November 18 Myrtle Beach Invitational Quotes

UCF 78, Western Kentucky 62

Coach Johnny Dawkins, UCF – “I challenged our guys at halftime. We were playing a very good basketball team and we knew it was going to be a battle. They jumped on us early and it really tested our guys’ resolve because they punched us right away. But I thought our guys responded and chipped toward halftime, we cut the lead to a couple possessions at half. I said ‘We can’t start the second half the way we started the first half. We have to play UCF basketball. We’re playing too good a team over there, their coach is terrific. We have got to come out and play like we were capable of. We came out focused and moved the basketball well and our defense picked up. They’re long, they’re athletic, they fly around that floor and they speeded us up a little bit, I felt rushed as well. I said settle down, it’s a long game and I thought the zone was good for us at times as well. I thought experience was huge in a game like this. They’re the younger team and we’ve been in situations like this. Two years ago we were playing in the same type of game in another tournament and we weren’t quite there and we came up a little short. (Charles Bassey) was terrific. He set the tone for his team, he established himself in the low post. I thought the exact opposite in the second half when Tacko (Fall) started to take over in the second half and impose his will down there and we rode him a large part of the second half. It was a tale of two halves for the big men for the most part. I think Tacko’s experience won out in the second half. I’m really proud of (Aubrey Dawkins), happy for him because he’s been shaking off some rust and to see him play the way we know he’s capable of playing was good. He couldn’t have picked a better time to do it. He missed two full years of basketball, that’s hard. I can’t think of that many players who have had to go through that. It was challenging for him but to his credit, he kept working, his team has been great, that’s like his family as well. They’ve all been great pulling for him wanting him to do well.”

Guard Aubrey Dawkins, UCF – “Perseverance. We had to stay with it. We hadn’t played our best basketball yet and know it’s ahead. We stepped on the court and things started falling, we started to get our rhythm. That was our goal and it happened for us. We have a lot of guys who are shaking rust off and we’re still growing our chemistry and camaraderie out there. I love the maturity and our age is definitely a benefit to us. After the journey we’ve had at UCF and the journey I’ve had here, it’s been a long one. I don’t think there are any words to describe the emotion we feel right now. I was really impressed with (Charles Bassley of WKU). He didn’t play like a freshman, he’s a grown man down there. He’s good and we knew that going in. He did not prove us wrong. We just settled down, we saw what they were doing with the 1-3-1 defense, saw the pressure they were applying and we settled down and got our composure and slowed ourselves down, not trying to be so fast. We saw the open gaps, saw the shots we could get. Fortunately, they fell for us. You never get too high, never get too low. I’m happy they went in, my teammates told me to keep shooting the ball and that’s just what I do. I don’t really care about the misses and makes. I’ve been working too long at this to let that affect me. This is a great start. We had a tough loss at FAU and we used that as motivation and fuel to take this game more seriously. We’re not going to walk in and nobody’s give us an easy shot. Everybody’s going to give us their best shot and we know that, so now moving forward, we see what it takes to win a championship and the level of commitment is going to bode well for the future and the rest of conference play.”

Coach Rick Stansbury, Western Kentucky – “They came out and played with some maturity, some toughness, and it was their ball first. You just can’t give up six points in the first 45 seconds to start the second half. That’s huge for us. It’s not just the six points, it’s the emotion swing you get from the two teams. We didn’t think we played particularly well in the first half and we were up four. We weren’t great inside that zone. Tacko makes a lot of different things change in there. That first minute or two of the second changed the whole complexion of the game. Give them some credit, they jumped up and made seven 3s in the second half. We had a swing in the second half to cut it to four, we miss a layup, they hit a 3 to go up by nine, a five-point swing. They were really good in the second half. We’re all disappointed we lost, at halftime we were in position to have a chance. For 100 minutes, we were pretty good in this tournament. In the last 20 minutes, we didn’t play very good. So there are lot of positives we’re going to take from it. Probably no one expected us to be in the championship game, so we’ll learn again from tonight and get better from it. We won’t play against too many more people like Tacko. He just creates a lot of different things, he makes you do some things different, makes you alter things. Their zone was pretty effective with him in there. We just weren’t as good as we needed to be.”

Guard Taveion Hollingsworth, Western Kentucky – “We came out sluggish once again and Coach always says before we come out, ‘You’ve got to win these first four minutes.’ We can’t come out and let a team go on a run in the first minute of the second half. That really hurt us. We got a lot of good things to come out of this tournament, we had a lot of bad things to come out so we’ve got to take that into practice next week.”

Forward Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky – “We’ve got to come out strong and not slow so we’ve got to get better at that.”

