St. John’s postgame transcripts

Mike Dunlap, St. John’s interim head coach

Opening statement

“Talking about the first half and check off a number of boxes in a positive way and in the second half, they (Marquette) were grittier, they came after us and we didn’t do very well with that. A lot of our turnovers led to easy baskets, field goal percentage for them went up and all the credit goes to Marquette for being as tough as nails in the second half.

“There was a lot of pattern play in the way we play that was positive, but I didn’t like how we played in terms of effort. We can do better. And then also factually when we lost D’Angelo (Harrison), that hurt us in terms of being able to make a surge and take on that momentum. Factually, that hurt us a lot and we know that.”

Same effort in first half as second half

“Of course not. Not at all. A young team sometimes doesn’t understand what kind of bite a team is going to come back at you with. You’ve got some guys on the other side of the aisle in Marquette, those guys have been to the NCAAs, and they’ve got grit to them. They play typically like Buzz likes them to play. Cincinnati does too, as witnessed by what they did to Georgetown. It was just one of those, I would call it a lapse in terms of that, and also understanding how hard it is to win on the road in the Big East.“

D’Angelo Harrison fouling out

“I just think that skill wise and what he brings to the game, I just think we took a backwards step to the adversity. There were a combination of things, with what they did and we backed off a bit. When we started to turn the ball over, we got discouraged and weren’t able to reclaim the rope, so to speak and grab back onto it. We’re going to go through some games like this unfortunately. So it wasn’t a lot of negativity in the huddles, but I could just tell they were a little despondent, and that happens. We’ll regroup.”

Surprised at how team responded after win against Cincinnati

“I know what he have to do in order to beat a team like Marquette. Certainly, we had a nice formula in the first half and not a lot tactically changed as far as that goes. It just ratcheted up another notch and they came after the passing lanes. We had some turnovers again and they brought the crowd into the game and we got into some foul trouble with a couple key players and it cascades on you. I’ve been a part of that, I’ve been a part of that on the winning side too.”

Harrison picking up fourth foul

“I think that he had a great steal and he went on a slant for a layup and it was a real close call and we talked about he could have pulled up and shot a bank, what we call a flanker, instead of committing a foul. The only way to really teach him that is by him getting burned by that and getting a fourth foul and putting it in the hands of the official. So it’s more of a judgment call. But you can’t teach that in practice, he’s got to feel that. We’ve been talking about his mental game and it’s getting better, had he pulled up and shot that. It was a great steal, and I think he was thinking ‘I’m going to get rim,’ and I love that about him actually. If that’s what we have to take in D’Angelo, then we’ll stay with that. I really love his spirit and sometimes that spirit gets carried away.”


Defending Davante Gardner

“Him playing in there, he’s certainly strong. But we’ve got a guy in ‘Gift (Achiuwa) that again when we move him out of the hole to contest some shots, then it’s left to some weaker people. That’s just a summer of weight lifting and whatnot. But also, we had an advantage of running down the floor and Gardner was behind in a lot of those. So you just have to play to your strength. He did a great job of just planting in there and getting some nice baskets. They’ll continue to get him to drop some weight and skill him up as Buzz (Williams) will do and he’ll got forward. But he’s a sturdy player.”

First half without Moe Harkless and Harrison

“There’s a game within a game and had we not been in that situation, maybe we go into halftime with a 10-point slot so we had to hang on. I was proud of them for 31-30 in there and their field goal percentage was low, we were playing good, solid defense. Our turnovers were at four; all of our marks were very solid and similar to theirs. But we had a little bit of wood on them in there and we had to negotiate with the foul trouble. As long as you have the lead, then you can sit your guys and you don’t want to go into halftime with three (fouls). So had Marquette got up on us, then I would have moved our guys into the game. It’s just the way you have to play.”

How Harrison handled himself after fouling out

“I think he handled himself great. He responded as fine as he was going to be in that situation. He handled himself with class. Then we get to the film and we teach and that’s how we handle it. There was no acrimonious words our huddles in the second half. There’s a theme with this team and that is to develop this team and move forward and stay positive. I’m not built that way. He didn’t have to apologize for anything. It’s like when you are in a laboratory in biology, all part of any education is failure. We understand that. We act appropriately and so did he. If he would have apologized, I would have told him there was no need.”

