March 27, 2009
NCAA Regional, Pitt vs. Xavier, March 26, 2009, Boston, Mass.
QUOTING PITT’S Jamie Dixon AND PLAYERS:
COACH DIXON: Obviously can't say enough about our kids. But first off Xavier's kids, great team. We knew what they were and they came out and played with tremendous physicality and toughness and aggressiveness. Probably the most physical team we've seen this year.
They pushed us around for the first half, but we responded in the second half as we usually do. And we're very proud of our guys how they responded. It's the first half we didn't -- didn't go our way. We had guys make big plays.
As I said earlier, I never get tired of watching Levance take big shots. He's made them year after year. Our guys believe in him. I believe in him. And that's all that matters.
I'm proud of these guys and what they did rebounding-wise against a very good team, especially in the second half. We came, we responded and we did what we wanted to do after halftime.
Q. Levance, can you take us through that last possession. What did you see that allowed you to take that shot in?
Levance Fields: We came off -- we had a run, DeJuan screened, really didn't turn the corner. He did a good job defending and getting over and I did a little in and out move which created just enough space, and got them on their heels. And once I got the separation I took the shot and had all the confidence it would go in. And once it went through it was a good thing.
Q. What is it that gives you that confidence to make those kind of plays? Talk about the defensive play, too.
Levance Fields: It's like Coach said, I always get the credit, but it's special to have -- first off, I do have confidence, but especially to have my coach and my teammates to believe in me down the stretch. I've got two stars on each side of me right here who could step up in that situation. But it's a special feeling.
As far as defensive play, it really started with Brown, pressuring Raymond in doing what he didn't want to do. I think DeJuan did a great job hedging out strong. He got a hand on it. And I happened to be anticipating that and once it popped free, I was off to the races.
Q. Sam and Levance, the two seniors, you've been hearing all year about how you have to get to the Sweet 16 to be successful. Can you talk about what it means now?
Sam Young: It definitely means a lot for us as players, the coach and the city. It's something that everybody has been waiting for for a long time, for us to give them that as a pleasure. But at the same time we feel like we've still got work to do.
Levance Fields: Like Sam said, it's been great all year, doing numerous things the school hasn't done ever. And just stepping up to that chapter for us seniors and this group, '08-09 team.
But we came in expecting to win two games, expecting to win our first game Thursday, and that's what we've done. It was dramatic fashion, but once we finish this media, it's on to either Duke or Villanova.
Q. You got off to a slow start, but in the second half you were all over the boards. What changed for you?
DeJuan Blair: That's just my teammates and my coach, coaches just believing in me, and not letting me get down on myself in the first half. And they come in the locker room and talking to me, keeping me motivated.
Like I said last week, I have motivators with these two people next to me, they just keep me into the game. And I found my way to score for the team and I started rebounding. I did what I did to win.
So hats off to all the seniors and the coaches and the city for getting past the Sweet 16. And that's cool.
Q. Levance, I asked you yesterday about the toughness of this team. It's shown that it can take a punch, but deliver one in the end. How does that galvanize this team going forward?
Levance Fields: We're a confident group. We understand that no game is going to be easy. Fortunately for us, in some ways we still haven't played our best basketball, but other opponents have been playing excellent. We're positive in this situation. It hasn't been a blowout, but we're making the plays down the stretch when the game is on the line. And we keep advancing and hopefully on Saturday we can play better. But if we have to win again like this, we'll take it.
Q. Do you guys just feel that in a tight game down the stretch that's your time to shine? You've played three close games in the tournament down the stretch. Do you feel that's your time to shine?
DeJuan Blair: Yeah, we give Levance the ball and he caught me up there for the screen, and then we just let him play off of that. And of course, Sam came up big at the end of the game. And when us three are clicking, like I said, it's tough for us to be beat. We did a good job today. We did good.
Sam Young: I felt like with the free throws, they were big, but I probably wouldn't have even been in that situation if it wasn't for Levance. So in those situations I like Levance.
DeJuan Blair: Me, too (laughter.)
Q Levance, with just over two seconds, you sprinted down the court and had a nice little moment with your coach. I'm wondering, did you guys say anything or was it just a hug there?
Levance Fields: He was still mad, telling me the game wasn't over (laughter). I was excited for Coach. As good as he's been for this University and picking up where Coach Howland left off. The biggest knock has been not a Final Four appearance and not getting past Sweet 16. So this is just a step towards that. And I just wanted to embrace him because he deserves it.
Q. Levance, you've done this several times in college and several times in high school. Do you remember the first time you made a basket like this?
