Thursday, March 17, 2016

Postgame Quotes from Yale

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here is the transcript of Yale's postgame press conference following their 79-75 win over No. 5 seed Baylor in a West Regional first-round game, giving the 12th-seeded Bulldogs a win in their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1962:

JAMES JONES: I thought it was a really well-played game by my team. They did a tremendous job at following the scouting report, and the best statistic I can look at on this sheet here is that we out-rebounded Baylor. They're a big, strong, physical team, the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country, I believe. We did a great job at making sure we got out the lion's share, though. It was the difference in the game, and I thought it was a key stretch where Brandon and Justin both were in foul trouble, and we brought in a couple guys off the bench, Sam Downey and little-played Blake Reynolds, and they really gave us a boost and changed the game and gave us a chance to win.

Q. Makai, you were perfect from the free-throw line during this game, and you made some really clutch ones down the stretch. Can you talk about what was going through your mind shooting those free throws with the whole arena silent and the game on the line?
MAKAI MASON: I wasn't really thinking anything to be honest with you. I guess I was just trusting in my practice, hours and hours of just shooting foul shots at the end of a workout and making a certain amount in a row just before I'm able to leave the gym.

I guess just the practice paid off today.

Q. Justin, there were a few moments where you made a couple gestures to the crowd. It seemed like you guys were really enjoying it out there. Did you guys feel that you had the building and that they were, for lack of a better term, rooting for you guys today?
JUSTIN SEARS: Yeah, definitely, we want New York or Providence and we got Providence, and we're only an hour and a half away from Yale, so this is huge. The thing is it's a little bit bigger than us. We've had everyone and their mother come out to say kind words to us, from the Governor of Rhode Island to people from the team in '62 to speak to us. This was bigger than us, and we wanted to do it for all the Yale faithful out there, and we're happy just to pull off the W.

Q. Justin, at a school like Yale with so much history, there are so few firsts. What does it mean for you guys to be part of the first Yale team to win an NCAA Tournament game?
JUSTIN SEARS: Yeah, it's huge. Yale is an amazing place. You can speak to anyone there and they're doing something special, and the history is there, the prestige is there. Just to be among the first guys to start off this basketball coach, to be the first to win that first big win of the tournament is huge. So everyone is going to look back and say this is the team where it started. It's great right now. I don't think it's really hit us how big this is yet, but we're going to take it in and get back to work tomorrow.

BRANDON SHERROD: I think that was well-said. I really don't have anything else. It's always nice seeing alumni and other Yale affiliates come up to you and talk about how long they've waited for a victory, and they give you their thank yous. It's really special. So we're really happy to be a part of that, and it couldn't have happened to a better group of guys, I think, so great.

Q. Makai, the first half, obviously, you come out on fire. That pull-up three in transition, that hasn't been a part of your game too often. What were you feeling out there in the first half and maybe on that play in general?
MAKAI MASON: Kind of just felt in the zone, I guess. I guess I thought if I missed it, I'm sure our coach would have screamed at me and probably Jones, too. Luckily, I was able to knock it down. I just kind of felt in the zone and was able to hit some shots.

Q. Makai, can you just talk about your recruitment a little bit. What offers did you have coming out of high school? Who did you consider, and what made you choose Yale ultimately?
MAKAI MASON: I guess I was pretty highly recruited end of freshman year, and then I stopped playing AAU. It was kind of a joint decision with me and my dad just because we thought that working out every day would be better than kind of traveling and not being able to work on my game on the weekends and the crazy schedule of AAU.

But Yale was kind of there from the beginning. They were one of the first teams to be -- to be interested in me. It's worked out pretty well. I grew to trust the coaching staff, and it's really paid off for me here.

Q. Justin, what did Governor Raimondo say to you? Must have been Rockne-esque?
JUSTIN SEARS: Just gave a short anecdote about when she was running for Governor, and she was going to be the first Democrat to win in 12 to 16 years, and at the same time she was going to be the first woman to win. She just told the story about how she was the underdog. No one believed she was going to win, and she's the Governor of Rhode Island now. She just gave us that story and said we're in a similar position, and just believe. And that's what we did, and we pulled off the victory.

Q. What college team did you root for growing up, and how do you physically feel right now because you took quite a beating.
JAMES JONES: He feels great. (Laughter).

MAKAI MASON: I rooted for UMass growing up. I'd go to most of their games because that was local for me.

But, yeah, I guess I'm kind of used to that at this point in the season, getting thrown around out there. But, yeah, I came in with a couple bumps and bruises, and I'm sure I'll have a few more by the end here.

Q. Were you recruited by UMass?
MAKAI MASON: Not really, no.

Q. Justin, you said on Wednesday that you wanted to go out with a win or two. You got one win now. What are your plans moving forward?
JUSTIN SEARS: Celebrate tonight. We're going to go to Dave & Busters, and we're going to win a few games on the basketball shooting game, and then we'll go to practice, go for a scout tomorrow. We're going to try to get a second win tomorrow against Duke.

Q. Brandon, with you and Justin in foul trouble, can you talk about the minutes that Blake Reynolds gave you there midway through the second half?
BRANDON SHERROD: Yeah, I think one thing that people -- there have been a lot of naysayers that have said we don't have any depth and we just have guys who are always ready to step up. Coach talked before the game, just everyone doing their job and knowing where they need to step in. And it's really awesome to see Sam Downey who has stepped up every game this year and really given us great minutes, and then Blake Reynolds coming into his role and just really having the guts to knock down a big-time shot. That was a huge play for us. It also gave us great minutes rebounding and defending, as well. So when you have guys like that who are confident and who also know that they can contribute, and who are also ready to come right off the bench and give us some great minutes, it's awesome to see. And, I mean, we knew that they had it in them.

Q. For any of the three of you up there, I say this semi-facetiously. The Big 12 thinks they should get 10 teams in the tournament every year. The Ivy League never gets more than one. From both an Ivy League standpoint and a mid-major standpoint, are teams at your level underrated, not just by fans, but in essence by the selection committee?
JUSTIN SEARS: Yeah, definitely. We're not on national TV every night, so guys haven't heard of Makai Mason before, and he just dropped 31. He should be a scholarship player at any high major program.

But it's a chip on our shoulder for us, just when we stepped out there. You could see that Baylor, they didn't take us seriously from the start of the game, and as we started hitting shots, they realized we're for real. And that's with a lot of mid-major teams. They don't really do a good job scouting them or think highly of them. We have a bunch of seniors on the team and at the same time guys who are playing hard out there. Anything can happen. And that's how we put up a win today.

Q. Could you just kind of follow up on the whole recruiting thing? What did you see in Makai early on that made you want to recruit him, and were you surprised other schools weren't so heavily involved?
JAMES JONES: Well, no. I guess I could say I wasn't surprised that other schools weren't heavily involved. We got involved with him quite early. He committed to us, told us he wanted to come, I believe, when he was an 11th grader -- sorry, a 10th grader. So it wasn't that long of a recruiting process to have him commit to us. And the thing that I enjoyed and liked most about him, I went to watch him work out at Hotchkiss, and his dad was playing. I believe his father had some on ugly yellow sneakers, so it was kind of like an old man's pickup game. And he was so intent on winning that pickup game, that fire, that desire, that commitment to being good, you could just see it in his eyes. He had already committed at that time, but at that point, I knew I had somebody special the way he reacted.

I can't remember if they were playing against each other or not. I just remember those yellow sneakers. I can't forget them now. They're on the brain. It wasn't like it was a high-level game. His dad was playing, right? But he wanted to win so bad in a game like that. That meant something to him. Because I was in the gym, he wanted to prove to me that, hey, I'm going to be able to play for you. You saw tonight he's a special player, and you don't see it every night. He doesn't feel like he has to do it every night. But when it's time to step up and the lights are on, he's ready to go.

