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Cuonzo Martin Press Luncheon 3/25



March 25, 2014

(Opening Statement)
"I am just excited for our guys about the opportunity for our guys to play in the Sweet Sixteen against a very talented Michigan team. A team that can execute as well as anybody in the country on offense, guys that can make shots, they are shooting 40 percent as a team. Four guys are shooting over 40 percent and one is at about 57 or 58 percent. You have a well-coached team. They were in this position last year, so it should be fun for our guys. We are excited about it but we are still very hungry."

(On keeping the team grounded)
"We are just staying humble. I have made them understand, you have heard the bad. The approach doesn't change. I tell them all the time you have to stay consistent in your approach. We have to continue to take care of the task at hand, work extremely hard. There are some things that you can't control as a coach and some things are good things. I think as players they have been knocked down a little bit and there is nothing wrong with that in my opinion as long as you are still playing at the level you are capable of playing at. At this stage here, you are talking Sweet Sixteen, at this level, I wouldn't say the pressure, but to be so big at that level there were actually four programs that have been there and competed at a high level. There will be a lot of exposure. Nothing wrong with that, you have worked hard to this point, it is just about continuing to stay humble, stay hungry, those are things that we have talked about from day one. So it is not like we gave them a speech on how to be humble today. That is every day in our approach. We are still going to do the things that we need to do to be successful."

(On how Michigan compares to any SEC teams)
"Mizzou when they have Ross at the four position, not when he is at the three but when he is at the four, that is when they spread you out and they attack the rim and make plays. It is very similar to Mizzou when they have Ross at the four."

 

 

(On focusing on each game)
"I think what helped more than anything was the focus and taking care of the task at hand. It is the only thing that we control, and we talk about it as a staff, the only thing we can control right now is what is presented to us and we have to do everything in our power to try and win this particular game. And then the next game, get ready for that one. I think that was more of the case. This is like a one-game season so to speak. Every time you have one in front of you. I think whatever happens, happens. If we don't win it, we don't win it. But let's go out there and play basketball. Let's not feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders to win a basketball game. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out."

(On the change in opinion of the fan base over the last few weeks)
"For me, the great thing for me is that I have had the same friends since I was 5 or 6 years old and that hasn't changed. That has been consistent. Outside of that everything is pretty much a bonus as far as I am concerned. For our guys, these are the things I talk about from day one in June or July. This is what might happen. How to you handle these situations? Stay even keeled. But there is nothing wrong with a pat on the back. Understand why and how you got to this point. It is part of it, but I still don't get a lot of sleep. That doesn't change for me. Making sure these guys get up and go to class, continue to be successful off the court. It never stops. That is the way it is."

(On the fans welcoming the team back Sunday night)
"I would say about 100. Our guys really enjoyed that and looked forward to it. They probably didn't know about it, I didn't know. But to see the fans out there it was great. I saw mostly students."

(On Nik Stauskas)
Very talented. I think whenever he decides to leave college, I know coach wants him there for four years, but when he decides to leave there is no doubt in my mind that he will play at the NBA level. At 6-6, he can really shoot the ball. Can put the ball on the floor. Watching it last year he is more of a catch and shoot. Now he puts the ball on the floor, makes plays, comes more off the ball screen, gets around the rim and dunks the ball on your, goes over on top of you, makes decisions out of that ball screen. I guess that is why he is the Big 10 Player of the Year in a league that is so tough and so physical. But very talented, it is going to be a tall order because he can do a lot of things with the basketball.

(On Jordan Morgan)
"He is very important. I recruited him when I was an assistant coach at Purdue. He is a great basketball player with a great family. He had an injury last year, and I think he sat out quite a bit. He is a guy that has a good feel for the game, a good grip of the game, and understanding of the game. He grew up in Michigan. He is a good defender that knows how to read defenses. He scores when he has opportunities, but he is a great leader for their program."

(On playing like a Big Ten school)
"The Big Ten is physical and hardnosed, and that is how we play. That is who we are, and that is how we win ballgames. Everybody has their own style, but we have to pound it inside. We have to keep our spacing on the perimeter and make timely threes, but we need to go through our bigs."

(On Glen Robinson III)
"He is a great kid, and his family has done a great job of raising him. I am happy for him and the success he is having. I don't want to see him play well on Friday, but he is a good kid and deserves everything he gets."

(On facing Glen's father)
"In 1994, we actually had to go to Michigan for the Big Ten conference. I have seen Glen play well. We played here in the '94 tournament in Knoxville. They put the ball in the basket, so we will have to find a way to win the game."

