Monday March 24, 2014Billy Donovan Press Conference Quotes
Head Coach Billy Donovan
On his Mount Everest metaphor he told the team and how it relates to Memphis:
“Well, I just think that the year is always a climb. You're always trying to climb and continue to go on and pursue, and I think a lot of times it's very, very easy in the middle of your climb to look back, see how far you've come, to want to rest, relax, maybe lose sight or perspective of where you started out as a team and how you're trying to continue on in that journey.
When you're climbing, you're dealing with a lot of adversity. You're dealing with a lot of challenges. There's a lot of struggles. But there's also a lot of great things, opportunity wise out there in front of you, and I think the minute you start to look back on where you've come from, where you've been, and you pause and you do that, I think you lose sight of what's out in front of you, and maybe you never get a chance to realize your fullest potential as an individual or as a team.
So I was just using that as an example that we need to continue to climb, getting out there climbing. When you climb a mountain, it's cold, altitude, there's a lot of adversity and challenges you're dealing with, and I think no different than what every team that's left playing is trying to do is climb and move forward.
On the importance of having Casey Prather locked in and focused on the defensive end of the floor:
Well, I think it's no different on either end of the floor. I think you need guys, in order to be a connected team, to have everybody kind of locked in, doing their job with a level of discipline.
Casey has shown moments of being a terrific defender, and he's certainly got the ability to do it. And then there's been some moments where he has not done what we've needed him to do. He continues to get better. I think he understands areas where he needs to get better. I think that's one of the most important things, too. You can talk about guys getting better or needing to improve, but you've really got to get them to believe they've got to get better and improve in those areas. And I think Casey has taken it upon himself to try to do a better job with that, and he certainly has scored the basketball a lot better this year for us than maybe he has in years past. He's been able to rebound the ball very, very well. Out in transition he's very, very explosive. But he has great ability and great talent in my opinion defensively. He's long, he's athletic, he's got good foot speed. But again, I think for him that scenario of focus and concentration that he needs to continue to have.”
On if there was anything physically wrong with DeVon Walker or he shortened the rotation given the circumstance:
“I think with the way the game was going, one, there not was a lot foul trouble. I would anticipate using DeVon in the next game. It was really more my decision than anything else. I felt like our minutes were pretty equally distributed. We did not really deal with any foul trouble. There was not very many fouls called on both teams. Nobody was really in foul trouble. We were really substituting more out of fatigue and trying to get some guys off the floor and rest them. So the opportunity for him probably didn't present itself to really get in there and play with the way the game was going.”
On if he finds it both rewarding but also challenging to motivate the same group of guys who have been around the program for so long and has that been a different hurdle you've had to experience this year:
“You know, I think everything is always different even though you have the same guys. I think there's different ways that at least myself and the staff try to get things across to guys. I've always been a big believer when you're dealing with young players and young people, sometimes when you talk and you use words or you try to explain things, sometimes in a lot of ways your words can get lost, and they may not take your message verbally as you wanted them to take it.
So a lot of things for me for our guys have been visual, different things visually during the course of the year to get a point across, to get them to see things of how we would like to see them.
I think you've got to be unique. I think you've got to be creative. I think you've got to come up with different ideas and things to do, and every game there's different challenges that present themselves, and in presenting those challenges to your team you want to be able to get them across, and sometimes, like I said, when you talk verbally, sometimes the message doesn't get across. Sometimes you've got to do it visually; where they can see things visually it makes it clearer maybe what you're trying to get across.”
“Yeah, you do that, I think that was just an example of we're playing Auburn and it's very, very easy to look at their record, and as a coach you're sitting up there and you're watching them on film, and they run really good offense. They've got two really, really good guards. It was a battle in Auburn. The tendency is to be, okay, we beat them at Auburn. We didn't play our best game. We're at home, we'll be fine. Jamming a bunch of weights in a duffel bag and asking a guy to pick it up and him going in there with the expectation this is going to be pretty easy to pick up and then all of a sudden being caught off guard like wow, this is a lot heavier than I thought, my point to them was this game is going to be a lot harder than you think, and it ended up being that way.
