Jan. 17, 2008
Villanova head coach Jay Wright...
Opening statement: As I have been saying, we have a lot of learning to do. We are trying to find our way as a Big East team and it is a lot different than finding your way in the preseason. We certainly didn't solve all the problems tonight but it was a real good effort. You can just see our young guys like Antonio Pena playing to their capability and getting comfortable. Even Malcolm Grant and Corey Stokes tonight were good. These are the things we need to become a good team. I don't know how long it is going to take us but we took some good steps tonight.
On putting Antonio Pena and Malcolm Grant in the starting lineup: With Antonio it was a matter of he has just been playing well and we needed some size. We were getting killed on the boards and for us to do that to them on the glass tonight [+23 rebound margin] was incredible. We needed Antonio in there with Dante because him being there helps Dante not get stuck on the biggest guy. With Malcolm in the lineup it was about his leadership. We wanted to get him in there more in the Cincinnati game but we had other options as the game played out.
On coming back from a 16-point deficit: We don't always mention it but I think it is known that all of us have that confidence with this team this year. We are never out of a game and that is what is so big about coming back in the LSU game last month. The guys that are here I think will draw on that even into next year. That is always in our conscience and something that helps us.
On going to a bigger lineup in the game: We can have an advantage when we play a smaller lineup with our guards but it becomes a disadvantage when other teams are shooting over us. We were just too small. When we brought in Corey Stokes and Shane moved to the three in the second half that helped us.
On the advantage of a bigger lineup: We just need size. Our young guards are small and young. They don't have the experience yet to know how to play small and make that an advantage. They will get that and our other guys know how to do that. We are lucky to have the option. Corey Stokes did a great job on the perimeter tonight and Shane Clark did a great job.
On the team's depth: There are some games where maybe Antonio Pena or a different big guy doesn't get a lot of time. Tonight we tried it with Casiem Drummond and I know he didn't feel great so we'll see what happens. We are lucky because we need that depth and we do have it. The lineup switches might make it harder to establish continuity, especially when they are playing together for the first time. It takes time and we are getting better at it. Even tonight, although Reggie Redding didn't play a lot he had good defensive minutes that we needed. As guys get used to the system it is only going to help us down the stretch.
On Corey Stokes: I am so happy for him. He has been great and he has worked really hard to learn what we're doing and to play on the perimeter. He was a big asset tonight. His size was key in defending the perimeter. That helps us a lot. He had four rebounds and that's big for us.
On Big East play: There are so many diverse styles and it's just wild. Tonight they were like an NBA team. DePaul is big and methodical and we were coming off a game against Cincinnati where they are quick and strong. We see so many different styles and we are going to need all the different types of players that are on our team to compete in the league for us.
Junior forward Dante Cunningham...
On drawing upon the LSU comeback tonight: I don't think we ever think about past games during a game. We always come to the huddle and key on what is happening at the time. When you are down you might cut into their lead and then they build it back up a little, and then you cut it back down. We just have to keep encouraging each other and keep working hard.
Freshman forward Antonio Pena...
On his game: I felt good out there. They were in foul trouble and we knew we had to keep going after them.
On playing this year after a redshirt season last year: Last year I learned a lot, especially from the seniors and guys who were able to help me outside of the games. That is helping me a lot this year.
DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright...
Opening statement: I want to congratulate the Villanova kids. I know quite a few of them and they are a really good group. Jay is a great friend and an outstanding coach. It was a hard-fought game and they played really well. It was a turnaround game that for a while seemed to have the same pattern as the first game at our place did. The story of the game was on the backboards. The frontcourt got into a little bit of foul trouble and I don't know if we got a little bit tentative because of it but we needed to rebound the basketball a little better than we did. Villanova is a really good shooting team and I thought we did a good job guarding their 3-point shots. They shot 44 percent because they got a lot of second shots and that was really the story of the game.
On the foul trouble leading to the rebounding margin: I don't think there are any excuses. There may be a hesitancy to go to the offensive glass when you are in foul trouble but there are no excuses on the defensive end. Usually you are between your man and the basket and should be there. We always talk about our guys participating in every play and I'm not real sure that some of our guys participated in the rebounding. The little guys were trying to hold their own and they were really active. The younger guys get affected by the fouls but the older guys have been through this before. You just need to stand up and rebound the ball.
On the game: I told the team that there was a point with about three minutes to go where we had the ball down three points. If we can go into a building anywhere in this league and be down three points with the ball and three minutes to go we will take our chances. I don't think anybody is 15 points better and the game always comes back to you. You see that with the fouls. I don't think we got comfortable at all. Villanova did some really good things that had nothing to do with running plays. It's just guys out there playing the game. A couple of their inside guys were aggressive and just go after it. Antonio Pena stepped up his game in the second half and got a couple of put-back baskets. They are a good offensive team. I thought we did a good job guarding them. For us, anytime we have only two guys in double figures it means we are not playing the game the way we should. Hopefully we will get a little more balance to our scoring.
On Dar Tucker: He was wonderful. He had a great road game and did some outstanding things. He played with great composure. Some of the other guys got good looks and we didn't finish. He started out great and hit his first three 3-pointers so that means he was 4-of-9 after that. I love the kid. He is a great player for us and he does everything. I think some of his shots were forced because there was not a lot of movement from some guys and he missed some shots.
On the Villanova comeback: Your game kind of comes back to you. At the end we had 27 three-pointers out of 53 shots and that's not the way it should be. We wanted to throw the ball inside and maybe our foul trouble got us out of sorts. Sometimes when you make shots early it is fools gold because you think you can make every one. You have to earn some baskets, which is what we talked about at halftime. I don't think we really ever got into that mode in the second half. I can't fault the effort. Anything I say isn't a negative about Villanova. I think they are good and the ending is the opposite of what happened at our place. Somebody got going at the end of the game and won the game.