LSU Goes Against Maryland For NCAA Sweet 16 Berth
JACKSONVILLE, Florida – The LSU Tigers have taken step one in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Now, LSU will have the chance to take an even bigger step as they take on Maryland Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
The game will be the first of three games Saturday on CBS and opens the day of play at 12:10 p.m. ET (11:10 a.m. BR time) with Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel and Jamie Erdahl on the call. The “Voice of the Tigers” Chris Blair and former head coach John Brady will have the radio call on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge).
The Tigers are seeded third in the East Regional and comes in with a record of 27-6. Only two teams, the 1999-2000 squad (28) and the 1980-81 team (31) have won more games in the course of a season. LSU won its opening round game, 79-74, over Yale on Thursday.
Maryland of the Big Ten, is 23-10 on the season after its 78-76 victory over Belmont. The sixth-seeded
Terrapins are 42-26 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and are looking to advance to their 15th Sweet Sixteen and first since 2016.
Bruno Fernando (14 pts-13 rebs) and Jalen Smith (19 pts-12 rebs) each posted a double double, while Darryl Morsell tied his career-high with 18 points.
The Tigers were led by Skylar Mays in the win over Yale with 19 points, while Tremont Waters had 15 points and seven assists. LSU also had its two inside players with double doubles as Naz Reid had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Kavell Bigby-Williams had 10 and 10.
Freshman Reid and senior Kavell Bigby-Williams have 18 combined double doubles this season with Reid getting eight and Bigby-Williams 10. KBW has double doubles in four of the last seven games and leads the SEC in offensive rebounds average at 3.0 a game. Reid had had double doubles in four of the last five games he has played and all of his double doubles have come in the last 20 games.
Since the start of February, Reid’s rebound average has risen from 5.7 to 7.3 boards a game.
The two along with Emmitt Williams and Darius Days inside and the drives of the Tiger guards, have helped contribute to LSU’s success in the paint as the Tigers scored 40 points Thursday against Yale. That was the 17th time this season LSU has scored 40 or more points in the paint, second most in major college basketball. Duke is the only school to have more 40-point paint games with 18.
LSU is trying to advance to its tenth all-time Sweet 16 appearance. LSU received a bye into the 1953 and 1953 Regional Semifinals round and also advanced in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1987, 2000 and 2006.
The two teams are alike in several ways besides the double double ups including youth. LSU is ranked 322 and Maryland is 350 of 354 in terms of experience according to KenPom.com. Kentucky is the only younger team in this year’s group in Jacksonville.
LSU fans will be keeping an eye on two numbers for sophomore guard Tremont Waters – 6 and 1. Waters needs six points to become the 42nd player in LSU history to score 1,000 career points and he would be the 17th player to do it in less than 70 career games. Waters is at 994 points in his first 64 LSU contests.
The sophomore from New Haven, Connecticut needs just one steal to break the school mark for steals in a season. Waters is tied with former Tiger Daryl Joe at 93 steals, recorded in the 1987 season. Waters needs three steals to keep pace for steals average in a season of 3.00, which equals the school mark set by Clarence Ceasar in 1995.
The regional round of the East Regional is set for Washington D.C.’s Capital One Arena on March 29-31.
The other game on Saturday in this venue is a second round game in the Midwest Regional as No. 2 seed Kentucky takes on No. 7 Wofford at about 2:40 p.m. ET on CBS. The Midwest Regional is in Kansas City.
NCAA MEN’S 1ST AND 2ND ROUNDS: JACKSONVILLE
March 22, 2019
Q. Tre, did you guys take a lot of satisfaction, people thought you guys were falling apart with the coaching situation? Did you take a lot of satisfaction in the way you guys performed and basically leading wire to wire in that game?
TREMONT WATERS: Yeah, I feel like our team is definitely gelling with everything that’s going on. I feel like we’re getting a lot closer together, and we’re just going to take it one day at a time, like we’ve been doing. That game is behind us now and we’ve got to move forward to Maryland, and know we have to take it one day at a time, one play at a time and just do what we’ve been doing.
