We take pride in getting to the floor before anyone else does.  So that's what happened there.
And there were all sorts of things that happened that energize our guys.  There's a lot of pent‑up emotion and energy inside of you when you're waiting all week to play, particularly if you're coming off a loss, like we were.  So those types of things get us going.
And then in terms of the flagrant foul or technical foul, you know, I actually didn't see it.  I have to watch it on tape.  I guess there was an elbow thrown, and we got two free throws.

Q.  Can you say, somebody said something to you, and you all came on the floor.  What happened?
COACH SMART:  Oh, yeah, there was a little jawing out there.  But that's what happens.  I like that.  In fact, there were some guys talking trash to me before the game.  I just smile like that.  Because reality is we're competitors, whether you're a coach, a manager, a player.  We're here to compete.
St. Joe's is a very good basketball team and a very well‑coached basketball team.  It's not easy.
The reason I went out on the floor at that time is I just wanted to make sure guys were broken up and there wasn't any extracurricular stuff involving our guys or their guys.

Q.  Coach, the three from Troy, is that a secret weapon you've been holding out for the post‑season or is that just ACL basketball?
COACH SMART:  He can shoot.  He can really shoot.  You'll see a lot of those as we go.  He just didn't make it at all earlier in the year when we were playing.  But he's spent countless hours after practice working on his shooting with our coaches and getting to the gym on his own.
It paid off tonight.  I told him in the locker room, I said, "You know, I know it's just one shot, but I don't know if you know this, but we won by three, and you hit a three.  So we needed every basket."  I think overall, just the contribution that he made in 14 minutes after not having played much lately says a lot about his future.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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