LSU Athletics Creative Services

Third-Seeded Tigers Set To Open NCAA Play Thursday

Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

JACKSONVILLE, Florida – The third seed in the East Region, the LSU Tigers, take their first step in the NCAA Tournament Thursday when they take on No. 14 seed Yale in the first round at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

Start time in what will be the second NCAA game around the country to tip off is 12:40 p.m. ET and 11:40 a.m. (BR time).

LSU and Yale will meet in the first of four games at this NCAA site on Thursday with the game to be televised on truTV (Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel and Jamie Erdahl). Chris Blair and former LSU Coach John Brady will be on the call on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM the BR affiliate).

This will be the Tigers’ 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2015. It is LSU’s highest seeding since the Tigers were seeded first in a 1981 region of the NCAA Tournament. LSU is 24-24 in its previous 21 appearances. LSU is 11-10 in their first game appearances all-time.

The Jacksonville Arena site has special meaning to LSU as this was the site of LSU’s first and second round games in 2006 when LSU advanced all the way to the NCAA Final Four. That year LSU rallied in the second half to defeat Iona in the second half and Darrel Mitchell hit a three-pointer in the final 10 seconds to defeat Texas A&M in the second round.

Tasmin Mitchell, who played in both of those games, is on the present day LSU staff as the Director of Student-Athlete Development, while the coach of the 2006 team, John Brady, is the analyst for the LSU Sports Radio Network.

This will be Yale’s second NCAA Tournament appearance in the past four years and fifth overall. In 2016, No. 12 Yale defeated fifth-seed Baylor, 79-75, in Providence for the first NCAA Tournament victory in school history. The other appearances came in 1962, 1957 and 1949.

Yale is coached by James Jones in his 20th season at the helm. His team has won Ivy League championships in 2002, 2015 and 2016. Jones’ team won the Ivy League tournament final on Sunday, 97-85, against Harvard.

Yale is expected to have a veteran lineup of three seniors and two juniors, while LSU will start only one player who has played three years at LSU (Skylar Mays). LSU will three players in their first season at LSU.

Miye Oni leads Yale at 17.6 points and 6.4 rebounds a game, while Alex Copeland is at 13.8 points with 100 assists, Blake Reynolds averages 11.4 points and Jordan Bruner 10.2 points.

LSU also had four guys in double figures this season with Tremont Waters averaging 15.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.0 steals, with Naz Reid averaging 13.7 points and 7.2 rebounds. Skylar Mays averaged 13.4 points and Javonte Smart 11.5 markers.

Worsham: New Haven Native Tremont Waters Set for Yale Reunion

Both teams average over 81 points a game with Yale at 81.1 and LSU at 81.4. Ironically, both give up 73 points a game with LSU giving up 73.0 and Yale 73.2 a contest.

The winner of the LSU-Yale contest will meet the winner of the Maryland-Belmont game on Saturday at a time to be determined. Belmont defeated Temple, 81-70, in the opening round game Tuesday night in Dayton and arrived shortly before dawn in Jacksonville.

PRACTICE DAY QUOTES
NCAA MEN'S 1ST AND 2ND ROUNDS: JACKSONVILLE
March 20, 2019

LSU
Coach Tony Benford
Tremont Waters
Skylar Mays

Q. Tre, how far did you grow up from Yale in New Haven? And did you ever as a kid maybe think about playing there?
TREMONT WATERS: Yeah, I grew up about -- like if I had a strong enough arm, I could probably throw a rock to Yale's basketball facilities. Growing up playing basketball, I didn't necessarily think about playing them in the tournament, but it's a great feeling to be able to make it this far and be able to play against someone who's from back home.

Q. I've heard you played some pickup games against some of those guys when you were in high school. Do you remember any of them?
TREMONT WATERS: I used to play on the same AAU team as Azar Swain and Jordan Bruner. He was a guy that was on his way there like to start his school process, but he had sat out one year, so we had put up a couple shots together. Nothing crazy, but yeah.