West Virginia 97, Saint Joseph’s 90

Coach Bob Huggins, West Virginia – “We need (Lamont West) to do. Now, he’s not going to get 27 every time but we need him to make open shots. We talked today and I think he was putting too much pressure on himself. He’s never really started, he’s always come off the bench for us and I thought maybe bringing him off the bench he’d feel more comfortable and wouldn’t feel the weight of the world on his shoulders. He came out and played really well. He just didn’t shoot it, he played well, rebounded better than he’s done all year, he moved the ball better than he’s done all year. They do a great job of making you think they’re in one defense then they come out of it.” (On guard Brandon Knapper): “He and I had a stern talk at halftime because I didn’t think he was playing hard. Wes (Harris) makes a terrific play in transition and the ball bounces all the way back to the top of the key and we don’t have anybody there. And the first guy back for the last 35 years is my point guard. I’m trying to find somebody who won’t turn it over and will play really hard. I thought the second half he played hard and he took better care of the ball. I thought it was a good team effort. Esa (Ahmad) turned it over dribbling early and I took him out. We can’t do that anymore, I mean enough is enough. To his credit, he didn’t pout, he didn’t sulk, he was on the bench cheering for his teammates and came out and played a heck of a second half. We’re getting there.”

Guard Brandon Knapper, West Virginia – “The next person’s got to step, like Coach said. Beetle (injured James Bolden) is a great point guard and we work hard every day and we have to have somebody step up in the next game if he’s not playing. I just went out there and played my game and got the team going on offense and played defense. We were passing the ball good tonight instead of over-dribbling. Coach is big on that with the guards right now. Basically we had to move the ball more and get into our offense faster.”

Forward Lamont West, West Virginia – “I didn’t really play well this tournament. I just wanted to go out there and play my game. I’m a shooter so I really don’t look at the last shot I took. However many I miss, I just look forward to the next one. I have it in my head that if I missed the last three, I’m going to make the next three. If they don’t guard me because of my numbers, then they messed up.”

Forward Sagaba Konate, West Virginia – “I just do whatever the coach is telling me to do. Our game plan was to go down and make them guard me and make the shooter open. It felt good to win and to do well.”

Coach Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph’s – “We play the numbers, so coming in, they had 14 forced turnovers, we wanted half, we got half. They crush the glass, we held them to nine offensive rebounds. But the free throw number was 30 going in, we wanted to halve that and we are a team that doesn’t foul. I felt we got involved in the second hit. It was a very physical game. Some of the fouls weren’t grown-up fouls, but it’s November for the referees too. Now you go to the foul line and we were 5-for-11 in the first half, not good enough. We were 61 percent from the foul line, our target is 75. And everybody left a play, we didn’t pull a trigger a couple of times and Charlie Brown to get that technical foul, it’s a silly play. It’s from too much of that damn 2K or whatever it is they play. West – I don’t know the dude, but think of that, he’s a starter for three games and comes in and makes every shot. If you watch on tape he wasn’t that explosive, so hand it to him, go on a plane and go home. We do have to develop more depth, we have to be able to handle (foul trouble). But great atmosphere, well-run tournament. It’s not what I learned, it’s what the players learned. It’s the man in the mirror. We didn’t have energy on Friday and we played a great half-court defensive team so we talked about this being a one-day rest so if we’re good enough to play in the postseason, you play on Thursday, you win, you play on Saturday. You have to get ready for physicality, you have to get ready prepared. We had some children at practice yesterday, their heads were dropped. The season wasn’t over, we lost a game. We have to be able to answer when people face-guard and switch and be real aggressive. Central Florida did it in the half court, West Virginia did it in the full court.”

Wake Forest 69, Valparaiso 63

Coach Danny Manning, Wake Forest – “Today was a very hard-fought win for us. Valpo came out and did some really good things. Smits is a handful down in the post but I didn’t want to double up in the post and give up a 3-point opportunity as well. We wanted to live with him making tough shots. He made some tough shots, and there were some other possessions we could have defended him better. We did a really good job of guarding the 3-point line and for us getting on the offensive glass was good. I thought we showed some grit again. For a team with as little experience as we have, the guys continued to fight. We made some mistakes but we continued to fight. We’re a young team, people are going to try and take advantage of that and be physical and they should, but we’ve got to match that effort and win that fight as well. You give up a layup with 1.5 seconds on the clock and that gave Valpo some momentum and energy going into half. And they came out and played that so that’s a mistake we need to eliminate. The good thing is we’re not seeing repeated mistakes over and over in games. When I was in the league, Shaq was the most dominant center and every team had two guys on their roster to guard Shaq. (Ikenna Smart) is our Shaq defender, he’s one of them. And Sunday (Okeke) is another one. Those guys have tough jobs; sometimes they’re going to play, sometimes they’re not and a lot of it is based on matchups. I believe we found out we’ve got some guys who will compete and fight and show some grit.”

Coach Matt Lottich, Valparaiso – “For being the third game in four days we played hard and I don’t know if fatigue or what not caused us to miss shots but we got the shots we wanted to get. I thought coming into the game nine, 10 3s would win and when you 4-for-19 it’s just hard. Are there some positives, yeah. It’s good to see Derrik Smits play well especially against an ACC school. They’ve just got more size than us, more athleticism. One of the messages to my team is just ‘I want you to be consistent.’ That’s all I can ask for and so Derrik’s best is really good. We missed some assignments early but for the most part we competed. This was a game we could have won but didn’t and we going to learn from it. We got a little tired and relied on some guys to play some heavy minutes for us. At some point we’re all human. I talked to my team a lot about just playing, don’t worry about shot-making, execute the assignments offensively and defensively, the shots are going to fall. There is a little bit of, for lack of a better term, anxiety that can affect us. Today the ball just didn’t go in. I’ve learned that our best is pretty good. We’ve got to be able to win a game when you hit four 3s, we’ve got to be able to lock in and execute assignments for 40 minutes and grind out a win.”

Cal State Fullerton 87, Monmouth 63

Coach Dedrique Taylor, Cal State Fullerton – “I’m obviously proud of our win, we needed to come out and get a win. It’s clearly bittersweet just because of the respect we have for King and his program, and who he is and what he’s done. Obviously I like to be on this side of it because one of us has to win. I thought we came out and set the tone with our defense and back-to-back defensive performances we can be proud of and hopefully take on the as we continue this road swing. I think we’re most lethal when we’re in transition, particularly with Khalil (Ahmad) and Kyle (Allman). Their ability to get downhill and set up their teammates as well. From a defensive standpoint those guys did a good job of getting out. Our big guys did well early and all in all it was a productive performance from everybody who touched the floor. Khalil is wonders of the world. Some of the questions he asks during halftime of a basketball game you just marvel at just because I feel like ‘Are you serious? We’re in a game here.’ That’s his personality, his character, he’s just a happy-go-lucky guy but he’s super talented. Tonight he got himself going behind the 3 and it was opening up lane and getting in and finishing. It’s interesting to watch (Ahmad and Allman). In practice they’re never on the same team, they go at each other, they compete against each other and even on the floor they compete against each other but they’re also each other’s biggest cheerleader and they have so much respect for each other, but most importantly, they’re starting to understand how important is to play off one another because they are both dynamic. When they’re both on, we’re pretty hard to beat.”

Guard Khalil Ahmad, Cal State Fullerton – “It’s pretty important to get us on the right track so we were just focusing on having energy, effort, being good teammates and have a good attitude and it worked pretty well for us. There’s no real secret (to his 40-point performance). My teammates had confidence in me and just let it go pretty much. We were getting stops and getting out in transition, that’s where we’re at our best. The ball was feeling good coming off my fingers and it was going in a lot so I was just like, ‘Oh, OK, let’s try to keep this going as long as we can.’ ”

Coach King Rice, Monmouth – “Tough weekend for us, tough start to the season for us. Our kids are really fragile right now. We’re just trying to do small things. We lost the first half by 30 and won the second half by six. We’ve got to try to fund small things we can hang our hat on. We’re not believing in each other and we need to work hard to try to turn it around. Some of it, we hung our heads before the game. Guys are fragile right now. When you’re playing basketball and not having success, you can either hang your or not hang your head. If you’re a guy who hangs your head, there’s not a lot of things that people on the outside can say to you. Some of it is you’ve got to get out of your own way, some of it we have to keep our confidence even when you’re not playing well. The way you do go about that, when your shot is not falling – that’s the only way you lose confidence, kids lose confidence when they’re not shooting well – well, I never shot well so I didn’t lose confidence when I didn’t shoot well. But if your confidence is on if you shoot well, you have a chance to have a rocky deal. If your confidence is on because you play so hard and dive on the floor and take charges and you’re going to refuse to lose, then no one needs to tell you to pick your head up. Right now we’re worried about our scoring and who’s getting shots, how come he’s in instead of worrying about Monmouth basketball winning the game. Until we start focusing on that, they just need to pick their heads up.” (On the hot shooting of Khalil Ahmad): “When I was a kid if someone was hitting me like that, I would have got a foul. Today I’m not sure if guys think that’s something to do. We talk about what to do but sometimes kids get caught up in the thing. I keep reminding them we’re in a college game right now guys, this is not you playing with your friends at the park or pick-up and a guy’s got a hot hand. You have to do something to change it and today we were not able to do that.”