March 16, 2007
Tennessee Postgame Locker Room Quotes
Duke Crews, freshman forward
On Long Beach's game
"We came out early and they came back with some impressive shots. Their guards did a great job. They are definitely a team that can score. We had to continue to play defense because they are a team that can build a 3-6-9 (run) really quick."
On how Tennessee played
"We were able to get a bucket almost every time down the court. It was just a matter of execution. Once we built the lead we gained some momentum. We had a great game as a team. We have to come out ready to play every game."
On advancing to Sunday vs. Virginia
"It is going to be fun. I'm ready for it. We have to go up against some good guards Sunday. Playing against Long Beach today helped prepare us. We have to continue to play aggressively."
Dane Bradshaw, senior forward
On Long Beach
"Coach (Bruce) Pearl told us they could score quickly. Towards the end of the game you could tell they were really going on-to-one. It kind of felt like a pick-up game. With five minutes Coach Pearl said he couldn't put in the subs yet because Long Beach can hit the 3-6-9 so quickly."
On the game
"We started to feel more comfortable but not relaxed in the second half. As much as the offense seemed to be the main focus, our defense is what gave us that separation. We know we can score, so we are always confident in our offense."
Chris Lofton, junior guard
On comparing this year's tournament to last year's
"This year I think we have a greater sense of urgency. We were disappointed last year and are here to try and win as many games as possible. We want to do the best we can in the tournament."
On his scoring run
"I just do what I can to help my team win. Coach (Bruce Pearl) does the play calling and I know he wants us to be as aggressive. I just do whatever I can."
On Tennessee's game tempo
"We definitely got our fast-break game back. Coach (Bruce Pearl) has been preaching to us to put the fast back in fast break and we did that today."
COACH PEARL: The tempo was very, very fast. Two teams that like to run. And the up tempo, I think, brings out the best in both. I think as far as the offensive numbers for Tennessee both in the field goal percentage shooting as well as the assist/turnover ratio has to do with the SEC and the kind of defenses that we see night in and night out. Long Beach State is a terrific, terrific offensive team and given their personnel, do a wonderful job with what they do. I think that we just probably physically had a little bit, a little more size, and I guess the last thing would be, I like the patience and I like the fact that we made a lot of extra passes out there to have 43 baskets, but to have 25 assists and six turnovers really took good care of the ball.
REPORTER: Was it fun to have a game like that? It's not often in a tournament a team gets to play at that pace and tempo and does it help you get on track for the rest of the tournament?
LOFTON: We're used to playing like that. When a team plays like that, we get excited. That's what we did tonight, it's a fast-paced game and I think we put the fast back in fast break.
REPORTER: JaJuan, you came out, I think the team did anyway, four, six shots were threes, were you looking specifically for threes, to set that kind of pace for that tempo or was it just there.
JaJuan Smith: It was things just happening in the offense at that time. We was making the extra pass and getting open looks and knocking down the shots.
REPORTER: Chris, did they do anything that surprised you at all defensively and what did you think of their defense?
LOFTON: Not really. We knew they were going to try to slow our fast break down and try to play tough man to man, but we found spots, some spots in the middle and our penetration worked tonight.
REPORTER: For any of you guys other than Chris, when he was out there with foul trouble late in the first half, you had a little bit of a lull but you kind of held serve at that point, can you talk about that period and what was important at that point?
BRADSHAW: We kind of came together and huddled up and realized he have in foul trouble so we told ourselves not to let the lead slip, when Chris gets hot, you tend to look for him too much, but with him not on the court, we knew we had to take some of the scoring load ourselves, I think they may have cut it to six, but we had some answers.
REPORTER: For all you guys, did you think you'd get off to -- what did you talk about the last several days about a start in this tournament?
Ramar Smith: We had to come out and play hard. Losing the first game in the SEC really hurt us, so we knew what we had to come out and do tonight. With the type of fast break team they was, we had to slow their fast break down and we knew we had to score, we knew it was going to be a high scoring game and we came out and scored.
REPORTER: You knew it would be high scoring. Did you have any idea it would be that high scoring, did you find yourselves piquing towards the ends to see if you could get it to 130 or anything like that?
BRADSHAW: Initially we didn't come into the game with a game plan that said we were going to try to put up 100 on these guys. At halftime, we had 57 points up, but on the other side of that, they had 45. So it was just the flow of the game and how it was. The start of the second half was the key for us because we were able to stop them and get easy buckets in transition as well as our half court offense that we were scoring out of, it wasn't a goal of ours by any means, it was just the way the game flowed, we don't expect to put up triple digits on Virginia, we'll have to improve next game.
REPORTER: I think you said this was only the second time your mom was able to see you play this year, do you get any special motivation out of that?
Ramar Smith: Anytime my family gets to come see me play, I feel great and motivates me more to play harder, but at the same time I play hard for my team and it was just a good game for me tonight.
REPORTER: For any of you guys, did Coach Pearl emphasize at halftime to really come out strong the second half?
