Head coach Mike Brennan and senior Marko Vasic and junior Paris Maragkos spoke to the media after American's 69-55 win over Bucknell, the Eagles' fifth consecutive victory.
On Paris' big game (11 points, 3 reb, 2 ast, 2 steals)
“Paris has continued to work hard and improve. Tonight he got the opportunity to show what he does every day. It’s good for him to give us something.”
How much of Paris’ progression is being able to stay out of foul trouble, especially in game like tonight?
“Yeah, that’s a big part of it especially (when) he’s gotta guard Foulland, who’s a big physical heavy athletic guy. They’re trying to throw it to him over and over, and he’s good. So it’s a lot of work — so it requires a lot of work to stay out of foul trouble.”
What’d you do differently at all to try to contain Foulland and also stop Hass for a second game (3-11, 10 points)?
“Obviously we tried to take away 3-pointers from Hass taking them and make Foulland work for the ball. He’s obviously gonna get it and score so he still had 11 and 13 tonight. Our guys are just collectively doing it — it’s all five guys just working together to take those two things away.”
How tough was it playing on such short rest?
“This week was tough because we had the Holy Cross game (and) it was like one day of prep and one day of prep, so it was harder for Holy Cross because that was the first time we played them. It was the second time with Bucknell so we kind of knew, a little bit, we’re familiar with them. But to be honest, our preparation — we’re concentrated on ourselves, making sure that each guy’s getting better and the team’s getting better.”
How do you view this win? See it more from self-improvement standpoint or as being able to compete with best of the league, having beat the top team?
“It’s just one game. We caught them on a night (when) they’re 0-15 from 3 — that doesn’t happen very often [Note: first time in 375 games]. So they, obviously we need them to play poorly. I think we had something to do with it with our defense, but we also need them to miss shots and not have a great game. They’re obviously the top team in the league. It’s just one game and we’ve just got to continue to improve and worry about Lehigh on Saturday.”
Going against Bucknell’s pressuring guards, how impressed are you with James and Delante’s poise and just four combined turnovers?
“They’ve played a lot of minutes and they’ve had a lot of experience. We knew they were gonna be good and we liked them; we just had to go through some growing pains, they’re freshmen. Them having all that experience is allowing them to be able to compete now, to be able to compete and be able to help us win games.”
What’s the biggest area of improvement for James?
“It’s not just one — just playing, just college basketball’s hard and it’s a lot for a freshman. He’s playing 30 something minutes, the guy’s playing a lot of minutes as a freshman handling the ball, guarding guys, it’s a lot of work. The whole group has worked every day. They’ve never wavered regardless of what our record was — give them credit for sticking together, everybody, the whole team”
On American’s improved rebounding and outrebounding Bucknell
“Obviously as you go through the year each game a deficiency shows up. Obviously against Army that’s what they do well, and that showed up in a big way. So it’s something that we knew we had to attack. So again our guys, we practiced, we work on it, they do it, they work hard at it, they get better at it, and so we did against Navy, another team that rebounds very well, and this team it’s the same way. They’re older, strong guys so it’s a lot of work for our guys to keep them off the boards.”
On Jesse playing through the late injury (40 minutes for fourth time in five games)
“Yeah, of course he doesn’t want to leave the game ever, I don’t want him to leave the game ever. But he’s used to playing 40 minutes, he’s done it the last two years, he’s done it all year this year. It’s not been easy, it’s not been an easy 40 minutes, so he’s sort of gotten used to it.”
MARKO & PARIS
When you were sitting at 0-6, did you ever think you’d be here 5-6 having beat the best team in the league?
Paris: “Honestly we knew that we were gonna improve. The freshmen came along and we really need them. I think the chemistry’s way better on the team, and we were expecting that this time was gonna come.”
Marko: “We weren’t really concerned about our current record. Our coach wants us — obviously it’s always better to win the game than lose — but our coaches just want us to get better every day, to be at our best, just like last year, to be at our best when it’s most important towards the Patriot League championship and tournament and I think we’re heading in the right direction. We really weren’t expecting, OK, after our sixth loss, it’s not like that’s when things started clicking. We just kind of stick to it, we were doing the things we’re supposed to do and we’re getting more mature as a team each day, and I think that things are starting to fall in place. But there’s still a lot of other games to play. We’ve got to stay focused. We’ve got to get ready for Lehigh.”
How did the foul trouble affect you?
Marko: “It personally didn’t affect me. I was kind of mad at myself for a couple plays that I was late where I was supposed to be and I just wanted to make sure that the next play I’m gonna be there in time and just try to make the right play instead of commiting a foul. So I don’t think it affected me.”
Paris, how much did you have to adjust in the second half especially with the way the refs were calling it?
Paris; “As Marko said, you should not look at what happened in the past, you should always look at the next play. I honestly had to play better defense. I had to drop the post differently, the refs were calling some fouls — actually were calling too many fouls to be honest — but I had to adjust my defense.”
How did you prepare yourself for that moment not having played in crunch time recently?
Paris: “As coach says, everybody has to be ready when he gets the opportunity. I will always be ready when my coach needs me, (which is) the same for everybody on the team. You just have to be ready, that’s all.”
How hard has this stretch of three games in five days been?
Paris: “It’s been hard, it’s been really hard. You just — it’s what we love so that’s what we do, that’s why we are here, and academics of course. But yeah you just have to stick with it, to be honest.”
How much tougher was the short rest playing against a team that plays at Bucknell’s pace?
Marko: “I think coach did a great job preparing us for the game as well as resting some of our guys, did a great job of doing both, and obviously we’ve already played them once, we know what kind of pace they’re running … we knew what to improve on from the last game and I thought we did a great job running back on defense, which was the most important thing this game, and finding our matchups, making sure that we were in front of our man, so I thought we did a great job there.”
Delante and James only two turnovers apiece. How far have they come in terms of playing poised?
Marko: “It’s just crazy how much they’ve improved since the beginning of the year. They’re more comfortable right now in this offense, they know how to read different things differently, whoever’s got them (up high), whoever’s sagging off of them, so I think they’ve improved tremendously since the beginning of the year and I think it’s showing in the number of turnovers they’re making every game.”
On Paris shooting 3s and is he comfortable doing so? (4-6 on season)
Paris: “We’re trying to hide this for later, but yes, I feel like whenever we need a 3, I could be the guy who could take it. We obviously have better shooters. I’m the center so, you know, it’s good to have it in your game, but I’m not going to force it.”
Does coach encourage you to shoot it?
Paris: “Oh yes, yes, yes, absolutely, absolutely.”
Marko, what was going through your head on that last-minute dunk? Making a statement?
Marko: “No, I just saw that the shot clock was less than the game clock so I just wanted to make a play. I saw that I was wide open there, no one was in front of me. I didn’t have to kick it out, so I had the momentum. So I just kind of made what I thought was the right play at the moment. That wasn’t no statement or anything.”