Following the Syracuse Orange's gutsy 63-60 victory over the Gonzaga Bulldogs last night, Jim Boeheim, Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney spoke with media for a bit. Below are some of the bigger takeaways:
Boeheim, on Gonzaga:
"It was a great basketball game. Gonzaga's got a tremendous team. Those two guys (Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis) are as good as anyone we've seen all year."
On the senior, Gbinije:
"I give these guys an unbelievable amount of credit. They were in a big hole with not that much time left, and we got a couple steals off the press. Mike (Gbinije) just went after it -- he wasn't going to be denied getting that ball and putting it back in. He's been great for us all year. Of all the players I've ever coached, he's the most underrated I've ever coached."
Of course, all three of them were asked about the botched out-of-bounds call that luckily will not live in infamy for Syracuse fans.
"I think they were just looking at the time. I don't think they were looking at the play. I did my rotation and made a nice steal, and they made a call."
"Yeah, from my perspective I thought he did get a steal and called a timeout, but they thought it was a different outcome. Luckily, we got the stop when we needed it."
"We support that we made the stop at the end, because after looking at that picture, it looked like he was not out of bounds. That would've been a tough way to lose, but I don't know if they could see that picture or not -- I don't know what happened. I don't know."
Did Boeheim think that last Pitt game in the ACC Tournament (another defense-led comeback) help with the press?
"I think everything you do all year long helps. I think everything that happens, happens to help make you a better team. We fought back many times this year. We fought back seven down with 1:22 to go against Virginia Tech, and that was a bigger hill to overcome. But these guys have fought all year. Every game we've been behind, we've been in some tough situations, and they've battled through them all year."
"The difficulty with this game is that they really didn't believe Wiltjer could shoot out there. We felt like we made it clear that we cannot give him any space and we gave him space in the beginning. And you know, we're not a prolific offensive team. We can't spot people 10 points. We dug a huge hole for ourselves, and a couple guys just didn't move up on him. He's a really good player against zones because he can shoot the three, and play from the high post to the short corner. I thought we did a good job on those guys (Wiltjer and Sabonis) and they had 42. I thought we really did a good job on them."
"The problem in this game was our offense. A lot of times this year when we lose, it's been our offense. We got rushed a little bit. We had some good looks that we didn't make the shots. We missed a couple layups. The one thing the last two games in the tournament is that we were even at halftime, and we played really good offensive second halves in both games. That's why we got separation. We just couldn't get our offense really going tonight. At the end, we just let Mike take it and try to get to the basket. He's a strong guy and he won the game for us."
Given Wiltjer's shooting ability, Boeheim was asked if he was telling the guys to get on Wiltjer at the end. He also described how Tyler Lydon's block was able to occur:
"I didn't tell them that. I think they knew that. With 11 seconds, it's hard to get a good shot against a zone. And I thought once they had to throw it out, that gave us enough time. Tyler Lydon -- for a freshman -- made an unbelievable play because he normally stays back there, but both their big guys were high. So he read that, he saw where (Josh) Perkins was coming -- he just came up. I mean, that's a pretty big play for a freshman to make. Our last two defensive stops: Trevor making the rotation on that penetration, he made a great play on a tough play to make, and then the last play. We made two tremendous defensive plays at the end."
How big was Tyler Roberson on Sabonis and getting you guys on those second- and third-chance opportunities?
"You know I didn't think he (Roberson) had the height that he (Sabonis) had, but down the stretch he beat it. He kept the ball alive by just tipping it up. I saw the ball and tried to grab it and put it in quick."
"Both Tylers (Lydon and Roberson) were really competing on the back boards. That's not a strength of ours, but they both gave us opportunities; a really tremendous effort from them."
Gbinije also expanded upon that final basket in the locker room too, telling Syracuse.com's Donna Ditota about the "total chaos" of the moment:
"I tried to basically shield the ball with my body. And tried to lay it up over the big man. Missed it. Tyler Roberson kept the ball alive battling against him. I saw the ball and just tried to grab and lay it up as quick as possible."
With four teams in the Elite 8 (facing one another), the talk shifted over to the conference's successful season. Boeheim:
"I think the year was tough and we had a lot of tough games.-- games like this, you know, that helps you. I think in my mind, from the beginning of the year, Virginia had a little glitch early, but Virginia and North Carolina were the two best teams in the league. They're both really, really good basketball teams. Really, really well-coached teams, with a lot of senior leadership. I thought Iowa State was a really good team and Virginia just dominated most of the game that I saw. I saw a lot of it. I didn't see it all."
"The league's tough. I've learned a long time ago it's a foolish thing to say one league is better than the other. There's just too many variables. I think the top conferences are very, very good. It's an imperfect system to say 'well they did better in the NCAA Tournament.' You can use that. It's very difficult."
Jim took a moment to acknowledge the Syracuse's women's team's own trip to the Elite 8 too:
"I was watching the girls win. I was so happy for them. They beat South Carolina today. That was a great accomplishment for Coach Q (Quentin Hillsman). It was fun, I was kind of watching that when I probably should've been doing something else, but I enjoyed watching that."
On the following: Bless you, Jim.
"We were so happy to beat Dayton. They beat us two years ago and we were underdogs. We were just so happy to beat them. And then Michigan State getting beat. Obviously they're a great team. I've always felt that the team that beat that team (after a big upset), you've got a pretty tough game. I always thought Dayton was pretty darn good until we beat them, then they weren't any good. And then I thought Middle Tennessee was pretty good until we beat them, but then they weren't any good. So now I guess Gonzaga won't be any good tomorrow morning. We really played well in this tournament. This was our worst offensive game. We had enough to make a couple plays in the end and win the game."
On how much does previous experience could help against Virginia:
"It doesn't help at all. I know them. That's the problem. They know us and we know them, and what I know about them I don't like. They've got a great team, and I'm going to try not to think about that for another 10 or 15 minutes. But they've got a great team and Tony Bennett's one of the best coaches I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of coaches."
How does Lydon's block compare to Hakim Warrick's block?
"It's a little ways behind the first one. Hakim would not appreciate me saying anything about that one."
Cooney and Boeheim close out the press conference by walking through the final, key defensive plays before the block:
"Just making rotations. It's what we do every single day in practice and I saw my opportunities, and I took them. The one at half court, everyone was making rotations and we were able to get the 10-second call."
"He made almost three steals at the end of the game, that was pretty good. Really good defense."
You can watch the full video here: