Big East Tournament Postgame Presser: Providence SF
Big East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament
Friday, March 9, 2018
Providence - 75, Xavier - 72
COACH COOLEY: What a game, what an atmosphere, what a league. Didn't come out playing the way we wanted to play. I was really proud of our young kids in the second half. We made a really bold move we haven't done before because we had to change the rhythm of the game.
We know we're playing against arguably the best team in the country that's been playing really, really well, has great seniors, really well-coached. And I'm really proud of the players who stepped up to the challenge, especially in the second half.
I didn't think we had any rhythm in the first half. Offensively, defensively we had a lot of breakdowns, but the game is long. I kept telling the players a lot of game left, gonna try to get a couple of stops, get lucky with a couple of open shots. We missed as many open shots as we've missed in a long time.
They didn't shoot the ball particularly well that they normally do, in particular Bluiett and Macura. They're front line guys in our league. That's a great team. We just happened to have the ball last and make a couple of plays. The game could have gone either way. We're fortunate to move on.
But what a win for Providence College and the character of the young men. I'm proud of them. We played a great team and we're fortunate to move on. We're looking forward to whoever the winner of the next game is to prepare and -- but these young men, all of them, they played their hearts out and left it out there.
What an atmosphere here in Madison Square Garden. Electric. I've got the goosebumps still from the energy in this building.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Macura had two plays, one in overtime, one in regulation, with you guys getting those stops. How big was that for you guys to be able to make it?
COACH COOLEY: Like I said, he's been in the league a long time. He's a great player. I mean, we had to get stops. The game was very, very physical.
The charge, we had a couple of charges that were key. Kyron does a great job selling it, giving up his body, being very, very selfless. And those were two big stops for us and it helped us win.
Q. You were down by 14. What did you have to say or did you say anything to be able to try and keep everybody's spirit up at that point?
COACH COOLEY: We went in and we talked about -- in our business you have to have real conversation with these young men; you can't sugarcoat anything. We're at Madison Square Garden. We're in the semifinals. There's so many people that would love to be in this building at this time. Why are we so hesitant to play? Play.
And a big move we made was putting Makai in the game to give us another ball handler, another slasher, a really good defender. And I thought that was the big change for us because it gave us a different rhythm and different momentum. But I had a lot of words to say at halftime, because you lose and you go home.
Q. You mentioned how proud you were of the young guys. Part of the second half run, there was so much between Nate and Cartwright, the young and the old. Can you just talk about maybe how proud you are of the lessons that have been passed down?
COACH COOLEY: Absolutely. One thing you learning about our freshmen, they've made a lot of mistakes but they've grown and matured. Nate is a wrecking ball in there. And the more confident he is, the more he's learning. We love him. We hope he's with us forever.
He was big time today. Wow. He's going to play in this building some day. He was great today. He was unbelievable. And I thought his energy, his spirit, his length, his girth, but that's today. He's got to play tomorrow, too. Nate, you heard that, right?
Q. Kyron, when you guys are, I think you were down actually 17 at one point, what are you guys saying to yourself? I know what Coach said he said to you, but what do you guys say to yourself about getting yourselves back into this?
KYRON CARTWRIGHT: We're out there on the court, and it's just how close we are as a unit. We had a lot of times out there, Coach is not out there with us the whole time, but we had a moment where we had to hold each other accountable.
It's something that we didn't do early on in the year. But when we needed it most, we did. We picked on some people, we started yelling at each other. But we didn't take it personal and that was a big thing for us.
We knew we had to pick each other up at the same time and bring that intensity. And I think that helped us tonight.
Q. Obviously Trevon Bluiett did not have his best game tonight, but could you talk about what he's meant to that team and this league? And also I saw you and Coach Willard had a nice moment after the game. What did Kevin say to you?
COACH COOLEY: Bluiett, I think he's one of the best scorers in college basketball. He can beat you in a lot of different ways. He has a really quick trigger. They do a great job freeing up for shots. You gotta be on high alert with him.
He's been a great joy to coach against and joy to watch grow. He's done some unbelievable jobs for Xavier and I'm pretty sure they're going to miss him, but they've got a lot of basketball ahead of him.
As far as the conversation with Kevin and I, we just talked about how hard these jobs are. But we talked about the excitement that's in this building, and all of the skepticism when we relaunched our league, and God bless the Big East. Again divine providence, brother, believe.
Q. Did you see something in Kyron's eyes in the second half? Seemed like in the last ten minutes of the second half in overtime he was going to do whatever it took to win that game. And have you seen that before this year? Just talk about what he was about in that second half.
COACH COOLEY: I got two really young freshmen up here dying right now.
