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March 15, 2014
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
VCU Â– 74
GEORGE WASHINGTON - 55
COACH SMART:Â That was a grind of a game.Â I thought GW did a great job attacking us inside early on.Â They have two all‑conference guys in Armwood and Larsen, and put us on our heels to some extent getting the ball into those guys early.
But I thought our guys kept fighting and played with great aggressiveness.Â When Mel went down, that was a hit to our team to our guys, to our coaching staff, because he's one of‑‑ first of all, he's one of the guys that everyone on the team absolutely adores, including the coaches, and secondly he's a very, very good player.
But at that point, you've just got to keep playing.Â I told the guys, hey, let's win this game for Mel and I thought these two and their teammates did a great job staying together and continued to attack, and then in the last six, eight minutes, we were able to extend the lead with our defense.
Q.Â Briante and Treveon, it seemed like Melvin went out it took a little bit out of you guys but you two in particular seemed determined not to lose this game today.Â Could you talk about your attitude after that?
TREVEON GRAHAM:Â When he went out with the injury it really hit us, because he's a great player, a player that we look for.Â It may have gave us a little bit but for him we wanted to bounce back for him and that's what we did.
BRIANTE WEBER:Â Yeah, we just played for him and the seniors, knowing any game could be our last game so we just put our heads down, and when we attack, there's nothing that we can do wrong‑‑ we can make aggressive mistakes but at the end of the day, as long as we're aggressive, that's the way we want to play.
Q.Â For both, if I ask you what you think of Melvin Johnson; just think of him as a person:Â What's the first thing that pops into your head?
BRIANTE WEBER: My brother.Â That's my brother.Â This is my brother.
TREVEON GRAHAM:Â Â Like he said, my brother, because he's just a loving person.Â He's easy to get along with and he's one of the funniest on the team.Â So he's great to be around.
Q.Â Can you talk about how you attacked the zone a little bit, seemed like they made an adjustment with a double screen up top and you've found success in two games now operating in the gaps, talk about the adjustment and what you were doing to get the threes.
TREVEON GRAHAM:Â We just wanted to change our mind‑set from really being tentative to attacking.Â So when we were in attack mode, it was hard to stop us getting in the gaps and find the open man when he's knocking down shots, so were really both in the zone that way.
BRIANTE WEBER:Â Basically we wanted to attackthe gap.Â They were trying to funnel us in, but me and Tre just made a move and they had Larsen trying to check us.Â And pretty much we just attacked him and read whatever the defense gave us and most of the time it was Tre coming behind me for the open shot or for him to attack the elbow, as well.Â That's what we did.
Q.Â Talk about the spark that Mo brings when he comes in the game, the fans love him and grow crazy for him; and he played great, eight points and seven rebounds.
TREVEON GRAHAM:Â He's playing great literally.Â He defends the basket well.Â For him to be 6‑6 and be able to block shots like that is amazing and then rebounding‑wise, he's a monster on the board when he wants to.Â When he brings the type of aggressiveness that he brings today, he's real effective on the court.
Q.Â Armwood scored seven points really fast, looked like he was going to have a big game, what did you do to shut them down in the second half?
TREVEON GRAHAM:Â When he first started the game, he really attacked me, I got two quick fouls, just made me be more aggressive, tried to take away from him getting the ball, and if he did get it, then being ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ and then on the offensive glass, they are a good offensive‑rebounding teamso trying to box them out and get rebounds so they don't get second chance points.
Q.Â Briante, as much as you had 16 points today, you also were all over the place as a distributor.Â Can you talk a little about what you're looking for on the floor when you're looking to pass?
BRIANTE WEBER:Â First, I have to attack and make the defense honest and when I'm attacking, then that means, exactly, I'm getting my teammates open.Â So whatever the defense gives me, that's what I'm going to take and my teammates were open and I hit them and they were making open shots.
Q.Â I want to make clear that math is not my strong point, but between the two of you, you had 38 points and 12 assists, which is at least 62 points, I don't know how many assists might have been for three‑pointers; did you feel it was on your shoulders to carry the team and get to the final?
TREVEON GRAHAM:Â Yeah, I mean, if‑‑ I always feel like if I'm attacking, I have a good game, so I felt coming out that I was real aggressive and I got into the flow of it.Â So I just put it on my shoulders, and Bri was getting open; we were both attacking and it was hard to stop us, definitely, when we both have the good game we did today.
BRIANTE WEBER:Â Coach Smart put the ball in our hands at the top of the key and he wanted us to attack.Â So you have two against one, pretty much the odds is in our favor.Â So me and Tre just attacked from the jump and took what the defense gave us and we made the defense be honest and we just attacked them.
