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Cuonzo Martin Press Luncheon 3/3



March 3, 2014

(Opening Statement)

"We are coming off a good team win. I thought the guys did a good job on both ends of the floor. I thought our bench gave us good minutes. It was great to see the way Antonio (Barton) played, but again that is just a case of a guy putting the time into it, working on his shot. It was great to see his shot fall because I've always been a guy that believes, don't give up on a guy that puts the work and the time into it. He's done a great job really putting the time into it, and I really think in these last two games he's been the best at being a point guard these last two games, as far as running the team because he is more of a combo, more than a two, than a one when he came into it, we knew that. I just think his growth as a point guard, the way he communicated and the way defended, I thought he did a tremendous job watching the game, but even going back and watching on film I thought he did a great job of running the team on both ends of the floor, being very vocal, making decisions, passing the ball, finding guys, helping and recovering defensively, just thought he had a great effort. I thought our big guys did a good job rebounding. I think with Jeronne (Maymon), you know Jarnell (Stokes) does a great job rebounding, both of them are really good rebounders, but I think Jeronne has done a great job of getting those rebounds and getting the ball out to our perimeter guys for extra shots, and I think that is where you can get bonus threes when you get long rebounds because most teams aren't set, and you get opportunities to score from there, but just a great effort by our team to win against a rival opponent."

(On Barton playing well at the point after being benched)

"I don't know because again, I thought his spirits were great when he was benched, I really did. We talk about it as a staff, he is not a guy that doesn't complain and I like his character as a person, but a guy that works, doesn't complain, and doesn't make excuses. I mean I thought he was better in practice when he was benched. That was great to see, and I thought it allowed Darius (Thompson) to play with a piece of mind because you know some guys can be disgruntled, they're not playing, they're not starting, you're talking about a guy who is a senior that transferred in to play, but I thought it was great and I thought he handled it like a true professional."

 

 

(On Antonio Barton's work ethic)

"Well, I think it is the shots that he has been putting up, probably been about a month or so consistently, at least a month, but just the approach and the game, and understand that position, even though he has played it, but just really the feel for it, the pace of the game, directing traffic, calling the plays because it wasn't, it used to be 75-20 me calling the plays from the sideline, but now it is 50-50 where he is really running the team, pushing the ball, making good decisions, but I think he is really doing a good job with his approach and his workouts because most of his workouts are really catch and shoot, getting his shot in a rhythm, now it is off the bounce, making plays and making decisions, and he has embraced it."

(On beating ACC Champion Virginia by 35 points)

"Well, I just think we played well. We defended well, we shot the ball well, very similarly to the way we played this Saturday, and I've said it all along with our guys, the consistency in which we played, the selflessness, taking advantage of situations offensively, defending as a team. The one thing about Virginia, they are a really good team, but the way they pound you offensively, they work the ball, they are not a team that is coming down thinking this is an obvious shot, they are not coming down and shooting the ball with 25 seconds on the clock, they will work the shot clock offensively, and the same thing defensively, they will make you work for possession, that ball has to get to from one side of the floor to the other in order to get a good look with the way they play defense, and I think that was a case of our shots were falling and we defended the way we were capable of defending from start to finish, but more than anything, I think what I say all the time, we have to defend, rebound, and play hard regardless of whether or not our shots are falling because when the shots aren't falling we are a little inconsistent with our approach on both ends of the floor."

(On if this team is frustrating to coach)

"I wouldn't necessarily say frustrating to coach because they are good guys, and they want to work and get better, but I just think more than anything is just the demand on an individual player to be the best and the sacrifice it takes to be the best. It's not necessarily a team thing because they are probably one of the best teams that I've been around as far as chemistry and being with each other, but I just think from an individual standpoint each guy has to demand to be great and the time it takes to sacrifice the commitment on both ends of the floor, and probably the biggest key and the pressure you put on yourself in the right way, not the pressure that discourages you, but the pressure to be the best and the execution every time down, and we said all the time as coaches, one possession at a time, but you got to take that where it's a premium and everything you do on both ends of the floor, but not frustrating the coach, we got to enjoy being around him, but it is just one of those deals, when that happens, when the inconsistency is there, you hope your shots are falling, and again I tell the guys all the time you have got to be able to defend, rebound, and play hard, but I think one of the things is we don't have a lot of guys with defensive DNA, where this is what I do for a living."