So maybe that illustration wasn't a great job because we were down by two with 30 seconds to go, so I probably need to come up with something else because that didn't work too well.”
On Scottie’s knee:
“I have not heard anything. We were off yesterday, but no complaints. The trainer didn't say anything. He went in, he was diagnosed with a bruise or just kind of banged knees. Actually thought at first it was some cramps because he's had some cramping issues during the course of the year, but there's no issues right now, at least that I've been aware of or made aware of as it relates to him practicing and going forward.”
On what’s wrong with the SEC:
“You know, I'll go back to saying this, too; there are teams in our league, like a Missouri, they were right there, and LSU, that really came close to we're right there, Arkansas, three teams there, and I said this after the SEC championship game, that I think that there's teams that are not in this tournament that are from our league that could get in this tournament and really win some games. And maybe every league could say that. Maybe there's some teams that were left out that could say that.
But I also feel, and I've said this numerous times, when you look at a league, it's very, very unfair to pin a league based on what happens in November and December. In a lot of ways those non conference schedulings and I get asked the same question by you guys all the time, has your non conference schedule prepared you for the league, are you ready to go into the league. In a lot of ways what you're saying is you're not really where you need to be, have these games helped you get better, have they helped you improve, have they prepared you for the next step, and in a lot of ways maybe some of the losses that our league took in November and December prepared them to be better in our league.
So I've always had great respect for our league. I think our league can play with any league in the country. But I would say this, and I've said this before: Just because a certain league teams get knocked out early doesn't mean the league is overrated, and because a league really, really advances in the tournament doesn't mean the league is great. I just get upset when all of a sudden everybody just throws out and makes assumptions or draws conclusions of a league being good or bad based on what's happened in the non conference. That to me is, I think, somewhat unfair.
I think if everybody in the SEC was out of the tournament, they'd say, see, I told you the league is no good. Now we've got some teams advancing; wow, the league must be really, really underrated. Sometimes it has to do with match ups, sometimes it has to do with who you're playing against; sometimes it has to do with how well you're playing. There's a lot of variables that go into, I think, winning in postseason.”
On what stood out the most about UCLA offensively last night:
“Well, unique team, probably unlike any team we've played this year. Really, really fast, explosive in transition, great scoring ability from all five spots. You know, a uniqueness about them because one of their leading rebounders is Kyle Anderson. It's a little bit unique for a point guard to get as many rebounds as he does and starts the break, and that's where they're really, really great is in transition. They also do a really good job with their half court offense.
To me just based on watching them some last night and obviously this morning, you know, maybe the most explosive offensive team we've faced and maybe the most unique offensive team we've faced this year.”
On his reaction to Bruce Peal coming back into the league with Auburn:
“I had a chance to talk to Bruce. He had called me and we had talked a little bit. I'm happy for him. I think just being in the league with him for that long and kept in touch with him the three years he was out, and I think for him it was he went through a lot of difficulty personally internally. I think it was really hard on him.
I think probably after the first year of being out and getting on with ESPN, he wasn't really sure if he wanted to coach again. He, I think, evaluated it, he looked at it, but he's an outstanding coach. I think it's good for our league.
I made this comment: I thought Tony Barbee did a good job with his team. I really thought he did a great job coaching his team. We played them twice this year, so I'm not in the inner circles of what goes on at Auburn, but in watching them on tape, I was really impressed with what Tony did with his team and the position he put those guys in. Their record, maybe it doesn't reflect that, but I think if you look at the scores and how close they were, they were right there in so many games.
I think Bruce coming in will do a great job. He'll certainly bring energy and enthusiasm to the league, to Auburn, and I'm happy for him if that's what he wants to do, and obviously it is, and he felt comfortable about making his way back into coaching.
You know, for him I think I'm happy to see that that's kind of he wasn't sure. I think there was a lot taken out of him from that situation, and I think for him he maybe got back that enthusiasm to want to get back into coaching.”
On his he’s a better coach due to Larry Shyatt’s defensive mentality:
“Well, you know, I think it's like anything else. A player, you know, going through a season, hopefully is going to be better the next year, and I think for me, I'm always eager to learn, to get better and to improve.
