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Garage door's done right. Coach, congratulations on another victory in the NCAA tournament and thanks so much for doing this once again. Thank you, Zach, and it's great to be on. So last night when you're in Madison Square Garden and you're the coach of FAU and you hear the building just chanting FAU, what's going through your mind? I'll be honest Zach, I didn't even hear that. I saw it on social media today and it gave me goosebumps. It was awesome, but for whatever reason during the game the only thing I really hear are our players, our assistants, or someone involved in the game. It's an odd deal where I don't hear anything else outside the court. It just speaks to though this tournament too because how many people, no offense, were talking about FAU before this tournament nationally and you have Madison Square Garden screaming let's go Owls in FAU, which is awesome.
Yeah, actually we have, there are a lot of New Yorkers, New Jersey, who I think snowbird and Boca, so there is a strong East Coast connection to our university and area, but yeah nothing like, we didn't expect anything like that. I know that you guys as coaches, right, you're kind of like robots. It's your win and then you got to invest everything into the next game, but we bring you on Dusty May and we say FAU's going to the Elite Eight and you'll have this game up against Kansas State. Just what goes through your mind when you get to process that for a minute that FAU's playing in the Elite Eight tomorrow? You know, I was laughing with Coach Williams and our staff.
We got off the bus. I said, are we really in the Elite Eight? It's kind of a kind of a running joke all year. We really won 15 games in a row.
Are we really 15-1? So said the same thing today and he laughed and said, yep we are and then we went to practice. So it's one of those things, I've said it several times today, after the season I'm sure I'll be sitting around and one of the games will come on ESPN Classic or CBS College Sports Network and my boys are now watching it and feel awesome, but when you're in the eye of the storm you're just focused on the next thing because you don't want to let an opportunity pass because you're focused on your last game. It's such a special story, but when it really hit me last night is I saw a clip of you talking to your team afterwards in the locker room and you put up the three fingers and you say, guys, three more wins of our national champs.
That's great. Yeah, you know, I think sometimes when you get to this stage, this point in the season and I've been here a few times as an assistant or a support staffer and you're almost like, wow, we made it to the Elite Eight or wow, we did this. And so you're not nearly as hungry for the next thing just because in our sport, each step is such a milestone because it's so hard and there are so many of us, 360 plus teams competing for this.
And so I just wanted to make sure, I probably got out ahead of myself a little bit, but I just wanted to make sure the guys knew how close we are to the actual finish line, but it was more just to try to turn their attention to what's next instead of still celebrating that game. I know you guys have confidence and I know what you said earlier, like, wow, 15 wins, wow, we're playing the Elite Eight, all that stuff. Does this success surprise you guys or did you know that you had a really good team? This level of success, yes, but no, we would've been extremely disappointed if we didn't win 20, 25 games this year. We won 19 last year and we invented new ways to lose. We laughed or didn't laugh, but we talked about several times after the season, we would snatch a defeat out of the jaws of victory somehow, some way we'd foul a three-point shooter and he'd bank in a three or, you know, there's just, at one point we were the second most unlucky team as far as Ken Palm's luck factor. So just an odd year, the randomness of winning and losing, and this year that the, you know, the tightest turned and even the games, we didn't play great. We still found a way to win and even had some fortunate bounces. So I'm not naive to think that this is all just us, but, you know, last year it all went the other way.
So I guess we were due. Dusty May here with us, the head coach at FAU, the Owls in the Elite Eight at Madison Square Garden coming up tomorrow night against Kansas State. Last night against Tennessee where you got the victory to punch your ticket to the Elite Eight, I thought Michael Forrest was big for you guys in that second half. The back-to-back threes and the two-point shot took you from down four to being up four and then your guys, coach, never looked back from there.
No question. Mike is a prolific scorer, one of the best players to ever wear an FAU uniform and he's in the midst of his biggest slump in five years and to see him come out and get the fire back in his eye and regain his confidence was a really, really special moment because he's a guy that deserves to go out on a high note. As a staff, what do you do for a player? Like eventually he just has to hit the shots and he did last night, but what do you kind of do to take someone's mind off being in a slump?
Well, we try a number of things and actually just encourage them. I told him yesterday or two days ago, I said, man, just try to find out what grounds you and sometimes it's spiritual, sometimes it's just getting away from it. We're all wired differently, so do something today that's going to get your mind off of it and just get you back to, I guess, if you go back, if you're a happy Gilmore fan, go find your happy place or your Billy Madison fan, go find your happy place. And so he did a walk in Central Park and just went by himself and just thought and probably reflected and he just got back to being him. So a really unique moment for him after, like I said, being in the biggest slump of his career to bounce back and be the hero of that game. Talking to Dusty May, you guys did not allow them to have any space in the paint last night. It was almost as if you were daring them to shoot. Just what worked so well with that game plan in the second half defensively? Well, we're small at the positions one through four, but we're really big at the five position. Our center's seven foot one and fortunately none of their centers shoot three pointers.
