George Mason - 58
Postgame Press interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Coach Donovan, we'll ask you to make an opening statement, please.
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Coming into the game against George Mason, one of the things besides a great story that I didn't think that was really talked about a lot with their team was the fact that if you look at their team during the course of the season, they were shooting about 32% from the three-point line. To me, the reason why they skyrocketed so much in this NCAA tournament is because of the three-point line.
Their shooting percentage over a four-game period went from 32, 33% all the way up to 42%. It reminded me a lot of the Indiana team with Mike Davis who had a very similar jump from the three-point line. I've said this, the three-point line is the greatest equalizer in college basketball.
I know against Connecticut, everybody talked about Lewis, they talked about Thomas, whatever it was, 39 points, 29 rebounds, whatever it was. No one talked about the fact that they were 9 for 18 from the three-point line.
We really talked a lot about the three-point line and trying to change and mix up double teams on Lewis and Thomas just to try to keep them off balance.
The big focus for us was the three-point line. I think we were able to hold them without a three-point shot for the first 35 minutes. We shot 34% in the first half, but the fact that we shot 40% from the three-point line in the first half gave us a five-point lead.
I thought in the second half our ball movement offensively, we were able to work inside out. Lee Humphrey shot it well. Taurean did a good job of running our team. We had a little better balance in the second half and we still continued to defend the three. That was a big concern for myself going into this game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Taurean and Lee first, please.
Q. Lee, can you talk about the coincidence of meeting Peyton just a few days ago, if that motivated you, the timing of that?
LEE HUMPHREY: It was very exciting for me to meet Peyton. I don't know how much that translated into the game today. I was very excited to meet him. But I think teammates did a great job of finding me. They got me good looks. I think just shot the ball well today.
Q. Lee, I understand the coach told you at halftime to keep shooting. When you hit the first three in the second half, did the basket get really big in your eyes?
LEE HUMPHREY: I felt good the whole night shooting the ball. Coach always does a great job of telling me of instilling confidence in me, showing that the team has confidence in me as well.
I did feel good shooting the ball the second half. I definitely felt like my shot felt good.
Q. Lee, some people say it's hard to shoot in domes, especially threes. Was it not a problem for you?
LEE HUMPHREY: I think you just have to try to get used to it. You try to get as many shots up in warm-ups and shoot around the day before. When the game starts, you don't really think about the background; you focus on the basket, what you need to do to help your team win.
I think the shooting background is at the back of your mind. You don't really think about it during the game.
Q. Taurean, the three threes that Lee hit in the first two minutes of the second half, that gave you a big cushion. Was that kind of where the game really turned in your mind?
TAUREAN GREEN: Those three threes that he hit were big. Just opened up the game. They did a good job of responding. They hit a couple threes late in the second half. I mean, those three threes were big, just opened the game up.
Q. Taurean, do you see something in Lee's eyes when he's on?
TAUREAN GREEN: You know, every time Lee shoots it, I think it's going in. He's just that good of a shooter. When he gets it going, you can just tell by the way he releases it 'cause every time he shoots it, he knows it's going in. In his head, he's like, "That's good."
Q. Lee, do you think maybe Peyton Manning could take some tips at how to perform in a big game?
LEE HUMPHREY: I don't know about that (laughter). Peyton, he's performed well in some big games in his time, too. I don't know if he can take any tips from me. We play two different sports.
Q. Lee, I wonder if playing last week in a dome might have helped you deal with the background and perspective and things like that this time around.
LEE HUMPHREY: I think it definitely couldn't have hurt because both of these gyms are really similar. Any time you play in a similar environment, it can't hurt. It might have paid off some.
Q. Can you take us back to the bicycle accident, what you were thinking, how long it took you to get back to the way you were playing.
LEE HUMPHREY: When I first had the bicycle accident, I know -- I got up and I was just thinking -- I didn't think I was really hurt that bad. I jumped back on the bike, was riding back to the dorm. My shoulder started hurting. I looked down at it. I said, "Wow, that can't be good." We were about to go eat at Amato's (ph). That's one of the team's favorite places to eat. Duke, our trainer, and I had to miss that meal. That was kind of disappointing.
The staff did a great job of taking care of me and getting me back quickly. They just did a great job. It wasn't too long of a recovery, which was good.
Q. You're in the national title game. How does it feel?
TAUREAN GREEN: It's a great feeling. We're just happy we get the opportunity to play for a national championship.
