March 23, 2007
Tennessee Press Conference
COACH PEARL: We played about as well the first half I think as we can play. These young men did a terrific job. We're a dangerous basketball team. Anybody that can make 16 threes and shoot over 60 percent is a tough match up. That proved to be the case. We tied a school record. Two point baskets were tough to come by, particularly in the second half. We only had four in the second half. And we just were not we didn't convert when we got the fouls.
We're terribly disappointed. We've proven that we can beat the best teams in the country. We've also proved that we can come close to beating the best teams in the country.
Q. Chris, was there a point in the second half where you felt it kind of slipping away?
Chris Lofton: Not really. We knew they were going to make a run and our goal was to try to withstand it. They came out in the second half with great intensity and urgency. We didn't have our urgency on defense the second half.
Q. Most of the time when you play Ohio State if you get in foul trouble and get your 3's, you have a great chance to win, what happened in the second half?
Dane Bradshaw: You're exactly right. It was part of the game plan to get him in foul trouble and Conley, as well. We still have Oden in foul trouble in the second half. But we just really didn't do a good job from the get go. The starters played poorly at the beginning the second half. We never got over confident because we're all in the locker room at halftime. But defensively we didn't have that sense of urgency. And that's what makes it worse, because sometimes the ball doesn't go in for you. But things that you can control are your defensive intensity and ball pressure and things of that nature. We just didn't come through.
Q. Can you talk about what it was like to play in a game like that with just such great momentum swings, and it ends as a back and forth type of game?
Dane Bradshaw: The energy was there before we even got on the court following such a great game beforehand. It was just a great experience. We know that the way we play and our fast pace style there's going to be runs back and forth from both teams. It's an exciting game to watch, but we weren't able to come through.
Q. In your mind was there a pivotal time where there were a couple two, three plays where you knew if you made them you were in great shape? What were the key moments in that stretch as far as you were concerned?
COACH PEARL: The kids had it right, in the first two rotations in the second half were not good. The starters didn't come out and defend with the kind of urgency we needed. We weren't making plays. We were playing defensive. Whereas the first half we had a game plan and had a purpose defensively. And I thought that was really key.
When Ryan Childress started making shots, it kind of felt like this is supposed to happen. And I felt pretty good about just JaJuan Smith, same thing, made a couple of good shots in transition, felt good about it.
We had a difficult time covering Conley after the flat screen. And they still got it.
Q. You guys played a tremendous game tonight, Xavier played a tremendous game against Ohio State, both had significant leads that they came back on. Talk about how good Ohio State has got to be to be able to come back on two teams that played exceptionally well, and most teams would have faded?
COACH PEARL: They are able to grind it out. And we talked about it yesterday. I think that Ron Lewis is a big play maker. I'm really happy for him to be able to come back to play at the Ohio State University. He's had some big time plays. Conley's ability to get to the foul line and drive into contact, it's interesting, Conley shoots 14 free throws, Chris Lofton doesn't shoot any. I think five on Tennessee's team is a pretty good player. Maybe Chris doesn't drive it into contact as much. Certainly shoots a lot more three balls. But for him to not go to the foul line one time, difficult for me to understand. He went to the foul line one time the first time we played him. We played Ohio State but Conley's ability to get to the foul line that helps you lay games. But they've obviously got a grit. They've got a resolve?
Q. Can you just walk over the last two possessions, the call on Conley's, and what you thought about your last look, and there was debate whether it would have been good or not.
COACH PEARL: Ohio, again, Conley does a great job of drawing fouls. I thought Ramar Smith got almost the same look in Columbus. And Greg we had something we had a play diagrammed if he made it, and we took it out. And we were going to try to set a ball screen for tomorrow, some place in the middle of the floor with Wayne Chism, who was going to be forced by Oden. I don't know that Chism ever I know he didn't, never stopped. I wanted him to stop at about the ten second line, because maybe Oden would stop with him. Whether he set a screen or not, maybe he'd have to negotiate that screen. Wayne never stopped. And so Ramar went to the basket and he just followed him in. I thought Ramar had drawn contact underneath, and very similar play to Conley's, but Greg was there up top. It's a good look. You get the ball in your point guard's hand and you drive it in the line. And Ramar, he can make tough 2's, so I was pleased with the shot.
We had 14, two point baskets, Ramar had six of them. To get it in his hands and get there was good.
