Q. Malcolm, in a game like this, do you sense the frustration? Did you sense the frustration level growing among the Memphis players as it became harder and harder for them to get what they wanted on offense?
MALCOLM BROGDON: I could. We talked about limiting their guards to only jump shots and not letting them penetrate the paint, and I think we did a good job of that starting from the beginning. You know, we could sense some frustration and barking at each other a little bit at the beginning. We feed on that. We feed on it and use it as fuel to get us going even more defensively and it leads into our offense.
Q. Malcolm, you guys have played some of your most dominant stretches of basketball in some of the biggest games, Syracuse and Duke in the ACC title game. What was it about the atmosphere tonight that brought that out in you?
MALCOLM BROGDON: I think we had ‑‑ we just knew we had to come into this game and establish ourselves from the beginning. I think Mike actually set the tone for us offensively and defensively. I think when he can come out and be that physical and that aggressive for us, it really ignites the entire team.
Overall, I thought we executed really well on the offensive end and I thought we got the stops we needed on the defensive end.
Q. Malcolm, we heard the last couple days all about Memphis’ quickness. What was the game plan against that? It didn’t seem like they were blowing by you too much there. Just the help defense as usual?
MALCOLM BROGDON: Yeah, I mean, it was about our pack line defense tonight, and I think we did a good job of establishing it from the beginning. And just letting them know we weren’t going to let them get into the paint that easy. Yeah.
Q. Mike Tobey, yesterday, you told me in the locker room that you had a terrible game on Friday. What happened tonight, your mindset, determination that led to such a terrific line?
MIKE TOBEY: Just trying to come out and be aggressive today. I knew that this game was a big one for our team and just trying to be more aggressive.
Q. Mike or Malcolm, can you talk about the crowd both nights? I’m sure you guys came out and realized that you had the majority of the fans.
MALCOLM BROGDON: Yeah, I think the crowds, our fans are huge for us. When you come out and you see all that orange and blue, it’s exciting. I think we have really loyal fans. Of course, I think we have a deep fan base in North Carolina, so it was really great to see them out.
MIKE TOBEY: It felt like almost a home game for us.
MODERATOR: Other questions for the student‑athletes?
Q. Mike, take us through that three you hit at the end. I think it’s the fourth one of your career. Did that kind of summed up the night for this whole team?
MIKE TOBEY: Yeah, I mean, I knew that was money from the start. No, I’m just kidding. I knew if I missed that, I was coming right out. So I just wanted to shoot a three.
Q. Mike, as a New York State resident, what are your thoughts on going to The Garden finally to play?
MIKE TOBEY: Oh, I’m really excited. I grew up there and I never played in Madison Square Garden. I felt like I’ve always been one game short, including last year. I’m really excited to play there. It’s going to be an honor.
Q. Mike, I saw your reaction when Evan threw down the slam dunk. Have you ever seen him dunk it like that before in practice?
MIKE TOBEY: Ev’s got the sneaky bounce. That’s what we call it.
Q. For the two of you, what’s it mean to be the last ACC team standing in this tournament?
MALCOLM BROGDON: You know, it’s an honor that we have a really great conference, a lot of really good teams. But to be the last ones standing is huge. We’re going to try to represent well. We come from a strong conference. We’re going to try to go in there and play our basketball and not really worry about anything else.
MIKE TOBEY: Yeah, I mean, like Michael said, we play in a really good conference and it’s an honor to be the last one standing. So hopefully we can represent the conference well.
MODERATOR: Any other questions? Gentlemen, thank you very much. You’re excused. Congratulations. Good luck in New York.
Q. Coach, before the season started, there was so much talk about the freedom of movement and how it was going to be emphasized and it seemed like everyone thought that there would be games with a ton of fouls being called, but your team seems to be able to play physical and still not foul and be so effective. What are you teaching there that allows them to get into the positions that they are in to be so successful?
COACH BENNETT: I think you said it. It’s positioning. When we’re doing it right, we really work on positioning, not being extended and making them go through our bodies. Play with our feet, not our hands, and really be off the ball in a help position on the ball. We really work on that. And we had to adjust a little bit and I was worried about that against this kind of quickness, but our guys have gotten better at ‑‑ I say take pride in your slides. Slide, spread out, slide wide, hands off.
Know that you’ve got some built‑in help. The thing we kept saying was just wall ball. We’re going to play wall ball today. Build a wall wherever the ball is. Build a wall. Because we had to do that, the way they would try to knife you. I thought we struggled early. I thought their speed down the floor, we weren’t sharp early. They got some transition buckets. We were a little out of sync.
But once we adjusted and really got back and really set our defense, then we became much more effective.
Q. Tony, given the pep talk you had to give at halftime the other night, how glad were you to see the guys come out and be together right from the start?
COACH BENNETT: I told Rachel, I thought maybe we were a little tight to start that game and Coastal played so well early. But to establish that, we talked about coming right out of the blocks hard and ready and playing bold. That was going to be real important.
And then to make some shots, establish that lead, said can we keep it up. Because Memphis is the kind of team with their quickness, with their pressure, they can get back in a hurry. So we talked about laying bodies on them with good screens and certainly defensively continuing to make them play over the top of us.
Q. Tony, at the press conference yesterday, I think you commented that you had better athletes or the team was more athletic than sometimes people think. Does that work to your advantage sometimes if people think it’s a plodding team?
No, I think we do. Coach Curtis has done a great job developing our guys. We have some ‑‑ again, athleticism is defined in different ways. We’re a little more strong or powerful. We maybe aren’t jet quick, but the way we play trying to be in position, the sturdiness of our guys in their stance when they grab rebounds and go to the rim, those things show at times. And then, yeah, we’ve got some guys who can get off the floor. And Akil’s as good of an athlete as anybody and I think. Guys like Anthony are deceptive. And you’ve got the strength of Malcolm and Joe and certainly Justin. And London is just savvy.
So whether we’re elite athletic, I wouldn’t say that, but I think they’re athletic enough. When you put the soundness with it and kind of the strength, that makes them solid.
Q. Tony, can you talk about how you guys exploited their defense? You got a lot of the shots you wanted.
COACH BENNETT: I think we made some outside shots, of course. And I thought our patience, our willingness to make the next pass, set a screen, another screen, run them off the baseline. Trying to wear them down. When the opportunities were there, we’ve got guys who can get to the lane, score inside. We just were balanced.
I thought ‑‑ as the game wore on, I thought our will ‑‑ we imposed a little bit of our will as far as just not letting them off the hook. They had to guard for a little bit longer maybe than they had last game.
I think it was probably an advantage. They played against mostly a 1‑3‑1 or a zone against George Washington and I think that we were ready. We played against a pretty hard‑nosed man‑to‑man against Coastal. Sometimes that takes a little bit to adjust to. I think we caught a break there, but we were willing to be patient enough and try to tire them out.
Q. Tony, you guys obviously haven’t been in a Sweet 16 since 1995, when Jason was back in ‑‑ way back then in his playing days. What does this mean to the program?
COACH BENNETT: Well, we’ve tried. I think Malcolm alluded to it. I said we finally got to New York. We tried in the preseason NIT last year and didn’t quite do it. And then obviously with the NIT, we got to the final eight or whatever you call that and Iowa got us. We really wanted to go there.
Then to be able to do it in the national tournament like this, that’s special. And that’s ‑‑ from my playing days, that’s one of my favorite arenas. I know you think highly of it too.
Madison Square Garden, to get there certainly and to play on the Sweet 16, we talk about that. You get to the Sweet 16, that’s the rarified air of college basketball and you’re going to have to play. We know who’s waiting. We know how good they are. It will be us trying to test our game against one of the teams that’s playing their best basketball right now.
Q. I think it was brought up before that you’re the last team standing in the ACC.
COACH BENNETT: Yeah.
Q. I’m wondering what that means about how strong the ACC is and then in turn how strong you are. It’s kind of hard now to judge, right?
COACH BENNETT: I think this tournament is so much about matchups, it really is. Our league was strong. Everybody can make their statements. But I’m just thankful we’re standing. I don’t know what it means about us. All I know is we’re playing and I’m thankful for that.
It’s about matchups in this tournament, it really is. And I’m not saying we’ve got great matchups. Coastal, certainly Memphis. I wish more ACC teams were in it, but the league is better than just one team in the Sweet 16, and I know that’s probably coming from a guy up here. It’s good, and I promise you, next year’s going to be even better.
Q. Coach, could you give me the skinny on Mike and his development this year and particularly how well he played?
COACH BENNETT: Mike, I think when he comes out assertive, like he was grabbing rebounds with two hands, knocked down a couple shots, he did that against Duke in the ACC conference tournament. That’s really important for us. Mike’s a real young, second‑year player. He really is young for his age. Maturity is such an important factor for him physically, certainly mentally. And I think you see those flashes and those glimpses and his size and length helps.
You think this offseason, as he gets stronger, that’s going to help him. I think he’s really coming. But he’s right, he was disappointed in his performance on Friday. It’s a little inconsistent. I think part of that’s due to his age, his strength. But it’s in there and he’s got a nice skill set and, again, as he gets more and more aggressive, I think there’s some real nice things in store for him.
But he’s gotten better from when he’s ‑‑ since he’s arrived. Probably put on 35 pounds, if you can believe that. So all that stuff is going in the right direction. He played on the USA basketball team this summer, so he didn’t get to have a lifting summer like you normally have and I think it helped him in some ways to play. Although he was banging with some of these guys. I think that will be important this summer.
Q. Coach, could you talk a little bit about London’s development throughout the year? He was a guy Anthony identified as your eyes on the court. I asked him if there was a certain time during the year he thought that that happened. I wanted to know what you thought?
COACH BENNETT: Everybody’s been important, but even yesterday’s game ‑‑ not yesterday’s, Friday’s game, we were a little wobbly and he kind of kept us in there. And I need to look at his stat line today. Eight assists. No, I’m sorry, that’s eight points, two assists, zero turnovers. He handles the ball a lot.
And we got ‑‑ Malcolm can too. But he’s been good, he’s continued to improve. He’s looking to score a little more. Deceptively quick. Real important. He’s a true freshman. To see him in these settings have the composure and the poise he does is, I think, rather remarkable and I think we got a good one. I know we do. So does everybody else is starting to see that.
Q. A lot of your guys said the other day or yesterday, I guess, that they were nervous, understandably, going into that first game. Did you sense that they were a little more calm and were you a little more confident in just their psyche going in?
COACH BENNETT: I told our staff, I said, it feels like the game we’re playing today, first of all, feels like about a 2:00 in the afternoon game. It was at 8:40 or 8:50, but the game was so late Friday, just starting the tournament, pregame jitters, you hear all the 1‑16 stuff. It’s real stuff. And the fact that Coastal played well, I think, made a difference.
Yeah, I thought we’d be more established. We came and got to have a shootaround today. They had the right mindset. They were hungry to start. They were hungry but there is something about getting through the first game and weathering the shaky times, and I thought that we did that.
And I thought today, though, they had a different mindset. I really did. So yeah, whether it’s confidence or just being more comfortable in the moment, but they established that. And watching us Friday, you definitely could see there were some nerves there.
MODERATOR: I’m afraid that’s all the time we have, Coach. Thank you very much and good luck in New York.