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Postgame Quotes: Vols 51, Xavier 47

Dec. 29, 2012

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TENNESSEE HEAD COACH Cuonzo Martin

(Opening statement)
"I thought the crowd was great tonight. We really needed that energy during the second half. I thought the crowd really put us where we needed to be with the second unit in there. I thought they fed off the energy of the crowd. We did a great job blocking shots. We did a good job of defense of cutting the lane off, forcing those guys to make the extra plays, and I thought we did a tremendous job, especially in the second half.

"Yemi (Makanjuola) did a great job when he came in the game on defense and rebounded the basketball. Derek Reese did a tremendous job for us. He was cleared today and all of a sudden and he did a great job. Brandon Lopez did an exceptional job. Those guys really stepped up. I thought Josh (Richardson) looked like the defensive stopper I thought he could be tonight. He really shut down and squared off against a good offensive guy. He just gave a tremendous effort on both ends.

"We didn't do a good job rebounding the basketball. We went into halftime and I told the guys this was probably the first time all season I thought we got out-toughed. I thought they were the tougher team and set the tone. They were physical. They were rebounding. They came ready to play and they showed it in the first half. We did a good job of getting stops when we needed to."

(On Reese's 3-pointers in the second half)
"That's because you're talking about a guy who's 6-8 and can play the 2, 3 or 4. He can make the shots and stretch the defense, and I think once he gets his legs under him and gets a feel for it, he'll start attacking off the bounce, it's hard to guard a guy like that because he has a feel for the game. It wasn't a question once he was cleared to play -- we got the information yesterday -- he was playing because I know what he brings to the table. He runs the floor very well. He does a good job. Those are shots he makes in practice."

(On Reese coming back quickly from surgery)
"I'm glad he was able to come back because we had him on the floor and I think he's a difference maker. In our offense when you run motion offense, guys like Derek at the 4 position and Jeronne Maymon you can facilitate your offense through those guys because Derek can make shots and make plays off the dribble and Jeronne can make plays off the dribble, and your offense flows. When you don't have guys like that, things can become stagnant on offense, the defense sagging on them. Now, it's really tough to sag when you've got a guy like that who can make shots."

(On finding out Reese could play)
"Talking to Chad (Newman) the trainer after practice -- and I think Dr. Klenk was there -- they saw him and checked him out and said, 'Coach, he's good to go.' If Doc says he's good to go, he's good to go and he's playing."

(On if Xavier's zone effected whether or not Reese would get minutes)
"He was going to play anyway because he knows how to play. He's one of the better IQ guys I've been around for a young guy. He has a feel for the game. He's going to be on the floor because of how he plays. He's going to play the 2, 3 or 4 and he's very effective. It's not the case that he's a big guy and you put him out there and hopefully he can defend. He can play basketball."

(On turnaround in the second half)
"I just think that first unit didn't play as hard as we needed them to play most importantly. Sometimes that happens, but you've got to put forth a little more effort. You've got to care a little more and you've got to fight. I thought we looked like a road team. I thought we were playing on the road. They set the tone. We had to make some adjustments. That's why you have a basketball team. Guys on the bench have to be ready when their number's called. They did a great job of being ready."

(On forcing 19 turnovers)
"I thought it was one of our better jobs of applying the pressure. We spent time in practice on really giving up those passing lanes, applying pressure and making passing tough and I thought we did that. We get shutouts. You can get turnovers or about eight or nine shutouts in a row and it's the same thing for us."

(On the play of Yemi Makanjuola)
"He did a great job. First of all, Yemi is tough. Yemi has the IQ of a point guard on the defensive side of the ball. He knows where he's supposed to be and he knows when he's guarding a big guy that's not going to shoot. He knows when a big guy is going to set a ball-screen. He carried out assignments almost like a quarterback on the defensive side of the ball. When he's in there, all the action going on in the pain shuts down. He claims it all up because he's physical and knows where he's supposed to be on his assignments."

(On the team feeding off Makanjuola and Reese)
"I think we really feed off energy. I think our guys were lifted - not just by Reese and Yemi - but also by Lopez. He pushed the ball and gave us a lot of energy and toughness. Josh was doing a great job of getting stops and attacking and you feed off that. You feed off that energy and positive emotion and I thought that was the case the whole game."