Q. This team, their starting five has four players that average double-digit scoring. They're a high-flying scoring offense as you guys are. How do you guys plan to keep up, or is the mindset kind of the same, you're going to try to stay the same and score, as well?
SKYLAR MAYS: Yeah, it's going to be a big challenge for us. You know, when you see that balance on the scoring end that means they really pass the ball well, so everybody is a weapon. We're just going to try to stick to our defensive principles and try to make shots hard for them.

TREMONT WATERS: Yeah, obviously like when you come into this type of environment, you've got to play against guys who either push the ball, slow it down. It's just a bunch of type of different offensive schemes and defensive schemes. We can't shy away from what we've been doing as a program, we've just got to continue to do what our jobs are and just keep doing what we do.

Q. Miye Oni, obviously a scorer, the leader of this team. What have you seen from him on film and what makes him so difficult to guard?
SKYLAR MAYS: He's a great player. He's been an integral part of a team that's made it to the NCAA Tournament, so you can tell the talent that he brings, and he's unbelievable in transition. So we're going to try to keep him out of that, and again, just try to make shots hard for him.

Q. What have you guys learned from the SEC Tournament? Obviously that loss against Florida. What have you guys done over the last week to try and pre-prepare and refocus, especially now that Will Wade is not going to be here?
TREMONT WATERS: All season we've been saying, we are a family, we are going to grow together. Keep pushing through everything, all that adversity that's been thrown at us. But nothing has changed since the Florida game. It was a game that we lost. We didn't execute down the stretch, and we know that we have to come together as a family even more now because we don't have our head coach.

Coach Benford is our new head coach and everyone respects that. We totally loved the change of Coach Benford being there, Coach GH, Coach Armstrong. But like we say, we've just got to come together, just be one and not let anything break us apart.

Q. Not having your head coach, has it bonded you guys as a closer unit? What has it done to bring you guys closer as a basketball team?
SKYLAR MAYS: Yeah, you know, the ideal family is when one person is down, the other person has to pick them up. The huge part of our team and Coach Wade, with him being out, we knew that we'd have to come together even more, and we probably didn't show it as much in the Florida game, but looking at that film and learning from that loss, we understand that's going to be a big part of us being able to move further down in this tournament and getting past Yale.

Q. Now that y'all have worked with Coach Tony and Heiar and Armstrong as that collective co-coaches unit for a couple of weeks now, how are you getting used to that in terms of only having it for one day for the first game?
TREMONT WATERS: Well, they were a part of our coaching staff before, they were just an extension of Coach Wade, but now that Coach Benford is our actual head coach now, everyone is looking towards him, and he's putting a lot of -- not pressure, but he's putting a lot of trust into the players now and just holding each other accountable more because when Coach Wade was the coach, he had more say so. But now that we know we don't have him, everyone has been coming together. We've been in the gym shooting a lot more. Like we've been doing a lot of things together without the coaching staff pretty much forcing us to do it, like throughout practice and stuff.

I would just say that they're giving us a lot more freedom to see what we're going to do, and I would say we've stepped up to the challenge. We know that games aren't going to be easy. We've just got to go out, fight together and be brothers.

Q. Kind of following that up, with all the off-the-court stuff, how much do you guys think about that other than when you're in press conference here? During the day between practices, between games, is it on your mind, and does it anger you what people say about the program and about your coach?
SKYLAR MAYS: I think there's been a lot of outside stuff throughout the year and we've done a great job of keeping that stuff outside. You know, once we step on the court, and I think our record shows that. We should be able to continue to do that, and me and Tremont as leaders, we trust all these guys, and we've developed a great bond over the year, and we expect that bond to keep us together on the court.

Q. Obviously this is a different team than Florida, Florida more of a slow-it-down type of offense, and this one more of a high-speed offense. Coach Benford talked about how paint touches would be more important in this game. Without giving away the game plan, what do you think is an important to do in a game like this where it could be a shootout down the stretch?
TREMONT WATERS: I would say we have to get back in transition because Oni, he's a beast in transition. He likes to push the ball, get out, and their point guard, No. 3, he pushes the ball a lot, and as long as we're able to stop those two guys and pretty much play everyone else inside, then I feel like we have a pretty good chance to win the game.

