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ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

March 14, 2019

Ashley Howard Pookie Powell Saul Phiri

Washington, D.C.

Rhode Island 76, La Salle 57

COACH ASHLEY HOWARD: You know, all the credit goes to Rhode Island today. I thought those guys played like a team who had been there before, today. And obviously Langevine did a phenomenal job around the basket, on the offensive glass, and then late in the game Fatts Russell was able to get it going. I thought he made some really difficult shots that our guys made him work for. But you know, when you get into a rhythm and you know, the ball just starts to bounce for you, and Fatts has had it going for the last couple weeks now.

So just unfortunate that we weren't able to pull out a win just because I think our team has come a long way. I'm proud of this guy sitting next to me here, Pookie Powell, his leadership for these young guys has been unbelievable, just starting the season 0-10, and then making the strides that we made throughout conference play.

I'm disappointed that we lost but I'm proud of the growth in this team throughout the course of this first season.

Q. Pookie, obviously not the way you want to go out. That's a tough loss there. But what did you see out there that didn't work for you guys and that did work for them?
POOKIE POWELL: I just feel like we didn't follow -- we didn't execute the game plan. We had a specific game plan that we needed to follow and we didn't follow it.

We didn't make shots. We all just got down on ourselves and everybody just kind of gave up. Unfortunately we got the loss but I felt like the effort going towards the end was there, but it was just too late.

Q. There were a lot of threes but not a lot of open threes. What do you think was going into the contested threes?
SAUL PHIRI: I think they did a good job of closing out all the way. They know we like to shoot a lot of threes. We're a very good three-point shooting team. They emphasize running us off the line, definitely, so I think they did a good job of that. But that's really it.

Q. Where did you see the improvement of this team over the year? Where do you think you improved the most?
SAUL PHIRI: As a team, I think we're all connected more this year compared to last year. I think we all share the ball definitely better. I think anyone felt like all the pressure was on them. I think we all realized as a team we can be a very dangerous team. I think that's definitely the biggest improvement.

In terms of focusing on our defense and our scouts and what we do, I think we definitely improved in all that.

Q. Looking forward to next year, you're going to be kind of in Pookie's shoes. You're going to be one of the few upperclassmen on the team. Do you feel like you're ready for that leadership role?
SAUL PHIRI: Yeah, definitely. I think I'm ready to take the leadership role. This year was a transition for me to be one of the bigger leaders for the team.

So I think this year is definitely going to help me next year just be the best leader I can for the team.

Q. I'll start off with the negative, I won't stay on it too much. Not much to stay about it. But like Pookie just said, the hustle and the effort at times tonight was just not there from certain guys. There was one guy that I believe you told to go sit at the end of the bench if he's not going to play hard. What can you say about that?
COACH ASHLEY HOWARD: You know what, it's been a microcosm of our season. It's been up-and-down. We've always -- this group, what I've been trying to get these guys to understand is, whether you make shots or not; if you play with effort, and you follow the game plan, you'll always have a chance to win.

What happened tonight was we struggled to make shots. I felt like we got some open looks. I thought we were wide open. Didn't make them. And then it affected our energy on the defensive end, not springing back on defense, not communicating.

We had a lot of easily correctible mistakes to happen on defense that I felt like set the tone for Rhode Island, especially in the first half where they got that double-digit lead.

So, you know, that's one of the things that we really focused on. It was disappointing that we still, you know, went in that direction in March. But you know, it is what it is. It's something that our guys, I'm sure, will learn from next year.

Q. I heard you talking to the players about taking charges and how that was a big part of the game plan and getting on them for not getting there. Did you see something with Rhode Island that told you, yeah, that's going to be a way we can beat them getting our nose in there on defense?
COACH ASHLEY HOWARD: Yeah, we knew what they were going to do. We knew that Langevine is an aggressive roller off a ball screen set for Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell, and the game plan was for our guys on the help side of the floor to be loaded, and when they throw the ball to him, be ready to step up and sacrifice your body.

One of our goals was to take two charges by the first media time-out. So we knew by the first media time-out that, you know, we had not, you know, come to set the tone the way we planned.

From that point forward, it was us just trying to play catch up in terms of just doing the right inks this, playing with the right effort, and you can't not bring it from the start against a team like Rhode Island who has been in the NCAA Tournament multiple years, and has experienced players like Langevine, Fatts and Jeff Dowtin.

Q. How much experience is a factor today? You mentioned they have been there before. How much did that play in here?
COACH ASHLEY HOWARD: I mean, we don't -- we haven't had any of our players, any of our older players, none of those guys have won a game in the Atlantic 10 TOURNAMENT, and then other than that, it's a transfer and then freshmen, right.

You know, Rhode Island is playing guys that played in the NCAA Tournament last year, and you know, a team that was the best team in the Atlantic 10 last year.

So I think a lot of it had to do with experience, but you know, I think a big part of it was that, you know, Rhode Island just came to play and they set the tone from the start.

Q. Looking ahead to next year like I was doing with the players, what did you feel like you guys did to grow this year and set up for next year?
COACH ASHLEY HOWARD: Well, I think the expectation was established, and even today, it is going to be a learning experience. I hope that our younger guys, when we get back to this point next year, they remember the Rhode Island game.

We said we're going to take two charges; we didn't, so then whoever we play in the first round next year, whatever that game plan is, those guys are on it, and it's a part of the growth of this program.

It doesn't happen overnight. I understand that it's a process that may take some time, and experiences like today, I believe are going to make us a better program moving forward. Whether it's next year or the year after that, we have some young guys coming in that will mix up with the older guys that are returning, and I'm looking forward to getting back to work with those guys and building for the future.

Q. You kind of answered it. I was wondering whether you were going to burn the tape or talk to them immediately about it, or you know, what your thought process is about this game, and you kind of answered it.
COACH ASHLEY HOWARD: To be honest, the players know. They know. They know. They know that we said the goal was to take two charges by the first media time-out. They didn't do it.

They know the goal was to be the first team to dive on the floor for a lost ball, and we didn't set the tone that way. Because if we set the tone that way whether we make shots or not, we give ourselves a better chance.

There's really nothing to be said. Like at the end of the day, you can tell lies to everybody but yourself. Our guys knew what the deal was going into today. We didn't quite get it done. We'll learn from it. If we don't learn from it, then shame on us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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