(On Trae Golden's shoulder wrap)
"Trae hurt his shoulder in practice, but I don't think it affected his shot or play. He practiced yesterday."

(On Josh Richardson being more aggressive)
"I always tell him to be aggressive. Once again I go back to my days as a player and I just tell him to play basketball. I won't tell him what shot to shoot or what play to play. He's out there playing the ball, in the game and rotation and knows he's getting some minutes. As long as he's defending and playing hard that's fine with me. He knows what he has to do."

(On beating Xavier without strong guard play)
"It was good, but once again for me - and I'll stick to this - whether we score 60, 80 or 90 points, our game is we have to defend and play hard. Because we did that, we won the ball game. This was a very good basketball team, a great IQ team, they understand and execute their offense and play hard. Their bigs were more physical than ours for most of the game. It wasn't going to be easy and we knew that. But for our guys to step up and accept the challenge - and more importantly - we protect our home court and we did that tonight."

(On if this type of game is his philosophy)
"Without a doubt. I live by being physical. I thought we missed a lot of easy shots. The shots didn't fall, but you still have to defend. You make it, you make it, if you don't, you don't. But you've got to play hard. If you can't play hard, you can't play."

(On getting kids to embrace that philosophy)
"I recruit the guys that fit what I'm trying to do. There are a lot of guys out there that fit what Tennessee basketball is trying to do. Playing hard is playing hard. Who wants a guy who doesn't play hard? I don't want that player in my program."

(On adjusting to the slow starts)
"You've got to make shots. You got to post up; you've got to attack the rim. It's real simple."

(On Jarnell Stokes' current role)
"We played the guys we felt gave us the best chance of winning the ball game."

TENNESSEE FRESHMAN FORWARD Derek Reese

(On when he found out he would play)
"I found out a couple of days before the game. I was just doing my work every day and then I found out that I was cleared to practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and when they told me I could play, I was ready. I was excited and happy."

(On if playing changed anything)
"I was excited, nervous, I just couldn't wait to get out there. I thought I was going to redshirt this year, so I was just going to work hard. I give thanks to Nicodemus and Chad for working me out and helping me get back. I was just pushing myself to see what I could do and then I got to this point where all of my hard work has paid off. I still have more work to do."

(On his confidence)
"Coach always told me to have a clear conscience every time you shoot. If you miss a shot, just forget about it and make sure the next one goes in. I just knew that eventually one shot would go in. I think I had some of the first-game jitters and I had to work those out. [Playing at the end of the game] tells me a lot, that Coach Martin has confidence in me, especially as a freshman. To play me that much for the first game of my college career gives me a lot of confidence. I am focusing on four because that's what we need right now, but whatever we need, whatever position (Coach Martin) wants me to play or practice, I'll go and do."

(On making his first shot)
"It was nerve-racking, but then when the first one went in, I was so happy and so pumped. I was thinking that I would be nervous during the game, because it was my first time playing in this arena, in this huge crowd, btu I was calm when I took the first few shots."

(On redshirting or not)
"There was a point on Tuesday when I was cleared to practice that I thought I might have a chance to come back. I had it in my mind that I would redshirt, but I would push myself to come back and see what I could do. Coach Martin is always telling me to just be ready and work hard every day and that's what I did."

(On what he learned tonight)
"Just to stay confident and keep working hard. More importantly, defense wins game, so I need to keep working on that and play tough. The toughest part [of coming back] was getting my three's back. When my shoulder was hurting, my elbow was hurting and I had some tendonitis in my elbow because it was in a sling for so long. I felt like my mid-range got better throughout the game."

TENNESSEE SOPHOMORE GUARD Josh Richardson

(On Derek Reese)
"[Reese getting to play] didn't surprise me at all, I've always known he could shoot the ball and no one really knows who he is, so they don't know he can shoot as well. He was getting looks, but he was capitalizing on it and that's what we need. He's a freshman, so he has to get the jitters out on the court, but once he worked those out, he was really good for us."

(On being out-toughed)
"I saw that they were killing us on the zone game and then Yemi came in and got like eight rebounds in nine minutes for us, so he came in and stepped up big, Derek (Reese) stepped up, Brandon (Lopez) stepped up big. The secondary guys stepped up for us tonight."

(On being 10-for-11 in the last three halves)
"I'm not a selfish player, if I see a look, then I'll take a shot, but I'm not going to force anything. I just want to get other guys involved and do what's best for the team so we can win."

