4 p.m., No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Texas Southern student-athletes Demontrae Jefferson, Marvin Jones and Zach Lofton.
Q. I want to ask you guys, both the men's and women's teams are representing in the NCAA Tournament this year. Talk about the excitement on your campus with that going on?
ZACH LOFTON: It's amazing, you know what I mean? What we've done for the institution and for the institution itself, you know what I mean. I've said it in many interviews, we didn't do it just for us; we did it for the city and the school. And it's great.
MARVIN JONES: Just to piggyback off what Zach said, it's an unbelievable feeling to have both teams go. I know it brings a lot of different attention and just a lot of positive things to the school. So just to have just a positive and just a good outlook on our school, it's a great thing.
DEMONTRAE JEFFERSON: I think both teams going to the NCAA Tournament was very exciting, because I think the women's never went before, so this might be their first appearance. And the men's to not go last year and return this year, it's real big for the university. And I think us and the women's going to the NCAA Tournament was – made the university more proud of everybody on this team.
Q. You guys didn't play a home game until the first of the year. Talk about just the fact that you guys spent that extended period on the road, for all of you guys?
MARVIN JONES: Honestly, just being on the road that many games, it honestly just gets you motivated to go outside a different arena and just compete and just share with your brothers because honestly, it's just you 15 guys and the coaching staff. It's really you versus everybody. So just to be able to come and play all those games and have to fight through each possession and it makes it just all odds for us. It made us grow together once we got to the SWAC conference it made some games easier because we played on some of the biggest stages in college.
ZACH LOFTON: Great experience for us, you know what I mean? Going out and playing everywhere away, you know what I mean, it built us for this, you know what I mean. Built us for this, you know what I mean. We're in South Carolina. We're right next to right next to North Carolina. So I think that helped a lot experience-wise.
DEMONTRAE JEFFERSON: I think as a player, I didn't play prior – I think eight or nine games in the beginning of the season, but when I came I played five, and it was just like the competition and the experience and the environment being in those big gyms, knowing how much history was in those gyms and me coming here being able to play in front of people, I never thought would come and see me or never thought I'd play in these gyms. So I think playing non-conference kind of made me more physically and mentally stronger and made me realize that these games aren't just about me and just about the team is way bigger than us.
Q. Zach, what's the first step in trying to slay this giant dragon in front of you or even just stay in the game, make them sweat a little?
ZACH LOFTON: Execution, following Coach's plan, that's the first step for me.
MARVIN JONES: Honestly just taking it a possession at a time. We can't go in trying to say that we're going to win by this much or we're going to stop them to this point. We're going to take each four-minute period, get it as close as possible, and just give it our all. That's all we can do.
DEMONTRAE JEFFERSON: Stops, stops. Defense wins games. If we can stop them or contain them or stop them from rebounding 40 percent of the shots they do and get them a little bit uncomfortable and take a couple of players out of the game, I think we can come out of here with a W.
Q. Every year in an NCAA Tournament, an HBC, you typically get a 16 seed, occasionally get a 15 seed. Do you guys think that's a lack of respect for the programs in the MEAC and the SWAC?
ZACH LOFTON: That's a tough one, you know what I mean? I mean everyone's biased of us because the competition isn't as great as the Power Five, you know what I mean? So I think our talent level may be better than the 16 seed, you know what I mean? But that's not for me to – you know what I mean? I don't make the season. But I don't know. We're just happy to be here, you know what I mean? I don't get into all that. I'm just happy I'm here.
MARVIN JONES: Honestly, I don't fall into that, because I know what I'm capable of. He knows what he's capable of. So we're going to come out and play right there, just anybody else at the park. I'm not going to go out there be timid or nervous just because their jersey says North Carolina or just because Roy's over there. I know how historic this program is. It's a blessing to be able to go up against those guys. But I'm going to go out and compete, like I was going up against Jackson State or anybody in the SWAC. That's not the problem for us because we all play versus high-level talent all our lives. It's going to be a very exciting game.
DEMONTRAE JEFFERSON: I think us getting the 16 seed, yeah, I think it was a little bit disrespectful because we had the ESP or.
MARVIN JONES: RPI.
DEMONTRAE JEFFERSON: RPI was good. We had a nice RPI, the best coming out of the SWAC ever. So I think me and the team and Coach Davis was expecting a higher seed. Once it was what it was we just took it from there and never looked back and just started preparing for tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We're joined by Coach Mike Davis.
Q. Any benefit to the fact that your team actually played a game in this building last year? And does that mean anything to you? I know you guys see a lot of arenas based on your travel and I know you've turned some of your roster over since then?
COACH DAVIS: We have a different lineup. Not one guy on that team now played here last year. And so I'm the only one. And I don't think I'll be making any jump shots tomorrow.
Q. Realistically, how much – when you guys play so much on the road and kind of play those guaranteed games early against bigger competition – how much can that and does that help in the situation now where it's tournament time and you're in that same situation, basically?
COACH DAVIS: See, a lot of people think we play the game for money, to support our other programs, and we don't. My goal is to try to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. And so when you set a goal, it has to be a real goal. And it has to be something that you know that you're willing to work for. And so I've played those games -- I think we played Louisville and Baylor and Arizona. I'm not sure, two of those are 2 seeds and one is a 3 seed. After we play those games and then you come back and you see if you're willing to put that type of energy and effort into your practices every day throughout the conference play, seeking that you play at that same level that you played against Arizona and Baylor. Now, once you get into the tournament, you're used to that effort and you'll be able to sustain that effort for long periods of time. Unfortunately, we didn't play at that 10 level that it takes to win games in the NCAA Tournament. We kind of danced around a little bit with seven, eight, but mostly at five. And with our talent level we were able to win a lot of games in our conference at a five. And the only way you win games and the only way you benefit from your non-conference schedule is that you have to take those games and realize how hard those games are and come back and practice that way throughout the course of your season. And then once – our goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament every year. So once you get to the tournament, did you work hard enough from December to March to be able to face a team like North Carolina?
Q. Obviously your program's in the spotlight this week, unlike it is in the rest of the year. And I wonder, for the program and for the team and the players and for you, did you do anything in particular this week to use that spotlight, maybe in recruiting or just exposure, when you have that opportunity?
COACH DAVIS: Well, not really, not really, because when our name came up to play North Carolina, we got a 16 seed. I was hoping for a play-in game once I saw our name. But we don't do anything special. We want players to come and play for Texas Southern because they want to play in the championship game. Houston is a beautiful city. We haven't been out recruiting in three, four years so most of our recruiting comes on the phone and people see our program and see our schedule, who we play. We haven't played a home game in non-conference in two seasons, and if you want to be a pro, most guys think they want to be a pro. What I did this year was kind of special. We played Texas Arlington on the Saturday night, got up next morning at five, played Delaware, played the very next day. We played LSU on a Saturday night, 8:00 game, got on the bus, drove all night, played TCU at 5:00 the next day. So a lot of guys thought they want to be a pro. They realize it's a very difficult schedule to play that schedule. But also, did that put us in a situation to tell who we are and how bad you want to play basketball?
Q. You mentioned your goal's to make the tournament every year, but you see North Carolina pop up. Not only that, you're coming to their backyard. What does your message become to your team other than embrace the moment?
COACH DAVIS: We talked, everybody talked about David and Goliath. What I told my basketball team, that story is a powerful story. But what people don't realize is David was supposed to win. He was the expert. He wasn't someone they sent out to fight and never had ever used a slingshot. His slingshot was like a gun, shooting a gun. And he was an expert. So Goliath was a big, old guy and he had one eye. If he got his hands on you he was going to automatically win. So as you take that story, that's a powerful story. So are we experts? Are we in great shape? Are we prepared to give great effort every possession? Are we willing to get back in transition, block out? So don't go into this game thinking that you're a David if you're not willing to prepare yourself up to this point to play at that 10 level for 40 minutes.
Q. You've been on both sides of this kind of a game now. How does that inform – and you kind of partially answered it there – but how does that inform your team entering a game like this?
COACH DAVIS: We started from game one, when you set goals you have to set goals that you're willing to pay a price to achieve that goal. It's like a wishful thinking. It's like a wish list. Some of our guys feel really good when I told them we was playing Arizona this year, and they feel great about going to Louisville and Baylor. But once they got into it they realized there's another level of not just talent but another level of effort. And so going into this game it's like, okay, North Carolina, they rebound four of their missed shots in transition. You can score the basket on them and they can score a basket on you within three seconds. And so now all the work that we put in this year, all the conversations and speeches and everything that I've done, we talked about tomorrow is the day you must lay it on the line. If not, we can play our best game that we've ever played, every guy can have a career high, but we're still going to lose the basketball game. What we have to try to do is play our best game, prevent them from playing anywhere near what their best game and be the worst game and we still may lose the basketball game. So we can't respond and react to anything negative or positive. We just have to go out and play the game the way it's supposed to be played.
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