Q. Same question I asked your players: It always seems to me yearly that teams at your level and leagues at your level are underappreciated. What kind of statement does this make when Yale can come out and with no fluke involved beat a very good Big 12 team?
JAMES JONES: Well, like history will tell you that the Ivy League has done pretty well as of late in the NCAA Tournament. A few years back Cornell won a couple games and got to the Sweet 16. Harvard has won a couple games a couple years in a row, and this year we've been able to win one so far. I looked at the RPI, and I was really curious why Princeton wasn't mentioned as anybody's bubble team. They had an RPI in the 30s, and they're one of three teams in the 30s that didn't make the tournament. But no one ever mentioned them, and probably because they're an Ivy League. They didn't have a great non-conference in terms of a signature win. But what people don't understand and how this works is that we never get a high major team in our building. Very rarely does that ever happen.

So it's hard to get those wins to prove it because, when you have to go on the road and play at Baylor, it's a whole different story than playing them on a neutral court or playing them in your building. So the matrix of it, say that we should have been somewhere between a 10 and a 13 seed, and we got a 12. But we have a 40 RPI. Our Ken Pom is 39. If those numbers don't mean anything, why do we have them? Like last year we were in a situation where we should have got NIT, and there were like 13 teams that were picked after us in RPI, and every single team before us got in. If it doesn't matter, then why is it every other team before us got in and then they skipped us and went on to 13 other teams, and one of those teams was UConn and we beat them on their court? It's hard for me to understand why no one understands how hard that is to do. That's like impossible to do. It's happened one time in 80 games or something ridiculous like that. In any event, I could go on for a while on that question.

Q. You're on a roll.
JAMES JONES: Yeah, I'm going to get misquoted. I'll shut up now.

Q. I felt like there were two spots where you answered them. First they came out, they were making shots, they had a six-point lead and Makai went off a little bit in the first half. The second half they started 6-0 out of the locker room and you answered immediately. Can you talk about your team's ability to answer Baylor when it felt like they were starting to take a little bit of control of the game?
JAMES JONES: Yeah, we've done that all season long. We've won 17 out of 18 games, or 18 out of 19 games, something ridiculous like that. And every time that it gets tight, someone steps up to get something done, so I have great confidence in my team. John Wooden never used to call timeouts because he felt it was an act of showing that you were weak, an act of weakness. And I feel really good with this team where if somebody gets on a run, we'll answer it because of the guys we have on the floor, and they certainly did that tonight.

Q. Can you talk about that little spurt of play you got from Trey Phills? You brought him in to give him a bit of a rest. He made a huge basket to get the Yale fan section amped up and really did all that you could have asked from him for the time you had him in the game.
JAMES JONES: I just want to point out for the tournament, the first game, I bought my staff matching shirts and ties. I don't know if anybody noticed that, but we had matching shirts and ties. So I rely a lot on my assistant coaches, and Coach Kingsley came up to me during a time-out. He goes, do we want to give Makai a rest? And I'm like, I don't think I want to give Makai a rest. He asked me again, do we want to give Makai a rest, get Trey in? He's someone that we feel that's going to be really good for us down the road, and you never knew if we were going to need him at the end of the game. So we put him in the game to give Makai one possession after the time-out to rest. And we ran a play for him thinking that he was somebody they wouldn't worry about much, and we ran a back cut, he caught it, scored a lay-up, and Yale Nation was happy.

Q. Coach Jones, it's a Duke rematch on Saturday. Any early thoughts on that game?
JAMES JONES: No thoughts at all. I'm too happy. (Laughter).

I'll think about that after I leave the press conference and get something to eat.

Q. You guys are now 23-0 when you've led going into the last five minutes. I'm just curious the last five minutes of this game, how long did they seem, and in the last seven minutes I think you guys only had two made baskets.
JAMES JONES: Well, it got dicey there when Justin turned the ball over out of bounds. I felt comfortable to that point, and again, like you just mentioned, our success down the stretch. So I have a lot of confidence in these guys being able to do what's necessary.

That being said, it did get a little dicey down the stretch, and I was very happy that we were able to knock down free throws that were very important. Justin missed two key ones that were important, but Makai stepped up, Nick Victor made the front end of a one-and-one, and Brandon was able to finish it off. Guys do a great job. I can't tell you how proud I am of this group in terms of what they've accomplished thus far, and it's been building for a couple years in terms of what we've done to get to this point, and it shows tonight.

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