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ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE MEN'S TOURNAMENT


March 14, 2014


Melvin Johnson

Shaka Smart

Briante Weber


BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

VCU テや 71
RICHMOND - 53


COACH SMART:テつ Our guys played with very good energy and focus tonight.テつ We haven't played for six days and our guys have that kind of time to prep for a game, it's usually terrific in terms of providing them with a sense of purpose and understanding of what's next.テつ Obviously moving forward, we won't have that type of prep time but nobody else will, either.
These two guys played really well tonight.テつ Bri gave us a terrific lift early on offensively, put the ball in the basket a lot, which we'll take whenever we can get it.テつ I thought that gave us momentum early and we were able to get defensive stops to extend the lead.テつ Melvin made some big shots over the course of the game and he's a big momentum mover for us and excited about what both of them are going to do moving forward in the tournament.

Q.テつ Can you talk about defending Kendall Anthony and what the plan was against him?テつ Obviously he had a rough night.テつ
BRIANTE WEBER:テつテつ Knowing that he played the day before, knowing we had an upper hand on him and just making sure he caught the ball close to his baseline and worked him.テつ That played a big part of he was fatigued and wore him down a little bit.

Q.テつ Briante, you came out very cool, calm and collected and looked as if you were here on a business trip.テつ Are you guys thinking of bigger things than just about beating Richmond?
BRIANTE WEBER:テつ We definitely came here with the mind‑set to win this thing.テつ We just came to take it one game at a time.テつ We took care of business tonight.テつ We're going to watch this game coming up and see who we have to play next and we're just going to make sure we do what we have to do to get the W.

Q.テつ Melvin, this is your third win over them this year, this is your largest margin.テつ Normally when a team plays a team a third time with two wins, that can trend to being a tough game; this looked like the easiest.テつ What's your biggest reason as to why you guys were able to play the way you were?
MELVIN JOHNSON:テつ First of all, we came out playing for a 40‑minute battle.テつ We didn't think it was going to be that way.テつ We played them twice already, and once our style of play, once their style of play; so we are real familiar with their offense.
So for the most part, this was just a players' game, just come out and play.テつ I mean, Briante sparked us with great defense on Kendall Anthony and that was it for us.

Q.テつ You were able to start the game with a couple nice shots right near the hoop and you had the touch working.テつ Can you talk about how getting early baskets helps your confidence?
BRIANTE WEBER:テつ I just came out with the mind‑set to attack, because the prior game, I actually didn't get to play that much.テつ So I actually wanted to play this game.テつ So I came out with a chip on my shoulder and I was just going to attack from the jump.

Q.テつ For those not from Richmond, can you talk about what this rivalry means to you guys, and is there a bigger win for you in the conference than beating Richmond?
BRIANTE WEBER:テつ No.テつ Actually it's a crosstown rivalry, probably six miles apart.テつ Any time you can beat a team three times no matter who it is, that's big.テつ And for to beat your rival three times, that just gives you more bragging rights.

Q.テつ Sounds like you had the crowd behind you; what does that mean for both of you guys out on the floor hearing the support behind you?
BRIANTE WEBER:テつ Last year we were surprised with us‑‑ this being our first tournament last year and how many fans came out to support us.
This year we kind of knew what we were going to get when we came to Brooklyn and they surprised us again because it was more than what I thought, and just playing in front of our crowd is just like playing at home.
MELVIN JOHNSON:テつ Definitely I think they filled one third of the arena, and we are just fortunate to have a great fan support being able tosell out 50 games in a row, and they just brought the show on the road for us.テつ That was a big help; a lot of momentum plays, three balls go in, they get crazy, and that's demoralizing for other teams knowing it feels like a home game for us.

Q.テつ You told me the other day your role was a defensive specialist, and this season it's involved into taking what's given to you offensively and defensively; is this an example of what was given to you offensively tonight?
BRIANTE WEBER:テつ Yeah, they were going to back up and they played me as a driver.テつ I still drove and got to where I needed to get to to the mid‑range area and I shot‑‑ which I think is a great shot for me in the mid‑range area.

