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Miami Basketball Vs Wichita State: Coach Larranaga, Player Postgame Quotes

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
JIM LARRANAGA: Coming into the game, we have a great deal of respect for Gregg Marshall and his program at Wichita State. They're a tremendous defensive team, and we challenged our guys to play great defense today. We are very, very capable, and I thought the way we played defense to start the game was unbelievable. It got us off to a great start, but of course they are a terrific team, and they made a great run at us, eventually took the lead. But these guys have great heart, and they really pulled together down the stretch, made some huge plays. Davon's block followed by the three-pointer, Sheldon's lob dunk from Angel on the dead run, and then Angel's three-pointer and the free throws he made down the stretch, just a tremendous team effort.

But I expect an awful lot from these guys. They're very smart and dedicated student-athletes. Angel and Sheldon have already graduated from college. Davon is a superior student and on our dean's list. They're not only great athletes, but they're very, very smart individuals.

Q. Angel, you were in the zone there, just being fearless in the first half taking the ball to them. Why did that happen so much in the first half?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: I just think the scene, it's a lot on the line. As a team, obviously, everybody wants to advance, and I just felt good. I told Ivan in the warmups, I was like, man, today I just feel different. I had a really good -- really good energy about the team, not about me -- and I just seemed to come out on fire.

You know, throughout the game, I just -- I feel like a lot of it is getting caught up on me -- but there was a lot of big time plays that a lot of guys made that are kind of going to go unnoticed because of my performance.

Q. Angel, you touched on this yesterday, but there was a lot of talk about Wichita State being under-respected with their seeding and all that. Do you feel the Miami basketball program is not appreciated as much, do you think? Do you think you're overlooked sometimes?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: You've been with us for the whole year. I'm pretty sure you feel the same way as us. I think definitely. I think obviously they respect us, but they seemed to find a flaw in our team no matter what. But the great thing about it is we've kept our composure, and we play for each other. We don't -- as I said yesterday, we don't play to prove people wrong, we play to prove ourselves right.

Q. Angel, I believe you were on the bench redshirting last time this team was in the Sweet 16, and you made the move obviously from Kansas State to get here. How does it feel to kind of put the team on your back and deliver this program into the Sweet 16?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: I was actually in Kansas State -- well, yeah. I was home, disappointed, after a loss against La Salle, after the team made it to the Sweet 16. But it feels great to just advance to the Sweet 16. But, honestly, the way I'm feeling right now is just that gave me a lot more fuel than what I had, and I know the team feels the same way, to just achieve more.

It's a great accomplishment, but the motivation is even higher now.

Q. Sheldon, they take the lead, the only one that they had in the game, and I could see on the next possession you started running before you hit half court and looking for that alley-oop. Can you just tell me, going through your mind there, did you realize how big a play that was in the game?
SHELDON MCCLELLAN: I think it was a very big play. Whenever Angel has the ball, I'm always relocating and trying to find space where I can get open and be effective as far as being aggressive. But we've done those plays so many times, it's not a surprise to our team and our program. We're used to doing that on the court, but it was definitely a big play for us to get some momentum.

Q. Davon, can you talk about -- Coach talked a little bit about the defense at the beginning of the game. The Shockers are known for their defense, and you guys really smothered them at the beginning. Can you talk about the defensive mindset at the start of the game?
DAVON REED: Well, I think their defensive strength is punching teams in the mouth and getting off to great starts defensively. And tonight we wanted to come out and hit them in the mouth first and be scrappy with them and make sure we gave them a good defensive set.

Q. Angel, can you talk about what was said in the huddle when they started to make the run and what pulled you guys back?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: We just kept saying, stay together. And I know it's a lot easier to say than to do it, but we really stay together. We know at this point of the season, nobody is going to go down without fighting. I was a little surprised that they came back from 21, and they got the lead, but at the same time, I think it was great for our team to be tested in such a way at this point in the season. Because from now on, it's going to be a dogfight no matter who we play.

Q. Davon, the exchange where you blocked the shot and made the three at the other end, that coming right after Sheldon's alley-oop, how much could you feel on the floor the momentum change in the game?
DAVON REED: Those were just some big time plays. We had a lot of big time plays throughout the game, and like I said, when I shot the ball, it just felt good. I just tried to be locked in and give a boost to my team.

Q. Coach, Angel obviously came out on fire. How big of a lift is that from the sideline, just watching him -- pretty much anything he puts up goes in?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, I told the TV audience that they should rename the Dunkin' Donuts Center the Angel Rodriguez Park. He just owned the place. He was so focused, so confident, right from the beginning of the game. He did it at the defensive end of the floor, he did it at the offensive end of the floor. He did it with his scoring. He did it with his passing. He just had one of those games where he was totally locked in, very focused on doing what we needed done.

Q. This is obviously a special place for you. It's where you played your college ball. How nice is it going to be to leave here with another great memory and on the way to the Sweet 16?
JIM LARRANAGA: Yeah, well, I have a lot of fond memories of playing at Providence College. The other day one of our Providence College fans gave me my little trading card with my picture from 1969, and it had my stats on the back. And one of my coaches took it from me and showed the players, and they said, man, Coach, you shot a lot. I said, I only shot when I had the ball.

I go back to -- I have such good friends and great memories of Vic Colucci and Junior Farrell and Ernie DiGregorio, Marvin Barnes, and those guys. It's just great to come back here. We practice on the Mulaney Court. I played for both Joe Mulaney and Dave Gavitt.

When I think about my college experience, it really has led -- my high school and college experience led to my coaching career, and Dave Gavitt helped me get my first coaching job where I never coached, and that was Mount St. Charles in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. He recommended me and I got the job. But then Davidson College called and offered me an assistant coaching job, Terry Holland, and I ended up starting my college coaching career at 21 years old.

Q. You talked before about Angel. Can you talk about his heart? You've seen him do some incredible things. How does he do what he does, do you think?
JIM LARRANAGA: I have no idea. He's the smallest guy on the court most nights. He has great confidence in himself, and when he's focused, he has the ability to play at a very, very high level. His biggest challenge is he needs competition. When the competition is at its highest, he's at his best. And he's not at his best when we're playing someone that's not very good or he doesn't have respect for.

But obviously today playing against VanVleet and Ron Baker, a backcourt that may by some experts be considered the best backcourt in America, he and Sheldon were very locked in to compete at the highest level, and they did.

Q. The thing you said yesterday about Rotella and clapping for the mistake, when a 21-point lead is gone, is that tenet especially useful at that point? And the second part, some of your players said they found the technical helpful, and I wonder if you found it helpful.
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, the first thing I would tell you is I don't think coaches should get technical fouls. I believe you should have poise and show your team that you're cool, calm, and collected on the sideline. So in the five years I've been at the University of Miami, that's only my second technical foul.

But the way we were playing to start the second half, we had careless turnovers, we were very tentative, very unlike the way we played to start the game. And as they began to whittle down the lead, instead of getting tougher minded and fighting harder, we tended to let up.

So I wanted to let the players know, "Listen, we need to fight right now, and I'm going to fight for you. I'm going to let the referees know that I'm fighting on the sideline." So after the technical foul, I think it snapped our guys out of the doldrums and got them aggressive again, which I'd have to say was good timing. We were fortunate that the players responded that way.

Q. Just jumping off that, the toughness that your players showed there to lose the lead and then score the next six points, how much does that speak to their character?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, as I said, these guys have big hearts. They're smart. They understand what needs to be done. They always understand the game plan. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent and what we're trying to exploit versus no matter who we play. We had a slow adjustment in the first half when they went to the zone, and then slow adjustment in the second half when they picked up the pressure.

But they didn't panic. You asked what we said at the timeouts, and Sheldon McClellan just kept -- I will say, in a loud, very demonstrative voice, "We're not losing this game, we're not losing this game. Pick it up, let's play, come on, go after these guys. We're not losing this game."

And the message was loud and clear to everybody, hey, this is a great game. The fans were going wild at that time, and we needed to dig down and find another gear to go to. And when Angel threw that lob pass -- I think we were 1-5 or 1-7 on lobs. The first lob we actually scored on. The ball hit the backboard, hit Sheldon's hand and went in. It was like an accident. The last one, Sheldon threw down so hard, it hit the back rim and went out. One of them was supposed to be just a catch and finish. Kamari Murphy tried to reverse it. But you're always going to have miscues. You're going to always make mistakes. You think about it, you've got to clap for the mistakes and move on to the next play.

Q. Why is it in the NCAA Tournament there's always some six-foot white guard, Puerto Rican kid who's understated and overlooked that makes the big plays?
JIM LARRANAGA: I played with Ernie DiGregorio, and I don't think anybody ever overlooked him once he got to college. He was under-recruited because he played in town, Providence, north Providence, where you don't get a lot of exposure. And back then a lot of schools were only recruiting locally. The Philly schools were recruiting Philly kids and South Jersey kids. The schools in New York were recruiting all New Yorkers. So it just turned out great for Providence College that they were able to get Ernie DiGregorio followed by Marvin Barnes, not only two of the best players in the state of Rhode Island's history, but just a couple of years apart -- one year apart actually -- so they got to play together for two solid seasons.

But I think it's very natural for really big, talented athletes to get a lot of attention and for the smaller, less athletic -- and I don't mean Angel is not a good athlete -- it's just he's smaller, and everybody thinks basketball is a big man's game, where I tend to think it's a game of skill. Can you dribble, pass and shoot better than the other guy? Defend and rebound, by the way, too.

Q. How worried were you when the lead went away?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, I've been doing this a very long time. I've seen everything. I've had a team that was up 26 points with 10 minutes to go and lose. I've had a team that was down 24 points with eight minutes to go and my team scored 25 consecutive, and we won. So nothing surprises me.

You're playing in the NCAA Tournament against quality teams, quality coaches. Everybody is well-prepared, and it really comes down to making really big plays down the stretch.

But those big plays are normally the simplest, making a free throw, making an open three, taking away a drive, blocking a shot. It's all about the fundamentals, and today we executed in the last five minutes really well.