Q. Skylar, I don't know if you saw, but ESPN rated all the coaches by their playing ability, and Coach Benford rated pretty high. Has he ever told you about what a great player he was, and does he still have any game?
SKYLAR MAYS: Yeah, he brings up how back in the day he got drafted by the Celtics, I believe, and said he was kicking butt back in the '80s. But he doesn't dwell on it too much. It was a long time ago.

Q. I don't know if you got asked this earlier, but being from New Haven, what do you know about Yale? Did you get recruited by Yale? Did you consider them? Some of the guys said you might play pick-up games.
TREMONT WATERS: Yeah, like I said before, if I had a strong enough arm, I could probably throw a rock to Yale's basketball facilities. That's where I started playing basketball. My dad got a membership to Payne Whitney gym, and it was like the local -- not local but the facility where everyone could go in, if you had a membership. So that's where I started. Actually one of my basketball videos, like my training videos is actually in their gym, and that's when I wasn't being recruited by them, so it wasn't a violation or anything.

Yeah, I just grew up playing there. Now that Azar Swain goes there, I actually grew up playing basketball with him for the CT Elite Basketball Club, and just knowing that I'm from New Haven and that this team is from New Haven, it's an honor to be able to play them in the first game of the March Madness NCAA Tournament.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, a few thoughts on the last weeks and how it's gone for your basketball team.

TONY BENFORD: Yeah, first of all, our guys have been great. They've been working extremely hard. We've had some great practices the last few days, really focused, especially after the SEC Tournament. After the loss to Florida, we gave the guys a couple of days off. Came back, had two really, really, I think, spirited practices. The guys are focused, looking forward to the opportunity to play here in the NCAA Tournament against a very quality Yale team, and we'll be prepared to play tomorrow.

Q. Naz Reid is a local guy for us. What's his development been like on and off the court?
TONY BENFORD: Great. I'll tell you what, I was just talking to another media person about Naz. Naz has lost 30 pounds since he joined us in June, and he's worked extremely hard. Our strength coach has done a great job with him. We all know about his skill set, but he's been very coachable, he's got a high IQ, he absorbs the scouting reports and our film sessions. He's really good, and I'll tell you what, with our big guys he's like a coach on the floor with our big guys. He's been good defensively. That's one area I think he's really improved is defensively. He's able to guard ball screens. You'll see Naz, we'll match him up sometimes on the wings. He's guarding 6'4", 6'5" wings.

I've been really pleased. He should be a lottery pick, in my opinion. I don't see how guys pass on a guy with that size and that skill set.

Q. Tony, given the unforeseen circumstances of the season, being thrown in so late, what does it mean having been a head coach so recently? Do you think it would be -- has it made the adjustment easier for you? And if you hadn't been, would it have been more difficult?
TONY BENFORD: That's a good question. First of all, we have a quality group. What I mean, a group of character kids, and they've really bought in. They've really taken ownership of their team. They've had to unfortunately go through a lot of adversity this year, losing one of their teammates in Wayde Sims, and that really made these guys a tighter knit group, brought them closer together, more trust and respect for one another, and it made easier for us to coach them. They dedicated the season to Wayde Sims. That's the reason we were able to win in overtime. Had six overtime games in the league and we were 5-1 in those games because of the closeness of this group.

For me to step in, Coach Wade really delegates a lot to our coaching staff. We have a great staff - Greg Heiar, who is ready to be a head coach. He was at Wichita State. He does a tremendous job. Then Bill Armstrong, who was in the SEC for 13 years. That's made it easier, having really good -- I say we're co-coaches but really other good coaches on the staff, and that's helped our transition and our relationship with our players.

Q. Following that up, how difficult has it been for you to not only try to coach a basketball team obviously but keep players focused on basketball as opposed to everything swirling around the program?
TONY BENFORD: Well, first of all, we talk about narrow focus, narrowing our focus, controlling -- we can't control the outside noise and what's going on. All we can control is our locker room and our huddle, and the players, they've taken ownership of the locker room. They're holding everyone accountable, their teammates accountable, too. So that's huge when you can narrow your focus. Kind of have to have tunnel vision and put blinders on. But they're aware of what's going on on the outside, but inside when we walk in those doors, hey, it's about preparing for -- for instance, Yale. We've got to prepare today, guys. We can't control what's going on on the outside.

Q. What are your thoughts about the program just being shown in such a negative light? And do you have any sense for what players think about it, but also what do you think about it?
TONY BENFORD: Well, I mean, in college athletics, things happen. That's just part of life, in any walk of life, any profession, things happen. So we can't worry about that right now. I'm just focused on these kids and making sure that we're prepared for Yale, and making sure that we're going to represent LSU the best way we can at this moment.

Q. I asked one of the players this: You saw ESPN ranked the coaches by their playing ability, and you ranked pretty high. You were not Chris Mullin, but one of the pretty good coaches in the tournament. I was just wondering if you had seen that, and what do you take from your playing days to help you relate to players and what they're going through and what they're thinking, that sort of thing?
TONY BENFORD: Yeah, that was about 100 pounds ago with that. But anyway, I saw that.

But anyway, I had guys -- I played my senior year -- well, I played a couple years in the NCAA Tournament. I played at Texas Tech, and we lost a teammate, and I related this to my guys. We lost a teammate when I was in college while we were playing at the rec center on the floor, had a heart attack and died. That brought back -- I still stay in contact with those guys. That brought us closer together, that group that I played with. That's what I see with these guys. I shared my experience with these guys, and you can see like these guys have went through the adversity, obviously the adverse situation with losing Wayde that we've gone through there, a lot of people talk about being their brothers' keepers and all that stuff. These guys are living it. They are truly their brothers' keepers.

So we've got to continue to stay focused and continue to stay together.

Q. Tony, your history with the tournament, you know there's upsets happen in these early-round games. You're playing an early game tomorrow. What's your message to your team? How do you keep your team loose and not get tight as a top seed?
TONY BENFORD: Well, Yale is, first of all, they're well-coached. Coach Jones is a tremendous coach. He does a great job, and those guys are -- they have more experience. We have one guy that's been in the tournament. That's Kavell Bigby-Williams. They have five that have played in it just recently two years ago, and beat Baylor. They played Duke really, really close that second game I remember.

But you look at their numbers, they scare you. Offensively they're off the chart. They really push the basketball. But also defensively they're pretty sound. I think they're holding teams to 41 percent field goal percentage on defense. So they're a quality team.

But all we can control is what we do. We're not going to change a whole lot. That's one thing, I think, is we've kind of kept our routine the same. We've got to do a good job of pushing the tempo. They want to push the tempo. But we've got to do a good job, make sure we get back in transition defense and get to their shooters, and they've got some guys that can make some plays, obviously Oni and Copeland and Reynolds all can make plays.

So we've got to do a solid job defensively. We've got to be solid on our ball screen coverage, on the defensive end, and then we've got to rebound the ball, and then we've got to get on the glass. We're one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, so when a shot goes up, we've got to make sure we get on the glass, too, for the next possession.

Q. As a coach, you've obviously been thrown into a very unusual situation. How do you as a coach impart to 19, 20, 21-year-old kids trying to navigate this with all the outside noise that comes in with a situation like this? How have you handled that with them?
TONY BENFORD: Well, earlier I was just mentioning to a couple of the members in the chairs that we try to talk about today. We can't control what happened yesterday. But we're mindful of the fact that there's a lot of noise out there. You know that, but what we try to do is focus in on Yale right now. That's what we've done, preparing for Yale, and we've talked about that. Unfortunately guys have great leadership in Skylar Mays, Tremont Waters. You guys just visited with those guys. Kavell Bigby-Williams has been a great leader for us. So we just really try to have tunnel vision and just concentrate on the task at hand, and that's to play a really good Yale team.

