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    Feb. 15, 2012

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    Notre Dame Men's Basketball
    Notre Dame vs. Rutgers
    February 15, 2012
    Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center - Notre Dame, Ind.

    Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey

    Opening Statement...
    "I told the guys that we needed to do a better job defending [Rutgers] this time than in New Jersey, and I am very pleased with the end result. I thought our defense was fabulous. That was the key. We could not guard them a month ago. Tonight we were very efficient offensively. It was a game where we were going to get to the line because [Rutgers] is very physical. The foul line was a great weapon for us, but Jack [Cooley] was a beast, our guards controlled the tempo, and overall I really like our defense."

    On getting to the foul line at home...
    "This is something a little new for us, but tonight we got into the bonus quickly, and we feel that it is a big weapon for us. I just thought we did a great job. There were so many dribble exchanges and ball screens with small guards who were really quick, and for the most part, we really stayed in front. I thought Jack Cooley was fabulous hedging on ball screens in the second half, Scott Martin anchoring us, and Jerian [Grant] and Eric [Atkins] did a great job keeping guys in front of them. I thought we got a lot out of the Alex [Dragicevich]/Pat [Connaughton] combination in that third spot as well."

    On the strong guard play...
    "I think it's fun playing with these guards. These guys, as you have seen in the last month, really have created one of the better backcourts in this league, and they really believe it. Their teammates know how to play off of them and get out of their way."

    On tonight's assists...
    "Our team ball handling is excellent. We knew that [Rutgers] was going to come after us and trap a little bit. It's fun playing-that group has a lot of fun playing together, because they all can pass, they all can catch, they know where each other are supposed to be, and there isn't any real predictable moment. It's a group that's really just reading the defense. But what's great about our team is that we can pass and we will pass. There's not any notion that 'I've been passing too much, I need to get mine.' We're just playing. I love our unselfishness there and our unselfishness on defense. Defensively rotating to help each other has been excellent during this streak."

    Jack Cooley - Junior - Forward

    On the difference in his expectations for himself...
    "I was frustrated at halftime because I wasn't finishing. I know Coach [Brey] came in and said we were going to keep going to the post, so I took it on myself to make more shots."

    On what he changed in the second half...
    "I let myself get pushed around in the first half. I had lit fire under me and that helped me."

    On getting media attention...
    "The more focus on me, the less there is on my teammates. Everyone focuses on Jerian [Grant] and Eric [Atkins]. That allows me to score because they focus on them so much. If they put more focus on me that's fine because than they can score. It's going to work out in the end."

    On shooting the outside shot...
    "I got excited once I saw no one was guarding me. Eric [Atkins] called for the ball, but I was like 'Sorry Eric. I'm wide open. I'm shooting it'."

    Scott Martin - Senior - Forward

    On using the post player to their advantage...
    "We wanted to focus on getting the ball to Jack [Cooley] inside and establish him. Once he's established he does a great job drawing contact inside. He get those fouls and lets us get easy ones from the free throw line."

    On improving their defense...
    "You have to credit Coach [Brey] with getting us focused. We didn't play good defense against DePaul. Tonight we came out with a new focus and wanted to knock them down as much as we could. We did a good job limiting them to one-and-done and then coming down and scoring."

    On the team's winning streak...
    "We're having a blast. We don't care who has the most points as long as we get the win everyone is happy. It's always a great atmosphere to be in. We're just having fun together."

    Jerian Grant - Sophomore - Guard

    On the difference between the first and second half...
    "A lot of their players got in foul trouble. They weren't as aggressive on the defensive end and that helped us out."

    On what kind of defense works against Notre Dame offense...
    "A lot of teams try to get up and deny us. They think we don't have good ball handlers. A lot of teams try to get up on us, but we have smart players that can figure out what the defense is doing. We move the ball around well. Eric [Atkins] and I drive, and we have shooters out there that are hard to guard."

    On the keys to their successful run...
    "Our defense has been carrying us throughout this run. As long as we play good defense, we're fine."

    On having a stable starting lineup...
    "It is definitely great for us. We had so many starting lineups in the beginning of the year. Now that everyone knows their role, it's helping this team be successful."

    Eric Atkins - Sophomore - Guard

    On the play of Jack Cooley...
    "We did set him up good, and he finished it. That's what we expect from him. He's always on the offensive boards like usual. It was another great performance by Jack [Cooley], and I think it was another double-double for him. When he plays like that, we are really hard to beat."

    On finding a rhythm in the second half...
    "I think in the second half we were just being more aggressive going to the hoop and by doing that it created openings for Jack. We were more aggressive and it really got him moving."

    On getting 24 points at the foul line...
    "That's huge. I think that was a big way for us to get a big lead tonight. I know at one point they were beating us in field goals, and they still might have beat us in field goals. But the foul line was huge for us, and we capitalized there."

    On continuing the seven game winning streak...
    "As long as we keep playing defense the way we are, I think we can keep this up. I think that's where it starts. We really buckled down in the second half, getting stops, and keeping them out of the middle. I think as long as we keep that up, we'll still win."

    On going into Saturday's road game against Villanova...
    "It's [all about] confidence. This team knows we can win on the road and we've done it before. We all come together on the road, so defense is going to be huge on the road. On the road it's only us and we know we have to create our own excitement. I think that's the advantage we have on the road."

    Pat Connaughton - Freshman - Guard

    On continuing to find ways to win...
    "I think we're just a young group that's hungry. We're a young group that wants to make a statement for ourselves because at the beginning of the year we played so poorly. At the beginning of the year we had a tough time and no one likes losing, especially on this team. We have a bunch of kids who always want to win and are used to winning, so when we got knocked in the face at the beginning of the year we had to take a step back and then take a step forward."

    On playing well on the road...
    "It's just focus. We have to focus that much harder on the road than we do at home. I've learned that over the course of this season, when you're on the road no one is pulling for you. The only thing you have is your teammates so it took us a little longer to learn being such a young team. And now that we understand, we have each other's back moving forward."

    Rutgers Head Coach Mike Rice

    On early foul trouble...
    "We tend to do things to get in our own way. Whether it is a reach or whether it is bad positioning, we now have to make it up with our hands or be in bad defensive position. We play a formula that is fast paced. We try to make you put your head down and drive into our help defense. Our help defense was never there on time."

    On the first half...
    "I still liked our fight in the first half. We gave them too many points off of the free throw line. We held them to 29 percent. [That's a] pretty good half for us. Second half we were just manhandled and the response that we had was a very immature, childish response where there was not a whole lot of fight in our huddle and on the floor."

    On starting Kadeem Jack...
    "It wasn't for [Jack] Cooley to be honest with you. It was just his turn. I am trying to find a big to play with some passion and some toughness. He is getting better. I thought he was very active. He just now has to learn not to rush things because he has talent and athletic ability. It is just that he didn't even look at the hoop for four or five shots he took. He just threw it up there hoping that it would go in. He has to have some purpose and some composure."

    On Austin Johnson's foul trouble...
    "He is immature. He is old now. He understands that you can't move on screens. On that screen we weren't making a 10-point play. He hasn't given us anything in the last four or five games and it is hurting us. If we don't get numbers, rebounds and points from our bigs, we are very young in the back court."

    On Notre Dame as a whole...
    "Notre Dame is very good. They are so disciplined. They play with such a purpose. Our response and lack of purpose in the second half was the most disappointing, and someone not stepping up. It is a quiet huddle. You need someone to step up that is sick of what is taking place on the floor. Right now we do not have that. Right now we have people putting their heads down and bad body language. It is a tough league. You chose this league. You chose to come play as a freshman, and so how will you respond right now? It looks like we have a glass jaw right now. We have to respond better."

    Dane Miller - Junior - Guard/Forward

    On coach's message after the game...
    "When teams go on a run in this conference you just can't lay down. You've got to keep playing hard no matter what. You just keep playing."

    On the change from first to second half...
    "I don't know. The second half just wasn't as poised on offense. I think everybody wasn't getting open shots, basically floaters and contested layups. I think it was just poise on offense. Also in the second half Jack Cooley basically did what he wanted to do offensively and pulled down the boards."

    On the difference in play between Rutgers and Notre Dame at this point in season...
    "A couple games we weren't as poised on offense, a lot of turnovers, and we're not really rebounding the ball as well as we should. Coming into the season we thought we would rebound more with so many athletic bigs and everyone is not really doing their part really rebounding and playing defense. I think that's the big difference. We looked at the stats and we are not really far from them with stats. It's just certain stuff that they do better than we do."

     

     

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