They said it: Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and players Zach Auguste, V.J. Beacham and Demetrius Jackson after the Irish beat Wisconsin 61-56:
MIKE BREY: On Monday I told our group, I saw us showing us up as the 16th-rated team of the 16 teams left. But I thought we were the toughest team, the No. 1 team in toughness. And I think it’s played itself out again in a third game.
We have a great belief. We have a heck of a group. And maybe there’s some destiny involved in this thing.
Q. Demetrius, just talk about you’re down three and all of a sudden the swing, the big plays and the baskets and here you are now in the East Regional final.
DEMETRIUS JACKSON: Feels amazing to be going back. We just did a great job sticking with it. We did a great job giving ourselves a chance to win. We had a lot of mistakes in the game but we kept fighting. We took our punches and we just kind of got back up, kept fighting, kept believing, kept communicating and we just made it happen.
Q. V.J., you guys were struggling offensively the first 30 minutes there and you hit some big shots to kind of get your guys going. What was your mindset in the second half and how as a team do you feel you were able to fight through that?
V.J. BEACHEM: I think in the second half we were moving the ball better, getting it side to side, getting it inside and out. And we just had better movement and our shots were just a little more open. And all of us were able to knock them down. Just the way that we attack really opened up, really opened up the outside shot for all of us.
Q. Zach and Demetrius, you’ve been asked before about the team-of-destiny idea. The way you guys pulled out this game late, does it play into what your coach is talking about?
DEMETRIUS JACKSON: Yeah, I think the whole year and how many game situations we’ve had throughout the whole year kind of prepared us for moments like these. All throughout the year we’ve been down, fighting — all throughout the year we’ve been in late-game situations where we really had to execute and believe and go out and win it defensively. So we were able to just do that again today. And so that’s all credit to Coach making us work on those things in practice and in games and helping us believe and help keeping us loose.
ZACH AUGUSTE: For sure, definitely gotta give a lot of credit to coach. Early on he emphasized we could be a special team and we can be better than last year. And it was just a matter of us trying to figure that out and trying to believe it. And that’s what we’ve done. And we’ve been competing and working hard and trying to get to where we want to be.
Q. An injury report, what’s wrong with you?
MIKE BREY: Trainer said I should be able to go Sunday. About the 15-minute mark I was excited and jumped up and I pulled a calf muscle. Thank God it wasn’t Achilles. So little calf strain, no surgery needed, but I’m a little sore. I told the guys I’m the first one taped on Sunday.
Q. Just talk about the fact that your team is now one game away from a chance to go to Final Four, East Regional, regional final, and maybe your first as a coach, I’m not sure as a head coach. But just talk about that challenge, that opportunity, regardless of who you’re playing and how exciting is it?
MIKE BREY: I’m proud that our group got back to this point. We were there last year and played one of the great games in the history of the NCAA Tournament against Kentucky. And we’re back in it again. We have another opportunity to go to a Final Four.
I’m very proud of this group because last year’s team had no pressure. We were coming off of a 15-17 year. This team had expectations from day one, and to get us back and deliver with expectations, I’m really proud of them and I’m extremely proud of the leadership of those guys that just left us.