Postgame: Boston College coach Jim Christian, players on upset of NC State in ACC Tournament
JIM CHRISTIAN: Just a tremendous game. 40-minute game, tremendous. I thought that both teams played unbelievably hard, and I just thought the resilience, the toughness, the mental toughness that we showed down the stretch when they came back, huge step forward for our team, for our program. Couldn’t be more happy for these guys for these things that they’ve gone through. To have moments like this makes it all worthwhile.
Couldn’t be prouder of a team. That was just a gutsy effort.
Q. Jerome, you’re from Raleigh. What does a win against NC State and playing so well and hitting some big shots down the stretch mean to you in moving forward throughout this tournament?
JEROME ROBINSON: Yeah, I think it’s big for me. I think it’s big for this team, as well. We lost to them early in the year at NC State, and just to get them back in the tournament definitely feels good.
Q. Jim, just going into half, I’m sure you didn’t have to say much about how you had to play 40 minutes, but the way the game shook out, how proud are you of the way they showed poise?
JIM CHRISTIAN: I mean, it’s ridiculous. I knew they would come back. They’re a good basketball team. You talk about one of the top teams in the country, a team that’s going to go to the NCAA Tournament and win games, so again, when they made a run at us, we’ve been in that situation now the last couple weeks three times, and this is growth. This was growth. This was growth attacking pressure. This was growth making free throws. This was growth with poise on defense, and they still made some great plays. They made some big time shots but then we responded, and that’s what happens in great games.
Q. Ky, they got even with you five times but weren’t able to take the lead. How important was it to not let them get ahead? And then also, could both you and Jerome talk about the steal at the end on the inbound play?
KY BOWMAN: Just that we knew we were going to have to handle the pressure and we knew they were going to pick up the pressure in the second half. So that was big for us. But also the steal Jerome had was the biggest play of the night, just for us getting there and knowing that we had to have a smart play, and that was a smart play.
JEROME ROBINSON: Yeah, the steal I knew they were going to try to get it to 11, and I tried to take it away, and then at the last second I jumped, I knew I only had a second or two left, and I ended up getting a deflection off of it, and I ended up tipping it over to Ky, so that was definitely a big play for us towards the end.
Q. Steff, just the number of rebounds you grabbed, there was one that you grabbed before Jerome’s dunk where you got two in a row and you were busy roaring while Jerome was dunking and then you had to roar again. How excited are you to take balls off the glass and give your man an extra opportunity?
JIM CHRISTIAN: I mean, we have to rebound by committee so it’s not just one guy. Steff was tremendous. The offensive rebounds he made were huge, just to get us extra possessions, and that’s what he does. He brings all the intangible things that help you win games. And he’s a freshman, so the moment is not too big for him. He deserves it. He’s worked unbelievably hard all year long, and that’s the kind of player he is, and those guys kind of feed off it.
STEFFON MITCHELL: Yeah, I lost my voice during that game (laughter), but — no, I just think when we get the ball — I just like playing the game. If the ball is up there I’m trying to get it and just throwing it out to my teammates. So there it is.
Q. Ky and Jerome, Coach mentioned things you’ve had to go through. Can you kind of expand on that? What have been some of the tough times like at Boston College?
KY BOWMAN: Just being in games that we know we should have won last year, and this year, just knowing that our team is a lot more better, and everybody understands the role that they’ve got to play, so that plays in a lot this year, and just the confidence we’ve been building off of from the home games to the road games, it’s just great for us.
JEROME ROBINSON: Just going off of that, this is my third year here. In my first two years we had two ACC wins, and we knew that was just a process. And, I mean, I stuck with it, with Coach. It’s hard for some people to see the vision through a smoky mirror and just sticking to it, man, and we knew it was going to pay off. And we just listened to Coach, and he had the vision. It takes the right people to know and to stick with it, and I think that’s what we’ve done so far.
Q. Jerome, what did you see on the play where you hit the big shot? What were you trying to get accomplished there? It seemed like you had a screen and decided to not necessarily use it.
JEROME ROBINSON: Yeah, so they were icing that ball screen and I was trying to get around the big fella, and then by that time I got a little space, and I had seen he was trying to cut me off and probably take a charge there, so just pulled up for a mid-range. I can shoot the mid-range, so I was just getting to my comfort spot and getting to a spot that I knew I could make a shot at.
Q. Jim, how does the challenge shift towards Clemson, and what is the unique challenge of beating them in a tournament setting?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, first, I said this yesterday, they need to start enjoying these moments. They’ve had enough moments, I want these guys to enjoy this moment and not worry about Clemson yet. We’ll start worrying about Clemson as a coaching staff.
Nobody in the country has more respect for them than me. That’s one of my closest friends coaching their team. They’re one of the top teams country for a reason. They’re so good defensively. They’ve got weapons all over the court. But we just have to regroup and get fresh. That’s our thing.
Again, it’s a great opportunity just to get an opportunity to play in this game, to play in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament is a huge step forward for us.
Q. You guys played with a fearless aggression from the start; is that something that you wanted your players to do, to go to the cup, and is there an us-against-the-world mentality that you guys brought into this tournament?
JIM CHRISTIAN: I don’t know if it’s us against the world. It’s maybe us believing in ourselves. It’s maybe us taking that next step. This isn’t new to us. We were good all year long. We beat some really good teams and had some opportunities to beat some others. I mean, right up until the last couple — coming into this game, the last four games of the year were the best four games we played, and we only won one of them, but I thought it was the best four games we played. We just had some breakdowns. It got a little bit better yesterday, and it got a lot better today.
I’ll tell you the hugest step forward for me, when we had the technical foul at the end of the game, we had three guys that wanted to shoot the ball. Last year we would have had five guys running the other way. Not five, these couple guys would have wanted to shoot. But three guys wanted to go to the line. And that’s what it’s all about for me, just confident basketball players, playing on a big stage or wanting to make plays. That’s beautiful. That’s what basketball to me is all about.
Q. Jerome and Ky, outside of advancing to the quarterfinals and helping your postseason resume, this has to have a little bit of special to it, beating NC State, right?
KY BOWMAN: As Coach was saying, just enjoying the moment. It felt good beating a team from North Carolina, but also it felt good just to see another day in the tournament.
JEROME ROBINSON: Yeah, we know it’s another team, and we know it’s another step for us to move forward, so it’s a good feeling to get the win and enjoy the moment now, but we know we’ve got to prepare for tomorrow.
Q. Clemson has been off since last Saturday. You guys have played a couple games now. In your opinion, in this kind of format, is it easier for you guys because you’ve played a couple games and got in that rhythm, or an advantage for Clemson because they haven’t?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Again, I coached in the MAC for six years. In order to get to the tournament, you’ve got to win three games in a row. This is the third game in a row. These guys, again, if the strategy is to wear them out, that’s not a good strategy, because I think if we wanted to play a double header today, I think they’d go play again. This is March basketball. This is what it’s about. That’s what these guys live for.
We’re going to get as much rest as we can; we have sports massage with us; we have every medical thing we could have with us to us get ourselves ready, but it’s really more mental than anything else. Let’s just get confident, let’s stay confident, and I’m sure they’re excited to play. They’re playing for a lot of great things, and they’ve had a tremendous season. It’s going to be an unbelievable challenge, but we’re going to have to step up and play with the same kind of confidence we played with today.
Q. These guys as your guards have been so amazing, they’ve created opportunities for your bigs pretty much all year. When y’all lost to State, your bigs didn’t usually convert those, and today, I mean, Nik was 6 for 11 and Johncarlos was 5 for 5. Can you just describe that evolution and the stick-to-itiveness because that’s a pretty big contrast?
JIM CHRISTIAN: I think it’s development. I think those guys are getting better. I think those guys are getting more confident. Like I said, the last two or three weeks, Niko has kind of slowed down around the basket. He’s able to finish plays and use his skills. And again, these guys are such weapons that you have to make a choice, so when they collapse, it’s either going to be a kick-out to maybe Chatman or finish inside, and those guys are finishing plays. It’s what’s made us better.
Q. You called that Duke win a landmark moment for this program earlier in the year. Multiple big wins for the program as a whole; what is this year meaning for Boston College as a program?
JIM CHRISTIAN: I’ll let you know when it’s done. But again, we’re proud — I’m proud of these guys. Like I said, they’ve been through so many things, and it’s good for these guys to have these moments because it’s something to revert back on. And again, we have no seniors. So a lot of these guys, including Ky, is playing his first ACC Tournament here. So it’s something to build on, for our program to build on.
But again, it’s just confidence. We established who we are and what we’re trying to do. I’m more happy for them than anything else in the world. They deserve every single thing that they’re getting right now, the attention, the accolades they got for during the year. All that stuff came through loyalty, loyalty to the program, loyalty to BC, and never lost upon me, loyalty to me.
Q. Two-part question for you: When Pop goes down, tell me what’s going through your mind, and then the way he came back and played down the stretch?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, the way he hopped off the court, I knew he was coming back. But again, he’s a tough kid now, so if he’s hurt. He’s going to have to be really hurt. So I thought J.C. came in and really — he scored as soon as he got in the game, which gave him confidence, did a great job with the defensive game plan. And I think when Niko came back, it did uplift us and then we were able to rotate those guys because both were playing well. We were able to rotate them and keep them a little fresh, and that helped — Yurtseven is a hard guy to match up with down there, especially when he gets deep, and they had such good shooters spread around him, it made it hard in the second half.
Q. I have a personal question for you: What’s it like for you to do this here given where you’re from?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Special. It’s special. First of all, it’s the ACC Tournament. It doesn’t get much more special than that. I love the group of guys I’m here with, but being from here, it makes it real special for me. Definitely not lost upon me, no doubt about it.
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