Q.Â Coach Smart became the all‑time winningest coast in VCU history with the victory today.Â He always deflects the praise towards the players and his assistants.Â What's Coach mean to you guys?
TREVEON GRAHAM:Â Ummm (laughter) he means a lot to me.Â Coming out of high school, I wasn't really recruited a lot, so he gave me the confidence, because he had confidence in me coming out of high school, just believe in me, coming in, played well my freshman year.Â The amount of confidence that he has in me is amazing.Â A lot of coaches wouldn't put that much confidence in me, so that was really appreciated and I love him for that.
BRIANTE WEBER: Words can't explain the type of bond me and Coach has.Â Â Since Darius was here we connected and since he leave, we've kind of been on the same page.
We had tough times freshman year.Â He sat me down towards the end of the season so I kind of didn't‑‑ I don't know how I felt about him but now‑‑ (laughter)‑‑ me and Coach Smart, we're close and I congratulate him on his win and we're going to get him more wins.
Q.Â When you say attack, attack, attack, what do you mean, do you mean getting in the gaps, taking shots, forcing turnovers on defense?
TREVEON GRAHAM:Â Just playing basketball, just finding what you see open, defense just played us havoc all over the place, pressing the ball, that's what we do.Â So, if it works, we do it, so might as well do it every game.
BRIANTE WEBER: Attack; that's us.Â That's a habit.Â It goes hand‑in‑hand, attack and habit, that's just the way we play.Â We don't play 2‑3 zone.Â We don't play any zone.Â Attacking is what we do.
Q.Â This is the first game against them that you held them under 50 percent shooting.Â What was the difference on defense today?
COACH SMART:Â I thought after the first five, six minutes of the game, our guys really buckled down and fought them for every basket.Â They made some threes at the back end of the press, which that's going to happen when teams have good shooters.Â The kid, Mikic, is a really good player, good shooter.
But I thought for the most part in the halfcourt, we took great pride in our defense and really worked as much as we could to keep the ball out of the post and then also chase them through screens.
Q.Â What did you say to your guys to settle them down after Melvin got hurt, if anything, and those of us that know him know what a great kid he is, so I'm going to ask you the same question I asked them, when you think of him, forget ball for a second, what comes to mind first?
COACH SMART:Â Well, first of all, I think it's important to note that Melvin did not pass away today (laughter).Â So we will not give him a eulogy.
He's a terrific player, a big part of our team.Â He was voted A10 six‑man of the year.Â We'll find out, diagnose, exactly what his injury is moving forward, and he's got a lot of great basketball ahead of him at VCU.
So when it happened, in answer to your first question, it was a hit, because our guys, like I said, are very connected.Â They care about one another, and when they see one of their brothers go down, it affects them.Â Plus, he's a good player.Â You play against 1‑3‑1, he's our best shooter, and he goes out and that's something that you look around and now you're a big man down.
First thing I think of when you say Melvin Johnson is just his smile.Â He's got a terrific smile and he loves the game.Â He knows everything about basketball; just ask him.Â But he's a basketball junky and I think for him to be able to be up here playing in New York means a lot to him.Â He was really emotional back in the locker room, during the game when he went back there, when I saw him at halftime; and then after the game, he was very emotional.
But again, Melvin has got a lot of great basketball left in him.Â Keeping our fingers crossed that hopefully his injury isn't too bad, but whatever it is, he'll work his way back and he'll be a great player again.
Q.Â Could you talk about the job Briante and Trev did today of scoring, distributing the ball and getting it to where it needed to be?
COACH SMART:Â I thought those guys along with Jordan Burgess and Rob Brandenberg showed a lot of guts against the 1‑3‑1.Â That's the best word I can use to describe it.Â Because when the game started, we were very tentative.Â We were on our heels and we were trying to pass the ball around, had a couple unforced turnovers.Â I told those guys, you've got to attack and get into the gaps, be strong with the ball, force two guys to guard you and make a pass and find the open man.
And I thought those four perimeter players did a terrific job of that.
Q.Â A big part of the game may have gotten kind of overlooked, we haven't really talked about the ability of you guys to get extra opportunities, five defensive rebounds, five offensive rebounds for Juvonte, which you just talk about the way you got some really good looks in the second half and when they were not falling, it seemed like he was the guy pulling them down for you and giving you extra opportunities?
COACH SMART:Â If you can out‑rebound GW by nine, that's a heck ofÂ feat, because they have got a physical, big lineup.Â They are a very good rebounding team.Â Their three man is the size of our four man, so they just have a bigger team that impose their will.
