March 11, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We'll have Coach Matta make an opening statement, then go to questions for Aaron and Deshaun. Coach?
COACH MATTA: Well, this game definitely was about our defense. I thought that we had great activity on the ball, off the ball. Our ball screen defense was good. Our bigs were extremely active. I thought we had great communication. Challenging shots. Offensively, we got off to a great start. The ball was moving and we were able to maintain. Knew Michigan was going to run at us, and these guys countered. I thought the start to the second half was really, really big for us.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Aaron, what do you have to be most conscious of when you're guarding Trey Burke, and what were you trying to do against him? And based on his performance last night, was it kind of a personal challenge to take it on today?
AARON CRAFT: A little bit. But stopping a great player like him, especially with how he was feeling from yesterday, it was definitely a team effort tonight. And just trying to not make it about me against him because that's not what it's about. And our bigs did a great job hedging ball screens today and everyone else did a good job of zoning up and not giving easy baskets for the most part.
So it was definitely a team effort on him today much. He's a great player, but fortunately enough today, he didn't make too many shots.
Q. Aaron, after the way that I guess it took 30 odd minutes last night before you guys turned the game in your favor. How much of today did you talk about right off the jump just pouncing on them and, as you guys like to say, step on their throats and not give them any hope?
AARON CRAFT: I don't think we're that mean. But, no, I think we started off well yesterday also, and that was just what we wanted to come in to do today. Be the aggressor and don't try to just feel our way through the game and see and have all these other things kind of get in our minds.
We came in with a good game plan and we were able to execute it today, and fortunately enough we were able to do it for majority of the game. That helped us out.
Q. For Deshaun. Over the last seven or eight games, you've played it seems some of your best basketball, averaging right around 20 points a game. You had two 22 point games here in Indianapolis. Just what's really come together for you here the last three weeks or so?
DESHAUN THOMAS: Really, just working hard and listening to Coach, you know, and listening to my teammates. A great leader, Craft, and just coming in with my mind right and just be ready to play and take my pride on defense because I know the defense brings offense. And we always preach that, and so I'll just take pride in that and just try to come in and just play as hard as I can.
Q. Deshaun, building off that question on your offense, you're one of three guys on this team averaging at least 15. No one else is in double figures. How do you avoid putting pressure on yourself you create as an offensive player and get your points?
DESHAUN THOMAS: I mean, just we're a team. We got many guys who can score. One day I'll be hot, Will (Buford), or Craft. So I just try to go to the offensive glass to get easy baskets, and don't try not to throw up bad shots and just do the little things. Get the extra rebounds and extra kick outs and get it back inside.
Q. This is for Aaron and Deshaun. The team has Michigan State tomorrow. Is that a match up that you and your teammates have been looking forward to and yeah, if you could just address that?
AARON CRAFT: Yeah, they're a great basketball team and that's the type of basketball teams you want to play this time of year and we split during the regular season. So we need to get some rest tonight, figure out what we need to do for tomorrow and just try to come out and execute and play good basketball and see where it goes from there.
DESHAUN THOMAS: Well, they're a great team. We know it's going to be a battle, and we just want to come in and try to hit them first, like we've been doing for these last two games.
Q. For both players. You guys have a chance to win your third straight tournament title tomorrow. What's it say about where this program is if you can win that title tomorrow?
DESHAUN THOMAS: It's going to be history, coming in, trying to win another title, three titles in a row. It's going to be special for us and the program at Ohio State.
AARON CRAFT: I just think it goes to show the type of coach that we have and his ability to have his teams ready to go and be successful at this point in the year.
So with that said, it's definitely not going to be given to us tomorrow, so we need to come in and hopefully just try to continue to play our best basketball and see where it goes from there.
Q. For both you guys, given the quality of the league this year, does tomorrow's winner deserve a No. 1 seed and something that's important to you guys?
AARON CRAFT: The Big Ten is a really tough conference. Every team you play, you have the chance to lose if you're not ready to go. So but as for the NCAA Tournament, that's not something that we're we're not worrying about right now, we haven't talked about much either as a team or with the coaching staff.
