March 24, 2010
COACH Lorenzo Romar: We're very fortunate to be here still involved in the NCAA Tournament. Our guys are really excited. We're playing a very, very good opponent in West Virginia. We're going to have to play at a very high level to be successful in this game. We're all aware of that. We're excited to be playing.
Q. Coach, what are your thoughts about the news of Darryl Bryant getting hurt and how might that help you guys, especially with him doing a lot in their half court offense?
COACH Lorenzo Romar: First thing when anything like that happens you feel bad for the young man who has an opportunity to help lead his team, maybe to a National Championship, and then something like this happens. It's not something you wish on anyone. We are aware, though, that they still have a very good basketball team, and that there are a lot of components that make up their group. They're missing a guy that they've been counting on all year. But at the same time, they are still very good.
Q. Your team was in a lot of pre season top 25 polls and expected to do a bunch, and then didn't really play that well. And you've really been on a roll the last four or five weeks. What has happened to get you guys going?
COACH Lorenzo Romar: Well, I think for one we've matured. Our team has one senior; everyone else is coming back next year. I think it just took us a while to kind of understand one another and understand the level of commitment it takes to be successful here. We do have a lot of returners, but last year we were led by Jon Brockman, who is playing with the Sacramento Kings right now and Justin Dentman, who is playing in Israel. Both those guys were All League performers. We had to kind of find our way without them.
Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas were having really good years all along. But something else happened, Matthew Bryan Amaning, Justin Holiday, who are now starters, began to play basketball at a high level and came alongside those guys and made us a better basketball team. Matthew has given us more of an inside presence. Justin Holiday has given us a lot of energy and defensive confidence, and overall, just basketball intelligence.
So we kind of came together. Roles became more defined, and we grew up.
Q. Following up on that, were there doubts in your mind when you were 2 5 in the conference that it wouldn't come around?
COACH Lorenzo Romar: If you asked the people that were around our program during that time, they would tell you that those questions were asked at that time. I never had any doubts. It was, when is it going to happen? When is this going to come together? Because I thought we had the pieces to be able to be successful, it just hadn't worked out yet. So the question for me was, how long is this going to take, because we're running out of time.
Q. Coach, I was just wondering getting back to the Truck issue, does it become a guessing game at all now on your part trying to think what is Coach Huggins going to do now? And how do you adjust accordingly your own game plan?
COACH Lorenzo Romar: I don't know if there's going to be an adjustment. (Joe) Mazzulla has played for them and played quality minutes in the past. I know he was injured last year, but he seems like a guy that the team has a lot of confidence and faith in. So I don't know if there needs to be any adjustments. I do know that between (Devin) Ebanks, (Da'Sean) Butler and (Kevin) Jones, they're pretty good. And those guys are still playing. And they're going to be pretty effective.
Again, I've been watching Coach Huggins' teams for a long time. And they are usually able to survive if one player doesn't play well or is in foul trouble or, in this case, maybe not playing. It's ironic, the last time that I was a coach of a team that played against Coach Huggins' team, another player was hurt from his team. But it happened during our game. Yeah, he was a little better than Truck. That particular game, you know, they had to figure out how to win without him on the spot. I think they'll be OK.
Q. During the season there was a lot of speculation that the PAC 10 might only get as few as one berth. Was there a feeling when you went into the tournament that you had to win it? And now that you advanced two rounds, what's the satisfaction there?
COACH Lorenzo Romar: I thought if we did well in the PAC 10 Tournament, got to the championship game without winning it, I thought we had a good chance to make the Tournament. I would have been shocked if there would have only been one team from the PAC 10 in the Tournament. There were a couple of unfortunate losses in the non conference schedule early that didn't look very good for the league. At the time some players were ineligible, some players were hurt. And once that happened, the PAC 10 kind of got labeled for the rest of the year. No need to look at them anymore. We know what they're about.
And the league was young. Twenty-one players went on to the NBA in the last two years. The league had to grow up. And while the league was growing up, I think people still looked at it the way it was in non conference when the league was young and guys weren't eligible or guys were hurt. Teams didn't have their full complement of players.
