THE MODERATOR: Coach Mick Cronin, Lance Stephenson, Yancy Gates, Darnell Wilks.
COACH Mick Cronin: Well, obviously, a big win for our team. We a rough game with Louisville earlier in the year where we lost a close one, blew a lead and really didn't attack the basket. We attacked the basket tonight. Guys did a great job in the second half. We ended up with 40 points in the paint. We get the ball in the paint, we get it on the rim, we can rebound the ball.
So the last two nights we have had 69 shot attempts and 72 tonight. We can rebound the ball when we get shots off. When we get the ball inside the paint. Guys did a tremendous job. Their effort was unbelievable from each guy that went in there, just really proud of my guys. How hard they played in the second half. Tremendous defensive effort by our guys in the second half. That was the key from making it hard on Samardo Samuels to trying to bottle everybody up. And Edgar Sosa had an unbelievable night for him. And he's got to be proud of himself in a tough loss. But great win for our team, obviously we'll try to stay here as long as we can.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Mick, did you pretty much know what was coming on that last possession? Sosa likes to make those kinds of shots.
COACH Mick Cronin: If you can believe it, we called time-out to foul him at half court. Deonta claims he was fouling him the whole time. I was scared he was going to finally foul him when the shot attempt went up. I was going to be the laughingstock nationally. So we were all kidding about it in the locker room. We were all wondering what he was doing.
I put my senior up there figuring I'll trust him. He's a senior. He'll foul him at half court. He says he was fouling him. The game plan was to foul him. He couldn't get that shot off. I've seen him make those kinds of shots. He made those shots all night tonight and kept them in the game.
Q. What was the message during halftime that you conveyed to the players?
COACH Mick Cronin: We made a couple of adjustments. It's March. I've been known to get upset from time to time, but we're past that. We're not going to win if we give up 82; they had 41 at halftime. These guys know that. We're not going to win if we give up 82. We have to find a way to play better defense and Darnell and Ibrahima Thomas pointed out some things in the pick-and-roll defense that we changed. And we were able to stop them from getting drives down the lane and contain the basketball. Obviously Samardo getting his third foul. When he came out, we made a run. I think that was a factor. We made some halftime adjustments with our pick-and-roll defense and some things we were doing. That was the key.
It was a tale of two halves. They shoot 50% in the first half and 36% in the second half.
Q. Coach, tonight obviously beating Coach Pitino, a guy you're very familiar with and coached with, tomorrow night's Coach Huggins, another guy. Does that factor hold any special meaning for you?
COACH Mick Cronin: Not really. The only other good thing is one of us gets to move on. If it wasn't for those guys I wouldn't be here today.
I have a great deal of love and affection for both of them. I need to win more. I'm younger. Hopefully they take that into account. They are both in the NCAA Tournament. We need to keep winning. Hopefully Coach Huggins will feel my pain and help me out.
Q. You mentioned the pick-and-rolls on offense. What about defensive changes in the second half? What did you do to kind of slow them down, if at all?
COACH Mick Cronin: In our offense we were getting lost a little bit with their screening that we were late on our pick-and-roll defense. We did more switching on the perimeter. And Yancy was more aggressive with his pick-and-roll defense when they set the pick-and-roll with Samuels.
Then we tried to front him all night. Our goal was to try to front him and limit his touches as much as possible. But late Yancy had a couple of really good stands against him where he made him score over him. We walled him off and made Samardo take a tough shot and held his ground, and didn't let him back him down. Those were two big, big plays where he was able to get a couple of stops against him one-on-one. If you can guard him one-on-one, everything they do is predicated off of help. We guarded the ball better in the second half.
Q. Mick, do you think this gets you back in the NCAA Tournament picture?
COACH Mick Cronin: I'm sure that the bubble talk will begin again. We've been through all that so much. Our guys really -- it's funny, they'll tell you, they're not even interested in that. They want to win the BIG EAST Tournament, the BIG EAST Championship. That's what they're here for. We understand, we say this: No matter what happened in Maui, we had tough losses, if you play in this conference and you win in this conference, you're going to be in the NCAA Tournament. Your fate is decided in BIG EAST play. So we just stay focused on this tournament. That's all we're worried about.
Guys are really excited to be here. Their attitudes have been great. Their effort has been tremendous. They are making great adjustments amongst themselves out there on the court and sharing the ball. They just want to win this. There really hasn't been any talk of that. Somebody mentioned it and they said they can care less. They want the BIG EAST ring. They have to get some rest. We have a lot of guys play if we're going to do that.
Q. You guys have had sort of an up-and-down season. To come here and get two wins and get the ball rolling, can you talk about what it means for you personally and for the program right now?
Lance Stephenson: I think it's getting everybody confident, making us play harder. We have to get in the gym and try to win the next game. We have make the Tournament, we have to play hard. That's what we're going to do.
Q. Darnell, the contribution you made the last couple of nights, you haven't gotten to play much until recently. What have you been able to do the last couple of nights?
Darnell Wilks: I just think I want to come in and do the best with the opportunity I'm given. So every time I come in I just try to play hard. Do whatever he tells me to do. And, you know, if the ball falls my way and I can score, that's good. Mostly try to play hard on defense and rebound.
Q. Coach, just the offensive rebounding 28, obviously West Virginia is a team that thrives on offensive rebounding. Can you talk what that matchup is going to be like, the offensive glass tomorrow?
COACH Mick Cronin: It's a game I used to struggle with back in the old days when we played 21 with no fouls. Just throw it at the rim and go get it. Feel bad for the three guys that draw that assignment tomorrow night. Might be like the old days. Just get shots off. They hurt us on the glass in the second half. There was an even game. We were up six. Even rebounding at halftime. We were up six. They outrebounded us by ten in the second half. Our guys understand that. The key for us is getting reboundable shots. If we stand around and take threes, we're easily blocked out. If we can get the ball moving and get people moving and get bodies running at the rim, we're as athletic as anybody.
Darnell and Jaquon Parker in particular were unbelievable on the offensive glass tonight. Their effort and focus to get there. When you're attacking the basket instead of standing there shooting jumpshots, but at the end of the day, it's going to be the same thing. If we get outrebounded, we'll lose tomorrow night.
Q. When you see the two teams, your team and West Virginia, do you see like the same team?
COACH Mick Cronin: No, because they're so much longer than us on the perimeter the way they start it. Other than "Truck" Bryant they are 6'7," and up. It poses matchup problems with smaller guards. Jaquon Parker can play bigger people. Lance can play bigger people. When we come in with Cashmere Wright, we get smaller. Certain lineups that Larry Davis, those guys are a struggle to match up with either (Da'Sean) Butler and (Devin) Ebanks. That's a concern. We definitely have some matchups that are definitely, from a size standpoint, a concern for us.
Q. Seeing when you guys started to make a move in the second half, the energy of the whole team picked up. What was it for you guys at that point? Did you feel them changing at that point?
Yancy Gates: Oh, yeah. We felt the momentum changing. Once we started to make our run, we got some big baskets and some key stops. We have Samardo pick up his third foul which was a big factor because he had to go out and sit for a while. Energy picked up as group, not just the five on the floor. It was the rest on the bench and the coaching staff. The energy just picked up in the huddle and on the court. I think that helped us a lot down the stretch of the game.
Q. Sorry if this was already asked: Coach, it seems like these last two games you guys are playing real well, playing your type of basketball. What do you attribute that to? Do you think it's because your backs are against the wall because of the late games?
COACH Mick Cronin: I think the guys would say late games. They would like to stay up here in New York and hang out all week. They're having a great time. The misnomer about us is that we haven't played well. We just lost a lot of close games. We have had some bad breaks that are our own fault. We missed some free-throws and had some tough things happen to us. That's BIG EAST basketball. We've been on the wrong side of too many close losses.
Where I'm most proud of the guys, they're able to put all that behind them and come up with the fresh attitude they've come up with. That's the thing I'm most appreciative of. It's hard for young guys. This day and age it's easy to buy into negativity and let others bring them down. These guys have -- they've stayed with us. They've stayed with each other. You can see by the energy and the way they treat each other and how hard they're playing out there, that they've been able to fight through it. That's tough because we have a lot of young players on this team. They've hung in there and they've drawn the strength from each other coming up here.
Anybody that saw us play knows that we're better than an 11th seed. That's life in BIG EAST basketball. It's the best conference in the history of college basketball. As long as we stay in the 16 teams, it's never going to change. It's not going to change next year, the year after. It's only going to get worse because everybody is going to recruit better because it's so hard to win in this league. It's only going to get harder. I'm just really proud of my guys and their effort and attitude.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.