Right now our focus is on Michigan State tomorrow and what we have to do to be successful in that game.
DESHAUN THOMAS: Well, like Craft said, we're not worried about it right now. We worry about Michigan State and getting the Big Ten title.
Q. For both players. Between yesterday and today, this looked like the Ohio State team that a lot of folks anticipated. What's been the key to this late surge and how do you all maintain this?
DESHAUN THOMAS: Just coming in being ready, staying focused, getting the rest we need. Because you know it's going to be a big game tomorrow, and just, like I said, listen to Coach and reading the scout report real well and just coming in ready.
AARON CRAFT: Yeah, just understanding it's a team game. We play our best basketball and we don't rely on one person to try to score a lot of points. And we're playing great on the defensive end, and everyone's talking, everyone's into the game. I think we're starting to understand that's where we're at our best and that's what we need to do for however many games we have left to play, just continuing to go out there, have fun, be positive with each other, and enjoy it.
Q. Deshaun, when you were in here last night, Thad told a story about how he called you Shaun until you deserved to have "D" in your name. I wondered, when is the first time you remember him saying that to you, and was that a motivation to you to improve your defense?
DESHAUN THOMAS: Honestly, I don't remember. But he always, you know, gets on me with the defense. But, I mean, in high school, one of my coaches, they took the "D" off and called me E Shaun.
So I see what Coach Matta means because I had to learn a lot coming into Ohio State, knowing that defense can win the game instead of just let not helping my teammates and not getting over there, taking the charges. So I learned a lot and thanks to Coach.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Matta.
Q. Thad, have you noticed something different about this team in recently weeks, and how much of that is attributed to what Deshaun and Jared have done?
COACH MATTA: They've obviously played a significant role in terms of this team's development. I think both guys touched on it. We have a very good togetherness right now, a very good understanding of how we want to play, what we want do, how we want do it, and I think those are the things that we've been striving for all season.
And it's good to see, over the course of the last couple weeks, just the energy and the enthusiasm this team has had. And I think it carries over to the court for us as well.
Q. Thad, all season people have kind of pointed back to that Duke game as the bar that you guys set for a 40 minute effort. Where would you put today's game as far as how this game stacked up to any other game you felt was particularly good for you this season?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I would say we'd probably be in that category only from the standpoint of what we were able to do defensively against a high powered offensive team. I mean, Michigan, you talk about a problematic offense, and we were able to blow some things up. We had active hands.
When you're playing a team that is timing is very important to them, and I thought we were able to take away a little bit of their timing just by doing two things at one time, and that was one of the things we talked about with the quick turnaround of activity on the defensive end.
Q. Coach, how important has it been the last couple of games just to have Jared Sullinger just completely impose his will early on?
COACH MATTA: Well, it's obviously been big for us, and it's good to see him get going. I know everybody's looking at 24 points today, but I thought his defense was good as it's been all season today and just his activity and got his hands on some passes. He's really taking ownership for this team.
We gave up a couple offensive rebounds. We were talking about it in the time out, and he said, "Hey, I'll get the rebound; that's my fault." And it wasn't, but he wants that right now and that's good to see. It's refreshing for me.
Q. Coach, with today's win, that means William Buford will play in the Big Ten Championship game for the fourth time in his career. What does that say about the state of this program right now and the way that you guys have been able to maintain excellence over a four year period?
COACH MATTA: I think we talked about it last night for William. That's an incredible feat when you stop and think about it, four straight years. And you look and do this because I can't count them all, all the different players that William Buford has played with in his time at Ohio State, it's amazing. So for him, and I think our program, it's obviously a great accomplishment because of this league and all the change that has transpired, all the great players, all the great coaches. I'm very, very happy for William.
Q. Obviously you got two great teams tomorrow, but you got the let's say you get to see two big men just go at it. Can you talk about what (Draymond) Green and Sullinger have meant against each other and what a special match up?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think this, and I've said this, Draymond Green has spent eight years in the Big Ten, is one of my favorite players. I think he's just he's got multiple talents in terms of what he can do to help them.