LEE HUMPHREY: It's very exciting. As a college basketball player, this is what you want a chance to have the opportunity to do. We do. It's been an exciting, exciting week for us.
Q. Lee, was there something that you guys maybe saw from the first half that was kind of open for you in the second half in terms of the threes?
LEE HUMPHREY: We wanted to go inside out. We took quite a few threes the first half. We shot at a pretty good percentage, but we still took quite a bit of threes.
Our big guys did a great job of kicking back out. Then we got some in transition. We also thought that we could take advantage of pick-and-rolls. I think we did a better job in the second half of using pick-and-rolls and paying attention of what coach told us during halftime.
THE MODERATOR: Lee and Taurean, congratulations. We'll let you go back to the locker room. We'll take questions now for Coach Donovan.
Q. Billy, obviously Lee's threes were big, but talk about his perimeter defense.
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I think the one thing with George Mason's team that's so impressive is their balance. They've got two very, very good scorers in the low post. Then they have very good balance on the perimeter. I thought in the game, our ability to be able to guard them, not only from the three-point line, but off the dribble, was going to be important.
They did hurt us with some dribble penetration there when they made a run at us in the second half. But I've said this all along, Lee is one of our better perimeter defenders in terms of just accountability, reliability, knowing exactly what we need. He's got the ability to guard the ball and he's got the ability to get around screens.
Q. Six years ago you played for the national championship. How are you a different coach from that day to this day?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I look at coaching, you know, a little bit differently. I think one of the things in an event like this or just over the years, to me the coaching part of it is these guys in terms of helping them understand what it is to work, what it is to get better, what it is to be part of a team. Because once they leave here, those are all the things they're going to have to carry with them in life.
I would say that one of the things that I derive a great deal of pleasure from is having an opportunity to see these kids go through something like this. I've been very, very blessed and fortunate. This is the fourth time I've had a chance in my lifetime to be at the Final Four. I'm very, very thankful. There's a lot of great players, great teams, coaches, people that never get a chance to deal with it.
One of the things I would say for me is I get a lot of pleasure watching other people, you know, happy. How I've changed as a coach? Hopefully every day you try to get better, you try to improve. I don't know if there's any drastic change. I've often said this. The NCAA tournament to me, what's the lottery motto? You got to be in it to win it. It is what it is. If you get in enough, you're going to have a chance to make something happen.
This is a totally different entity from the season. It really is completely different. It's got nothing to do with the regular season. I think once you get in, anything can happen.
Q. In addition to your defense on the perimeter, it looked like you felt Thomas couldn't necessarily hurt Joakim. It looked like you really freed him up. Is that accurate? How do you think he responded defensively?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: I don't know. I was very, very impressed with both Lewis and Thomas in the front court, what they've done in this tournament. But I also think the thing that has made them so effective is they've had balance from the perimeter with Skinn, Butler and Campbell. Sometimes we double-teamed, other teams we didn't double. Really what we tried to do is we told our guys if they could get close. The thing to me that Lewis and Thomas do a great job of is, if you come late on double teams on them, they're terrific passers and they find people. There was times, you know, that we were just caught one-on-one. It wasn't really that we felt Joakim could guard him, we just didn't want to give up a layup or a wide-open three. We talked a lot about having to be there on the catch. Sometimes we were there on the catch and other times we weren't.
Q. Was there any awkwardness at all in going against a George Mason team that had obviously been such a big national story?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: No. You know, not really. I've said this before. What they've been able to do this year has been great for college basketball. I think for someone like Jim Larranaga who is a Providence College grad, I have great respect and admiration for, heard his name so much while I was at Providence, and to see their kids enjoy.
I said it earlier, a lot of kids and good players, good coaches, good teams don't get a chance to experience what they've experienced. I think in this tournament, they've been able to inspire a lot of different people, people that maybe are really, really in need.
I heard Jim talk about some stories of some people and letters he's gotten. To me that's what this team has been all about, George Mason. There's no resentment on our team, our team feeling like they got all the attention, slighted. To us, it's been the same thing all year long. Whether it said across their jersey Cinderella, George Mason or another team, for us our basketball team, it's just a matter of going out there playing.
