March 15, 2014
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with an opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student athletes.
COACH MARTIN: I thought our guys did a great job of playing with energy in the first half, and it carried out the rest of the game. If I had any concerns going into the game, it was just energy from the layoff, how the guys got out the gates.
They were pumped up on the bus. On the way over, the bus was rocking. Whatever they were doing on top of that bus, I don't know, but they were jumping.
So it was exciting to see those guys get out the gates the way they did and just really defend. That's the thing we talked about, defending the way we wanted to defend, at the beginning of the season. Our guys have done it the last five games and it's fun to watch.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student athletes.
Q. For both of you, Jarnell, you talked this week about Tennessee hasn't had a great history in the tournament down here. What's it feel like just to come down, both you guys, and get that first one out of the way and get a good result out of the first game.
Jarnell Stokes: I'm excited because I feel like we didn't have a good offensive game, but our defense still led us to win by 20 plus. The last couple games we shot the ball tremendously well and we didn't shoot the ball as well today, but I'm excited because we still won by 20, just off defense.
Jeronne Maymon: Coming out here we're going to miss shots. But I think when we set the tone defensively, good things are bound to happen.
Q. Jarnell, talk about getting another shot at Florida. You've had some individual success, but obviously two losses so far this year.
Jarnell Stokes: Well, I feel like at the end of games, especially when they played us at home, I feel like they wanted it more. They're the number one team in the country. So we have a great opportunity to see how well we have been playing as of late and to see how well it will play out against Florida.
Q. Jarnell, you mentioned the shots weren't falling offensively. I guess how big was it that on a night Antonio wasn't making a lot of shots that Jordan was able to come on strong in the second half?
Jarnell Stokes: Well, Jordan helps me out a lot because teams respect Jordan so much. In my opinion, he's the best scorer in the SEC. Teams respect him a lot. So he helps me out a lot.
First time South Carolina double teamed me the first time we played them, but this game they didn't, and Jordan and Antonio and Josh, those guys played a big role in that.
Q. For either guy, what was coach referring to about the bus rocking? What exactly was going on?
Jeronne Maymon: We were just getting in game mode. Kind of feeling each other out and really just trying to feed off each other's energy.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We'll excuse you to the locker room and take questions for coach.
Q. In two games against Florida, particularly the last one where you played them so close, could you talk about the challenge that Scottie Wilbekin presents for you guys.
COACH MARTIN: Good question. I thought that was the key to the game. Of course when you're playing a very talented team with a lot of parts on both ends of the floor. Offensively, they have a lot of guys that can make plays. Defensively, very sound as a team.
But I thought the last three or four minutes of that game at home, I thought he just took over the game. He made plays offensively, defensively. We couldn't maximize at that particular position. He won that battle. I thought everywhere else we were solid, but at that position, he won the battle.
Q. Discuss the defense. Jarnell talked about the rotations and what he thought was one of the keys to being a lot crisper on that end of the floor and just starting off the day like you played the last four games.
COACH MARTIN: Well, defensively, again, when I took over the program, this is what I envisioned defensively. But the first thing about defense, you have to buy, in totally buy in. I think that's the biggest key. Understand the importance of when you defend at a high level, the result's behind doing it at a high level.
I think with our rotation, just really trying to have fresh legs, guys having energy, I don't think it's any different than what we have done.
Q. When you played Florida at Knoxville, there was a play where Patric Young dove all out and got a loose ball. I'm wondering just as a basketball man, what that play said to you or what impression it made on you?
COACH MARTIN: No different than normal. I enjoy watching him play. You think he's tough as nails. I think he plays hard. I would love to have him on my team. I love the way he plays. He battles. He competes. He stayed four years and he has a chance to do something special. So it says something about the young man. But no different than I thought about him before the game. He's that type of player.
Q. As a coach, you saw the energy on the bus, but are you always, or especially coming into a SEC tournament with the weight of history and the pressure on you, are you kind of anxious to see how the guys are going to come out, or have they been playing hard enough the last couple weeks where you weren't as concerned?
COACH MARTIN: Well, they have been playing hard. My concern more than anything coming into the game was when you got the six day layoff. You haven't done it all season, so much time, because it's a fine balance of when you practice, how you practice, how long you practice. You got to have some contact in there. You want to go in transition but not too much.
So that was the tricky part for us as a coaching staff, to make sure we had the fresh legs to compete and play the game. We know the emotions and the energy would be high coming in a game, but I knew the guys would play hard and compete. They're playing well together as a team.
Q. How much of a familiarity is there with an opponent that you're going to face for a third time in the season tomorrow?
COACH MARTIN: They're a SEC opponent. We played them twice. We know they're very talented, so our guys will obviously be ready to play because of the stakes. You're playing against the number one team in the country. But more than that, it's a league opponent. You're trying to win a game.
We didn't come to Atlanta just to win one in the tournament. We came to win the tournament. As I told the guys, We're not coming to win the tournament, then don't get on the bus. So that's why we came here, to win the tournament.
Q. We saw Jordan struggle early. It looked like he was, physically frustrated. You put him on the bench and he came back and had a pretty good second half. What does that say about him and how much he's matured? Would that be something that you would expect out of him when he first got here?
COACH MARTIN: The one thing about Jordan, he's a competitive basketball player. He wants to be successful. He wants to win. I just thought he was rushing a little bit in the first half. Just grab a seat and relax.
But nothing major. Doesn't change anything. We need him to score and be assertive. But I thought he was rushing a bit. I thought just get some other guys in there and get a better flow. But it shows his growth as a young man, because he's a kind of guy you love to be around. I know him well and I know where his heart is and I know where his passion is.
Q. What kind of a wave of momentum are you guys riding right now?
COACH MARTIN: Five games, we're playing well. But I just think as a team and as a coach, we'll fight to the end. Whatever happens, you're trying to win ball games. You're trying to compete. You're trying to get better. You try to take pride as a coach and continue to get better as a team. The little things, there was some breakdowns today, but just to get better across the board on both ends of the floor.
Our guys are excited about it and we're excited about the challenge tomorrow.
Q. The question that never goes away as far as the NCAA tournament, do you feel now there's just no doubt whatsoever? Is there any load off your shoulders?
COACH MARTIN: Never a load off my shoulders as long as I'm coaching, so it's never that. That will never be the case.
But to be honest with you, strange, I felt that way before we came to Atlanta, I really did. But, again, we came to win this tournament. It was the most important thing. Now you got a chance to play against the best team in the country, so...
But I felt that way before we got on the bus down here.
Q. An obvious thing, I guess, but why is Florida, Florida? Why are they number one in the country? Why are they 19 0 now against the SEC?
COACH MARTIN: Against the SEC, which is a tough league with nine teams, I think nine in the top 100 RPI, so it's a very tough league. Their experience as a team. They have one of the best, if not the best, point guards in college basketball for what he brings to the table.
I think the thing about those guys, which maybe one of you guys have written it before because I don't read any paper so I wouldn't know it, but the thing that they have, they have guys that were role players or didn't play as freshmen and young guys. All of a sudden they're playing major minutes. So nowadays most guys are just transferring.
So these guys took their lumps as young guys, found their way as basketball players, stayed together. Then you start to see the success of a team that had to grind to the top. And again not many guys are willing to do that. They were talented guys coming out of high school. They wasn't role players on high school teams. They were some of the best of the best, but they accepted that role. Now you're starting to see the results behind it.
Also great coaching, the system, the program is won before the guys that came before and passed it down. All those things matter.