Q. Until you actually play somebody else from the SEC, did you take note of the fact that the SEC actually went 4-0 yesterday? Florida was a 10 seed and won. Are you rooting for the other teams, if you’re not playing them, in the conference?
SKYLAR MAYS: I think we as players who went through the conference understand how tough the conference is, and I think it’s good to see all these other teams do well and survive and advance, and I think it just shows how tough the SEC is. You know, we want the best for the league.
Q. Skylar, maybe you could address how has the transition coaching-wise worked in games? Are you hearing different voices? Do all the assistants have a ton of input? Logistically how is it working, how is it different?
SKYLAR MAYS: It’s definitely different just hearing a different voice as the head guy, but I think Coach Wade gave all the assistant coaches somewhat of freedom throughout the year, so it’s not foreign for us to hear Coach Heiar or Coach Armstrong outside of Coach Benford. I think these guys do a great job of listening to everybody and taking the big takeaway and applying it on the court.
Q. Kavell, Maryland has got a couple of big guys, almost two of them twin guys. How difficult do they look on tape to match up with?
KAVELL BIGBY-WILLIAMS: It’s going to be a pretty good match-up. Obviously they’re great players, and like I said, I’m looking forward to the match-up. I know they’re physical, big, long, athletic, so it’s going to be a good match-up, but I feel like me and Naz, we’re going to be prepared for them.
Q. Tremont, when Will was coaching, he seemed to signal a lot of plays during the game and communicating with you a lot. Just from watching the last couple games, doesn’t seem like anybody is doing that from the coaches. Are you doing a lot of the offense kind of on your own, what y’all have done all year? You’re basically calling it?
TREMONT WATERS: Yes, obviously in the huddle Coach Benford and the coaching staff are giving us plays to run and just basically on the fly, either I’ll call the play or Skylar will call a set just based on what we see. It’s just a read that we make pretty much throughout the game, and if things break down, Coach Benford calls a play.
Q. Is that working well?
TREMONT WATERS: Yeah, as long as we keep winning, it’s definitely working.
Q. Kavell, who did you think was the biggest, most physical SEC team that you guys went against this year? And is it going to be a similar experience to playing Maryland?
KAVELL BIGBY-WILLIAMS: I feel teams like Alabama, Florida are pretty physical, Mississippi State with all the big guys on there. There’s a variety of teams that are pretty physical, but those teams were probably the ones that stood out the most to me.
Q. Tre, you had seven assists yesterday, you did a good job being a floor general. How important is it for you to lead the team and not turn the ball over?
TREMONT WATERS: Well, as a point guard I feel like that’s my job. When we first started the season Coach Wade pretty much said that the ball is like the state of Louisiana, and if I turn the ball over, then it’s not good for the state and obviously for our basketball program as a whole. That just goes to show that like we have to take care of the ball, obviously, if we want to win. So that’s just my job. I believe I live up to it, and I’m going to continue to do that for my team because they deserve it and we deserve it.
Q. Back to Tre, you were talking about how you’ve taken over a little bit of the play-calling, but is it new that after a time-out that you break the huddle and then have your own little huddle as a team? Is that something new or is that something you’ve done all year?
TREMONT WATERS: No, we’ve pretty much done that all year. We pretty much go out after we hear the play called and the defensive schemes and everything and based off what Coach is saying, we go out and just say it again, so we keep it fresh in our minds, so we know what we’re doing when the play starts.
Q. You guys shot a lot of threes. I know you’re not playing Wofford, but have you seen Fletcher Magee shoot? And I wonder if you’re envious of the freedom he has to shoot threes all day long.
SKYLAR MAYS: Wofford was actually the first team I played in my college career, so I’m very familiar with Fletcher Magee. And he’s having an unbelievable season and accomplishing great things. I watched them yesterday, they beat Seton Hall, so he’s a terrific player.
