March 12, 2011
COACH MATTA: Well, obviously a great win for us. I thought our guys, we battled through foul trouble there in the first half. Jordan (Sibert) and Deshaun (Thomas) came in and really did a good job. Our defense, again, I thought was pretty good, but when you make mistakes against a team like Michigan, they make you pay, and they got us a couple times in that regard. But once again, I thought this was a collectively just a great team win for our program. You look, and a guy like Dave Lighty, four years, tomorrow will be going into his fourth Big Ten championship game. Will is three for three, Jon has got three. I'm proud of these guys.
Q. Will, on that 16 0 run you had six straight points there. Were you motivated with the mix up with (Jordan) Morgan at the end?
WILLIAM BUFORD: A little bit. We were just being competitive, my teammates were able to give me the ball in the spots where I could knock them down and they were just falling for me.
Q. Will, your first half was kind of a continuation of yesterday, and I wondered what besides maybe that little incident there, what lit you up in the second half?
WILLIAM BUFORD: Just staying in attack mode, trying to be aggressive. In the first half I felt like I got looks, they just wasn't falling. That was about it. In the second half I just tried to be more aggressive.
Q. How tough is it to beat a team like that three times? They're a tough kind of scrappy squad, come at you a bunch of different ways, but to beat them three times has got to be really hard?
JON DIEBLER: Michigan is a very good basketball team. What makes them dangerous is they shoot a lot of threes and they've got a lot of good shooters. Obviously with (Darius) Morris running the point, he really sets up their players a lot. Obviously, like you said, beating a team three times is tough because usually teams try to pick up on what the other team is doing. I think for the most part we executed both offensively and defensively tonight.
Q. Jon, after Aaron (Craft) and Dave went out in the first half with the fouls, you kind of played like a senior is expected to play. Was anything different going through your mind during that time when they weren't on the court than you're usually thinking in the first half of a game?
JON DIEBLER: Not really. I think things just really opened up, especially the driving lanes. You know, a lot of teams, coach told me, especially them, they were going to stay home when I was driving, so I was just fortunate enough to finish at the basket. But with Jared (Sullinger) down there, obviously they're going to stay home on him and Will on the wing.
But I think the biggest key was when those two were out with foul trouble, Jordan and Deshaun came in and played excellent for us. So we're going to stick to our game plan regardless of who's on the court, and I think we did that.
Q. Will, you both have talked about how the two guys came in off the bench and helped, but when Lighty and Craft were out, that put a lot of pressure on you defensively against (Tim) Hardaway (Jr.). Do you feel like you sort of stepped up in that situation?
WILLIAM BUFORD: I feel like we all did. Like you said, Jordan and Deshaun, they came in and played pretty good defense. And me and Jon, we just tried to keep everybody together so we can keep playing hard. I feel we played pretty aggressive. We let our guard down sometimes, but for the most part I think we did pretty good.
Q. For either of you, it seemed like you guys had a collective effort on (Zack) Novak today, had zero points until late, hit a couple of threes. Was that the goal going into the game to slow him down?
JON DIEBLER: I think when you have a shooter like Novak, you always have to be aware where he's at. I think our bigs did a great job of handling ball screens and blowing those up. It was hard for him to get open looks. We rotated extremely well when we were in scramble situations. He's a great player, he's going to make shots, but for the most part, I think we did a pretty good job on him.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about the lift that Dallas (Lauderdale) gave you there in the second half?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, tremendous. You know, it's hard when they have like five guys out there and shoot threes. I thought Dallas came in blocking shots, did a great job of using his size on the ball screen actions, and really happy for him. I thought he did a great job for us.
Q. The last four games of the regular season you kind of blew people out. In the tournament you've had two pretty close games. Does that help you get ready for next week do you think?
COACH MATTA: You know, I don't know. It's funny because somebody asked that, one of the guys yesterday. We've been in a lot of tight basketball games throughout the course of the season, and I think our guys have a pretty good understanding, appreciation of what it takes to play through those. You know, you go through 18 or 20 straight Big Ten games with the competition and that sort of thing, you're going to run into those. But I think our guys for the most part have done a very good job of handling the situation that's been thrown at them.
Q. I just wondered what you and the team felt like to be up four points at halftime with the way the first half was played, and also as far as maybe keeping your composure, I guess, when there's a little bit of conversation going on between your bench and one of the officials.
COACH MATTA: Um, well, I thought at halftime our guys did -- I told them, I said, 'Hey, I love the position that we're in.' We were actually down, I think, at our place at halftime, and I was pleased to see Deshaun and Jordan and those guys, and you knew Dave and Aaron were going to come back in and give us a tremendous lift. I don't follow the bench.
Q. There just seemed to be a lot of disagreement going on with some of the calls, and I know you can't comment on the officiating, I just wondered if you can comment on your players' and coaches' ability to keep your composure the way the first half was played.
COACH MATTA: No, that was the big thing, telling our guys, just -- let's keep doing what we're doing, and our timeouts were more geared towards the defensive end and making sure that our focus was on the right things, and I thought they did a great job with that.
Q. At this time last year you were fighting, I think, to get a one seed. You didn't get it, but it appears right now you're going to be a one seed for sure. How much importance are you actually putting on the game tomorrow knowing that you already have that locked up?
