Quote Center: Xavier Postgame vs. Creighton
Big East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Xavier - 63, Creighton - 61
TRAVIS STEELE: First of all, I want to give a lot of credit to Creighton. Man, that was a heck of a game. Creighton really tests you in a lot of different ways. Number one, they are really, really well coached. Offensively, they're a juggernaut. With the pace they play at, the amount of shooters they have on the floor, they're hard to guard. One of the harder teams in the entire country.
I thought, going into the game, we had to really be able to control the tempo of the game. Had to be advantage Xavier, which I thought, early on in the game, is advantage Creighton. Our guys with a little bit of gas, we were playing up and down fast. They push it fast off misses and makes. We're playing several of these guys a lot of minutes, so we've got to be able to control the tempo, which I thought, as the game wore on, we did. I thought, secondly, we had to be able to control the paint area. Obviously, Zach Hankins had a tremendous night for us. Our guards did a great job of getting him the ball, whether it was off drives, off pick-and-roll actions. Really proud of our group. Obviously, we're excited to play against a really good Villanova team tomorrow in the Big East semifinals.
Q. Travis, could you speak to that final sequence there. Obviously, a little bit chaotic. Kyle makes a great play, something of a broken frenzy there. To your team's poise and how they were able to execute defensively. Creighton was clearly trying to get a good shot or a foul. Neither of those happened.
TRAVIS STEELE: I thought, not even in the last play, Creighton was doing a great job defending us. We went through a drought in the second half. I thought our defense was still consistent for the most part. We were there on the catch. Like I said, they spread you out all over the place, all over the court with the shooters. They run great actions and make it really, really difficult. I give our guys a lot of credit for staying locked in, making multiple efforts. It's like I told our guys, the execution of our system may not be perfect, but the effort has to be. You have to be able to make multiple efforts against Creighton because they always put you in that situation where they're going one more. Just one more pass, they say, to the open guy, and I thought our guys did a great job playing hard trying to contest as many shots as they could.
Q. I have a two-part question. Coach, you guys were able to control Ty-Shon in the second half. In the early part of the game, he scored 13 points but in the latter parts you were able to prevent him from scoring. How were you able to do that? Zach, how was it on the interior? Coach spoke about your presence on the inside. How was it going up against Krampell throughout the game?
TRAVIS STEELE: I'll answer the first question, then, Zach, I'll let you answer that second one.
I thought, number one, Ty-Shon Alexander is a very talented player. The improvements he's made, honestly, going from freshman to sophomore years are incredible. He's a great player. Naji's been one of the better defenders in our league, in my opinion, during the Big East season. To me, he's been the best defender in our league. He's long. He's athletic. He makes life really, really tough on guys. And I thought he did a great job as the half kind of wore on, in the first half because, you're right, he got off to a blistering start, and give him credit, but I thought we tried to make him earn most of his shots. He hit a big one there towards the end of the game on the pullup to tie the game. You can't pitch a shutout with him with such a talented guard, but I thought Naji was a big reason for that.
ZACH HANKINS: Krampell is a great player. He's a great post player, but he's kind of a different animal because he's kind of expanded his game the second half of the season to be able to shoot more threes and also drive off the ball. It was definitely a little more challenging for me, being able to play on perimeter a little bit outside of my zone. I was able to -- I've been a shot blocker for a long time. That's one of my claims. It just kind of worked out for me there. I was happy to do that.
Q. Kyle, on their last possession, they seemed pretty flummoxed and not sure what they wanted to do. Can you walk us through your block that sealed the game.
KYLE CASTLIN: I know they were coming down. They was trying to run the set. The initial part, we defended pretty well. It was just a scramble. I knew -- I saw the clock count down on the other end. I saw him try to make one toward Ty-Shon. He was wide open. I knew I just had to put it all on the line to try to seal the game.
Q. Kyle, was that your first block ever?
KYLE CASTLIN: No.
Q. First block of the season?
KYLE CASTLIN: No.
Q. Two questions for me. First for Travis, earlier in the game, obviously, when you play Creighton, pace is so important against them. Seemingly, they were getting their way early, went up 22-13. Then you guys tried to slow the game down. How were you able to do that? Then for Naji, how are you feeling health-wise?
