COACH DONOVAN: I thought our guys came out and really played a terrific first half. Obviously had a nice lead and, at least tried to talk at halftime, about the fact that I think we all knew Minnesota is a pride full team, I know Tubby obviously very well, that their team would come out and respond.
They did. And I think right about the 14 minute mark they had out scored us 13-4. And really they got themselves right back in the game.
I don't know what they cut it to. I think it was maybe seven. And I give our guys a lot of credit in terms of battling and fighting off that run and making some plays, some key plays in key situations. I was really, really happy personally for Mike. Because I don't think the last game for him was a game that he was probably too thrilled about. I give him a lot of credit for bouncing back and coming focused and ready to play today. And he was huge for us with the way he shot the ball.
I think the same thing could be said for Erik. Erik got us off too, those two guys in the first half really played exceptionally well. Erik, unfortunately, most of the second half had to battle foul trouble. But we weathered the Storm and found a way to move on and I think that's probably the most important thing right now, going forward.
Q. Can you talk about your history with Mike and the first game and whether the dark side and the light side are always battling in this guy.
COACH DONOVAN: Definitely they are. From a positive perspective with Mike, is I think in order to be a great teammate you really got to be an affectionate guy, and a caring guy and a loving guy. And he expresses himself a lot of times verbally how he feels about his teammates, how he feels about being here.
I think that's just who he is. He's not a selfish guy, he's unselfish. But there are times with Mike, where he can come not focused, he cannot be accountable, he cannot be responsible in terms of doing the things that he needs to do.
The reason our relationship at times has been maybe somewhat rocky is because I've held him to a really high standard of accountability on and off the floor.
And I think that when he, as he mentioned tonight, is on edge and he is focused, he plays better, he performs better. So I think I got asked after the Northwestern State game geez you sat Mike Rosario for 11 minutes. I didn't sit Mike Rosario for 11 minutes, he sat himself. And we needed to move on without him because of what he just said. I think that's something that he battles with sometimes.
He's just coming with that focus all the time and being tight and intense. And when he's like that, he's really, really good. I think I've tried to hold him to that standard because he's not that great of a player when he doesn't play that way. But in terms of like I remember the Vanderbilt game at home, the last home game of the year was his senior night, and he wasn't playing well. We were in kind of a dog fight with Vanderbilt there and I sat him and he's on the benches he's cheering, he's into the game, he doesn't pout, he doesn't do anything that's going to disrupt the team.
But there's times where he can be a little carefree, can be a little bit loose, and he cannot block out or miss an assignment and those kinds of things. And really what I tried to do yesterday was really challenge him in the morning when we met in front of the team. That he's got a responsibility. He's a fifth year senior, and it's his first NCAA tournament appearance and that's the focus he comes with? Like there's something wrong with that. And I think he felt bad about it.
The one thing I always say about Mike is Mike will assume responsibility. He is not a finger pointer. He does not blame other people. He'll take responsibility. The one thing I appreciate, more than anything, is Mike let's me coach him. He let's me coach him. But I'm on him all the time. A lot. Because I want him to be the best he can be on and off the floor. And when he's allowed to be that way, maybe class is not quite that important or I come a little late to practice or I'm not really ready to play. No. You just sit down. There needs to be some level of discipline. But he takes it, he moves forward.
So someone asked me going into this game how do you think Rosario will be. And I said he'll be fine because he's got a very short term memory and he moves to the next challenge pretty quickly.
Q. All year we have been trying to decide who is the guy who makes this team go, the X factor. Tonight in a lot of ways it was Scotty taking care of the ball and especially in the second half when things looked bad. Can you just talk about how well he played and maybe didn't in the Ole Miss game in Nashville.
COACH DONOVAN: He played well. I think some of the things with our team when we have gotten into some of those situations, whether it's been at Missouri or Kentucky, where we have had kind of a lead and then for whatever reason we go dry for a long period of time, we were kind of in that same situation again today.
Scottie, I think, stepped up and you need someone to make a shot. I think that when some of those previous games we didn't make a shot. Mike knocked down a shot. Scottie knocked down a three. Yeguete made a layup. Scottie drove a layup and got fouled. We got to the free throw line and we found a way to manufacture points. And then we found a way to get some stops. And that was encouraging to see from the bench that, okay, here we go again, seven or eight point lead, we need to step up as a team right now and take this on.
