March 10, 2007
Ohio State Buckeyes
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, it was a game. That's what I love about these conference tournaments, when you're playing quick turnarounds. There's wasn't a lot of juice there from us at the beginning of the game. We really had to challenge our guys at halftime. It was really simple. We had to get a little bit more active defensively and I thought we did that, and probably the coaching move of the year, I said we've got to make some shots. Ivan (Harris) got us going, Greg (Oden) had it going, Mike (Conley Jr.) had a couple nice finishes down low. We beat a great basketball team today. I thought we, at stretches, played well. We're moving on.
Q. Greg, can you just talk about the put back dunk you had, and when you came back out on the court with your arms spread what you were feeling at that moment?
GREG ODEN: I have no idea (laughter). I didn't get blocked out, so I went up, got offensive, tip dunked, and ran out and I don't know what I did. I was just yelling. I enjoyed it (laughter).
Q. Mike, everybody talks about the NCAAs next week and that will play out, but can you tell us what it means to you in your first year to play for the Big Ten Championship tomorrow?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Well, it means a lot to play. It's an honor to be in the situation that we're in. Tomorrow we're going to play either Wisconsin or Illinois. They're both great teams. We're just looking forward to being a part of it.
Q. Greg, how much emphasis was put on rebounding today? You had 19 boards and you guys got a lot of second chance baskets, and how important was that to the win today?
GREG ODEN: We just got a lot of tips, and we got a chance to get the first time rebounds, and that helped out a lot. It helped out with our victory because it got our team going. We didn't get a lot of guys on the other team getting offensive rebounds and getting put back points, so that helped us a lot, too.
Q. Mike, what Thad said about the challenge of playing two days in a row, how was this different than playing two days in a row at the end of the season versus two days in a row in the BCA Classic?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: It's a lot different. We've had a whole season to play before this tournament. Back then it was our opening game, so we were pretty well rested. It's a little different now. You've got to save your legs a little more and try and conserve a little energy.
But we still try to play as hard as we can for the awards we're trying to win.
Q. In what ways do you feel you've expanded your offensive game this season?
GREG ODEN: I think as the year goes on, I'm getting a lot more comfortable just shooting that hook shot and taking my time and looking for the double teams and being able to pass it out to my teammates if I am double teamed.
Q. Mike, you had that three pointer that missed by a few feet and then you had that big one that kind of got you guys back in. Can you talk about what was going through your mind after the first one and then after the second one?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I wanted that first one back because it slipped out of my hands, so the next opportunity I got I was going to try to put it up.
When I saw Ron (Lewis) dribbling towards me I was yelling his name because I definitely thought I was going to make the shot, so he passed it to me and it went in, so I was very happy about that.
Q. Thad talked about challenging you guys on defense, and I think the run pretty much happened coming out of the timeout at 11:41. You got a lot of your points in transition and deflections and defended shots. Anything in particular about that timeout that brought the best out of you guys?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I think the seniors stepped up in the time out. They were getting us going, Ron Lewis and Ivan (Harris) and Jamar (Butler) stepped up and really got us going. When we got out of the timeout, I think we all took everything to heart and tried to play as hard as we could no matter how tired we were or how beat up, just come out there and play as hard as we can for that short stretch. I think it really benefited us.
Q. Greg, you got three fouls there in the second half against Landry. When you came back in did you change how you were playing at all, and how tough a guard is it for you to go up against Landry?
GREG ODEN: He's really strong and he's really quick, so what I had to do was just sit down and play off of him. They wanted me to make him shoot over me rather than him getting into me and me getting more fouls.
Q. I just was curious about your reaction to Greg's screen. Was that his best one ever?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I've seen a lot of them, and they don't change. But that was an amazing play. I haven't seen too many of them. But it was a great moment to be a part of, and watching him go crazy and waving his arms in the air was something a little different.
Q. Greg, are you mostly looking forward to dunking on Wisconsin or Illinois?
GREG ODEN: The winner (laughter).