TRAVIS STEELE: I'll answer the first part. Like you said, Creighton, the game was a track meet at the beginning of the game. We just had to wind our guys back in. I think, obviously, playing at Madison Square Garden, first time this year -- when we played at St. John's, it was at Carnesecca, I think our guys were excited to play. It's like I told our guys, we can't play P-I-G with Creighton. Can't play H-O-R-S-E with Creighton. We got to slow it down. We got to make it muddy. We got to make it ugly. That will give us a chance. And I thought our guys -- Naji, Kyle, Q, Paul, our guards, for the most part, did a great job, just kind of playing at our pace, slowing down, walking the ball up, and taking our time.
NAJI MARSHAL: I feel good, no pain. Just trying to ease my way back into the game after missing three or four days.
Q. Travis, I think it was, like, maybe the first 13 minutes of the second half, Zach didn't even take a shot. Did there come a point where it was like we got to get him back involved any way that we can?
TRAVIS STEELE: Creighton, they're going to post trap every single time the ball goes inside. When the ball goes in from the wings, and they do a great job of it. They're really aggressive. They create a lot of turnovers off of that. Zach had to get the ball different ways. I thought our ball started to find him a lot more in ball screen situations, whether it was throwing it back quickly, and making quick decisions, hitting him on a roll, a drop pass or whatever it was. I know Naji tried to throw him a lob on the one turnover. Would have been a heck of a highlight play if he'd made it. Wish he wouldn't have thrown that one, but I think our guys were looking for them a lot more. I thought we did a good job attacking the paint with our guards. Zach, to me, was one of the best finishers in the country around the rim with his size and length and athleticism.
Q. Zach, when you played Creighton twice this season, they held you to six and ten points respectively. Today you dominated with 22. Was it just a matter of a revamped effort? What was on the floor allowing you to take over?
ZACH HANKINS: I just really take what is given to me. I don't create a lot for myself. That's why I give so much credit to these guys. They find me. They were able to get inside the paint and then draw my defender up and give it to me. I can finish that. So I give a lot of credit to my teammates being able to find me there, get Creighton in rotation, and just take what the game gives me.
Q. Coach, you talked about some of the matchup issues that Creighton creates. Now that you play Villanova tomorrow, do you have any thoughts on playing them?
TRAVIS STEELE: Obviously, it's been a while since we played them, but they're really, obviously, a great team, and another well-coached team. Phil Booth and Eric Paschall are tremendous players, both first team All Conference guys. They're going to play small. A lot of times they'll play Paschall even at the five, Jermaine Samuels at the five. I haven't seen them play recently because you're always kind of consumed with the game that you have that's upon you, but we're going to be who we are. I thought we did a really good job at center on center guarding them, giving them different looks. I thought Zach impacted the game, Naji played terrific, all these guys did.
We've just got to play as hard as we possibly can, leave it all out there, no regrets mentality, and be the attacking team.
Q. Travis, you guys finished, I think, with nine turnovers. What was the message to your guards, particularly navigating those ball screens because, as you alluded to, you guys found Zach.
TRAVIS STEELE: Number one, Creighton's become a much, much, much better defensive team throughout the Big East season. And a big part of it is what you're talking about, the ball screen defense. Krampell is an incredible defender. He moves his feet like a guard. He reaches constantly in ball screens. They create a lot of turnovers out of ball screens. We worked really hard on that over the last few days of our ball screen offensive game plan going against them. I give all the credit to our guards. Our guards did a great job of playing with poise, being strong with the ball, getting the ball to where we wanted to get it. Obviously, Zach was the beneficiary of that with several dunks and finishes around the rim.
Q. For any of you guys, you had some tough times this season, the six-game skid, and a lot of people doubted you, and here you are winning your first game of this tournament. Do you think today was a statement win for you guys the way you played and showed people you're not who you were before?
KYLE CASTLIN: I think the losing streak this season for us was just a great learning experience. We just take each and every game as it comes. I don't want to necessarily say that we surprised ourselves or anyone else. We know how good we can be and how good we are in practice each and every day. We're just looking forward to the Villanova game tomorrow and just want to keep on this run that we've been playing well with.