Video/Transcript: Tom Crean and Tye Fagan Press Conferences – Georgia vs. Auburn

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Video/Transcript: Tom Crean and Tye Fagan Press Conferences – Georgia vs. Auburn

On the team’s rebounding…

“I think making contact. We have to be a rebounding team. Our guards have to rebound especially when our bigger guys are hitting around the bucket, the guards have to slide in and get boards. But, we have to be first. We know that we are not going to be in very few non-league games that we were bigger than the teams we played. We are just not. We are not right now but we have to be quick, hit first, get inside position, and be on the offensive glass consistently. I thought tonight our alertness, our awareness, our first step into people—we had good contact. You must do that. If you are second on contact going against these guys with that kind of length and quickness you will be at a disadvantage. I thought one of the keys too is that we did not try the only block seven shots, which we did not try to block very often and try to make plays that weren’t there, we made the next pass which was the biggest key, offensively. Trust the next pass, whatever it is just trust it. When we get around the rim, we create a drop-off switch with that and those types of things. That put us in a rebounding position too. It is about being quick, being active, being aware, and then doing our best to get it with two hands.

On the most impressive part of his team’s play tonight…

“They believed they were going to win. I think that sounds cliché. But, they came in believing that they were going to win. We were very focused. We had very good energy, and they were very locked in. I think it showed in the way we played. It was as detailed of a game as we have played with what we wanted to do in coverage, and what we wanted to do with Sharife Cooper. They played well; I mean they got to the rim,  and he [Cooper] draws fouls. We made some mistakes, it was not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. But, we believed we were going to win, and we followed through to make that belief happen by executing the game plan in a very good way. With that being said a lot of things become the product of that. Ball movement, which creates back cuts. Ball movement, which creates open threes. Ball movement attacking which creates free-throws, getting back in transition which doesn’t allow them to get their lob game going, and things like that. So, the energy mixed with the belief was really good. I am proud of that.”

On the team’s newfound confidence helping their play…

“Yeah, at any point in time it is. But they have good energy, and they are executing. They are pretty fresh. We are very smart and locked into what we want to do in practice. I am very conscious of the fact that it is February. It used to be called ‘the dog days of February,’ well those really begin right now by January 10. In a COVID year like this, they might have even started earlier because of how hard it is for everyone. There is no question that you are making some shots early and that helps you, it helps your confidence. We are very conscious of making sure that we are getting our preparation done, getting our work done,  and not overdoing it. I think one thing we see right now when we end the practice is that a majority of the guys are staying in the gym to shoot. That is a good sign in the sense that you are not over practicing or overtraining. I give credit to all my coaches, to Sean Hayes, and Lance Schueman for that. My job is to set the tempo and create the atmosphere and create the plan but everyone else has to keep carrying it out, and we have a full team effort going. But, the players are the ones are generating the belief. They are the ones generating the synergy, and the chemistry, and the comradery. I thought our talk was really good in the game tonight. Our bench energy was very good, those guys were locked in and ready to play. And again, the whole key is—don’t allow distractions to get in your way, and control what you can control. As teams grow up and learn, they learn there are more and more things that they can control. The smart ones learn not to worry about the things they cannot control. That is what we must continue to build. I do not mean smart as in brains, I mean smart as in maturity. It just takes some time to learn that. We must continue to do that.”

On Tye Fagan’s seven point run and if it jump started the offense…

“Yeah, I think so. I don’t know if our bench has been any louder all year than when P.J. Horne dunked that ball in the second half. Bench energy is so big, and it’s never been more important in college or professional sports history because there’s so few people at the games. You don’t have a home crowd to get you through those things. You have got to be able to do that as a team, these guys were so happy for him and it definitely created energy on the court. When one player is playing well like that, you get guys locked in and I think it builds a confidence for everybody.”

On Sahvir Wheeler…

“We don’t win without him. We had six guys in double figures and Andrew Garcia had nine. That’s how we’re built, we don’t have that one guy that carries our scoring every night, but you do need someone who is setting the table every night, Sahvir does that. I thought, of all the guys in the game, Sahvir got better from start to finish. He played much better in the second half, higher on the floor which is what I wanted. We got him more in the middle of the floor which is what our attempt was, he attacked, he didn’t let mistakes carry into the next play. He got over it, which is key for any young player, but especially for a guy like Sahvir who has such a role. Again, it wasn’t about an individual matchup, he set the table on Sharife Cooper with how we were going to guard him. At the same time, we had other people guard him too. Mikal Starks and Jaxon Etter, they followed the game plan but Sahvir is the one that got it going, and he did an awful lot for us to win at the end of the game, especially with his inbound plays.”