COACH MATTA: I think from the standpoint of you get in this tournament, and quite honestly you become ultra competitive. We're going to play a really good team again tomorrow, as we have the first two games, either Penn State or Michigan State. We're going to prepare like it's the next game on the schedule because it is. And the thing I love about this team, that's sort of how they want it. That's what they do. You know, it's another opportunity to play a game, and that's the -- just sort of how I've seen their minds work all year.
Q. You mentioned before about playing all the perimeter shooters with Michigan. Facing Michigan and Northwestern, a couple of maybe unconventional styles. Does that help
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I drew the short straw -- when we drew for who we were playing, I drew the short straw in that deal.
Q. Does that help going into the NCAA Tournament where you never know what type of team you may face?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I think this: I think with the way that Northwestern's system is and Michigan's system is, it is definitely, definitely unique. It's funny, over time with some of the teams we've had, we've actually seen teams come in and try to simulate that type of system, and they don't come close. So hopefully someone is going to look at those tapes and say, 'Hey, we need to put the Northwestern offense in or the Michigan offense in on a two day prep.' We would welcome that.
But with that said, I think that you look and we'll build our guys up off of that as saying, hey, if we can guard that stuff at the level we've guarded the first 80 minutes, Game 1 and Game 2, hopefully we'll be more sound defensively, because it is challenging.
Q. How valuable do you think those minutes could be that Deshaun and Jordan got today come tournament time?
COACH MATTA: Well, hopefully big. I think from the standpoint of you're constantly trying to build your bench, we are on March 12th. Those guys practice extremely hard every day, and it's funny, I always tell guys, even the guys that are playing a lot, you're getting better and you don't even know it, and that was probably a prime example today of how much improvement they've made.
COACH BEILEIN: I thought we really battled the entire game today. It's just very difficult; they're just going to get so many points just because of the effect of Jared Sullinger in the game. They just get some points that very few people in the country can get. So you have to really play a high level game in terms of efficiency.
We showed some moments today where we were still very youthful, and at the same time Ohio State is a heck of a team, and they've beat us fair and square.
Q. This is for any of you guys, but what does it say about you as a team, they have a 16 0 run against you but you come back late with under five minutes to give yourself a fighting chance at the end?
ZACK NOVAK: Yeah, I mean, it's just kind of what we've done all year, I think. There's been a couple times where we've just been knocked down, and we just keep fighting. You know, came back yesterday not in the same way, but we just -- we knew there was still a chance, so we were just going to keep fighting and see what happens.
Q. Tim, kind of on the same line, I saw one of the assistants said to you guys, you're going to remember this. How do you take that sort of run and carry that with you into a likely NCAA tournament game?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Yeah, you know, just not giving up and just playing until the final buzzer. The game is not over until it's 00:00 on the clock, and you just have to keep on fighting.
Q. Question for Stu, during the run that they made, did you feel like you guys did lose your composure a little bit and did look young for one of the first times?
STU DOUGLASS: A little bit. We might have got a little selfish offensively, didn't keep our heads mentally. But we brought it in, called a time out, brought it in and executed a little better.
Q. Zack, obviously not the way you wanted to end it, but talk about what you've accomplished going into the NCAA tournament given what people expected of you this year.
ZACK NOVAK: You know, just ever since we started practicing to go to Europe, we just believed in ourselves. So I think we just did a good job of blocking out preseason rankings and just negative talk that people were saying. We understood. We were a young team with a lot of unproven players, so there really was no reason for people to think much of us.
But I think we just -- we stuck with it, and there was times this year where we easily could have quit, but I mean, leadership on our coaching staff just kept everyone going in the right direction, and we never quit. And I think that we showed a lot of resiliency this year.
Q. You talk about valuing every possession. Was that maybe the fundamental problem during that run that they had?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, we get so amped up with -- we've got to get the ball down the floor, we didn't get many points in transition today, and we really wanted to do that. I had on the board today, you've got to know the sweet spot of making a play and being a player. And so there were some times there we just tried too hard, especially offensively, without showing probably the patience we needed to have.
Q. Talking about the NCAA tournament, everybody has you guys in now. I'm curious if you can make a case for your team where you think you should be seeded.
COACH BEILEIN: Well, I don't care. The seedings and all those things, I let everybody do those things. The only thing that -- the big thing that I would say, we finished fourth in a great conference. I have never seen the Big Ten be this strong in my four years here. Where else do you have where you have your 10th and 11th teams are drawing 15,000 to 17,000 for every game? It is tough to win on the road here. Top to bottom it's a very good conference, and we finished fourth. Forget the tie breakers and all that stuff. We finished fourth, and we got to the semifinals and played a high level schedule against a couple No. 1 seeds. Didn't win as many as we would have liked to, but I'll let the committee decide whether we've won enough.
Q. There was one stretch there where a couple of things didn't go your way. Was that just -- you talked about being way to play above things, was that just a case of your guys not being able to do that?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, when you're playing against Ohio State, you have to either make your own breaks or have some breaks and really play through that, and that's where they got on the 16 0 run. It just started with a couple tough breaks.