So I still felt that we'd get more than one in there.
COACH Lorenzo Romar: It beats the alternative. That is for sure. We're excited about it. We have had to just it seems like the last six weeks it's one and out for us. Because when you're 3 5 in conference, you have a lot of work to do to make it as an at large team. And we knew that five of our last seven games on the road, and at that point we had not won a road game yet. And we knew we would have to do well. And our guys really rallied up, and each game came out and performed. And here we are, we're fortunate to be here.
Q. Coach, as Missouri found out on Sunday, they really couldn't control the pace against West Virginia. How do you intend to try to have your team play to the pace it wants to play, as opposed to having West Virginia slow it down? How do you counteract what they do?
COACH Lorenzo Romar: Well, unless you have just superior, superior athletes to the team you're playing against, in most cases if they want to slow it down, it's a little more difficult to get them to go up tempo than for you to keep your tempo. We're going to play the way we play, and if the game is in a half court situation, we have to be able to perform. But hopefully we can get some stops, hopefully we can make them uncomfortable so that maybe we can get out in transition.
But like I said, it's been my experience, again, if your five are just extremely talented and the other five aren't as talented, you can impose your will. But if that's not the case, the team that wants to slow it down usually can get to you do that.
Q. Does that concern you?
COACH Lorenzo Romar: Half of our league slows it down. So whether we're going to be effective or not, again, it remains to be seen. But we have been in many games where the pace was slowed.
Q. It's kind of a similar question: Your team has scored a high number of points per season, shot a good percentage. West Virginia is kind of the opposite - Defensive games in the low 50s and 60s. You're both here playing tomorrow. This time of year does one approach matter more or mean more than the other?
COACH Lorenzo Romar: I think that's what it is. What are your strengths? To start with, to be successful in the NCAA Tournament, you better be able to defend, and West Virginia definitely is able to do that. And I think we've done a good job defending. But that's where it all starts.
Q. Coach, you've crossed paths quite a bit in the past with Coach Huggins when you were both in Conference USA. Can you talk about what you remember about those experiences? And are his teams today similar to those? Lorenzo Romar: Well, first of all, the experiences weren't very good for us. It's something, I was just explaining using this analogy to someone about Coach Huggins' teams. Over the years my mother moved in different homes, and I don't care what the home looked like on the outside, eventually the inside looked exactly like the other houses. She decorated it the same way. You knew exactly what to look for in each house after a while. And I don't care where Coach Huggins is, after a while his teams start to look the same, the same way. And you can see this team is starting to look like the teams he had at Cincinnati, the long, athletic guys that are just play extremely hard, are mentally tough, and just come out and get after you.
Coach Huggins and his staff do a phenomenal job of taking a bunch of athletes and putting them in a situation where they are highly disciplined. And I don't mean that in a military sense. I mean that in that they do what they're supposed to do when they're supposed to do it. You watch their team, they're in good position defensively. They don't do a lot of gambling, lunging, getting out of position. They box out. They don't go for a lot of shot fakes. They take charges. Offensively you don't see them taking a lot of bad shots. They just do a good job with that. You have to give them a lot of credit for that.
Q. Isaiah, I know you're good friends with Truck Bryant. I know you guys have played in the past before. Can you talk about him and what you remember about playing against him and I guess how disappointed you are that you won't get that chance now that he's injured? Isaiah Thomas: His name explains it. "Truck". He was just a strong guard from New York City who handled the ball and he played hard. I'm sad that what happened to him happened. I know he wants to be out there playing with his team. But that's basketball. Things happen like that. I prayed for him last night. I hope he's in high spirits.
Q. I guess Isaiah or Quincy, can you talk about the pace that West Virginia likes to play the game at? If they slow it down, how does that suit what you guys do and how do you counter that?
Quincy Pondexter: Both teams are going to come out and try to play their games. We know that they have the ability to get up and down in a fast tempo, as well as slow it down and run some offense. We don't know yet. We have to get out there on the floor and see which teams' game plan and strategies work best. But they know ours and we know theirs. So it's going to be a battle of wills.