I had three unbelievable coaches when I first got here in Donnie Jones, Anthony Grant and John, and they kind of all left, and I think the one thing that Larry brought to the table is when you bring somebody in from the outside, and Larry and I knew each other, I was maybe a year removed from college when Larry went to Providence and I was still trying to play so I was back up there a lot of times in the summertime working out so I developed a relationship with Larry and knew Larry, and Herb Sendek and I coached me, and Herb and I worked together for five years at Kentucky he was on the same staff with Larry at Providence.
I think anytime you bring in fresh and new ideas, ands a head coach you're forced to think about different things. I think Larry came in and did a great job for us, really, really helped us. I think probably defensively our philosophy probably has somewhat changed since Larry has left, but I also think, too, when Larry came here, he never believed that you could press and be a good half court defensive team, and I think he changed in realizing that you can do that.
And I think there's probably some things he brought to the table that we still do here today, and there's probably some things that he didn't do that he's probably taken with to Wyoming that he's used. I think I've been very fortunate here knowing Larry and Donnie and Anthony and Rob Lanier, Rick Pitino, a lot of really, really good guys around me coaching wise that have helped.”
On how his defensive mentality has evolved:
“Well, you know, I think we've had some really, really good potential defensive teams. I mean, the team in 2000 was really, really good defensively. That's in our third or fourth year. I even thought the year before that we were really good. Through recruiting maybe our defensive teams were not as good. I thought in '06 and '07 we were exceptional, great shock blocking, different. I think the last couple years we've been good. I think like any other team, there's going to be things you're good at and things you're not good at, but the one thing I've always felt like as a coach for me personally, I feel like it's my responsibility to put these guys in situations that they're going to be able to utilize their offensive skill set, and there's only so many things you can do defensively in the half court. You're going to play zone, you're going to play man, you're going to deny, you're going to give help.
Offensively there's unlimited amounts of opportunities of things that you can run and you can do. So obviously you've got to be good at both ends of the floor to be able to continue to move on and play, but I've always kind of been the guy that has always come up with, so to speak, an offensive game plan of how we're going to utilize our personnel going into every year.
So it's not that I'm not interested in defense. I think it's really important, and obviously we've, I think, had certainly the last two years we've been exceptional at it, and it's always been a point of emphasis for us.
But I also know, too, that you can be the greatest defensive team in the world, and if you can't get past 50 points every game, it's going to be hard to win. So you've got to be able to do both things, and there's definitely a balance there.”
On if he has flashbacks on games versus the Bruins:
“Well, I think it will get brought up, but not really because right now you're dealing I mean, it doesn't even necessarily need to be UCLA right now, and what I mean by that is you have a totally different coach, you have a totally different style of play, you have a totally different philosophy and you have totally different players. The name on the jersey happens to be the same one that we've maybe played three different times in the NCAA Tournament, but everything else is really a lot different.
I'm probably the only guy, maybe a couple of our guys played, but I don't think the last time we played UCLA in the NCAA Tournament any of our guys were even on that team. They had Josh Smith and Reeves and they had Honeycutt. Nobody was even part of those match ups.”
Yeah, so I mean, to me it's totally different right now. There's nothing we can even take from those past games that you can sit there and say, wow, there's a great carryover to getting prepared to play them here on Thursday.”
On how he convinces players to take a little rest:
“We're not going to do that. I mean, we're not going to take it easy in practice. I think when you get between the lines, there's certain days that are more physically demanding than others. For example, coming out of the SEC tournament on Sunday and then having to leave on Tuesday and go to Orlando, we needed to get our legs back under us so we adjusted practice.
Playing on Saturday against Pittsburgh in a relatively quick turnaround playing at noon, there was a very, very limited amount we could do physically. We had off yesterday. Hopefully our guys have gotten somewhat their legs back under them.
But for me as it relates to us practicing and what we do, a lot of it is predicated on the trainer, predicated on the strength coach. But when we get between the lines, whatever it is we're doing, we want to work at maximum level. I don't think I'm different from any other coach from that standpoint. Now, how much you go up and down and run and bang, those are decisions we'll make.
But we're just not going to walk on the court and say, Scottie, you bumped knees, just chill out today, just relax over there and take it easy. He needs to get on the court and get his work done.”
On Michael Frazier struggling from three and going into the Sweet Sixteen:
“Yeah, I think Michael had two things that happened, and I told him it was one of the greatest learning experiences he could have as a player. He did not get a lot of free looks against Albany, and Albany did a very, very good job on him. He did get a couple looks he didn't make, and I think in the game with the way Albany played us, Dodo, Patric, Kasey Hill, there was opportunities for those guys to be a little bit more aggressive offensively and do a little bit more offensively.
The opportunities were not quite there for Scottie and for Frazier, and I think that's what's made our team good is we can have different players in different situations step up and score and do things offensively.
I think Michael, after the game, even during the game, there probably was a level of frustration, wanting to be more involved, wanting to inject himself. But I think when a team makes a decision to guard us however they choose to guard us, there's always going to be something open and something available, and to me the greatest sign of respect is when you try to eliminate or take away something from our team. And you've got to be able to deal with that.
I think that bled over a little bit into the Pittsburgh game. He took nine three point shots, and he had phenomenal looks, and instead of being worried about what happened against Albany, you've got to be able to stay engaged because Michael did a great job defensively on Hooley. He had a great game. But a lot of times people look at Michael and see the three point shooting and they lose sight of some of the other things that he does for our team. He's come down with some really big rebounds. He really did a good job defensively getting over screens and taking Hooley out of the game. He did a lot of great things. But a lot of times people only talk about with Michael just his shooting, shooting, shooting. There's a lot more to his game, and I think he needs to understand that.
The best example I can give of that is in '07 when we played in the national championship game, and this was why Noah was great. The year before, he's MVP of the Final Four. He comes back, we go back to the Final Four, we're playing Ohio State in the national championship game, and I told him, because Ohio State had four three point shooters on the floor, I said, you've got to play Greg Odin one on one. Just do the best job you can. We're not going to double team. You have to play your position because if we start doubling, it's going to open up three point shooting for them.
And Joakim Noah was a non-factor in the game, but he just played his role and did what he needed to do to help our team, and Michael, based on however we're being guarded, whatever is going on, just needs to play his role and take his shots when they're there. He happened to get nine off against Pitt. He didn't get nearly as many off against Albany. That's going to happen.
But against Albany we shot 51 percent from the field, so we were still scoring, and the offense I thought ran pretty well in terms of what we were getting and what we took advantage of.”
On his relationship with Steve Alford, dating back to the 1987 Final Four:
“Yeah, I've always liked Steve. Steve and I have always had a good relationship. We obviously got out of college at the same time. He played some time with the Mavericks, I think, and then took over at Division II school and kind of worked his way all the way through. I've always liked Steve. I've got a lot of respect for him as a person. He's a really, really good guy.
I think there's probably a lot we have in common because we both played in the same era at the same time. Obviously we had a great run through the Final Four, winning a national championship that year. So with him being out west and being at New Mexico and then UCLA, our paths probably crossed a lot more in the summer through recruiting. But I've always liked Steve and have known him for a long time.”
On what characterizes Alford’s teams:
“Well, I think Steve's teams, I think Steve is a really, really good offensive mind. I think he does a lot of really good, unique things with his team. I think he puts his guys in situations to be successful. He's probably taken some things from Indiana and playing for Bobby Knight. He's probably taken some things on his own based on his team. But they've always been really, really good offensively. I think very disciplined, sound.
I think he does a great job with his team. He's certainly resurrected New Mexico's program and did a great job there, and his first year at UCLA, he's doing a tremendous job this year.”
On how he’s pushed Scottie to become a better point guard:
“I think the hardest thing for Scottie his first two years which probably maybe hurt his development a little bit was he just kind of came in because we had so much offense in the backcourt with Beal and Boynton and Rosario and even Murphy stepping away. We never really needed his shooting. What we did need was his defense, and his freshman year he came off the bench, played about 18 minutes a game and gave us great minutes. But a lot of times the ball wasn't in his hands a lot, it was in other guys' hands a lot. Same thing could be said his sophomore year, although he played more.
I think last year going into being a point guard and really kind of having more responsibility, there was a lot of growth that he had to make, and there was a lot of things he needed to learn. I think he's gotten better at those things, and I think over the last two years, he's progressively gotten better offensively. I think Scottie has always been a good offensive player, it's just maybe some other guys offensively were on a different level than he was at, but he's gotten better over the course of the last two years of doing everything, understanding how to play in pick and roll, making decisions, getting guys shots, having an awareness of where players are on the court.
His defense has always been the same. He's always been accountable there, he does a great job, but he's really evolved, I think, as a complete guard maybe where he was his first two years.”
On how much of a challenge UCLA is defensively:
“Well, it's a challenge. I mean, obviously Kyle is a great passer. He's got a great feel of how to play. He's got an incredibly high basketball IQ. He can see over defense. He makes the game easy for those other guys.
But Adams is a terrific player. The Wear twins are terrific. They've got Powell, they've got an explosive offensive team, and they all kind of do their role. They come off with Steve Sun off the bench who's a terrific shooter and a really good point guard, LaVine coming off the bench is really talented and gifted. Parker off the bench is a big, strong, physical front court guy, McDonald's all American.
So Kyle probably does as good of a job of utilizing those guys and getting those guys the ball where they need it, and then I think those guys do a tremendous job of getting out in transition and running. They're a tremendous running team and they're a tremendous passing team. I think if you look at their assists they average about 17 assists on the year. That's phenomenal. And then they also are an extremely high steal team. They get a lot of steals, as well, defensively, and when they get steals and they get turnovers and they get out on the break, they're really playing to their identity and who they are.”
On if his game day preparation is altered because of the late tip time:
“I think you take your experience that you've had during the course of the year. We obviously went to Kentucky, played a 9:00 game on a Saturday on it was College Gameday. It was that game.
We played Missouri here at home in a 9:00 game. We had to go to Ole Miss and we had to play Ole Miss at Ole Miss at 11:00 in the morning Ole Miss time. We went to Arkansas and played at Arkansas, I think, at noon our time here.
So we've had those experiences, so what happens is that day, if you look at it as a shell, there's things that we're going to do inside those time frames that our guys have always been accustomed to if they've had a chance to experience. So our day playing Pittsburgh at noon was something that they already experienced even going against Kentucky at noon the last game of the year. So they kind of have an idea of what the day is going to be like, although it's as late of a game as we've played this year, playing at 9:45 or :48, whenever it starts. Our guys have had some similar situations like that.
The 12:00 game against Pittsburgh, no shoot around. This game against UCLA we'll have a shoot around time, be more of a fuller, completer day. But they've kind of been through some of that already just based on our experiences outside the league and inside the league.”
Senior Scottie Wilbekin
On his knee:
“I'm good. My knee feels fine. It's just a bruise.”
On facing UCLA’s Kyle Anderson:
“Well, first of all, I don't even know if I'll be guarding him. But if I do, Jordan Clarkson is probably the tallest point guard I've guarded this year and when guarding him, you just have to try and keep them out of the lane because once they get in the lane they can use their size to finish over you or find somebody else."
On if Billy Donovan is tougher on point guards:
"Well, it's definitely gotten easier the older I've gotten. But, he’s always challenging me, whether it's to make better plays or be a better leader always just staying on me and making sure he can get the most out of me."
On if UCLA is the toughest offensive team:
“Yeah, I saw a bit of the game yesterday. I know they score a lot of points. I mean, I don't know too much about them, I've only seen them play once or twice, but from what I've seen, they're gifted offensively and they've got a number of guys that can score. It's going to be tough, but I'm sure coach will come up with a game plan for us to go in there with.”
On the team’s confidence defensively:
“Yeah, I mean we hope that we can slow them down. I think they're averaging 80 points, or something like that, a game. So, we've just got to get our style of play into the game and hopefully make UCLA do what we want to.”
On the caliber of SEC basketball:
“Yeah, I'm sure some people are pretty surprised at three SEC teams, because all I’ve heard all year was that the SEC was in a ‘down year’ and it was a ‘weak SEC.’ It's pretty cool to see three SEC teams in the Sweet 16.”
On if the success validates the SEC:
“Yeah I think it does. I mean, the ultimate test comes in the NCAA Tournament. We have three teams in the SEC go this far – I think it says a lot about the conference.”
On if Will Yeguete was always dirty work guy, even in AAU ball:
“Yeah, he’s been that way since I met him. He has a knack for it. He gets tough rebounds, gets his hands on tips and has a nose for the ball. He seems to get it when other players wouldn’t.”
On Will’s attitude to sacrifice:
“Yeah, it’s just an attitude. When you have it, you don’t really realize it because it just comes natural. He has it. I’m very thankful and I know all the rest of the guys on our team are that he does have that attitude.”
On if Frazier impacts more than just making 3s:
“Yeah, he’s done a great job this year getting better on defense. I’m really proud of him. After the game, we have grades for each game and the grades show how well you did on defense. He has been getting a lot of A’s lately. Every time he gets an A, he shows it to me and he’s proud to show it to me. I’m happy for him; he’s come along and become a good defensive player.”
On Frazier's mature attitude when he’s not making 3s:
“Yes, I think he's really worked hard on that because last year he wasn't that good on defense. He was obviously a freshman, but he would lapse sometimes. This year, he's been great. He's guarded the other team's best player sometimes, and he's done a good job on all of them.”
On if the players are banged up a little bit:
“After the game, you definitely feel it more than when you're playing in the game. I'm lucky not to have any nagging injuries like tendinitis or anything like that. I've been pretty lucky when it comes to that. In terms of just being sore after the games, that's basically all I have to deal with. I don't really have too many problems.”
On if the team does anything special to stay connected:
“No, I mean, I think that everybody on the team just makes an effort and it’s easy because we like each other so much. We love playing together so much and through the years, I mean through this year, winning the games like we have it’s just brought us closer together. It’s just something about winning the close games that’s different than winning by 10 or 15. I think that also brings us close together.”
Senior Will Yeguete
On the matchups with UCLA and Kyle Anderson:
“I watched them play two times this year and obviously they’re a really good team. I think (Kyle) Anderson is a really good player. We’re going to have to focus on ourselves and just go into the game like we’ve been doing all year.”
On if he’ll be guarding Kyle Anderson:
“We haven’t been to Coach D yet to know about the team and everything. And we don’t know the matchups yet, but I could see myself matching up him. Maybe Scottie (Wilbekin) could guard him or Casey (Prather) as well. So we’ll see when we meet today.”
On how it feels to contribute during the NCAA Tournament:
“I mean it was fun, you know, just being out there with my teammates and just having fun. I just think that was a really good win and a great team effort against a really good team; so we need that same energy this week when we play UCLA.”
On if he watched UCLA play against Stephen F. Austin:
“No. I did not. I watched them play junior year twice, I think. But I didn’t watch them last night. I mean obviously I think they are a better team than some that I have watched play. It should be a really good game.”
On UCLA’s offensive style:
“I think they are a really offensive-minded team. They like to push the ball and they try to get good buckets. They also shoot the ball really well. (Jordan) Adams is a really good guard. Adams is a really good player. Obviously I think they’re going to be a really good offensive team, so it’s going to be a really big challenge for us. We’re going to have to guard them for the whole possession.”
On UCLA’s inside game:
“I know Tony Parker is, I think, inside as a post player. They have two good post players and that’s all I can remember. Obviously Kyle Anderson as the point for them is really good.”
On realizing his role as the “dirty guy”:
“I think my freshman year, I really wanted to play. I was just trying to find a way to help the team out. Jo’ (Joakim Noah) was telling me that those kinds of plays I was making were really impacting the game. And Coach D just emphasizing on that just pushing me and just telling me I should make those plays whenever could and we just went from there."
On if he ever saw his role changing from being the “dirty guy”:
"Nah, I think we're obviously a different team that we were the past few years. But I think those plays still impact the game and winning. I'm not the only one doing those things, I think Casey (Prather) and Scottie (Wilbekin) are making those plays; Pat (Young) is making those things. It's a whole team effort."
