March 17, 2006
George Mason Head Coach Jim Larranaga
"Well, first of all I would like to say I have the utmost respect for Tom Izzo and his program and his team. We knew we were going to have our hands full against a team as well-disciplined and as strong, physically, and a team that executes so well at both ends of the floor. One of the three things we emphasized was that we had to get back defensively or they would shoot a lay-up within 5 seconds. They were able to do that three of their first five baskets in transition, scoring before our defense could get back. At each of the early timeouts, we kept emphasizing that if we can get back and stay between them and the basket, then our defense has a chance but if they just keep shooting lay-ups, we can't stop them. The defense, which has been very consistent all year long, was a big key. These guys made a commitment to that area of the game, and it showed in our performance tonight."
Is George Mason Billy Packer's worst nightmare?
"One of the things that makes this country so great is that we were allowed to speak our mind and everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I'm not offended by that at all. One of things that I recognize is that most people don't get a chance to see how good the CAA [Colonial Athletic Conference] is night in and night out. In the last two nights, Hofstra and Old Dominion beat teams from the Big XII. It's not a surprise to us. We know how good those teams are. Those RPIs, you think they are inflated because you don't see us on national TV day in and day out. The same mathematical formula picked Duke, Connecticut, Villanova, and Memphis was used to say that we're ranked 26th in the country. These guys got confidence in themselves. They know what they are capable of doing. We had great respect for that team we played tonight, but we also had a great confidence and a great determination. I'm having so much fun. I just want to keep that rolling."
On Will Thomas' Defense
"I don't think those guys talked about Will [Thomas], but the whole key defensively is having someone who takes on the challenge of guarding a great player like Paul Davis. The strategy tonight was, Will you guard Paul [Davis], but Jai give him plenty of help and make it more difficult for Paul [Davis] inside. We had to stay between them and the basket. Will Thomas and Jai Lewis are about as smart as you get, and I've been very fortunate to coach two players like that because on the interior they really know the game of basketball. They know how to help each other. They understand how to guard different kinds of people. They rebound the ball extremely well. They're also a double threat to score at the offense end when they get the ball near the basket."
On Gabe Norwood's Start and his dunk
"That's something we put in just the other day. It is something that Michigan State hadn't seen. We decided to do it because without Tony [Skinn] in the lineup, Gabe [Norwood] gives us different dimensions."
On Tim Burns and Jordan Carter coming off the bench
"One of the things I was nervous about was we moved Jordan Carter and Tim [Burns] over to the `white team' several times this week. They've been playing with the `green team' all year, and all of the sudden they were nervous and turning the ball over and not making any shots. So on Wednesday, we started out that way. I just stopped practice completely. I said, `Let's just go out to Dayton. All I want you to concentrate on is when we get out to Dayton, have a ball. I'm going to have as much fun as I possibly can. I want you guys to do the same.' I think by doing that it kind of relieved Jordan [Carter] and Tim [Burns] and maybe even Sammy [Hernandez] a little bit and so when they came in they were relaxed and played very, very hard."
What does this mean to George Mason University?
"I feel very privileged to be working at George Mason University. It is a fantastic institution. We have incredible leadership at the top. Our president, Dr. Alan Merten, is just an inspirational leader. He's the most positive person I've ever been around. Our Director of Athletics, Tom O'Connor, is a tremendous leader of our department. We feel, as a program, that we represent more than just ourselves. We are not just a basketball team. We are part of the university. We have tremendous support from our administration and our student body. I think it means an awful lot to the university. It means an awful lot to me to have this team win this game because I know what it does for the university not only in the short run but in the long run."
On the students who made the trek to Dayton
"I couldn't believe it. Just before the National Anthem was played, I heard our chant. I looked up and I saw that whole section filled with green and gold. I could see the president of our student body, Dale Van Wagner, wearing that yellow hair. He had a whole group of our students there and our faculty. It's just super. It is a fantastic place to be, and it's the people that make it that way."
George Mason Student-Athletes
Senior forward Jai Lewis
On the fact that GMU was a "bubble" team
I think we just came out and used that as motivation. We were number nine defensively in field goal percentage. Our RPI was high. We won our conference. I think that's enough to let people know that we deserve it. And now we just beat Michigan State today.
On missing 11 of last 21 free throws but still winning
Coach tells us everyday we have to have poise down the stretch. If we had made more free throws we probably would've won by a little higher [margin]. We just had our poise down the stretch. We used that to our advantage.
On playing Michigan State last season
We used that as motivation. If we would've rebounded better last time we played them we probably could have pulled it last time.
Sophomore guard Folarin Campbell
On being in the game early
"Me and Will got some early shots at the beginning of the game and we made most of them. If we can make shots at the beginning of the game it builds our confidence up. We just carried that confidence into the second half. We just shot well.
On what was said at the end of the game
"When I went into the huddle I said the game isn't over. Michigan State is a good team and they hit a couple of big threes towards the end. That was a big three. I felt good. I went to the bench and said the game is not over. We play for 40 minutes. Our coach tells us we play for 40 minutes. We didn't take any minute off."
On Gabe [Norwood]
Gabe is probably our best defender. He came out played against one of their best players and he did a pretty good job. Gabe has been doing it all year. He just stepped it up big time today.
On playing Michigan State last season
"Last year we were a younger team. We were still maturing. Its kind of happened at the beginning of this year when we lost to Wake Forest. We started off young and we have matured over the season. It's been a long season and we have all learned to play with each other, and it's been really good."
Sophomore forward Will Thomas
Will on being aggressive
"Coming into the game we knew Paul Davis fouled a lot. Coach just told me to take it to him draw double teams kick it back out to the shooters."