(On playing 36 minutes)
"Everybody knows that I bring it on defense every night, so that wasn't anything different - to keep them off the boards and out of the paint. But I definitely had to bring it a little more on offense tonight; we really needed that. Last year I definitely got us some points. I'm cool with it either way. I can play off of other players pretty well, I usually have a few inches on them. I think that plays to my advantage a lot."

(On a "Cuonzo Martin win")
"I think Coach Martin will feel good about this win. Luck wasn't coming for us easily and we had to dive on balls and try to get rebounds. It was definitely an ugly win, but I think he will like it."

TENNESSEE SOPHOMORE CENTER Yemi Makanjuola

(On his play on the defensive end)
"I am willing to go out and do whatever it takes to get my team a win. Sometimes that's on me playing real good defense. I thought today was one of those nights when I needed to pick it up on defense, and that's what I tried to do as much as I could."

(On if it's tough to get players to embrace playing these low-scoring games)
"Coming to the US, I didn't know what was expected. For me to play on a team, I tried to do what that team needed. In high school, everyone wanted to put up their numbers, but I played defense and if I could get an offensive rebound, I could score. So I embraced that from high school and never went away from it. You can't work on that, you have to be willing to do that."

(On if he could explain UT's slow start on offense)
"I can't explain it. I don't think we had a bad start, some of shots didn't fall, but we tried to get the ball in the low post and they forced some turnovers."

(On Derek Reese's debut)
"Derek is a good player, you could tell that from practices. He brings the energy. From watching him in practice, I could tell that he was ready. I was glad his name was called. What he did today, I don't think anybody on our team was surprised because of how good he is and the way he plays in practice."

TENNESSEE SOPHOMORE GUARD Brandon Lopez

(On his mindset coming into the game)
"Just focus on being successful and not worrying about taking shots. If your shots don't fall, you can't help that, you just have to focus on your defense."

(On being a spark coming off the bench)
"That's what I do and I really embrace my role and be the energy guy and be a leader. That's what I try to focus on, pumping our guys up and keeping them from getting discouraged."

XAVIER HEAD COACH CHRIS MACK

(Opening statement)
"We're right there. We're in every game. These are all coming down to one or two possessions and we've had guys in different roles. We have to find the ability to close games. I'm not going to question my kids effort. The toughness, we outrebounded the team by 16 rebounds. It's been a big point of emphasis for us. Two of the things that allowed Tennessee to get in the game and where we lost momentum - number one: we missed five or six layups around the basket in the second half. That's when we went on that drought. We gave up two wide-open jump shots. Nobody in our program is trying to dare teams to make open shots. WE blew coverage. That's the experience we have to gain."

(On Derek Reese)
"I saw Cuonzo's remarks in the paper. We didn't necessarily know what he could do as a freshman. They're a deep team. He's going to make him even deeper. Obviously if they get Jeronne back they'll be even deeper and be a scary team."

(On Tennessee gaining momentum to win)
"They're making a couple shots then you combined that with our two (baskets) we got under the basket for about five or six minutes allowed Tennessee to get back in the game. When you're playing a team on their home floor and it's a one or two possession game, anything can happen. Unfortunately we came out on the wrong end of the stick, the short end of the stick."

(On losing close games)
"That's how you take that as an experience you can grow from and make sure it doesn't happen the next time. This team labors to score at times. When that happens, it's not the easiest thing in the world to hold a 10-point lead. You see it all over in college basketball. We knew Tennessee wouldn't roll over. We just have to be able to find a way to close games and make those plays down the stretch like we did for 30-35 minutes."

(On Tennessee's physicality)
"They're really impressive on film. Both teams had a few days off for Christmas break. They're physically implosing on tape. We knew that coming in. We had a lot of respect for Stokes. We felt like if we could get into their psyche a little bit and make them feel like they did against Western Carolina and Georgetown and keep the score low, and mix and match our men a little bit, which we did, then we could make them a little tentative with their shots."

(On being tougher than Tennessee)
"That was a big point of emphasis because you have to be tough to play a Tennessee team like this."

(On Semaj Christon)
"He can't put his head down when he makes mistakes. He is really hard on himself. College basketball is not easy. He's one of our better players and he has to pick himself up off the mat. Because we need him to be a good team. It's all part of the learning curve."

 

 

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