Big East Tournament Postgame Presser: Xavier

Big East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Chris Mack

Kaiser Gates

Trevon Bluiett

Xavier Musketeers

Xavier - 88, St. John's - 60

COACH MACK: Coming into the game we have a ton of respect for St. John's knowing that in both contests this year it was nip and tuck. They could have beaten us at Cintas, they could have beaten us at Carnesecca. I know it got the attention of our guys. And they've got some threatened players.

And I'm sure the quick turnaround for those guys didn't help. I thought in the first and second half we defended our tails off. I thought we really locked in, tried to keep Shamorie out of the lanes as best we could, had really good backside coverage on whoever was rolling for St. John's.

And offensively I thought we did a really good job. We had five turnovers at half. We just missed a normal amount of shots around the basket. And told those guys, hey, can't control sometimes when shots go in, but what you can control is your effort on the offensive glass. When we got a couple to pop in the second half on the offensive end it kept up our defensive intensity, that's where we gained the separation.

Not easy to beat St. John's on their home floor. But we did. And hopefully we'll be ready to go tomorrow night against the winner, Creighton or Providence.


Q. Coach, the game was pretty much in hand at that point, but was it frustrating to see some of your players hoisting 3-pointers with such a big lead, not using much of the clock or errant passes not using much of the clock up in the final minutes?
COACH MACK: We want to certainly get the most out of possessions. But I think I have a very experienced group, guys for the most part make the right decision.

And if you're going to press, you essentially get a free press if you're not willing to attack. And I think it wasn't a seven-point lead; it was a 15-, 16-point lead, and we're going to keep our foot on the gas pedal.

And Tre, on the one in front of our bench, it was right on. He looked at me, Coach, we'll get good ones next time down the floor. And so I don't have any bad feeling about how we executed down the stretch.

Q. What was the key to taking Shamorie out of the game as you guys did until pretty much the game was in hand?
COACH MACK: It's tough, I'll be honest, he'll make some contested shots that can zap your confidence defensively at times.

But he missed some of those. We made him use the ball screen rather than reject it. And, again, I think our guys on the backside did a really good job of limiting his options, roll man, skip pass.

But it starts with really good communication from our 5 man so they know the ball screen is coming and which direction and try to corral them as best we could. And I thought our guys did a terrific job of that today.

Q. Trevon, you've gotten a lot of attention on a national level this year, but how motivated are you to prove that you're one of the best in the country on this stage and in the weeks ahead?
TREVON BLUIETT: You know, necessarily prove -- I don't think I'm really trying to prove something. It's just my confidence is how I feel. I feel like who I am is who I am, and a lot of things is coming down here and trying to win one goal and that's just trying to win the Big East championship. And that's just me playing my hardest for my team, making sacrifices for my team.

And if my work for my team comes out and says, hey, Trevon has proven himself, so be it. But not necessarily trying to prove myself, just trying to come down here and win games.

Q. Points off turnovers, one of the strengths of the St. John's team, you guys held them to two points in that part of the game. What went into that aspect for you guys, stopping them from scoring?
TREVON BLUIETT: I think we were locked in. We knew that Justin Simon and Shamorie Ponds used a lot of ball screens and they're the ones to make a lot of plays. And I think our guards did a good job executing, taking them out of their game a little bit, staying in tune to the game plan, knowing what we're supposed to do on ball screens and kind of taking them out of the game a little bit, kind of worked for us.

Q. Just what happened in that postgame handshake right there?
COACH MACK: I'm not going to throw anybody under the bus. Couple of guys didn't want to shake hands. But it was quickly squelched. Let's concentrate and worry about the game.

Q. For the players, just how much of the focus is coming here proving you're not only the best team in the Big East, that you can beat Villanova and can do it when it really matters the most?
KAISER GATES: I didn't hear the beginning of the question.

Q. How much is it coming here the focus to beat Villanova when it matters the most in the --
KAISER GATES: Our focus really isn't on Villanova right now. We've got to take it one game at a time. Right now we focus on winning the next game.

Q. Could you talk, Macura played a great all-around game. Talk about his passing, seems to not only make the right pass but hitting people right in the shooting pocket constantly.
COACH MACK: J.P., I got asked this when I was asked the question about him not being on the first- or second-team all-league, and again it's a terrific league. There are some great plays; it's no slight if you don't make an all-conference team.

But I think so many of the things that he does very well don't necessarily resonate or show in the box scores.

Certainly he might get an assist but again is the guy shooting in his shooting pocket or is he catching it at his toes? He also makes those plays where he just seems to maybe deflect the pass that one of his teammates gets credit for the steal, but he was the guy that was sort of the instigator in that. He does a lot of things whether it's set screens, plays multiple positions as do a lot of our guys.

He's got win-first/J.P. second, and he's not alone. We've got a lot of players like that in the locker room, all of them.

Q. Chris, obviously knowing there's a lot of postseason left to play, but is the success you've had at Xavier this year with the record in the first regular season title, is that kind of the hilltop for you just being able to reach that level at Xavier especially being a Xavier guy?
COACH MACK: I don't look at it as my success. I don't. We can run some really good plays. And if Tre goes 0-for-11, those plays don't look really good.

If Kaiser doesn't have great energy to go to the glass, get some offensive rebounds, we all don't look very good.

What I love about our team is the connectivity we have, the togetherness that we play with, and we're playing some really, really good teams.

So the mountaintop, the mountaintop for us was winning the Big East regular season championship. And now we've got hopefully some more mountains to climb.

Q. Coach, how much focus goes into developing a game plan knowing you're up against a team that played 19 hours earlier and rotating your players in and trying to run as much against them to make fatigue a factor in a game?
COACH MACK: I didn't tell it to these guys, because I didn't want to put any negativity in their heads. I felt -- I know you're on it. I know if there's any team in the conference that didn't necessarily, weren't necessarily going to get tired it would probably be St. John's. All those guys play 36, 37 minutes.

They're athletic. They're not -- sorry, Matt -- they're not huffing and puffing up and down like Stainbrook like a couple of years ago; Bluiett as a freshman.


But we knew -- it's hard because we didn't know who we were playing. The guy that had the scout for my staff didn't come over and watch the game because we felt by the time he would get back to the hotel, get ready to present it, it would be 11:30. What advantage is that? We had it live scouted by another assistant.

But St. John's for us is simple in the fact that take care of the ball, which we didn't do really well the first two games. I think we had, what, seven turnovers today. To do that on their floor, that was the biggest thing of keeping them out of transition with our turnovers and tough shots. And we did that. And I think that's one of the reasons the outcome is what it was.

Q. How do you feel about Trevon's shooting today?
COACH MACK: I liked it. (Laughter) I like it almost every night.

Q. I know there's a lot of basketball left to be played, but there's a chance we could get two 1 seeds out of this league. Considering where it started from, people questioning whether it could last, what does it say about how talented this league can possibly be?
COACH MACK: Says a lot. We had 70 percent of our league making the NCAA Tournament a year ago. So often they talk about how many teams get in. Well, we have a smaller pool of teams, and this year's been a dogfight. We certainly came on the right end of a couple of one-possession games.

But I'm not smart enough and haven't been in this position enough to know 1 seed, 2 seed. I think these guys are always cognizant of the fact when we were an 11 seed it added an extra 1 and it didn't matter a year ago.

We've got to go out there and play with desperation and want the game more, and hopefully we continue that ride here as we play on in March.


Joseph Jarzynka