Little Rock (LR) men’s basketball pulled off an upset for the ages this past Saturday. On March 3, LR won in overtime against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, the second-ranked team in the mid-majors and first in the Sun Belt Conference. The victory was exactly what the team needed entering the Sun Belt Tournament.
A couple of hours before the team was to leave for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, Coach Flanigan, Jaizec Lottie, and Ben Marcus allowed The Forum to interview them for the “10 Questions” series. We appreciate their honesty and humility.
Question: How big was the win Saturday?
Lottie: “It was huge for us. Not only is it a confidence booster going into the tournament, but it shows us as a team we are capable of beating anybody in this league.”
Marcus: “Whenever you’ve had the type of adversity we’ve had, to overcome it and pull out a big win on the road at the #1 team’s home arena; it’s big, helps our confidence and inspires us going forward.”
Coach: “We’ve been talking about being the toughest, smartest team for 40 minutes. I was happy to see them have success because I know how hard they work every day.” He added, “We’ve been talking about playing our best basketball going into March, and to get that win against the best team in our conference obviously it gives us momentum going into the tournament.”
Question: Coming in as the #12 seed, nobody is expecting too much from you. Can you see yourselves winning the tournament?
Marcus: “Of course we always believe in ourselves no matter what seed we have. Our goal is to win one game at a time and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Lottie: “All season, people have been sleeping on us, talking all that stuff about us, not believing in us. But as a team, coaches and players, we believe in ourselves and believe we can get the job done.”
Coach: “We went through our growing pains, we had a lot of young guys trying to close games out. We’ve been juggling line ups all year because of injuries and sickness…. Right now, we just want to go in this deal taking it one game at a time. He added, “We know what we’re capable of when we play well and doing the right things, it’s just a matter of putting it together for 40 minutes.”
Question: When I say the word dedication, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
Lottie: “First thing that comes to mind is 100 D.U.B, something we go by everyday.”
Forum: What’s the 100 DUB? (Lottie shifts the question to Ben).
Marcus: “First part one hundred stands for a 100% effort, which is what each and every teammate, player, coach, or anybody involved with our program, that’s what we’re about.
D is for discipline, that’s what you have to have for 40 minutes; as long as we have that we can do what we need to do.
U is for the unselfishness part, that’s what helps our chemistry out, not one selfish person on this team.
The B is for body language. Just having good body language trickles down to everybody. If we see coach happy, we’re happy. If we see coach fired up, we’re fired up. It all just spreads around us when we have good body language.
Question: What game or games did you see the most fight in this team?
Coach: “I would say it started out with our first win in conference play against Monroe here at home. Probably our best game was this past weekend where everybody was clicking. Different times during the course of the year, one or two guys have played better (than others). For the first time I thought, this Saturday, everybody played well.
Question: Realistically speaking, what are the expectations entering the Sun Belt Tourney?
Coach: “Our only goal is to go down here and win it. We have to go down and win four games, one game at a time…. We fully expect to go down here and compete.”
Question: What team do you all want to see in the tournament?
Marcus: “We can see any team. At this point we all believe in ourselves and we don’t fear anybody. To fear somebody is probably your biggest weakness; we have no fear in this locker room.”
Lottie: “There’s not one team that I want to see more than any others. I just want to step up against every team, our ultimate goal is to come out with the W (win). Like coach said, we have to take it one game at a time, so we’re going to start off with App St (Appalachian State), and that’s where my mindset is right now.”
Coach: “App State is our first opponent, that’s who we have to put our mindset to… Obviously they beat us in two close games, one in overtime and one here on senior night. So we owe them a little bit.”
Question: When it comes to the game’s minute by minute, half by half grind, how do you all win?
Coach: “We’ve been learning how to value every possession. That’s something we didn’t do a great job of for the most part all year; we’re starting to understand that a little bit more… Especially here in March, it’s an every possession game, it counts on both ends of the floor. He added, “On offense the key is trying to get a great shot every time. On defense its not giving up anything easy.”
Question: Who is the team jokester?
Lottie: Laughing and says, “Oliver Black.”
Marcus: “I’ll throw Cezanne Carson out there.”
Question: Who is the team nucleus?
Lottie: “Coach Flan.”
Coach: “He’s just saying that because I’m here. (Big laughs from everyone)“
Lottie: “No for real, he’s the one that keeps everyone level headed… He keeps everybody together.”
Marcus: “And then when you’re down, he’s right there to tell you like it’s all right, next game. Learn from it and be ready next time, that way you don’t make the same mistakes.”
Question: How did the removal of Andre Jones effect the team?
Coach: “It was tough, especially those first couple of games without him, we did a lot of things to keep him involved in the offense… They had to adjust; obviously losing a teammate and family member is always tough on a group, so we all felt that, including myself. As a coach you never want to give up on a kid, but at a certain point, that locker room and sixteen guys become more important than one individual…. He further stated, “Our chemistry right now is at an all time high. I don’t want to place the blame on Andre Jones at all, but I like where we are right now.”
Question: Of course, you all want to go down there and win, but if you don’t win the tournament, what would you call a successful tournament?
Coach: “That’s the only way we can be successful is if we go down here and put four games together. Anything else is a disappointment for us.” He explained, “We talk about three goals every year; 1) Have a great non-conference schedule, 2) Have a chance to compete for a regular season conference championship, and 3) Win the conference tournament and have a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament. We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to on those first goals, but we still have a lot to play for and it starts Wednesday against App. St.”