March 9, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Coach Matta will make an opening statement, then go to questions for William and Jared. Coach?
COACH MATTA: I thought we started the game that was the biggest thing for me is seeing how these guys started the game in a tournament format. You've got really three guys on this team that have been significant players in this situation, and I thought our preparation coming in was good. I thought our minds were good.
Purdue stymied us just a little bit there in the first half. They got us on a ball screen. Then they started banking some 3s. We got some things figured out in the second half, and I thought our offense execution-wise was where it needed to be.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Jared, what was different about tonight? You obviously were able to get more shots, more freedom down low.
JARED SULLINGER: Obviously in practice, we've been working on offense execution, spacing, every little thing we always talked about in practice. Coming into this tournament, I thought that was the biggest key for this basketball team. And, I mean, this basketball team found me when I was open and I was blessed enough to make the shots.
Q. Jared or William, I think the run was 17 to 2. What changed during that time? It looked like you were able to get out in transition.
WILLIAM BUFORD: I think we eventually locked down on our defense. Cooled down and used the pick and roll, stopped letting them get to the basket. We just played together. We have five guys connected on defense. And we like -- when we do that, it's pretty tough to score against us, just let us get our run, let our defense lead our offense.
Q. For both players, just what was Purdue doing that made it tough for you guys to really break away from them really?
JARED SULLINGER: Honestly, coming into the second half, we were talking about switching, and we kind of got messed up with it. Some people were switching, some people wasn't. And then finally when we broke out on that run, I thought our communication was great because everybody was talking. And like Coach Matta always tells us, when we talk on the defensive end, it always carries over to the offense end, and I thought that's what made us break away.
WILLIAM BUFORD: Pretty much what Jared said, we start talking on defense. We told ourselves that we were going to lock down and quit trading baskets and we did that and we got a lead.
Q. Jared, the stat sheet says 48 to 18 in the paint. Was that something that you guys targeted coming into this game that you think you could get done?
JARED SULLINGER: I mean, honestly, not trying to toot my own horn, but we played through me. Obviously, when we see the double, our guards understand that if they get into the open spot, they're going to have a knockdown jump shot, or if they don't double, they're going to let me go work. So I thought that was the biggest key to this game.
And our guards and even Deshaun (Thomas) found a way to find me in the post, and also I was posting up deep, so I didn't really have to take a bounce or make a move or wait for the double team.
Q. Jared, at the beginning of that run where you guys pulled away in the second half, you guys had an offensive rebound where I think you may have tipped it, Deshaun tipped it a couple times, and Deshaun got a put back early in that run. It just seemed like an energy play where maybe it sparked you guys. Can plays like that help the team get rolling?
JARED SULLINGER: First off, you gotta give Deshaun all the credit. I was at half court celebrating for Deshaun to get the ball and put it back in, so that was all Deshaun's energy.
But with plays like that, it fuels our fire on the defensive end, and like I said earlier, the communication was great because we were switching everything and we limited a lot of people's touches.
Q. Purdue ran a small offense or small lineup at you guys a lot tonight. Michigan will probably do the same. Was it good to see what you saw tonight and will that help tomorrow?
WILLIAM BUFORD: Absolutely. It's always good to see good looks, so you know -- not so you know. So we can -- it's good to see different looks because you never know what you're going to see in the postseason. So it's always good to see different things that you just adjust. Our coaches did a great job adjusting, told us what to do. I think it would be great for us.
Q. Jared, we saw two Northland High School guys get 30 points each tonight. Did you watch much of Trey's performance that first game? And maybe just comment about your friend's performance and then your own performance tonight.
JARED SULLINGER: Yeah, I watched Trey play, played a great game. Hopefully not tomorrow, but he played a great game.
But, I mean, it's a perfect system for him and he fits perfect. And for me, our guards, I was setting really good screens, and our guards understood that if I set a good screen, my man has to guard them for a half second and they just found me.
Will was doing great with that, Craft, and we also got a lot of ball movement going side to side, so it was easy for me and Deshaun to get into the paint.