Teaching while game is going on

“There’s nothing like the game to teach and then you have film, you have notebooks, walkthroughs, you have practices. There’s a whole methodology to what we do. That’s why last year we got better. That’s why we’re getting better here. Think about this: we took on a hot team in Cincinnati. They were 7-0. They were white hot. We ended up winning that game somehow. We come in here and we play a very good Marquette game. They’ve got 12 victories on the board and we’re slugging it out with them. We’re doing it with some variables that no one else has. So again that goes back to quality players, doing a great job, love what they’re doing. For 22 minutes, we had a good thing going. We gotta find a way to chip away and understand what causes losing and what causes winning. But boy oh boy, I sure love coaching this team and so does this staff. It’s a great group of men.“

Buzz Williams


Opening statement

“The thing that I think we have to figure out is how we can play 40 minutes. A lot of that is on me and a lot of that is on our team. I don’t say anything different at halftime that I say before the game and we don’t practice any different in the first half of practice than we do in the second half. I think if we can solve that, then we probably solve our biggest issue as of right now. I thought our guys were outstanding in the second half with all the things that you guys always hear me talk about and I thought we were very poor with all the things that you always hear me talk about in the first half.

“I don’t have a concrete answer to it. I’m sorry that I don’t. We’ll continue to work to try and figure that out. I think if we can play 40 minutes the way we have tonight in the second half tonight, the way we did in the second half against Syracuse, then I like our chances. But I don’t think you can beat elite level teams, which means you can’t be an elite team yourself, if you can’t play 40 minutes.”

Play in second half

“I think that within how we play, sometimes our best offense is our best defense. Statistically, if you think about the first half at Georgetown versus the second half at Georgetown, the first half against Syracuse versus the second half against Syracuse, if we’re able to get consecutive stops, we’re probably going to get points in transition. When we’re getting the ball out of the basket, we’re not. I think most teams would say that, but I think we’re definitely geared towards stops equal points in transition. I don’t ever pay attention to this, because they don’t know, but if you score 52 points in 20 minutes, that’s pretty good. In order to do that, that must mean you’re getting a lot of stops. I think we scored 47 points at Syracuse on Saturday and that’s plenty of points to win a game.”

DJO and Crowder playing in the second half

“They’re absolutely key components to what we do. I don’t know that in the games since I’ve been here, if we’ve ever had four players with two fouls in the first half, with three of those guys being starters. It’s very unhealthy. It’s another byproduct of not being ready and not doing what you have to do from an execution standpoint from both ends of the floor. So that’s what we have to correct.”

Managing first half with foul trouble

“Well, obviously, shuffling them in and out is needed to keep them out of foul trouble. At the same time, we want to decrease their lead as much as possible prior to halftime. I don’t like doing that, subbing offense for defense, but I thought that at that time, it was probably the right thing to do, just to give us a chance to hang in there. To only be down one at halftime, considering the turmoil, it was probably OK.”

Al McGuire’s legacy 

“I think it’s his program still. What’s the word, what’s posthumously? How do you say that? What’s that mean? See, I can’t say the word, but I know what it is. I think it’s still his deal. His name’s on the court, his name is on the jerseys, his name is in the building that we work in. I have great respect and admiration for who he was and what he was about and how he changed the program from that point forward. Last year we played St. John’s on coach (Al) McGuire’s night and I’m wearing a bright yellow coat and I told coach (Steve) Lavin, ‘Look I’m not trying to bring attention to myself, I’m doing this in honor of coach McGuire.’ And tonight I told coach (Mike) Dunlap the same thing, this sofa plaid that I’m wearing is in honor of coach McGuire because I think that that was probably in style in the ‘70s.

Attacking basket in second half

“Without simplifying it so much, I told our team before the game that our success and/or our failure will be determined within the channel, that’s what we call it defensively and then obviously we call it the paint offensively. You think about how many baskets did they have in the paint in the first half and then vice versa how many baskets did we have in the second half. Both of them mirror one another, relative to your question, at the start of the first half, they’re scoring literally layups and at the start of the second half, we’re literally scoring layups. So, not to be too simplified, but that’s what I believe.”