You're looking at two, I think, future NBA great players, going to be going head to head. And it's funny, we were talking this morning at pregame about, today, if you were a basketball fan, and you got a ticket to this game, you saw No. 8 versus No. 12 and No. 7 versus No. 15, it doesn't get much better for the city of Indianapolis. There's some great basketball. I think tomorrow you're kind of looking at the same type of situation.
Q. You talked about what you saw now as togetherness and understanding, and that seemingly has come together in a span of a few days between the game that you lost at home against Wisconsin and the game that you won at Northwestern. Was it just a realization on the part of these guys that, last week, there was a championship to win, this week it's a championship to win. It's one and done. Is there a greater sense of urgency with your guys now or what?
COACH MATTA: I don't know if I can put my finger exactly on how things have transpired. I do think that all good things do take time to develop, and there's a lot of times in a season where something can happen. Maybe it was Michigan State getting knocked off the Tuesday night before us.
But doing this now, I hate to say this, but for a long time, you get a sense, you get an awareness with your guys, and it can be what they're talking about, why they're talking about it, energy.
Yesterday morning at 9:00 o'clock we had a very, very high energy 30 minute shoot around. And as I talked about last night, I was eager to see how we played in terms of coming out. And hopefully we're learning.
So much of this is just the mental preparation of getting yourself ready to play. And I think Deshaun, and he touched on it, it's so important for him. Early in the season, he was using like the first five minutes to warm up of the game. And so we kind of got that corrected and told him he had to have a bead of sweat before in the starting lineups, then we knew he was ready to play.
But all guys have certain things in terms of preparation they have to do, and hopefully we can continue to learn that.
Q. Thad, Jared was talking about how those bad games he had, how he watched the films over and over and over and how painful it was, how he almost cried seeing himself play like that. Can you kind of address that? Did you see him get like a new motivation or something from the way he was playing?
COACH MATTA: Yeah. I think that I'm trying to think back. Even looking today at Game 2 against Michigan, he was looking at some of the shots that he had that didn't go down. He was looking at the defense he was playing and getting split in ball screens.
And Jared is an extremely prideful young man. And I've said this from the day he got to Ohio State. He's a winner. And Jared wants to do the things that he needs to do to help this basketball team.
And I think that when he doesn't play up to his standards, that becomes very personal to him. And probably the light went on for him in terms of knowing what we need from him on a consistent basis. And I couldn't be more pleased with the progress he's made down the stretch of the season for us.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.
COACH MATTA: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get Coach Beilein to make an opening statement then go to questions for Stu and Zack.
COACH BEILEIN: I've seen some really good teams being I think this is my 20th year as a Division I coach and played some really good games. That's as good a game as I've ever seen a college team play. Talking about Ohio obviously.
They're tremendous, the talent, and what's really good about it is they play together. There was no selfishness. They made the extra pass. They made the right plays. It was an incredible performance. And unfortunately they made us play poorly and we certainly did not have a lot of success in a lot of areas.
So proud of our kids, though. I liked that we fought. We stayed together and got humbled quite a bit, but at the same time, not the first time this year we've lost a game, and we've usually bounced back because of the type of young men we have on the team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Stu and Zack?
Q. For Stu, you guys obviously didn't play your best basketball this weekend. Do you worry about the confidence level of the team going into the tournament, and how do you turn that around and get it back?
STU DOUGLASS: No, I'm not worried at all. We bounced back after every loss. We realize what's at stake. It's good for us to experience this, what it'll take, I guess, they will take the win, and what happens when you don't play well, how you can just be blown out and your season can be ended very quickly.
We'll come back, learn a lot from it, watch film, stay focused and practice like we have been every single time after a loss like this.
Q. Stu, you just said that you guys bounced back after every loss. What is it about this team that you guys are able to do that so consistently?
STU DOUGLASS: Just the mental toughness, the mental focus, just taking the game plan, trusting coach, trusting all the assistant coaches and the game plan, and just playing Michigan basketball.