Isaiah Thomas: Like he said, once the ball goes in the air and it's tipped, we're going to play our style and they're going to play theirs. We're going to adjust to whatever they're doing just like they're probably going to adjust to whatever we're doing. We're going to come out and play hard and try to play Husky basketball and hopefully get the win.
Q. For Quincy: How much confidence has this team built during the course of its run? And yet conversely, how much do you feel that you guys still have something to prove considering you're still a No. 11 seed and to a certain degree being discounted against West Virginia?
Quincy Pondexter: We don't really care about what seed we are as long as we're in the playing field, I think the numbers are thrown out the window. We still have to go out there and play no matter what. Anyone can be upset. We've seen that in this tournament so far.
Throughout this run, I think we have gained a lot of confidence, because we're starting to see us playing right, and when that happens, it just gets you anxious to play that next game, and continue for it to go on. Throughout this time it's been fun, it's been a blessing, and hopefully we can keep it going.
Q. Matthew, I'm wondering if you can talk about the inside. What do you expect from West Virginia inside?
MATTHEW BRYAN AMANING: It's just going to be a battle. Obviously their forwards are 6'9", 6'9", 6'8". All around my height and myself and Tyreese (Breshers) and Quincy and myself are going to have to battle inside. We know they're very physical. We're going to have to adjust to how they play and how the referee is going to call the game.
Q. For Isaiah: Knowing that Truck is out, does that change your mentality, the way you're going to either approach this game or attack or are there things you might do differently because he's not going to be in there?
Isaiah Thomas: Not really. As an individual I'm going to play my game and make plays for my team. But as a team we're going to play the same way that our game plan is. I mean, it's bad that he's out for West Virginia, but we're trying to win a ballgame. So we're going to do whatever we can to win this game.
Q. Quincy, how close did you come to declaring early to the NBA last year? And can you talk about the influence your dad has had on you?
Quincy Pondexter: I briefly thought about it. I knew I wanted to come back and be one of the leaders of this team this year. It's something I couldn't turn down. I had a surgery last spring, and there was little thought of it. My dad's influence has really carried over throughout my four years in which he left early, and it is something that he kind of regretted. He's really guided me through this time, through the ups and downs. I think we've put ourselves in a great position for the end of my Husky career.
Q. This is for Quincy: You played with Da'Sean on Team U.S.A. last summer? What can you tell your teammates about Da'Sean? And what have you seen in him and how he's played and been such a clutch player over the past months?
Quincy Pondexter: I know he has it in him. When I see him hit those shots, they look kind of unorthodox. But he always knocks them down for some reason. He did that a lot during practice and during games in Serbia last year. He's a tremendous player. I'm really proud of him. What I can tell my teammates is expect the unexpected from him. He can hit some really clutch shots, some off balance shots, and he will shoot from anywhere.
So he's a really dangerous player on the offensive end, and we have to be aware of where he is all the time.
Q. It's for all you guys. Can you talk about the reserves, guys like Venoy (Overton)and Elston Turner and how big an impact they have had in this Tournament run, not only this one but also in the PAC 10 tournament?
Quincy Pondexter: Each of them has picked us up at times when the starters might not have been playing that well. And they've really helped guide us to this point where we're at. I think they all understand their roles. They understand that we really need them, and they're just as big a part as any of us that are starting. So we really appreciate all that they do for us.
Isaiah Thomas: They're a big part of this team, especially a guy like Venoy. You guys see him. He's so hyper. It seems like he never gets tired. When the first group of five guys comes out and we don't bring that energy we need, those guys pick us up. They're a key to this team. Him, Elston, Darnell (Gant), all the guys on the bench, anybody, even the guys that don't even get in. They bring energy and give us confidence when we're down they pick us up. They're very important to this team.
MATTHEW BRYAN AMANING: Like he was saying, they are so important. Our depth is one of our strengths. With those guys coming into the game, we have Elston knocking down shots, Venoy doing what he does on the defensive end and pushing the ball on the break just helps us so much during the course of games.
Q. Isaiah, this is a quirky question: Press guide says you got your name from a lost bet. What was the name going to be?
Isaiah Thomas: Magic. (Laughter).
No. No. I don't know. I never asked my dad or my mom that. I'll ask them once they get here and let you know.
Q. This is for Isaiah, also: You guys have obviously had to come a lot further than West Virginia. How do you think maybe the travel might factor into this? I know you guys had road struggles earlier. How do you think it may factor into the game tomorrow?
Isaiah Thomas: I don't think it will. There's time what time is it 7:30? It's 4:30 back home. Sweet 16. There's no time for excuses. They traveled, even though they didn't travel as far as us. We're here now. We got that extra day in that we are getting used to the time difference and just get ready for tomorrow. It really isn't going to factor into what we're doing.
Washington Player Quotes Prior to Syracuse Regional Semifinal against West Virginia from the lockerroom.
Isaiah Thomas, Sophomore, Guard
On the upcoming game against West Virginia:
"It's going to be a tough match. It's going to be a war out there. They're physical and we're physical, so it's going to be good."
On playing in the Carrier Dome:
"It's big. The hoop is 10-feet though, so I'll be good. It's the same hoop as back home, just the arena is big. There's nothing really different."
On West Virginia not having Darryl Bryant due to a broken foot:
"I feel sorry for him. He's a friend of mine and I know he wants to be out there playing, but this is basketball, it happens. We're going to go out there and play the game just like West Virginia is. It really doesn't change anything though. He is an important piece of their puzzle, but it doesn't change a lot because what they do is with their wings. He was a true point guard to just get them started."
Elston Turner, Sophomore, Guard
On this tournament being his time:
"Yes, they all recognize that I'm hot on the court right now and they're going to find me and look for me. If I continue to play this way, I should see a lot of that happen."
On coming off the bench:
"It really doesn't matter at this stage because you'd like to finish the game rather than start. Right now, that's what I've been doing. I've been coming off the bench, but playing starter minutes. I'm fine with that."
Darnell Gant, Sophomore, Forward
On stepping up in the post-season:
"I just feel like I'm going out there and playing basketball. When my number is called, I just go out there and do what I have to for the team. I'm trying to get Coach Romar to have the confidence in me that I can play, even though I went through a time where I wasn't playing as much earlier in the season. I feel like I deserve to be out there because I work hard. If I keep working hard, good things will keep happening. He's been putting me out there and I've been doing a good job, so I just need to keep doing what I'm doing."
On what advice he would share with the younger players:
"First off, have fun. This is one of the best opportunities of your life. This is a big stage and they just need to have fun. They don't need to be thinking about having to do anything special. They just need to play basketball like they've been doing all of their lives. We all need to have focus. Winning is essential for this team right now and the more we win, the higher we go. No one thought we could make it this far."
On the turnaround point for him in the season:
"It was around the Stanford game on the road. I didn't think I was going to get in at all and then I just got thrown in there. He had me in there at crunch time and I think that just generated a little confidence in me. Later in the season, good things have been happening for me. I never put my head down about not playing or not being in the starting lineup. I just wanted to go out there and do the best I could for my team."
Justin Holiday, Junior, Forward
On the BIG EAST Conference:
"The BIG EAST is a good conference. West Virginia is really good. They are a two-seed and they are doing well, as are we. They have a lot of wins under their belt, they know how to win. It's going to be a tough game because they're not a small team. They're all big. It's going to be really hard playing against a team like that because we have to be really good at boxing out."
On the game plan for Thursday:
"The game plan is to play our game, pass up and down and pressure them. We're not going to change anything like that for this game. We got here doing certain things, so why change now?"
Venoy Overton, Junior, Guard
On having a strong bench:
"To go far in this tournament, you're going to need a good bench. You can't win a National Championship with just the starting five. The fact that we have players who are capable of coming off the bench and give us momentum has helped us go as far as we have. We don't know how much depth they have so we'll try to wear them down and maybe take advantage of that at the end when we can bring in some of our guards off the bench."