NEW YORK - Dawgman.com's Kim Grinolds was on hand Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden as…
Player/Coach Quotes - Minnesota
COACH ROMAR: Well, we played against a team that were pretty predictable. They were predictable in that they were going to play tough, hard-nosed defense. They were going to play a scrappy brand of basketball. They were going to share the ball. They were going to be very disciplined. They were going to play with great effort.
When I talk about predictability, that's what I mean about the Minnesota team. You knew they were going to bring it and they were going to bring it the right way. Hats off to them, because they are a true team, and that's what you really want your team to be, a team.
So we give them a lot of credit.
I feel bad for our guys that we were not able to advance. You know, you always feel bad for your seniors, those that may not get another chance to win a championship, but all in all, I thought we did a lot of good things this year. We were not able to finish, though. Give Minnesota a lot of credit.
Q. Can you just talk about the first half. It just seemed like they dominated the tempo and defensively took you guys out of what you wanted to do.
COACH ROMAR: Yeah, there was some of that. There was also, on our part, a lot of -- at times, we just seemed like a step off, a little bit like when we played against Oregon State in the PAC 12 opening game, tournament opening game.
Similar in that we came back in this game and came back and played with more focus and intensity.
Q. How tough to have get down and have to fight your way back against a good team?
COACH ROMAR: Well, any time you're fighting back, it's always tough. But in the second half, I thought we were, a team.
And when you are a team and everybody is playing together on one accord, you don't realize that you're in the trenches as much because you're just playing. You don't care about anything but playing together and making the next possession go your way on the offensive or defensive end. You're not thinking, wow, this is taking a lot of energy. When you're coming back like that, you're just playing; you're leaving it all out there.
Q. This is your third loss at Madison Square Garden this season; is there something about the travel that the team has trouble with?
COACH ROMAR: No, I'm not going to say that. I thought we played a heck of a game against Marquette, a team that finished second in the BIG EAST, I believe. We just didn't come out on top.
Against Duke, it was a little similar to this evening's game where we got down actually against them by a lot and we came back. I don't think we played a full 40 minutes here in the Garden where we just didn't bring it. So I can't necessarily say that.
We're here; we've been here since Saturday, so we have had plenty of time to get acclimated.
Q. Did you think that there was one thing or two things that really spurred that second-half comeback?
COACH ROMAR: 11:45 or something like that left in the first half, they scored seven points. We were getting stops. Darnell said it, he hit the nail on the head; we started to guard. We played better defense the beginning of that second half. That was the difference.
Q. Can you talk about Terrence, he really kept you in it the first half, I think he had one of the first 16 points. How important was that?
COACH ROMAR: Very important, like so many times this year. He was five-for-ten in the first half from the field and as many times as he's carried us, sometimes in the first half, sometimes in the second half, sometimes as many as 26 points in a half before. He has the ability to do that. He has the ability to rebound and defend. Terrence played his heart out tonight.
Q. How did things get away in the first half?
COACH ROMAR: A couple turnovers, maybe a turnover, difficult shot, and then to have a couple defensive lapses; it always comes back to defense. Teams make runs on you and it's because a lot of times you didn't guard or you weren't taking care of the ball.
Q. Can you talk about the play of C.J. Wilcox in the second half and how that sparked the team?
COACH ROMAR: Well, he had taken one shot in the first half and I thought our guys did a better job of getting him the ball, so we got more looks in the second half. A lot like Terrence, you give C.J. Wilcox looks, he's going to make you pay for them.
Q. What about two of your players potentially going pro?
COACH ROMAR: Isaiah Thomas had a dream to play in the NBA. He didn't practice 15 years of his life to be the all time leading scorer at Washington. Although that seems appealing, he practiced so he could make it to the NBA. Isaiah is still working to get his degree, he's been taking classes so it's not like that's all he cared about, but that's been his goal. ‘I'm going to make it whether I'm in the first round or not, I'm going to make it.' Brandon Roy saw what the NBA experts thought and said ‘no I don't want to come out and go in the second round and not make an impact.' He waited ‘til his senior year. We assess each one's goals and that has nothing to do with what I think because what I learned is some like Quincy, Brandon, Brockman – those guys really value your opinion but others feel like ‘I value your opinion, but I got this.' Everybody is different, whatever they do we always support them wholeheartedly.
Q. Does Wroten still needs seasoning yet is it fair to say Ross has "proved all he can"?
COACH ROMAR: Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas were two guys who I thought they were who they were. Spencer Hawes was the tenth overall pick, but would he have been more ready had he stayed in college another year? Absolutely. Martell Webster was the sixth player picked. Could he have benefitted from college? Absolutely. It all comes down to where they think they're going to be picked, not if they're ready or not. Nobody is going to say ‘I'm not ready.' Well I guess a couple did – Solomon Hill said ‘I'm not ready.' You work so hard all your life for that dream and now is when you can touch it; it's hard to turn it down.
Q. Is it awkward to be in the position of telling players to stay or leave?
COACH ROMAR: I think if you're talented enough and you have room to grow you should stay until you can go into that league and you can make an impact. To a man they all say it's a totally different world when you go there. Now your teammates have families, the camaraderie isn't the same. It's a business. Some guys don't see that, but a lot of guys are ready for that. Each guy has to know. We give them the pros and cons and they take it from there.
Q. What's your take on the season?
COACH ROMAR: For too much of the season I thought we were an immature team. We grew up a lot as evidenced by some of our road victories in conference and the fact that the one thing worse than being in a perceived ‘down league' is not winning the league, but whatever anyone wants to say, we won that league. I would consider that an accomplishment that we were the conference regular season champs. But there were many times where we didn't handle situations in a mature enough fashion.
Q. Would you consider this season a success?
COACH ROMAR: I always define success by John Wooden's definition – ‘did you do your best?' I thought there were times where we were young and we didn't understand how to get it done yet and it took some games to get experience. I would say the majority of the season was a success, but part of the season wasn't.
Q. How many grey hairs did the youth give you this year?
COACH ROMAR: Not as many as last year. Last year was more of a challenge. We obviously had our disappointments, we had a bunch of guys who tried, but we didn't have a bunch of rebellion. I don't think I got a whole lot of grey hairs this year. At the beginning of the year I said we would have ups and downs, I knew that.
Q. How do you handle it when your name is thrown out there in connection with other job opportunities?
COACH ROMAR: I don't. There's nothing to talk about. If somebody asked me about a job and for me to just say ‘no, I'm not interested in that job,' that's pretty presumptuous of me. Number one: You haven't heard from someone and you're commenting about a job that no one has even talked to you about? If I say no one has talked to me, people say, ‘oh what are you hiding?' I'm not hiding anything, I'm just not going to comment on a job that no one has talked to me about. The way I handle it – I just go about my business.
Q. Who has made big strides from the beginning to the end of the year?
COACH ROMAR: I thought from the beginning of the year to our conference tournament, Tony (Wroten) made a lot of strides in his decision-making. I thought Abdul, I know he didn't have as good of a game tonight, but I thought Abdul made a lot of strides. I thought Terrence Ross did. At the end of his career, suddenly Darnell Gant is playing as good of basketball as he has in his career.
Q. You make the 3-pointer at the end of the first half; did you feel that was going to give you an emotional boost to make a run in the second half and toward later on in the game?
DARNELL GANT: Yeah, at the time we needed something, and if the 3-pointer was going to bring us to the second half -- I feel like what we needed to do in the second half was just guard. We did a poor job in the first half of keeping the guards in front. They got a lot of drop-offs and dunks and that really took us out of our rhythm. When we are not playing defense, everything gets cluttered.
I don't think the 3-pointer is what helped us in the second half; I feel like defense is what was supposed to help us in the second half.
Q. Did you feel like the momentum was yours and you were going to win it in overtime?
TERRENCE ROSS: I never went into the game thinking we were going to lose. You know, playing in that last five minutes, there's some things I wish we did differently, but I mean, there's nothing we can do about it now. We came so far back, we were down ten, Darnell made a big shot and then you buckle down and play defense in the second half and got a stop. I feel like we came a little short of what we were supposed to do with mental lapses.
Q. Did you feel like -- was it just the flow of the offense --?
TERRENCE ROSS: I think it was more the flow of the offense. We got a lot better in the last few days, so it showed on the court, we were moving a lot more. We were attacking a lot more and we were not standing around as much. So I think that really helped us, and you know, that's where we really get our points from. So we just had to stick with that and I think that's what helped.
Q. What did you think of the game?
TONY WROTEN: It was tough, obviously wanted to get that win. Tough to end the season like that.
Q. Did you think Minnesota's was going to come out with such a physical opening statement?
TONY WROTEN: They're a physical team, they came out and tried to bully us on the boards.
Q. What is your future now?
TONY WROTEN: I'm going to sit down with my family and friends and go from there.
Q. Coach, you go up by 12 in the first half; what was the difference in the second half?
COACH SMITH: Well, I thought they gained some momentum right before the half.
Any time you can score right before the half, that gives you confidence and they came out in the second half and we went about three or four possessions, didn't get a good look. We turned it over, and just a comedy of turnovers there. That kind of takes a lot of the wind out of your sails. That gives them life and puts a real damper on what we are trying to accomplish and I thought that was the key of them getting back in the game is our turnovers. They became more aggressive, as André mentioned, they became more physical and I thought there was some times we probably should have shot a few more free throws. But still I thought that's how they got back in the game.
Their rebounding, I thought, again, they just got very aggressive on the boards, because we were leading at halftime and rebounding, but they ended up beating us on the boards overall.
Q. How proud are you of your guys for making this?
COACH SMITH: It's been an up-and-down season. We got off to a great start. I'm just proud of their perseverance, and their ability to overcome so many, you know, distractions. Just amazing. I've been really amazed at how we have stepped up and really played -- you know, we've got a lot of potential, but we still have guys that are growing and because they are so young, that's why I'm so proud and so happy for them, because they have worked extremely hard. It's one of the hardest-working group of kids I've ever worked with; said that from the beginning. It's the best group of kids I've been around in a long time, and they have proved us right by their attitude and their effort.
Those are the things that they can control, and they have done that all year long. We haven't had any distractions other than the injuries, and that's been -- those have been numerous. But to overcome those types of adversities and those types of obstacles is really a sign of kids of character and that's what I pressure about them.
Q. The way that you guys have been able to count on Hollins -- those free throws and in overtime as well, does that speak to how far he's come?
COACH SMITH: It's a matter of growing up and maturing; you know, trusting the system, trusting that, you know, Coach sort of knows what he's doing. We know what we're doing a little bit. Just give us a chance and accept what we are trying to teach you.
You know, try to eliminate -- we always talk about those voices in your head, not just in your head, but around you, that are saying, hey, this is what you should be doing; whether it's with the media, whether it's with your family, whether it's with your girlfriend, your buddies. Until they can be honest with themselves, I think that's the big challenge for most people, especially players, to be honest, that, hey, Coach is being honest with me about where I am and what I have to do to get better.
And as soon as they can get that, then the teacher and the coach can step aside and it becomes easier. So the last few weeks, it's been that way. It really has been less coaching, because they have -- you know, they are leading the right way and they are practicing the right way. Not that they haven't been before, but you can see their attitude is better about that. That's why you see a guy like André, who was up-and-down, he was a freshman, he was injured and starting at the beginning of the year. So now that means you've got to deal with that phase of it; why am I not starting, or something like that. And that's everybody's reaction; why, why, why.
And then once they can pressure and understand their roles -- and that's what happened to him. That's a long-winded answer, but that's the way I see it.
Q. Is there something about this team that's made it successful?
COACH SMITH: We have played a lot of close games and the Big Ten is the toughest conference in America, and we were in just about every game except for maybe one or two all year long. So we were very close to having an outstanding season, but there's no room for mistakes in the Big Ten. You've got to close games out; we weren't doing that, so we were putting the ball in André Hollins' hands, and he's delivering. Austin has made big shots all year long.
Our biggest problem, we have been rebounding well up until tonight and that's been a big key for our resurgence to becoming a better team now, but I look down here tonight and that's been one of our bugaboos is turning it over. So we need to eliminate that against a very good Stanford team.
Q. Andre, at the end of the regular season when you were going through that slump, did you think this team had this kind of run new guys?
ANDRE HOLLINS: Yes, most definitely. Coach just preached to not lose confidence and stay positive and I think that's what we did. We stayed through the struggle, we stayed strong and we believed in each other and we are getting the job done and we are looking forward to playing Stanford in the championship.
Q. Can you take us through that last stretch in regulation; looks like the ball came to you, seemed like you didn't get a handle on it.
ANDRE HOLLINS: Yeah, we drew up a play to get the ball in and to keep me running and Joe got the ball, he shuffled it and it came a little fast for me. I should have caught it and I should have just ate it up, but it slipped out and they got the ball and scored. You know, we had to gut it out in overtime.
Q. What did you think about overtime after that?
ANDRE HOLLINS: I just had to control the tempo of the game and make sure we didn't stay stagnant like we did at the end of regulation where they made their run.
Q. What goes through your head when they got a hold of that ball?
ANDRE HOLLINS: Just hope they don't make it, that's what was going through my mind. But after they got it in, I knew we had to come down, get a shot up. We got a good look at the basket and I mean, it didn't go in. So we had to go into overtime.
Q. You guys have been through so many overtimes this season; does it feel like that experience helps in a game like that?
ANDRE HOLLINS: Most definitely. We know the mind-set we need to go in with, just pick up the intensity and match the intensity of the other team because they brought it.
Q. What does this mean if you win the NIT Championship going into next season?
ANDRE HOLLINS: It's huge. I think it will be momentum carried over into next year and it will boost your confidence. We know what we can do when we are playing our best basketball and we are locked in and concentrated.
This is a great experience for us young guys, and it will be a great accolade for the older players and the younger players.
Q. Can you talk about defending Wroten?
ANDRE HOLLINS: We knew they like to go one-on-one and we were prepared for that. They like to come off the ball screens and Tony likes to go left a lot. We scout them well. The coaches prepared us well and we just prepared to play one-on-one.
Q. You guys were really physical; is that something you wanted to do defensively?
ANDRE HOLLINS: We like our physicality. Our physicality is part of our defense and we want to do that every game.
Q. Did you sense them getting frustrated at all?
ANDRE HOLLINS: Yeah, we kind of made their offense a little stagnant, but then they started picking up the intensity on us on the defensive end, and I think we butted heads and that's what got them back into the game.
Q. What is it about this team that's made it successful in the last several games?
RODNEY WILLIAMS: I think it's just everybody believing in one another. You know, we had a tough stretch towards the end of the regular season, but everybody stayed together and everybody is on the same page. You know, once we got that loss in the Big Ten tournament, we kind of just came together and said, iffy with get into a postseason tournament, we are going to play our hearts out and that's what we are doing now.
Q. What did you see different from the Huskies in the second half?
RODNEY WILLIAMS: I think they were just a lot more aggressive all around. They really hit the boards a lot harder, I feel like in the second half. You know, I think they just kind of woke up and, you know, they kind of -- I guess you could say we are prepared for it, but I guess we just didn't match their intensity the whole second half like we should have.
Q. On if he changed anything in the second half?
RODNEY WILLIAMS: No, I didn't change anything I was doing. I tried to stay aggressive going to the hoop and I tried to stay aggressive on defense, as well. They just didn't really give the ball to the men I was guarding until Ross.
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