Levance Fields: No, I don't. No, I don't remember. But like I said, I did it numerous times. So once again, I don't want to keep repeating myself, but in any situation, my coach, whatever team I've been on and my teammates have faith in me to make a play, whether it's me shooting it or looking for a teammate. Tonight was no different. They put the ball in my hands again and I made a play.
Q. Did you guys expect, like Coach said, for those guys to be as tough as they were? How much did that make you guys change how you approached them? What did you expect out of them, I guess?
DeJuan Blair: We knew Xavier was a physical team and they -- obviously they hit us with the first punch, but we came back in the second half and we made some defensive plays. We jumped out and we started going back and forth. Levance hit and shot and Coach kept saying whoever wins the rebounds will win the game.
They were winning the first half, obviously they were up. So we clamped down on the rebounding and we -- it was even at the end. So we got the win, so we started rebounding.
Q. Coach, Sam, the second time in a row, two games in a row Sam has really been the offense in the first half. You guys struggled and he's really carried. Can you talk about how he's picked you up and kept you guys in the game the first half?
COACH DIXON: We were trying to get the ball inside early and we just didn't finish some plays. Sam made some shots. We scored a number of baskets on our out-of-bounds plays, and that was, I thought, the key.
They're a very good defensive team. This is the type of game we anticipated. It was going to be really -- they're very physical. They guard well, they're low field goal percentage defense team. It was the type of game that we expected.
But, again, we run the numbers for them, we count on him to score, and we need to play off of him to get other stuff. He made big plays and big shots early. But he was there in the second half, as well. So our balance -- balanced team and balanced scoring. We have roles and our guys understand them.
Q. Coach, first half did not end the way that you wanted it to, I would imagine. What was the mood in the locker room at halftime and do you bring up that your team has been to this point and has not advanced to the Elite 8 or is that something you don't bring up to this team?
COACH DIXON: Again, these are guys that -- they have nothing to do with it eight years ago or seven years ago. So that's not a factor. Really, we were a tie game and I think they outscored us like 8 down the stretch. And it was just -- but the game, the tempo of the game, the tone of the game, really, was the rebounding.
We were down early from the get-go on the glass, and we said from the beginning, whoever won the rebounding battle was going to win the game. We put ourselves in the hole, we were down 7 on the glass and they were up 8 at the halftime. And so it corresponded. In the second half we got a change and out- rebounded them by seven and that's a big number. Really, that's what we discussed at halftime, made it very clear that was what we had to do and they did it, they responded. It's easier said than done. But we did get it done.
Q. Was this your team's best game of the tournament in your estimation so far or do they still have another left in them?
COACH DIXON: I thought our defense was good. I thought our defense was good. I think we've been defending pretty well. I think our offense could be better in this game. They had a lot to do with it. They're a team that's a physical game. There wasn't a lot of fouls called. It was called evenly and balanced. We had two teams that are very good. They're big, they're strong, they play a lot of guys and they're very experienced.
They had something to do with it. We've got to execute a little bit better. But again, you get down to this time, it's -- there's not going to be a lot of easy baskets. And that's just part of playing against good people and that's why they're all here at this point.
Q. Coach, you mentioned how the players weren't part of the history of the past seven or eight years of the tournament. What does it mean to hear them talk about how much they want to do this not just for the fans and the city and the school but for you, as well?
COACH DIXON: I don't know how much they've really put into that. I've always looked at it, if it was easy to get to the Sweet 16 more teams would do what we've done. Only two teams have got there as much as we have. So it's an accomplishment. But again, somehow we've turned the Sweet 16 into a bad thing or a bad -- and it's not. It's a good thing.
It will be -- you've got to keep -- no one is satisfied. If that was their motivation, that's great. But these kids have played too hard, they've done so many things right all year long. They've challenged each other, they've been unselfish, they've sacrificed for one another. I'm just happy for our seniors because when they came in, I said this was the best group, Tyrell, Levance and Sam, that we've brought in. They've lived up to it. They've got the most wins in school history as a group. A huge number, I can't keep track now, and they've won a lot of games.
Q. Can you talk specifically about some of the adjustments defensively you made at halftime. It was night and day for Xavier offensively first half to second.
COACH DIXON: Really, it was the glass. They were scoring on second shots and they got a lot of kickouts after getting rebounds, second shots. So that was the biggest thing.
I thought our defense was actually pretty sound in the first half. I mean, they made some tough shots, which they do. They drive you and they lean in and they look to get to the rim. And those were contested.
But if you keep giving them opportunities, they're going to get open shots. They shot 40 percent, 24 in the second half. I think we guarded the three a little better in the second half. I thought that was key. And in transition. I thought they hurt us in transition early. Not so much, again, the scoring maybe on transition, but getting a shot and then getting a rebounding opportunity. So I thought our transition defense was probably the biggest improvement in the second half.