Q. Skylar, have there been points in games like this last game where y’all’s lead went down a little bit and then Florida where you lost the lead where you were thinking, I wonder what Coach Wade would do at this moment or what he would do at that time?
SKYLAR MAYS: I think all the way throughout the game, I try to think what would Coach Wade do, not just when things get a little hectic. But there’s not really a game that I can remember where we had a big lead and we got back close and we were able to pull it out. I think the Florida game we had a good lead and it got away from us.
But that’s something that we definitely have to do a better job. The great thing about us is that we’re able to get a big lead in the beginning and now we just have to work on sustaining it.
Q. Kavell, the match-up with the front court is going to bring a lot of attention. What have you seen out of the two bigs, and then how important is it for you guys to get quality minutes out of Emmitt and Darius in a match-up like this?
KAVELL BIGBY-WILLIAMS: It’s important because they’re physical bigs, well skilled. They can post-up and make plays inside the post and also on the perimeter. Having those other guys come in to bring minutes is going to help us a lot.
Q. Tremont, you had a great first half and then kind of in the second half it tailed off a little bit. What changed, and how do you put together a full 40-minute quality game?
TREMONT WATERS: Well, yeah, obviously going into the game we had a great game plan, and as the game went on, we kind of slowed down in transition, and I feel like that was our biggest letdown. For me I wasn’t pushing the ball as much as I should have in the second half, and I feel like shots just weren’t falling, so that was it.
Q. Coach, the SEC went 4-0 yesterday. Five years ago, four years ago they only got three teams in the tournament; last year eight; this year seven. Yesterday’s games 4-0. What would you say the state of this conference in basketball is right now?
TONY BENFORD: Well, it’s a tremendous league. I think that’s a testament to it right there, going 4-0. I’ve been coaching a long time and been in some great leagues. I was in the Big East when they sent 11 teams to the tournament that one year where UConn won it. I think our league is comparable to any league in the country and similar to that league back in the day, where every night you have to come out and play great basketball.
I attribute it to great coaches, got great players and got great environments. Every gym, every arena you go to, you’re going to play in front of a sellout house. So I think it’s just a tribute to the great players and great coaches and great fans in the SEC.
Q. Just got out of the locker room, and Skylar pointed out it doesn’t show up in the stats sheet, but when Emmitt dove into the media row in the front row, he just gave his entire body; didn’t care. He didn’t get the ball, but it almost said it kind of fired up the team, Skylar said. What do you see from Emmitt and also the team that they’ll give everything, break a body bone, whatever it takes for LSU?
TONY BENFORD: Yeah, Emmitt brings a toughness to us … he’s got a great personality, and that’s his game. That’s his role on this team. He’s going to do all the intangibles, and he’s going to get all the 50/50 balls. He’s going to take charges and he can finish at the rim. He’s just a great teammate for these guys. He’s great to coach. I love coaching him, and he’s always got a smile on his face, and we’re very fortunate to have him.
He needs to play well tomorrow because he’s going against some grown men tomorrow.
Q. The team had its doubters coming into the tournament. Did you sense that that motivated your players, and did you feed into that at all to keep them motivated?
TONY BENFORD: Well, the thing I really preached to these guys is they know we can only control what we can control, and that’s just getting better every day with our preparation, our focus. There’s no doubt they had an edge to them because obviously they know the noise is out there, but I’ve tried to — just got to keep blinders on and have tunnel vision and focus on the task at hand and that’s to prepare like we were preparing for Yale, that’s the task to prepare for Maryland, a very quality Maryland team.
That’s what we try to do, just try to stay in the moment right now.
Q. What particular challenges does Maryland pose for you tomorrow?
TONY BENFORD: Well, first of all, I think Mark is a great coach. He does a tremendous job. When you look at their numbers, especially on the defensive side, they do a great job. They’re one of the top teams as far as scoring defense and field-goal-percentage defense and one of the best rebounding teams in the country. You look at Bruno, I think he scares you once you look at him. He’s really good, a good player. Then Smith is playing really well, and Anthony got a great quality point guard.
