Big East Tournament Postgame Presser: Xavier SF

Big East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament

Friday, March 9, 2018

Chris Mack

Kerem Kanter

Xavier Musketeers

Providence - 75, Xavier - 72

COACH MACK: Certainly a tough game. It feels like it's a game that shoulda, coulda, woulda. Give them credit. They hung in there and didn't deliver the knockout punch that was needed. But also recognize that we're playing a very senior-laden team in Providence.

It's disappointing, because I feel like we had the game, and you know, we've been so awfully good in close games, but tonight we just left a few plays out there that had we made we'd be sitting here getting ready for the winner of Butler-Villanova. But we didn't. That's what happens sometimes in the game of basketball.

Q. Done with the Big East season now completely. You have another tournament to look forward to next week. What was your message to the guys regarding that after the game?
COACH MACK: Just that. Sort of hard to say that in the moment. Guys are sort of reflective of what just transpired.

So we'll worry about where we go, who we play and all that stuff in a couple of days when some of the feelings of what we just dealt with in the locker room are sort of gone.

Q. You had them down by 14. What changes did they make to be able to make that comeback?
COACH MACK: Well, they didn't quit, not that we expected them to. Felt like they just turned us over a few times.

We didn't have an extraordinary amount of turnovers. I mean, we only had 10 for the game. But there was a crucial stretch where we made a few in a row, and what is a 17- or 15-point lead becomes single digits. Now the game feels a little funny.

Told them we missed some shots around the basket, some looks. Providence is a really good defensive team, though, so to say we missed open shots would be a discredit to how well they are on the defensive end.

Having said all that, we kept our turnovers low. We certainly didn't shoot great from the field, but our defense was certainly good enough to win. They shoot in the low 40s. They shoot in the teens from 3.

But, again, just a couple of plays and we'd have different feelings.

Q. Kerem, you've waited so long to be on a stage like this in the Big East Tournament. How do you quickly process this loss and kind of get it out of your system? How tough is that?
KEREM KANTER: Well, this was one of my goals in the beginning of the season, when we started our season. Winning this tournament was one of our goals. And it sucks we're not playing tomorrow, but I'm still glad we've got a lot more basketball to play.

Q. Coach, you mentioned sort of the string of turnovers in the second half. Was there anything that you thought that they did particularly well offensively or you didn't do as well as you would have liked to have done defensively in order to allow them to erase that deficit?
COACH MACK: I thought Kyron hit some really tough, contested shots. I felt like over the last few weeks Providence has played a little differently. They've really posted up mismatches a lot more than they did earlier in the year. They've always done it, but not to the extent they're doing now. I thought they just willed some baskets in, just with their toughness. They're a very versatile team.

Seems like every guy out there is between 6'6" and 6'8" besides Kyron. So it's a difficult team to match up against. And having said that we limited them to six offensive rebounds, but just felt like they sort of toughed-in some baskets.

We haven't gone cold very often this year. And again I go back to crediting Providence's defense for that. But, again, it's a coin flip in terms of who is winning and who is losing. And we're on the wrong side of the coin, at least from my perspective.

Q. Despite everything that happened, you still had that last possession with a chance to make something happen there. Can you just discuss what the plan was there on the last possession?
COACH MACK: They did a good job taking away Trevon on the re-screen. So it's an end-of-the-game play that we run with usually seven seconds, six seconds or more. And when Tre came back off the re-screen, they did a really good job and didn't fall asleep. That didn't leave us many options.

You only have so many last-second plays drawn up. And with no timeouts it was certainly difficult to draw anything up that you feel comfortable with.

So that's, again, one play of many that didn't go our way, and I don't think it was a reason that we lost.

Q. The Macura offensive foul was obviously a big play in the game. You showed some frustration on that call. Could you talk about what you thought happened there?
COACH MACK: I mean, I'm really biased. But probably the right call, probably the right call.

You gotta make a decision on a two-on-one or three-on-one a little bit better. And hopefully J.P. will the next time. But frustration just being in the moment. Officials did a really good job. So I don't have any angst against those guys. Tough call for them to make but probably the right call.

Q. Did you feel that your team was settling for shots or kind of taking their foot off the gas, especially when you were up so much in the first half?
COACH MACK: No. No, I felt like a few of the turnovers disrupted us a bit. When they went zone, it hurt us for a little bit. And then we started to get a little bit of rhythm to it. Got a couple of baskets.

When they went zone in the second half, you know, it made our offense chunky there for two or three possessions. And then, again, a 15-, 17-point lead dwindled down to single digits. And we did much better over time against the zone but we needed to sort of be better early on.

But I don't think we were settling for shots, not any different than the shots that we take through the other 32 games.

Q. Can this kind of game, this kind of situation and everything that the team went through, I know you played a lot of close games through the season, is there something that can be good out of this that you'll try to stress or that the players will learn from going into the NCAA Tournament?
COACH MACK: I think you always learn or at least you need to in both a win and a loss. And a lot of times those lessons sink in a little bit clearer, a little bit deeper when you do lose.

My biggest thing is making sure that the guys in the locker room have won 28 games this year, have won a regular season Big East championship. Fought tooth and nail and could have been in the finals on any number of plays.

Feel good about themselves coming into NCAA Tournament time. And we'll learn from this and bounce back. And I'm sure on Sunday when they have the seven-hour Selection Show we'll feel a lot better.

Q. Speaking of the tournament, with the way you guys lost tonight, what's the one thing you would want your team to take with them in the next few days off before the tournament starts?
COACH MACK: Just that feeling, the finality of it. That's what good competitors do. They remember that feeling. So we've just got to be better the next time out and survive and advance.

Q. You've announced your presence in this conference quite well by (indiscernible) to the semifinals in the first five years. One trip to the final. Is that the toughest hurdle, from semifinal to final?
COACH MACK: It's been for us. But some other programs, there's a tougher hurdle. I don't know. I told the guys maybe it's a blessing in disguise. Three games in three days is really difficult. But having said that we still would have preferred to play in the finals. But I don't know if that's a tougher hurdle. I'm not going to necessarily worry about it.


Joseph Jarzynka