Valpo HC Bryce Drew, Crusaders Talk UMD Bout

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew and Crusaders Alex Peters and Vashil Fernandez addressed the media March 19 ahead of the Valpo-Maryland game March 20 at 4:40 p.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew and Crusaders Alex Peters and Vashil Fernandez addressed the media March 19 ahead of the Valpo-Maryland game March 20 at 4:40 p.m.

Here's what they had to say:

Q. Do you see an advantage inside against Maryland the way you rebound the ball?

Alec Peters: We try to use our size to the best of our ability every game we play and outrebounding our opponent is definitely a focal point of everything we try to do throughout the game. We do have great size and great length, and we've got to continue to use that to our advantage especially in this game.

VASHIL FERNANDEZ: Just like Alec said, we try to use the advantage we have. And one of the things that we are challenged every game to do is try to outrebound our opponents and we try to go out there, do it every day.

Q. Alec, Jake Layman talked yesterday about possible matchup with you. Do you have thoughts on him and what he does well and possibly matching up with him tomorrow?

ALEC PETERS: He's a good player. He's very athletic, very good shooting basketball, he can take it to the hole. He can do a little bit of everything. He'll be tough for anybody who guards him on our team. As far as it being a little bit of a matchup, he is a great player, like I said, and if it comes down to it and I have to guard him, I'll do my best to stop him and hopefully he misses shots.

Q. Vashil, what's different this time around for you here at this tournament?

VASHIL FERNANDEZ: I would say I have a lot more experience being a senior now, I've been through a lot of different, with a lot of different teams and been playing a lot, just getting better each year.

Q. A lot of times in the matchups like this, you have a power-conference team against a team from a mid-major, there's a size advantage for the powerconference team. With you guys, that's not really the case, you're a really good rebounding team. Do you think you can be as good of a rebounding team against Maryland as you were during the regular season?

ALEC PETERS: Yeah, I do. I think that our length and our size and our strength that we have on our team is really beneficial. It doesn't matter who we play. It's going to come out and we're going to showcase that to the best of our ability.

Q. Vashil, can you talk about the pressure their guards are going to put on your team and when they get past your guards, how much pressure does that put on you?

VASHIL FERNANDEZ: I don't think it will be that much of a pressure because our coaching staff has been working with us all week, helping us learn how to guard their plays and stuff like that. I think that's helped us to be a better all-around team.

Q. What do you see from their guards, the way they penetrate, both Dez and Melo?

VASHIL FERNANDEZ: I think that they try to go hard to the hole and try to get fouls and stuff like that. And I think what we've done so far has helped us to be able to combat that as a team overall.

Q. Alec, this is obviously a big stage. What do you guys need to do to minimize the distractions and everything that comes with this stage?

ALEC PETERS: We have to have our daily routine, stay the same, whether it's just a normal road game or being at home. We'll eat pregame meal the same time before game that we usually do and wake up usually the same time, and go through our meetings, and do everything like that. And just try to keep everything as routine as possible.

Q. A lot of mid-major teams use Coach Drew's shot as motivation when they're coming into a tournament like this. How many times have you guys seen that shot, and can he use that? Because you know Coach Drew so well, Valpo history, can he use that, hey, this is what's possible if you do what needs to be done?

ALEC PETERS: Everybody on our team has seen it multiple times. It's hard to count how many times we've seen it. It's on pictures throughout our campus. And it's very memorable when you think of our school. And I don't think he has to preach on what kind of moment he had in that situation and how we can achieve the same thing. I think the biggest thing that we have to go through thinking is that we want to create our own moment. We want to have something like that that we can remember just like he did with that shot.

VASHIL FERNANDEZ: It's pretty much like Alec said. We want to create our own moment just like Coach Bryce did.

Q. In terms of what you've been able to practice, how hard is it to replicate a Dez Wells and Melo Trimble with your scout team?

COACH DREW: It's definitely difficult. We've had a lot of injuries this year. To be honest, we haven't done a lot of practicing and practiced live stuff. This team has been very good at watching film and going through walk-throughs and taking over to the court. So obviously we try to be those guys in practice, we're not going to do it. We've watched a lot of film and tried to get a game plan from that the best we can.

Q. Bobby Hurley was in here saying he had to practice with his team. Did you have to get on the court?

COACH DREW: Bobby is probably in a little better shape than me, a little faster. So he could help them get better. I think I'd bring our level down so I stay away from that stuff.

Q. You talk about, first of all, for those who haven't really followed your team very closely, you talk about how you had several injuries this year. If maybe you can give us a little detail on that. And then you're pretty big up front. That's not always the case when you have a mid-major against one of the power conferences. How did that sort of even up the playing field, so to speak?

COACH DREW: With the injuries, I think Dayton and us, I can't think of any other programs that have had the adversity that we've had in this season. We lost our returning starting point guard in August to an ACL. And then 13-2 going into league. And second league game, our point guard who was our leading scorer in league up to that point, was out for over a month with a toe injury.

So we ended up playing a 6'8" point guard who had double hip surgery in the offseason, the Alex Rodriguez hip surgery, major hip surgery. Didn't know if he would play this year. And he stepped in and played point guard. And conference tournament came, our starting 2 guard was injured, couldn't play in the championship game. It's been a great blessing, all what God's done with our team fighting adversity and different guys stepping up at key times.

As far as the height, at certain points we'll have four guys 6'7" or bigger on the floor, so we have a lot of interchangeable parts. So there's not really one or two guys that's dominant, but collectively we try to rebound with our height as a team and try to use our length the best we can.

Q. Coach Hurley was in here, obviously went to a couple of Final Fours, won some national championships. You've played in the NCAA Tournament. Do you think coaches that have been through this, what do you guys share with your players about your March Madness experience and does it help at all?

COACH DREW: I think every team is different. Some teams might need more prep or need to hear things. Other teams are very focused and ready to go. As far as this team, you know, we're the least experienced team in our conference this year, but yet they've played with a lot of maturity especially in big games. And so I just kind of get out of the way and let them do their thing because they played so well in big games this year so far.

Q. With the amount of turnovers with injuries and everything, dealing with that, what is it about your defensive scheme that has made you guys able to get the consistent results throughout the season?

COACH DREW: I think everybody is bought in. We have five guys on the floor that all work together. We don't have just one dominant guy. But collectively we all work together within our schemes.

And I think the guys really take game plans and they execute. They're the ones on the court that are getting it done. The anchor of our defense is Vashil Fernandez. He's our single season block shot leader and he does a great job at altering shots when we do get beat on the perimeter.

Q. I'll break out the traditional story line with you, but do you guys still practice that play that you ran for the shot?

COACH DREW: You know, I will say it's not in our recruiting presentation. It's not in our playbook. But it's definitely something we could draw up if we needed to in the last seconds.

Q. Have you ever seen just through the years your teams just trying to mimic it, see if they could pull it off. They sat in here, said they couldn't avoid it if they tried. It's all over campus. Have you seen them try to do that on the court?

COACH DREW: I have not. But I'm sure when the coach isn't looking, a lot of things go on behind your back, in a funny way. So they may have done it but nothing really in front of me.

Q. A lot of amateur coaches have run that in the last -- does dad ever take credit for that, say it's the greatest play ever?

COACH DREW: No, because we got it from the Indiana Pacers. I think every good play you see is borrowed from someone else. That's where we got it. The play was actually called Pacer because that's where we got it. But I will get an e-mail or a phone call or something every year or so a couple times saying this high school team ran it or this person ran it and they won the game. So it's neat to have people share their stories. page

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