But what it’s going to come down to I think it’s very simple: It’s going to be who wins the paint and who wins the rebounding battle. I think it’s going to be that simple. They’re really strong in the paint and we’re pretty strong in the paint, and we’re good on the glass and they’re good on the glass. I think the point guard play is going to be huge. Tremont and Anthony, that’s a great match-up. So I think it’s going to come down to that, paint and rebound, who plays best at the point guard position.
Q. I know you’ve said a few times that all the assistant coaches and you are helping a lot. Which coach would you say during the game is working most with the offense and with Tremont?
TONY BENFORD: Well, I pretty much cover, do most of the offense, okay. Coach Heiar really concentrates on the defensive end, and then Coach Armstrong he’ll handle our substitution. It depends on the game. Like tomorrow’s game against Maryland, it is Coach Armstrong’s scout, so he’ll do a lot of defensive stuff for them and then handle the substitutions, too, and Coach Heiar will help him with that.
So we kind of do it by committee. One thing with Coach Wade, he delegated that, too, even when he was here, we split our scouting reports for different opponents and whoever had that scout had a lot of input on the game plan, on what we’re to run offensively and what we do defensively.
Q. But Tremont is doing more himself, right, than when Coach Wade was here?
TONY BENFORD: I would say probably a little bit more because Tremont — we trust Tremont because he knows — not only Tremont but Skylar, too, with those guys as far as they have a feel sometimes on what to run. I’ll may make a call to run this, and if he sees something else, he can change the call. I have no problem with that because we trust him with the ball.
Q. Follow-up to that, how does your prep change now that you have three coaches working on it instead of four?
TONY BENFORD: Well, that’s a good question. We have not changed a whole lot, okay. One of the things we tell our players is to narrow our focus. We have to really concentrate. What we’ve done again as far as our scouts, Coach Heiar had Yale, Coach Armstrong has got Maryland, so he’ll lock in on that, and then myself, like we all look at tape regardless of who we play, the upcoming opponent, the coaches, we all evaluate tape. So I’ve looked at Maryland about four or five games and I have a pretty good feel for what they do offensively and defensively and different tendencies and stuff like that, so we’re doing it by committee.
Q. Tre had a great first half and then kind of tailed off in the second. How do you bring out a full 40 minutes from him of quality basketball, and is that something you stress to him going into tomorrow night against a tough point guard like Cowan?
TONY BENFORD: Yeah, good question. I think with Tre, I really thought he was focused. Not only Tre but I thought all our guys were in the first half yesterday. We talked about it as a staff and we talked to Tre about it. I think going on out in the second half, we’ve just got to kind of stay aggressive. I thought he was a little bit passive in the second half. We want him to stay in that attack mode, and that’s what he’s got to do. I thought he pushed the ball in transition. He was very aggressive in transition in the first half. The second half I didn’t think he was as aggressive, and we wanted to be more aggressive. And we may try to run some different plays for him to try to get him going.
Q. Picking on a couple of questions ago, how did the division of labor change without Will? How much does each guy have to do more of to make up for it?
TONY BENFORD: Yeah, well, I think the one thing is — one thing with our staff, we’ve all got a great relationship with our players and we spend a lot of time with them as far as that. Spend a lot of time with them as far as the responsibilities of the scouting reports, like we say, and preparing for the next opponent, we’re all doing that. One guy may have the opponent and then I — we all are doing that.
As far as going back to the game plan, as a head coach I’ll try to prepare that game plan and be more detailed in exactly what we have to do, and I try to do that as a head coach.
Q. I just want to know, how well do you think the team is adjusting to your system currently?
TONY BENFORD: Well, it’s not my system. I haven’t changed a whole lot. That’s the one thing I learned when I became the interim, keep it the same, keep it the same because there’s no reason to change it. We went 16-2 winning the SEC, so there’s no reason to come in here and say, hey, I’m going to run my offense and stick my chest out. It’s all about these players, so I’ve kept everything the same.
We have the same playbook. Everything is the same as far as what we’ve doing and as far as sets what we’re running offensively and what we’re doing defensively. And like I say, Coach kind of delegated a lot of stuff to our guys, so the other coaches are really helping in that preparation, too.
Q. You talked about the paint match-up being key; can you just give us a little bit more on Kavell and Naz and what kind of players they are and whether they’re ready for it?
TONY BENFORD: Yeah, that’s a good question. There’s no doubt I think Kavell is our most experienced player obviously, and he’s had a great year. I mean, he has improved a lot. He sat out last year. Transferred from Oregon and stood out. He’s gotten bigger and stronger and he’s one of the best shot blockers in the country and he’s gotten better offensively. You saw last night he made a great play against Yale where he blocked a shot, he ran, got a lay-up on the other end. And that’s what he’s got to bring, that energy that rim protection he’s going to really have to bring it tomorrow and really defend his position and hold his ground, especially against Smith and Bruno.
And then Naz has been great to coach, guys. I mean, like I say, he’s in great shape. He’s smart, very smart player. He’s got a great skill set, play inside, outside, and he can rebound the basketball. So he’s got to do a great job defensively on Bruno or Smith and then we’ve got to have him score in the paint and also be able to make some jump shots for us tomorrow.
Q. How much harder would this be if you didn’t have a point guard as mature and trustworthy as Tremont?
TONY BENFORD: That’s a really good question. It would be a lot more difficult. Because the thing with Tremont, guys, is as a coach sometimes you get in your players’ way, and some coaches do that. I think when you have a guy — the better your players, the less sets you have to run offensively.
You’ve got to trust him because he can go make plays. Sometimes he throws the ball somewhere you didn’t want it to go, but he’s going to be aggressive and he’s going to make the right decision the majority of the time, so he makes it a lot easier.
Q. For guys like Naz and Kavell, this match-up, how much is on the line for them to really show out on a huge stage against two talented front court guys like this?
TONY BENFORD: Well, they’ve played against some quality big guys in the SEC. PJ Washington is pretty good. He’s a pretty good player. Grant Williams, Schofield, those guys are good players. But it’s important because if we don’t win, we go home. So this is the most important game of the year for us, and they understand that. There’s no more tomorrows. We’ve got to play well tomorrow or we go home. But I think our guys will be ready to play, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
MARK TURGEON: Obviously we’re excited. We were excited yesterday sitting up on this stage to win a game, and just to be a part of a game like that yesterday where the atmosphere is terrific, game is back and forth, two really good teams that I thought played well, took care of the ball, executed at a high level, and that was terrific. And for my young team, seven of our top eight players being freshmen and sophomores, it was not only good to help us have confidence tomorrow but as those kids grow older and hopefully be a part of more NCAA tournaments down the road.
That said, got a heck of a challenge tomorrow playing I think the most athletic team in the country, and one through eight, they’re really athletic. Their point guard is terrific, one of the best if not the best in the country because he can score it and he can really pass it. So it’s a tough challenge for us, but one that we’re looking forward to and happy to be a part of.
Q. Tony Benford was in here earlier and he said that he felt the matchup is in the paint. That’s the key match-up. Do you look at that the same, and what do you see from LSU’s big men?
MARK TURGEON: Well, they’re terrific. Got great length. Naz, we recruited him a little bit. Obviously he’s a great player and a great kid, can score a lot of ways. He can also shoot the three, shoots it well.
I think he’s talking about the way Bruno can score for us, Stix around the basket, the way they can score around the basket and the way both teams can rebound. I think that’s really what he’s talking about. There’s also some really good guards on the court tomorrow, too. It’s a high-level game. It’s a high-level game with a lot of talent, and should be a fun game to coach in, a fun game to be a part of.
Q. You mentioned Stix yesterday, I think, and kind of his confidence. You can almost see which way he’s going to go early in a game. How have you tried to mitigate that and manage that, and do you think he can start piling up games in a row based on how confidently he played yesterday?