Defending ball screens

“Ball screen coverage has become one of the top three things that you have to be concerned about from a scouting report perspective. Not only who’s setting the screen and what his skill set is, but who’s receiving the screen and what’s his skill set. Relative to those two answers, that’s going to determine what the other three kids that are playing have to do from a rotation standpoint. So, that’s one of the things we try to solve very early in the scouting process, so that prior to ever telling our kids, this is how we’re defending ball screens.

Sometimes its specific to this is how we would guard you on a ball screen, and then sometimes its specific to where the ball screen is on the floor. How are you going to play it in the channel, how are you going to play it on the side or are you going to play it relative to who is setting the ball screen. When 3 sets a ball screen, that’s different than when 4 sets a ball screen. And who is he setting the ball screen for? Is he setting it for 11? Is he setting it for 1? We have spent a lot of time, I spent a lot of time in the offseason studying all of that, because if you think about minus transition, if you take away transition, and now it becomes a half-court situation, how many ball screens per possession, are you going to guard? It’s for sure at least one. You think about all of the possessions against Villanova, you’re going to guard a ball screen at least twice every possession, once you take away transition. So our ball screen coverages, as assistant coaches, all the things we study on synergy, all the things we study to make those decisions, it becomes really critical. With a ball screen, there’s certain ball screens before set up. What kind of help are you going to have to give on that ball screen? We look at it the same way offensively, how are our opponents guarding ball screens?“

Davante’s performance

“I thought he was great. I thought he was the reason we won the game. I thought he was the reason we were able to hang in there in the first half. I thought he was by far the hardest playing guy on the floor. I told this to Homer (True) on the radio, he had nine defensive rebounds, I don’t know if total he’s ever had nine rebounds in his career. We don’t count offensive rebounds when you miss your own shot, because that’s how you used to play. You would miss a shot and you would get a rebound and you would go home and tell your parents your parents ‘I had five rebounds,’ when you should have told them ‘I missed five shots and I got those rebounds,’ so we don’t do that. I thought he played outstanding. His energy level on a daily basis, our team’s energy level on a daily basis determines a lot for us. Energy and attitude, I think it says a lot in life and I think it says a lot in basketball.”

Davante Gardner



“It feels great, just have to keep working, just move on to the next game.

Playing 34 minutes

“It felt great, thought I had to bring energy and keep bringing energy to the team to get the win.

Motivation from Buzz on limit of 25 minutes

“He (Buzz) thinks I can’t go any longer, so I just have to prove him wrong.”

Battling with God’sgift Achiuwa

“He’s a big kid, athletic, can score. He was getting me in the pick-and-roll, because our defense was going white line, so that’s how he was scoring most of the time.”

Building confidence

“I’m feeling more confident, especially on the defensive end, because my team knows I have offense, so it’s mainly defense.”

Buzz: “I think that’s healthy for him. I think he processes what we talk about daily in practice, in a game, during timeouts. I think this is good for him; he’s quiet by nature. He doesn’t like doing it, that’s why I wanted to sit in here. I think he’s growing up.”

Darius Johnson-Odom


Play in second half 

“We have to put two halves together. It was a great second half from all aspects of the floor. Davante, he was amazing tonight. Fifteen rebounds for a guy who is 6’8” 280 (pounds), a lot of people think he can’t get up the floor. When we see that, it just gives us a lot of hope.

Gardner’s dunk in the second half

“I have never seen that from Davante. I was pretty excited to see that from him and I think everyone enjoyed that.”

McGuire’s legacy 

“I think we’re more familiar with how he spoke to his players, how he interacted with them. He was just a great coach for his players to be around. He knew a lot about his players and he recruited them for that. There’s a lot of information for the freshman that really don’t know too much about Al McGuire, but his statue says it all.

Penetration in second half

“I think that’s more of our game. When we get into shooting more threes than attacking the basket, that’s when we’re more vulnerable. We shot 12 threes tonight, that’s one of the fewest we’ve shot this season. I think when we attack the basket, we’re very good. Attacking the basket opens up the three for our shooters, it makes guys try to stop us from getting to the paint.

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