Video, Quotes: Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s players react to win against Indiana
PORTLAND, Ore. – Randy Bennett, Logan Johnson and Tommy Kuhse addressed the media following Saint Mary’s 82-53 win against Indiana on Thursday in the 2022 NCAA tournament at the Moda Center.
Watch the full postgame press conference below:
Transcript below, via ASAP Sports:
RANDY BENNETT: Thank you. We played well. That’s one of the things I told our team is enjoy this thing and you’ve got to play well. I think they were really focused on that.
So we shot it well. I thought after the first ten minutes we defended well. First ten minutes I didn’t think were great defensively. After that we did, and I think we wore them down, and I think all the factors came into play with them playing Tuesday and having to travel.
I don’t want to negate the fact that our guys played well. When they needed to play well, they played well. Proud of them. Indiana’s a good team and obviously a great, great program.
So we understand what just happened. We beat a really good program. Moving on to the second round.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions.
Q. My question is for Tommy. Early in the first half, there were a couple flop warnings on the team, technical foul comes in. But overall the team is in the same areas just struggling a little bit to establish momentum. But then coming out of that, the team comes back. So what kind of happened in the time-out as that technical foul was called and as the team sort of regrouped there?
TOMMY KUHSE: I think part of it is just not playing in a week. There’s a little getting your legs back under you and getting a little rhythm. We had a lot of confidence in ourselves coming in, and we knew, hey, just keep our composure, we’ll be all right, and just keep fighting through.
We did. We had a breakthrough in the first half that got us a little bit of a lead, and then second half we played really well.
Q. Logan, you have a possibility to play against your former coach in Mick Cronin, if UCLA were to win. How have you seen yourself change and evolve as a player since you moved from Cincinnati, and what would it mean to play against or possibly beat Mick Cronin?
LOGAN JOHNSON: It would be a cool experience, I think. I’ve been at St. Mary’s for three years now, so everything’s different. I enjoy it. I’ve enjoyed the whole process of getting better offensively and helping my offensive game grow.
Of course, carrying on what my foundation is, is defense, but just continuing to get better offensively, I think, for sure.
Q. Coach Bennett mentioned how you guys defended better. What do you feel like you guys did better, and did you notice a difference in their legs basically at that point?
LOGAN JOHNSON: I was getting hit — well, mainly me, I was getting hit on a lot of screens early, not fighting to get up. Once we adjusted that, I felt like that it helped the game tremendously, it helped our rotations from our big even being able to cover down with the guard on their big.
So I feel like once we changed that, we were able to take advantage of our defense and do what we do.
Q. Randy, you obviously know the history of Saint Mary’s basketball, and you mentioned in your outset that you know what this means significantly. Has your team ever played a more complete game against a team of Indiana’s note?
RANDY BENNETT: That’s a good question. We played well against Gonzaga. I would say they’re in that same grouping. So I don’t know. We played well, though, and against a very good program. Yeah, I think it’s that simple. Hopefully, we’re ready to roll and lay in the next one.
Q. For Tommy and Logan, you guys talked earlier. You hadn’t played since March 8th. It had been a while. Is that rest versus rust thing — it’s always a factor. How long did it take for you, though, to kind of get that out? Is that sort of parallel with the score of the game and the way it flipped too?
TOMMY KUHSE: Yeah, definitely. Indiana is a really physical team, so the combination of being off for a couple days with that got us off balance a little bit at the start, but we were able to match their physicality going forward and really separate a little bit.
LOGAN JOHNSON: Yeah, I feel like once we got — you should see our practices, though. Start with that, with physicality. (Laughter). But, no, we just continued to do what we do and buy in to what we do, and that’s grind ways out and find ways to get the job done, and I felt like that’s what we did.
Q. Coach, can you speak to the evolution of Logan since he’s been at Saint Mary’s to where he is now.
RANDY BENNETT: Yeah, he’s become — he’s a good leader, to start with. The longer he’s been in here, it’s been more and more and more of his team, and his leadership is tremendous. We don’t have to tell him what to say. He knows what to say. He’s one of those guys. Both these guys have been really good on it.
But where he’s evolved is he’s slowed down offensively. He can make plays now on balls, both these guys can. They both have evolved. Logan, this is only his third year in our program. His first year, he didn’t play a lot. It was — he didn’t have enough time to get reps of what we’re doing. And as he has and slowed down, figured out how to play in on balls and be patient, he’s become really good.
So he’s really good tonight. That’s where he’s gotten better. He could always defend, but he’s gotten better there too.
These two guys, we have a lot of things have gone right to help us get to where we’re at, but no more than these two. Like these two became very good guards, and down the stretch, we had to play against some really good guards, against USF, against BYU, against Gonzaga, and these guys held their own or outplayed all those teams’ guards, which is why we bumped up another level as a team. 100 percent why we bumped up.
Q. Logan, this is for you. That margin, that’s Indiana’s worst NCAA Tournament loss in 101 NCAA Tournament games. Not only did you guys win, but it was at a historic level. I’m curious, why do you think you guys played that much better than Indiana tonight?
LOGAN JOHNSON: We’re a gritty, not pretty team. Like I said, we’re going to find ways to get it done. We know, once we get going defensively, and especially offensively, that that’s when teams are in trouble and they really find out what they’re stepping foot into. Because anybody can say what they want. Oh, Saint Mary’s is a small school, Saint Mary’s this, mid-major this, mid-major that. You don’t really know until you step foot into the arena and you realize it’s five-on-five, and you have to defend us just like we defend you.
So I think that’s just a testament to Coach B and the culture he’s established in us, yeah.
RANDY BENNETT: I just want to add something to that. Like I know Indiana won’t use this as an excuse, but the situation they had is tough, like they were just playing Wyoming, they’re trying to get that win. They just finished their conference tournament. They really didn’t have any chance to prepare for us.
Like those two teams — we played well, but those two teams are more even than that. They just had no chance. They’re flying yesterday. I don’t know, maybe be a walk-through at one time with their team.
It’s hard to guard us if you can’t get a prep on us, and then we were able to get a prep on them. So if you’re wondering if rest versus playing however many games they did in a short amount of time and flying across the country, there’s no question it’s an advantage to be resting.
You’ve still got to do it. You’ve still got to play well. There’s a lot of pressure here first game of the NCAA Tournament.
So we did all that, but you could see it on their faces. They were gassed, like probably at halftime. They got in too big a hole. Anyhow, let’s set the record straight on that. That’s how that works. We were in the better spot going into that game as far as the situation to be in.
Q. Coach, yesterday you said if there’s one characteristic that defines this team, it’s toughness. Logan, you say you guys are gritty, not pretty. Where does that get instilled? How did that get instilled, this toughness, into this group?
RANDY BENNETT: Is that for me? Take a shot at it.
TOMMY KUHSE: This guy to my right has a lot to do with it. I think, when he showed up on campus three years ago, our practice took a step up. He’ll go at anybody. He’ll challenge you. He’ll make sure you’re on your game every single day.
So having that as part of your program is huge for us because we’ve gotten so much better from — I think about when he got here, but even two years ago from when this team really set on our journey.
Yeah, we go at each other every day. We say iron sharpens iron. So the more we do that, we just get better and better every day.