Q. Did you do anything to try to keep the ball out of Oden's hands? I know he had foul trouble, but he only took two shots?
COACH PEARL: In the first half? For the game in we fouled him. He got fouled several times. Post defense is a team game, ball pressure. I thought both Wayne Chism, Crews, did a good job of forcing him away from the basket, limiting his touches, and he got it close we fouled him some. Greg is really good and he's a he was obviously a focal point of our scout. He had 25 and 15 the last time we played. So we did a good job on him.
Ohio State Press Conference
COACH MATTA: Well, I don't know if I've seen too many like that in an NCAA tournament, Tennessee, they blitzed us in the first half. 9 for 15 and I think Chism was 0 for 3. I don't know if Lofton hit the rim today when he made them. And we went in wounded and I didn't like our body language. We were down and talked at halftime about what we had to do to chip away. I think it all started the run started for us with our defense, we were able to get some stops and they missed some shots. Great, we'll get a couple of easy baskets. And when we got it down to about six we knew we had ourselves a ballgame. Came down to the last minute, could have gone either way.
I'm proud at our guys, half pissed off at them how we started. But we came back the second half and were able to make the plays down the stretch to win the basketball game in advance.
Q. Talk about chipping away at that lead. Was there just a constant effort to try to penetrate as much as possible?
RON LEWIS: We seen their body language coming out the second half and we knew we had to attack. Our main focus was get to the basket, get free throws so we could stop the clock and knock down shots and that's what we did.
Q. Ron, you said you saw their body language. What was their body language. Mike, do you find yourself asking yourself why don't you play like you played in the second half to start with?
RON LEWIS: Their body language was like they already had the game won. We just had to come out with aggressiveness like they were the first half. So that was our main focus.
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: Well, yeah, it's hard to think why we don't come out in the first 20 minutes playing like we did the last 20. You think that your guys are ready to go and then a team goes on a run like that and we just never recovered. And I'm hoping that we can learn a lot from this and start off the first four minutes like we ended the game. That would definitely get us out of the situation that we were in tonight.
Q. Can you talk about when you and Greg were on the bench with foul trouble in the first half and Tennessee seemed to be making everything. What were you thinking about there? Are you feeling like this thing might be over?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: I'm trying to get the people give the people on the court confidence. Ron and Jamar are still out there, so I know they have a lot of confidence in their game. I was trying to get them in the game and trying to get some stops. I knew we couldn't do much from the bench, but try to give encouragement. Trying to do whatever I could to keep my team in the game.
Q. Take us through the last offensive possession, when you got fouled at the free throw, what were you reading there, what was the intent?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: There was a three second difference, so we knew we could run the clock down a little bit. We were coach called a flash screen out and it was trying to create something and it worked out and we got the foul.
Q. Can you try to compare this come back to the Xavier come back, how do you feel now, how do you feel about what was going on?
RON LEWIS: I think this come back was much more our pace and in our hands from the second half. When Xavier won we had to chip away at the last four or five minutes of the game. This time we had to do it in the second half. I just feel that we just need to have a constant effort throughout the whole game.
Q. Mike, with these two comebacks now, can you talk about what coach said in the locker room and what's the secret to motivate you guys?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: It's part him telling us we didn't come out to play the first 20 minutes, we were soft. We didn't show a lot of aggressiveness, offensively, defensively. But as a team we came together and talked to each other and picked each other up. A lot of guys were down, they had turned the ball over two or three times. And people's heads were down. I think as a team we all got together and tried to stick together in that kind of a situation. If you fall apart there's going to be no good from that.
Q. How big were the first like four minutes of the second half? You went from 17 down I think the first TV time out was already 7, just talk about the first stretch of the second half.
RON LEWIS: It was real important for us to come out aggressive. That was going to set the tone for the second half. With us made it a constant effort the second half.
Q. Was there a moment, a shot or a point in the second half where you felt like this is it, this is ours now?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I really say from the beginning, the first two points we hit in the second half. We came out and saw their body language. We knew as a team that we had to be aggressive and attack. We felt like if we made our shots and played our system we'd be fine, because there's a lot of time left on the clock and a lot of things can be done in that amount of time. We felt just from the beginning of the second half we had kind of an advantage on them.
Q. Either of you guys know anything about Memphis?
RON LEWIS: Not yet.