Q. Mike, how much easier is it on you guys as a team that if you guys do miss if there's anything close to the basket that you've got Greg to come in and get it, almost like a security blanket there?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Yeah, if we can get into the lane or draw on defenses to collapse on us, we know if we miss a shot, if somebody not blocking out Greg (Oden) or not blocking Othello (Hunter) and having those guys being able to tip in shots is very comfortable because if you miss a shot, it might be a good play. That's kind of bad to say, but I'd rather have an assist or a missed shot because I know both Greg and Othello and the rest of the big men can really go get them after they get off the rim.
Q. Mike, in the game in Columbus, Purdue hurt you a little bit, especially Crump with that dribble penetration, and today that really was not a factor. Anything in particular that you did to kind of take that away?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I think we communicated a lot better. The first game they really caught us off guard and messed us up with that pick and roll and didn't have very good communication going. I think that was a real focal point in preparing for their kind of game because they really hurt us with that the last couple games. I think the big men did a great job of hedging out and helping out the guards that were being screened, so we definitely made a big change.
Q. Greg has obviously been really good all year, but it seems like as he's come down the stretch he's gotten better and better as he's gotten healthy.
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Yeah, he's gotten healthy, but it's that time of year. You win or go home. Greg is the kind of player who steps up to the occasion. He knows we're in tournament time right now and every game is critical. He's really stepping up his play both offensively and defensively and starting to do a little more of everything each game. He's really leading us right now.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up with questions for Coach Matta now, please.
Q. I think they were ahead by three and I think it was a 20-to-4 run over a 10 minute period when you took control. What happened during that run that kind of got it going for you?
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, they did a great job. I mean, Matt (Painter) was tremendous today. They were going four guards, they'd sprinkle a big guy back in, and I felt like they kind of forced our hand to play match up, and I thought that really helped us and we were able to switch a little bit more on some things.
Just the activity, the help in the first half, they opened up, (David) Teague hits two tough threes over Jamar (Butler). I think it was (Chris) Kramer hits a pull up over Ivan (Harris) for the first eight points, and I thought we lost our juice a little bit, and we weren't getting there, and we got to where we were challenging shots. We were making it hard to see the basket, Ron Lewis getting out and using his length, I think that was probably the biggest difference. It allowed us to get out and get a couple easy ones and get to the free throw line through transition.
Q. You were 4-of-13 today from behind the arc. Yesterday you guys didn't shoot a whole lot behind the arc. Are the three pointers becoming less important for you guys to succeed now?
COACH THAD MATTA: I wouldn't say that. It's sort of what's there, take it. The one thing that teams are really doing, they're not giving them to us right now. So hopefully we can continue to play off of that and get inside the defense a little bit more. But if they're there, I want to shoot them.
Like I've said, I want to play fast, I want more points than 61. Let's get this thing up and down and go.
Q. With Greg up here to be pretty much 100 percent and particularly his offensive game coming along, how does this team rate as far as what you envisioned maybe what it would be at this time of year. Is this maybe what you thought it could be?
COACH THAD MATTA: Honestly, great question. I don't know if I have an answer because I didn't know what this team was going to be. And quite honestly, I went in open minded because I didn't know. With Greg's injury, we didn't know if he was ever going to get the cast off this year. We didn't know how long it was going to be.
So honestly, I had a vision, but I really didn't know where it was going. But I like the way we're playing right now, I really do.
Q. This is kind of a follow up to that. Is this where you envisioned or hoped that Greg would be if and whenever he did get the cast off these last couple games?
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah. One of the big keys today is Greg played 32 minutes. Does anybody know how many he played in the first two games? 42. That was the big challenge for Greg today. We've got to keep him on the court.
I think (Carl) Landry played 66 minutes to Greg's 42 minutes in the first two games, and that was a huge challenge. Going in at halftime with no fouls on Greg was something that we were hoping for. I think Greg is getting to where we thought he could be.
