POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
HEAD COACH TONY SHAVER
Just an amazing win for our club. I don’t know what else to say. Couldn’t be prouder of them. I think to beat VCU who has proven over the last three months they’re the best team in this league. To beat them in Richmond is quite an accomplishment in my opinion. My hats off to these players. They were sensational. The only I’d say that we’re learning as a ballclub is that the little things in the game make a difference in winning and losing. Obviously, Laimis’s shot was big and Danny’s play was big, but I thought Pete Stein’s charges today changed the momentum on several different occasions. I thought Kyle Carrabine came in the ballgame and dove on the floor one time and got us one extra possession and that might’ve been the difference in the ballgame. Just very proud of our team.
On Kisielius’s game-winner:
I think the neat part for me is it’s been three different guys in the tournament and that’s what we’ve done all year long. We had only one player recognized on the All-CAA team. It’s been a team effort from beginning to end really.
On VCU’s two game-tying three-pointers late down the stretch:
[I was thinking] not good things to be honest with you. Shuler’s shot was amazing. They put the ball in the right player’s hands which good coaches and good teams do. I thought they were tremendous there.
The response our guys had. That’s probably the key to winning ballgames like this. You’re going to get hit in the mouth, but I think it’s how you respond that’s really the key and we responded extremely well.
On how the Tribe weathered a 5:56 scoring drought near the game’s end:
I think defense. It wouldn’t be our basketball team right now if we didn’t have a five or six minute stretch without scoring. We wouldn’t know how to treat the game if that didn’t happen to us right now. We learned to persevere. We learned to defend. Just hang in there really.
On whether fatigue will be a factor tomorrow night:
Well fatigue will definitely be a factor for me, but probably not for these guys. They’re young. They’re energetic. We do have some guys who’ve played a lot of minutes, but when you get to the championship of a tournament – particularly one we have so much respect for like the CAA. Adrenaline should carry us. You won’t hear us mention being tired. I’ll tell you that.
On what it means for the program to play for a conference title:
It has been a long road and it’s been a tough five years in some ways. I think we’ve gotten better every year a little bit – especially the last three years. As I told our players before the tournament, all year long we’ve been knocking on the door to be considered one of the elite in this conference and we didn’t earn that right in the regular season. But through that battle we gained enough confidence to feel like we could come here and be successful. I said this two days ago, but I’ll say it again: the main reason we’re where we are today is our senior class. They have taken us to a land we haven’t been in before.
On Danny Sumner’s play:
When we recruited Danny out of high school, we thought he was a special player that would eventually do some of these things for us. I think his freshman year was a typical freshman year. He had to adjust to a lot. He had to adjust to me and college life. I think before Christmas we just felt he had to play. Danny struggled defensively some early in the year, but he’s so good offensively and gives us such a weapon that we don’t have without him. We felt that he could grow on the floor defensively as opposed to listening to me in practice. He’s been sensational. It’s hard to imagine a sophomore playing as well as he has in the last three days.
On his team’s confidence heading into the tournament:
We’re confident – no question about that. What they’ve accomplished in the last three days is amazing to me as a coach of this club. We feel when we get to this point that we can win it all. I told the team in the locker room and they need to know: enjoy this moment. But we need to know that we’re good enough to win tomorrow.
On Laimis’s play at the end of the regular season:
We talked a lot – that’s for sure. He probably talked to me more than he wanted to talk to me during that stretch. They were good conversations. They weren’t critical conversations. Quite honestly, Nathan and Laimis struggled in the last three weeks of our season. Two things for me: 1) we know to be a good basketball team we need them to play well. 2) They’ve done so much for this program [and] had been so loyal to this program that there’s no way [Laimis] is not going to be loyal to them down the stretch.
On what you told the team before the game today after losing twice to VCU:
This really came from my assistants. I listen to those guys a lot and it helps our program. One thing they talked about to me and we addressed the team with this – corny or not. But this reminded us a little bit about the Giants and the Patriots…I felt we played George Mason on the road really tough. We played VCU at home tough. We gained confidence from it and we felt the second time around that that could give us an edge that we could be successful with.