Q.テつ Could you talk about what it feels like not just when you get going and start hitting shots but when everything gets going for the team and you're shooting well, you're rebounding well, you're playing defense well?
MELVIN JOHNSON:テつ I told Briante when he came to the bench that the way he started the game got me going.テつ I didn't shoot particularly well, but I still was into it.テつ I felt really good.テつ And I think when the team gets going, you know, we're really dangerous and we did that with one of our star pieces, Juvonte, so when we all gel together and really get it going, I think we have something special.

Q.テつ Much is made, rightly so, of the steals and turnovers, but tonight I think the rebounds were 50‑28 or something and I think you had 20 offensive rebounds.テつ How do you get that part of your message across to them?
COACH SMART:テつ Our guys played with great energy tonight.テつ We felt like we could have an advantage on the glass if that was a point of emphasis for us.テつ Our guys did a great job following the plan, going hard to the offensive glass.テつ We were able to force a lot of misses.テつ So you know, that led to some defensive rebounds, as well.
Richmond is a very difficult team to press and to turn over.テつ I don't know that we've ever turned them over 20 times, which is kind of our benchmark that we try to get to.テつ 14 tonight is just okay, but I did think that we made them work.テつ We knew that we had an advantage in terms of fatigue, because they played last night.
So we thought if we could make them work every time, getting the ball across halfcourt, that would lead to good things for us.

Q.テつ You spent the six days, I'm sure, preparing for Richmond, but how much did you spend just on your team and just preparing to come here and play whoever you had to play?
COACH SMART:テつ We didn't know who we were going to play.テつ This is such a good league that as evidenced by some of the games earlier in the tournament, you don't want to bank on the higher seed winning.
So we didn't know if it was going to be Richmond or Duquesne.テつ We did a little bit of prep work with our guys on each of those teams.テつ Fortunately, we just played Richmond eight days ago, so our guys had a very good familiarity with them, and it's not like we had to reinvent the wheel in terms of our game plan.

Q.テつ Twenty‑five and seven tonight, but is it possible because of the depth that you guys have and the style that you play, that you might be built better for the postseason than even the regular season?
COACH SMART:テつ I hope so.テつ I think we have a chance to make some noise if we can keep getting better.テつ A lot of it's about matchups.テつ I think depending on who you see when you get to the postseason and how the matchups work out, last year in the NCAA Tournament, we ran into a team that was playing as well as anybody in Michigan in our second game, and it wasn't a great match‑up because they had multiple NBA‑level guards.テつ So, we'll see.
I do think that there's a lot of teams in the Atlantic 10, obviously St. Louis, hopefully ourselves, UMASS, George Washington, Saint Joe's, I think there's a lot of teams in this league that once they get out of league play and play against someone else in the postseason, really have a chance to be dangerous because when you play in a league like this, you get battle tested.テつ You get challenged.テつ You play against different styles of play, and then now you're playing someone that has not seen you and I think that can be an advantage for us the way that we play.

Q.テつ Juvonte got two early fouls and you took him out and he got the third early foul but you elected to keep him in.テつ Did any of that decision have to do with how well Cox was playing and you just felt comfortable regardless?
COACH SMART:テつ Mm‑hmm, the score‑‑ we were up by 15 or so.テつ So I think if it would have been a tied score, we probably would have taken him out when he got that third foul.
You know, guys have to play through foul trouble sometimes, and Juvonte, one thing I give him credit for is he kept a good attitude throughout.テつ He could have been on the bench sulking because it wasn't his night and things weren't going his way.
But he made it about the team, made it about winning and advancing, and that's what you need from your best players.

Q.テつ And to that point, Mo played so well, 7‑of‑10, two blocks, a couple big dunks.テつ He's a freshman but has a great physical gift and he's a very large player.テつ Can you talk to what you saw from him tonight and how he's going to be used throughout the postseason?
COACH SMART:テつ He's just scratching the surface.テつ He's a guy that even though he looks so big and strong, the biggest key with him is him believing more and more in himself and I think tonight was a big step towards that.テつ Because it's almost like he looks around and he says, you know what, I can go do this, I can score on these guys and I can rebound with these guys, I can block shots.
I thought he was really big in affecting Kendall Anthony around the basket.テつ Even though he was credited for two blocks, I think he effected a lot more shots than that.テつ Just the tip of the iceberg for him.テつ We just have to keep instilling confidence in him.

Q.テつ Getting everybody involved, communicating, all of the things that you want a point guard to do, but can you talk about what it means when Bri is scoring like that?
COACH SMART:テつ Well,y with haven't been confused with the Showtime Lakers in terms of the number of points we put on the board, so we'll take points any time we can get them.
What happened early in the game is Briante was getting deep into the lane, and then he was showing the ball and they were kind of jumping out of the way or jumping for the ball.テつ So he turned and pivoted and had wide open shots at four feet, so he took them and made them.
And then sometimes when you see the ball go in for yourself, then you start‑‑ your confidence starts to build and then he started making pull‑up jumpers, he made a three‑point shot on a great pass and from there he got the ball going.

Q.テつ JeQuan was under the basket with the big guys, he's so tough for a little guy, can you talk about how he's able to go at them?
COACH SMART:テつ Yeah, he's going to be as good as he sets his mind on being in terms of mental toughness.テつ He's a freshman; he's just learning.テつ But he's very quick and explosive.テつ He can drive.テつ He's typically a very, very good free throw shooter.テつ So we like when he drives in there and makes plays for himself and his teammates.

Q.テつ What's it been like playing in Brooklyn?テつ What do you think it means for the A10 that the ACC will be moving to this building to play their conference tournament in 2017 and 2018?
COACH SMART:テつ Well, your first question, we love playing here.テつ This is our fifth game in the Barclays Center.テつ We played three times here in last year's tournament.テつ We played here just after the holidays, I guess Boston College, our guys had a good experience there.
We are excited to be back here.テつ It's as good a venue as there is in any level of basketball.テつ I think the Atlantic 10 does a terrific job of putting on a high‑level tournament that I think can go toe‑to‑toe with anybody.
As was mentioned earlier, our fans do a great job of making it up here.テつ We appreciate our fans so much; I want to make that point to all the students, all the fans, all the hard core VCU people that made it up here, it really means a lot, and it's something that we don't take for granted.テつ We really appreciate you.
In terms of the ACC I don't even‑‑ I didn't even know that.テつ Somebody mentioned it to me earlier today.テつ I don't read the news at this time of the year or really pay attention to that. You know, I'm sure the Atlantic 10 will continue to put on a great tournament and I'm not really focused on that because I think that's years away.

Q.テつ I know you don't read the newsexcept for the Richmond Times Dispatchテつ ‑‑
COACH SMART:テつ That's actually true‑‑ that's actually true.テつ Usually when I get up on my iPad, I search on the Richmond Times Dispatch.テつ In fact, I've been kicked off there a couple times for going on there too much (laughter).

Q.テつ Oh, we'll see if we can't get you a discount because I know that you need it (laughter).テつ It is a time of year when you're concerned about matchups, particularly past this tournament, but how important is it for you and your team to always focus on playing their game and not worrying so much about, we've got to do this, we've got to do that, and just focusing on, we have to do what we need to do?
COACH SMART:テつ That's a great point.テつ I think it's easy when you're playing very good teams to say, wow, we have to really adjust to this guy or we have to account for that guy.
But we still have to do‑‑ be true to ourselves.テつ We still have to do what we do.テつ I think for our team, when we have gotten away from how we play and who we are, we have really gotten in trouble and we have not been good.
We're only at our best when we're the aggressors, so we have to be the more aggressive team.テつ I thought we were that tonight.テつ We're going to need to be that tomorrow, regardless of who the opponent is, and I think that gives us a great chance to win.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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