St. John's vs. Seton Hall: Pregame Quotes

March 1, 2011

Head Coach Steve Lavin
On Seton Hall:
“If you look at it historically, they have beaten us six consecutive times on their court, and beat us here last year. They thumped Syracuse by 20-plus points in the Carrier Dome. When you look at their personnel, (Herb) Pope is as dangerous a frontline player, in terms of versatility and creating matchup problems for opponents, as there is in the league. (Jeremy) Hazell is as prolific a scorer as there is in the country. In my book, he’s similar to Dwight Hardy in terms of getting it going and torching the nets. Our team understands that we’ll have our hands full. Our players are aware that we’ve lost to Fordham, and we’ve lost to St. Bonaventure. We’re not in a position to overlook anybody, let alone BIG EAST teams that are well coached with a lot of talent. These teams are rugged and even tougher to face at this point in the season because they are improving and getting better. As a well-coached team, you’d rather play them earlier in the league, because you know by the end of the season they are that much better in terms of their system, style and familiarity with the new coach. We are playing them at the hardest time of the year, and they already waxed Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. Our players are well aware that we’ll have our hands full. I told them this will be the most difficult game of the year for us, to this point. That is for different reasons than Pitt or Duke, because now we’re farther down the line, we’re ranked in the top 15, Seton Hall is more familiar with their coach.”

On if he is worried about a letdown:
“With this particular group, I don’t worry about letdowns, only because they are so hungry and they haven’t had a degree of success throughout their careers until this season. At UCLA, I was more concerned about letdowns and complacency because that was a group of players that had won a national championship, won three straight Pac-10 championships and was in the tournament every year. With that group, it was more about keeping them hungry, putting the fear of God into them and keeping a flame under their fanny. At the start of this year, this group was more fragile because they hadn’t had a degree of success and had a crisis in confidence. It was more about building the belief that they could win. So now they’ve had success and they have an appetite for more.”



On building the belief that the team can win:
“These last couple of weeks have held breakthroughs for different reasons. Against DePaul, it was a mature, focused effort for 40 minutes to thoroughly dominate an opponent. Cincinnati and Marquette were important because they were on the road and they were second-half comebacks. Pittsburgh was about going against the most dominant team in the BIG EAST in the last decade and neutralizing the leading rebounding team in the country. And against Villanova, we counter-punched after they cut it to one, and we went on a run of our own. Over the last month of play, you are seeing the ability to salt the victory away and close out a win, as well as counter-punch when a team makes a run on us.”

On how the team is handling the high rankings:
“We are mindful and aware that we’ve worked hard to put ourselves in this position. We don’t ever want to forget the brick and mortar and the fundamentals that it took to get to this point. We remember what allowed us to be successful and try to stay on that path of improvement.”

Senior Forward Justin Burrell
On how the team’s work ethic has increased this year for the team:
“In the past, we always talked about paying attention to detail. A lot of the time we recognized that we needed to make changes in paying attention to the detail and we really didn’t. So this year we were able to pay attention to those details and make changes. For example, getting all of the 50-50 balls. If you watch the Villanova game, a lot of times we weren’t able to get rebounds, but we’d tip them out to each other. Or boxing out, making sure that your man doesn’t get the ball and allowing your teammate to pick up the rebound. Or paying attention, making sure we’re covering boxes and elbows on defense so guys don’t have dribble lanes to get to the rim. And being a resistance at the rim if they do get to the rim – make them make tough shots.”

On if there is an emphasis to not overlook Seton Hall and USF:
“These games are actually harder. If you see throughout college basketball when there’s a team that, for lack of better words, is supposed to win the game – if you see those games, they’re sometimes close because teams overlook them or don’t come out with the same intensity as if they were playing somebody that it could be a 50-50 toss up. So we’re actually paying attention, focusing in on Seton Hall and making sure we go out and get a victory.”

On if Seton Hall being a local rival helps maintain the intensity for Thursday’s game:
“I can only speak for myself on that. That local rival stuff, it doesn’t phase me too much. We know those guys in the same spots. I mean a lot of those kids I grew up with, see them play throughout AAU and high school basketball. At the end of the day when we step onto the court, everybody’s my enemy. Everybody, I want to beat.”

On how quickly the team bought into the coaches’ philosophy:
“I’d say when they first game in, you could hear a coach or hear a person speak about philosophies and all different things, but it’s not until there’s action. So the first day when we started actually working out and we were shown different changes that they were making from our previous coach and that coaching staff as well, that’s when we really started to buy into things. As far as like playing full-court basketball, no dribbles, 3-on-3 full-court, one dribble – what those things really showed us was with passing and ball movement and different cutting, we can get easier baskets. So we really started buy in when we saw things like that. Our coaching staff, they really really worked with us and our confidence, showing us that we could be tremendous players when we put our minds to it.”

On the importance of the double bye in the BIG EAST Tournament:
“I think it’s very important. But at the same time, I’m weary of it because I’ve seen a lot of teams, in the past, lose that had that double bye. So it’s like a catch 22. I really don’t know what to think of it. I haven’t been a position with a double bye before, so it’s really tough to speak on. But of course I want to play the least amount of games as possible to conserve energy.”

Senior Forward Sean Evans
On why the team has worked so much harder this year:
“Being through what we’ve been through in the past years and knowing what we know from the past years, you know a little bit more about what it takes to win the games and what can cost you the game. So we’re just working a little bit harder to make sure we don’t make those little mistakes. In the past, there were some games that we lost on one turnover, one possession, one bad shot, one bad defensive play. We’re just working to not let that happen this year.”

On if there is any concern of a letdown when the team faces Seton Hall and USF: 
“I don’t think so because we’re a real mature team. In this league, anyone can beat anyone. If you look at Seton Hall, they beat Syracuse at Syracuse by like 28 points or something like that. So we know they’re a good team because Syracuse is a good team. For them to go in there and win that on Syracuse’s court, it means a lot. So we’re going to go in there with the same focus as if we were playing the No. 1 team in the conference or the last-place team in the conference.”

On whether it is good to face a local rival like Seton Hall at this point as opposed a team from somewhere else:
“I think so because Seton Hall is one of our rivals. We always have a lot of passion when we go and play against those guys. We know that they don’t like us as much as we don’t like them. So we’re going go in there and try to get a win.”

Senior Guard Malik Boothe
On how quickly the team bought into Steve Lavin’s and the coaching staff’s philosophy:
“It really took no time for us to buy into what he wanted because everything that he’s accomplished as a coach, so many Sweet Sixteens, so many NCAA Tournament appearances, the coaches he’s coaches with, legendary coaches that he’s been surrounded by, we really had no choice but to buy in.”

On why the team has worked harder this year:
“I think it’s a combination of us being seniors and the coaching staff. As far as the coaching staff, I think we all just wanted to show them that they had a hard-working group of seniors. For us, being seniors, we realize that this is our last go-around, so we really wanted to leave it all out on the floor.”

On what winning a big game on the road against Villanova last week did for the team:
“It’s a big win for us, but it’s something that we knew we were able to do. We just had to go out there and do it.”


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