Postgame Quotes: Vols 69, MSU 53

March 14, 2013

Recap |  Box Score |  Notes


THE MODERATOR: Okay. We're ready to continue on with Tennessee. We'll begin and ask Coach Martin for his general thoughts on the game, take questions just for the two student athletes, and then excuse them back to the locker room and then finish up with Coach Martin.

COACH MARTIN: I thought both teams competed. I think as a coach that's the first thing, how hard your teams play, how they competed. I thought we did a good job getting out the gates, making plays. Got to give these two guys credit. Trae did a good job of penetration, making plays, probing the defense, keeping the balls alive.

I thought Jarnell did a good job. Some you don't get a stat for, keeping those bigs down on the low post where he's keeping them occupied where they couldn't get out to the corners and Trae making plays with his dribble penetration, finding our shooters and finding our big guys around the rim.

You've got to give Rick's team a lot of credit. You're playing with six guys. I told them he has a chance to be special with those guys, young, brave, talented players. They play hard.

Sometimes it seems like it's a skill within itself just to get guys to play hard. Gets them to play hard despite limited bodies, playing a lot of minutes. Credit to their guys and their staff for doing it because that's not the easiest thing.

You know, our guys did it to win the ballgame.

THE MODERATOR: All right. We'll take questions just for the two student athletes.

Q. Jarnell, how much talk, if at all, before the game was there about what happened to y'all in last year's tournament and trying to avoid that? Did y'all discuss that or not?

Jarnell Stokes: No, we don't try to think about last year's tournament. I feel like we just prepare for this game.

THE MODERATOR: Other questions for either of the student athletes?

Q. Jarnell, you had the two close, tough games against Alabama. What is your main memory of Alabama?

Jarnell Stokes: Probably us just going out and coming and getting a big win, finally get over the hump as far as winning close games. I feel like, you know, earlier in the season we weren't winning close games and around that time we started pulling out those close games. I think that really just gave a lot of guys confidence.

Q. Either Jarnell or Trae, can you guys talk about the first half and y'all's ability to use their turnovers to build that early big first half lead?

Trae Golden: It was just being able to get out in transition what is we like to do. Jarnell is really athletic, out run the usual big men. That's what we're trying to do, force turnovers with our pressure and get out on the transition and make plays.

Q. For either player, there's talk about you never really could put them away. Was it the case of their hustle, maybe y'all just trying a little bit too hard to make a play for yourselves?

Jarnell Stokes: I think that's something we have to develop. I feel like we went out on a 15 point margin as far as -- I feel like we were up 15 and that's just something you have to develop as far as the killer instinct, as far as going up 25.

I mean, that's just making us a better team, but I feel like we went out and competed but we just didn't defend at a high level in the last ten minutes of the game.

THE MODERATOR: Other questions for either of the student athletes.

Q. Trae, you guys get win No. 20 right now, on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament. Are you guys thinking about that at all? Do you think this is enough to get you guys in?

Trae Golden: It's something we're not thinking about right now. We're just in the SEC Tournament, just trying to make sure we get a SEC championship. All we thought about is Mississippi State and now our focus is on Alabama.

THE MODERATOR: Hands up, other questions for either of student athletes? All right, thank you fellas. You can return to the locker room. We'll continue on with questions for Coach Martin. If you raise your hand, we'll get a mike to you. Hands up.

Q. Cuonzo, Jarnell mentioned the significance of the second Alabama game. When you look back at that game and the first Alabama game, what was the real difference for your team, do you think?

COACH MARTIN: I think in the first game we didn't play with a level of toughness. I thought we competed in Alabama game at Alabama. We didn't play with toughness. We were struggling to score the ball. I think Jarnell had a good game at their place to score the ball. I think we had three major turnovers down the stretch of the game with two minutes left in the game.

I have to watch film to be exact. Then it -- at our place we were somewhat on a rollercoaster of our team, up and down, finding ways to win games, compete in games, winning games. We found a way to get a win at our place. Jarnell got a big stop at the end of the game at our place to get a win. I have to go back to watch film to be exact in particular on certain situations.

Q. How much of a different team do you feel like you have now as opposed to when you played Alabama earlier in the season?

COACH MARTIN: I think we're a good basketball team. We have guys that are scoring the ball. For us it starts with Jarnell Stokes. Trae is also playing at the level we expect Trae to. He's dribbling the ball, making plays. He's doing a better job defending. Josh is becoming a pretty good two-way player. Then we changed our lineup. We're four guards for the most part. I think what it does more than anything it gives Jarnell a chance to score around the rim to make plays, to have spacing, because you got guys that can make shots and make plays.