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Watched a little bit of the game before, but we've still got a lot of scouting to do.
Q. First off, how is your heart doing? Secondly, what happened the first half?
COACH MATTA: I think the first play of the game kind of typified, with the tip, them getting a wide open three, you know, when a team comes out and makes shots like that, I told them the first time out they did the exact same thing to Virginia and they cooled down, about five minutes left of the first half the guys said I thought you were going to cool down. And they were rolling. Tennessee we've got the utmost respect for them. I think they are a great basketball team. The method to what they do is incredible. When they're making shots like that, I had the thought in my mind at one point during the first half, a little bit like Georgetown last year, if they play like this they're going to win it all.
The foul trouble, we were disheveled. We never got into a rhythm or flow. And quite honestly they punched us so hard, we were at the nine count. David's play at the end of the half was a little bit of a momentum boost for us. It cut it to 17. Boy, we were really jacked up going into that halftime (laughter).
Q. I realize Greg had a lot of foul trouble, is that something they did or were you all not able to get him the ball?
COACH MATTA: The six free throws that he got were attempted touches and that sort of thing. When we got it down, I don't know what he played in the first half, it wasn't a lot of minutes in the first half, when we got down they were really, really physical, banging him. And I think he did a pretty good job considering the circumstances of in, out, in, out, with the foul trouble.
Q. You mentioned David Lighty, seemed like you got a lot out of your bench, especially with Greg on foul trouble, in the foul trouble he was. Can you talk about what those guys did for you tonight?
COACH MATTA: You think about it with Matt Terwilliger, the job he does. The job David did defensively, knocked down a huge 3 in the corner, the big play at the end of the first half. He finished and got some rebounds. I think those guys were tremendous. They kept it going for us and then even in the second half I thought they did a great job coming in and finishing what we needed with the match ups what we were trying to do and with Ivan going down, had to come out of the game. Those guys stepped up and did a great job for us.
Q. Could you talk about living dangerously like you have the last two games and what that's been like for you and maybe some things, obviously some things you have to do Saturday, some things you have to do to turn it around.
COACH MATTA: I think if you look up in the dictionary living dangerously would be the thesaurus to describe it, and my picture would be plastered right next to it. I think it's funny in this tournament the two most important words are survive and advance. And we've been very, very fortunate the last couple games to do those two things. What's hard is you'd love to go back to Columbus and practice for a week. Unfortunately we can't do that. The one thing that I've said all year long with this team is consistency. We've shown we can play some great basketball, but we've got to get that consistency for 40 minutes and tonight it was obviously 20 minutes of great come from behind basketball against a great basketball team.
Q. How many games do you think you can continue to win with Oden playing like 18 minutes? Is there a way that he can, with his energy, I guess, stay out of foul trouble?
COACH MATTA: Yeah. He's only fouled out of one game this year and that was actually last Saturday. I think obviously Greg is such an important part of what we do, both offensively and defensively. We would not have won 20 straight games and be sitting at 33 3 without him. The job that he's done for us along the way, and I think on Saturday, and I always say this about our team, I don't know who's going to lead us in scoring on Saturday. It could be Greg. You never know exactly how the game is going to play out and what needs to be done.
Q. In what ways is he a freshman and in what ways does he seem much older? Is it night to night with him sometimes?
COACH MATTA: The one thing I love about Greg Oden, if you ask me one word to describe him I'd say "winner." And I think that he will do whatever he has to do to help the team win. And there are times, I think all of our guys show some inexperience. But I wouldn't trade them for anybody and the job that they've done for us. I think that's the thing, you look at Tennessee's program. I'm not looking forward to go to Knoxville next year. What a great job they've done and Coach Pearl has done. There were some plays made out there by some really, really young players.
Q. Can you talk about how Lewis has taken you guys on his back. He had 17 or 18 on the second half tonight.
COACH MATTA: I think Ron is playing tremendous basketball for us right now. As a 5th year senior, this is kind of what we had I think he had in mind and I had in mind for him. He took the one bad one, if my arms would have been longer I would have grabbed him. We were rolling and he was feeling it. As soon as he let it go, he said it's my fault, it's a bad shot. He's playing within himself. His defense has gotten so much better and throughout the course of the Big Ten some guys that he had to guard, he's just really become a well rounded player.