MARK TURGEON: Well, you’d like to think because if you don’t, the season is over. I think what happened yesterday is sometimes you’re in the middle of a grind of the season, especially when you play in a league like the Big Ten that was so tough this year, you might hang your head a little bit. Well, you don’t have time to hang your head in this tournament. So if a play didn’t go well, we were really encouraging guys to go on to the next play, and I think our guys did that yesterday, so I think Stix did it.
Got in foul trouble, bounced back, played through foul trouble, which was great to see. But he’s a terrific player, and we need him to play well. Doesn’t have to play great, but we need him to play well, and I was just really happy for him yesterday. He came through.
Q. You’ve talked in the press conferences back in College Park about how young your team was when they went to Purdue, some of those early games. You talk about how your relationship has grown with the freshmen and how your team has aged through the season and are they where you expected them to be?
MARK TURGEON: Yes. We’ve gotten a lot better. You throw that tape in right now, we don’t even look the same. And neither does Purdue, obviously.
But we’ve gotten a lot better. I think what’s happened is Bruno, Darryl and Anthony have really grown, too, as players, and then the young guys in their own way have come and gone a little bit, whether it’s Eric Ayala, who’s been terrific most of the time, Stix has been really good a lot of the time, and Aaron Wiggins, who’s been good a lot of time, too. So they’ve all grown.
And then guys figured out kind of what their roles are and how they can help us. A guy like Ricky Lindo just goes in to defend and rebound. He knows that. If he can get an offensive rebound from a basket, that’s big for us.
We’ve watched them grow. I think they’re all comfortable. We never looked at them as freshmen. I just kept saying how young we were so people could appreciate what this team is doing, because sometimes you don’t do that because you’re so caught up in everything that’s going on. But we don’t think we’re young anymore. There will be a lot of young guys on the floor tomorrow for both teams.
But none of them think that way. They’ve grown. But our sophomore and our junior, they’ve grown quite a bit, too.
Q. Anthony yesterday said that he felt like it was a little bit of a weight off of his shoulders getting that win. Do you hope maybe with that off of him he can get some shots to start falling?
MARK TURGEON: Yeah, you never know, but what I was proud of Anthony is he had six assists, one turnover, and he did a heck of a job guarding that kid. It was a heck of a tough match-up, coming off those ball screens all day and having to get over him.
The good thing is that Anthony got a lot of wide-open shots. That’s the great thing for me as a coach. If he’s shooting contested, late shot clock going down over a hand, we probably don’t win that game. He got a lot of really looks. It’s really good for us Anthony was 3 for 18. We scored 79 points. That’s a good sign for us moving forward.
I just hope for him he makes a few shots, but if he doesn’t, we’ll just have to try to overcome it again.
Q. Kind of going off that, for you and the team as a whole, do you feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders getting that first win, getting on the board, ending a bit of a drought and now you can just go play?
MARK TURGEON: We don’t feel like we’re in a drought because it’s just this team. Everybody just wants to make it a drought about what we’ve done the last couple years. We don’t think that way. Now, unfortunately guys read social media and it gets in their head a little bit. I don’t, as you guys know, so it doesn’t get in my head. But yesterday was huge for us, to get the deflection and get the steal, one-possession game, goes the other way, we’d have to answer all those questions all next March. So now we don’t have to answer them, okay.
When you have seven of your eight freshmen and sophomores, I said it early, it’s going to help us moving forward for tomorrow and it’s going to help us down the road. That’s what was huge about yesterday.
And then for our young guys to play in a game like that, that was an incredible college basketball game and a great environment, and it moves quick out there. For them to be a part of that and just — so like we lost to Michigan late in the year, and just late in the game they were better than they were, because they know what the reward is. Those players have been to a National Championship game. They’ve had success. We don’t know what the reward is. Now the guys are starting to, “Oh, wow, that was pretty cool.”
So that was a great reward, and so now next year when these young guys are back and we’re fighting to get to the tournament or win a conference championship, they know what the reward is. We didn’t know it. We didn’t know it. So that’s what was big about yesterday.
Q. With all the improprieties that’s going on in college basketball right now, I can imagine it can be very, very difficult to be a college basketball coach. You’ve been doing this a while. Do you find that there’s more camaraderie now among the coaching fraternity? Have you spoken to Coach Benford at all about what’s going on down there, given him any encouragement? What’s your feeling on the mindset now?
MARK TURGEON: We are a close-knit group, okay. Have I talked to Tony, no. I just bumped into him when he was leaving the building, but I’ve known Tony for a long time. So he’s doing a terrific job under the circumstances.
So we are a close-knit group, and that’s really what’s important. Like it was such an honor for me yesterday to coach against Rick Byrd. Do you know how cool that was for me? And I’ve been doing it a long time. The guy has won 800 games. That was a real honor for me yesterday.
We are close. We all talk. We encourage each other. We really know how hard it is. Like when I talk to Gary Williams during the season, that’s a really good thing for me because he knows what it’s like to be in my shoes. It’s hard. It’s a hard business. It’s a great business. We love — that’s why we do it, and we love being in it.
We are a close-knit fraternity, if that answers your question.
Q. You’ve had a couple of meetings with Darryl over the course of the season, one early in the year after the opener and I guess he got benched for one game, and then more recently talking about turnovers. What has he done to sort of get to where he is right now the last few games, where he’s not turning the ball over, scoring more and still playing really good defense?
MARK TURGEON: Two things happened: One is total buy-in, okay. So if you don’t totally buy in, and lucky for him, we are a young team. So he was able to keep his spot through a lot of those mistakes he was making. But he had total buy-in after the Penn State game. Threw it right to them the first two plays of the game, they get six points, live ball turnovers. Since then, I don’t know what his assist-turnover was yesterday? 14-1 now in the last four games. So that’s total buy-in.
And I can’t remember what game it was, I think it was leading into the Michigan game, so it was probably that same time, I said Darryl Morsell is going to guard the best player on the other team. He’s our best defender. We need him to do that. We don’t need Darryl to score a lot of points for us, even though he did yesterday, but he has to defend. So I told him in front of the whole team. Now, I thought he did a great job on that kid yesterday and he had 35 or whatever.
So I think that was a big moment for Darryl as far as growing up and maturing, and just total buy-in. Total buy-in is very important for young people. If they do that, they usually succeed.
Q. One of the guys on LSU, talking about your team, said that Darryl is the X factor. Do you agree with that?
MARK TURGEON: What’s that mean? Well, yeah, we’ll give him that. We’ll call him the X Man, the X Factor. Yeah, he does all the little things, the dirty things. He is a big X factor for us. So is Eric Ayala, does a lot of things for us, really steady.
Yeah, I think it’s important. Basically what they’re staying is he’s not a superstar but he really helps our team go. Yeah, he’s been — Darryl has been good. I’m really proud of him the last four games. It’s total buy-in on his part.
Q. I think you mentioned yesterday that your team was feeding off of people around the country picking Belmont. Is that over? Can you still beat that drum? Can you still use that as motivation going forward?
MARK TURGEON: Well, are they picking LSU? I haven’t been paying attention, so hopefully they are and we’ll use it.
This time of year you use any motivation you can. Obviously the players are highly motivated at this time, but there’s an edge you’ve got to get certain ways. So as a coach you love it when they pick the other team. A lot of guys picked the other team. That’s good for us. But in the end you’ve got to win the game. And you’ve got to play well to win it. We’ll see. It’s still early. I don’t know what’s being said out there, and the game is so early tomorrow, you’re going to wake up and you’re going to show up and you’re going to play the game.
Q. I’ve heard that you are a rather superstitious person. How is that part of your personality affected by the different schedules and craziness of the NCAA Tournament?
MARK TURGEON: Yeah, it’s crazy. I’ve gotten better, but my sons wanted to come to shoot-around. I asked them if they came when we beat Hawaii two years ago and went to a Sweet 16, and they said they were there, so they’re here again today. So a little superstition there.