Our kids were feeling the same thing that George Mason kids were feeling. The feeling was not any different between teams. But because of Super Tuesday, all this ESPN, national TV stuff, the conferences that get the most exposure are the major conferences. Nobody in the United States of America had a chance to watch this team play. Maybe on a BracketBuster game, maybe in their conference semifinals, you had a chance to watch them play.
I enjoyed watching them play on tape just because they were a team. They played together, they played passionately and hard. But in terms of our team, there was no awkwardness against it. I said this, when the ball goes up at 6:00, all the stuff that's been written and talked about is out the window. It's two teams that I think are very well balanced going against each other. We happened and were fortunate to maybe come out on top.
But I'm happy for their kids. I'm happy for Coach Larranaga. I'm happy for them because what a great experience.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Postgame interview with:
GEORGE MASON PATRIOTS
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on a great season. Coach Larranaga, we'll ask that you make an opening statement first, please.
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: Well, my congratulations goes to Billy Donovan and his outstanding basketball team, University of Florida, for the job they did not only today but throughout the tournament. I think they're playing at a very high level.
We came into the game feeling very good about ourselves, feeling very good about our chances. For some reason, we were never able to really establish our rhythm either offensively or defensively. And Florida's ability to get so many second shots I thought really hurt us. It took away opportunities. Those missed shots, normally fast breaks for us. We'd been beating people on the boards throughout the tournament. Florida's ability to keep us from getting fast breaks because of their offensive rebounding I think really was a significant difference in the first half, then their great start took over the game in the second half.
My hat's off to them. They did a great job. I'm sure they'll play very well on Monday night.
THE MODERATOR: Questions first for Tony, Lamar or Jai.
Q. Obviously you haven't digested everything yet, but what do you think the legacy of this team may be?
TONY SKINN: I think we've done something tremendous for college basketball, for the teams that are out there that watched us play, you know, just to show them that all you need is opportunity and a chance. You just got to go out there and play great basketball. I'm definitely happy I was a part of something special.
JAI LEWIS: I mean, I think this is something that's going to go down in history, you know. A lot of teams don't get the opportunity to even make it into the tournament. Like Tony said, all you need is the opportunity. Once you get the opportunity, to do something with it. Fortunately, we was able to make it to the Final Four. I'm happy we made it this far.
LAMAR BUTLER: I'm going to piggyback on those guys. Just to be a part of something great. You know, this is history we're living right now. Whenever we talk about the Final Four, you have to mention us making it to the Final Four. This is history. We changed the face of college basketball.
It was an amazing run. Unfortunately it had to come to an end. It's definitely history.
Q. Jai, you had been able to make your run by containing some prominent big men. How was Florida's inside game any different from theirs? How were they able to get an advantage, particularly in rebounding?
JAI LEWIS: I mean, you know, in the previous games, we did a great job boxing out. This game, we didn't get a body on people like we should have. It wasn't really that their big men were getting all the boards. A lot of rebounds went long, so it was going over me and Willie's head and we were boxing out again. When a rebound goes long, Florida has the advantage because they're on the outside.
Q. When they came out and Humphrey hit those three-pointers, how did that maybe change things?
LAMAR BUTLER: Didn't change anything. I don't know if you watched the North Carolina game, we were down 16-2. We came back in about five minutes playing. It didn't change anything. We just had to regroup, you know, keep our poise, fight and claw our way back.
TONY SKINN: Yeah, I mean, that kind of hurt us a little bit. We've been playing behind for a while in this tournament. We didn't put our heads down. We wanted to go out there and keep fighting.
Fortunately for them, you know, they won the game.
Q. Tony, two plays. When you got it to nine, the block/charge call. Do you think you had position? The play a couple minutes later when you fouled Green, he got --
TONY SKINN: There was a few times I tried to get the charge call in the first half. The referee didn't call it. He was initiating contact. I was trying to do something that we could gain momentum for. The ref called the right call, that was pretty much it. The technical -- I don't even know what the technical was for. I know they called a foul. He must have said something to me. The referee called a tech.
Q. Could you just talk about what it was like at the start of the game, what it felt like to be out there playing in a Final Four.
JAI LEWIS: I mean, it's a lifetime experience, you know, going out and playing in front of almost 60,000 people. Something you can keep with you for a lifetime. Something you can tell your children and grandchildren. Just a great experience.
LAMAR BUTLER: I was just out there having fun. I was taking pictures with my family. Nothing had changed. I was ready and focused to play against Florida. Nothing felt different for me at all.
