Sunday, December 31, 2017

Kevin Willard quote book: St. John's

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

On the Pirates' performance down the stretch:
"I really thought -- obviously, Angel made two huge offensive rebounds, two huge plays. He's done that his whole career -- really gotten timely rebounds, good offensive rebounds. I thought he grabbed some good ones and Desi made a really good play down the stretch."

On the streaky nature of the game:
"It was -- I thought we got in a good rhythm midway through the second half, and then (Tariq) Owens hit that one three that kind of (cut the lead) went from 15 to 12, and then (Marvin) Clark hit another three, we came down, took a quick shot, then he hit another three and then just like that, it went from 15 to nine. I've gotta give St. John's a lot of credit, they really battled. I thought defensively, without the smaller guards, they're really long and tough to score against, they use their length well. I don't think anybody wants to play that way, but it was just kind of one of those games the way it happened."

On the Pirates' shooting performance from deep (10-for-18 in the first half) and why they shot so many three-pointers:
"I would say most times when you don't shoot that well, you're going to lose a game. We got hot from behind the arc early, and whenever that happens, you always get a little worried about, 'does that carry over?' But again, I thought their length, they did a good job protecting the lane. When you have Owens down there, (Kassoum) Yakwe's in there, they're just long and athletic, and I thought they did a good job protecting them."

On concern for the technical fouls the team has been picking up:
"No. I think it's all between players and players, and as long as they're respecting the referees and respecting everything else, I'm okay. Again, we've played four straight local teams, I think. All these guys play against each other all summer long. They all know each other, and they all talk trash to each other. From what I've heard, it's just good, old-fashioned trash talking. My guys have not said anything disrespectful to anybody -- the fans, the refs, anything like that, so as long as they're going at it with the guys, and it's good, clean competition -- I think the refs are doing a good job of calling it when they need to call it and letting stuff go, but especially when you play local teams; which we do, there's always a different edge when you play. It just is. They know each other, they battle against each other."

On winning a game with a different style compared to Thursday's game against Creighton:
"I liked the fact that -- Khadeen's got the flu, Myles Cale sprained his ankle yesterday in practice, Angel had the flu the last couple days, Desi's just getting over it -- I liked the fact that the guys battled through practice yesterday and kind of battled through today. We're all kind of -- there's a bug going around us, we're worn out a little bit, so I think this week will help us kind of get healthy again."

On whether St. John's played harder due to the absence of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett:
"The biggest thing that you see, and that I was worried about, when we found out Shamorie wasn't playing, I think it's human nature that you kind of relax a little bit, and it's also human nature for the other team to say 'okay, now it's my chance to kind of step up and play a little bit.' I thought (Justin) Simon was phenomenal. I thought he got everybody involved, and again, I think defensively, they're just so much longer at all the positions, and I thought they did a really good job defensively, getting in passing lanes, Tariq Owens. They still have five good players over there that can play, and those guys -- I love the way they battled. I love the way Chris (Mullin) got them to play tonight.

On whether he has seen a team with at least two great shot blockers:
"I saw them last year, yeah. Again, at the Garden, it was a very similar feel to the game at the Garden. They had some really good blocks towards the middle of the first half that kind of changed momentum, I thought they had a couple of blocks in the second half that kind of changed momentum. If Tariq Owens can go 8-for-12 on a nightly basis, that changes the way you have to play them if he shoots the basketball that way. They become extremely hard to guard with Owens doing what he did tonight offensively."

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