So we were able just to clog up the paint with our center black golden. And then our other guys, the switchability, the physicality they play with, we were able to force a lot of tough shots in that eight to 14 foot range. And then because our guys are so physical in the glass, we're able to rebound those basketballs. So a number of things went right and it was a good matchup for us with the way we play with our system.
So fortunately our guys stepped up and made the plays when they needed to be made. You outscored them in the second half, 40 to 28, but you went into halftime trailing 27 to 22. What was the vibe in your locker room at half? Well, every game at half the coaches go in one direction, the players go to the locker room and then we reconvene. And as soon as I walk into the locker room, I asked him, what did you guys talk about? And the first thing he said, the first thing one of our guys said was, coach, we played terrible and we're down five.
So I think that gave us a lot of hope. And then from the staff's perspective, the last part of the first half we played really good basketball, excuse me, and just didn't make shots. We didn't play well the first eight or 10 minutes, but the last 10 or so, and the ball just didn't go in. So we talked about that as long as we defend and rebound, we have a spurt in us. Usually we have a couple of spurts in each half where we can go on an 8-0 run or a 10-2 run. So we did talk about if we just keep doing what we're doing, we have a spurt in us.
We've got to stay at the course. And our guys were awesome in the second half. It seems like John L. Davis and then also Nicholas Boyd just must be a joy to coach. Oh, they, they love the game.
They're great teammates. And you know, that's another factor. John L. Davis was, had 2000 the first half. So we sat in the last eight or nine minutes. Typically we play him, but we were hanging around and we thought we could just get them to the second half, that mental barrier. So he can just play aggressively without having to worry about the fouls.
And so that was also a big difference. We had Nellie back, John L. back play in the second half. They're awesome to coach. They're they're big time players that really believe in themselves and each other.
Wrap it up with Dusty May. So let's get to Kansas State real quickly. Coach, you'll play him tomorrow coming up a few minutes after six o'clock here on the East Coast. Marquis Noel has been the best player, has been the star of this NCAA tournament.
I don't think you could stop him, but how do you try to contain him tomorrow? Well, we've played a lot of dynamic guards this year and typically they're, they've been dynamic scorers. What makes Noel so unique is he's just as good of a passer and creator and he makes everyone around him significantly better. So we've just got, he's going to score points. He's going to get assists.
We have to do a great job on the role players and we have to find a way to make sure he doesn't have an efficient stat line. I also wonder which way the building will lean tomorrow because everyone's loving Noel, but then everyone's loving your program as well. Yeah, there was a, I do think Kansas State had the star power behind them yesterday behind their bench. Mason, some guys were there.
We saw, so hopefully we can, we can, we can pull the common, the common fan over to our side. And then what stands out to you with Keontae Johnson? You know, I've known Keontae since he was in high school and he's just a really unique talent where he plays at an old man's pace. Guys that play in the NBA played that he doesn't get sped up.
He's an elite athlete. He's a really good shooter, driver, post guy. So just the fact that he can play all over the court and then he's a threat for a lob at any moment. As we saw last night, they've thrown several lobs from half court to him.
And if he just put it anywhere near the basket and he doesn't have a body on him, it's two points. So he presents a number of challenges, but we just, once again, just had to find a way to make sure he scores inefficiently. Coach Dusty May, I know when you joined us early in the week, you talked about the importance of Bobby Knight and Mike White and what they've meant to your career as a Temple. I remember a few of those match-ups against La Tech when you were on the staff at the Lea Coris Center. What has communication been like? I know you worked with Mike's brother as he's your AD, but what's communication like during this run with Coach Bobby Knight and then also Mike White? I don't talk to Coach Knight much. I've spoken with Pat through text throughout the run this season.
I've spoken with Coach White just about every day until today and a couple of guys on staff spoke with him. So we're keeping in touch. He gives us good insight on what he sees because he knows us. He knows our players.
We watch each other's teams. So it's always nice to have an outsider perspective from someone that also knows the insiders. So he's given us some good nuggets from what he sees, but it's been really cool because we all share these experiences to the guys we're close with. So without those guys, I wouldn't be here.
So it's an honor for me to share it with those guys. Coach, when you go on a run like this, your name gets thrown in a hopper for a bunch of other jobs. How do you just kind of deal with all that speculation? I don't think about it and put my notifications on silent and focus on what's important, which is our team and this job. I feel like if the moment I start thinking about other things is when I'm going to get distracted and we preach to our players about staying in the moment, focus on what's important.
So what type of example would I be leading if I wasn't doing the same? Last thing I'll ask you tomorrow, when you speak to your team right before you guys throw that ball up in the air, what's going to be the message when you go up against a very good Kansas state team? Go have fun and we don't have to do anything that we haven't done for 30, I guess 39 games now, including our scrimmage and exhibition. That's going to be awesome.
Can't wait to see it unfold. Really appreciate you making the time for us throughout the week and good luck tomorrow. No problem.
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