On his relationship with Joakim Noah:
"I talk to him sometimes. Obviously he's French, so we have something in common and he went here. I just try to stay in touch with him. During that time when we get in the tournament, he's really, really good for us and just gives us some advice. I talk to him maybe once every two weeks, whenever he is not busy. I just try to stay in touch with him."
On the advice Joakim Noah offers:
"When I was hurt, he just kept telling me to keep pushing and just wait for my time to come. Just play hard, just like he is playing. He is having a really good year. I try to reach out to him sometimes, but obviously he's a really busy guy, so I don't reach out to him every single day.”
On UConn and Wisconsin (Florida’s only two losses this season) also being in the Sweet 16:
“It’s different. We have a different team now; so just go into the game, getting ready like we have the whole year, just take it one game at a time, do the same thing we’ve been doing.”
On having three SEC teams in the Sweet 16:
“Kentucky obviously had a pretty good game against Wichita State. I always thought Tennessee was a pretty good team with (Jarnell) Stokes and (Jeronne) Maymon inside and you’ve got (Jordan) McRae outside. I think they will be a balanced team. That’s pretty good for our conference.”
On the closeness of the team this year:
“I think we grew together. Obviously you got Scottie (Wilbekin) going through the suspension last summer, but I think we all have personal things we went through and we’re just trying to learn from each other and I think this year we’re trying to love one another and learn more about our teammates. I think we’ve done a really, really good job, and the coaches as well, we know more about the coaches now and just doing stuff outside the court that really helps us. I think that helps inside the court as well.”
On the team getting together outside of official team meetings and practices:
“When we meet, we just like, obviously meet together and watch some film together as a team, just go out. Just hang out, go to dinner as well. And we do more things outside with the coaches. And I think that really, really helped us get closer.”
On Donovan’s mountain climbing analogy:
“I think every year Coach D comes up with something to just inspire us. This year I think he’s done a really good job with his bricks (analogy) in the SEC regular season, and now there’s mountains. I just think he’s finding ways to get us going, and I think that’s a really good analogy to use. I think it’s really going to help us.”
On how the team motivates each other:
“I would say I think it’s internal. I think everybody has their own way to get motivated. But when you have four seniors, especially, and we have a whole team that trusts each other, we know that when somebody’s just not in the right place mentally. And we know how to reach out to them, and we allow them to reach out to us. And I think it’s just that connection, and that relationship that we have, in knowing that we want what’s best for you and we don’t take anything personal. So at any kind of moment in the game when you want to say something to a teammate, it’s nothing personal. And we just find a way to just communicate to each other, especially when other teams make runs and the game is not going our way.”
On if the team’s motivation was higher on Saturday against Pitt:
"Yeah, we obviously knew we didn't play great against Albany. We just found a way to get it done and we got it done. Pittsburgh was a really good team. We knew if we didn't come with the right mindset, they were probably going to blow us out the first four minutes. So I think we really connected and we really just focused on ourselves and went into the game knowing it was going to be tough game and we went and battled. That's what we did for the whole 40 minutes and that's how we won the game."
On how the team has handles adversity while winning:
"Sometimes you go into a game thinking it's going to be easy. An example is Auburn at home – a really, really close game; I think we won by one or two. Just being down at halftime, playing out of a hole against Tennessee, against Kentucky, being up against Kentucky in the championship game and them making a run and having to get a stop. All those things that you go through in your season helps, especially in the postseason.
On if the adversity faced against Albany will help going forward:
"Yeah, definitely. That was a really close game and they played really good. I don't think we were mentally ready to go into that game. We understood after that if we don't come in the right mindset we could just go home just like that, it's a one-and-done deal. I think that kind of woke us up. Hopefully going into the game this week, we'll be ready to go from the get-go against a really good team."
On people being down against the SEC this year and how the SEC is performing in the NCAA Tournament:
"I'm not surprised because Kentucky is a talented team and it's all about matchup. Tennessee is a really good team and they really have size with (Jarnell) Stokes and (Jeronne) Maymon. That's no easy matchup. If you just find a really good matchup in the NCAA tournament, and it only takes one game, and the best team to win in that game advances."