KYRON CARTWRIGHT: I'll talk about it. When we came out started the half had a little conversation with Makai and I told him I needed him to help me because I didn't have it going in that first half.
Without his driving to the basket and making plays early in the half, I wouldn't have been able to do what I was able to do at the end. And I think he really helped me out a lot out there tonight.
Q. Kyron, the dunk, the jumper and the free throws in overtime there, what comes over you in these moments? That's two nights in a row that you've kind of taken over. What comes over you in those kinds of moments?
KYRON CARTWRIGHT: I don't know. The dunk. The dunk, I'm speechless. I don't know what happened out there. It just happened.
The jumper was just being aggressive, making a play. I created a little bit of space and seniors have to step up to the moment and help the team. And I thought I did that tonight. And I'm going to try to do that tomorrow night and hopefully try to will my team to a championship.
Q. You were getting dominated on the boards for the first two-thirds of the game, and then over that course of that run Xavier was basically one-and-done down the court every time. What changed that got your team to just clean the glass?
COACH COOLEY: Conversation in the huddles, talking about manning up. They're one of the best rebounding teams and again they outrebounded us for a period of time. But I thought we got timely -- we had a very aggressive conversation in the huddle about growing up and living in the moment.
And I thought our pressure defense was pretty good with respect to our half court, pressuring them into some really, really tough shots. But the personality of the group changed just on thought, you know, think about it and execute.
Q. Kyron, the charge that you took, Macura kind of coming at the rim like that, was that the only play you think you probably could have made there?
KYRON CARTWRIGHT: No, we work on that drill all the time three on two, two on one. And when I saw -- it might have been Goodin running on the side -- we do that drill all the time. You've got to make that person have a little bit of thought.
So I jabbed at him and I kind of backed up to Goodin at first just to try to make him think a little bit to make a decision. And I saw when he got ready to leave his feet that I was in a position to take a charge, and that's something I do often. Just trying to help the team.
Q. Did the wins in the regular season over Xavier and Villanova give your guys any extra swagger coming into this tournament?
COACH COOLEY: No, not at all. I mean, you prepare to win. I said no, you're prepared to win. They're great teams. We have some seniors as well. Kyron has been through a lot of games over four years. Jalen has been in a lot of games. Rodney has been in a lot of games.
I hope our team is born with swag. Not so much just winning games, but winning the game of life. You gotta walk through life like you own it, but be humble and always be selfless. You know what I mean? That's what we teach our players. But swag we're built for that, we're built for the moment. That's just real.
Q. Makai, I wanted to give you a chance to talk. When did you find out you were going to play in the second half and what was that conversation like with Kyron?
MAKAI ASHTON-LANGFORD: I found out right -- he came in, Coach Ed Cooley came in, right after halftime and just called my name. And he said get Kalif, our center, and that's when I found out. The conversation with Kyron was he was just telling me we need a spark, we need a spark on defense and offense.
There was the game before, when we played them before, I came in gave the team a little bit of spark, so that gave me a little momentum coming into this game.
Q. The last time you won this tournament you obviously had a big-time guard who carried you to the title?
COACH COOLEY: We still have a big-time guard.
Q. Has he reminded you of that performance through two great games?
COACH COOLEY: Great question, both Kyron and Bryson are different, but they're -- he's stepping up to the moment. Actually it's a great question. I didn't even think of that. And I'll reflect on that. But he's playing at that level. Great, great question, seriously. But he won a championship. (Laughter).
Q. Along with skill and Xs and Os and all that, what you guys are talking about, this attitude and kind of collecting one another in a huddle, does a team come back from 17 down to look one another in the eye and say man up?
COACH COOLEY: Absolutely. Great question again. I think that's when you talk about having real conversations. You can't sugar foot stuff. When you're trying to get these young men to go from 18 to 22 and get them to graduate, you've got to have some real conversations with them. And part of that is we're being soft. We're not playing together. We're not communicating.
If we're going to advance and we have to move quicker. We have to do something special. And the huddles have been very, very talkative and the coaches aren't talking, the players are.
When you get your players to talk, you're probably going to have some success over the course of the season.
Q. You touched on it earlier, but you talked about the atmosphere in this building. What was the atmosphere like tonight? What was the building in general mean to this conference?
COACH COOLEY: I feel we're at the Dunkin' Donuts Center once again. I'm really appreciative to all the fans that come out to this great tournament -- our fans, Xavier's fans, Butler.
The place is electric. I hope it's electric tomorrow. As far as the Providence College fans, I couldn't be more appreciative of them to come out to support our young men. Hopefully they do again tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.