SENIOR FORWARD LAIMIS KISIELIUS
On making the game-winning shot:
We take turns on our team. We had 20 seconds on the last possession. Coach just told us one shot and then called my number on it and it went in.
On the team’s play in the tournament:
I feel like the tournament is sort of like a new season. You start off fresh – zero-zero. You’ve got 40 minutes of basketball to play. We go to the game having nothing to lose. Every game might be my last game or other seniors’ last game. It’s a whole new season. That’s what I think about it.
On breaking out of his late season slump:
It kind of hit me that after the regular season was over that every game might be my last one, so tomorrow might be my last one. It might not be the last one. That’s how I look at it. I really have nothing to lose. I just got to enjoy my teammates, enjoy the game, [and] enjoy the coaching staff. I just try to relax and let the game come to me.
SOPHOMORE FORWARD DANNY SUMNER
On defending CAA Player of the Year Eric Maynor:
He’s conference player of the year and he likes to get to the basket a whole lot, so what I tried to do was keep him out of the lane as much as possible to try to force him to take outside shots. I think we did a good job as a team of staying with it.
On how the last two games carried over to this game:
We had been in the same position the previous two games before this game and I think that prepared us a lot. We knew we were in the same position today. We knew we were gonna come up with something big today. We did a good job of executing what we wanted to execute.
GAME OVER — TRIBE 56, VCU 54
VCU’s last second 3-pointer comes up short. The Tribe is now one game away from the NCAA tournament.
TRIBE 56, VCU 54 — 2.6 seconds left
Kisielius drives, spins and scores two as the shot clock expires. Timeout.
TRIBE 54, VCU 54 — 23.2 seconds left in the game
Threes by Kisielius and Shuler got us here. Tribe ball with 20 seconds on the shot clock.
TRIBE 51, VCU 51 – 1:06 Second Half
Timeout Tribe, it’s their basketball. It’s been 5:38 since they last scored a basket. 27 seconds left on the shot clock.
TRIBE 51, VCU 51 – 3:19 Second Half
Maynor just hit a three to tie this thing up. Tribe basketball after the timeout.
TRIBE 51, VCU 46 – 3:51 Second Half
VCU’s going to the line for two shots after the break. Maynor just missed two from the line. All the things that have to happen in order for the Tribe to win are happening. The past two possessions, however, they’ve taken poor three-pointers, and they haven’t scored in nearly three minutes. They’ll need some big buckets down the stretch to hold off the Rams.
TRIBE 50, VCU 43 – 6:44 Second Half
Another three-pointer by Kisielius. VCU then threw it right into Sumner’s hands on the other end. Sumner put in a lay-up as he was fouled. He’ll shoot the free throw after the break.
TRIBE 45, VCU 43 – 7:48 Second Half
Sumner recorded a three-point play, followed by a three from the top of the key by Kisielius. VCU can’t get it together on the offensive end. The starting five is back out there on the floor for the Tribe, and they’re likely going to have to bring this one home for them.
VCU 43, TRIBE 39 – 9:10 Second Half
VCU is putting the pressure on now at both ends. Head Coach Tony Shaver is putting Mann back into the game. They’re going to need him the rest of the way. This is a critical stretch of the game for the Tribe, they have to keep it close here. VCU has the potential to go on a game-clinching run at any point.
TRIBE 37, VCU 35 – 11:54 Second Half
The Tribe has now gone on a 13-4 run to start the second. Sumner is asserting himself on offense, and on defense the Tribe is doing the things they have to in order to stay in the game. Maynor nailed a deep three to cut into the Rams’ deficit, and it feels as though he’s ready to go off at any time.
