MBI CHAMPIONSHIP QUOTES – UMass 60, Charlotte 54

UMass coach Frank Martin – “Those players, we’ve all come in from different walks of life and not knowing me as well, there’s guys who have been around me for a couple years, I’ve been pushing them really hard because we need to learn how to win, and winning is not a simple formula, it’s a complicated formula, it’s really demanding. For us to come here and beat these three team, three really good teams, says a lot about our kids.” (On guard Noah Fernandes): “He’s a winner, man. I saw Noah play in high school, I recruited Matt Cross really hard and I signed another one of their teammates to South Carolina. I saw Noah a lot in high school and I was amazed at how he controlled games he played in. Now that I’m coaching him, I understand why he’s so good. Here’s what’s crazy – he’s a shell of himself right now. He had wrist surgery in the summer, he missed all of summer workouts, not just in the weight room, conditioning and the basketball. I didn’t get a chance to understand what he’s good at until late September when he was cleared to start practicing. I’m starting to understand him a little better as a player so I can utilize him in different ways so he plays through strengths and comfort. That way his confidence, that way his confidence is back. He’s a gritty dude, man. Everyone talks about his offense; he guards point guards and drives them crazy. The reason our defense is good, is because it starts with him. I was concerned at halftime and the reason why I was concerned was because I thought our defense was good, but our offense was relying on us making some bombs. I’ve coached long enough and those things don’t continue to go and we were not getting paint touches, we weren’t getting baskets at the rim. And if those bombs ever stopped, I was worried our offense would struggle. I knew it would dry up and it did. Our physicality our attention to detail and rebounding was really good today.”

UMass guard Noah Fernandes (tournament MVP) – “I had a lot of fun this week. I think we created a little bit of our identity this week, especially on the defensive end and rebounding the ball. We hadn’t really jumped on anybody yet this year. We talked about it the other day in our game. Today it was crazy. We finally jumped on somebody and had them on their heels a little bit. I think that shaped the game right there. I’m pretty big on gratitude, I think a lot of people when you work for things, accomplish things, you always want more and more but you never really step back and look at what you’ve done. These guys on the glass Wildens and Isaac defensively on their big man, TJ some big shots and Matt really efficient, just a complete team effort on both ends. It’s good to know definitely from a coach’s perspective you know the energy’s not going to shift when you bring guys in off the bench. For me it’s definitely encouraging to know that when the guys come off the bench and they’ve got your back for sure.”

UMass forward Matt Cross – “This whole weekend was really just showing our identity after a tough loss at home. We came together at practice Finally I think we got the hang of playing with each other and the feel for the game with each. It’s coming along now. Once you jump out early you can run your plays and they’re in panic mode, their players are trying to push it, playing catch-up. We were playing relaxed and it’s god to see we can jump on a team early.”

Charlotte Coach Ron Sanchez – “I was really proud of the effort we put forward. Not today, but this entire tournament, including the last 35 minutes of this game. The first five, we didn’t come out with the right approach. I think it’s the first time this season that we didn’t come out with the right edge that we needed. We spotted them about 10 points. In the second half we battled and showed that there’s still more there. This will be a great lesson for us that I think will pay dividends down the line. We gave them confidence in their offense right from the beginning. Frank has a real tough-minded team, they play hard, they’re ferocious on the glass. They also made some tough shots, contested 3s, end of the shot clock, etc. They made some tough contested layups. On the other side, we missed some shots as well as some layups so we left some points on the board. Any time you have an opportunity to compete for a championship, it’s a blessing. Even today, I think it’s a confidence builder for us. Wins and losses matter absolutely. I see the effort and energy that was put in there. Myself as a coach, what I have to instill in them is not just winning. This is bigger than one game. We’re on a long journey. Failure for us doesn’t exist, we just grow and get better. This a tough tournament. If you would have told me before we got here that we would go 2-1, I would have given you $100. This was awesome for us to be here.”