It is what it is. I’ve gotten a little bit better with it as time goes on. I’ve always been that way since I was a little three- or four- or five-year-old kid watching my Chiefs or my Royals or my Jayhawks. I was really superstitious. I had to listen-to-it-on-the-radio-a-certain-way type thing when I was growing up. It’s who I am, I guess.
Q. How does your time as a big-time college point guard affect your relationship with your guards? What can you tell them about your experiences that translates to what they see tomorrow?
MARK TURGEON: I try really hard not to talk about myself. One, I don’t think I’m as good as the point guards that I’m coaching. But I just try to coach them. When you have such a young team, it’s really more about positivity. I’ve been more positive this year than I’ve ever been. I don’t know if the players feel that way or not. But I’ve had to bite my lip a lot, let some things go, but I’ve just really tried with this group to be positive because I knew how hard our schedule was and how good the league was and how young we were, but I’d like to think that we’ve done a good job with our point guards.
I know Eric Ayala likes to hear my voice. It’s very important to him. He wants to relay what I’m saying. I think Matt Brady has been really good for Anthony. I know Anthony hasn’t shot the ball great but Anthony has become a better basketball player. I think Matt Brady has been good for him. He’s really helped him become a better player.
Q. You mentioned speaking with Gary before, having been in your shoes. How often do you speak with him? What has your relationship been like since you’ve been there? Obviously you’ve been there a long time, and has it changed since you first got there?
MARK TURGEON: Yeah, it’s changed a lot. We’ve become much better friends. We probably hang out more in the summer than we do during the season. Gary is a hands-off guy. He’s never going to call me and give me his opinion. If we’re going to talk, it’s because I reach out to him.
But he’s been around a little bit. This year we had the 100 years of Maryland basketball, so he’s been around a little bit more, so it’s always great. I love when he’s around. Early this year he came to a couple practices, helped us with some things. We had a staff meeting at my house. He came, spent a few hours with us. It was really cool to see. Just to get him back around it.
But I look forward to hanging out at the beach with him this summer. Should be a lot of fun.
Q. You kind of touched upon Coach Benford for a second, but can you kind of imagine — it’s not what he signed up for, to be pushed in the forefront like this at a time like this and the pressure of winning in the postseason, can you put yourself in his shoes and what that’s like to go through?
MARK TURGEON: Yeah, because I’ve been a head coach for 21 years and every time you step out in an NCAA Tournament game it’s a lot. He’s handled it great. He’s been a head coach before. He’s been around a long time. He’s been around a lot of great coaches. He’s doing a terrific job. He’s got a really, really good team, and they really look like they’re together and sticking together and playing well together.
I thought he did a great job yesterday. That was a tough game. Yale was really, really good, and I thought he did a great job preparing them, and he’ll do the same for tomorrow’s game.
Q. In terms of Anthony taking his shots, last night it looked like he took good shots, they just weren’t falling. You said similar things about Melo during his team where if he has a tough shooting night, you thought the next one was going to go in. Is there a difference now with the team that you have and especially this year’s team, when you have such potentially dominant players inside, which you didn’t necessarily have for most of Melo’s time there, with Anthony, and whether it’s an open shot, do you still want him to take a look inside first?
MARK TURGEON: Yeah, I think we play inside out. They were just doubling Bruno all night, so it made it tough, but Bruno still had a double-double, I believe. And we made the right reads. The key thing is that Anthony took good shots. He had to rush a couple late shot clock, you know, but he missed three or four lay-ups, missed five wide-open threes. Those are great shots. I mean, for a heck of a player.
For him personally, I just want him to make a few, okay. But the great thing is it didn’t affect his game yesterday. He was terrific.
We share it. We went to Stix. We went to Bruno. We tried to get Aaron Wiggins involved. We ran plays for Eric Ayala yesterday to get him going. So we’re sharing the wealth. But a lot of times the ball gravitates back to your best players late in the shot clock, and it does, but we overcame it, and it was a big relief for all of us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports