Video, Quotes: Jim Larrañaga, Miami players preview NCAA tournament matchup against Indiana
Jim Larrañaga, Harlond Beverly, Bensley Joseph and Norchad Omier addressed the media in advance of Miami’s 2023 NCAA tournament round of 32 matchup against Indiana at MVP Arena in Albany, New York.
Watch the full press conference below:
Transcript via ASAPSports:
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by the student-athletes from Miami. To my far left, Norchad Omier, followed by Bensley Joseph and Harlond Beverly. We’ll start with your questions.
Q. Norchad, you mentioned before the season that something that really stood out from last season’s Elite Eight run was that the team never gave up. After last night’s come-from-behind win, what does it mean to you to be on a team that’s so resilient and that, as you said, never gives up.
NORCHAD OMIER: My teammates just are great, great players, great people, and I know that they never gave up last year, and I think this year, after last year’s run to the Elite Eight, they want more. I want to join them on that journey. So I’m just happy to be on this team.
Q. If all three of you could talk about the specific challenges that IU pose. You’ve had a chance now a little bit to switch over to your new opponent. What is it? And specifically also for Norchad, having to cover a guy like Trayce Jackson-Davis, what do you think that’s going to be like?
NORCHAD OMIER: Indiana is a really good team. We know they’ve got Trayce Jackson-Davis. We know they come to him most every possession, and he’s going to be a big challenge for me.
I’m excited for it, if I’m being honest. I’m waiting for it. He’s a great player. That’s all I can say about it.
BENSLEY JOSEPH: I see a lot of their play style is unique. They like to give it to Trayce a lot, and they have perimeter shooters as well. So I feel like the challenge is taking away that paint and forcing them to do a lot of their weaknesses. I’m excited for this game tomorrow.
HARLOND BEVERLY: Like they said, they’re a really good team, great all around, good guards, great big man. So we have to be ready for tomorrow.
Q. Norchad, you had a game to play on your ankle. How comfortable do you feel, and how does it help to kind of go through a game when you’ve had an injury to kind of get used to it?
NORCHAD OMIER: Like you said, I’ve just got to keep getting used to it. It’s something new to me. But I’m feeling great, if I’m being honest.
Q. This is for Harlond and Bensley. Last year you guys had a tough first round game against, I think USC, and it seemed after that you kind of refocused. Did you guys go home last night and talk about, we can’t play like this and continue on?
HARLOND BEVERLY: Of course we did. We have an identity. Our identity is packing the paint, scoring well on offense, sharing the ball, and we knew we fell short of that yesterday. But at this time of the year it’s survive and advance, and we were grateful and excited that we do get to advance.
So tomorrow we’ve got to just put our best foot forward, play like ourselves, and be comfortable.
Q. Norchad, I just wanted to ask you about the name, image, and likeness, NIL stuff. I know foreign, overseas players can’t benefit from that. Are you able to do anything when you’re outside of the U.S. NIL-wise? I know Oscar from Kentucky was able to do some stuff. And do you think the unfair that foreign players can’t benefit from NIL?
NORCHAD OMIER: I do think it’s a little unfair that we really can’t do nothing out here. Right now I’m not really thinking about that. I’m worried about the games coming up, and that’s what I focus on. I think me and my team can agree on that.
Q. Are you able to do anything when you’re outside of the United States with that?
NORCHAD OMIER: Yeah. I get to do a little bit when I went back home on vacations.
Q. In Nicaragua?
NORCHAD OMIER: Yes, sir.
Q. Could you elaborate at all on what you were able to do?
NORCHAD OMIER: I really don’t want to talk about that.
Q. Bensley, can you talk about Nijel Pack and what he’s meant to the team? It kind of took him a little while to adjust from a shooting guard to a point guard position. And the game that he had last time, what has he meant to the team and his adjustment to the new role?
BENSLEY JOSEPH: He means a lot. He’s our leader. He’s the point guard out there, kind of orchestrating guys everywhere. He’s a big-time shooter, and yesterday he stepped up big time when we needed him and he was able to execute plays down the stretch.
He’s a big part of this team. A big part of this journey. I’m excited to see him keep thriving with us.
Q. With last night being your tournament debut, just how was that for you?
HARLOND BEVERLY: It was really good. I had fun. I’m glad we got the win. My teammates are just amazing, as you can see, and we’re looking forward to keep pushing it on forward.
Q. Norchad, I was just curious how you got through last night’s game health-wise. I know you had some question marks coming into it. Secondly, what you’ve seen so far on film with Trayce Jackson-Davis and the biggest challenges he presents for you.
NORCHAD OMIER: How I mentioned before, he’s a great player. I think, not just me, but my teammates know that Indiana runs offense through him, and we’ve got to pack the paint. They have great shooters also. It’s not just Trayce Jackson-Davis. They have a lot of good players.
So we’ve just got to play our defense, play our identity, pack the paint, and do what we do.
Q. Your team this year has really been known as a team that’s calm, very calm and composed and makes good decisions, a lot of sharing of the ball. What do you think happened last night? You had a miraculous comeback, but what do you think happened, why did the team start off so slow, do you think?
BENSLEY JOSEPH: I felt like we got a little rushed. We were playing into Drake’s game a lot, and we were able to slow down and take our time, take a deep breath. I felt like we were able to execute that down the play, but we made some key mistakes and they took advantage of that.
But we came out of the timeout, we huddled, we talked together, we took a deep breath, and we told each other we’ve been here before. Credit to all the guys on the bench lifting us up, and we were able to go out there for the last four minutes and make things happen.
Q. About that little conversation you guys had, I know that Jordan gathered everyone around, then Nijel said too that you all at that moment at the last media timeout, there was kind of a little powwow there where you talked about you’re not going to let it end this way. Can you talk about that, that moment of leadership?
BENSLEY JOSEPH: It was really important. Norchad and Jordan kind of going back and forth on what to do, and I kind of looked at them like, guys, poise down the stretch. We’ve been here before. Let’s just take a big deep breath, and we were able to do that. We were able to go out there for those four minutes, apply some pressure, and come out with a victory.
Q. I guess there are different ways to win because you can look at teams like Xavier, and two of their star guys are at each other’s throat and they come back and win. And you two guys looked like you were dead in the water and come back and win. What is it that allows a team itself to reach inside itself find a way?
HARLOND BEVERLY: Practice really. You’re with the guys every day for however many years. You know every guy’s strengths and weaknesses. Having that friendship on and off the court allows guys to pour together in moments. Brothers fight. Brothers make up. Just having that time spent with each other, I feel like that trust is kind of inevitable.
Q. To follow up on the earlier question, what do you guys need to do to bounce back from yesterday’s offensive performance?
NORCHAD OMIER: I think we just need to play our game and stick to our principles from day one. Don’t try to play on our own and play what our identity is, play together, share the ball. That’s about it.
Q. This could be for any of you guys. I’m just curious, of what you’ve seen of Indiana so far, is there any team you’ve played along the way this season that they kind of remind you of?
BENSLEY JOSEPH: I’ve seen a lot, but really the focus is Trayce Jackson-Davis and not letting him be so comfortable at what he does so great. Then looking out and closing out on their shooters from the perimeter and their freshman point guard, Jalen Hood, he’s really good. So applying pressure and making forced mistakes.
We’ve been here before. We’ve battled teams like this. So I feel like it’s just another day, another game to battle as hard as we can and try to advance.
Q. I wanted to ask a followup about Jalen. What about him and what about Indiana’s guards really stand out to you?
BENSLEY JOSEPH: Jalen’s really good. He likes to get to his spots. He’s crafty. He’s a big guard. He’s about 6’6″. And he’s strong.
So just applying a lot of pressure and making him feel uncomfortable, making him do his weaknesses, like I said, and hopefully we can shut him down the whole 40 game minutes to get a victory.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, guys. Good luck tomorrow.
Q. Just your thoughts on Trayce Jackson-Davis, your first looks at him after last night’s game.
JIM LARRANAGA: He’s great. He’s a first-team All-American. Obviously he’s earned that by averaging a double-double, scoring in an assortment of ways, helping his teammates play well. He’s just a great player.
Q. Jim, what do you think your team learned from the game last night that they would carry over to the game against Indiana?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, the first thing I would say is they learned how good every team in this tournament is, even if you don’t know them, don’t know their personnel, you don’t know their style of play until you get selected for the tournament.
We were very impressed with Drake, very impressed with their defense, and I thought our guys’ defense stepped up. That’s what we’ve kind of shared with them all season long. The offense will take care of itself, but we have to defend, we have to rebound. If we do those two things at the defensive end of the floor, we should be competitive. But if we don’t defend, if we don’t rebound, we’re in trouble.
Q. There’s been this bit of national narrative all year that the ACC’s been kind of down. We obviously got an ACC-Big Ten matchup coming up tomorrow. What are your thoughts on that, you’ve obviously been through that the last three months, as to where that league is right now?
JIM LARRANAGA: I’m disappointed that the ACC is not given the respect I think it’s due. I think we’ve got a great league. We had the preseason Number 1 team in the country in North Carolina. They did not have the year that people expected them to have, but they’re still pretty darn good, so is Duke, so is Virginia. We’ve got a lot of good teams.
This has nothing to do with our game tomorrow against Indiana, but if you go back to November, early December, the ACC won the ACC-Big Ten Challenge 8-6. So I think the leagues are very comparable. Hopefully we’ll play well tomorrow and represent the ACC very well.
Q. There’s obviously been a lot of conversation about NIL and players and whether it puts pressure on them. Your guys have gone through a lot of that, as has your program very publicly. Have you sensed any pressure for your players, and by extension, how your program is perceived.
JIM LARRANAGA: Not at all. Here’s what I did, and this is how I handled it. First of all, my coaching staff and I have nothing to do with NIL. I use this analogy. I asked our players if they’ve ever seen Steph Curry in a Subway commercial, and everybody has. I said, okay, that’s NIL.
But Subway doesn’t tell Steve Kerr how to run his Golden State Warriors team, and no one’s going to tell me how to run my basketball program. When you’re coming into the gym, you’re going to play the Miami way. When you work with someone else that’s willing to sponsor you, great. That’s like college basketball coaches who have shoe contracts. Hey, you can make some additional money. That’s what NIL was made to do, and that’s what it’s doing.
Q. Just asking about Nijel and what has allowed him to fit in so easily with you guys. Obviously he’s from our area, had a really good game yesterday, but just what has allowed him to fit in so easily with the dynamic you have with so many guys averaging double figures in scoring.
JIM LARRANAGA: The first thing is family. His mom and dad have raised him right. He is a great kid, very fun to be around. He’s a great teammate. The first day he arrived on campus, he and Isaiah Wong went into our practice facility, and by the end of our workout, they were best friends. They were great kids, come from great families.
We’ve tried to recruit players of that character. I’d say every one of our guys, very, very much like Nijel, they like playing basketball. They like their teammates. And for the most part, they like their coaches. Not always but…
Q. In addition to scoring and rebounding, Jackson-Davis is very good at passing and blocks. Do you debate in your mind the positives and negatives of double-teaming him as you get ready to face Indiana tomorrow?
JIM LARRANAGA: Yeah, you have to debate that. I’ve watched tape on what other teams have tried to do. He’s an outstanding passer. I think he’s averaging like six assists a game. He’s a great rebounder. He’s averaging double-figure rebounds. He’s averaging 20 or more points in the Tournament. I think in his last few games he’s averaging 25. So he’s a great player.
As a coach who has to defend him, we’ve got to have plan A, plan B, and plan C. So we’re going to be doing that. We did a little bit this morning with the team. We’ll do it again tonight and then tomorrow at our shootaround.
Q. I’m wondering if you chatted with Isaiah Wong. Isaiah and Jordan were both a little bit off for whatever reason. They’re the two team leaders and usually calm and mature and all that, composed. What do you think happened? Did you talk to them? Do you worry that maybe they’ll feel too much pressure to come out and redeem themselves tomorrow, or do you think they’re good for tomorrow?
JIM LARRANAGA: One thing I know is I don’t worry about those guys. They’re terrific young men, terrific players. They didn’t have their best game, but maybe they will tomorrow. Every game is different. Every opponent is different. The way Drake guarded them might be different than the way Indiana guards them.
So one of the things I would say about the first round of the tournament, there’s a lot of anxiety. I thought we were very anxious. The perfect example is we started the game with Norchad Omier shooting a three. I’m like, what are you doing? And then Isaiah throwing a pass the length of the court and going out of bounds. He hasn’t thrown that pass all year long. Then he tries to go one-on-one, dribbles into traffic, got three guys guarding him, and still forces up a shot.
We didn’t play the way we wanted to play to begin the game. We were playing out of character. But I think you’ve got to give Drake credit for that. They’re a very good defensive team, one of the best defensive teams in the country. They guarded us very well, and we guarded them very well. It was a heck of a defensive matchup.
We held them to 26 points in the second half, 1 point in the last four minutes. So both teams rose to the occasion of, hey, we’re not having great shooting nights. You know, Tucker DeVries is a great shooter. He went 1-for-13. Those things happen in the NCAA Tournament.
It’s hard to predict. You don’t think they will. But because of the enthusiasm, the energy level, the anxiousness — I wouldn’t call it nervousness as much as they’re overly excited. They’re too psyched up.
Q. What effect do you think surviving a close game in the first round has on the team?
JIM LARRANAGA: I hope really good. I hope that makes our guys feel like I’ve told them that all these games are close, every team is really good. They checked out all the scores. You see what FDU did and FAU did, and what Furman did to Virginia. Those crazy things happen, but they happen because the games are so closely contested. The game is close, and every possession has a lot of value.
You’ve got to play great defense and great offense to finish out a really close game. We were able to do that last night, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that tomorrow.
Q. You mentioned some of the issues that came up last night, but you do have an old backcourt, and they have experienced success. They probably carried you through in the end yesterday. How does their experience kind of flow through to the rest of the team, and how do they handle their leadership as experienced guards?
JIM LARRANAGA: I don’t consider them old. Me, I’m old. But not my players. They’re experienced. So what that means is they’ve been through these battles before.
Their ability to compete at this level — it’s the highest level of college basketball. It’s reduced — right now how many teams are left, like 32? How many?
JIM LARRANAGA: Oh, someone played. It’s great competition. With our senior guard — Isaiah’s a senior. Nijel is actually like a sophomore. He’s a third-year sophomore. And Wooga Poplar is a regular sophomore.
So we’re not as old as Drake was, but I think our guys play with a great deal of confidence because yesterday was our 33rd game of the season and they’ve been bonding and developing that team chemistry on and off the court since the summertime.
So I’m very, very confident in them. They know exactly how we want them to play, but they know the opponent’s going to try to keep us from doing that.
Q. Isaiah Wong has only been held to single-digit points one time in back-to-back games this season. That being said, how much confidence does that give you that he’ll be able to bounce back tomorrow?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, I’ve been coaching Isaiah for four years. I’ve loved every minute of it. When he was a freshman, he practiced and played so hard, and he’s done that for four straight years.
He just shows up every single day in practice and every single game and gives it his best effort. There are games where he’s held under double figures, but he was ACC Player of the Year for a reason. He had a sensational year leading us to the ACC regular season co-championship. And he’s a Third Team All-American because of what he’s been able to produce on the court.
Great players don’t always have great games. I’m very, very confident he’ll have a great game tomorrow.
Q. The way you closed out that game yesterday with the 10-0 run in the last two minutes, you’re preaching defense and rebounding to win this game tomorrow. Do you think you’re going to have to keep this game low scoring and just pound away at them with your defense and your rebounding?
JIM LARRANAGA: No. No, I don’t think that way at all. I believe that our best offense is transition. Indiana likes to run, we like to run.
If you look at our stats, even without Norchad Omier, we scored 78 points against a very fine defensive Duke team a week ago. Is it a week? Eight days ago. So I believe our guys are very, very capable of running against anybody in the country.
The whole key is we want to run, we want to keep them from running. We want to slow them down and force them to play a half-court game at one end while we get out in transition at the other end.
Q. You and Mike Woodson have both been around for a while in the business. Just curious if your paths have crossed anywhere along the way here.
JIM LARRANAGA: Not personally, not professionally. We haven’t competed against each other. But obviously I know him first as a player, as a fantastic player at Indiana, terrific NBA player, terrific NBA coach.
He was with the Knicks, my son Jay, who’s now with the Los Angeles Clippers, he was with the Knicks organization for a while. I don’t know how well they know each other either.
But we obviously have a tremendous amount of respect for him and his staff and look forward to competing and getting to know him.
Q. What stands out to you about Jalen Hood-Schifino and the rest of Indiana’s guards?
JIM LARRANAGA: Jalen, I tried to recruit him. I loved his game. He’s 6’6″. He plays the point. He can score off the bounce. He can shoot the three. He uses ball screens very effectively. He’s just a very good big guard, Freshman of the Year in the Big Ten, and he’s just much bigger than our guards. So he’ll be a handful for us tomorrow.
Q. It seems there are different ways to win. I mean, you look at Xavier yesterday. They had their two best players arguing with each other. You guys have kind of like a huddle at the last TV timeout. I mean, what is it about different ways to win. Is it just a team unity or I don’t know what?
JIM LARRANAGA: The way I would explain my philosophy, what I preach to our players is complaining is a negative. And you don’t want to be complaining. You don’t want any negativity. Everything needs to be positive.
We’re playing bad, we’re missing shots, we’re turning it over – pull together. If you pull together, you can work things out. If you pull apart, chances are you’re not going to enjoy the result.
So for us and our players, we’ve had great senior leadership. A guy like Jordan Miller really called that huddle and talked to the team, hey, we’ve got to play our best right now. Pick up the defensive effort. Let’s stop these guys and see if we can go on a run. And that’s what they did.
Q. One quick followup: When you get a close game like that, does it force your team to refocus and say we can be gone at any minute?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, I think they knew that at that time, and we felt like the game was slipping away. We were down eight and not playing particularly well at either end of the floor.
Again, you’ve got to give Drake a lot of credit for that. We’re not familiar with them. They’re not familiar with us. But they were basically outplaying us for a good portion of the game.
But what ends up happening is you have to rise to the occasion, to the challenge, to the competition, and find a way. Our guys just found a way.