(On point guard size for Michigan)
"It doesn't really change for us. We have to keep pressure on the ball, and keep playing the way we have been playing. That is the key. You don't change much once you are this far. You get your game plan, scouting report and do some tweaking, but change won't do much for us. We will adjust to their guards."

(On going from Mercer to Michigan)
"They are a talented team. You can't take anything away from Iowa or UMASS. We played well those games. Mercer is a really good team. They can execute as well as anybody in the country. Michigan is a very talented team, but at this point, everyone is good. You just have to find ways to win games down the stretch."

(On Jarnell's rebounding this year compared to past years)
"He is a guy that watches a lot of film. He gets the DVDs and studies. He listens to what people say and uses that as motivation to get better. Some guys can crumble from things that get said about them, but you have to embrace that. I'm glad he is able to do that because it has improved both parts of his game on the floor. I was happy to hear that Langston Hall from Mercer acknowledged how Jarnell has made the adjustments defensively that he lack a year ago on ball screens. I am happy for him because he listens and wants to be a good player."

(On Josh Richardson playing well on offense as of late)
"Well, I just think that's Josh, and again he can go out against Michigan and have six points, but still play a good game, but when he is aggressive and his shots are falling, then he is a different player, and we like for him to stay aggressive, but again it is at his own pace, if he feels comfortable out there because I know as a player sometimes coach wanted me to shoot the ball and I wasn't as assertive early in my career to shoot the ball, but it is how he is feeling and if his shots are going, he is aggressive, he is going to be extremely tough to defend."

(On Josh being one of your first recruits here and seeing him step up)
"Well, I am happy for him because he is a guy that wants to be a good player. He is a quality young man. His family has done a great job in raising him, but just happy to see him be successful, and he is making those strides, but I think what he has done is he has improved his leadership skills, and I think that was hard for him at first, to try to be a leader because as a leader sometimes you are stepping on guys toes and that's not an easy thing to do, but I think that is where he has improved at."

(On how you improve your leadership skills)
"I just think over time, paying attention to detail, not being afraid to say certain things that you think certain guys might not want to hear because at the end of the day and like I talk to him about and when you want to win, if that's the most important thing, then whatever you are saying is right, and I said most of the guys in the locker room should follow you if it is right, and I think that is probably the biggest key with him in my opinion, just not being afraid to say some things. I said you can keep it the way it is going right now, you can step up and lead."

(On ever coaching somebody on how to be a leader)
"Well, I think as coach, what I do is I coach a team on how to be leaders, but I also tell the guys in order to be successful as a leader somebody has to follow because you have to know what it means to lead, you got to be able to follow first and understand how to lead, and that's what I talk about because I don't think everybody can be a leader. In Jarnell Stokes' case, he is a leader, but he is not very vocal. He is one of those guys that will pull you to the side. Jeronne Maymon is a guy that will say it in front of everybody. Everybody has their own style - different approach, but the results are the same."

(On playing Iowa)
"I think it was great to get that win against Iowa. Now, let's play basketball because I do think it was nerves the first ten minutes of that game - just man we are in the NCAA Tournament. We didn't flow right defensively. We lost assignments, and then once we settled down and especially got that thing in overtime, we started to play well and we've been playing well ever since."

(On ties to Purdue)
"I mean I went to school there. It is a great place. I learned a lot. One of my best friends is still the coach there, but outside of that I mean I work for the University of Tennessee, and that's the most important thing for me - to try and win a ball game. I got a lot of buddies that I played with that still live in Indianapolis. Indianapolis, more so just because my friends. I stayed in Indianapolis 14 years of my life, but at the end of the day we are trying to win a ball game."

(On talking to Coach Painter about Michigan)
"I didn't, I didn't to totally be honest with you. Just out of respect for their league, and that's the truth. Some people probably wouldn't believe it, but I didn't because it is the same thing, if somebody called me and wants some information on Kentucky or Florida, I can't do it because they are in our league, but I didn't, I really didn't."

(On taking a 'selfie' in the locker room after the Mercer game)
"I got a crook in my neck. No, it was fun. My second boss, it was his idea. I was like, 'man what is a selfie.' I don't know if I'm that played out, but it was fun. I have never taken one, but my daughter has taken 1,000 of them, but not me."