LOFTON: Ye, he emphasized, we don't really play good at the start of the second half, in the season we always gave up the first basket of the game or got off to a slow start and we try to make it mandatory to get a stop and get some easy buckets and that's what we did.
REPORTER: Bruce, you said yesterday it was going to be the most entertaining game of the day, did you think it would get as crazy as it did with the scoring?
COACH PEARL: I thought it would be closer, more like it was in the first half. I thought the kids were right that the start of the second half was the key to the victory and the margin. Those guys, I mean, they made 12 three-point shots and they made a bunch of them with a hand in their face. I don't think our defense was the strongest aspect of our game today. They shoot 49%, 57% from three. I'm sure my defensive coaches are not real happy with that. This is a dangerous team because of all those seniors, and they were -- this might have been a tough match-up for them in the 5/12 because we -- what they do, being undersized and smaller, it could bother a bigger team, but because we're small also, it was actually a tough match-up for Long Beach, I think.
REPORTER: Bruce, with the way you guys got going in the second half, in the post season, you hadn't been able to get into your flow of the game, does this sort of make up for it?
COACH PEARL: It's what it's supposed to look like, Chris, and I like an identity for a program and this is our identity. We've been -- we've never finished second in scoring in I think 14 or 15 years however long I've been a head coach, no league have we ever finished second, and we pride ourselves as Chris said, yes, putting the fast back in fast break, we do. And we want to be able to do that and win, but I enjoy being up tempo and being aggressive in transition. I think the thing that affects us is that we will put four or five guys out there on the floor that can score, different guys. A lot of guys can shoot and they've got some freedom, so, yes, offensively that's what it's supposed to look like. Especially with all the assists. The kids did a really good job of making the extra pass.
REPORTER: With all the offensive fire power, talk a little bit about where does Lofton fit in that? Is he kind of like the engine for that greater machine?
COACH PEARL: Chris Lofton, his efficiency is just -- it's really something. When you are most challenged by an opponent, your best players have to rise up because everybody is -- the better opponent, the more everybody's challenged, therefore your best players have the best chance to be successful. So what Chris did tonight, he's got a chance to do that any night. Whereas some of the other players, not so, not so much, because of the opposition. We're going to go up against Virginia on Sunday, and clearly defensively, physically, they're going to -- that's a strength for Virginia. And so some of the other guys that put up big numbers, it won't be as easy for them. You know what you see from Chris is basically what you get, night in and night out.
REPORTER: You kind of looked at Wild there after he banked in that last three-pointer, is that what you wanted.
COACH PEARL: I looked at the shot clock, I actually wanted to take the violation. I thought we'd had a shot clock violation had we not shot it by some tenths after second. In fact the official was standing right next to me and I yelled, take the shot clock violation. And actually one of Long Beach's players started to come over and defend a little bit so Tanner kind of dribbled it and shot. I'm not at all critical of Tanner. I'm actually glad a walk-on, a nonscholarship player got in the books. But in that situation, the last thing you're looking to do is add to the margin.
REPORTER: Still want to hear on the press on made baskets.
COACH PEARL: We didn't press 40 minutes, 94 feet, like we do some opponent. We did it enough to create a little spurt, and allowed us to be the aggressor. I think it jumped our margin up to 20 at one point in the first half. We got out of it because I thought they'd get comfortable with it and it created what I was looking for. If you give Houston too much open space, I could just see them pulling much closer, much faster, so we did what we wanted to do with it.
REPORTER: Coach, was this a dream start to the tournament? I mean, how would you explain your feelings right now, this was a 12/5 game, not a 16/1.
COACH PEARL: Well, I'm a little different. You know, some of my first thoughts really are about the SEC. I'm proud to represent the SEC in this tournament and I know the kind of competition that we faced all year long to get here and I know that there were a lot of good teams that didn't get here from our league so you almost feel like a responsibility to represent. That's how I feel right now. I feel a responsibility to represent our university. Our university has made a tremendous commitment to men's basketball across the board and one of the things that we have to do is to be able to advance in post season. We've done a lot of good things so far, but this is another step in the direction I want to take this program, so I feel a little relieved and I feel anxious to get ready for our preparation for Virginia.
Long Beach State Quotes
Dominique Ricks, senior forward
On the game and their season
"Tennessee came out and played a lot harder than I thought we played. No one thought we would make it this far this season, so I think we surprised a lot of people this year."
"I think they are one of the best teams we have played all year. We played UCLA and USC and Tennessee is right up there with those other teams."
Mark Dawson, senior center
On his team's performance against Tennessee
"We played well, but we definitely could have played a lot better. We needed to make a lot more of the shots we put up."
"They played a good game. Every time I put a shot up I had about three white jerseys all over me. We play a similar style to them, but with their SEC athletes it's tough to match up."
COACH REYNOLDS: I think we played an opponent that was better than we were and they showed it tonight. Obviously we played kind of the same style of play and they had a few more weapons going tonight than we did. I have to give credit to Coach Pearl and Tennessee, I thought they did a wonderful job. Their guys were ready to go and we didn't perform as we would have hoped, but you have to give some of the credit to that for the way Tennessee played. With that I'll open it up.
