BRYCE COTTON LaDONTAE HENTON KADEEM BATTS
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with Bryce Cotton, the Dave Gavitt Trophy winner.
Q. Bryce,Isawyouhadalotof confidence coming out early in the second half. What inspired that early confidence?
BRYCE COTTON: We got off to a good run in the first half. We had a great pep talk going into the locker room. And we just told each other, we’re 20 minutes away from something we’ve dreamed up for a long time. That was enough motivation to put a little pep in our step.
Q. That shot with 45 seconds left. They cut it to two. Any hesitation or were you pretty confident? You didn’t have the best shooting night tonight.
LaDONTAE HENTON: I mean, when you score the ball and your teammates believe in you, and they put you in spots to score the ball, you just want to come through for them. It was a tough night and a big game at Madison Square Garden. I just wanted to make the shot.
I practice that shot all the time. So it just comes from repetition.
Q. Bryce, coming into the week, there was a question whether Providence would make the Tournament. Now there’s no question; you get the automatic bid. Just talk about what it will be like going to sleep tonight and knowing that and watching on Selection Sunday there’s no doubt you’ll be in.
BRYCE COTTON: It feels great. Given everything what this team has gone through, all the adversity, obstacles we faced, for us to reach this moment now, we’re just going to cherish this moment for the time being. We’ll regroup when it’s time.
Q. LaDontae, talk to us about the team defense against one of the most explosive basketball teams in the country. You guys guarded them all night. Just talk about the team and the individual defense.
LaDONTAE HENTON: It comes from our coaching staff doing a great job of scouting the personnel and what they do best. We wanted to slow the game down on offense and make sure we played our pace, defense for us to play zone against a good three-point shooting team. It goes to show how our coaches believe in us and how we can take the three away from a great shooting team.
Q. You guys lost some of your key players early in the year. How were you able to get to this point where you are right now?
LaDONTAE HENTON: We just believe in each other. Can’t nobody stop us but us. That’s the motto we came into the season believing. No matter how many guys we had to play with, we was going to go out there with the toughest group of guys and battle each night and battle in the Big East.
Q. Can you just talk about what you did defensively in the first half on Doug McDermott. Second off, safe to say that this is a group that was so cohesive throughout the season. Can you just talk about the fact that you guys have so much balance.
BRYCE COTTON: Going off your first question with Doug, we knew that they’re a great transition team and one of the fastest teams in the country. We wanted to make sure we did a good job controlling the tempo, not rushing our shots, and our zone, making sure we’re aware of where McDermott was and Rocky.
We did a good job not having too many lapses, and that’s what led to it being effective tonight.
Q. Bryce, you have the hoop around your neck, the net around your neck. What does it mean to you and the team?
BRYCE COTTON: It’s just a vindicating feeling to know that the Providence Friars are Big East champions. This is something our school and our city hasn’t seen in a long time. For us to finally bring that back home, it’s top of the list.
Q. Bryce, after the first three seasons, you said yesterday that you knew something was special during the summer when you guys were working out. Is this what you envisioned? Do you see this happening?
BRYCE COTTON: There it is. This is something we had in mind all along. We wanted to get to the blue carpet finally. We definitely wanted to win the Big East Championship as well.
Like I said, we couldn’t put it on our finger exactly what was special at the beginning of the year, but here it is.
Q. Bryce, on the court you were saying that this school has really been through a lot to get here. What was sort of like the lowest valley? What were the circumstances when the valley was lowest?
BRYCE COTTON: I’m not sure I could pinpoint when it was lowest because when you’re going through things, you don’t really want to sulk and dwell on that. You want to continue to keep an optimistic point of view. That’s what we did.
So I can’t pinpoint anything in particular, but we’ve been through a lot.
Q. At any point, did you sort of feel like maybe your dream wouldn’t happen?
BRYCE COTTON: Never, never. Our team is full of faith, faith in God and faith in each other. God definitely came through for us, and we knew at the end of the day we were going to leave it all out on the floor, every single night. This is what it’s like. It’s definitely been a blessing.
Q. LaDontae, just the toughness that you guys played with. There was a play with
you and McDermott where he went down. Was there a focus to play with that extra chip?
LaDONTAE HENTON: These are my brothers. I’m going to war with them every night. We want to be the toughest team on the court every night we play. Tonight Coach made sure we came in with a tough mindset. And with the game on, that’s what we did.
Q. Bryce, each game in this tournament, you worked hard to outwork all your opponents. Was that the key to the championship, just never getting outworked?
BRYCE COTTON: Yeah, I think coming into any game, you want to outwork who you’re playing against, get all the 50-50 loose balls because that creates energy for the team and that induces momentum.
Yeah, that’s the game plan for every team we face.
Q. Bryce, last night Doug McDermott said you might be one of the most underrated players in the country. Do you think now you’ve kind of shed the underrated title with this?
BRYCE COTTON: That’s not something I really focus on. I’m out there to play my game and play with the guys I love and win basketball games. If people notice me, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s not my problem either. I just want to win.
Q. Kadeem, after what happened only one week ago in Omaha, how surprised were you last night when they said you would play zone?
KADEEM BATTS: Our coaches do a great job of game planning and strategizing. That was their game plan. It worked to a tee. They struggled in it. McDermott got his shots off, but we ended up stopping everybody through the zone and they struggled a little bit. So it was good.
Q. Bryce, after you struggled shooting the ball a little bit earlier in the tournament and even a little bit last night, how were you able to put that behind you tonight and play more efficient on the offensive end?
BRYCE COTTON: In basketball you’re going to have high points and games where you go through slumps. At the end of the day, you’ve got to have a short memory. You’ve got to be sure of yourself and remember what you’ve done all year. My teammates did a good job of continuing to encourage me, and just know I’m due for a great game.
Give credit to them. They played great the whole tournament. Kadeem, LaDontae, Josh Fortune. They made incredible plays each and every game down the stretch. They deserve just as much credit.
Q. Bryce, you started out that conference late and you had a tough start on the conference schedule earlier this season. Coach Cooley, one of the emotional stories of the regular season. He had a house fire, and some woes you had early on. Can you just talk about how you guys embody what your coach
does. BRYCE COTTON: I mean, as a team, we have a bunch of individuals who are naturally tough on their own, and it just so happens that our coach has the same mindset. So whenever the players and coaches are on the same page, that’s definitely big time for any program because that’s just tremendous chemistry and a great bond.
Q. Kadeem, it’s kind of fun to watch seniors, you and Bryce and even the guys that don’t play much — Ted Bancroft, Lee Goldsbrough. It was obviously the seniors drove this train. Could you talk about the leadership and the cohesiveness that you seniors brought to the table. We don’t see a lot of teams with a lot of seniors in college basketball anymore.
KADEEM BATTS: Well, along with the seniors, we have great other leaders, like LaDontae Henton. He’s the man out there. He grabs every rebound. He showed that this tournament.
As a team, and like you said, the seniors, we just come together, and we have a very mature group. That’s why we were able to persevere through a lot of things. Through injuries and adversity, we came together as a family and really fought.