Postgame quotes: American 78, George Mason 75

American won its first season-opener since 2010 with a thrilling 78-75 overtime victory over George Mason Friday night. See below for video from postgame interviews and select quotes.

MIKE BRENNAN

On getting the win
“The guys stuck together. Getting down four in overtime is hard to come back from. I was happy that everyone contributed. And I felt good about the group to be honest with you this whole time, just getting to this point. We know what to expect, and it’s a good win. And we have two days to get ready for Northwestern.”

On when they were down 74-70 and took the timeout in OT
“They were tired. I was happy that they were able to fight through it and still do the things you have to do even when you’re tired. They played well up until that point. Just keep doing what you’re doing and it will all come together. I thought Sa’eed was incredible tonight. Otis is a great great guard and Sa’eed had to deal with him the entire night; that’s a lot to do and he did it.”

On Sa’eed’s defense the last two possessions
“That kid is so hard to guard. He runs by everybody over and over and over. Sa’eed had to expend a lot of energy on both sides of the court; but he’s prepared himself for moments like this and we need him to expend energy like that and it showed how competitive he is.”

On Sa’eed’s decision-making on offense especially on the last two scoring possessions
“Early on I thought he was trying to find that balance. So for him to do what he did in the late minute of the game and trust his teammates is what we’ve been preaching, and what he’s been doing and it showed. His teammates will get better from that as well.”

SA’EED NELSON

On getting the win
“Very big. … we knew they were gonna come out agg just playing like maniacs, digging deep, matching it. We just had to match their intensity.”

On the team’s demeanor and attitude
“I think we’re just ready. I think Y.Y. — the atmosphere he brings is just different, that older mentality and just him being on everybody (I mean I’m on everybody, too). Just pushing us every day to move hard, to work harder, I think that shows up in games like this. … Last year, (if) we went down four in overtime, the lead would stretch to nine then 10. But this year I think we’ve got the X-factor to help us stick together and fight back and take the win.”

On the leadership dynamic between him and Y.Y.
“We need it. Everybody’s not gonna be perfect. We need guys to step up and talk, tell them what’s wrong, tell them how to fix it, and just know how they react to it. I think Y.Y. being that older guy, the younger dudes have respect for him. They’re gonna listen to him, gonna shut up and do what he says, and I think that like I said it’s really helping us so far and I think it will help us later in Patriot League.”

On the two late stops
“Just stay solid. I kind of knew he was shooting pull-ups. Just stay in front of him, don’t let him drive past me and then a couple times he had people cutting back door and getting open 3s. I knew it was gonna come down to 1-on-1 play, so just locking in and trying to guard together. He had a clean look at the end, too. He just missed it.”

YILRET YILJEP

On playing again and winning
“It felt great. This team was the first team I played my freshman year, so coming back this year is just like reliving my first college game. Back then, my first year, we lost the game, so winning this game was great. Also it just felt liberating, being out there, being able to run around, I just had so much fun with the guys. It was amazing.”

On pregame emotions
“It was just a lot of emotions, how far I’ve come up to this point, how much work I put in over the summer leading up to this game. So just a lot of emotions. I felt like really — I can’t describe it. It’s just a lot of emotions. Obviously, after the final buzzer I was really happy because last year’s team struggled and we lost a lot of close games. Being on the winning side feels great.”

On how he felt physically
“I would say the first four minutes I was (winded). But I think it’s all because the nerves, the emotions and everything. But once I got over that first four minutes, I was fine the rest of the game.”

On his leadership
“If you saw me in the game, I was very vocal. I was talking to the guys, telling then, ‘One more stop, one more stop, one more stop.’ Just to get everybody on the same page, letting them know what we need in the immediate, for the next play, exactly what we need. That’s my role — making sure everybody, just the glue guy, making sure everybody’s in tune, doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing because last year I think we had a lot of miscommunications and that’s why we lost a bunch of games. I don’t want that to be a reason we lose close games this year.”

On whether he thought this was possible two, three, four years ago?
“I basically gave up hope. Doctors basically told me I could never play again. So I just wrote that off. I was looking into going into coaching, being in basketball in some other capacity, but I never thought I’d be able to play again. That’s why it’s so rewarding that I’m able to go out there and just run around and just have fun. I don’t really care about what my numbers look like. I’m just trying to help the team win, that’s basically my role on the team.”

MARK GASPERINI

On how it felt to be back on the court and win
“It felt amazing. I’ve been looking forward to it pretty much ever since I’ve been at AU. We’ve had a few rough seasons. It felt amazing, I really loved it. Especially the crowd just amping me up even more — I kind of fed off that.”

On how he felt physically
“I felt pretty big up, tired and sore. It was worth it. As long as you win, it’s worth it.”

On getting the ball in the post
“I felt very comfortable. As long as I got the ball in the right spots and made the right move, I felt very comfortable making it. It was just a matter of following through and making it.”

On the difference between two years ago and tonight
“Everyone is older, everyone is more confident. We just grew as a team. Everyone went through a rough stage of losing and now we’re just excited to be out there winning.”

On the celebration in the locker room
“It was crazy. We’ve been looking forward to this for so long.”