March 18, 2009

 

VILLANOVA QUOTES

THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by Villanova student athletes.  We'll take questions for the student athletes.

 Q.  How is preparing for a game like tomorrow's, where you're a 3 seed, different from last year as a 12 seed?
 DANTE CUNNINGHAM:  Well, I don't think it's any different.  You know, I think every team in here, you know, is just equally as good as the next team.  Regardless of their ranking or anything like that, you know, every team's in here for a reason.  So there's no team, a 13 or 16 seed team, doesn't mean anything.  We go out there, we're going to play and prepare same as it was last year.

 Q.  Just talk a little bit about you've been here for four years together, now you're about to begin your final journey as teammates.  Just reflect upon that a little bit.
 DWAYNE ANDERSON:  We're very grateful to be in this position four years in a row.  We know what it takes.  Last year we were the No. 12 seed.  We had the underdog mindset.  So we're going to have the same mindset for this year.
 We're just happy to be here and we can't wait to get on the floor.
 DANTE CUNNINGHAM:  Just like he say, we definitely understand what it takes to get here.  Our seniors, previous years, taught us well.  Hopefully we're teaching our younger guys, you know, how to continue this tradition that we've set.

 Q.  The teams that play in the Big East are roughly your size or taller.  The American University team tomorrow is basically smaller in every position.  How much trouble will that be to cope with their size and quickness as opposed to their height?
 DWAYNE ANDERSON:  I mean, it will definitely be a challenge for us because no matter your size, they're going to play with a lot of heart.  Our job is to match their intensity and match their toughness.
 We have a confidence that all of our players that step on the floor will do that.  It just starts every day in practice.  We don't just turn on the switch right now to compete; we've been doing that all year.  That's what we do tomorrow.
 DANTE CUNNINGHAM:  I feel that, you know, our team, we have such great depth on our team that, you know, we can line up pretty much any kind of style.  We have enough guards to go with a small lineup.  We have enough bigs to go with a bigger lineup.  One of our strengths is our depth as a team.

 Q.  In the course of watching NCAA tournament games, have you seen a high seed, 1, 2 or 3, struggling in a game, and you can see the tension on their face or on the bench?  Have you thought that at all going into this tournament?
 DWAYNE ANDERSON:  Of course, you see it.  There's a lot of tension because there's a lot of pressure.  But what made us get to this point that we are at, we don't crack under any type of pressure.  We've been down against Clemson, LSU, for example, Georgetown last year during the regular season, and we never seem to come into huddles, we don't point fingers, blame anyone.  We just step back on the floor and we know what it takes.  That's something I really admire about each and every one of my teammates.
 DANTE CUNNINGHAM:  Yeah, just like he said, you know, our huddles are never, You did this wrong, you weren't here.  Never point fingers.  We have just a great understanding of next play.  As a basketball player, you got to have a short memory.  You can't worry about anything that you messed up on previously.  You got to continue to get to the next play, keep playing ball.

 Q.  Dante, growing up in Washington, did you follow American very closely?  Did you know much about the program, being close?
 DANTE CUNNINGHAM:  Yeah, actually, just being in the WCAC, you know, St. John's, that league and everything, we had a couple of our championship games there.  So, you know, I kind of had a good feel for them, you know, as a school, you know what I'm saying?  One of our assistant coaches actually, you know, coached there for a little bit and still is.  So, uhm, you know, I have a good, you know, understanding of the team and, you know, know everything about them.

 Q.  Talk a little bit about how your role has changed from freshman this year, going from a role player to more of a go to guy and a scorer?
 DANTE CUNNINGHAM:  Yeah, freshman year it was more Alan Ray, Randy Foye, understanding that, you know, they are the seniors, they take all the shots.  I get rebounds, play defense, things like that.
 As the years went on, things change.  Developing as a player myself, understanding what the team needed to win more games, you know, I just had to become more of an offensive threat.

 Q.  Was that easy for you to do, to make that transition, being the guy who needed to demand the ball in certain situations or have plays run through him?  Did you find you had to step up both on the court or in huddles or the locker room?
 DANTE CUNNINGHAM:  Honestly, I think it wasn't too hard, you know, just because I put in the time, I put in the time off the court working, my individual game.  So when the time came for me to step up as an offensive player, it really wasn't that hard.  You know, the team has been behind me the whole time.  The confidence that they have in me to put the ball in my hands makes it even easier.

 Q.  In both games during the Big East tournament, you came out in the second half and got taken to it by the other team, I think 17 2 by Louisville, 24 12 by Marquette.  How much have you talked about that, worked on that, focused on that in the last couple days?
 DWAYNE ANDERSON:  It's definitely something we focused on, especially playing against the Big East teams.  You can't do that, as we found outplaying against Louisville.  We talked about it so much.  We watch a lot of film.  So it's definitely in the back of our minds.  When we come out tomorrow, we're going to try to do the same thing, but in the second half we cannot slip up for that little time, just to relax.
 DANTE CUNNINGHAM:  Definitely, that's something that we talk about.  40 minutes of Villanova basketball, we've got to have it.  We can't have the slips where the team come out and get their first shots off and they're wide open or they get easy buckets.  Can't happen.

 Q.  Can you talk about Jay...Gucci, Armani.  Have you ever done anything all dressed up one day or dressed down one day or stolen his suit or anything like that?
 DWAYNE ANDERSON:  You definitely don't want to cross that line.  He's one of the best dressed coaches out there.  When it's our time to dress up, I learned we don't step over our boundaries.
 DANTE CUNNINGHAM:  Coach is a very smooth guy.  We never did anything like that, mess with any of his suits or anything.
 THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.
 We're now joined by Villanova head coach Jay Wright.  Coach, we'll ask you to make an opening comment.
 COACH WRIGHT:  Like everyone else, we are thrilled to be here, thrilled to be in Philadelphia, trying to keep our focus with all of the nice attention that's going on around us here at home and get ready for American, who I just am very impressed.  The more and more film I watch, with their experience, intelligence, toughness, it should be a great game.
 THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up for questions for coach.

 Q.  You mentioned the nice attention you're getting around here.  Good news/bad news.  How have you been able to keep the team focused?
 COACH WRIGHT:  You know, it has really been a challenge.  We thought we were prepared for this because we played here in '06.  We're trying to take time when we practice, after the media leaves, to actually have a meeting.  You know, even at the hotel where we stay, we've stayed there before.  So everybody knows us.  Everybody's coming in    everyone that works there, how excited they are, which is beautiful.
 But we're just trying to take our time that we're on the court now to be a meeting time and then a practice time.

 Q.  At this time of year, you have all these teams that have worked so hard to get top seeds, then they have these first round games, and so many of them are so tight.  Aside from the obvious, that they don't want to be upset, what do you attribute it to?  Can you judge or get a sense from your team whether they're headed down that road or whether they're okay?
 COACH WRIGHT:  I asked our assistant coaches about that because I don't see it in our guys right now.  A lot of times the assistants have a better feel than I do.
 The assistants are telling me, Hey, these guys just look at it as the next game.  It is one thing that this group has really impressed with me, is their ability to get onto the next game after a loss, but most importantly prepare for the next game as if it's the biggest game of their life.
 We've done it all year.  And I really hope that that continues for this American game, because it's going to be important.  If we don't, you know, they're good enough to beat us.
 But this senior class, this has been their strength, is preparing one game at a time.

 Q.  In the Big East, you've played a number of bigger guards, but some of the smaller guards like Andre McGee, Dominic James, Tory Jackson, under six feet, is there anybody from American and their starting guards that might remind you of anyone you've played in the Big East?
 COACH WRIGHT:  Yeah, definitely.  When we've talked to our guys, we've talked about Mercer as a Johnny Flynn or a Jackson from Notre Dame, the kind of guys that are just real thick and tough and strong with the ball and get into the lane and make things happen.  They can score.  They can create for their teammates.
 And Carr really reminds me of Abrams, who we played from Texas, to be honest with you.  Moves extremely well without the ball.  His size does not become a disadvantage for him because he has the depth to move out further, where it doesn't matter how tall you are.  You don't guard him out there.  He's got a quick release and he makes 'em.  That's what we struggled with Abrams when we played Texas, is he shot from deeper than we really expected him to and didn't stay as tough on him as far from the basket.
 Those two guards are really good.  We've really been impressed with them.

 Q.  Can you talk about Corey Fisher and his progression from last year to this year.  How much better does he make your team this year?  He shed some weight, got in better shape this year.
 COACH WRIGHT:  He really did.  He's completely changed his body.  He was playing at 205 last year.  He's down to 193.  He changed his eating habits.  He doesn't drink soda.  He doesn't eat candy.  I didn't do that when I was in college.  For a kid that age to be able to do that is very, very impressive.
 And on the court he's always been very coachable.  He just had today   we practiced earlier today, his best practice of the year.  Keeps getting better and better every day in practice.  I just think the sky's the limit for him.
 He does, he makes us a much, much better team for us now that he's really learning how to defend, he rebounds well.  We're just thrilled with him, as you can tell.

 Q.  It's become indicative of your teams, how hard they play.  People say how tough they are.  How much of that is something that you look for in the kids that you recruit and how much of it is cultivated once they're here either by you or players who have come before them?
 COACH WRIGHT:  You hit 'em both.  We look for guys like that.  We want guys that want to come to the Big East and compete.  If you're gonna play in the Big East, you've got to compete every possession.
 When guys get in our program, one of the things that we expect from the older guys is to, every time they step on the floor, let them know how hard we compete, but also talk to them off the floor about how important that is in the Big East and how important it is in our program.  You can't wait till you get into a game when you're young and get beat up and then learn that way.
 So it's both.  We look for that.  Even though you look for it, and you recruit it, you still have to learn it when you get there.

 Q.  This is an American team with five seniors.  Almost knocked off Tennessee last year.  How much does that play a role?  This is their last chance at it.
 COACH WRIGHT:  We talked to our team about that.  We watched the Tennessee game with our guys last night.  We watched the Holy Cross game with them.  You're watching that game.  We're thinking, that's not really giving them a good feel.  We watched that Tennessee game.  We said, Look, these are the same players, and they're back at seniors and they're much better than this team you're watching.  They played great against Tennessee.  They played great.
 I remember when I was at Hofstra, our first year making the NCAA tournament, we played Oklahoma State.  We were a little bit happy to be there.  The next year we played UCLA.  I know the mentality of our guys; they were going in there to win it.  We played a great game against UCLA almost got 'em.  I'm sure this team is the same way, same kind of make up.  They are tough.  They're really tough.
 I know everyone says to me, of course you're going to say they're good.  They're good.  They are.  I think when everybody sees them play tomorrow, they're gonna know.

 Q.  Could you talk a little bit about Dante's progression from role player all the up to this year.  Is that an adjustment you feel he made easily or did you have to talk to him a little bit about being more aggressive about wanting the balls?
 COACH WRIGHT:  We are all surprised, our whole staff was surprised, at how long it took for him to become a go to guy because when he came in as a freshman, he initially accepted all the responsibilities of being a Villanova basketball player, immediately.  He defended.  He rebounded.  He played hard.  He was unselfish immediately.  And he played a lot as a freshman.
 In his sophomore year, we tried to get him to start think more of as a scorer; a guy that wanted the ball at the end.  His whole sophomore year, he would have some big games, you could look at his stats, he had a game against Notre Dame, we scored 102 points at home, and he had 20 some.  He was unstoppable.  Then the next couple weeks he wouldn't shoot.  He would always give the ball up.  Even halfway through his junior year, same thing, he'd give the ball up in big situations, not out of fear, just out of respect for Scottie and Dwayne and the other guys.
 Finally towards the end of his junior year, he really started to take pride in being a go to guy.  He came in this year from day one, you could tell, This is my team, I'm going to make the plays at the end.  We've been really proud of him.

 Q.  You always talk about how the Big East is tough after every win.  Were you surprised when there were three No. 1 seeds?
 COACH WRIGHT:  I really wasn't surprised at all.  The only thick that surprised me was going into the Big East tournament, nobody asked me about it, probably nobody cares what I think about it, but I kept saying to our staff, I can't believe that no one is talking about Louisville being a No. 1 seed.  When we were going in, everybody was talking about Pitt, UConn, North Carolina, Memphis, Michigan State.  It seemed like nobody was talking about them.
 After they won the tournament, all of a sudden, bang, they're the No. 1 overall seed.  That was the team all year in the Big East that I always thought, their defense could keep them in a game whether they're making shots or not.  The rest of us, we're not making shots against a real good team, we could struggle.
 But I was not surprised about the other teams because they were 1 or 2 in the country all year just beating up on each other.  It was an incredible year to be a part of that conference.  I know we'll all talk about it for the rest of our basketball careers.

 Q.  When you left New York, the one thing that was stuck in your head was in both games you guys got really pounced on at the start of the second half.  Very unVillanova basketball like.  Why did it happen and what have you done since then to make sure it doesn't happen?
 COACH WRIGHT:  Honestly, I really don't know why it happened.  We watched film and we just talked about the situations.  You know, what happened.  But I don't think we figured it out.  I think we need to go play a game and have it happen again and play through it because, I mean, everybody seemed focused.
 The one thing that I could say is offensively, we weren't aggressive.  It was like everybody was kind of waiting for somebody else to step up and make a play.
 I thought defensively, we played hard.  I guess the only thing I could come up with is, offensively we weren't aggressive.  And it was an issue in both of those games.
 We've chosen to just move past it and say, Next game.

 Q.  If you could just reflect back when you played in this building three years ago in the Monmouth and Arizona games, what you remember about those two games, that experience here.
 COACH WRIGHT:  Well, in the Monmouth game, I remember us coming in here a 1 seed, they were a 16 seed.  We were playing well.  We were all happy thinking we were going to play well.  We played well in the first half.  Second half they started making a run, and the building turned on us.
 I never really try to pay attention to the crowd.  But it hit even me.  So I knew it hit the players.  I was thinking, This is our fans turning on us or is this everybody else jumping on Monmouth?  I realized it was all of the other teams going for the underdog.  So I definitely remember that.
 I remember the Arizona game.  I remember thinking, If we played that game anywhere else, I don't know if we would have won that game.  They were so good.  They were underrated.  They were an underrated 8, man.  They were so good.  We watched film of them, thought they were good.  When we got on the floor with them, we thought, Man, this team's great.  Our crowd really pulled us through that.  This place was rocking at the end.  We hit a couple big free throws.  Randy Foye hit a big shot.  Anywhere else, I don't know if we would have won that.

 Q.  Marquette and Louisville had 23 threes in the two games against you.  Any adjustments you feel need to be made guarding against the three point shot.
 COACH WRIGHT:  It's definitely a concern playing American, definitely.  But I thought there was two reasons for that.  In the Marquette came, Acker got it going in the second half.  It wasn't a guy we were going to give him shots.  Once he got it going, you know, we couldn't stop him.  That was a mistake.
 The Louisville game, most of their threes came from our turnovers, them getting out in transition.
 I thought in our halfcourt defense we did a decent job defending the three.  We've got to take care of the ball, then we've got to recognize if one of those other guys    we know how well Carr and Gilmore can shoot it.  The other guys coming off the bench can shoot it.  If one of those other guys gets it going, we have to get after it. 

AMERICAN QUOTES

THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by the student athletes from American.  We'll open up the floor for questions.

 Q.  Garrison, when I'm looking at your stats, freshman, sophomore year not a lot of minutes.  What changed other than minutes from your sophomore to your junior season?
 GARRISON CARR:  Uhm, honestly, just the fact that a lot of players in front of me graduated.  But I came in with a different mentality.  Instead of trying to be an offensive player on the team, I focused on my defense.  Coach Jones is a defensive coach.  Once he saw that my overall mentality had changed, that I could be the best defender on the floor, he really appreciated that and it shows in him giving me more minutes.

 Q.  Brian, talking to Scottie Reynolds, he said he grew up around you, playing AAU ball, really familiar with your game.  Is familiarity going to help you at all with these guys?
 BRIAN GILMORE:  Yeah, perhaps it will a little bit.  You know, we've had the ability to watch Villanova on TV all year, just because they're such a good team, playing in the Big East, playing against such great opponents.  They had a lot of TV time.
 It made us a little bit more familiar with them going into this week's matchup.  But more than anything, the scouting material that the coaches have given us, breaking down film, will give us more of an advantage than anything else.

 Q.  Garrison, you said your mindset changed after your sophomore year.  What kind of turned the light on for you?  Was there a telltale moment?
 GARRISON CARR:  Well, basically it was that I tried to just get on the floor with my offense, and defense was secondary, and it took me two years to find out that that wasn't going to work.  So I finally just was like, defense is what's going to do it.  I had been communicating with coach a lot more over the summer going into my junior year; I mean the defensive part.  Also the fact that a lot of people were leaving were the two main reasons I was able to get much more minutes last year.

 Q.  Brian, coach talked about last year some of you were affected by the spotlight, being there for the first time.  Talk about the difference this year going into this game, the approach, whether there is a more settled feeling with this group?
 BRIAN GILMORE:  Sure.  You know, I think a lot of you guys have heard it.  Coach Jones mentioned he didn't watch the film from the Tennessee game till about August, which as we all know was a while after the tournament.  He was taken aback by how many of us were kind of with a deer in the headlights look.  I think it's pretty much true.  There were some of our teammates who were just kind of caught by that big atmosphere that we hadn't been in.
 This time around I think we're prepared for that.  We know this is another big stage.  Obviously it's our last go round as seniors.  We can't afford to be taken aback and on our heels like we were last year.  We have to be the aggressors from the start.  I think now that we know that, we kind of have more of a feel going out onto the court, 18,000, 20,000 fans out there, us being the underdogs, getting the fans from other teams, stuff like, that knowing that will give us more sense of ease out there and let us play our game instead of kind of having our jaws dropped by the awe of the crowd and all that stuff.

 Q.  Can you talk a little bit about the road success you have had this year, how much that might help.  Why have you had so much success on the road and how might that help you tomorrow?
 GARRISON CARR:  Well, in terms of road success, I think a lot of it just has to do with the experience on the team, having seven seniors, and five seniors who start.  I mean, we've been here for four years.  We played many games on the road over the course of our careers.  We really wanted to be road warriors earlier on in the year.  That was our motto kind of.  Because we knew if we were able to make it this far, once he got to tournament play, in the Patriot League, you might not necessarily have home court advantage.  So being able to play well on the road is the sign of a champion.  That's the sign of good teams.  We were able to do that this year.  It was something that coach had emphasized from the start of the season, by putting so many road games in our schedule.

 Q.  I heard you mentioning about how being the underdog, having other fans behind you, can you recall an NCAA game that you were at or watching where you saw something like that unfolding and you got a rush from it, Yeah, this would be great, UConn is going down?
 DERRICK MERCER:  I actually don't recall.  But last year I know a lot of Alabama fans were kind of rooting for us and hoping that we pulled an upset with Tennessee.  I think they had a little thing against Tennessee.  So we had a couple Alabama fans rooting for us, which was great.
 But I don't recall the last NCAA tournament besides that.
 BRIAN GILMORE:  I think for us, one of the bigger keys was, you know, watching that Belmont Duke game the night before.  We weren't in the arena.  Couldn't really tell who was cheering for who.  You got to believe there were a lot of fans in there that weren't Duke fans, that were pulling for Belmont.  You know, that being another 15 2 seed, definitely gave us a little energy the night before going into our game.

 Q.  Could you talk about your matchup against the Villanova guards, what kind of problems you think your quickness can give them.
 DERRICK MERCER:  I think it's going to be a challenge for both Garrison and I.  We usually don't go in and play against players with that type of caliber, like Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds.  But I think with our quickness, we could be able to stay in front because those two guards are the type of guards that like to get in the paint, hesitation dribble, just try to make plays for their team.  They are also excellent shooters.  But I think with our quickness, we'll be able to stay in front and just try to contain 'em.
 GARRISON CARR:  I agree (smiling).

 Q.  Derek, who is the tougher coach to play for, Coach Hurley or Coach Jones?
 DERRICK MERCER:  I really can't answer that question.  Both coaches are extremely tough.  They both work hard, trying to get you to be the best player you can be.  They definitely helped me develop my game.

 Q.  Garrison, back to Birmingham for a second.  When you're within a point, five minutes to go in that game last year, what was the feeling like for you and your teammates?
 GARRISON CARR:  Well, I think when I remember back at that time, when it was such a close game, the game was almost over, I think me and everyone else on the team had a lot of confidence at that time because we were right there with them for 35 minutes of the game.  Everyone was telling us that we were going to get blown out, whatnot.  Like Derrick mentioned to you earlier, all the fans were for us, so they were against Tennessee.  They were cheering us on.  That moment was really great.  Unfortunately, it didn't last long.  Because Tennessee, being a good team, made a run and were able to get a solid lead and pull it out.

 Q.  At the moment you just talked about, could you see even a little tension on the Tennessee players' faces?
 BRIAN GILMORE:  Perhaps a little bit.  But, like Garrison said, I think one of the things that make them such a good team is they are poised and they did make that run that we weren't able to sustain.  You know, that was kind of the difference between them being a good team and them being a great team.
 But at the same rate, I think they were back on their heels a little bit.  They probably didn't expect with five minutes left it was going to be such a close game.  But, like I said, eventually they made that run and we couldn't withstand it.
 GARRISON CARR:  Yeah, like Gilmore said, being we were a 15 seed and they were a 2, they probably thought that maybe the first half we'd be able to stick with them.  But being it was late in the second half and we were right there, they were actually feeling a little bit nervous from my standpoint, or it might have just been me feeling confident in our abilities to win.
 But, I mean, unfortunately we couldn't pull it out and they got the W.
 THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, guys.
 We're joined by American head coach Jeff Jones.  Coach, we're going to ask you to open up with a statement and then we'll open it up for questions.
 COACH JONES:  Well, we're excited to be back.  This never gets old.  You know, our team I think is mindful of having had the opportunity a year ago and determined hopefully to go out tomorrow night and compete and play our best basketball.
 THE MODERATOR:  We'll start with questions.