TONY SKINN: Yeah, pretty much same thing. Once you step out on that floor, you're not worried about the crowd or anything that's out there. You just want to go out there and play basketball.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on a great season. Coach Larranaga will remain for questions.
Q. Speaking about legacy, when you go on, you reflect on this, you'll coach for many years yet, what do you think you personally take away from it for what you may have done for little people in the country? I'm pushing the envelope a lot. Do you have feelings about that?
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: I guess the way I look at is, I don't know how many times I've been to the Final Four as a head coach of a Division I program that was labeled "mid-major," sat there and wondered if I'd ever have the opportunity to coach a team to the Final Four. My thoughts were, first you have to get to a high-major level to accomplish that goal.
I think by what these players at George Mason have done, they've probably opened up the eyes of many people, including myself, that you don't have to have seven-footers on your team or be the biggest and strongest team to have a great basketball team. There are a lot of great coaches out there that don't coach at the highest level that have accomplished an awful lot during their career and maybe are not totally appreciated because they were not able to get to the Final Four.
We set such high standards in terms of winning. But I think there's so much more to the game than that. I'm very proud of these young men. I'm very proud to be representing George Mason University and the Colonial Athletic Association. I'm especially proud to represent, if we do, all those mid-majors and low-majors who aspire to get here one day.
But I am still very concerned that rather than this be something that everyone can look at and enjoy and get excited about, I don't think it's something that you want to create the expectation now that George Mason has done it, they've broken the barrier, so to speak, now everybody else should be expected to do that. That would be definitely the wrong message.
When Jim Ryan broke the four-minute mile, everyone thought they could do it. That's great, but there's a lot of great runners that ran before him and probably after him that never reached that milestone.
I would just hope that our guys in future years would be able to look back and say they did something great rather than something happened where the expectation for guys just like themselves grows so much that nobody, nobody can enjoy the ride like we did. One of the greatest parts about this trip was we didn't put any pressure on ourselves. No one created the expectation except us, that we were going to continue to play the best basketball we could no matter who we played.
Q. The three ball was so big for you against UConn. Tonight you were outscored 36-6 beyond the perimeter. Talk to me about their perimeter game, your perimeter defense, how you had a tough time finding that three ball.
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: Well, the first thing is I thought we were going to play a great game today. We were in the perfect mental frame of mind. Our shoot-around this afternoon, I had to stop it. The energy level was so high. When we took the floor, I was still feeling that way.
But a few minutes into the game we did not show that natural rhythm that we had the last few weeks at both ends of the floor. Part of it was their offensive rebounding. We didn't get the long rebounds that led to break-outs where we got started well. We fell behind. We dug ourselves a hole. We worked our way back into the game.
But at no point did we get the inside-outside play, the sharing of the ball. Some of the credit has to go to Florida and how they were able to defend our post men individually, not needing as much help. The other thing is I think a dome is a factor, for a team that never played in it. Lamar Butler was quoted yesterday as he'd never even been in a dome.
There had to be some lack of familiarity with how you really get in a good rhythm in a building like this, this size, with the problem of developing the proper depth perception.
If I'm not mistaken, Florida's team played in this kind of arena last week. I think had we had that experience, maybe that would have eased that burden.
But we never did get it going on the perimeter. They certainly did, far better than anybody else we've defended throughout the tournament and probably throughout the year. Not many teams shoot 48% against us. A lot of the credit I think has to go to Lee Humphrey.
Q. I imagine there's going to be some debate about whether this particular achievement, for George Mason basketball, is possible to replicate, particularly given the fact you have three seniors and a team that really has grown up together. Can you speak to what a realistic expectation is for George Mason?
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: I'm sure everyone in that locker room who is returning wants to be back here. I'm certainly not going to be the one to tell them, "No, it's not possible because Tony, Will and Jai are graduating" -- I'm sorry, "Tony, Lamar, and Jai are graduating."
I think Will and Folarin will step it up big time, work very hard. I think the underclassmen will return with a determination to be as good as we can be next year.
Whether that takes us to the Final Four, who knows. As I said earlier, the greater the expectation, the greater the pressure, more likely you fall short. We'll just continue to be who we are and believe in the things we do, try to be the best we can.
Q. Much has been made about the sense of fun and being relaxed, how well that served you in this whole run through the NCAAs. Did that fail you tonight, particularly in the second half?