REPORTER: Aaron, is your back all right?
NIXON: My back kind of stiffened up a little bit, but it's cool now.
REPORTER: What was Tennessee doing in particular that gave you guys so much trouble for you guys?
HOUSTON: Hitting jump shots. At one point in time, they were 75% from the field. They did a great job in spreading out and hitting jump shots. That's pretty much what was the cause on defense for us.
REPORTER: Kevin, Coach Pearl was just in here and he said the press, the trap was kind of named after you because he said he was concerned if you were able to get it going after that many baskets that would cause them some problem, what was your view of that press and how effective it was.
HOUSTON: It rattled us a little bit in the beginning but we kind of adjusted and they kind of backed off. It didn't really give us too much problems. It was really our defense that gave us the problem in their scoring.
REPORTER: I'd like to speak on behalf of the students and just say, thank you, fellows, the last two years have been amazing and Kejuan and Aaron, you guys are responsible for that.
REPORTER: Talk about covering Chris, what did you see out there and how good is that guy?
NIXON: Chris is a good player. They run a lot of screens for him, he runs off a lot of screens and it's kind of hard to get through all those screens. We tried switching, we tried everything, I mean, he's a great player. You've got to tip your hats off to Tennessee and him.
REPORTER: Talk about Long Beach state, you guys are all seniors, this is your last game, what thoughts are going through your mind right now?
NIXON: You really don't know what to think right now. This being your last game, it hurts. You know you can't come back, but all we can do is wish our freshmen and sophomores the best of luck and good luck to Tennessee.
REPORTER: Aaron, it's kind of a big deal you get to come back here and play a little bit, what are your feelings right now? Can you put them into words?
NIXON: Well, not really. We lost the game obviously so that hurts kind of. We accomplished a lot this year, won our league, won our conference tournament, we did a lot. So really I'm happy because our school hasn't been here since '95, so there's really no reason to be upset besides the fact we lost.
REPORTER: I know you guys came in thinking you could play with them, but at any point did you say, wow, just at the talent they had or anything like that?
NIXON: I mean, like you said, they're a good team, but we had a few mishaps on defense and they knocked down big shots. But other than that, I believe we can still play with them.
REPORTER: Can you talk about what you were going through the last six minutes when your team kind of quit on defense?
COACH REYNOLDS: Well, obviously it was a hard time for our team. We have a lot of seniors and those guys, I'm sure, were disappointed, a little let down in their performance and to Tennessee's credit, they were scoring from all kind of positions on the court, so I'm sure that they were a little down and dead-legged, but I don't know if they quit on defense as much as they were disappointed in what they had done up to that point and the game was kind of out of their reach.
REPORTER: Coach, if somebody told you you'd score 86 points in the first round game, you'd probably take it. Are you surprised that you scored that many points and still lost by that big a margin?
COACH REYNOLDS: Well, I didn't think we'd give up 121 points, but, yeah, I knew it was going to take offensive production to beat Tennessee. They're quite capable of scoring themselves. The way we play kind of dictates the other team's going to score probably more than they have been, but not as much as we score. So if you told me that they were going to have 121 points, I probably wouldn't have believed that, but if you had said, well, we had 86 points, I could see that number being a good number for us on a given night. But when somebody comes out in the first 10 minutes of the game shoots 75% and they have an inside presence and an outside presence, it kind of got out of hand in the beginning of the second half for us.
REPORTER: Coach, how important was the start of the second half where Tennessee came out with another good run and got some stops and scored?
COACH REYNOLDS: The start of the second half was probably the key to the game. And we felt that up until that point, going into halftime, that we were okay. We had a couple, a little spurt with a run on -- 6-0 runs on us. I recall a kid missed a free throw, they got the offensive rebound, threw it out, hit the three, stole the ball on the press, threw it out and hit another three and all of a sudden it's a 7-0 run in a matter of about 20, 25 seconds. So I thought the start of the second half was probably the key to the game and got it spread out some distance where we were going to have a tough time coming back, because then they go very deliberate offensively and make us guard them for 25, 30 seconds and that's where you get a little worried on the defensive end and a little rushed on the offensive end.
REPORTER: Coach, what does your gut tell you about coming back next year?
COACH REYNOLDS: I've answered that question a number of times and they said at the end of the season, they would do an evaluation and the end of the season has come for us, so I imagine in time, that will happen, but I have no control over that.
REPORTER: You've increased your win total almost exponentially over the last five years and how proud are you of your accomplishments of this program and what's your mind set going into those meetings with your AD and your president?
COACH REYNOLDS: It's not hard to triple your wins when the first couple years were five and six. Yeah, I think the program has come a long way and to get to the point now where we won the big west championship and the big west tournament, won 24 games, got into the NCAA tournament, there are still steps that the program needs to get to. Those are factors that, again, those gentlemen that are in charge of that, I'm sure, will make the best decision for Long Beach State and Long Beach State basketball