Q. Has it become maybe a little bit easier now as time goes on, maybe I'm sure the first few days it happened, there might have been a little more of a chaotic feel to it, but has it become easier has time has moved on?
TONY BENFORD: Well, I don't know about easier, but it's helped, and I think we're settled into a routine I guess is the right answer to that. I think our guys -- we haven't changed our routine at all as far as our preparation and as far as the amount of time we spend with our guys and stuff. I don't think it's gotten easier, but the guys I think now are accustomed that Coach is not around right now. They're hearing my voice, Coach Heiar's voice and Coach Armstrong, and they understand that.

And then again, I just get back to the ownership. I think every championship team that I've been a part of, associated with, it's always about the players. Players have taken ownership of their teams, and that's the reason we were able to win the SEC championship is because of our players.
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NCAA MEN'S 1ST AND 2ND ROUNDS: JACKSONVILLE
March 20, 2019

Yale
Coach James Jones

THE MODERATOR: Talk about how your regular season ended to get into the tournament here, your second time being in the NCAAs, correct?

JAMES JONES: Yes, it is. We're real excited to be here, obviously. We had a great end to our regular season and our tournament with a couple of wins over two really good Ivy League basketball teams, and we felt all year that we were the better team in the league, and I thought we proved it in terms of our non-conference and our win-loss record, and it was great to be able to prove it on our home floor and get ourselves down here and into the NCAA Tournament.

Q. James, could you walk us through the recruiting process for Miye and how he ended up at Yale, and was there ever a time when you wondered maybe if he would go elsewhere when the recruiting picked up?
JAMES JONES: Well, I believe it was after his senior year, we got a call from Robert Icart, who was his AAU. Coach, BTI, I believe, out of Southern California, and he said he had a kid that we should really take a look at, and he said there's some film on him. I took a look at the film, and the first time in my career I ever offered a kid after watching the film, and it wasn't even a game, it was like a highlight.

But he had done some things in the highlight tape that were just so exceptional. I was born at night but not last night, and I could figure it out. So we offered Miye, and he and his father flew out to Yale on their own dime, and they were supposed to spend like a half a day with us, and they got mixed up in traffic, and I believe they visited Columbia and Yale and Dartmouth on the same trip or Princeton, whatever the case, so they only spent like an hour and a half a Yale. We sat down and talked and I had a good feel for them and I thought they had a good feel for me.

Shortly thereafter he had gone to Stanford's elite camp and they didn't offer him an opportunity and after that he committed to Yale. That was somewhere in April or May of his senior year, and then in July he went out and he played in Las Vegas in Fab 48, and he played better than anybody I've ever recruited in a summer tournament. They played against Thon Maker's team from Canada, and it was Miye and a kid Cohen, who is at Lehigh, were the only Division I players on their BTI team, and they ended up beating them, and Miye was absolutely tremendous. Johnny Dawkins came up to me after the tournament or after one of the games, and he goes, "Guys, you've got a good one, I made a mistake on him," because he was just that good.

His father is committed to education, and Miye is committed to education, and although other people came in recruiting him, they had committed to us, and they kept their commitment because of the people that they are.

Q. Could you just talk about once you had gotten the job, could you talk about the challenge in the Ivy League? Everybody is very familiar with the traditions that Princeton has established there, that Penn and Harvard has had their run. How tough was it to come in and sort of crack that and sort of become the standard bearer, if you will, for that league?
JAMES JONES: Well, I was an assistant coach for Dick Kuchen for a couple years, and while being at Yale, I understood the power of the name and what it was all about and what a great institution that it is. So I was at Ohio University as an assistant coach when the job opened up and I interviewed, and my thought process after talking to people, they were wondering why I would want to go to Yale. Out of 310 Division I teams, Yale was ranked 308 when I took over the job.