 Q.  You talked the other day about addressing the players concerning the big stage, the setting, how it impacted you last year.  I assume you got around to having that talk.  Talk about what the players thought about it, their mindset going in this year.
 COACH JONES:  I guess I don't really know what they thought of it.  You know, it wasn't a formal thing, but it was something I wanted to address to make sure that they know it's okay to have some butterflies.  But, you know, we came here to not just play a game, but to try to win a game.  And I think, in all likelihood, maybe I didn't need to say that.  But in light of I think some of the jitters that we saw a year ago, that I should at least make the effort.
 I think our guys are focused.  If you look at the progression this week in terms of how we've played, how we've practiced, I think it's a building process.  And I'm certainly hopeful and expectant that tomorrow we will come out and give it our best shot.
 I think we'll be excited to go out and compete against obviously what is an excellent basketball team.

 Q.  Obviously with your focus so much on the game, I was wondering if have you had a chance to reflect back at all when you came here as a junior and played in the Final Four in Philadelphia back in '81 against Carolina and Al Wood.
 COACH JONES:  You had to bring up Al Wood's name, didn't you (laughter)?
 I didn't think about it that much, until we were driving up 95 yesterday, and you see this big, beautiful place, and you see, sorry, I don't know the name of the baseball stadium   but the baseball stadium and football stadium.  You have that tiny little knowledge over there.  I mentioned to some of the coaches and players in earshot, In '81, that's where we played the Final Four.  That was an exciting time.  Unfortunately, Al Wood had a ridiculous game against us, kind of continued what he did during the regular season against us.  But that was a great memory, a great experience playing in the Final Four .

 Q.  I was talking to Garrison a minute ago.  He didn't play much his first two years.  He said the main reason was he had guys ahead of him.  He talked about some things you talked about with him.  What changed between his sophomore and junior seasons?
 COACH JONES:  Well, I think the number one thing is there were a bunch of guys that graduated.  He had an opportunity.  And up to that time he was splitting time between being a backup point guard behind Derrick Mercer and also playing some minutes as an off guard.
 He and I met at the conclusion of his sophomore year and basically agreed that a couple things needed to happen.  Number one, he and I needed to have better communication.  So he came in two or three times a week.  He'd get a box lunch from the cafeteria, come in and have lunch between classes.  We'd talk some about basketball, but some about things that had nothing to do with basketball.  And we just tried over the course of the summer to continue keeping those open lines of communication.
 I think the second thing was that we agreed that he and Derrick Mercer needed to play together.  Most times, whether it be in practice or just in pickup games or whatever, those guys played against one another.  And he wanted the opportunity.  He was smart enough to realize that Derrick was kind of entrenched at that point guard spot.  But there were an awful lot of minutes that were going to become available or had become available at the off guard spot.  He wanted to see if those two guys could develop some chemistry and become a small but effective back court.  And obviously that's exactly what happened.
 He's always been an extremely hard worker.  But I think that off season and into the following fall, he worked even harder.  I think finally, whether he was excited about it or not, he realized he better work defensively to be able to get a shot, because he hadn't been a particularly good defensive player up to that point.  I think he worked to make himself at least a solid defender.

 Q.  I don't know if there's something you can quantify in terms of actual points, but when you're an underdog as you are, you're going into a game like this, you get to the eight  minutes to go mark, you're still in contact, the whole arena gets behind you, can you give us a sense of what that is worth to your team?
 COACH JONES:  I think there definitely is an advantage.  I also believe   and this goes back, I mean, years and years ago when I was an assistant at Virginia in 1984, the year after Ralph Sampson left, we got into the NCAA tournament by the skin of our teeth.  We hit a last second bucket.  I think the first round game was against Iona that, then beat Arkansas maybe.  However it happened, we were just kind of barely getting by.  But what we realized is the further we went, we just needed to hang in there.  The longer you're within striking distance, the more pressure is on the favored team.
 Having learned that lesson, and I know Jim Larranaga, when Mason made their run, shared that same philosophy:  the longer we're in, whether you're in or staying close, the more pressure there is on that favored team.
 Now, having said that, last year we did exactly that against Tennessee, and they proved down the stretch the last 4 minutes and 40 seconds, they proved why they were such a high seed.  They made the plays that counted.  So you've got to give them credit for it.  But I thought our team did a good job.  We did all of those things.  We battled, we stayed close.  We took a big shot from them.  They seemingly had    I think at one point it went to 9, but we came back to cut it to 4 or 5.
 The crowd, the other folks there that weren't wearing the Volunteer orange kind of started getting on the underdog's bandwagon.  But we weren't able to pull it off because Tennessee, quite honestly, was too good.  They made the plays that made the difference.

 Q.  I wanted to know if you could talk about the guard matchups tomorrow, how your quickness might affect them and how their size might affect you.
 COACH JONES:  Well, from a quickness standpoint, I think even though they're taller, they're just as quick as we are.  I don't know that we necessarily have a quickness advantage in the back court matchups.  But I do think that those matchups are going to be key, and we've got to do a really good job I think of defending them and staying in front of their guards, of those guys that penetrate, Fisher and Reynolds especially.  But they put the floor on the ball so well from so many different positions, I think for us to have a chance we've got to, as we say, build a wall.
 I don't know that it's realistic to think or hope that we can stop a guy like Scottie Reynolds.  But we certainly have to make him work for everything he's got.  He's just so strong attacking the basket.  He scores by driving the ball.  But he gets to the free throw line.  He sets up other people.  We've really got to do a great job of trying to stay in front.  Then they set the ball screens.  They're so effective with that because their guards are so good.  But if you load up on the ball screens, you load up on the guards, all of a sudden you have Cunningham or Clark or some of those other guys picking and popping, and they're just so effective in that midrange.  I mean, Cunningham is just deadly at 16 feet after setting a ball screen and kind of settling in.
 Those guard matchups are really, really key.  We're going to have to do a great job I think; A, of staying in front and stopping them from attacking the lane, and B, at the offensive end, we've got to take care of the ball.  The turnovers for them very often lead to quick points.  They're a very aggressive team, and they're looking to make plays defensively just like they look to make plays offensively.

