March 11, 2007
Ohio State Buckeyes
Q. Mike, now that you know who you're playing, what do you think about that opponent and the fact that you'll be in Lexington, which isn't too far from where you live?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Well, they made it to the tournament for a reason. They're a good team. Coach has been scouting them pretty well. I know we're looking forward to getting down to Lexington because it's pretty close to home and looking to see a lot of fans out there.
RON LEWIS: Yeah, the same what Mike said. Our coaches have been scouting every team. They made it to the tournament, we know they're going to be a tough opponent because they are in the 65. We're just going to be ready to play.
Q. To Ron and Mike, can you both talk about winning this tournament and how you think that experience might help you going forward into the NCAA Tournament?
RON LEWIS: I think it helps us with our confidence, and I think it helps us with growing as a team. As you can see, in those three games we relied on each other, we played team basketball, and we took the negatives that teams had and made them into positives for us.
Q. Mike, in terms of the game today, how big was it for you guys with Greg only playing six minutes in the first half and not scoring and you were still up six at the break? How big was that for you guys?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: It was really big. We were just trying to keep it close without him in the game. A lot of things are a lot harder because he takes up so much space down low and we rely on him for a lot of things. I think a lot of us stepped up in that first half.
The seniors played great. The bench really came into play with Greg out of the game. Matt Terwilliger played great, did his thing, got rebounds, and Othello did his thing, as well.
Q. How much of a factor in this game do you think was the fact that it looked that you were able to impose a faster pace, on this game today more so than you had in the two games before against Wisconsin, and I wondered how much of that was a factor in how the game turned out.
RON LEWIS: I think it was a factor. We got a lot of rest, rested our bodies and our legs. So it was a major factor. Plus we were in zone, so it gave us a lot of rest, as well, to run on the offensive end.
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Yeah, that definitely helped us out. They're a great rebounding team, and we felt if we could get rebounds and turnovers, I think it turned into fast break points and rebound opportunities, and I think we took advantage of that early and we just never let up.
Q. It is said that offense wins games, defense wins championships. You were definitely impressive the first half the way you held them with Greg out. Do you think this kind of performance pronounces that you are defense ready for tournament play?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Yeah, I think it was a statement. Three games in three days is a tough thing to do, and for our guys to come out and play defense for 40 minutes, even with Greg out of the game, and to stay in defensive stance and do those little things that helps the team win, that goes to show how far we've come as a team.
Q. For either of you guys, you mentioned three games in three days. Now in a Thursday Saturday regional. What's the key here? I imagine getting rest because it's going to be kind of a quick turnaround. How do you handle this now?
RON LEWIS: Just like you said, just to get rest. Our focus is on the tournament. After we go home, finish our finals, we'll be on spring break, so the main thing for us is just to get rest and focus on the tournament.
Q. I'm just curious for both of you guys, how did you rank your goals through the season; the conference championship, the Big Ten Tournament Championship, the NCAA Championship, did you talk about that during the season and how did that rank?
RON LEWIS: We ranked it like you said, conference championship, Big Ten Tournament, and then going into the NCAA Tournament and doing well in that.
Q. In that order?
RON LEWIS: Yep.
Q. Mike, there was talk amongst you guys yesterday about the importance of getting the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and obviously the way it looked on CBS was that they put Florida and North Carolina ahead of you guys. Number one, why do you think they did that, and number two, is maybe a little motivation from that not such a bad thing going into the tournament?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: You know, Florida and North Carolina are both great teams, and they're deserving of the position they got. We're just playing each game as that game. We're not worried about what's ahead of us and focusing on seeding and who we play next. It's just one game at a time.
We're not worried about getting that No. 1 overall seeding. We're fine with where we're at right now, and we're just looking forward to getting into the tournament.
Q. So much was said about you being so young. Did you surprise yourself, the things you were able to achieve with so much youth on the team?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I think a little bit. You know, I didn't come in with as much confidence as Coach and the staff had on us as freshmen as being so young. They had a game plan laid out for us, what we were going to do. I'm just sitting there listening to every word he says, all right, we're going to do it, and then finally we're getting into the season and we're actually achieving some of these goals. Now we have the utmost confidence in ourselves to do what we've got to do to make a run in this tournament.
Q. Mike and Ron, you've been through this conference one and a half, almost two times. What are your thoughts on five other teams from the conference after playing all these teams, five other teams from the conference, making it to the NCAAs?
RON LEWIS: I think it's great. I think it's great for our conference. It shows that we have a good conference and that we're still building.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up and go ahead with questions for Coach Matta.
Q. The same question that Mike answered earlier. They did see the No. 1s and they had you technically No. 3. Was there any surprise to that?
COACH THAD MATTA: Not really. I don't know how it works. So wherever they put us, like these guys said, we'll play whoever. I think it's exciting. We were a two seed last year, now a one seed this year. I think that hopefully says a lot about our program and where it's come in three years.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about how the question I asked Mike about being able to force the pace more so in this game, what were you able to do in that zone to cause the turnovers that forced the pace?
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, I think a couple things happened. Number one, Wisconsin was a little bit flat on their shots today and it caused some long rebounds. I thought that we did a better job. The challenge was to be more active in the zone, get a hand up.
We knew that Tucker and Taylor were going to try to take the majority of their shots, Bohannon was going to catch and shoot. The big thing was the activity we could create to force them out a little bit farther. And from there we picked up a couple rebounds, got an advance pass, and it really seemed to get the pace going for us.
The other thing I think is we got our hands on a lot of balls deflection wise, and that led to advance passes and easy opportunities.
Q. Two things. One, how do you handle with finals and everything and having played here, a Thursday Saturday in Lexington, and two, how far ahead in the brackets do you look, because there's a potentially interesting second game involving you?
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, I think in regards to how we handle it, honestly, I would love to get these guys on a plane to get home immediately because they do have tests. We've been studying up here each day that we've been here. We've got our people with us to help the guys. It is a quick turnaround. When you play the last game and now you're playing on Thursday in Lexington, which is close. With the potential second match up we've got to take care of our first game as they do, and we'll kind of see. It's a little bit ironic, though and I think Bruce (Weber) is in the same situation and (Marquette head coach) Tom Crean and Michigan State. There was somebody else in there and we were laughing about it. It's part of it.
Q. You needed a last second shot to beat these guys at your place in the last week of the regular season and now you beat them by 20 with Greg essentially available for a half, do you feel that in these past few days that you're pretty much peaking and playing your best heading into the NCAA Tournament?
COACH THAD MATTA: I hope we are. I think that we're doing some things very well right now. I think we're getting a better feel.
The thing I'm most excited about and I think one of the big differences today was our bench. I've said all year long I think we've got nine starters, and one of the things we dwelled on last night in the team meeting was how many minutes their guys were playing to how many minutes we had played in two games. Was it psychological warfare? Yeah, maybe it was, but we wanted our guys to understand that everybody has been contributing and we've been able to give guys rest, and I think that was good for us.
Q. Curious about your thoughts on five other teams from your conference making it.
COACH THAD MATTA: I think it's phenomenal. I think as you go through a Big Ten season, it's amazing what it takes to win in this conference. Honestly, that's why I'm so proud of what our guys have been able to do this year. There's great players, there's great coaches, and for six of us to be in out of 11, I couldn't be happier for the league. I think it's just another statement of why the Big Ten is the Big Ten.
Q. Can you just talk about why Greg only played the six minutes in the first half?
COACH THAD MATTA: Foul trouble. We had the lead, they cut into it but they never got it over the hump. I thought those guys were doing a pretty good job without him.
Q. Did you foresee a No. 1 seed right off the bat when you brought in this great recruiting class with all these freshmen?
COACH THAD MATTA: No (laughing). As I said yesterday, I really didn't know what to expect. I thought that we could have a really good basketball team. To be sitting at 30-3 and have won 17 straight games and two of our losses are to No. 1 seeds that were ahead of us, one was without Greg Oden, the other he had been playing for three weeks, the other one was at Wisconsin, I'm pretty excited with where we are today.
Q. Obviously Greg didn't play a lot of minutes in the first half because of the foul trouble you mentioned. But can you just talk about him still ending up with a double double basically all done in the second half? And also if you could comment on how your kids take experience from winning this tournament into the next one.
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, I think with Greg (Oden) it shows the player that he is, and I had to get on Greg's rear end in one of the timeouts. I didn't think he was playing as hard as he could play, and really challenged him like I haven't done before. He responded, which was good, and I'll put that in my memory bank for when we play on Thursday.
The second part of your question
Q. Taking the experience into the next tournament.
COACH THAD MATTA: I think the one thing we've tried to do all year long is learn from wins, from losses, from close games, from big wins, and really build on it and try to exemplify through example of what we can learn from this, and these guys, the thing I love about this team is they have been phenomenal at listening and applying what we're trying to get done and how we're trying to do it. I wish I was a great coach, but these guys have done a tremendous job of listening and coming in every day and working hard.
So I think that they see the benefits of playing because all we've talked about all year long is playing our best basketball at the end of the year, and hopefully we'll go along those stages.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. We appreciate your time.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Ohio State's defense and where they were most effective, how they limited you?
COACH BO RYAN: In the first half we just didn't get the ball. We were a half step behind, a half click behind on pass and catch. We had 12 turnovers, that's 12 shots you don't get. That's opportunities where the ball can never go in, where you can't get an offensive rebound. That's way too many. You end up paying for it eventually, even though we fought back. We got back right in the second half.
On the boards, a lot of hustle things we did okay on. On the glass, just on the shooting, that's why I took Alando (Tucker) out of the game at the end. Everything was really flat. At that point just get him some rest. He works so hard all the time. Three straight games like that is pretty tough on a guy that does all the things that he does.
Q. Was this as tough a defensive team as you have played all season, or was Ohio State as tough defensively tonight?
COACH BO RYAN: Yeah, they always have been. There are certain things that they can do, knowing that (Greg) Oden is back there taking care of the rest. But Oden, he still moves pretty well for a big, so it's not like he just waits in the paint for people to come. But you notice how tough it was getting the easy ones. Even when we thought we had one when (Joe) Krabbenhoft got that ball and put it up. Most people thought it was a goal tend. I can never tell until I took at a tape.
Oden got that one. The thing about Greg is he can play real well defensively on the floor. He doesn't have to spend his time up in the air, and (Mike) Conley is so good with the ball on the floor because most of the game of basketball is played on the floor. They played the floor game better than we did.
Q. What would you say the turning point of the game was, maybe that three pointer with the shot clock going down that Butler hit there?
COACH BO RYAN: Well, you can't say that. I mean, obviously it's a tough one. Michigan State hit one like that in the first half, too, when we played at Michigan State. We ended up losing that game. Do you say that's the turning point? I don't think so. It was a culmination of 40 minutes of them making more plays and making a few more shots than we did.
If you're playing behind like that, it's very difficult to get to the free throw line, and that's a game that we usually like to play. But when you're playing from behind, you don't usually get that many opportunities.
Q. Alando, Bo was talking a little bit about Ohio State's defense. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like out there going up against those guys on the defensive end, when you guys had the ball going against Ohio State's defense?
ALANDO TUCKER: It was one of those things. Early we didn't get a rhythm. We didn't establish a rhythm. A couple turnovers. On the first ten possessions we had like six or seven turnovers, and it's hard to establish a rhythm. That's usually one of the things we're good at, establishing that rhythm.
They were tough defensively. They were throwing different match ups, different zones, identifying with guys pretty well. It was tough. They played tough. Like Coach said, they have Oden in the back, so the guards are able to push up a little more on our guards.
Q. They needed a last second shot to beat you guys at their place the last week of the season. I'm just wondering from what you've seen of them this weekend if they look any different or if they look like they're playing any differently than they were a couple weeks ago?
COACH BO RYAN: It's tough to answer that because you don't have your two days to prepare or three days. You do your thing, it's not I can't really say. I thought they played pretty well. I thought their energy was there and they were doing some things. Except for that one spurt, it looked like they caught a little bit of a lull and we caught fire some. But when you don't have those couple days to prepare and get into things, it's a little different then.
And I think what happened was the quickness of Conley with the ball and Oden being such a presence inside, there's two pretty big factors of why things turned out the way they did.
Q. Can you tell us what Steimsma and Bohannon gave you today?
COACH BO RYAN: Well, we went out there and played tough. Jason struggled with a couple decisions in the first half, but he's a guy that can score, he's a guy that can create scoring for other people. Steimsma is a guy that likes to compete. There were times where he felt he got a bad shake and he's got to learn to play through that and be stoic and tough and just keep playing.
He got his dandruff up a little bit there and was pretty active, and those are the things that he can do maybe if given a chance.
It's tough sometimes for big guys. You know, everything they do doesn't look as fluid maybe as some other guys. I'm sure some of the looks on Oden's face when he was called for fouls and when Greg was called, it looked like a surprise, but you have to just kind of play through that, and Greg did a good job. He was active. I like the fact that he came to mix it up a little bit.
Q. Do you feel that Wisconsin is still deserving of a No. 1 seed, and is this perhaps the best two teams the Big Ten have ever sent to the NCAA?
COACH BO RYAN: Well, I'm sure Tuck will tell you the same thing we've been saying about seeds, but go ahead.
ALANDO TUCKER: That's not on our mind. We're not focused about that. Right now we're glad that we're going to be playing, and that's the main thing. We're glad that we have another game to make up for tonight, so we're just going to see where they put us. Wherever they put us, we have to be prepared to face our next opponent.
Q. And Bo, are these the two top teams?
COACH BO RYAN: Well, you take the regular season, who were the two top teams? Who were the two teams that survived the Big Ten Tournament to get to the finals? I'll let you guys say who the two best teams were.
Q. No, I'm talking about all the years you've been associated with the Big Ten, those two tops, can you remember a better tandem, top tandem, that's going into the tournament?
COACH BO RYAN: I'm trying to remember who we played last week (laughter), and you're going to have me think of two top tens? I can't think of that right now. I really can't give you a well thought out answer, that's for sure.
Q. For Kam and Alando, six free throw attempts, against Ohio State where you struggled to get to the line, what are they doing defensively that's not allowing you to get those free throws?
ALANDO TUCKER: It was one of those things that Coach mentioned earlier, for most of the game we were trying to play from behind, so it was kind of hard on a lot of the looks. We were taking a lot of jump shots for the most part because that's what was available. That's what was open at the time. We were still trying to work on establishing an inside presence, but it's one of those things. It's tough playing a team like that from behind.
Q. If Ohio State was able to play at a faster pace than they were able to play in the previous two games against you guys and how much you think that might have helped them today that they were able to play faster.
KAMMRON TAYLOR: Well, they have a lot of athletes on that team and they like to get up and down. I think the first two times that we played them we kind of controlled that, and we let it get away from us. Today we allowed them to get out and get on a break and it caught up with us.
COACH BO RYAN: It was the turnovers that gave them more possessions. If you're turning the ball over the way we were, they're going to get more possessions and quicker possessions because that just leads to something at the other end.
Once we played five on five, I thought our half court defense was pretty good for the most part. It was a lot of some bad decisions.
Q. Just from this weekend, what do you think you guys gained from this that you can take into the tournament?
KAMMRON TAYLOR: Well, I think besides the game today, I think we did a pretty good job defensively, and we did a better job in our first two games of just taking care of the ball. When we do a good job of taking care of the ball, we put ourselves in good positions to win the game.
Besides the game today, I feel overall our decision making got a lot better. But it got away from us today.
COACH BO RYAN: That's pretty much stating the obvious. You can't give teams those opportunities. I mean, all the energy it took for us to get back there those couple times, how many times can you do that? How many times can you dig? The best thing to do is to not get into that hole. We had the lead at our place, and then at their place we stayed within striking distance or had a slight lead. You keep beating a dead horse, though. It's take care of the ball, you don't put yourself in that position. Pretty simple.
Q. Going along with the pace of the game question, can you talk about the night Conley had, 18 points, 10 assists. How big was he in setting the tone for Ohio State?
KAMMRON TAYLOR: Well, he's the key to the team. He runs the show. He did a great job of doing that tonight.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up with any remaining questions for Coach Ryan.
Q. You've mentioned the turnovers a few times and decision making. Was that the root of most of the turnovers or was there something else, too, maybe the way they were playing or some other things?
COACH BO RYAN: Well, I always thought that if I made a bad pass, I didn't make a good decision because I always take ownership. You'd have to ask the players if it was just a bad decision.
Q. What's the chance of Butch joining you all in the tournament?
COACH BO RYAN: I don't know. He's rehabbing, though. They worked him down here. So we'll see.
Q. You can't say 50/50 or anything?
COACH BO RYAN: I can't. I think it's illegal for me to say that.
Q. Are you serious?
COACH BO RYAN: Yeah. We just had a videotape on wagering that all the players and everybody had to see and sign the form, and you're getting me into this 50/50 stuff. We're hoping. We're hoping that something good can happen.
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