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Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, players on win over Virginia Tech at ACC Tournament

notre dameNotre Dame coach Mike Brey and players Bonzie Colson, Rex Pflueger and Matt Farrell talk with reporters after the Irish’s 71-65 upset of Virginia Tech in the 2018 ACC Tournament.

MIKE BREY: Well, how about that one, huh? I’ve never been prouder of a group because they were thumping us pretty good because they’re really hard to guard. But I thought in the second half, with the last 15 minutes, we got better defensively, and we made some adjustments offensively and were able to get scoring again.

You know, it’s a great group, man. They’re just — all the stuff they’ve been through, they’re such tough dudes. And tonight you saw it, the toughness of hanging on in there. I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a team, in a game that really matters.

Q. Bonzie, I think it’s fair to say you did not have a good first half; what were you going through? How tired were you, and how did you feel in that second half, especially at the end when you made some big plays?
BONZIE COLSON: Yeah, I mean, give a lot of credit to Virginia Tech. They got in front of me in the post, they made it hard for me to catch it, for me to go work down there. But in the locker room, Coach Brey left it up to us. He told us that we have to do our thing and we took it like grown men, and we came out stronger and better in the second half.

Q. Coach, obviously at the 15-minute mark, you guys were down 21. Can you speak to having senior leadership on your team to not panic and have that comeback?
MIKE BREY: Yeah, that’s really been a key all year, too, in the midst of losing seven in a row, in the midst of all the tough stuff that we’ve had unbelievable senior leadership and a great class. They do the talking in the huddles now. I don’t really say a whole lot. I didn’t say much at halftime. I went in and said to them, y’all figure it out. They’ve had ownership of themselves for a long time, and that really helps us in tough moments.

Q. For the players, you’re down 17 with 11 minutes to go. What changed for you guys offensively and defensively in those last 11 minutes of the game?
MATT FARRELL: I think we really dug in defensively, and that helped us on the offensive end. When we defend, we think we can be a very good team. TJ did a great job because Coach kind of put me off the ball, and TJ was getting in the lane and making plays for guys and guys were hitting shots. That felt like us on the offensive end, but I think our defense was the thing that got us together.

REX PFLUEGER: Yeah, just to agree with Matt on that, I think TJ did a fabulous job running the point, and everyone contributed on the offensive and defensive end. And you’ve got to give credit to Austin Torres, he came in and gave us that defensive edge that we were looking for. I think like they were saying, the defense really translated over to the offensive end.

Q. Bonzie, take us through the three-pointer that I know you definitely called bank on there at the end.
BONZIE COLSON: Yeah, I mean, that felt good. Backboard is there for a reason. My dad actually taught me it’s your best front. I shot it and I looked it in, and it went in. But you know, those are the shots that you’ve got to hit during those times, and it felt good.

Q. Matt, you guys had already cut the lead by 13, but on the technical foul, that knocked you out of bounds, how did that play inspire you guys to win the game?
MATT FARRELL: Yeah, I think it kind of showed toughness. We’ve got to start games like that. We’ve got to show toughness right away like that. But I think for sure it shifted the momentum.

Q. What would you credit to helping you get freed up in the second half and be able to hit three of four shots after the struggles you had in the first half?
BONZIE COLSON: Yeah, just keep staying locked in, staying composed with it all. I know it’s not going to be easy. We went small, we did some pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops and I think that got us going in the second half. TJ, Matt, Torres, all these guys, Rex, gave us great movement off the ball. And we have open shots, we shoot them with confidence, and that’s what we did tonight.

Q. Coach, can you elaborate on kind of the offensive and defensive adjustments you made down the stretch?
MIKE BREY: Yeah, I thought to put 50 up in the second half was certainly a key. And, you know, one thing we did was get Matty off the ball, because they were doubling, and he couldn’t see over the big double teams. We got ball screens early for TJ Gibbs and told him to just go downhill, and Matty played off the ball and got some stuff, and that really kind of jump started us, and then we did improve defensively. I thought we were moving and we rebounded better.

Q. There was obviously a lot of bracketology questions about what this win meant for you. Where do you think you stand now and what’s the significance of the game tomorrow?
MIKE BREY: You know, I’ve never been a big guy to campaign, but I think we really deserve to be in. And I don’t want to hear about one of the best 68. When I have my guys back, we’re a top-20 team, and I think people in that committee know that. I feel strongly that we should be part of it. We have another great opportunity to end all the drama of it tomorrow night, but we need to get some rest.

Q. Matt, at the end of the game, you and Bonzie embraced kind of mid court and I saw you yelling something to each other. If you’re willing to share, what was that? And why was this so emotional obviously with everything you’ve been through?
MATT FARRELL: Yeah, I don’t think I could share some of the words that were said, but just everything that we’ve gone through as a team and me and him individually, spending four hours a day in the training room, just being with each other 24/7, that meant a lot to us. Just everything we’ve gone through. It was just a great win for us, and it was kind of emotional. And he’s been a brother to me for my four years here.

Q. Rex, when you guys were down 21-19 and it was looking really bleak, what was being said in the huddle, and do you think in the first half you didn’t have your legs or what was going on?
REX PFLUEGER: We just don’t really start off games better. That’s something we really need to improve on. But I think it’s just that mentality when we went into halftime and we were talking about how this could be our last game of the season. I think everyone really took that to heart. And when we came out there, everybody just dug deep.

In those time-outs Coach does a great job with us. He says the right things all the time, but when he hears us say some good things, he lets us talk and communicate, and that leads to us playing well together on the floor, as well.

Q. Bonzie, what is it about the ACC Tournament where it just brings out a different part of your game? Last year you dominated; tonight obviously you hit the shots that you needed to hit at the end of the game.
BONZIE COLSON: You know, this is a time when we’ve gone up and we’ve watched a lot of games where it’s tournament play. For us to be here as a group, it’s something that we all dream of. But all the hard work that we’ve worked, in the summer and in the fall to get here, it’s something special. So you have to give it your all. You can’t take this game for granted. You have to give it your all. Throughout the tough times we stayed together, throughout the adversity we stayed together, so it kind of shows our character and who we are as a group.

Q. Bonzie, it’s kind of a hard question because it seemed like all the shots were short in the first half, but it seemed like you had a little bit more to your game at the end. Can you sort of describe to us where you are in terms of conditioning and how close you are to being the guy who you were before you got hurt?
BONZIE COLSON: You know, I’m feeling good out there. I think how they played me earlier in the game it was tough to find open spots on the offensive end. Coach Brey did a great job, and us as a group to adjusting to that in the second half. You’ve still got to keep looking your shots in. My teammates give me all the confidence to tell me to keep shooting the ball, to keep looking them in, and that gives me confidence, obviously. Just keep plugging in, being a leader you have to step up. These are times where you’ve got to show your leadership. You’ve got to make big plays, and Matt and I and the group, we had to show that today.

Q. Mike, you all lost to Duke January 29th, but you didn’t have Bonzie and Matt. What can we expect from that game? And then if you all could talk about what it was like to watch on the sidelines, without you guys, your team lose to Duke?
MIKE BREY: Well, I talked to them after the game last night, the Pittsburgh game, saying I’m excited to play Virginia Tech with you two back because we didn’t have you guys against Virginia Tech. For a while there, we looked worse with those two guys back, but we salvaged it.

But one thing, these guys wanted to play, and play in Cameron and play against Duke and they couldn’t. So they’re excited and we’re excited for an unbelievable challenge. Duke is playing really well right now.

MATT FARRELL: Yeah, it was tough to watch. It was tough to watch all the games we weren’t playing in. With how close we are as a team and what we’ve gone through, it obviously wasn’t easy to watch. But we tried to stay together. And we went down by 20-something. And there’s three things you can control: Effort, attitude and energy, and that’s what they did, and we got a shot. We got a shot back at them tomorrow.

BONZIE COLSON: Yeah, I agree. Obviously it was tough to go through something like that, but as leaders you’ve still got to be a vocal leader out there if you’re not playing, and we did that. You’ve just got to ask the guys to give it your all and empty the tank. That’s all you can ask the group, and we did that. And obviously it’s going to be a little different game with Matt and myself playing, and it’s going to be another opportunity for us, and we’re excited about it.

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