Q. First off, just a two-part question: One, Coach Ray was in here and he said that he didn't think you guys needed another win to prove to be an NCAA Tournament team. So A, do you agree with that; and what do you feel like will be key against Alabama?

COACH MARTIN: First and foremost, Rick is a great friend of mine. I appreciate that. I said after we beat the Mizzou team, we're a good team. What's the other question? You can holler it out. What's going to be the difference against Alabama?

I have to go back and watch film to get details, because the most important thing for us in our program, we have a coach that scouts each particular team. For me, I need to go back and watch film because I was consumed with either Mississippi State or South Carolina, so now you spend hours at night trying to get film on Mississippi State to watch them.

To be exact in certain situations, once again to go back and watch film. They had one of the best four-guard lineups in the country with their guards. Trevor is one of the best point guards in America. He's is a big time scoring guard. They have the parts to be successful. They defend, they play hard, they're well coached. We know it will be a fight.

Q. Cuonzo, the competition gets tougher as you go along. How important is it for your team to not let teams make runs at them and keep you nervous on that bench over there?

COACH MARTIN: I just think that's college basketball. I think if you saw the first game today, Georgia and LSU just teams compete. You're fighting for your life. Rick has a young, very talented team.

Like I told our guys, they have every right like we do to win a basketball game. Anything can happen in that environment like that. I told our guys they are familiar with the rim and placed on the floor and they're coming off a win. So for us it's just playing basketball.

We know teams will make runs, teams will compete. Getting stops, taking where of the basketball, playing hard, find a way to win the game is the most important thing in this venue.

Q. Cuonzo, this is about Quinton Chievous. Would you just kind of go back over the stretch where he did not play at all, why that was and what changed and what he's giving you now?

COACH MARTIN: Well, first he plays at a level of toughness. That part gets him on the floor. The thing that hurt him more was our team as opposed to Q. We worked with him a lot trying to be a small forward. When Jarnell went down, Derek Reese went down, he had to move to the power 4 position.

Even though he's tough enough to play it, it takes away from all the focus that he worked on his perimeter skills and guarding a certain guy. It took a lot from his game because he had to -- I wouldn't say a new system. You have to learn different plays and sets. It's a hard thing to do.

So that was a stretch he didn't play but he kept his composure. You're also talking about a guy that's consumed with getting better. Plays hard, competes. Know how to play.

He's a better 3 point shooter than he shows but just to his credit, he stayed locked in. He wanted to be a good ball player. That's why he's playing.

Q. I guess, Coach, if you could address some of the second half difficulties just in terms of closing out today's game, maybe finishing off a little earlier.

COACH MARTIN: You know, I've always been a guy even when I played, exciting and good to get leads like that. There's the Tennessee have a mental slip when you get big leads in they weren't attacking aggressively, I didn't think Jarnell was posting as strong in spurts.

We were careless with the basketball. Give those guys credit. They stayed aggressive. They used their length, size, they forced us to make plays. We didn't want to score as quickly in the shot clock.

Like I told the guys, you got to take what they give you. I thought we were passive in areas. That's part of it. Learn from it, keep moving.

Q. Coach, you just mentioned the advantage of playing on this floor and getting a win. How do y'all turn that into an advantage tomorrow?

COACH MARTIN: Well, you're playing against a talented team. The most important thing is find a way to get a win. Tremendous fan base. So energy will be there.

Friday games, lot of people will be there. We told our fans come to the game first, then enjoy the festivities in Nashville. It's very important.

You know, they have the parts. They have guys -- anytime you got tremendous guard play you got a chance to be in any ballgames. Our guards have to be quick on all cylinders. We've got to get Jarnell the ball and let him be the player he is.

Q. Cuonzo, going back to the first Alabama game, was there something about their zone that allowed you guys to crash the offensive boards so effectively?

COACH MARTIN: We're one of the better offense rebounders, even in the case with four guards we do a pretty good job of rebounding. Lot of that is due to Jarnell Stokes.

I always said when teams play you in a zone, you should know where your shots are coming from. You know what, where the box-outs are coming from.

We spend time working on that against the zone, really rebound the basketball and shooters be ready to shoot. Just a matter of knocking them down and being aggressive.

THE MODERATOR: Hands up, other questions?

Q. So with today's I guess turnover problems in the second half there you get a quick turn around. What can you do in terms of preparing for the pressure you're going to see and some of the ball control issues like you mentioned?

COACH MARTIN: Take care of the basketball, be strong with the ball. Get it across the court, attack the press. I thought about 2, 3, could be more, I thought we were a little careless, little fancy, I, I like to say but just being strong with the basketball. Can't let up.