(On team criticism)
"I think the thing for me, and my mom taught me this early in life and I didn't understand it at the time, she just said if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. That's why I'm quiet a lot of the time. It's a sport and it's a business at the end of the day. We talk about guys going to school and getting degrees and all that, and for me, that's very important. But, it seems for some that the bottom line is winning ballgames and there's nothing wrong with that. I think as a coach you have to keep a perspective, what's your goal, what's your plan for all your guys. Not every one of our guys are going to be pros, but they can be successful in their careers. That's my job to help them with that. I don't get consumed with what goes on because it's time and energy wasted. If you can't control it, why worry about it? At the end of the day, I don't care how successful you are. Some people won't like you for whatever reason, so why waste time on it? One thing I've always lived by, unless they change, there will only be one body in that casket when I'm gone. That's the most important thing."

(On Michigan)
"It's definitely a concern with this team. When you get to this point, you're playing against the best. The margin for error is very slim. They shoot it very well. We have to contest that line. But the thing about it, when you get them off the line, they can make plays off the dribble. They run their plays and it's almost like you would like for them to score out of their set plays because when the set plays break down, they have four guys that can take you off the dribble and make plays and make shots. That's the biggest thing. I think it was good for us to play against a Mercer team that runs those sets and is a good three-point shooting team, because the thing we talked about against Mercer, you have to limit their rotations. If you're constantly rotating against a Mercer, then a Michigan team is going to be a long night for you. Really limit the rotations, so the one-on-one defense has to be really good for us."

(On Michigan)
"One, the whistle will blow and someone will be coming in and out of the game if that happens, but again, there's a reason why we got here. You have to go through your guys, but on the perimeter, if you have a shot, you have to let them fly. You're not playing hesitant basketball. You have to play your game. It's not a back-and-forth race. That's what they do. They're consistent and they build on that. For us, Jordan [McRae] is one of the best scorers in the game. You want him to score, but you still have to be able to get the ball inside, whether it's with the post, post-field off the dribble, you have to get it to the rim."

(On post play)
"For me, I feel like Jarnell [Stokes] gets fouled every time down there. I really do. I'm not saying that to say the officials are bad. I'm not saying that. I think he gets fouled every time down. But, because he's so big and his lower body is so strong, you don't move him, sometimes they don't make the call. But, I think in the NCAA tournament, the calls are being made more so than probably in other settings. He's such a physical guy. I tell the officials all the time, a foul is a foul. It doesn't matter if a guy is 5 feet tall and he bumps him, just because he doesn't move, it's still a foul."

(On travel schedules)
"Not at all. Leaving Dayton to go to Raleigh, we were excited. We won a game, it didn't matter what the schedule was. We were happy to play in a tournament game and move on. Not at all, it's been good so far."

(On flying to Indianapolis)
"Yes."

(On Cuonzo's record setting NCAA performance at TBA)
"Nah, I didn't know that before you mentioned it. I guess that is kind of ironic. I didn't know any of that. He never talks about when he played, so I didn't really know."

(On playing hard every game)
"I think it did a good job of just putting us on edge every day. I think we had an advantage going into the Iowa game because we had been playing those types of do-or-die games for a couple of weeks to that point. I think we did a good job of executing our stuff down the stretch."

(On beating Iowa)
"I think it just gave us a confidence boost. We held them to just one point in overtime. We are a defensive oriented team and to hold a team who scores like Iowa to one point in five minutes is a big thing."

(On where the team has improved down the stretch)
"A sense of urgency every possession. I think we have been playing together a lot more. I think it starts with all of the guards. Just pressuring the ball on the perimeter. The big guys have been playing really good post defense so I cant attest to that but I think the big tone setter is on the perimeter."

(On Nik Stauskas)
"He is a great player. He shoots threes, he can drive to the hole, he can do pretty much everything. It will be a tough cover again. Their offense pretty much flows through him and he leads in points and assists so it will be crucial to get him out of his rhythm. It is just another player. I have been guarding guys like that for a while now. It is nothing new."

(On getting the first NCAA win)
"I wouldn't say a clean slate, I think it gave us a lot of momentum. I think everybody was just relieved to get that first win out of the way for the NCAA Tournament. I can tell everyone is loosened up."

(On campus)
"Campus is buzzing. We got back at like 2:30 in the morning and there were about 100-150 people outside waiting for us. That was fun. I would say everywhere we go we get high fives and pats on the back and it is great knowing you have a good support system behind you here."

(On the welcome from UT on Sunday night)
"I was surprised myself because no way I would be staying up until 2:30 in the morning to slap a couple guys fives but it is special to know that you have people that care that much around you."

(On playing in a dome)
"I think blurring out the fact that you are in a giant dome. Part of it is mental, it is the same type of basketball though. Not worrying about what is in the backdrop where you are shooting and just focusing in on the game. It is weird when you first start shooting but when you work the kinks out it is fine."