We talk about it every day. We don't try and get outside of ourselves, and we realize when we do that, when we have tough games and we lose games, we get outside of ourselves, and we pull each other back in and just focus on what's important.
But what it's coming down to, can't have these games where we'll have two great games and then the third game, we just kind of lose focus. Can't have that. So we gotta have more sense of urgency coming up when the tournament starts.
Q. Trey (Burke) was really taken out of the game. What did they do to stop him?
ZACK NOVAK: I think you gotta give (Aaron) Craft some credit there, just his on the ball defense was pretty good today. And I thought that their bigs did a good job hedging. And they just they never really let him get comfortable.
And I give Trey credit, though. He had a rough day, but by his demeanor, you couldn't tell it, and he just stayed up and he was rock solid, like he has been all year.
Q. This is your guys' first time playing two games in two days since Maui when you lost to Duke. Is fatigue a factor and is that a concern going into the tournament?
STU DOUGLASS: You know, everyone is going to get tired. They played yesterday. Whoever you're going to play has played the same amount of minutes basically, overtime games, it's the same situation for everybody. So that doesn't really play in it. It's all about the mental portion of the game, the mental toughness, and the focus we have on our game plan. A lot of stuff we kind of just have to block out.
Q. Zack, as one of the leaders on this team, how do you allow this game to drive you going into the tournament and how do you channel that into the other guys?
ZACK NOVAK: Like we've said, we've responded really well to losses and to adversity this year. I don't think we have to change our approach much on that. I think, like Stu said, the guys realize what's at stake at this time. It's March, NCAA Tournament. You can't afford to have the same little mistakes that you had in even February. It's time now to get it together and play your best basketball.
And I think we'll bounce right back. And we've got a mature group that has done that all year. So I've got no worries. We'll be all right.
Q. Do you guys think tomorrow is going to be kind of a different experience, not sitting on pins and needles all day waiting for the selection show, knowing you're in?
STU DOUGLASS: Simply, yes. It's completely different. But you have to approach it the same way. We had great success in the first game and then came back and it was a tough loss to deal with against Duke. I mean, there's going to be great teams. No matter who we play, we know it's going to be a tough test, but it's obviously a little different situation, less stressful. But we're still as anxious as ever.
ZACK NOVAK: Yeah, I think without a doubt it's different. We've been in it the last two times. I think last year we knew we were in, but we weren't exactly positive. To know that you're in now and with the team we've got, I think we're looking at this thing more like what's our match up going to be, what seed are we going to be, because we're in it to win it.
And I think in the past years we were probably in it to win a few games. We were not happy with where we were at, but we had exceeded our expectations well beyond what a lot of people thought. And this year I think we're looking at this thing and just saying with the team we've got, we've got a legit chance to make a move in this tournament and advance. And a lot of that has to do with match ups. So I know that's personally how I'll be looking at it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Beilein?
Q. Given Trey's performance yesterday, was today a bit of a humbling experience for him do you think?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, I wouldn't know if humbling is the right word. I just think it's a learning experience more than anything for him. He just continues to battle.
His performance today, his attitude was outstanding the entire time. And there's a lot involved in the intangible areas when he's playing. It's his hometown team, against the defensive player of the year. I never saw him get shook one time, and that shows about who he is.
Q. Coach, how big a factor was 45 minutes last night for Trey in today's game?
COACH BEILEIN: It could be. But Aaron Craft went 37 last night or 38 last night. So I think it had a lot to do with how we could not stop them early, their length offensively and then their gap defensively. They've got different gaps than everybody. It seems like everybody's got long arms and they can get in there. But I don't think it's a major factor.
Q. Coach, you talked about learning moments and using film to teach these guys. Is this maybe a film that you won't show them again?
COACH BEILEIN: No, we'll cut it up and we'll find some things. Because when you're playing against a team like this and, like I said, this reminds me of the teams that obviously the ball's got to bounce your way, but I'm talking about the best UConn teams, the best Syracuse teams, the best Kentucky teams, the best Florida teams. This is a heck of a team.
But there's always something we can learn from, and they showed it the other day when they won up at Michigan State. So we'll find some treasures in there somewhere, as hard as they are to look at, so that we can get better.
Q. John, you've talked about breaking the beginning of games into segments. How important is it against Ohio State to come out and get a lead or at least stay even, and how difficult was it with that 16 3 deficit that you guys started with?
COACH BEILEIN: That buried us early. We missed a couple easy ones. We didn't shoot the ball as well as we can. And I credit their length, because when they come at you, they're a little bit taller and a guy in your face. But we needed to be in there early. And they're a tough team to come back on because just Craft just runs this team with incredible poise.
He's just in command of the entire team. He looks like Brett Favre or Joe Montana or Joe Theismann, John Elway. He's just directing the drive down the field, and he does it over and over again. And they do not get bothered because of his presence.
So it's tough to come back on them. And we need to get off to a good start. But, frankly, they got just tremendous, tremendous talent and they're very well coached, and it's tough to do it.
Q. Coach, did you think Ohio State did anything different from the last two games to get Sullinger going or is it just a matter of him making shots?
COACH BEILEIN: No. I mean, he's very good. He got a little bit deeper in the post than we wanted him to do and he made some shots. His first couple ones were really tough shots that he made.
But Sullinger was one thing. Deshaun Thomas just is tremendous. I mean, he's got every bit of impact on the game as when you look at those four guys, whether it's Sullinger, whether it's Thomas, whether it's Buford, Craft, and then Lenzelle Smith knows exactly where he fits in on this team. And they've got a lot of bullets, rockets in that gun, and they use them very well.
Q. How much different will tomorrow be for you guys than it was last year at this time?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, it is interesting because we're trying to it's been exciting two of the last three years that we've been on, we were somewhat on a bubble. We were in bubble talk.
If you follow the accounts, we're not. And it will be a little bit different until the name is announced, and then we all just get to work and go. I think certainly there's not the anxiety that we had the last couple of years. Just have to be prepared for anything.
Q. Coach, there's no question about it that Trey Burke has exceeded everyone on the outside of your program with his exceptional ability to mature as the season went along, and you mentioned that today would be a good learning experience for him. Is one of those learning experiences today that when you get down like 16-3 and those segments like that, that he can't just go down, push, and do everything himself, that he's got to play within the game that's taken him there all year?
COACH BEILEIN: I think everybody on our team will learn about what we call hitting singles. You know what I mean? And he's no different. He's very young.
But when we got down early, we tried a few guys tried to be heroes at that time. We just made some plays that just if we were going to get back in that game, it was going to have to be a lot of singles being hit, a lot of just two at a time. And whether it was a fast break, a lob that we threw or just I gotta hit this 3, our kids care a lot and they want to do it certainly as fast as they can. They want to fix things. And sometimes that's our own worst enemy.
Q. Looking at the season as a whole, I think you've obviously had a reputation of being a really good offensive coach, but I think the good defense that the team has played this year kind of took everyone a little off guard. Is that something that you really put an extra emphasize on this season?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, I don't know how to answer that. I think we've always played pretty good defense, but we've probably mixed up zones a lot and created more turnovers through our defense because of the different zone looks.
We felt that this team was better suited for man to man, and we emphasized it, but we still practice about 45 minutes of defense every day, 45 minutes of offense.
Yeah, we've changed some things, and our players understand things a lot better as well. Our percentages are good. I'd like us to create more turnovers. I don't think we do enough of that to get transition baskets.
But our coaching staff and me personally grow every year in changing your approach to what makes this what's the better way to coach, how can this team grow as a team. And obviously sometimes you have importance in some areas. Defense has always been important, but we spend a lot of time on it.
Q. John, not to put too much emphasis on one play, but the fast break where Trey's coming down and Craft takes the charge, is that maybe the one turning point of the game where if Craft gets his second it goes one way and Burke gets his second it goes a different way?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, I thought that was important. We had three good officials on the game, so you gotta trust their judgment in the game. But that was probably if it had gone the other way, it would have certainly had an effect on the first half.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck.