• Joey Jarzynka

St. John's Press Conference vs. West Virginia


St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson

Opening statement…

“First of all, congrats to our guys. All of the guys left it all on the floor. You talk about grittiness and matching the physicality of the West Virginia, Bob Huggins-coached team, we saw that on display today. I thought that was the difference in the game. The game was going to be won in the paint. If you look at the rebounding, [West Virginia] has really been just beating people on the boards, especially on the offensive boards and we saw that in the first half.”

“I thought we matched their physicality in terms of rebounding and we got to the free throw line. It came down to free throws. We made ours, they missed theirs. We hadn’t been shooting as well as we’re capable of, but today we came through and what a great way to start in our first game here at Madison Square Garden. The crowd was really involved and it’s amazing how the script goes. We get up and they make a run back and we’ve got to get a stop and it came down to making free throws. West Virginia is a tremendous team. Great balance. Their forwards are unbelievable, and they made shots. [Sean] McNeil made some big shots, the one to tie it up, but to our guys credit, they didn’t go away.”

On what he said to the team at halftime…

“First of all, I told our guys coming in that we didn’t play our best, we didn’t shoot the ball well and that’s what took place. I thought we came with the mindset that we’re going to play with great energy. … We did some good things, we had a little let down right there before the half, I think they got two offensive rebounds. We did a great job of keeping them off the boards for the first 18 minutes. … I think the biggest thing was that we had some guys coming off the bench contributing.

On the perseverance of his team…

“This game came out of toughness, this came out of grit, this came out of determination and it’s amazing. I think these guys are starting to put it on display. .... You got to find a way and I thought we found it in our defense. We harassed them and made it difficult for their big guys who have been annihilating people and we saw it today. We got a team that’s going to fight. We may not be the most talented team; we have some pieces and it’s normally about the best team. As we continue to work and the process of understanding what guys bring to the table, then I think we’re on our way to becoming a pretty good basketball team. ... Rasheem [Dunn] comes off the bench, you look at Marcellus [Earlington], I mean he gives us some grit and some grime. Those guys gave us some quality minutes. David [Caraher] didn’t score today, but just him being out on the floor. And how about Greg Williams. He sat there, he didn’t play much in the first half and then in the second half he probably hit one of the biggest shots in the game. … His defense was unbelievable. We had some guys in foul trouble, so when you talk about toughness and playing with heart, I thought they played with their heart today.”

On his first Madison Square Garden experience…

“When you win, it’s always good, especially when you're playing against an outstanding team. I thought [Madison Square Garden] was lively. I thought the fans were engaged in it. I thought our guys fed off of the fans here. So it was a very good experience in terms of how our guys performed. That was our toughest opponent up to this day and we rose to the occasion. This was the first time we actually played or practiced [at Madison Square Garden] to this day.”

“I'm just happy for our guys. I think these guys have worked extremely hard and I'm happy for our fans that came out and supported us. It's a new look team. You've seen more guys who hadn’t played much last year, all of a sudden they're doing some positive things. Josh [Roberts] got one of the biggest rebounds in the second half and he was in foul trouble the whole the first half. … They’re giving it their all and when a team gives it all, they give themselves a chance, so we gave ourselves a chance today.”

On the state of his team after today’s win…

“I think we're still progressing. I thought we showed some grit today. ...  We had to make a play at the end. Five seconds to go we got to stop them, make them take a difficult shot. So I think from that standpoint, we're growing up and like I say it's more than one guy. There's a lot of different ways to win. In the first half, I thought we had the game really chaotic, we would get after them. Then in the second half, you saw mostly half-court defense and a matchup, but I always think our defense is the best in the half court and we were able to get some stops.”

On the performance from his bench…

“I thought they did a good job. … It was like a wholesale substitutions, so I thought those guys came in and were dialed in. That's what these kind of games do. They bring the focus. … I thought from intensity and understanding what we need to bring to the table in order for us to have a chance to win all of the guys were locked in and they brought the energy. The energy was there tonight.”

St. John’s Guard/Forward LJ Figueroa

On getting the first win at Madison Square Garden this season…

“It’s an amazing win, for some guys, it’s their first win here at The Mecca. We didn’t shoot the ball well, 2-17 [from three], but like coach always says, we put our hats on defense and defense wins games. I feel like guys didn’t even notice we weren't shooting the ball that well, but we got back on defense and made it happen there.”

St. John’s Guard Rasheem Dunn

On getting a win in the team’s first game at Madison Square Garden this season…

“It’s the reason I came here. I felt like I could play on the big stage and I thank Mike Anderson for granting me that scholarship and taking me in as family. Not only that, but every day in practice we work on playing hard, playing smart, playing together. At the end, the free throws, I mean we get up 500 free throws a week and as you can see at the end, it paid off.”

On if he had to pick up the offense when LJ Figueroa got in foul trouble…

“I wouldn’t say that. LJ is a very good player. We got a lot of pieces on the team, we’re not just a one or two-man team like coach always says. Today, our guys off the bench stepped up and they played their role.”

On his mindset in the final 30 seconds of the game…

“Honestly, I just wanted to get the win. … I was doing everything in my power to get that win. Stepped up big time, knocked the free throws down and throughout the game, we stayed together as a team. Everybody didn’t go their separate ways, nobody was in their feelings and we came out with the W.”

On Coach Anderson getting his first win in the Garden…

“I’m just happy for coach, honestly. It’s his first win here, so big ups to him.”

On his steal late in the game…

“Obviously, they ran a play about every time down the stretch. I felt like I could’ve helped. I was weak side and he turned his back. Coach always is talking about the guards digging in and digging in there, so I just felt the need to dig in and I came away with the steal.”

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