Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Kevin Willard quote book: NC State

Opening statement on facing North Carolina State:
“It’s great to be here, I think it’s a really good matchup for both teams, I think we’re both very evenly matched. Their guard play is some of the best guard play we’ve faced all year. I love their big guy (Omer Yurtseven), I love the way he can play inside and out, so we’re really looking forward to the challenge and just happy to be here in Wichita.

On Seton Hall’s physicality being a priority:
“Obviously, I think conference play – when you watch us in conference play – just the way our league plays, it’s extremely physical. But I’ve been impressed with how physical they are. (Torin) Dorn, for a power forward, is a lot like Ish, he can really play defense tough off the dribble. Their guards are physical, I think they defend and get after you, and it’s a really unique matchup in the sense that both teams play physical basketball. And obviously anybody coming from the Big East – if you watch us on film – that’s what you’re going to see just because of the way the league is kind of set up.”

On what this game means to Seton Hall’s senior class and its legacy:
“No matter what, I think these four guys have left a great mark at Seton Hall. I think more than anything, the way they’ve brought the fan base back from the way they’ve played, obviously is going to help if you win a game. But I just think how they’ve interacted with the fans, how they’ve kind of won a lot of big games, I think their legacy will be pretty good either way.”

On sensing importance of winning an NCAA Tournament game:
“Yeah, I definitely have a different sense with them this year than I had last year. It’s been less me trying to get them to understand the importance of being in this tournament and how hard it is to get into this tournament. I think they realize the opportunity that they have now, where I think after their sophomore year, they were just happy to be there. Last year, we had a chance to win the game – we were up four with a minute-and-a-half to go – and I think that loss really hurt them. It really kind of haunted them a little bit this year, so I think they understand, now more than ever, they have a chance.”

On slowing NC State down defensively:
“It’s not an easy task, to be honest with you. I think the hardest thing about them, as I watch film, is how balanced they are. It’s not just one guy. I wish I could say, ‘well, it’s just (Allerik) Freeman or it’s just Braxton (Beverly).’ It’s not. They’re so well balanced, and I think Markell Johnson does as good a job as anybody I’ve seen on film of getting in the lane and creating really good opportunities for his teammates, so I love the pace they play at and I just think they put so much pressure on you. They put four guys out on the perimeter, and they drive it and they attack you, and you never know who’s going to get you. I think that’s the hardest thing about it when you watch film is that they’re extremely balanced. They really, technically, have five guys scoring double-figure points, and over the last five games, they’re almost shooting 50 percent from the three. Then you add (Sam) Hunt into the equation – which over the last five games, he’s playing over 20 minutes a game – at times, they have five guys on the floor that can make shots, so I think that’s what makes them so hard to defend.”

On getting a different sense from this year’s team:
“I really feel the biggest difference has been in practice. We’ve been – it’s really hard this time of year when towards the end of February, you kind of wind down practice a little bit – you’re only going for like, an hour, an hour and 15 minutes, and then all of a sudden, you have four or five days where you have to kind of start practice back up, and I haven’t had a hard time getting them to practice again. We practiced yesterday for almost two-and-a-half hours, and last year, there was no chance I would have been able to do that. I had no problem getting them to practice. We’ll practice again for probably a good solid two hours, and they’re looking forward to practice, so I think from that mentality, that’s the biggest thing I’ve seen.”

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