 Q.  Two years in a row, for a program that had not made it to the NCAA prior to last year, what does that say about the program and what you're building?
 COACH JONES:  Well, hopefully it says we're making progress.  Back in the locker room, we were talking about how we've been so close a number of times and I felt like had accomplished some good things as a program, but we hadn't crossed that one threshold.  We were able to do that last season.  To be able to get back here again this year hopefully validates that and kind of sets the bar higher for our program.
 You know, there's a lot of good things that happen when you're successful.  Our goal, our intent, is to make sure that we keep working to keep this thing moving forward.  We feel like we've got a great situation, terrific school, terrific location, and a program that is moving forward in a league where we feel like we can be successful.

 Q.  If you could maybe pinpoint in your opinion what maybe the three overall biggest strengths of your ballclub are.
 COACH JONES:  I would say number one, probably, we've been able to just be very, very solid defensively.  We're not a spectacular defensive team, but I think we've got some guys that understand what we're trying to accomplish, and we do those things collectively.
 I think probably the second thing would be the experience that we have, given the seven seniors, just kind of hanging in there.  I think that has been a characteristic of this group that when maybe things don't go well, we're not all of a sudden coming apart at the seams.
 And then third, probably the ability, certainly at times, to shoot the basketball.  If we can shoot the ball well tomorrow    that's assuming we can get open shots, but if we take care of the ball and get good shots, hopefully we can put the ball in the basket with some regularity.
 THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, coach.
 COACH JONES:  Thank you.
 
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AMERICAN QUOTES

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the student athletes from American.
We'll open up the floor for questions.

 Q. Garrison, when I'm looking at your stats, freshman, sophomore
year not a lot of minutes. What changed other than minutes from your
sophomore to your junior season?

 GARRISON CARR: Uhm, honestly, just the fact that a lot of players in
front of me graduated. But I came in with a different mentality.
Instead of trying to be an offensive player on the team, I focused on
my defense. Coach Jones is a defensive coach. Once he saw that my
overall mentality had changed, that I could be the best defender on
the floor, he really appreciated that and it shows in him giving me
more minutes.

 Q. Brian, talking to Scottie Reynolds, he said he grew up around
you, playing AAU ball, really familiar with your game. Is familiarity
going to help you at all with these guys?

 BRIAN GILMORE: Yeah, perhaps it will a little bit. You know, we've
had the ability to watch Villanova on TV all year, just because
they're such a good team, playing in the Big East, playing against
such great opponents. They had a lot of TV time.

 It made us a little bit more familiar with them going into this
week's matchup. But more than anything, the scouting material that the
coaches have given us, breaking down film, will give us more of an
advantage than anything else.

 Q. Garrison, you said your mindset changed after your sophomore
year. What kind of turned the light on for you? Was there a telltale
moment?

 GARRISON CARR: Well, basically it was that I tried to just get on
the floor with my offense, and defense was secondary, and it took me
two years to find out that that wasn't going to work. So I finally
just was like, defense is what's going to do it. I had been
communicating with coach a lot more over the summer going into my
junior year; I mean the defensive part. Also the fact that a lot of
people were leaving were the two main reasons I was able to get much
more minutes last year.

 Q. Brian, coach talked about last year some of you were affected by
the spotlight, being there for the first time. Talk about the
difference this year going into this game, the approach, whether there
is a more settled feeling with this group?

 BRIAN GILMORE: Sure. You know, I think a lot of you guys have heard
it. Coach Jones mentioned he didn't watch the film from the Tennessee
game till about August, which as we all know was a while after the
tournament. He was taken aback by how many of us were kind of with a
deer in the headlights look. I think it's pretty much true. There were
some of our teammates who were just kind of caught by that big
atmosphere that we hadn't been in.

 This time around I think we're prepared for that. We know this is
another big stage. Obviously it's our last go round as seniors. We
can't afford to be taken aback and on our heels like we were last
year. We have to be the aggressors from the start. I think now that we
know that, we kind of have more of a feel going out onto the court,
18,000, 20,000 fans out there, us being the underdogs, getting the
fans from other teams, stuff like, that knowing that will give us more
sense of ease out there and let us play our game instead of kind of
having our jaws dropped by the awe of the crowd and all that stuff.

 Q. Can you talk a little bit about the road success you have had
this year, how much that might help. Why have you had so much success
on the road and how might that help you tomorrow?

 GARRISON CARR: Well, in terms of road success, I think a lot of it
just has to do with the experience on the team, having seven seniors,
and five seniors who start. I mean, we've been here for four years. We
played many games on the road over the course of our careers. We
really wanted to be road warriors earlier on in the year. That was our
motto kind of. Because we knew if we were able to make it this far,
once he got to tournament play, in the Patriot League, you might not
necessarily have home court advantage. So being able to play well on
the road is the sign of a champion. That's the sign of good teams. We
were able to do that this year. It was something that coach had
emphasized from the start of the season, by putting so many road games
in our schedule.