But I thought our guys did a good job rebounding for each other and working together.Â Briante came in there and chipped in.Â Juvonte, I told him before the tournament, any time you get ten or more rebounds on a year we are undefeated‑‑ I think in his career, our wing percentage is 95 percent or something like that, so he needs to keep doing that.
Q.Â There was a stretch, that three‑minute stretch in the beginning of the second half where you guys had the four straight possessions where you made a shot at the end of the shot clock but it seemed like nobody even tried to take a shot; was that part of the strategy to try to slow the game down?
COACH SMART:Â No, not at all.Â Not at that point.Â Guys were trying to play with poise and get into the gaps and find their teammates, and there wasn't a lot of shots that materialized early in the possession.Â GW was doing a great job rotating and flying around, and then guys just stepped up and made some big plays.Â That's just what you call talent.
Rob has an ability to sometimes make plays at the end of the clock, and we needed that.
Q.Â Can you talk about Mo's play on offense and defense?
COACH SMART:Â Yeah, Mo was terrific.Â I think that's two days in a row that he's been terrific, and three games in a row, because he was really, really good in our last home game before the A10 tournament.Â He was just, again, realizing how good he can be and I think he's opening his eyes and seeing, I can play with these guys and I can play very, very effectively against these guys.
I don't know, Drew, whoever did the stats had him for two blocks‑‑ seemed like he had about ten.Â Scott Day would have made sure at home he had more than two.Â (Laughter).
But anyway, he changed a lot of plays around the basket; a lot like yesterday against Kendall Anthony.Â He's credited for two blocks, but he changed so many more, and I then thought he did a terrific job on the glass, as well.
Q.Â Back in November, early December, when Briante was adjusting to being a starter and being the point guard, talked about it being a process; could you talk about where he is in the process now, and seems to me like he's one of, if not the team leader.
COACH SMART:Â He is.Â He's the emotional leader.Â He's definitely the biggest talker on the team, because our two seniors are not big talkers.
I think to be honest with you, the process started last year in March, because he really out‑played Darius at the end of last year and started to assert himself more and more.
And then when Darius moved on, what we needed Briante to do was assume the on the court role of handling the ball and leading the team and getting everyone connected on the court, but also the off the court leadership which Darius was so good at that.Â I mean, he was the best we've had.
And that process is still evolving.Â I think he's come a long way as a point guard.Â These last two games really demonstrate his versatility, the way he‑‑ I mean, he affected the game so many different ways, 16 points, eight assists, rebounds, he guarded, did a good job defensively, his hands were all over the place.
So he's getting better and better as a player, but he still has a long way to go and I think he understands that.Â The best thing a point guard can do is affect winning for his team and he's certainly done that the last two nights.
Q.Â The chain Antravious has been wearing, what's the story of that and is that a throw back to the 2007 Rams?
COACH SMART:Â It is and it isn't.Â It's something I was aware that they used‑‑Â CJ used to talk about that.Â But it's just something that ‑‑ our No.1 theme for this year was we wanted to be connected and we want to be tied together as a team and whatever happens, we do it together, and we really want to encourage members of our team to lift each other up when things got tough, and the chain is just a symbol of that.
You've all heard me say, you're as strong as your weakest link.Â So we want everyone to understand that if we can all be tough together and stay connected, then nobody can break us, and we sometimes use visual symbols to bring that point home for our guys.
Q.Â What does it say about this program that you've been able to sort of pick up where you left off in the CAA?Â Not all other programs have been able to do that.Â There have been some schools that have had some bumps making the transition and how important is it to get this Atlantic 10 Championship and put that on the mantle, as well?
COACH SMART:Â It would be great.Â It would be terrific.Â Our guys really want it, but I'm sure St. Joe's guys do, too.Â They have a senior‑laden team and they are playing really, really good basketball.
In terms of transition from the CAA, it's a big, big step up in league.Â I mean, this conference is so deep and so talented and every game is a bear, particularly when you go on the road.Â I don't know if Drew is in charge of the schedule ‑‑ but we got the short end of the stick with having to go to all the hard teams on the road this year‑‑ the blocks, year.
I think what it says about our guys, that we have been able to make it a pretty good transition so far, is that our players are a lot better than people thought during the recruiting process, because 75 percent of our players were recruited to come to VCU when we were in the CAA, so they were kind of recruited at that level.Â Maybe one or two of them, we beat someone from a bigger league, but for the most part, no.
Since we moved to the A10, we are obviously playing against better players, but what it says is like these two guys sitting up here next to me, they had peanuts for offers.Â Those guys, especially Briante, he was begging to come to VCU.Â That's one of the reasons he's been good is guys that want to be a part of VCU, guys that really have that want to and take pride in those three letters across their chest, those are the guys that have been good in this program for a long time before any of us got here.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports