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NCAA MEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: MEMPHIS


March 29, 2014


Billy Donovan

Scottie Wilbekin

Patric Young


MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

Florida ¬Ė 62
Dayton - 52


THE MODERATOR:  Questions for Florida.

Q.  For Patric, my question is, when the horn went off and you put your hands on your head, what thoughts were going through your mind?  Scottie, after you got through the handshake line, what thoughts were going through your mind?
PATRIC YOUNG:  Well, the first thing that came to my mind, I was just in disbelief.  It still hasn't hit me that we're going to be one of the Final Four teams in the country still playing for an opportunity at the championship.
The next thing that came to my mind was just to go down on one knee and just thank God, just thank Him for allowing us, this team, just to fight through adversity, do it the right way and come out on top, be here.
Beginning of the year, you always set your goal to make it here, especially last year when we ended in the same position, but we were the other team.  It was kind of weird because I'm so used to walking into my locker room after that final buzzer.
It was all just a shock and surprise and just gratitude.
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN:  I can't really remember exactly, but I'm going to go with happy.
PATRIC YOUNG:  That would be it.

Q.  Patric, did you think tonight was going to be about the inside, about the guys who did the dirty work and the grunt work and the game would be up to you guys?
PATRIC YOUNG:  I wouldn't say that.  That wasn't the main thing that we were focused on.  We're just focused on playing good team ball, utilizing each other.  Whatever advantage we saw we had, just keep sticking to that.  Early, that was me inside.
Late, us rebounding on the glass helped us to solidify our win tonight.  I was just glad that I could have an impact, especially down low, and all the rest of my teammates.

Q.  Scottie, just talk about the shot at the end of the first half.  You feel like you pretty well demoralized them with that shot?
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN:  I think it was a big shot.  It gave us a bigger lead.  But I don't think it demoralized them at all because they came out at halftime ready to play, and they hit two threes back to back and were playing good defense.
So I gave them all the credit.  They didn't give up.  They fought through the whole 40 minutes, but we did the same.

Q.  Are you all going out to celebrate this or are you all going to put this win to the side and focus on you all's last two games?
PATRIC YOUNG:  Focus on our last two games.  Just kidding (smiling).  Coach Donovan says that all the time.
We're going to celebrate.  Sun's going to come up tomorrow.  We're going to move on, get prepared, get rest.  Hopefully, we have Sunday off.
COACH DONOVAN:  We'll see.
PATRIC YOUNG:  We're going to get prepared for whoever we have next.  We keep moving forward.  That's our goal, just keep moving forward.  Next game, hopefully, we'll come ready to play.  Fearless.

Q.  For Patric, the country kind of raves about you guys' ability to defend.  How do you view defense fundamentally and the importance of it?
PATRIC YOUNG:  I think our defensive mindset is the foundation of our team.  We just take so much pride into being able to disrupt the team and being able to lock down guys.
I think every single one of our guys is committed to that for 40 minutes, just making the hustle plays, right rotations.  We know in order to be a good defensive team, each individual guy has to do their job and has to help the other guy.  So we're all bought in on that and to have that as our main focus going into every game.

Q.  Scottie and Patric, can you talk about the journey that you guys took to get here and finally getting over the hump.
PATRIC YOUNG:  I think the journey starts with the very first day of when we were all together at the beginning of this year.  Coach Donovan just started telling us that we got to lay down the foundation.  Everything that's happened in the past is nothing, no bearing on who we are going to be this up and coming year.
And with that, I mean, we didn't start off the exact way that we should have, but Coach Donovan continued to remind us and humble us and help us see that, in order to get where we want to get to, the end goal, we have to continue to chase greatness every single day and stay in the moment.  Not thinking about the bigger picture, just minimize it to what you have to do now, off the court, on the court, just to get here.
We just did that.  We all bought into that.  We had great team chemistry.  We had great love for one another, great clicking on the court, competing every single day, and fought through all the adversity, and we made it here.
So just thankful that, in doing it the right way, we were able to make it here.
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN:  Pat pretty much summed it up.  The only thing I would add to it is just the struggles that we went through this year have just made it that much more fun and brought us that much closer together.
Throughout the season, each game playing has just gotten more fun and more fun.  I'm having the most fun I've ever had in my life right now.  Just I love spending these games and spending the time with my teammates.

Q.  Scottie, you were getting your leg, knees, something iced throughout the game.  What was going on?  What was that issue?  Then also talk about just your feelings about being named the Most Outstanding Player.
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN:  Yeah, for some reason, as soon as the second half started, I felt cramps coming in my legs, about to cramp up.  So I got some ice on it, and I was fine for the rest of the game.
I'm happy about the award, but it's nothing compared to winning.  Just winning feels so good.  I'm just so happy right now that we were able to achieve what we did so far with this group of guys.  It just makes it that much more special with the guys on my left and the guys on my right.

Q.  Patric, it's been a long time since Florida cut down nets after an NCAA game.  Could you talk about the trip up the ladder and what it felt like and what it meant to you to finally be trimming those nets.
PATRIC YOUNG:  Honestly, I think I was happier when we won the SEC tournament game.  I felt just more pure joy.  I think the reason for that our goal at the beginning of the year wasn't to be the south regional champions.  Our goal was to be national champions.
And just walking up the ladder, I just was probably thinking about how I wanted to be able to do this again.  I want to do whatever I can to help this team to reach that ultimate goal that we set at the beginning of the year, and just that feeling has helped me to stay humble to know that there's more.  There's more hunger within us, within this whole team to keep going.

Q.  With Billy having talked to Scottie about transferring last year and Will with his injury problems and Pat and Kasey struggling to find their identity, what does it mean for you two to have done this as a senior group together and stuck through all the adversity and finally being able to cut down the nets?
PATRIC YOUNG:  It's really cool that through all, of course, it wasn't pretty, but we all stuck with it.  The fact that we were able to fight through it just speaks a lot about the character of guys we have and the support and the love within our team to help guys just to stay positive through all the struggles.
I mean, we've all faced countless things that brought us down and brought us to our rock bottom, but we all bounced back.  We have a great coaching staff, great family members around us, friends, our teammates.  Just indescribable how we can go through all that and be where we are today.
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN:  Yeah, what Pat said.  And I think what makes it so special is just doing it with your teammates.  I mean, Coach D said before the game that it feels like you're destined, like things happen for a reason.  He felt like we were all brought together on this team for a reason.  I think that couldn't be more true.
Just the way that we've gelled as a team and just love being with each other and love hanging out and love playing the game of basketball together, and just that's what makes it so special.  The struggles that we went through as a team and the mountain that we've had to climb and just coming through it.  It just feels great.
THE MODERATOR:  We've been joined by head coach Billy Donovan.  We'll go ahead and start with an opening comment or two from Coach, and then we'll take your questions.
COACH DONOVAN:  I would just say we're certainly excited about getting the opportunity to move on.  I thought in the game we closed out the first half really, really well.
Did not start the second half well at all.  Gave up two threes.  Lead went from 14 to 8 pretty quickly.  I thought we got a little bit bogged down in the second half, where the ball was too much in Scottie's hands.  We didn't have enough flow in offense.  I didn't think we cut and moved hard enough.
I will say this: I thought our team got a little bit worn down with about the last five or six minutes in the game, and I think Dayton had a lot to do with that.¬† We were pressing, and what they do is they really space you.¬† They force you to really run to the three‑point line, and then they bring it into the paint again, and they force you to run back out to the three‑point line.¬† I thought our guys were a little bit exhausted doing that.
Now, we gave up eight threes, four in each half, but I thought the game was won by our offensive rebounding, by our free‑throw shooting, and that really was, I think, the story of the game.¬† We only made five baskets in the second half, and we're a better offensive team.¬† I thought we really offensively executed pretty well in the first half.

Q.  Billy, you talked, when we were in Atlanta, about how hard it is to win 30 games.  How hard is it to win 30 in a row?
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, no, it's hard to believe what these guys have done.  It's amazing.  These guys have been able to, for whatever reason, put stuff behind them.  I think there were some incentives and some things out there in front of this team where we end up winning 14 or 15 in a row in the SEC regular season, and we've got a share or an outright SEC championship, and then it's what are these guys playing for now?
It was the opportunity with last year being the first year of going to an 18‑game league, trying to take that on as a challenge.¬† We do that.¬† Then you kind of get into a situation where you're in one‑and‑done situations.¬† You play three games in the SEC tournament, so they're not even thinking about a winning streak at that point.
Then you get to the NCAA Tournament, and it's still one‑and‑done.¬† So they're so far removed from the fact that how many games they've won in a row.¬† All they know is, if they don't play to the very best of their ability and they're out performed or outplayed, they're going home.¬† That's what happens this time of year.

Q.  What is it like to have these four guys stick through it?  Each one of them could have left different years, but they stuck through, and they all stayed.
COACH DONOVAN:¬† I think today was a really human‑nature game because for these guys, and I said this, I think, on Friday, it is a new team.¬† It's a different team.¬† But it's really impressive.¬† This is the fourth Elite Eight, now moving on to a Final Four.
I'm not so sure that these four seniors, having gone through the experiences in the previous Elite Eights, could have made the next step that they made.  I thought in two of them we played very, very well.  I thought we played well against Louisville and Butler.  I did not think we played well last year against Michigan at all.  I thought today we were really good in the first half, and we were okay in the second half.
But I think there was an understanding of manufacturing different plays to help you win.¬† We didn't win pretty tonight.¬† We won where we got some stops late.¬† We got to the free‑throw line and made free throws, and we offensive rebounded.¬† I actually thought we had some pretty decent looks.¬† The ball just didn't go in the basket.¬† I did think the ball was in Scottie's hands too much where we were just wasting clock and he was kind of dribbling.
I'm running plays, and he's like, I don't know whether I should throw it or not.  He throws it to a guy and the guy throws it back.  We need to do a better job there.
But there were things we went through the last three years that enabled those guys to learn a lot to take the next step that they did this year.

Q.¬† You said these guys put stuff behind them.¬† That was really shown in the games here.¬† UCLA cuts it to one.¬† They go on a 10‑0 run.¬† Dayton takes the lead.¬† They go on a 19‑3 run.¬† What does it say about this team making runs like that at crucial points in the game?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think they under the length of a game and how long the a game is, and I think they're very, very good at making adjustments with what's going on inside of a game.  With the bench, we can do things with this group because they're pretty basketball savvy.  They've got a good IQ.  You can make adjustments and changes.  There's different things you can do.
Where we can show a team something early in the game, and then we can show them something different maybe midway through the game, that's a credit to those guys that we're able to do that.
But they understand the length of the game, that there's going to be runs.¬† Really what it is, when teams go on runs, can we really pull together as a team?¬† I thought last year that was a weakness of ours.¬† I thought we struggled at that.¬† I thought, when teams hit us with a run, we almost got, not fractured where it was chemistry issues, but we all weren't pulling together.¬† Guys were either worried about the last play or the play didn't go their way or I'm 0‑for‑5.
This group has learned that you've got to be able to pull together when it gets tough.  That's what we've done a good job of, maybe a better job than we did last year.

Q.¬† Coach, with the way this team is playing right now, winning 30‑plus games in a row, as a coach, do you still see maybe some tweaks that this team can adjust and make before the Final Four next week?
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, I think there's things that we can adjust and we can get better at.  I think, like anything, there's always parts of your game that you look at as a team that you didn't maybe do as well as you would have like.
I didn't think that we really guarded Pierre very well today in and around the basket.  I thought he really, really hurt Yeguete, and we hurt Prather a lot.  So just working to be able to handle that situation better.
There were some pick‑and‑roll coverages that I did not think were very good, were blown today.¬† We need to get better there.
I thought offensively, obviously, we came in and scored 38 points in the first half and only make five field goals in the second half, maybe being more consistent.  So there's always things you can get better at.
But I think at least our identity and who we are as a team is pretty much set in stone this time of year.  You're not going to change who you are, but there are things you can get better at.

Q.  Billy, you guys have been so good at just focusing on possession by possession.  At the end of this game, if you get them out of the Final Four, it's more of a milestone.  Could you take a step back after the game was over and appreciate what you've done?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† Yeah, I think I said yesterday, or on Friday, I think it's just different for me.¬† I think what happens is, when you get to the Final Four, there's a public perception that this is some culmination of a mountain top that you've gotten to.¬† And I've always looked at the tournament as it's a six‑game tournament.¬† That's what it is.
We have nice names, Elite Eight and Sweet 16 and Final Four, but at the end of the day, you want to keep on playing.  I think from a perception standpoint, that's what the human nature part of it was.  I think our guys, I told them we need to battle this.  You get to three Elite Eights and you're back here.  The past has nothing to do with it.  It's trying to move on and advance.
I would say this: If we're not fortunate enough to move on past Saturday, you know, you can sit there and say, Hey, Billy, you guys were so close, and you almost played for a National Championship.  It's the same thing.  There's no easy way out this time of year.  Each team is more and more invested.
Now, with that being said, I couldn't be prouder and happier because in a lot of ways, outside the Michigan game, we were close to being in 3 out of 4 Final Fours right now, and that says a lot about these guys.  But I think those experiences maybe helped us be a better team this year than maybe we would have been if we'd have gotten to a couple of ones earlier.

Q.  Billy, you talked about being worn down late, but it seemed like early on you used ten guys.  How much of that was the game plan coming in to combat Dayton's depth, and how do you think maybe it was effective for you guys?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think it helped.  We're always going to sub and use guys.  It's always what we've been able to do.  We probably played too many guys in extended minutes in that first half because of foul trouble with Prather and Hill.
I thought Chris Walker didn't get a chance to play a lot today, but we got DeVon Walker some more minutes.  It really had nothing to do with Dayton as much as it's kind of what we've done all year long.

Q.  The shot Scottie hit going into the half, he seemed to do it before, but I was just curious.  I saw you trying to relay a sign, but he looked like I don't know if he got it, and he puts it up, and it's a momentum shifter, and you go into the break, and you're up.  What happened in that sequence, and how much do you trust him to make those big shots?
COACH DONOVAN:¬† I had a play on that I was trying to bring somebody to him to set a high pick‑and‑roll.¬† It's kind of a little bit different action that we run that's a little bit kind of a slip screen and it opens up the floor a bit.
Obviously, like any play, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  I think he liked the matchup, and he said, Coach, can we go flat, which is we put four along the baseline and move guys underneath the basket and offensive rebound.  I trust Scottie enough to put him in those situations.
He felt more comfortable just with the floor spaced to not bring help to the basketball.  And, obviously, it was a big shot going into the half because it put us up 14.

Q.  Billy, Archie likes to talk about how, wherever they go, they feel like it's going to be a home game because of their following.  It was pretty loud.  They were making a lot of noise.  I'm wondering, did that add to the challenge tonight for you all, especially when they made that run in the first half and it got going pretty good?
COACH DONOVAN:  Yeah, I think here in the postseason, we've had to earn it.  We played in the SEC tournament championship game, and it was basically a home game for Kentucky.  And I would say coming in here, although I thought we had a really good turnout of Gator fans, clearly there was more Dayton fans in the building.  I'm sure with the whole seeding situation, people wanted to see them get a win and move on to the Final Four.
So I think that this postseason, we've been in some situations we've had to earn it, and I thought today we had to earn it.  Maybe Archie didn't feel like his team played great to close that first half, but I thought that they got off to a good start, had a little bit of a lull in the second half, and played pretty well coming down the stretch, I thought.

Q.  I know you guys have had a couple of other tournaments where you've cut the nets, but in an NCAA game, it's been a very long time.  Does it seem like a long time to you since you went up that ladder and cut the cords?
COACH DONOVAN:  It doesn't happen a lot to anybody.  I think I've been able to do it a fair amount, and I've been very, very thankful for that.  Then being on the cusp here the last few years, I mean, it's really, really hard to get to this point because every step along the way that you advance, you're playing against better teams that are playing just as well, if not better than you.
But we got a chance to do it in 2000, '06, '07, and here in '14.  So it's been nice.  Obviously, we came up a little bit short the last three years, real short last year.  The two years before that, maybe not so bad.
Yeah, I mean, it's a great thrill.  This is what the tournament is all about, you get a chance to go to a Final Four.  Obviously, it's a spectacle.  It's a great sporting event.  Our guys experienced a lot.  They haven't experienced what they're getting ready to experience on Saturday.

Q.  Billy, what's it mean to you as a coach to coach a team who seniors stuck it out, overcame obstacles, and to be able to reach this point?
COACH DONOVAN:  I think it's a great lesson just for anybody.  I give Patric and Kasey and Will and Scottie a lot of credit because during their tenure it hadn't always been easy.
When Macklin left here, and Patric Young is supposed to be the guy that's going to fill in, and he only has a year under his belt.  He's not in good shape.  His motor's not good enough.  He went through a tough time his sophomore year.  Slowly, he got better and better and became the player he is today.
Obviously, Scottie's situation is well‑documented.¬† Will Yeguete is dealing with knee injuries.¬† Prather thinks he's a three‑point shooter, you know, he's a freshman and sophomore.¬† Then we get him figured out, and he's a driver and slasher.
It's great for those guys that they stayed the course and saw the bigger picture rather than wanting immediate success.
I do think this: They're better players today by going through what they went through.  If it would have been easier on them, I don't think they'd be quite as good.  I think the struggle they've had to go through has forced them to have perseverance, resiliency, mental and physical toughness to be able to battle and fight.
More than anything else as a coach, the thing you love about that is hopefully they can take those qualities to the next step in their life, because when they start a new career in their life, they're going to go through some of that themselves.

Q.¬† I was going to ask you about the sequence.¬† I think it was a three‑minute sequence where you grabbed seven offensive rebounds in the second half, when they were kind of sneaking back into it a little bit.
COACH DONOVAN:¬† I thought the game was won by the offensive rebounds.¬† I thought we had a couple of good looks.¬† Scottie's three was big.¬† We got the lead back up to 13 or 14, then we had a couple of possessions where Scottie got in the lane, he missed some shots.¬† Will Yeguete missed a front end of a one‑and‑one after a foul coming out of maybe the eight‑minute timeout there.¬† I thought a couple of shots Scottie normally makes.¬† He made some tougher shots than the ones I thought he would normally make when he went in there.
And like I said, I thought the ball was in his hand a little bit too late.¬† It was finding other ways to manufacture a way to win.¬† For us, it was rebounding the free‑throw line.¬† They made three more threes than we did.¬† We didn't take a lot.¬† They made eight.¬† But if you look at the free‑throw line, our offensive rebounding had a lot to do with that, which made that up.¬† Although we only made five field goals in that second half, we at least were able to get to the free‑throw line quite a bit.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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