 Q. I heard you mentioning about how being the underdog, having other
fans behind you, can you recall an NCAA game that you were at or
watching where you saw something like that unfolding and you got a
rush from it, Yeah, this would be great, UConn is going down?

 DERRICK MERCER: I actually don't recall. But last year I know a lot
of Alabama fans were kind of rooting for us and hoping that we pulled
an upset with Tennessee. I think they had a little thing against
Tennessee. So we had a couple Alabama fans rooting for us, which was
great.

 But I don't recall the last NCAA tournament besides that.

 BRIAN GILMORE: I think for us, one of the bigger keys was, you know,
watching that Belmont Duke game the night before. We weren't in the
arena. Couldn't really tell who was cheering for who. You got to
believe there were a lot of fans in there that weren't Duke fans, that
were pulling for Belmont. You know, that being another 15 2 seed,
definitely gave us a little energy the night before going into our
game.

 Q. Could you talk about your matchup against the Villanova guards,
what kind of problems you think your quickness can give them.

 DERRICK MERCER: I think it's going to be a challenge for both
Garrison and I. We usually don't go in and play against players with
that type of caliber, like Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds. But I
think with our quickness, we could be able to stay in front because
those two guards are the type of guards that like to get in the paint,
hesitation dribble, just try to make plays for their team. They are
also excellent shooters. But I think with our quickness, we'll be able
to stay in front and just try to contain 'em.

 GARRISON CARR: I agree (smiling).

 Q. Derek, who is the tougher coach to play for, Coach Hurley or
Coach Jones?

 DERRICK MERCER: I really can't answer that question. Both coaches
are extremely tough. They both work hard, trying to get you to be the
best player you can be. They definitely helped me develop my game.

 Q. Garrison, back to Birmingham for a second. When you're within a
point, five minutes to go in that game last year, what was the feeling
like for you and your teammates?

 GARRISON CARR: Well, I think when I remember back at that time, when
it was such a close game, the game was almost over, I think me and
everyone else on the team had a lot of confidence at that time because
we were right there with them for 35 minutes of the game. Everyone was
telling us that we were going to get blown out, whatnot. Like Derrick
mentioned to you earlier, all the fans were for us, so they were
against Tennessee. They were cheering us on. That moment was really
great. Unfortunately, it didn't last long. Because Tennessee, being a
good team, made a run and were able to get a solid lead and pull it
out.

 Q. At the moment you just talked about, could you see even a little
tension on the Tennessee players' faces?

 BRIAN GILMORE: Perhaps a little bit. But, like Garrison said, I
think one of the things that make them such a good team is they are
poised and they did make that run that we weren't able to sustain. You
know, that was kind of the difference between them being a good team
and them being a great team.

 But at the same rate, I think they were back on their heels a little
bit. They probably didn't expect with five minutes left it was going
to be such a close game. But, like I said, eventually they made that
run and we couldn't withstand it.

 GARRISON CARR: Yeah, like Gilmore said, being we were a 15 seed and
they were a 2, they probably thought that maybe the first half we'd be
able to stick with them. But being it was late in the second half and
we were right there, they were actually feeling a little bit nervous
from my standpoint, or it might have just been me feeling confident in
our abilities to win.

 But, I mean, unfortunately we couldn't pull it out and they got the
W.

 THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.

 We're joined by American head coach Jeff Jones. Coach, we're going
to ask you to open up with a statement and then we'll open it up for
questions.

 COACH JONES: Well, we're excited to be back. This never gets old.
You know, our team I think is mindful of having had the opportunity a
year ago and determined hopefully to go out tomorrow night and compete
and play our best basketball.

 THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions.

 Q. You talked the other day about addressing the players concerning
the big stage, the setting, how it impacted you last year. I assume
you got around to having that talk. Talk about what the players
thought about it, their mindset going in this year.

 COACH JONES: I guess I don't really know what they thought of it.
You know, it wasn't a formal thing, but it was something I wanted to
address to make sure that they know it's okay to have some
butterflies. But, you know, we came here to not just play a game, but
to try to win a game. And I think, in all likelihood, maybe I didn't
need to say that. But in light of I think some of the jitters that we
saw a year ago, that I should at least make the effort.

 I think our guys are focused. If you look at the progression this
week in terms of how we've played, how we've practiced, I think it's a
building process. And I'm certainly hopeful and expectant that
tomorrow we will come out and give it our best shot.

 I think we'll be excited to go out and compete against obviously
what is an excellent basketball team.

 Q. Obviously with your focus so much on the game, I was wondering if
have you had a chance to reflect back at all when you came here as a
junior and played in the Final Four in Philadelphia back in '81
against Carolina and Al Wood.

 COACH JONES: You had to bring up Al Wood's name, didn't you
(laughter)?

 I didn't think about it that much, until we were driving up 95
yesterday, and you see this big, beautiful place, and you see, sorry,
I don't know the name of the baseball stadium but the baseball stadium
and football stadium. You have that tiny little knowledge over there.
I mentioned to some of the coaches and players in earshot, In '81,
that's where we played the Final Four. That was an exciting time.
Unfortunately, Al Wood had a ridiculous game against us, kind of
continued what he did during the regular season against us. But that
was a great memory, a great experience playing in the Final Four .

 Q. I was talking to Garrison a minute ago. He didn't play much his
first two years. He said the main reason was he had guys ahead of him.
He talked about some things you talked about with him. What changed
between his sophomore and junior seasons?

 COACH JONES: Well, I think the number one thing is there were a
bunch of guys that graduated. He had an opportunity. And up to that
time he was splitting time between being a backup point guard behind
Derrick Mercer and also playing some minutes as an off guard.

 He and I met at the conclusion of his sophomore year and basically
agreed that a couple things needed to happen. Number one, he and I
needed to have better communication. So he came in two or three times
a week. He'd get a box lunch from the cafeteria, come in and have
lunch between classes. We'd talk some about basketball, but some about
things that had nothing to do with basketball. And we just tried over
the course of the summer to continue keeping those open lines of
communication.

 I think the second thing was that we agreed that he and Derrick
Mercer needed to play together. Most times, whether it be in practice
or just in pickup games or whatever, those guys played against one
another. And he wanted the opportunity. He was smart enough to realize
that Derrick was kind of entrenched at that point guard spot. But
there were an awful lot of minutes that were going to become available
or had become available at the off guard spot. He wanted to see if
those two guys could develop some chemistry and become a small but
effective back court. And obviously that's exactly what happened.

 He's always been an extremely hard worker. But I think that off
season and into the following fall, he worked even harder. I think
finally, whether he was excited about it or not, he realized he better
work defensively to be able to get a shot, because he hadn't been a
particularly good defensive player up to that point. I think he worked
to make himself at least a solid defender.

 Q. I don't know if there's something you can quantify in terms of
actual points, but when you're an underdog as you are, you're going
into a game like this, you get to the eight minutes to go mark, you're
still in contact, the whole arena gets behind you, can you give us a
sense of what that is worth to your team?

 COACH JONES: I think there definitely is an advantage. I also
believe and this goes back, I mean, years and years ago when I was an
assistant at Virginia in 1984, the year after Ralph Sampson left, we
got into the NCAA tournament by the skin of our teeth. We hit a last
second bucket. I think the first round game was against Iona that,
then beat Arkansas maybe. However it happened, we were just kind of
barely getting by. But what we realized is the further we went, we
just needed to hang in there. The longer you're within striking
distance, the more pressure is on the favored team.

 Having learned that lesson, and I know Jim Larranaga, when Mason
made their run, shared that same philosophy: the longer we're in,
whether you're in or staying close, the more pressure there is on that
favored team.

 Now, having said that, last year we did exactly that against
Tennessee, and they proved down the stretch the last 4 minutes and 40
seconds, they proved why they were such a high seed. They made the
plays that counted. So you've got to give them credit for it. But I
thought our team did a good job. We did all of those things. We
battled, we stayed close. We took a big shot from them. They seemingly
had I think at one point it went to 9, but we came back to cut it to 4
or 5.

 The crowd, the other folks there that weren't wearing the Volunteer
orange kind of started getting on the underdog's bandwagon. But we
weren't able to pull it off because Tennessee, quite honestly, was too
good. They made the plays that made the difference.

 Q. I wanted to know if you could talk about the guard matchups
tomorrow, how your quickness might affect them and how their size
might affect you.

 COACH JONES: Well, from a quickness standpoint, I think even though
they're taller, they're just as quick as we are. I don't know that we
necessarily have a quickness advantage in the back court matchups. But
I do think that those matchups are going to be key, and we've got to
do a really good job I think of defending them and staying in front of
their guards, of those guys that penetrate, Fisher and Reynolds
especially. But they put the floor on the ball so well from so many
different positions, I think for us to have a chance we've got to, as
we say, build a wall.

 I don't know that it's realistic to think or hope that we can stop a
guy like Scottie Reynolds. But we certainly have to make him work for
everything he's got. He's just so strong attacking the basket. He
scores by driving the ball. But he gets to the free throw line. He
sets up other people. We've really got to do a great job of trying to
stay in front. Then they set the ball screens. They're so effective
with that because their guards are so good. But if you load up on the
ball screens, you load up on the guards, all of a sudden you have
Cunningham or Clark or some of those other guys picking and popping,
and they're just so effective in that midrange. I mean, Cunningham is
just deadly at 16 feet after setting a ball screen and kind of
settling in.

 Those guard matchups are really, really key. We're going to have to
do a great job I think; A, of staying in front and stopping them from
attacking the lane, and B, at the offensive end, we've got to take
care of the ball. The turnovers for them very often lead to quick
points. They're a very aggressive team, and they're looking to make
plays defensively just like they look to make plays offensively.

 Q. Two years in a row, for a program that had not made it to the
NCAA prior to last year, what does that say about the program and what
you're building?

 COACH JONES: Well, hopefully it says we're making progress. Back in
the locker room, we were talking about how we've been so close a
number of times and I felt like had accomplished some good things as a
program, but we hadn't crossed that one threshold. We were able to do
that last season. To be able to get back here again this year
hopefully validates that and kind of sets the bar higher for our
program.

 You know, there's a lot of good things that happen when you're
successful. Our goal, our intent, is to make sure that we keep working
to keep this thing moving forward. We feel like we've got a great
situation, terrific school, terrific location, and a program that is
moving forward in a league where we feel like we can be successful.

 Q. If you could maybe pinpoint in your opinion what maybe the three
overall biggest strengths of your ballclub are.

 COACH JONES: I would say number one, probably, we've been able to
just be very, very solid defensively. We're not a spectacular
defensive team, but I think we've got some guys that understand what
we're trying to accomplish, and we do those things collectively.

 I think probably the second thing would be the experience that we
have, given the seven seniors, just kind of hanging in there. I think
that has been a characteristic of this group that when maybe things
don't go well, we're not all of a sudden coming apart at the seams.

 And then third, probably the ability, certainly at times, to shoot
the basketball. If we can shoot the ball well tomorrow that's assuming
we can get open shots, but if we take care of the ball and get good
shots, hopefully we can put the ball in the basket with some
regularity.

 THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

 COACH JONES: Thank you.

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