Men's Basketball Weekly Conference Call Highlights - Jan. 13

Jay Wright, Villanova
On Antonio Pena
"Antonio Pena has been incredible. He's one of the highest percent shooters in the BIG EAST. He's one of our top rebounders, probably our top rebounder, he and Mouphtaou Yarou are separated by percentage points I believe. Louisville pressed us last night and they have three of the best guards in the country, but at the four spot he was able to handle the ball, come back and get free. He was able to defend some of their shooters on the perimeter, he was guarding (Kyle) Kuric sometimes he was guarding (Mike) Marra sometimes, he just does everything for us. He has really developed into a complete player."
On Mouphtaou Yarou
"I think that's why we were rated so high last year is that people thought we were going to have Mouph. I think what we're seeing from Mouph this year is probably the progression people thought they would see last year. We would have had a good inside presence with Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Reading, two senior guards. That's why, all along, I thought we weren't as good as our ranking because we didn't have an inside game. In a game like last night, their three guards are as good as our guards, the difference was Mouph. We were able to take some pressure off our guards and go inside. Also, on the defensive end, he protected the basket. He only had one blocked shot but he changed a lot of shots and he had 11 rebounds. It makes a big difference on our team."
On players wearing down
"I think there is a concern. Especially in the stretch we're in now. We're taking today off even though I think we need the time to prepare for Maryland. As you know, even after Maryland we play Connecticut at 3 in the afternoon the following Monday. We're hoping that the experience of Pena, Stokes and Fisher can make this time off valuable for us. But it is a concern. That's why we're trying to develop James Bell, trying to get him more minutes the longer we can. I think by the end of the year if we're playing these guys this many minutes in BIG EAST games it could hurt us."
Listen to Jay Wright, Villanova
Stan Heath, USF
On team's play
"We've battled everyone pretty close. I think we've only had one double-digit loss during this skid that we've had right now. We're very inexperienced, we're very young. A lot of these guys are in their first time out playing BIG EAST games. I like the fact we're battling people."
On Providence
"We've had some exciting games with them over the past few years. Marshon Brooks is having a phenomenal season the way he's scoring the ball and getting himself to the free throw line. We've got a tough challenge in front of us again and hopefully we can turn the corner and get that first BIG EAST win on Sunday."
On comparing Jawanza Poland with Providence's Marshon Brooks
"Marshon is certainly a very all-around skilled offensive player. I like the fact not only can he shoot the ball but he can go off the dribble, draw fouls and get himself to the free throw line. He's aggressive but he also knows what he wants to do out there on the floor. I would like to see Jawanza make those same strides. The biggest step is Jawanza had a nice mid-range game. He gets a lane to the rim he's so explosive and finishes well. I'd like to see him take a page out of Marshon's 3-point shooting book and become more consistent with that and I think he will. He'll put the time in. This is his first season and he didn't even play last year. I think we all see he's oozing with talent. He's just got to get that work ethic and that desire to become a great player, and along with the ball skill and special things can happen for Jawanza.
Listen to Stan Heath, USF
Mike Brey, Notre Dame
On Marquette
"We certainly ran into a buzzsaw most recently Monday night in Milwaukee and suffered a very thorough beating from a very good basketball team that I think is starting to develop and come together in Marquette. Buzz does a fabulous job there. With St. John's coming up on the horizon and Marquette we are playing two of our three repeat opponents in a short window. So it makes for some interesting preparation. What we need is a little bit of rest after that stretch and I think we've been able to do that over the last couple days and then get back into a good practice rhythm before we go to the Garden."
On replacing Luke Harangody
"When you lose a guy like Luke, what helped us was we had to play without him at the end of the year and had some success while he as hurt. So this nucleus had some confidence going into the season. I also think kids being competitors helps. Across the board they all have chips on their shoulders otherwise they wouldn't be on college basketball scholarships.They love to show, `Hey, we're pretty good too even though we lost that guy.' I think that's a competitor trait."
On Ben Hansbrough
I think Ben Hansbrough's play and his leadership and his style of leadership has helped this group. There's and edge about him, a toughness about him and sometimes a borderline craziness about him that I love that I think has been contagious. He keeps pushing the bar high and doesn't let guys get in their comfort zones. I think Ben's tone has really helped us believe.
Listen to Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Mike Rice, Rutgers
On the season
"One thing consistent we've been is inconsistent. And that's with our energy and intensity, that's with our shooting, our skill level, our need and want. There are positives that are happening and taking place at Rutgers right now. But unfortunately we've not been very consistent with our level of energy and level of want and need. In this league you can't turn it off at times. Unfortunately we've turned it off too many times."
On Georgetown
"I've watched them. Like all of you, you're fans up until you get to play them. I've watched them against Missouri, against Memphis, against all of the tremendous nonconference opponents that they've played. I have unbelievable respect for them. The skill which they play in, the discipline which they play in. Everyone in this league goes through some hard times and right now they've hit a tough spot, which can quickly happen to you in this league. It will be a tremendous challenge. If we do have anything going for us it's that we do have a pretty good scout. David Koch was an assistant there for three years so we won't be surprised with anything. It will just be two very determined programs facing off.
On playing walk-ons vs. Connecticut
"This team all of a sudden starts to look nervous or is wondering what bad is going to happen to us next. We were facing a top 10 team and probably the nation's top college basketball player, down five and we didn't have a great half but we had a pretty solid half and there wasn't a buzz, there wasn't an energy. It's the same way we started off the Villanova game. And if that happens I'm not going to stand for it and we'll let our walk-ons represent us."
Listen to Mike Rice, Rutgers
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
On the game vs. USF
"Any time you win a conference game in the BIG EAST you have to be happy. It was a physical battle. I think South Florida is the best 6-12 team in the country. They're very big and strong on the front line. Our guys were able to do a pretty good job on their interior post defense and we were able to make enough shots to win the game. We went through some scoring droughts but all-in-all I was pretty pleased. Any time you win in this league you have to be happy."
On Syracuse
"Saturday we have a great challenge ahead of us. Coach Boeheim has another tremendous basketball team. After watching them all morning, the names change but he's the constant. They still play tremendous defense. It will be a tremendous challenge to get the win Saturday at the Carrier Dome. We have our work cut out for us."
On Sean Kilpatrick
"He's progressed nicely. As you know he's a pretty good scorer. And when he gets it going from the 3-point line he's an excellent scorer. It's a big weapon for us. To have a guy capable of double figures off the bench. I think now he's back to where he's averaging 10 points a game, he's a double-figure scorer for us as a freshman. Any time you can have that you have to be pleased as a coach. He's a wonderful kid that loves basketball. He plays hard every day at practice. The biggest thing for me is to make sure he doesn't put too much pressure on himself. That's how much he cares about playing well and how much he loves the game. He's a sponge and I'm just very very happy to have him in the program. Obviously Saturday he could be a big key for because of his ability to make shots against the Syracuse zone."
On message he sent to Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon after loss to Villanova
"Both guys have just been in a little bit of a funk. When you have the record that we do sometimes you can be a little misled on how well you're playing. Playing well has nothing to do with winning and losing. We just had to break some things down for those guys and get them to realize that although we might have been playing well up until Sunday we had been trying to explain to them that they had not been playing well recently. They were on cruise control even though we had been winning games. All those games we won by an average of 18 points per game, just I didn't think they were playing well. The statistics showed they weren't playing well and I didn't think they had been practicing hard. I thought they had lost their edge. I didn't want to bench them but I had to do something to wake them up. Show the some film show them some statistics from previous games. You coach guys on your team in different ways. Those guys are great kids but they're two guys I have to stay after from an intensity standpoint to make sure they're working hard at all times. Obviously I had to whisper to them a little bit and tell them how much I loved them in a nice way. But they needed to play better for us to win."
Listen to Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
On Cincinnati
"Cincinnati is a very physical team and is off to a great start. They've played great basketball all year and it will be a great challenge for us.They've always been physical and they are more mature. Those guys aren't young guys any more they're veteran guys. And they're much more experience and that's why they're playing so well. They're playing great. They've always been good players and now they've got that experience that you need to have in this league to be successful.They've been pretty successful but now that extra year has been tremendous and you can see in the way they play. They've always been physical, they're still physical but now they're much more mature."
On Brandon Triche
"I think he's worked hard all year on his shooting. I think earlier in the year he was shooting a little bit off balance and a little bit moving. Now I think he's squaring up better and shooting the ball with more confidence. He's a hard worker and he works at his shooting all the time. He's trying to get shots up, shooting late at night, whenever he can. But he's worked hard to get to this point. He's not just a shooter, he's capabale of making plays. He's very physical and he can rebound. He's a complete player, he's an all-around player and he's still working at developing that part of his game (shooting). But he's a guy that can make plays and pass the ball and is getting better all the time."
On ESPN Big Monday
"It's huge and you have to think back at the beginning. At the beginning we were the only show, we were the only game. I think Big Monday was just the one game in the very beginning and there weren't that many TV games period the rest of the week. It was a huge event and it has really helped the league in recruiting tremendously. We never recruited outside the northeast until the Big Monday games. All of a sudden we were getting players from Louisiana, Texas, California and Florida. No question it made the profile for the league and for us much bigger."
Listen to Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Rick Pitino, Louisville
On Marquette
"Marquette is very similar to Villanova in their style of play of trying to get to the foul line driving to the basket. Being very aggressive at the defensive end. The good thing is we don't have to prepare a whole lot, the bad thing is we don't have a lot of time to prepare for a very good basketball team. They do a lot of the same great things that Villanova does."
On ESPN Big Monday
"The BIG EAST is a TV conference. Every few years they sign the largest TV package and Big Monday is a part of that. It's great exposure for the BIG EAST it allows us to do the recruiting job nationally because of the exposure we do get. This day in age where I think football has taken over the TV rating and taken over college sports in terms of popularity, the BIG EAST is one of the old throwbacks in still being a basketball conference with half the league not playing football. We get great exposure because of basketball. The BIG EAST is still a basketball game and we get great exposure from the Big Mondays of the world."
On Chris Smith
"Chris is doing a good job. He's improved dramatically. He came in with a side spin on his shot and low trajectory. He came in thinking a pass was some type of virus. He's really improved his passing ability. He's improved his shot, he's changed his shot. He's become a terrific shooter. He's become a better on the ball defensive player. He's really improved dramatically. To be honest with you I didn't even know he was coming here. Steve (Mesiello), my assistant, mentioned that he played with Samardo (Samuels) in high school and he was thinking of transferring. I never paid attention to it, that was the last that was said. In August he was out there shooting with Samardo. I went down and I really just thought it was Samardo's friend and didn't even introduce myself to him. Next thing I know I had to go back down because Steve said `Well, did you say hello to Chris Smith?' and I said `Who's Chris Smith.' And he said, `Do you remember in the spring when I mentioned to you that he was considering transferring?' And that's the way he showed up. I never had a conversation with him on the phone, never spoke to him, never spoke to his family. He just showed up one day and he was here. Thank God he's here or I would be in a lot of trouble right now."
Listen to Rick Pitino, Louisville
Oliver Purnell, DePaul
On season at DePaul
"There are moments of frustration for me. I felt like a game like last night could have been a turning point for us because we had been playing progressively better in the BIG EAST. At Cincinnati, at Georgetown, a two-point loss to West Virginia, who's playing extremely well, our last game out at home. I felt if we could get one here we could build some confidence and get something started. Well we didn't get it and that's frustrating. But at every stop and everywhere I've been it's been a process. You have to understand that it is a process. This is what I signed up for. So you have to push that frustration aside because UConn is coming to town. We're excited about that next challenge of facing UConn and of course their great player."
On changing the culture
"You go through a process of changing the culture. You start with things that you emphasize and the things that you talk to your team about. There are things that you're uncompromising on. You go out and recruit some better players as well to increase your talent level. At the same team teaching those guys those same principles. Things that you need to do in order to win. Things from being on time, to execution, to playing hard, to the way you conduct yourself on and off the floor. All of those things are what we're really trying to get across to our guys since last spring. That's our way of doing things and it's a winning way. Changing the culture is important."
On Cleveland Melvin
"He's a talented young man. He's athletic and now over the last two or three weeks he's really become comfortable with what we're doing offensively. He understands where he can get certain things done. He's doing a much better job at the point of our press. I think just gaining some experience he's been able to make the adjustment to our style and system. Just getting comfortable with that has allowed a very fine athlete to play well."
Listen to Oliver Purnell, DePaul