Quotes: Xavier vs Dayton - Pregame

Chris Mack, Dez Wells and Kenny Frease spoke to media members about Saturday's game against Dayton on Friday afternoon before practice. Here is a transcript of that press conference.

Mack on whether the atmosphere at Dayton has changed at all since he played…

CM: It's always been a great atmosphere. Certainly the things that they bring into the college game now with the Red Outs, the White Outs, towels. I don't think they knew about that stuff in 1989. But the fans were always really into game and it's always been a great atmosphere for college basketball.

Mack on preparing freshman like Dez Wells for that kind of atmosphere…

CM: You don't worry about preparing about the atmosphere. You worry about preparing for the game. If you do what you do every day in practice between the lines tomorrow that's the only thing that will matter. We've lost games there, we've won games there and it'll have nothing to do with the atmosphere. It'll have everything to do with our execution on the floor.

Mack on what makes Chris Johnson, who has had big games against X in the past, so tough…

CM: I think the two things that really stand out are, No. 1, his ability to shoot the ball. He's a phenomenal 3-pointer shooter. And then he's a great offensive rebounder from his position. We learned the hard way in the game here and hopefully Dez doesn't have to learn the hard way tomorrow. But he's going to be the guy that goes after an offensive rebound every time the shot goes up. He's not going to take a couple possessions off. He's very disciplined in his approach. He's tenacious. He's determined to get there, and whoever's checking him when the shot goes up better get him off.

Mack on Dez Wells' recent effort on the glass…

CM: He's been great defensive rebounding. He still has to make sure he gets his man off the glass. That's something that all freshmen have to go through, and all players. It's a fine line – not a fine line – but when summer basketball ends and structured basketball begins, now you're accountable when a shot goes up to block your man off. Dez is no different from anybody else.

Mack on what Dayton point guard Kevin Dillard brings to their team…

CM: I think Archie's right. When they beat Saint Louis, he single-handedly did whatever he wanted. He got in the lane, he scored, he found guys, he's a phenomenal passer. And I think Archie's right. I think how Dillard goes is how Dayton goes. That's not to say that their other players aren't really, really talented. But they put the ball in his hands a lot. They ask him to do a whole lot. It's really important that you contain him as best you can and keep him out of the lane.

Mack on his relationship with Archie…

CM: We've never worked together. We've shared a lot of phone calls. We were both under Sean's leadership at different times in our career, so we would bounce things off of one another. When he was at Ohio State, we went to the same high school games and so a lot of stories, a lot of Xs and Os, and just a genuine friendship.

Mack on whether he sees shades of Sean Miller in what Archie does on the court…

CM: If you mean how his team plays, yes. He's taken a lot of what probably each of the three coaches or four coaches that he's been under at some point in his career and put that out in his system of play. I can definitely see how they defend, the things that they do offensively, are eerily similar to things that Sean instilled in this program and me and obviously Arch.

Mack on where the Dayton rivalry stacks up with others…

CM: I don't know where I'd peg it when it comes to where it would stack up with the other ones, but it's a great game. It's a great rivalry. Both fan bases are really into the game. It's got a history. We've played Dayton for so long, for so many years. I've got a lot of great memories, I've got a lot of bitter memories. It's just what college basketball is about. I don't think the rest of the country truly appreciates the rivalry that it is.

Mack on blocking out the atmosphere and noise at Dayton…

CM: It's certainly the loudest arena that we play in in our conference. It's not even close. Part of that is because we have a Xavier uniform on. How it affects how I coach – do I hear things? Well, sure, I'm a human being. I hear things. But I worry about coaching our team on the floor. Generally when there are dead balls, it's quiet enough – quiet is probably the wrong word – but it's not as loud and you can get your message across to your players in terms of what to run, what match-ups are. We haven't had an issue with that. The issue is when they make a big run, when they hit a couple threes in a row, of being able to be that team that's able to withstand that run, is still able to execute its offense, buckle down and get a stop on the defensive end. We were successful last year. We were miserable the year before. That's the big test when you play at Dayton.

Dez on what he's heard about the environment…

DW: I heard it's a really good environment, and it will be ten times as tough as it was playing at Vanderbilt and Butler. Dayton's a great team, so I'm just ready for the challenge.

Dez on what his your teammates have told him about the environment to expect there…

DW:I'm from Tobacco Road. I've been to the Duke and Carolina games, so seeing what those fans do, it will be just like second nature to me. I've seen it so many times. I'm just ready for the game, because Dayton's a great team. I'm just ready to be a part of this history and a part of this tradition.

Dez on whether they can feed off the negativity of the opposing fans…

DW: It's not going to go anywhere, so you have to embrace it. Yeah, we feed off of it, and use it to add fuel to the fire.

Dez on his play over the last four games and whether he's done anything different…

DW: I credit that to my teammates, because they've set me up and put me in places to make me look good as a player. My coaches have full confidence in me and so do my teammates. It's all on them, because they push me to be better and they want to see me succeed just like I want to see them succeed. Really, my teammates helped me out a lot with that.

Dez on whether anything has been different in the last four games….

