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Pitt coach Jeff Capell, players Trey McGowens, Xavier Johnson at ACC Tournament

bear creek 2019 ACC TournamentJEFF CAPEL II: First of all, a big time win for us. I’m really proud of our guys and for how hard we played, and I thought it was the most complete game that we’ve played as far as executing the game plan defensively, understanding personnel, I thought, for the first five minutes we struggled, especially valuing the ball. I think nerves a little bit. But as we settled into the game, I thought the last 15 minutes of the half and then the first 12 minutes — probably the first 14 minutes of the second half, I thought we were really good. And then I thought we got a little tired at the end, and we made some tired plays.

But I’m really proud of our guys. Obviously these two guys beside me were terrific. But I thought Kene’s rebounding, I thought Malik Ellison coming into the game, his talk, his energy, his understanding of the game plan really, really helped us out. He made some big time plays. I thought Sidy Ndir came in and I thought he kind of calmed us when he came in the game and got a couple of big baskets early that kind of calmed us down a little bit. And again, everyone that played did a really, really good job, so I’m proud of my team.

Q. What did you say to them in the time-out?
JEFF CAPEL II: I said, stop turning the ball over, let’s settle into the game, and we have to be strong. We have to be sharp, and we have to defend. That was really it, just settle into the game and let’s play.

Q. How much do you feel like the win over Notre Dame, and having really something go your way for the first time in a couple months, how much did you see that impact and maybe buoy your team’s confidence over the last couple days?
JEFF CAPEL II: I thought it helped us a lot. Obviously if you win, that gives you confidence. We had been close, but we hadn’t been able to finish the deal, and so I thought that win was big for us. I thought we had a little bit of momentum coming in here off of that win. We had a couple of really good practices in preparation for the game, and obviously after the start that we had, I thought for the rest of the game we played really well.

Q. These two guys seemed like they were attacking the hole, and that’s where you’re getting a lot of buckets. Was that part of the strategy going in, and can you talk about their effectiveness doing that?
JEFF CAPEL II: You know, that’s our strategy every game was to try to attack. We’ve been a very streaky shooting team, but when we’ve been at our best is when we’ve been able to get downhill and attack, when we’re able to defend well and defensive rebound and get out in transition, these two guys, they’re athletic, they’re fearless, and they can attack and they can put pressure on a defense. It was the first time in a while that we’ve gotten to the line like this. We got 32 free throws, and these two guys stepped up and made 19, so that’s big for us. When we’ve been at our best this year, these two guys have been able to put pressure on the defense and get to the foul line.

I thought they were terrific. I thought they dictated the pace, the tempo. I thought they gave us confidence, and I thought that led to other guys stepping up and making big plays.


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Q. Both of the players, what was the key to getting to the rim so easily it seemed, and did you notice them kind of getting knocked back a little bit as you were scoring so close to the basket?
XAVIER JOHNSON: That’s the key every game is attack. I mean, last time we played them, they littered the paint, and I shot 3 for 19 from the field. Today I shot 7 for 14, and that was the difference.

TREY MCGOWENS: I think the biggest thing was spacing and moving them off the ball, didn’t give them a chance to just sit in the paint, so when they moved around, when we were moving without the ball, just opened up lanes.

Q. For both guys, I mean, being out there on the court, in that four or five-minute stretch to end the first half, how much could you feel the game and the momentum change?
XAVIER JOHNSON: We felt the momentum change a lot. I would say for the first like four minutes, I’m going to be honest, I was kind of nervous and I knew they were kind of nervous because our first time playing an ACC Tournament game. But I mean, that fell off after I guess the first four minutes.

TREY MCGOWENS: Yeah, it just seemed like everything was moving fast. It was our first time on a stage like this. But once he called a time-out, told us to settle down, after that I felt like everything was pretty smooth.

Q. With Syracuse coming up to tomorrow, how do you take getting to the rim against BC’s man-to-man and sort of keep that success against the 2-3?
TREY MCGOWENS: I think being able to attack, and then we were — I think we shot it pretty well from the three today, at least it felt like that. But just attacking and then making them close the gaps and kick-outs.

XAVIER JOHNSON: I would say the same thing, keep attacking at the right moments. We’ve got to get our footwork right because last time I think we got a lot of travel calls.

Q. For Trey, I think this is the first time you’ve had 25 points or more in a game since you guys pulled off that big upset against Florida State. Did you kind of feel pretty good coming into this game? How can you explain your performance?
TREY MCGOWENS: I just felt like probably last game, I played pretty well, and then this game was kind of — at the beginning I was kind of hesitant, not shooting a lot of shots, and then Coach and Xavier they just told me to shoot the ball because I’m open, stop being hesitant and just play.

Q. What did you guys do to keep Bowman from being so effective? I think he was only 3 of 13 maybe?
JEFF CAPEL II: 3 of 10.

Q. What was the strategy on him, and how did you execute it?
JEFF CAPEL II: I thought that we wanted to have — we didn’t want him to see space. He’s really, really good. I think he’s as good a guard as we have in our league. We wanted to be in the gaps, and that’s where I said us understanding the game plan and understanding personnel.

I thought our bigs, I thought Kene and Terrell did a terrific job on their ball screen defense, on their coverages and early in the game we got a couple of deflections on Bowman trying to make some passes, and I thought we frustrated them a little bit. We wanted to try to wear them out, too. I thought picking them up full court, we didn’t start the game that way, but after we called the first time-out, we started picking up full court, and I thought he wore down a little bit as the game went on. One of the things coming in is that we wanted to make him guard, and we wanted to put him in ball screens, we wanted to have space when he was on one of these two guys, and let them drive him, and I thought all of those things kind of made him a little bit fatigued.

He missed some shots that he normally makes, but I think our defense and our attention to detail with how we wanted to guard him was really good.

augusta free press
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