They would ask me that question, and my answer would be, "Because it's Yale."

I felt like if I couldn't convince young men that we could win and that they were going to get the best education in the world, then I was probably in the wrong business. And I felt that Yale was such a great place academically, and I felt really good about what we were going to do basketball-wise that we could convince people that we could make special things happen.

And in getting to it, the biggest challenge we had was we had no basketball history. You walk into our gym, there wasn't 40 banners up of championships. There wasn't several guys who played in the NBA or whatever the fact may be, so we had to start our own history, and we have, and we've done a great job with that, and I've had wonderful assistant coaches who have gone out and beaten the bushes and found young men of quality academically and athletically to help us win championships, and we finally got our programs to the point we're going to be good every year, and I think that's the challenge.

We've been fairly consistent since I've been a head coach at Yale, and this is my 20th season. We've finished in the top half of the league 19 times, and the only time we didn't was our first year, when we finished 5-9 and were in fifth place. That's the worst we've ever done since I've been a head coach, and that consistency has been pretty good, but we don't want to be consistent; we want to be great. We want to win the league most every other year, and hopefully we continue to try to bring in quality student-athletes like Miye, Blake and Alex and have a chance to win every year.

Q. I don't expect you to get into your game plan here at a press conference, but you've been known for playing an up-tempo game. This might be the best collection of athletes you've gone up against but also the slower tempo has given them trouble this year, teams like Florida. How do you go about doing that?
JAMES JONES: Well, certainly LSU is a very athletic team. We did play Duke this year. They're not bad I heard. So we have seen -- and this collection of guys that you're talking about, they've had some schedules over their four years at Yale, so we've seen some players. One of the things I did last night was I watched our Baylor game, it's on my laptop, and I like to look at it every now and again to make myself feel better about my life (laughter), and I watched the game, and we played them straight up. We guarded them man-to-man in the post, we didn't switch, we didn't double. We did what we normally do. And we were able to do that because we were good enough.

I think this is a really good team, and offensively we're pretty good offensive team, as well. We shoot -- I think we're like sixth in the country with field goal percentage offense. So that being said, we want to play our basketball game, and if that's good enough, it's going to be good enough. It's not, it's not. But we want to play our basketball team and we want to be the team -- we want to be true to who Yale basketball is, and we're going to go out and try to do that tomorrow.

Q. You've got a local kid, Austin Williams, on your team. Doesn't necessarily get a whole lot of minutes, but whenever you call his number, seems like he goes out there and produces. What does that say about his character?
JAMES JONES: Well, listen, we had a game against Princeton at Princeton, and we got into a situation where we needed to call his number. I couldn't get some guys out of the game and both post guys were in the game from the start until about the 12-minute mark, and we normally have one post sub, and that's Paul Atkinson off the bench, and if I would have left another guy in, they would've been in for 10 or 12 straight minutes. That's more than I like to give them. So we called Austin's number and he proceeded to go in and score a couple of baskets for us. It speaks volumes to the character of his.

You don't know how hard it is to go to practice every day and not play in a game and reap the benefits, and sit on the bench and wait for your number to be called. But what you do is you come to practice every day so when your number is called you're ready. You know, Austin has done that for us, and he's been a tremendous kid.

One of the hardest things you do as a coach is to manage expectations because everybody has expectations. I was better than anybody I ever played against; just ask me, right. So everybody feels that way. And I have a locker room of guys that feel the same way, so it's important for us to make sure that everyone knows they're vested in what we do, and just because you don't go out and score the points and get the rebounds or make the assists, you still are really important to Yale basketball and what we do, and I believe that Austin feels that way, and that's one of the reasons why he's able to go into the game and having played in like six or eight or ten in a row and able to be successful because he's worked hard for his opportunity and was just waiting for it.