Q. Jared, you said a little earlier this year that the refs and the media were maybe getting to you a little bit. Have you felt since that time that you've had a renewed focus or a new focus?
JARED SULLINGER: Can you say that one more time?
Q. Earlier this year you said that maybe you were letting the refs' calls getting to you a little bit, or the media. Since then, have you been more focused or what's been the difference?
JARED SULLINGER: You just gotta play basketball. I'm not always worried about what the ref is calling or looking for a foul or give you a hit, and you stop playing through the contact, and I just refocused on that and just played my game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Matta.
Q. Just in that play with Deshaun where he tapped the rebound a couple times and got a put back there, you guys don't get the rebound there, don't get the offensive rebound, maybe Purdue comes down I think and cut it to one possession. Was that an energy moment at all?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I think it was. Especially from the effort that he gave to come up with it because, like I said, I think he tipped it. It was tipped about three times. He went and got it with two hands, gathered himself, went up and put it back in. That was the type of play in games like this, when you're going back and forth, when something can ignite you, maybe that was a play that did.
Q. Thad, in the first half, as you mentioned, Purdue was getting you with the switches and getting (Lewis) Jackson on a bigger guy that he could go by. Did you keep switching and just do it differently or how did you better cut that off in the second half?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, you know, he had 10 points and 10 assists. We did a great job on them. What happened when we went to the switching, then they went to the hand offs and got us on a couple 3s there in the first half. We had to communicate better in the second half.
The thing was, we wanted to make Jackson finish over length, finishing over size, and make tough 2s. And that was kind of the thing. Purdue, especially since they played us in Game 1, has really started shooting the 3 point shot effectively. And once we figured out that they were on fire again, I thought we did a better job locking down.
And probably most importantly was we guarded the ball better. They weren't able to do get inside our defense quite as easily.
Q. Thad, I'll ask you the same question I asked Jared. What was different about tonight in terms of the space he was able to get around the block and the greater ease that he was able to get shots off?
COACH MATTA: I don't think I can say exactly what I'd like to say, but I think that there was -- like he talked about, the ball movement. And Jared had a good way about him in terms of his movement.
In the first game, every time he tried to cut, there were collisions. And it was good to see that we were able to move the way we wanted to move effectively.
Q. Coach, they talked about communicating better on defense. Is that something that you touched on at some point tonight, or did they kind of pick it up on their own?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I think if you went back to October 15th, we started talking about it. When we do it, we're a better defensive team. And getting guys to talk, as I always tell them, they never stop talking in a team meal or on the bus or whatever. And there's times when I say, hey, look, if we could just do this on the court, I think we got a pretty good defense.
But to be effective defensively, you have got to have to great communication, and we did a better job in the second half.
Q. Thad, given some of your struggles, is there more at stake in this tournament for you than there usually is? Can you gain some momentum, kind of correct some of your problems or whatever before you get into the other tournament?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think the one thing that I was -- and I talked about this before the game with some camera -- but I was curious to see how this team performed tonight, how we started the game. We knew Purdue was going to come with great energy off of a great win last night.
With that said, you're in a tournament format. We're a young team. I thought that the buildup coming in, not finding out until late last night who we were playing, we had a late night film session, guys were asking questions, guys are zoned in. We did get 30 minutes this morning at 9:00 o'clock on the court, and I liked the way -- so when they do it up today, I was kind of curious how would they play in a tournament environment.
So answering your question, I think we can continue to grow. I think that these are the times where all the little things matter, and hopefully they're continuing to pick up on those.
Q. Coach, Deshaun Thomas is a player known more for the offensive spark that he provides. Can you talk a little bit about his individual defensive effort today as the primary defender on Robbie Hummel who was limited to six points?
COACH MATTA: Deshaun is really taking to the defensive end. Deshaun is a very prideful kid, and there's been a point in his career where I just call him Shaun, because I'm saying there's no D in your game. I've gone back to calling him Deshaun.
But I joke with him about it because he's really done a nice job of accepting the role, learning the game, studying the game, and that's the first thing he talks about now after a game is the defense. One of the biggest things when he makes a mistake defensively, he knows it, and that's important to me.
Q. Thad, in the first half, at times -- and I don't know if this was something they were doing, but it looked like you were back to settling for some quick jump shots from distance. And I wondered if you had -- did you change anything at halftime to run better to execute better on offense in the second half? And one quick thing along with that, is there any reason that Shannon (Scott) didn't play as much tonight as he has
COACH MATTA: No.
Q. -- previously?
COACH MATTA: I think with the -- that was the answer to the second one.
The shots in the first half, we did take a couple. And the problem I have with them is we weren't set to shoot them. It was -- our feet, we hopped into them. We didn't one two step into them. And we talked about that. We felt like if we didn't have a good one, we wanted to execute and try to get the exact shot that we wanted.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
COACH MATTA: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Ask Coach Painter to make an opening statement, then go to questions for D.J. and Lewis. Coach?
COACH PAINTER: I thought our guys gave a good fight today. I thought we were in a position to have come down the stretch to win the game. Obviously they go on like a 17 2 run or something of that nature. We were poor in transition. We didn't get some shots to fall, and we obviously couldn't keep them off the glass and keep the ball from going inside. And that combination just kind of sealed the deal for Ohio State.
But I thought our guys did a good job putting themselves in that position at that point. We just had to play better in that stretch. But you have to give a lot of credit to Ohio State. I thought (Jared) Sullinger and (Deshaun) Thomas were very good tonight.
And you look at the stat sheet, and they have seven offensive rebounds, and you would think they had 17 offensive rebounds, but every one they got, they made us pay either by us fouling or scoring the basketball. But hats off to them, and I thought they were better than us and they did a good job of finishing the game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for D.J. and Lewis.
Q. Lew, it seemed like there were a lot of junctures in the game, you got it down to three, got it down to four, and just kind of a matter of not being able to get stops, right?
LEWIS JACKSON: Definitely. I think what Coach is talking about with the offensive rebound with Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, you'd think they had more than that. And when we got it down in that stretch, we did get a couple defensive stops in there, but we missed a couple rebound opportunities, and they capitalized. And (William) Buford got a couple leak outs and a couple and ones that kinda pushed the game.
But we did a good job. We just gotta do a better job rebounding as a team collectively, and the whole game could be a different scenario.
Q. Lew, what opened for you in the first half in terms of getting to the basket, and then what did Ohio State do in the second half to kind of close that down?
LEWIS JACKSON: I think my first jump shot, honestly, kind of just made them say, you know, we don't want them to just get jump shots and they was switching Jared Sullinger on me. I just had a good chance of attacking the basket, and just more so in the second half. They just kind of stayed back and made me contest it.
And Jared Sullinger, you have to give him credit. He played straight up. Got a couple blocks in, and the ball just didn't go my way, but you have to take your hat off to him for playing solid defense.
Q. D.J., what did you think of the way Lewis played tonight?
D.J. BYRD: Oh, obviously, as you can tell, he was really looking for his teammates. I know when I was coming off a couple down screens and he was driving, trying to give me shots as well as (Terone Johnson) and Rob (Hummel), and one turnover, that's a pretty good ratio right there. So he's done a great job all year distributing the ball, especially today, and I think that will be beneficial for us in the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Lew, just you can obviously talk about the NCAA Tournament now. Where do you think you guys fit in?
LEWIS JACKSON: I don't know. Kind of been a funny year. Talking to all the guys, we always kind of been like I think the lowest I've been since I've been here is fifth seed. You kind of just always hear about it on ESPN, but this year I haven't really paid attention. And this team, all we went through, we were just trying to make sure we got in position. And I'll probably look tomorrow, trying to start figure things out.
But honestly, once you get in, that's all that matters. So this team just has to be ready to play wherever they send us and just know that we can do something special.
Q. D.J., Ohio State isn't really a very good match up for you guys in terms of their size. What can you take from this game to build for the NCAA Tournament and then learn from it?
D.J. BYRD: Well, it's a little different because NCAA Tournament, we'll probably be playing a team that we're not used to playing against. Ohio State, we know their personnel and they know ours.
But this game, obviously one of the big things is rebounding, especially when we go to a smaller lineup. It's important to box out every time and try to get those 50/50 balls. So I think those are big things going into the tournament that we need to do.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Painter?
Q. Matt, from the looks of the box score, they held down Robbie pretty well. What did they do in particular?
COACH PAINTER: Well, I think they do a good job of switching our ball screen even though I think we got some pretty good action off our ball screen stuff. Even in the second half, I just thought we had some looks that didn't go down.
I think Rob just kind of falls into that. He had some looks. We'd like to get him some stuff more in the mid post, get him some stuff driving to the basket.
But you have to give them credit. They did a good job defensively not on just Rob but really on everybody else. And we needed to get to the basket more, needed to get to the free throw line more.
But I didn't think they did anything different on him than they had before. They played him the same way. He had some shots not go down. I'd like to get him a couple more shots.
But it's one of those games that it's kind of free flowing for us. We're kind of playing the mismatches. They're putting their center on our two or three and then we're trying to kind of counter them. I'm just kind of waiting to see who he's going to guard at times to see what we're going to run.
So we're just trying to play off that mismatch more than anything. I know it's not your question. But we can't give up 88 points and expect to win.
Q. Matt, staying with Rob, how is his knee tonight?
COACH PAINTER: I thought it was okay. I thought it was fine.
Q. Did he have some swelling issues or anything like that prior to this game?
COACH PAINTER: Not to my knowledge. I thought he was all right. I went out there to watch him in warmups. He was just going back to back days and I thought he looked good.
Q. Coach, obviously offensively you were better with the smaller lineup, but how did you -- what were you trying to do defensively to counter their size when you had that lineup on the floor?
COACH PAINTER: A couple times we didn't -- we were supposed to quick double and our guy just didn't get there. But we were getting buried so deep that sometimes he would even go over the double and just score the basketball.
So we were allowing it just too easily to enter the post, and we were supposed to be there on the double, and if he was off and then dribbling it, we were supposed to come with it.
But give him credit. He's a good player. A lot of times defensively what we do, we get pretty set in what we do. We just struggle when we go against pros.
Q. Coach, what did you say in the technical? And did you ever think you were going to get a defensive stop on a fast break so long after your playing career was over?
COACH PAINTER: I didn't understand the second part.
Q. Did you ever think you were going to get a defensive stop on a fast break so late after your playing career?
COACH PAINTER: One of their bigs was just grabbing our players out in the open on a ball screen defense, and I just pointed it out while he had two hands around him to. One of their bigs just had his hands around him, so I pointed it out to him and said he's got both his hands around him, and he stares right at it and ignores it. So I can't repeat what I said to him.
Q. Coach, I know you've had a relationship with Bruce Weber. Can you just talk about coaching with him and your thoughts on him not being in the league?
COACH PAINTER: It's obviously very hard for me. He's a great coach and he's a better person. I think it's Illinois' loss, to be honest with you.
But the good ones, you know, he's going to bounce back and he's going to get a good opportunity. There's no doubt about that. But it's hard because if it wasn't for him and if it wasn't for Coach (Gene) Keady, I wouldn't be here. And I've learned a lot of basketball and I've learned a lot about life and how to treat people from Coach Weber. You're not going to find a better guy.
Q. Matt, I think I asked the players earlier. Seemed like every time you had it within three or four they were able to go inside and were able to get points out of it. Just like you said, you struggle when you go against the pros.
COACH PAINTER: Yeah. It's smart. We've had some good interior guys in (Carl) Landry and JaJuan Johnson. When things get sticky, you've got to get it to your horse, and Jared Sullinger is a horse, man. He's a great player, and we had to do a better job of keeping it out of the post and not in his hands.
But that's easier said than done. We played a smaller lineup at times to try to flip it on them and be able to score more points on the other end. We weren't able to do that. But when we had size in there, he still had a lot of success. But just impressed with him. He's a good person. Sullinger's a very good player, and he's going to have nights like that with his skill and his size.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
COACH PAINTER: All right. Thank you.