I'd still like to see him be able to step out a little bit more and knock down those shots. He's doing that more in practice. The hard part is not getting enough practice in obviously, but I think that will be the next step for him. He went a little bit quick on his first couple post moves there. Slowing down is something that's good for him. But I think his mind is so strong, he's a winner, he's a competitor, and that's what you love about him.
Q. What do you think when you see a play like that where the ball comes off there and he slams it?
COACH THAD MATTA: I turn into a cheerleader, yeah, I do. He does some things every now and then in practice where guys will literally just stop practice and kind of start laughing. That was one of those today. I mean, the first time I ever saw him dunk, the only guy that kept playing was Michael (Conley). Everybody else in the gym stopped.
But I think he is special. I like the fact that that gave us some boost down the some energy down the stretch that I thought we needed.
Q. Now that you've seen Purdue several times, what's your take on them, and are they an NCAA Tournament team in your opinion?
COACH THAD MATTA: Absolutely. I think that for starters, I said this, Matt (Painter) has done an incredible job when you think two years ago where he started as an assistant. Last year's team, and you look at how they weathered the storm last year with the injuries, and I think when you've got two players like (Carl) Landry and (David) Teague, both fifth year seniors, both have battled injuries, I thought they both played with great energy. I think the biggest thing for Purdue in my own opinion, I don't coach the team, but the supporting cast has done a great job. They've gotten those guys better.
They play extremely hard, they're well disciplined, and there's no doubt in my mind they're an NCAA Tournament team. I don't want to see them again, I know that.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the next game, who you guys might be playing, little strategies that you might be developing for either Illinois or Wisconsin?
COACH THAD MATTA: Which one do you want me to say because that's the second time honestly, like we said, we knew we'd get asked. Whoever wins, we've got both teams scouted back at the hotel. When we get back, we'll have personnel roll in and at this stage, and Columbus people know this, I don't worry about things I can't control. I think both teams are NCAA Tournament teams, so they should be in great shape.
Whoever it is is the hand we're dealt.
Q. I know it's just another step to the big goal of winning a national title, but just kind of talk about the significance of playing for a Big Ten title or Big Ten Tournament title, and also, do you feel that you need to win tomorrow to preserve you being the No. 1 seed in the tournament?
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, I think it's funny, people asked coming into this tournament how important is this tournament, playing 120 minutes in 72 hours is strenuous. It's tough. If you get thrown into a Thursday bracket, what happens is because we'll have to take Monday and Tuesday off, probably have one day to prepare and we're playing on Thursday.
But I think that for us, the competitiveness comes out. As we told our guys, we came here to play 120 minutes of basketball, we've got 80 down. I think the competitiveness will come out.
As far as the No. 1 seed, nobody ever believes me when I say this, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it. I would have to think with what this team has done, I think today was the 16th straight win. You keep hearing they lost to North Carolina, well, Greg didn't play, and it was at North Carolina. They lost to Florida. Our center was back for two weeks or three weeks at that point. At Wisconsin, all those games were on the road.
I've got to think that we're in pretty decent shape I would hope, but I'm not in Indianapolis. Twenty-nine and three, that's a school record. I mean, I think we've done everything we need to do to put ourselves in that position.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. Appreciate your time.
COACH MATT PAINTER: I thought our guys played very hard today and did a good job of executing what we wanted to do defensively. We had a couple breakdowns. Throughout the course of the game we did a good job of making some adjustments, but we just had a difficult time rebounding the basketball.
When it comes down to it, you just can't give those guys that many chances. And I thought Carl did a good job on (Greg) Oden. We tried our best to contain the dribble because we know if he has to help often, it's going to lead to a tip dunk if he misses. So we tried to keep Carl (Landry) with him as much as possible, but if a guy is going to get a lay up, he's got to go over and try to take a charge and contest it, and it's close to impossible for a guard to drop on the opposite side to box him out.
That's probably something that if we could go back, if we could do a better job of, is just try to keep the guys in front of him so he wouldn't have to help and put us in that bind. But they're very good and they're very quick, and obviously he's a difference maker when you can rebound the basketball like that.
But our guys did a good job. I thought down the stretch the last seven or eight minutes of the game we did some very good things. The ball just didn't go in the basket for us.
And you can't confuse shooting poorly in the last eight, nine minutes with playing poorly because I thought our guys went right after them and competed and didn't back down. We just did not make enough shots in the last ten minutes of the game.
Q. Dave, you had a 43 40 lead, and Carl hit a couple free throws, but then like Coach said you got in the stretch and you couldn't hit some shots. The looks were there. Is that the frustrating part of this game is some shots were there and they ran it out from there?
DAVID TEAGUE: Definitely because we felt like we did a good job of carrying our assignments for the most part of the day. Guards were hooked up defensively and we made some big stops, came away with key rebounds, but just couldn't connect offensively, and that's always frustrating when you give yourself a chance on the defensive end and make stops and make plays and get a good offensive look and it doesn't go down for you. I think that's what hurt us down the stretch, not being able to make that shot when we needed it.
Q. Carl, Matta talked about how Oden played 32 minutes this game and I think he's playing a lot stronger now with the cast off and in better shape than he was earlier. Did you notice a difference in him at all today than the first two match ups earlier in the season?
CARL LANDRY: Yeah, I noticed that the cast was off, and then after that I just tried to play as great of D on him as I could. He's just a great player down there on the blocking end, on the defensive end. I was just trying to do all the little things I could to avoid him from having a good game. He's just a great player.
Q. Is there anybody like him?
CARL LANDRY: No, I think he's one of the best that's why he's up for national Player of the Year, because he's just a great player. He can rebound the ball, he can defend, and it's just his presence. I don't think I've ever played against a player like Greg Oden. His presence, he's more to a team than anybody else. He's just a great player, just his presence on the court that makes him as great as he is.
Q. Carl, just how much does he also impact things that he doesn't actually when he doesn't block a shot, it seems like he also changed a lot of things. It seems like sometimes players have him in the back of their mind when they're shooting the ball. Does he have almost a psychological impact, too?
CARL LANDRY: Yeah, he's like 7 1 and he's long, athletic and moves. Even if he doesn't block a shot he's going to alter it because he's very athletic and long. You've always got it in the back of your head like where is he at. But you've just got to take the ball to the hoop strong and try to get the shot in the hoop.
Q. How do you guys feel? You've played some really good ball in the last 10, 12 games. Do you feel like you've done everything you could do at this point to go to the NCAA Tournament?
DAVID TEAGUE: I think so. I think we've played good basketball all year, had some good wins all year, and I think we've been playing some good basketball of late, and I think we finished strong down the stretch.
We feel like we're an NCAA Tournament team, and hopefully the selection committee feels the same way. We just have to be optimistic and just have confidence that we are one of the NCAA Tournament teams, and hopefully we'll get there.
Q. Along those lines for both you guys, I know you feel pretty good about your chances, but what are the next 24 to 48 hours going to be like before the selection show?
CARL LANDRY: I might not even be able to sleep tonight. My heart is going to be racing pretty fast and hoping that we do get one of those bids tomorrow.
DAVID TEAGUE: Probably watching a lot of SportsCenter over and over (laughter).
Q. David, if you're watching SportsCenter, do you think you're going to see that Oden dunk a couple times? They say people stop practice when he makes those moves. Do you guys shake your heads after the game at that?
DAVID TEAGUE: Yeah, I mean, even though he's so tall and athletic, you would assume it's a given for him to make plays, but you still, during the course of a game, catch yourself in awe he's such a great player. The things that he's able to do at that size is just tremendous.
I mean, he's so gifted. It's almost great to watch him, watch him play. But you try not to get caught up in it while you're playing the game. But sometimes you're out there and you kind of catch yourself in awe of some of the moves and some of the plays he makes.
Q. Oden is kind of the cornerstone of that defense, but talk about the rest of Ohio State's defense, especially late in the second half.
DAVID TEAGUE: They did a good job. I think they did a good job pressuring the basketball. They did a good job being physical on screens and kind of making it tough to catch the ball.
But I think we got our good looks, had a lot of good looks in good scoring positions where we wanted it. We just weren't able to knock it down. I think you have to give them credit for playing physical and stepping up their defense in intensity. That's where the credit lies, when shots don't fall, the defense usually gets the credit for that.
Q. I'm sure it's frustrating to have played them tough for the third time and come out on the wrong side, and you know you don't want moral victories, but do you feel perhaps you played them the way people wanted to see Purdue play them to convince people that you belong in the NCAA Tournament, playing them pretty tough for 31, 32 minutes or so?
DAVID TEAGUE: I think so. We still didn't reach our goal of playing them tough for 40 minutes. The No. 1 team in the nation, that's what it's going to take, a 40 minute effort. You can't half step it against a great team like Ohio State and expect to win. So I think we did play some good basketball out there for a nice stretch out there. I think we proved that we belong in the NCAA Tournament and that we belong up against any team in the nation.
I think the last three times we've played them we've gotten better each time. They were able to capitalize on some of the mistakes we made in the three games, but I think we've played them as tough as anybody else, especially them being the No. 1 team in the nation. We have all the confidence in the world that we can play with anyone. Hopefully we'll get in the tournament and get a chance to prove it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up with Coach Painter, please.
Q. Who's the best college basketball player you've ever seen, and if it's not Greg, how does he compare?
COACH MATT PAINTER: Glenn Robinson I'm obviously biased but was pretty good in his two year stretch.
Greg Oden is just different. I would probably as a player want Glenn Robinson because as a player I didn't know enough about winning. I think as a coach I'd take Greg Oden just because he dominates the game. He's got nine offensive rebounds. We got nine as a team today. He changes the game.
Glenn changes the game offensively. He changes the game offensively and defensively. And just like Carl says, it's a presence. It's more than his stats, it's more than his actual game, he's just affecting everything at all times. You can't really put a value on that.
I didn't see obviously guys like George McGinnis, guys that dominated, Cazzie Russell, guys of that nature, so I really can't say. Calbert Cheaney was pretty good, Jim Jackson was pretty good when I played. I don't think they're the level of Greg Oden because of the things I just mentioned, how he changes everything.
Q. This probably isn't the most obvious thing to ask first off, but it seemed like there in the final minutes, you making offense, defense substitutions, calling timeouts, urging your team not to foul, how much were you trying to manage the final score?
COACH MATT PAINTER: No, I wasn't trying to manage the final score. We were trying to foul Mike Conley, and they didn't put the ball in Mike Conley's hands.
So I just thought with the percentages with Jamar Butler and he kept the ball in his hands and then the shot clock got down to 15 or 16 and you've went that long in that particular possession, that's why I was saying no foul. I started screaming it so they'd understand it. There's no sense in fouling for 20 seconds off the clock, you might as well try to get a stop and then try to play through that.
We were trying to foul Oden if he got a rebound on a miss and we were trying to foul Mike, and I really didn't want to foul the rest of those guys because they're very good free throw shooters and it didn't make sense at that point. We were trying to win the game still.
Q. If you were coaching Oden and he asked you about his future, what would you tell him?
COACH MATT PAINTER: Obviously I would say it's bright.
Q. If you wanted him to stay for five years.
COACH MATT PAINTER: If you're the one that's coaching him you want him to stay the whole time, but also you invest in a person when you sign him, and you want what's best for that person. When they're making that decision about their future after the season, I think that parents and people that are close to them their entire life need to weigh in on that, and if they ask you to weigh in on it as a coach, you give your opinion on what you think is right for that individual.
I can't make a stab at that without knowing him personally because I don't think that's fair for an opposing coach to step in on that delicate of a situation.
Q. You mentioned the rebounding. Carl had two. Is that okay? He was obviously doing other things and had to be consumed with defending Oden.
COACH MATT PAINTER: It's very difficult obviously to guard him. It's very difficult to guard him without a backup. Think about what he has to do. I'm telling him everything to do on hedge screens, post defense, when (Orthello) Hunter is with him, when (Matt) Terwilliger is with him, when (Ivan) Harris is with him, we try to do different things. And every time I say it, I finish it with "and do not foul him." Not as much as putting him to the free throw line or trying to wear him down, just to try to keep Carl Landry in the game. When he is around the basket, we do not help on drives, we stay with him.
If a guy is going to get a lay up you've got to go stop it. But if you miss it, it doesn't really matter because now he's getting the rebound. And that's what you saw happen late in the game. Our guys were getting blown by off the drive, didn't contain the dribble, and now there he is cleaning up getting tip dunks, and there's just not a whole lot you can do.
I thought Carl (Landry) did a good job. Obviously I'd like to see him get more rebounds, obviously I'd like to see him keep him off the glass more, but that's easier said than done. I think he's given a great effort for us; I thought he gave a great effort tonight. He did some things and brought it out on the court, he made his shots, made some free throws, played within himself for the most part and didn't have a lot of turnovers.
A lot of times in these games when we struggle to score, he really presses. I thought tonight he didn't press and he stayed with we just didn't have enough guys make shots down the stretch, but it wasn't from a lack of effort.
Q. I want to ask a question that probably won't find its way back to Greg Oden. When you're playing with a team where you're playing with three guys who have kind of been playing sore all year in Kramer, Landry and Teague, maybe Landry, and you play on back to back days at the end of the season, and after 32 minutes wrestling with Greg Oden, just, I mean, is it natural maybe to expect your team to wear down a little bit? Was there any fatigue?
COACH MATT PAINTER: I don't think so. You really cannot gauge it because you don't know with somebody shooting with some of the shots that we took from the percentages, there's no doubt as you wear down, that can happen. But I don't know how you really gauge it because I've seen those guys make shots in back to back games in Maui, where we played three games in row.
Now it's at the end of the year. I give them a lot of time off. We gave (David) Teague and (Chris) Kramer one day off because of their knees. They take them. I trust them to know their body and know what's best for them. But they're both competitive, and Carl (Landry) is competitive.
They made more plays than us. I think sometimes we overanalyze things. They simply made more shots and made more plays and did a better job on the glass.
Q. I know you don't want to lobby, but do you think this is an NCAA team, your team?
COACH MATT PAINTER: Yes, I think we've been very consistent throughout the year. Obviously if we were in a position like Wisconsin and Ohio State, you don't get those kind of questions.
But I think we were very consistent, had a good run in Maui, played some good teams and had a good schedule. Even though we have not had the road wins we would have liked, we've still had some neutral game wins with beating Oklahoma and DePaul and Iowa, and obviously winning two road games in the league. And that's probably our Achilles heel.
But if you look at the teams you're comparing us to, everyone has warts. Everyone is going to have something. We have ten games we've won in the Top 100. Go compare that against anybody else. We've beaten some good teams this year, we've remained consistent. We've competed with teams that are supposedly tops in the country.
Have we beat some of those teams? No, we haven't. If you do, you're not on that bubble, but I do think we're an NCAA Tournament team and we belong in the tournament.
Q. That said, Dave talked about being nervous or watching SportsCenter over and over again and Carl talked about being nervous. What are your emotions going to be in the morning do you think?
COACH MATT PAINTER: It's what you've done all season. I watch SportsCenter regardless if whether we're on the bubble or not, so to me it's not a big deal. I'm watching spring training stuff, I'm watching basketball stuff, that's what I do.
You pay attention to it because now you can't do anything about it. At least we're not if we were at Southern Illinois, we'd wait for eight days. That's waiting. You wake up, you go to bed, you find out tomorrow at dinner; that's pretty easy.
Q. Are you guys going to have something at Purdue tomorrow?
COACH MATT PAINTER: We're going to do something at my house, and then we're going to come back to Mackey (Arena) and meet the media there at 7:30.
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