And they did and I was encouraged by that. And because we did it today doesn't mean we'll do it if we're in that situation next week. Every situation's different. But they responded the way, as a coach, I had hoped they would respond when a team was threatening.
And when you get into this time of year and the teams that are left, all these teams that are left have resiliency and toughness and perseverance. And there was no way Minnesota was going to come out there in the second half and let the game go from 21 to 31. They're going to fight. And we didn't match that intensity and the 13 4 run got them right back in the game pretty quickly.
Q. With Mike, how do you find the line between trying to rein him in and letting him play the way he wants to and get those points tonight.
COACH DONOVAN: There's a couple things for him that are really, really simple. When he doesn't do them, he, I generally have to sit him. But the first thing is, is just really, really take open shots. I want him to be as aggressive as he possible can be. That doesn't mean that be aggressive to just go score all the time, but be aggressive with the ball.
The other thing with him is be responsible with the ball. If you want that kind of freedom, and if you want to be able to play aggressive, there is a responsibility that you have to yourself and to our team to make the right decision. Okay.
And then the third part for him is, just play the right way. Play the right way. He has got as good of a basketball feel and understanding of anybody on our team. He sees open men, he makes the extra pass, he can get guys shots. But there's sometimes where he gets a little high risk and very, very low reward. And when he does that, it puts our team in a very, very difficult situation.
And he understands, when he's locked in like that, he plays sharp and crisp and tight. When he's loose and carefree and he's just kind of floating around out there, we really don't get much from him. And I think a lot of times for players sometimes the best motivating factor is the bench, when you have the opportunity to sit somebody down. And I think for him he probably reflected on Friday night and said, geez, I'm fortunate I got another day here to play, I'm not going to show up against Minnesota like that.
Q. The way you stay after him, is that an approach that might not work with some other guys?
COACH DONOVAN: Absolutely. I think everybody's different. I think you have to try as a coach to hit the right buttons there. Mike let's me coach him. He takes responsibility. The best part about him is he really cares about his teammates. So when he I don't think a lot of times it's even done intentionally, it's just that responsibility of every single day him not, or me not allowing him to not to be his best. And that's all I'm trying to get out of him is him to be his best.
Doesn't mean he's got to score 25 points, but just go out there and play and be your best. We're in an eight point game against Northwestern State, the first possession we're talking about what we got to do to start the second half, and he doesn't even remotely come close to blocking anybody out. Just stands there. Guy runs right by his ear, catches the ball and lays it in and now it's down to six and now he's sitting on the bench and he's had some time to reflect.
But he's a great kid. I love coaching him, I love being around him, because he's an affectionate, loving kid.
We try to do some things community service wise with our guys, whether it be a children's hospital or homeless shelter, I've never been around anybody on our team, or over the years that I've been there, that is more engaging with young kids or people that are less fortunate. I mean, it's unbelievable watching him carry on conversations. He has an incredible part about him that's really unique and special.
But he also has this other part of him that sometimes he's a little bit loose and carefree and lacks some responsibility. And I think that you got to hold him accountable. When you hold him accountable he generally responds.
Q. You know how hard the NCAA tournament can be to just to get to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year. What does that say about where the program is and the guys that you've coached these last few years.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I'm really, really proud our guys. I think it's really hard to get out of the first weekend. It just is. There's so many good teams, I think that the parity of college basketball certainly is a lot different today than it was 25 years ago. I think that's what makes this tournament so special.
And then when you get an opportunity to go into a second weekend and be able to get two victories, I mean it's, it says a lot about our guys. Because the season is so long. It's such a long season. And to get yourself ready to play night in and night out, I give our guys a lot of credit. Especially the seniors, Erik and Mike and Kenny. What they have been able to do since they have been here. And obviously the guys that are younger, Patric Young's been here, been a part of it and so has Casey, Will Yeguete, it's been a really, really good group in terms of just going out there.
I like being around them, they're great kids, they work hard, they're very, very pleasing, they understand what the program is trying to build, what we're trying to do, and I think they take that very, very personally and they try to do the best they can.
So the last three years, those guys deserve the credit, because they're the ones out there performing and playing.