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Everything Greg McDermott Said After Tennessee Ended Creighton’s Season

Photo via Creighton Athletics

Tennessee basketball ended Creighton’s season on Friday night as the Vols earned an 82-75 victory to advance to the Elite Eight for the second time in program history.

Following the loss, McDermott discussed Tennessee’s 18-0 run, the challenges the Vols’ defense presents and much more. Here’s everything McDermott said.

More From RTI: What Rick Barnes Said Following The Vols Win Over Creighton

Opening statement

“Congrats to Tennessee. They’ve got a heck of a team. They played really well tonight, really shot the basketball well. I’ve known Coach Barnes a long time. There’s a lot of good people in this business, but you’d have a hard time finding one better than him.

While I’m disappointed that this journey has come to an end, I’m excited for him and his program. He’s a first-class person and coach. He’s what’s right about this business.

I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished this year to get back on this stage. These guys have been selfless every step of the way. They’ve been absolutely a joy to coach.

You hate for that to be over, and I hope, once the hurt subsides, they can look in the mirror and understand what they’ve accomplished. Sometimes in sport the hardest thing to do is what you’re supposed to do.

Baylor, Trey, Bello, and Kalk have been here two years, Steven this year. We’ve been preseason top 10 two years. We’ve had to carry the weight of that expectation on our shoulders for two straight years, and they’ve handled it like champions. That’s leadership. That’s focus and understanding who we are and staying connected.

These guys, from a leadership standpoint, the four up here and Trey, they’ve been incredible, and they’ve been a great example to the young guys in our program. I’ve learned a lot from them, having the opportunity to be around them every day. It’s sad that it’s over, but, man, was it fun while it happened.”

On the defense Creighton went to during its comeback

“It’s called desperation, I think. We went to zone for one possession when Knecht was out, and we got a stop. Then he came back in, and obviously I didn’t feel comfortable with the potential of letting him stand.

We practiced triangle and two a fair amount in practice, we hadn’t used it all year. We didn’t have anything to lose at that point. And I thought our guys executed to perfection. It gave ourselves a chance to come back and win the game.

Obviously that 18-0 run was — we really haven’t had anybody do that to us this year. I think it was less than five minutes. It seemed like a long time. But we haven’t had to overcome something like that. We had to pull something out of our hat that we hadn’t used.”

On what goes through his mind now that the season is over

“Yeah, just glancing at the stat sheet and looking at the names, a lot of these guys aren’t going to be back. It’s tough, yet it’s been such an honor to coach them.

Francisco Farabello, when I hugged him after the game coming off the floor, he apologized to me. I was like, really? But that’s what he’s about. He’s about giving everything he can to this team and doing everything he can to try to help us win. In that moment, he’s blaming himself. Obviously there’s no place for that.

Baylor Scheierman comes here. He guarded 4 man once in a while in the Summit League. A lot of times he didn’t guard anybody. And tonight he guards Dalton Knecht. Talk about progress and talk about understanding, after going through the Big East last year one time, like I’ve got to get better at some stuff, and then going to work and doing it. He’s just been a pleasure to coach.

Trey’s gotten better every single year. It’s been fun to watch. He’s hurting right now, but we’re not here without him. Or where we were last year without him or the year before that without him.

And Kalk’s just been the gentle giant. He doesn’t like the spotlight. He just goes to work, and he does things that impact the game in so many ways.

They’ve been an absolute pleasure to coach. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve become better because I’ve had the opportunity to be around him.”

On how challenging it was to get open shots against Tennessee’s defense

“It was more difficult because Tennessee does a good job of upsetting your rhythm. Zeigler is such an elite on-ball defender that it upsets your timing of what you’re trying to do. As you saw, we tried to have some other guys initiate offense at times. While they had a guy not play, that put Mashack in the game more, and he disrupts things much like Zeigler does.

So he ended up on Trey to start the game, Zeigler on Steven, and it was hard to really initiate any offense.

I thought, once we settled in, we got some decent shots. We got it to Kalk 12 times down there. He missed a few he normally makes. It’s a make shot, miss shot game. Tennessee late in the year against Mississippi State in the conference tournament didn’t shoot it well. They didn’t shoot it well against Texas. They made shots tonight. That’s what it comes down to.

We were going to have to make more three-point shots than Tennessee to win this game, and the fact that we still had a chance when those numbers were even is a credit to our guys.”

On Jahmai Mashack doing the dirty work for Tennessee

“He’s talented. He impacts the game so much by not really scoring that much. He doesn’t have to shoot. He rebounds it. He was at the receiving end of some of those offensive rebounds during that stretch. I think we’re up 39-37. We got our first shot defense was pretty good, and he goes and knocks out a couple rebounds, kicks it out, they hit threes. He forced a few turnovers.

He’s really talented. Rick does a great job of using him and putting him in spots where he can be successful.”

On Baylor Scheierman’s elite performance on both sides of the ball

“To exert the energy he had to exert to guard Knecht, it’s incredible. Dalton wasn’t guarding him. So Baylor had to — he had double duty because we needed him to be a presence offensively for us, and we needed him to try to slow him down, and he did a great job.

He hit one three in transition where he got loose. He hit one on the triangle and two cutting left. And the other I think he hit it on Trey along the baseline. Baylor didn’t give up a three to a first team All-American. It was clear there were two All-Americans tonight on the floor.”

On if this group did as much as they could this season

“Yes and no. You know, it’s hard to get to this point. It’s hard to play in the Sweet 16. A lot of things have to happen during the year. The Big East absolutely prepares you for everything you’re going to see.

Like down 16 to one of the best defensive teams in the country, you don’t come back and give yourself a chance unless you’ve been battle tested. There’s such good coaching and such elite programs in the Big East that we have the belief that we’ve played against UConn, we’ve played against Marquette, we’ve played against Providence and Villanova and Seton Hall, a lot of really good basketball teams, and we can do this one step at a time.

But our guys developed as the year’s gone on. Mason’s gotten better. Jasen’s gotten better. We’re excited about some of the guys in our program, and obviously we’ve got to hit the recruiting trail, and that’s a little easier than it used to be with the transfer portal.

It’s been an incredible four-year run that Kalk is the one guy that’s been part of that all four years. Our program is in a position, and we’re supported by the institution and our department in a way that we need to continue to be successful.

We tell our guys to move to the next play all the time. While we’re going to be disappointed about this loss, my staff and I are going to get to work and try to put together a group that can get back to this point.”

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