(On if the Virginia team is a blueprint for a blossoming team)
"Oh yeah. Again, I watched when Virginia beat Syracuse, and I think Joe Harris was talking and just Tony (Bennett) might have said it, whichever one of those guys said it, but it's just a case of you have to know where you're going to school when you're talking about Virginia you have to have guys that are committed to a team you might not be in a situation where you have as 20 points at night or you get 15 shots as an individual player. It's a team game. We win as a team so it's a certain type of guy that's built to do that, and the sacrifice. I just think with a lot of young guys today everything is as an individual, you know, scoring the basketball, not that you are selfish. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's rare when you get a team full of guys that says, whatever it takes let's win as a team with the way the culture is built now of days."

(On Auburn coming off a poor game against Alabama)
"Well the reality of it is they are playing at home. It's senior night for those guys, if I'm not mistaken. So they will play with energy and they'll play with enthusiasm. They will be aggressive. I think Chris Denson is on pace to lead the league in scoring to be the first Auburn guy since Wesley Person, if I'm not mistaken, to lead the league in scoring. So he's been a guy to play well all season. K.T. (Harrell) has played well and I think they're playing well as a team. I just think it was a case of them playing against a rival opponent. Alabama played really well. They didn't play as well as they liked, but if you also look at it, Denson got in foul trouble early. So you're talking about your best scorer off the floor. That takes a lot from your offense. We expect those guys to play well, but then again its more about how we play as a team sometimes as opposed to who we play against."

(On Auburn's Harrell and Denson)
"They are legitimate scorers. Legit because you watch how they get the ball, where they get their shots at, how they attack the rim, the way they make plays, they know how to get fouled; they get to the free throw line, but also the guys that can shoot, free throws, three pointers and get to the rim. So, we need the same effort that we got from Jeronne and Jarnell and protecting that paint that we got against Vanderbilt. Our guards have to do a great job at keeping those guys in front of him and contain the dribble but that is easier said than done."

(On tournament hopes and the mindset)
"I think so because we've been here before. Again, the thing I talk to our guys about is just play basketball. Don't get consumed with all that, but again easier said than done. They read and they see things, but just play the game that we are capable of playing like we did Saturday and like other game with the consistency we are capable of playing with. Everything else will take care of its self. That's the biggest key. If you win, the seeding will take care of itself. Just have some fun playing, you have to have fun, you can't be pressing as a player because it's hard to play at the level you want if you are pressing."

(On Auburn being a different team at home)
"Not at all, our guys already understand and they know those guys can score the ball. So when you have guys that can score like that and you are also talking about senior night and you are talking about road game. The records don't mean anything when you're talking about road games. You are going into someone else's environment to try and win a game. Not for our guys, we understand what we need to do in order for us to be successful. There's no margin for error."

(On NCAA tournament discussions)
"I just felt like, I think it might have been after the Texas A&M game, we came off a tough loss and because of demanding pressures from the outside saying it's a must-win, I've never thought any game was a must-win. They're all the same. You prepare and perform at the highest level and let the chips fall where they may. I just felt like it was a case of our guys like man, we let one slip. Then that's when I showed them the graphics of the NCAA and not to say that [Joe] Lundardi is exact but to say you're still in good shape. Let's do what we need to do to be successful as a team. Then we let them hear the song, (singing) "The ball is tipped.." I like that, `One Shining Moment,' I like that. We played that for them. I thought it was fun for our guys. It's a great feeling when you hear that song and have that opportunity and I want our guys to have that."

(On Antonio Barton)
"I thought Antonio did a great job. The game before that I thought he did a great job defending, helping and recovering, getting in the stance. He's quick enough to guard those guys, just taking pride in it. I like to think it's who he is now. He didn't score the ball well at Mississippi State and I thought he defended their guards. It's what we need to be successful. He can make open shots. I want him to make open shots, but I also want him to understand we need him to defend at a high level. I'm happy with that if he's not making shots, he still has to defend."

"We didn't talk about it as far as him being surprised or discouraged about it. Whatever you say at the end of the day, and I felt like this when I was a basketball player, if I said something to Coach [Gene] Keady and it wasn't right, it was an excuse- let's get to work, the bottom line. For him, he's not about making excuses- it's about getting in the gym and getting better. He made the commitment every morning- 10 a.m., he's getting shots up. He knew at some point the shot would fall for him."

(On Antonio's Barton shot selection)
"I agree with that. What happens too, I think at Vandy, maybe in the first half, some quick shots, but I think in the second half, we were able to get the ball to the post or in the paint, we probably didn't make the shots from the 3-point line as consistent as we wanted to. Now what happens is, they continue to hover around the paint and make it hard on the big guys to get catches, so of course you have to make shots from the perimeter."

(On NCAA discussion)
"In my opinion, it was a sense of relief. Okay- let's do what we need to do. Again, if we play the way we're capable of playing consistently, I think we'll be fine. I think it was more of a case of `okay, I got you coach, let's do this.' At some point, it's each individual player and as the leaders of your team, you rally your troops and say let's make this happen."

(On modeling the team after what he learned at Purdue)
"I think the best thing is getting good basketball players. That's the most important- a guy that can play basketball, a guy that understands, a guy that knows how to read the defense, a guy that knows how to defend. You don't want to teach the basics every day- things that you assume they know normally do as a coach, now you go over it for the first month and a half, because that's what you normally do as a coach, but some of the things you don't want to consume yourself in teaching. It comes down to getting a good basketball player. It doesn't mean he's fast or the highest jumper, the quickest guy. Can you play basketball? Can you read the defense? Can you set up those cuts and get open, all those things. Now if a guy scores 20 points in doing that, we will ride him. I played with Glenn Robinson and he averaged 30 points. He did a great job of scoring the basketball, but he can read the defense. He can set his cuts up. He knows how to get open. He knows how to post. He took advantage of situations. That's what the motion offense does for you. If you have guys that can play basketball, it's a tough thing to defend but you have to get guys that can read and understand offensively what's going on."

(On the tempo of the team)
"I think what you do, you recruit according to your style and personnel. For me, obviously I want toughness, you can be a great scorer if you have a level of toughness. You have to be a guy that loves to work on his game and get better. A guy that hates to lose. A lot of people talk about not wanting to lose, but you have to have a level of hate in you that you don't want to lose, you want to be the best, you will spend hours and hours in the gym. For me, Coach Keady had to tell me make sure you go to class, because I was spending so much time in the gym. That was my passion, I felt like that was my life. Of course you want guys that get it done in the classroom. You want guys that love to work on their game all the time. There is no such thing as a day off until you retire. I think that is what it comes down to. Guys that have a passion to play this game at a high level for a long time."

(On tournament seeding)
"Not really. I think the first year we could have been maybe six or seventh and we ended up finishing second. Not really. I think in some cases the league doesn't really get as much credit. When you are talking about nine teams in the top-100 RPI. Of course you like to be better and win more games as a league but I think it is better than what people give it credit for."

(On having veterans on the team)
"It is great that they are leading, they are supposed to lead, that is the most important thing. As experienced guys you have to lead and continue to lead and continue to work on your game. Guys follow you to lead. I think it is important that your veteran guys continue to lead. They have been around the program, they understand. I want those guys to also play relaxed, have fun and just play the game. Let the chips fall where they may."

(On beating Vanderbilt without McRae not scoring in double figures)
"It was good. I don't want to say specifics but he was a little banged up in his defense. He is a guy that is built to score, and I saw him pass up a few shots and was like `oh what is wrong with him.' He is the guy that has to score the ball for us. You want him scoring, you want him aggressive. He will be fine. Armani Moore is playing well. The thing that Armani Moore struggled with earlier in the season was with finishing, now he is doing a great job with finishing and attacking the rim. His three point percentage isn't as high, but he is a guy that makes threes in practice consistently, I encourage him to shoot that shot in the game, because when his feet are set, his shot is good. Derek Reese played well for us, seven rebounds. He is playing with confidence. I thought it was good for our guys. If Antonio [Barton] can make shots, and I thought Darius [Thompson] played well. He looked more aggressive the last two games scoring the basketball. He is the guy that can score the ball even though he loves to pass it. He has to be aggressive and looking for the offense. When Darius is in attack mode we are a better team because he puts us in a better place."

(On Armani Moore getting under control)
"Just him putting the work in. We do a lot of moves, as simple as it may sound, of attacking the rim and getting hit with the bag, you have to be able to not be consumed with getting hit with the bag, coach hitting you with a bag, but trying to finish and put the ball off the glass. He has done a great job and made a conscious effort even in working on his skill, attacking the rim off of the dribble and finishing. He is a strong, physical guy when he is attacking the rim and he has done a good job the way he is going. He used to just go in there trying to get fouled and put it up, but now he is going to finish the job."

(On Moore's athleticism)
"He is strong, he is physical. He is a big physical guy. I have been around a lot of athletic guys. It seems like he is a great athlete the way that he blocks shots. I have been around guys that can really go up."

(On if Jarnell Stokes played football)
"What position first of all? I don't know a lot about football outside of watching it. Would he be good at that? If he said he is going to do it, then he could do it. I don't think it would be that easy walking into it. He would have to be ready to take some hits. But I think if he puts his mind to it he is big enough to do it."

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