DW:They've been supporting me since day one, and I appreciate them for that. All I'm trying to do is get better, and hopefully make history and win this sixth A-10 Championship.

Dez on if he's happy with the way he's adjusted to college basketball…

DW:Yeah, I'm happy. I'm very happy with how I've adjusted. It's really a credit to my teammates, because they've helped me along the way. I couldn't have done it without them or my coaches. I'm not satisfied at all. I want to see us succeed as a team and get better as a team every game.

Dez on what he's still learning…

DW: I'm learning more about our defense, buying more into our system, the Xavier way system of playing defense. Really I'm just trying to play off of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, Kenny Frease and the rest of my teammates, because they get us going. I'll do whatever they need me to do for us to win.

Kenny on getting hyped up for the Dayton game…

KF:There's no denying the fact…nobody's trying to hide the fact that it's a big game, a rivalry game, we don't want to lose this one. I don't know if it's a different preparation, but definitely a different mindset going into the game, just knowing that regardless it's going to be a tough game. It doesn't matter if we're really good and they're not, or they're really good and we're not, it's going to be a close game. I think that's the biggest thing, going into it, you just have to be ready for a war.

Kenny on whether they talk about the rivalry to the younger guys…

KF: We definitely try and talk to them, and they're definitely pretty responsive to the things we have to say. Whatever we can do to help them, we'll be there for him. At this point of the year, I think Andre (Walker) said it in an interview a little while ago, that at this point of the year freshman really aren't freshman anymore. I think going into a game like this, it's definitely a big game, but we're going to be ready for them.

Kenny on where the Dayton atmosphere stacks up with their other rivals…

KF: When they go on a run and they get their fans into the game, you can almost feel the gym vibrating. It's really loud and they've got their towels that they're always spinning around, and you can feel the wind from the towels, there's so many people spinning those things. It's definitely a different feeling. It's one of the toughest places I've ever played at. There's so many people and they're so loud. Their fans really know what they're doing up there.

Kenny on what they need to do to win the rebounding battle…

KF: I think just doing what we have been doing the past few games. Last game we didn't rebound like we would've wanted to, they out-rebounded us by about 10 rebounds I think. The big thing is on the offensive end is just making sure we're going to the rim every time. Coach Kelsey always used to say, 'Get to the batters box,' that little area right below the rim, because once you get there, you have just as good of a chance as anybody to get the rebound regardless of whether you're defense or offense. Defensively, trying to stop them from getting to get to that position. I think that's going to be the biggest thing, just making sure that we're focused and really ready for that war that it's going to take to win that rebounding battle.

Kenny on whether they're more aware of keeping Chris Johnson off the glass…

KF: It seems like every game there's one guy or two guys that we really key in on like, 'This is what he does. He rebounds the ball really well.' Obviously, Chris Johnson can do more than offensive rebound, but he's one of the best offensive rebounders we're going to play all year. I think a couple of years ago Coach Steele said that he had six offensive rebounds against us, and then last year he had four. That's an unreal number for offensive rebounds. You definitely have guys that you focus in on, but I think at the end of the day we just have to make sure that everyone is boxing out.

Dez on whether it's tougher to keep a wing player off the glass…

DW:Yeah, you have to hit them early. You have to make contact with them first. Great offensive rebounders, like Chris Johnson, they'll just try to get around you, so it's pretty tough, but it comes with the territory. You have to do it.

Kenny on the improvement of the big men…

KF:We're just putting a little bit more emphasis on playing more as a group, like thinking of our big men as a big men unit, instead of thinking of each other like, 'I've got to get this. I've got to go get that.' If we can go out consistently and have a couple of guys in double figures, and make sure between our group of guys that we're getting 15 or 20 rebounds, that's going to be something that will make our team better in the long run. We're going to have great play from our guards every night. We just have to make sure we are doing whatever it takes to win, whether I need to go out and get 10 rebounds or I have to go out and score 15 points, I just want to do whatever it takes to win for my team. As big men, I think we're starting to think that way, in more of a group mindset.

Kenny on how Dez has been able to fit in from day one…

KF: I think the big thing is how strong he was physically coming in. A lot of guards, I shouldn't say guards but any player that comes into the game, you have an adjustment period of trying to figure out how to use what you have. I think right off the bat coming in he was confident in who he was as a basketball player. Mix that with his skill and strength, it's tough to stop him. When he's got a full head of steam going in transition, it's tough to stop him. At this point, I think that's what he's doing best. He's getting rebounds, getting out in transition, you guys all see the dunks and the oops that he catches. It's nice to have him out there. It gives us that extra, whatever it is, he's just really strong and really fast. That's the reason he's been pretty seamlessly able to fit in to our program.

Kenny on whether there's added importance because of the current conference standings…

KF: Coach Mack always talks about how each game is for an A-10 Championship. Every game is just as important as the next one or the last one. Right now we're focused in on Dayton, and that's all we're thinking about really. I don't think that we think about records too much, because at the end of the day we know that if we can go out and keep chipping away at these games and keep getting wins that our fate is in our hands. I think right now we're just focused on trying to win as many games as possible. We don't really pay attention to the other teams' records or anything like that. We just know that we have to be ready to play every night.


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