I'm really proud of our guys. I'm really excited for them because I thought there were times in that game that I'm sure it didn't look real optimistic for our group. But our guys just kept fighting. They battled all the way to the end. They never gave up, they never got down. They kept competing and we ended up with a great play at the end there, Beejay just made an unbelievable shot. Really excited for our players. I hurt for LSU and Johnny. You guys know I care about Johnny Jones as much as anybody in the world. I hurt for them guys. But very, very happy for our team and proud of our guys, the way they hung in there.
Mark, what advantage is it to have guys like Trevor and Cat? I think they were like 4 of 22 combined, them and Ralston. But just keep seeing the grinding and have no conscience and keep shooting and finally they start making shots.
Well, they've come through for our team so many times this year, so they know we need them to. 65-62, we're down three and we had three of the most wide open 3-point shots you could get. Ralston had one, Trevor had one, Cat had one. We didn't make any one of them. We still hung in there and found a way to win. They've been in the role where they know our team needs them to score and needs them to play well.
I thought in the second half, they got going offensively better. We got the game opened up a little bit more in open court and that helped us some too. I thought in our half court offense, they did a nice job guarding us in the first half. We couldn't really get going and get in the flow. In the second half, the game seemed to start going up and down a little bit more and I thought that really helped our guys.
Talk about the contribution that Desmond Lee and Kyle Washington made off the bench in the second half.
I thought both their minutes were really good. Kyle got some big baskets for us. I thought the tip dunk was an emotional play, helped our team kind of in an emotional way. I thought Desmond defensively gave us quality minutes too. Those guys, sometimes it's hard when you're not playing as much. I thought they both hung in there. They were both ready to play, and they did a very, very nice job for us. Couldn't have done it without them.
Coach, I noticed LSU, six players played 198 of their 200 minutes. Down the stretch, do you think your depth was a key? Could you see that they were really a different team energy-wise just because they played six players the whole game, basically?
You never know for sure. That's one of those things you just, you don't know. They struggled from the foul line in the second half. That could have been a contributor. I don't know. We benefitted from the fact they don't make foul shots in the second half and maybe that contributed. I don't know. But they've won with that kind of group all year long. They haven't played a deep bench.
Johnny's done a great job kind of managing those guys. In the NCAA tournament, timeouts are so long. It's easier to play a shorter bench in the tournament because there's so much more time to rest. So you never know for sure if that ends up being a factor. But I think it could have contributed maybe to their foul shooting.
Coach, I was wondering what you thought specifically of Beejay's shot and the process that led to it. Also, Abdul-Malik came within six inches of touching the ball while it was in the cylinder. The presence of mind, I guess, that it takes for him to lay off after a crazy scramble.
Well, not the shot we would have drew up to try to win a game with Beejay shooting a left-handed jump hook from about eight feet. That probably wasn't the one. We had an isolation play with Trevor. I think he's as good as anybody in the country one on one when he's got some room to operate. I thought Quarterman did a great job. He guarded him. He used his length and Trevor never felt comfortable with, you know, attempting the shot. Then Beejay just made an instinctive play.
Don't know for sure that this happened or not, but we watched the SMU/UCLA finish today about a hundred times on television. Maybe that went through Malik's mind. Don't touch it. It's right there. So but we were lucky because he was right there. Malik was right there, and he never touched the ball, which was great. Then we also benefitted from the fact that the ball stayed up on the rim there for a couple seconds before it went in, and that helped us as well.
Coach, there was a five games today won by one point, one by two, one by three and one by four points. Can you remember ever in your life a day that's unfolded like today?
No. I tell our players all the time, they probably get tired of me saying this, and I believe it. It's the greatest show on earth, the NCAA basketball tournament. The country watches it.
Every office has a pool. Every secretary, every guy and lady there, everybody's got a bracket and it's amazing the excitement and how fun to be a part of the tournament. Amazing things can happen. Today was a great day, exciting day in that regard. For us, being a part of it, being on the good end, it ended up being a great day for us too.