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: Oh, no.
Q. When you were digging yourselves out of the hole, it didn't seem to be there.
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: No. The game itself has issues that you have to deal with. I mean, certainly being happy and loose didn't keep us from rebounding. You know, this is a team that has rebounded very well. But you don't play the same every single night. You don't shoot the ball the same, you don't defend the same, you don't rebound the same. Basically, human nature comes into it. And these kids are human. They've played as consistently and as well as they're capable of playing for an extremely long time.
I am shocked that we were not in the game in the last three or four minutes because we hadn't played a game the entire year where we weren't in it down the stretch. We lost seven times, today was the eighth. But five times for sure the ball was in our hands with a chance to win with one minute or less. We lost a couple of games by more than just two or three.
More than anything, I'm very proud of these guys, but I'm surprised we didn't play a great game. We were in the perfect mental frame of mind to do it.
Q. 64-55 after Folarin makes the three, what is in your mind? What did you think when the block was called on the next possession?
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: Well, the calls don't make a difference. You just got to play. Had it gone our way, it obviously could have created some momentum for us, but it didn't. One of the things we had emphasized so strongly to the team all through the season and through the tournament was keeping guys off the foul line. Taurean Green is like a 90% free-throw shooter. It gave them points without ever taking a shot.
It was difficult 'cause our guys were instructed to start turning up the heat defensively, so Tony was following instructions, but Taurean Green is also a smart player who you probably saw him four or five times stumbling around looking to draw fouls, looking to get the referee's attention. In that particular case, the foul goes against us, he makes the free-throws.
But, as I said, we never the entire game found our offensive rhythm. Although I think Florida deserves some of the credit, I think that's just -- sometimes that happens. Maybe it's the environment. But I think maybe it was -- I mean, you know, Folarin Campbell dribble off his heel. He's never done that his entire season. Lamar Butler dribbled off his foot the first half with two seconds to go in regulation.
Q. Even 64-55 you weren't thinking, "We've got one run in us," or you were?
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: I was. Not until I looked up at the clock and there was under two minutes and it was at 15, 14 or 15, did I realize, "Gee, we're not going to have a shot at this." All through the second half, I thought at some point we'd start going into a nice offensive rhythm of inside-outside, taking the ball to the basket. But they were so inconsistent for a team that plays so consistently.
You can see 2 for 11 from three, didn't shoot the ball well from the outside. How many layups did we miss? I mean, Lamar Butler had a left-hand finger roll miss. Tony Skinn had one. This is all in the first half. If we just made three uncontested layups, we're ahead at halftime. Or if we had gotten a couple of defensive rebounds, we would have been ahead at halftime, then it's a different game.
Q. Since the pregame theme you had with the CAA against Connecticut got so much attention, I was hoping you could comment on the poem you read to the players before the game.
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: I'm sorry, could you repeat? The poem I read to the players?
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: Throughout the tournament, I felt it was my responsibility to keep our mental frame of mind in the right place, the right attitude, because we believe everything begins with attitude. If you feel good about yourself, if you're excited, if you're loose, if you're confident, then the other things kind of flow.
So the poem was directly related to that. We had used the Kryptonite, the CAA, felt like this was an appropriate time to do something a little different that I thought would, again, put us all on the same page.
Q. You mentioned how you weren't able to get that inside-outside rhythm. Was there anything that I guess Florida was doing on the interior that didn't allow you to get any of that rhythm going?
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: I'd have to look closely at the tape. I loved the shots that Will and Jai got. Some of them were point-blank range. You know, during the game, at the very first timeout, as I said this many times, Jai and Will are very smart, at the very first timeout, the two big guys talked amongst each other and Jai said to the team, "They're playing me on the high side, I'm going to use the baseline, we need somebody in the opposite corner." Will understood that, too. So we would work our way towards the middle of the floor, spin back to the baseline trying to score or pass out of the low post that way.
The very next possession, Jai went baseline, scored. Next time, went baseline, kicked it out to Tony, who shot-faked, got the guy, stepped up underneath, hit the 15-footer. I think that cut it to like 16-11 or 18-15, in that range. That was the best offensive segment we had, where the guys were recognizing what they were looking for and either scoring or finding the open man. But we never really did get to that in the second half.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Congratulations on a great season.
COACH JIM LARRANAGA: Thank you.