South Florida 70, Villanova 69: Joe Juliano | Super 'Nova | Ashley Fox | Mike Kern | Sam Donnellon
NEW YORK - It probably wasn't the best choice of words, all things considered. But things get said in the heat of the moment, especially when that moment follows the biggest comeback from halftime in Big East tournament history. Or the first ever win by a 15-seed since the conference expanded to 16 schools.
"You know, this wasn't in the plan," Villanova coach Jay Wright said after watching his Wildcats blow a 16-point halftime lead and lose to South Florida, 70-69, at Madisonm Square Garden.
"I don't have the answer right now for what we're going to do next," Wright continued, "but we came in here expecting to win, and now we have to deal with what comes next."
I have a hunch that a few of you have suggestions, especially those of you who root for teams still alive in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
There is certainly a lot to talk about from last night's game. When it was over, I got together with The Inquirer's Joe Juliano for a video with analysis of what happened.
I've also copied the transcript of Villanova's postgame press conference below. Thanks to ASAP Sports for doing the legwork.
OPENING STATEMENT FROM JAY WRIGHT: Well, a great performance in the second half by South Florida and a very poor performance on our part. They pounded us inside. They pounded us on the glass and they made all the plays down the stretch.
We couldn't get a stop, just couldn't get a stop down the stretch and, you know, that's -- it's one of those things, when things go bad -- when it rains it powers, that's what happened, we just got to fight through it and keep tryin' to battle, keep tryin' to get mentally tougher.
It's tough when you got young guys going through games like this, but that's life, life is tough, we've got to keep our heads up and take what comes next.
Q. Jay, what did you see as the main reason for the offense stalling out in the second half?
JAY WRIGHT: Um, the main reason I can't say. The second important reason is I just thought we got tentative with the lead. We haven't won a game in so long. Everybody got a little scared, a little short on their shots and we just didn't play with confidence with the lead.
Q. Coach, do you think the interior play can make some improvements before the NCAA Tournament, through practice time and things like that?
JAY WRIGHT: I think we got to get -- we need to get Mouph back, that wasn't the kind of game you want to lose him in, but we had enough people that we should have been able to stop them in the second half but it has to, it has to.
Q. Jay, what is Mouph's status? What's the nature of the injury and what is his prognosis?
JAY WRIGHT: I think he has two injuries, you know, I don't know, maybe a concussion and something on his ribs, I don't know, they told me -- they said at halftime he will be okay, and then when we came back out he wasn't on the bench and they said he can't play, he came out about five minutes later.
Q. Corey, when you start to feel it slipping away, what can you guys do to try stem the tide, what was going on in your minds?
COREY STOKES: Just get stops and keep a positive attitude and keep grindin'. That's all you can do, keep a positive attitude, keep grindin' and get stops.
Q. Jay, the way the season is going the last few weeks, you guys had a start off great, and the last few weeks have been tough. How important was it to come into the tournament and get some confidence and momentum back, and how tough is it that you weren't able to do that and now you have to prepare for the next week or so?
JAY WRIGHT: Yeah, we were feeling good coming into this game, we had great practices and we were looking forward to coming here and playing a number of games, we hoped, we had hoped.
You know, this wasn't in the plan, you know, so I don't have the answer right now for what we're going to do next but we came in here expecting to win and now we have to deal with what comes next.
Q. Maalik, what did you see on that sideline out-of-bounds play?
MAALIK WAYNS: We run that play every day. I didn't see anybody open. I thought he had a point guard on him, I made a bad pass.
Q. Corey I asked you before the season what the cause was for the slump last season and obviously you're in a slump again at the end of this season, what do you think the cause is?
COREY STOKES: Teams are getting better. We're getting better. Might not seem like it but we are getting better. South Florida played good defensively in the second half. They got stops and we didn't get stops at the end of the game.
We're going to continue to work in practice and get ready for the tournament and keep a positive attitude.
Q. Jay, the time-out right before the foul shot that you guys take the lead, you don't have any left, what did you expect them to do? What did they do?
JAY WRIGHT: We expected them to run a screen on the weak side like they had a couple times before or drive the ball to the basket, and they drove the ball, we switched the screen, they drove the ball and kid made a great play.
We had Dominic Cheek on him. He made a drive on a 6'6" kid. Did a pretty good job.
Q. You guys, you come up here hoping to stay all week, how disappointing is to be 1 and out today?
COREY STOKES: You know, we came up here with confidence. Coach Wright told us to go in and play Villanova basketball with pride for forty minutes and the outcome of the game we lost but we're not going to put our heads down. We're going to get back to work tomorrow in practice and continue to work hard.
Q. Jay, everybody says you're in, you're fine. Is any part of you going to be nervous losing five in a row that anything crazy might happen next?
JAY WRIGHT: I purposely haven't focused on it. We haven't talked about any of it, we were concentrating on the Big East tournament. So I know this sounds bizarre but I don't know where we stand with any of that and I will find out tomorrow but I would say after this, there is a little concern and I just have to look at the situation.
Q. Although you will be playing presumably good teams in the NCAA Tournament, do you think your team will benefit not to have to play Big East teams for a stretch, for a while?
JAY WRIGHT: That's going to have to be our advantage to rest up and get everybody healthy because that's going to be an advantage. I still think for our group it would have been nice to get a few wins and get ourselves feeling good. That would have been better but we're going to have to settle for that, rest up, get healthy and wherever we go be ready to play.
Q. Jay, when Anthony Crater was in here earlier he said he was surprised to see a wide open lane on that final play. Were you surprised that it was that open that he was able to get that that easily?
JAY WRIGHT: Yeah, yes.
Q. Was it a lapse, someone missing an assignment?
JAY WRIGHT: They set a screen on the weak side and I haven't -- I haven't seen the film yet but the man guarding the screener, we were switching that -- switching that so the guy that was switching out, the man that takes the screener is responsible for help there but also, Dominic Cheek is 6'6". That's a 6'6" guy on a 6'2" point guard. I thought he would keep him in front of him, too, but you got to give the kid credit he made a great play.
Q. Jay, what is your biggest concern with this team right now?
JAY WRIGHT: I got a lot right now, but the biggest is to get everybody healthy, get Mouph healthy, Stokes healthy. It's their psyche. I don't think any of us have finished a season this way so we've got to get their heads right, their heads were great coming into this and we got to make sure we get over this and get back to work and keep gettin' better.