Q. Was Biggs just a match-up situation? He didn't seem to play as much.
A He got the two fouls early, so that was the key. And then just I thought -- he played well in the second half. He came up with some rebounds in the second half, but he got two fouls early.
So DeJuan and Sam seemed to be -- normally we don't like to play Sam 40, but we went with him today. That was something we put in that position. Gary played well, I thought, too. So again, pretty good job from our bench guys.
Q. Preliminary thoughts about who you might potentially face here.
COACH DIXON: You know, your guess is as good as mine. We know Villanova better than Duke. But we played Duke last year at the Garden. Familiar with both programs. You know, I think everybody's looking forward to that match-up. I don't know if it started yet. We'll head back to the hotel as a team and get a couple of coaches staying around and we'll have a good feel for them. We'll be up all night getting ready for whoever it may be.
But it's good to be sitting and watching them, waiting for the next opponent. That's a good thing. It's two hours, we'll need to get to work.
QUOTING XAVIER HEAD COACH SEAN MILLER AND PLAYERS:
COACH MILLER: Well, there's a big difference between being up here as a winner and a loser in this tournament. I think when you lose you reflect more on the season. I cannot be more proud of the team that we had this year, the leadership of B.J. and C.J. There may be a more talented player, but those two guys embody what it's about in college basketball. They play for the win. They led us in practice. They led us through the good times and bad, always believed in the most important aspects of our program. And the identity of our team is really a reflection of those two guys. We're going to miss them and they really did a great job of allowing future players to know what it's like to be a senior, to be somebody who's a leader.
You know, tonight's game was a very difficult loss. I'd like to wish Pitt the best of luck and give credit to their team, there's a reason they're 31 and 4.
I thought the shot that Levance Fields hit says it all about a senior point guard. Their three best players statistically did a great job. Sam Young, in particular, is really a handful. But if we're honest, very winnable game for us.
The second half some of it was a lack of execution, but I thought the lack of offense really started stemming from we just missed some point-blank layups and inside shots that you have to make in any game, but in particular in this tournament. And for us to finish shooting the percentage and scoring the amount of points in the second half, 18, still having a chance to win is disheartening.
But as we missed some shots that we normally make, it became a little bit tighter for us. And I think our offense started to reflect our tightness and for that, that's hard to let go of if you're a coach of this team.
So wish Pitt the best of luck. I thought our guys played really hard. You can see what a great defensive team we are, we showed that, certainly. We're going home. And wish Pitt the best of luck.
Q. Was there a point in the game where you guys could kind of feel the little things kind of adding up? Originally they said that the physicality was one of the bigger things, but it ended up being layups or rebounds. Was there a point where you could feel that they were kind of adding up?
B.J. RAYMOND: No, it got to a point in the second half where they got the key rebounds. We would make them miss, which is what we're good at. Also what we were good at is getting the rebound. They came up with some key rebounds. I think that's the thing that's most hurtful to me at this point is that offensively, okay, we can miss shots.
But the things that have got us to this point and the things that have made us a good team, we didn't do, which was our defense. A part of our defense was stopping them, making them take a tough shot, but also getting the rebound. And we didn't do that. I don't even know if we out-rebounded them or anything like that. But I just know in the second half they got some key offensive rebounds that we should have had.
Q. B.J., after Fields made the shot, he stripped you of the ball and went coast to coast with it. What were you trying to get there, what were you looking for in that offensive situation?
B.J. RAYMOND: Well, honestly, I know, myself, I'm not that good off a ball screen. I took the first one just wide, just to try to go one-on-one. And Levance, as good as he is, he stopped guarding his man, because he knew I wanted to take the last shot. And he came off and he stripped me. But I quickly went to the next play.
We were still down three points and we had a chance. It was like 16 seconds to go. I had to quickly move and we had a good play drawn up and, hey, everybody else knows the rest. But he made a good play. He made two great plays in a row.
Q. Coach mentioned also, as well, this is the point where you start reflecting on your season. What do you guys reflect on most at this point, what are you thinking about most?
DERRICK BROWN: Just shows we can play with anybody. It's a credit to our coaching staff and Coach Miller, they put us in a position to, I guess, get out of the mid-major label in our eyes. We are a defensive-minded team and we play hard. It's just sad that we had to go out the way we went out, because I don't think that's how we should have went out. It hurts so bad because we just gave it -- the second half was just not Xavier. And that's what hurts the most, I feel like, in the locker room obviously right now, because the season we had, it was about toughness and finishing what we do. And we didn't finish.