THE MODERATOR: All right. We're ready to begin with Mississippi State. We'll ask Coach Ray for some opening comments on the game. Then we'll take your questions just for the two student athletes and send them back to the locker room and then finish up with Coach Ray.

COACH RAY: On this game particularly, I thought Tennessee did a really good job executing their offense and attacking our man defense and especially our 1-3-1 defense. I thought we did a great job to get some opportunities at the rim and get some easy looks at the basket. I thought we did a poor job in the first half turning the basketball over which led to some easy offense for them. We talked about this before the game with our guys. They had 42 points in the paint compared to our 24 and we had to find a way to limit their points in the paint.

So, I thought Tennessee was an NCAA Tournament team before we played them and I definitely think that now and I think they needed that win to validate them being in the NCAA Tournament team.

In regards to our team, this is my first time being a head coach. I've been in this business for 20 years, and I've never been in a situation where a team has dealt with this much adversity both on and off the court. And I can't tell you how proud I am to be the coach here at Mississippi State because our kids, no matter what happened, continued to fight and play hard and represent the university well.

None of these kids knew me. They could have said first year head coach, I'm not going the play hard for him, not going to listen to him, and nobody did that. And so I'm really looking forward to coaching these young men in the off-season and see what we can do with 13 scholarship players instead of six.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for either student athletes?

Q. Craig, I thought yesterday you said were you a little nervous heading into your first SEC Tournament game. You weren't nervous tonight. How did you feel about the way you played?

CRAIG SWORD: Well, I had to come out and play hard for my team, and first half I didn't play too good. I was still a little nervous, but once I got into the game, I started to play hard.

Q. For either player, y'all kept fighting and diving for all the loose balls and getting as many steals as you could. What was the mentality there and did you see some loose passes to be had there?

COLIN BORCHERT: In our mentality when we step out on the court, we're going to grind it out every day. That's one thing Coach Ray and all the other coaches trying to tell us and do every day in practice and every day in games. So that's what we just try to do, we try to go out there and just grind. We try to get the lead back, keep on working. What our coach said at halftime, we're down but don't -- we can just keep on grinding out minute by minute, point by point. That's what we try to do.

Q. Coach, what will you remember most about this team this year?

COACH RAY: Well, I think the one thing I'll remember is just how much these guys gave themselves to me. Like I stated before, they could have easily just pitched it in and saw that they were down in numbers with 6, 7 scholarship guys and just not played hard for me at all. But I really think it speaks to the character of our kids that we have on our team that they respected themselves enough, Mississippi State university enough, and then our coaching staff enough to continue to fight and compete through all the adversity. That's what I'll remember the most.

Q. Coach, two questions: First, what makes Tennessee such a tough out? And then second, we talked before about Craig growing, how much did he grow in this NCAA Tournament -- I'm sorry, SEC Tournament?

COACH RAY: Well, just talking about Tennessee, the one thing that you come away with is just how physical they are. You know, they just do a great job -- we use the terminology of walling up. Anytime you're around the basketball, they just really put their body into you and make it hard and difficult for you to score and finish inside.

So they just have that mentality that you may get at the rim, but you're going to have a difficult time finishing at the rim and you saw that today. I thought we had a lot of opportunities at the rim that we just couldn't finish because of the physicality their defense.

In regards to Craig Sword, I think you saw the maturation of him throughout the whole season. At some point in time, we couldn't even get him to dribble the ball up court because he would turn it over all the time. Now we see his turnovers are starting to reduce and he's starting to go make more plays, not just for himself but also for others, too.

You know, he was All Freshman team, and I think everybody started to see the talent that he has. I think he's going to get even better, because what you notice is most kids make the biggest jump in their first off-season in college basketball. I'm looking forward to how good he's going to really become.

Q. Coach, you mentioned the struggles playing shorthanded. You had a couple guys go down at some point in the first half. Would you talk about where your mindset was at that point may even more shorthanded?

COACH RAY: I hate to be this way, but I don't even notice anymore. It seems like every game we have somebody go down with some sort of ailment and I just sub them right away and get a report from our trainer, Scottie later on. I've seen so many guys go down throughout the course of the season. I don't even begin to speculate whether it's serious or not serious. I think the way I do just kind of remove myself from it and talk about the Xs and Os and get the subs, you be in there and go talk to Scottie and just figure out how severe the injury is.

We've got tough kids. I mean, like they keep hitting the ground and going. They know like there's a chance when they go diving for that loose ball that they can get injured, but it doesn't stop them from doing it.





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