VCU 32, TRIBE 31 — 15:44 Second Half
6-0 Tribe run to open the half. Maynor ends it with two free throws and puts the Rams back up two. It looks as though he can get his shot whenever he wants it. Mann just picked up his fourth personal with 16:47 remaining. Senior guard Kyle Carrabine comes in to replace him. Freshman sharpshooter John Sexton has yet to see playing time. The College could probably use his shooting in Mann’s absence. VCU’s Sanders puts one back. Sumner answers with another three-pointer. Maynor has mishandled two passes in a row, resulting in VCU turnovers.
Tribe – 9 of 23 (39.1 percent)
VCU – 11 of 27 (40.7 percent)
3-pt field goals
Tribe – 3 of 9 (33.3 percent)
VCU – 3 of 10 (30 percent)
Tribe – 13
VCU – 21
Tribe – Kisielius 8, Sumner 6, Stein 5
VCU – Shuler 7, Gwynn 6, Maynor 5
HALFTIME – VCU 28, TRIBE 22
Schneider missed a three-pointer and then Shuler put in two free throws after a breakaway foul the other way. The Tribe have to be content to be this close given the amount of open shots VCU had and that its own offense has failed to catch fire. They’ll need a lights out second half if they want to win this thing, and also hope that Maynor and Shuler, who have been relatively quiet so far, don’t start filling it up. Also important for the Tribe is taking care of the basketball, something the team struggled with in the first.
VCU 24, TRIBE 22 – 2:12 First Half
Maynor drilled a three, and then Kisielius came back a lay-up to answer. Stein put in one of two free throws. Senior guard Nathan Mann is on the bench with three fouls. Schneider just drilled a three to knot the game at 22-22. Sanders answers with a lay-in on the other end.
VCU 19, TRIBE 16 – 3:59 First Half
Both teams have gone cold, aside from Sumner hitting a three to keep the Tribe in it, as he’s done the entire tournament. The officiating in this game so far has been suspect at best, most notably just calling an out of bound to VCU after the ball rolled all the way down a VCU player’s leg and out of bounds.
VCU 19, TRIBE 13 – 7:45 First Half
VCU is starting to click now, going on a 12-2 run, and they did most of it without Shuler and Maynor on the floor. The Tribe is struggling to get any sort of good look at the basket. They’re going to need somebody to step up.
TRIBE 13, VCU 12 – 11:01 First Half
VCU’s Larry Sanders just slammed one down and was fouled. Jamal Shuler hit an open three before that. The Tribe is going to need to keep close tabs on these two, in addition to Eric Maynor. Kisielius knocked down an open jumper to keep the Tribe up.
TRIBE 11, VCU 7 – 13:51 First Half
Fast start to this one. Junior forward Peter Stein’s gotten two lay-ups to go down and sophomore forward Danny Sumner drilled a three to electrify the crowd. They’re leaving VCU some open shots on the other end, but so far the Rams have been relatively cold. Sophomore guard David Schneider and Stein have each taken a charge. Senior forward Laimis Kisielius has four points. The Tribe is 5 of 8 from the field at this point. VCU is 3 of 11.
Both teams are warming up in front of their respective baskets. VCU sure is athletic. The length of some of their players is staggering. They are very loose in their warm-ups. Players are looking more to throw down dunks than to take jump shots. Assistant coaches jokingly push players and kick basketballs away from them. It’s a clear contrast to the business-like routine of the Tribe.
VCU’s band is blasting a version of “Knock on Wood” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The College’s pep band is not in attendance. I’m pretty sure that the Tribe is the only team without one here at the tournament.
So far, the Tribe’s shots are dropping. The team is going to need a similar shooting performance to the one they had in the second half of yesterday’s win over ODU.
The Kaplan Krazies, the four-man group of high school students who are some of the College’s most loyal, die-hard fans, nearly got kicked out of the student section. Fortunately, they’ve been permitted to stay. The Tribe is going to need all the fans they can get, as the Coliseum is already filling up with more than its fair share of VCU faithful.
— Jeff Dooley