On the game plan around Sharife Cooper and how they were going to limit him…

“Bring more pressure to him and try to bring fatigue to the game. He draws 9.6 fouls per game, so it’s not about getting up into him, because he’s very adept at drawing fouls. He’s very good at drawing into your body, selling it to the referee, so you’ve got to be smart about him. There were times where we were a little too overzealous with it, but it was about putting different people on him, bringing pressure because we have tremendous respect for how he plays. He’s an outstanding guard, his vision is incredible, and he’s a very outstanding passer. We had a couple other things that were in the game plan, but we didn’t have to go to them. The bottom line was to bring pressure, be aggressive in ball screening and defense.”

On how Fagan makes the team better when he brings his ‘A’ game…

“There was a challenge to him, because maybe his worst game of the year was the first time we played Auburn, and I’ve reminded him of that a few times. At the same time, I stick with him because his teammates and I believe in him, I know he’s capable. I made a point today in my meeting about situation basketball. You hear about situations or complimentary football a lot, well basketball is the same thing. There’s so many situations that come up in a game, there’s so many different things, and the more well-versed you are the more you can handle those situations. It’s how he gets in the middle of the zone, how he seals the middle of a 1-3-1 against Ole Miss. The more roles you can fill in a game, the more value you bring your team, the more easier you make it for everybody else and ultimately you become the benefactor because your confidence grows. I think that’s what’s happening for him and he could do a lot of different things. I didn’t like the step-back three, because I’m not into those, but other than that he did a really good job inside of the game. The rebounding was big, all of those things really played into it. It was such a team win, such a team victory and we had really good contributions off the bench. Tyron McMillan and his minutes, certainly Andrew [Garcia] and K.D. [Johnson], they’re like starters. Mikal Starks and Jaxon Etter did a fantastic job, I don’t think Christian Brown is that healthy yet, so hopefully his time is coming. Everybody that went into the game contributed to the game. That’s the only way we’re going to pull things off on the road is to have those kind of contributions from numerous guys.”

On what the key is to beating Bruce Pearl’s teams…

“I don’t know, they’re really talented and he’s an excellent coach. I think you need a game plan and you need to execute it. You’ve got to understand that you need to be physical in the game because they’re going to be extremely long and athletic. The way their team plays is so different now with Sharife Cooper in there. As good as the rest of them are, you have got to start the game plan with him, because of the way he impacts the game. The last five games he was averaging 19 points per game, seven of those points are coming from the foul line. He’s averaging 9.6 fouls drawn in a game in this league, you’ve got to start your game plan there. Last year it was different, guys, so I think it’s just getting your team ready to understand what the game plan is meant to be, stay as true to it as you can, and have flexible guys who can adjust as the game goes on. My job as a coach is to see where the adjustments have to be made and try to help them be as good as they can be inside of the game and inside of practice to get to that place. We were fortunate to win.”

On how motivated he was after his performance last game…

“It was very motivational, because I knew that I had to be there for my team tonight. I just wanted to do whatever I could do, whether it was rebound or run the floor. I just wanted to make up for that game because that game wasn’t one of my best, so I just wanted to out that behind me. I just went into the game with the motivation that I needed.”

On what allowed him to get points in bunches…

“For one, I just feel like the game is always giving you something. So, early on, I got a three in, a couple of lay-ups. In the second half, they went into a zone and coach just put me in a place I need to be in and I have my teammates like Sahvir [Wheeler], Justin [Kier], and K.D. [Johnson]. All those guys were able to get it to me in spots I was able to get it, and I was just able to make a play for my team.”

On how locked in was the team tonight…

“We’ve been very locked in. It started before the Ole Miss game. We took two games before that game serious, we were locked in to those practices that led on to that game. We understood that the same thing would lead into this game. We took the days in practice serious and locked in every day and paid attention to the details we did at practice. We just focused on resting up, hydrating, making sure our bodies are recovering leading up to this game. All those things led up to tonight.”

On what the biggest difference in the rebounding game tonight was…

“We just understood what we needed to do, because like I said, the first game just wasn’t our best game against them. They came out and hit us first and we never recovered. Tonight, we understood what was needed to be done and we needed to rebound, gang-rebound as a team. We needed to move the ball, get some cuts, get some easy baskets, and we knew we had to make those guys become individual defenders because they’re such a good team in the help defense and being able to bend the elbows to help their teammates out. They’re great at rebounding and all those things, so we had to eliminate the bend, try and pull them out of the paint so we could get to the rim, get some easy looks and some easy kick-outs for some shots.”

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