Q. You have four different starters all in double figures, obviously Miye Oni is your leading scorer. For people that don't get a chance to watch too much of Ivy League basketball, what is Miye like and what is it like to have four players that might be in double figures every night?
JAMES JONES: Well, Miye might be the most competitive kid I've ever coached. He doesn't like to lose at anything, and he'll bite, scratch and claw to get a win, right, he's one of those kind of kids. So that being said, it's tremendous to have him in the locker room with us because he keeps you on your toes. If you're not ready to go, you're going to get hurt one way or the other. In any event, so it's great to have him as part of it.

And having a well-rounded team of guys who can score -- I have basically seven starters, like Azar Swain and Paul Atkinson come off the bench but they're starters. They play starters minutes. They're good enough to start on most every team in our league, and we're fortunate to have a really good basketball club and have those guys part of it. And when I say they're all starters, whenever any of those seven guys are out of the game and on the bench, I'm trying to find a way to get them back in the game. And we have some other guys like we talked about Austin Williams and Eric Monroe who come in and help us from time to time.

But those seven guys are really tremendous, and it's great to have a well-balanced team are any one of those guys can give you 20 on any night. And as you look over our last five or six games, Miye has been a consistent scorer and so has Alex Copeland but we've had other guys lead us in scoring too - Blake Reynolds and Jordan Bruner have been a huge part of what we do, and Azar Swain goes out and goes 4 for 5 from the arc against Harvard in the championship game. So we have a lot of guys that can hurt you. So it's great to have that kind of balance in your offense so you can win games.

Q. You talked about the Baylor game, do you let the players watch it or did you show that to them?
JAMES JONES: No, that's the personal thing with me. I have it on my laptop, I have it there so I can watch it any time I want. Every now and again I'll just take some pointers from it. I like to see what we were doing and how we were successful.

Q. Going back to that, how much do you think just going through that experience with your three senior starters, Blake and Trey and Alex, how much do you think that will help them going through it again?
JAMES JONES: Well, I think that once you go and you win it and you break that lid, you kind of believe. It's hard to achieve if you don't believe. So I think our guys in the locker room are confident about who they are and about the guys that are sitting next to them. So if you have a belief that you can win, it's got to start there. So there's no fear in the guys' eyes, and we watch some tape of LSU play yesterday and I saw some guys twitching a little bit when they saw a lob dunk or Naz going up and tipping it back in, or Skylar hammering it on somebody's head. Again, we've got some pretty good highlights from our club as well. I think there is a lot of confidence in the room and it is derived from wins that you've had in the past.

Q. Bobby Phills was quite a legend at Southern University there in Baton Rouge, the teams he played on and everything. What's it like to coach his son, and what are some things you can share about his son to those watching back in Baton Rouge?
JAMES JONES: Yeah, Trey Phills is perhaps one of the better people on this planet. He's the kind of guy you want your daughter to marry. I don't know if you have any daughters, but if you do, try to get his number. You'd be happy to have him as a son in law. Tremendous person, tremendous kid, tremendous basketball player, tremendous athlete, and is just -- he's kind of the glue of who we are. What I mean by that, his task every single game is to guard the team's best player, and whether that be the 1, 2 or the 3, Trey has got him, and everybody knows it.

To be that selfless person, to go out and just to defend, because after every single game that every kid has ever played, the first question they're asked, how many points did you score? Not who did you stop, not how many rebounds you got, not how many assists; how many points did you score. So knowing that's going to be the case and knowing that he's not the kid that's going to score the most points every night, it takes a very selfless person to be able to go out and do that, and he's one of the most selfless, hardest working kids that I've ever coached, and it's been a joy.

And lastly here, I have four seniors, and I've taken some time here, most every single practice over the last -- we've had like 100 practices so far this year. Over the last I'd say 30 to 35, I made a point to try to grab a smile with each one of my seniors for some reason or another, just to talk to them individually because they're going to be gone in a year.

And sometimes you get addition by subtraction. That's not the case with these guys. It's going to be subtraction by subtraction. We will be lesser of a team when they graduate, and Trey Phills is a big part of that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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