(On his game)
"I am going to play how I know to play. Trying to get the big guys involved and play inside out every game. If I get a look or see a lane I am going to take it but I am not going to force the issue."

(On Cuonzo Martin)
"He is going to be the same way every day. He is going to be the same coach Martin that he was after we lost to Texas A&M. He is going to be even keeled and keep everyone grounded. It is great to have a coach like that. He is the same every day. When he shows emotion like he did after these last couple of wins it makes it that much better and makes you appreciate it more."

(On campus support for the team)
"A lot of people asking for pictures and stuff more than usual. Just people excited about everything."

(On maintaining their mentality)
"Right now everybody wants Michigan in their elite 8 so, I mean we're still against a lot of people."

(On their unexpected success driving them)
"We're just fighting for each other. Fighting for our coach through all this and we just need to make sure we stay together as a family."

(On adjusting to a 'gym not made for basketball')
"It's no adjustment, you have to be ready to go unless they put a court out there on Neyland or something. There's no other way to get ready for it."

(On being challenged by the shooters more so than usual in the upcoming game)
"Yeah, I know, glanced, got the urge just to watch. They were a really hard team to guard just for the fact that they start 4 guards and, like you said, they can all shoot and go off the drills. So it's going to be a good test for us."

(On their next game being a considerable step up from previous games)
"Iowa was a team that was really hard to guard and Mercer was as well as UMass. They all brought different things to the table. I think playing all those games is going to help us out in this game a lot."

(On UT playing 'bigs' against a team that traditionally doesn't)
"The advantages are that we have the advantage on the glass and for them to think they have a mis-match with Glenn and Jarnell. I mean we also have a mis-match with Jeronne and Glenn so it will be interesting to see what they do."

(On Kentucky fans cheering for UT over Michigan)
"I'm not sure Kentucky wants to play us again. I'm not sure they want to play Michigan, the team that won the Big 10, so I don't know. I think they should root for the SEC."

(On the difference in defense as a team in the past couple weeks)
"We've just been playing team defense and helping each other out. Talking with somebody who breaks down we have guys ready to rotate and take charges so we're doing a great job of that right now."

(On defense starting with the perimeter guys)
"It does if we're getting beat off the dribble. Things like that, we put a lot of pressure on Jeronne and Jarnell to foul and we don't want them to get in foul trouble, especially not if its because of us."

(On being relieved to beat Iowa)
"I mean it definitely was because the season would have been over. The Iowa game I think it tested us well for the other two games that we have played."

(On being in a 'do or die' situation and if the pressure has helped them)
"It did. Like you said, we were first 4 in and stuff like that for a while during the season so those were must win games. Especially the Iowa game, if we'd lost the season would have been over with, so I feel like a lot of our guys aren't ready for the season to be over with."

(On having played at the Georgia Dome preparing them for this site)
"It did, just like domes are sometimes hard to shoot in at time just because the background is nothing. I think that game helped us out."

(On if it surprises him that UT is the lowest seed remaining in the tournament)
"No, I mean, what are we supposed to to do?"

(On feeling like the wins were coming all along)
"It isn't impressive just what we've done especially in the season if we would've dropped one of those games at the end of the stretch of the season who knows where we would've been. I mean for us to just get these wins together and how we've gotten them is impressive."

(On the team's confidence level ever being shaken this year)
"At this point we're confident. We're not overconfident. We know that all the teams we're playing are great teams. There are some of the losses our confidence never waived but we just, as the season went on, losing to A&M, we just got a little more worried."

(On if he knew the team was capable of this kind of success)
"Oh yeah I think everybody did. Just the talent we have. The individual talent we have it's just a matter of bringing it all together and we brought it together at the right time."

(On it being difficult to handle success)
"That's the thing about Coach Martin, he got all that into our brain that we don't change what we do no matter what happens. After losses we do the same thing. Other than a few more people on campus talking to us nothing has changed."

(On Michigan not playing there two bigs at the same time)
"It's no different. We switch 1-4 regardless who we are playing so they got a 4-man that can shoot, we switch 1-4, and I'm usually guarding guards anyway."

(On being comfortable guarding a guy that likes to shoot instead of posting up)
"I think that is actually easier to guard. I'm not sure how many guards they have that can really get to the hole and finish so guarding shooters, just trying to chase them off the line."

(On exploiting it on the other end of the floor)
"Most definitely, we want to just play our game, and we play inside-out anyways, but you don't want to try to over force the issue because we know they are kind of thin inside."

(On how important it is to stick with that game plan)
"I think that would be very hard for us because that is not the way we play. They shoot a lot of threes; they make a lot of threes so I think it is our job as a team to run them off that line."

(On how the us-against-the-world attitude has brought the team together)
"It's kind of been that way for a while now, you know when you fight as a family, you finally make a whole sort of speak, it feels that much better, and you want to continue doing the same thing that got you there."

(On the atmosphere around campus being different since you've been back)
"Yeah, the fans are really supportive - going to the gas station, people that you have never even talked to, like the clerks and stuff, saying congratulations. People are really happy, like a lot of older folks are really happy and everything like that so it is something new for us."

(On keeping the same us-against-the-world chip when people are showing you love)
"No, I mean you got to keep the same mentality that got you there. Stick with what works."

(On how playing with little margin of error helped you once you got to the tournament)
"Well, we never sat out or even talked about this is a must win game, just said go out there, play hard, rebound, and defend. Everything else will take care of itself."

(On Michigan)
"I haven't seen much of them on tape. We're probably going to watch it right before practice today. I watched them play and they can shoot the ball very well. They're somewhat similar to Mercer, because they can shoot the ball and they run the offense well and the ball screen. Defense will be important for us."

(On being the underdog)
"That's definitely been one of our motivations, just knowing that we have talent. I wouldn't call us a Cinderella because we have guys who were highly recruited out of high school and we have veterans, so I wouldn't call us a Cinderella, but it's definitely motivation that people have doubted us and we've been in so many close games this year, we just haven't found a way to win up until now. This is the right time to be winning."

(On campus atmosphere)
"I've received a lot of attention everywhere I go. I'm sort of salty about it, I would say. I'm sort of mad about it, because it's people that I've been seeing all this time and they would say, hey Jarnell and now when they see me, they get a little more excited. You have to stay humble throughout the process, because you have to know it can come and go."

(On staying humble)
"I'm not sure how he'll handle the situation. I'm sure he has something planned and I guess we will see today and the rest of the week."

(On Raleigh atmosphere)
"I don't really see it as a distraction. I feel like when the stage is set, I probably have some of my best games. I feel like these last couple of games in the tournament, I don't feel like I played my best basketball. I missed a lot of easy layups, a lot of rebounds. I got off to a slow start against Iowa, so I'm still beating myself up about that. I'm looking forward and I feel like I can play a lot better."

(On Tennessee defense)
"Energy, enthusiasm- guys are passionate about stopping their man and playing defense. We're holding each other accountable and we're trusting each other a lot."

"We're trusting each other a lot. When there's a breakdown, we instantly solve it. We go straight to the source. No one is getting offended by that. Therefore, if we're holding each other accountable, it's harder to make mistakes. We realize that it's not okay. You can't let the coach be the only one telling you what's good and what's bad on the defensive end."

(On Michigan)
"Michigan likes to shoot the ball and sadly teams like that can be hot any night, so sometimes, you have to be a little bit lucky, hoping that they don't hit a lot of shots, get off to a slow start. We definitely have to continue playing our game plan, do what got us here and having a balance type of offense."

(On team chemistry and leadership)
"I don't know. I think everything just clicked. I think this year, the team is a lot different from previous years, because we see it all coming to an end. Guys are hungry because we're older. We've been to the NIT twice and it's a terrible feeling to almost make the tournament, so it just sort of continued on throughout the season."

(On coming out slow against Iowa)
"I feel like guys were a little shy against Iowa. I sort of was suffering from riding the bus there the entire time. I felt stiff coming out. I'm glad I had a good second half, but to go back, I feel like throughout the season, we've had a lot of close games and we've lost a lot of close games. I wouldn't say we were a bad team, we just never figured out how to win games. I would much rather be where we are right now, than a Wichita State or certain teams like that."

(On beating Iowa)
"I wouldn't say the way it was. I feel like we got back to playing the way we play. We got a lot of key stops and the energy was there and guys hit shots. It basically lead into the next game. We came out hitting shots against UMASS also."

(On traveling by bus)
"I hate it. As a bigger guy, I hate sitting in the bus for five hours. I think we're riding the bus again to Indianapolis.

"We're not. We're flying? Okay, good."

(On stadium-like atmosphere)
"I don't think it's different at all. I don't think it's different."

"I feel like guys are shooting better. As far as on our team, they've been shooting better in the tournament and on these big stages. I don't think the stadium has anything to do with that."

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