March 13, 2014
COACH MATTA: Well, as I told these guys walking out, it's good to see us win one of these ugly games. We've been in this position, couldn't finish them out. We didn't play as well as we wanted to today and I give Purdue all the credit for that. I thought they played hard, and especially the second half. For about the first, I don't know, 15 minutes, they beat us up a little bit in terms of loose balls, that sort of thing.
But guys made some big plays down the stretch, and were able to get out of here with a win and play again tomorrow.
Q. Aaron, you've played in an awful lot of these grinder type of games, but they say it's difficult to beat the same team, especially from the same conference, three times in one year. I won't use the word -- were you kind of leery of that or fearful of that, but did you figure Purdue would give you a difficult battle because it is tough to beat somebody three times?
AARON CRAFT: You know, that's just how we play Purdue, like every time we play them. We know they're going to come out and play hard and play physical. And if you've got a guy like A.J. inside, that always makes it tough on us. We don't play against guys that want to sit in the post as much as he does. Like Coach said, it was good to find a way, whatever it may have been, even dodged a bullet at the end with that shot he took.
It feels good, and hopefully -- we obviously have to play better tomorrow, but we have to rejuvenate ourselves and try to find a way to get better.
Q. LaQuinton, you've obviously been taking your offense a lot closer to the basket. Are you doing that consciously? I noticed today there were a couple times when it looked like you had a three and you still took it in and shot it.
LAQUINTON ROSS: I think it's all about match ups. Most of the guys that have been guarding me lately have been pretty small, and I've been able to take advantage of my size. I think it's all about match ups, depending on who's guarding me at the time.
Q. Aaron, Thad mentioned how this isn't the first type of -- this type of game that you guys have been in, and I'm wondering, earlier in the season maybe, were you guys more nervous when it came down to the end like it has so many times, and now are you just comfortable with it and just go with it?
AARON CRAFT: I wouldn't say too nervous. I think there definitely were times we've played a little tentative down the stretch. We've been in a couple of games like this where you turn the ball over a little bit more than you think you should, and everyone is kind of just doing what they want.
It's finding a way, and, hopefully, those games we played earlier in the year have helped us to this point, especially if we get another game like that. It doesn't matter how ugly the game is at this point, it's all about trying to find a way to keep playing, and luckily we're able to do that again.
Q. LaQuinton, you've had some pretty good games against Purdue, 19 points, 15 rebounds today. Is it a match up thing? Did it just work out that way? Talk about the boards you got, 15 rebounds.
LAQUINTON ROSS: I think it's just how it worked out. Purdue is a team that you know they're going to play physical every game, and they try to beat you up every game, especially with Hammond and some of other guys they got, having multiple men come off the bench. And I just take it upon myself to try to rebound in these types of games, especially since we're not that big of a team. It's, like, Amir is 6'11" and the next tallest person to me is 6'8". That's basically it.
Q. Aaron, I'll ask you since this is your fourth year in this tournament: It seems like the team's first game in this tournament every year always goes like this. Does it seem the same way to you?
AARON CRAFT: It has been that way. This is now my fourth Big Ten Tournament, and luckily in the past, we've done a better job the next game when we come out. But that doesn't mean we're going to do that this year. It's a different year, and we need to take it upon ourselves to find a way to get ready. And it's going to be a quick turnaround for us, obviously, so hopefully our young bodies can take it, and we've just got to move forward.
Q. Aaron, what do you remember most about Nebraska's guard play with Tai Webster and Benny Parker coming off the bench? What do you remember about those two guys?
AARON CRAFT: I think the biggest thing they do is they do their role very well. Webster did a good job the second time we played them at their place of getting to the rim rather easily. And that kind of loosened them up going forward, and it really kind of opened our defense up, and that wasn't something he did the first game, so you've got to be ready.
I think Parker is playing much better now that he knows he's the guy they're going to. It's got to be a big defensive game for us. They've got bigs that can shoot the ball, and obviously Petteway and Shields, who are playing great basketball right now. It's going to be a big team defensive effort for us.
Q. LaQuinton, the team's offensive struggles have been obvious to everybody. Have you taken it upon yourself -- I mean, you're the guy, probably the most natural scorer. Have you decided that you needed to score more? You seemed to do a lot of that today, seemed to be on that kind of wavelength.
LAQUINTON ROSS: I mean, we've had our ups and downs this year on offense, and I just try to do my part, that's it. If you look at a couple games this year, we have different people step up in every game whether it's Sam, whether it's Craft, Lenzelle. Everybody had big games this year, so I think it's all about people doing their part on offense. When we have pace and rhythm to our offense, there's nobody that can stop us.
Q. Thad, 15 lead changes, and the biggest lead for you was seven, biggest lead for them was six. Is this the kind of game you expect in this league, this year, no matter who you're playing? It just seemed like neither team could shake the other.
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I didn't like the way we started the game in terms of just the baskets we were giving them. I think at halftime 10 of their 12 points were right at the rim, or 10 of their 12 makes were right at the rim. And we made some ridiculous mental mistakes defensively, and we didn't do a good job taking care of the basketball. I think nine turnovers in the first half. As Bob even said -- and we talked about as a staff -- every year for 10 years, this game has just been -- it's been tough.
Hopefully, we can relax and think a little bit better and play a little bit better tomorrow.
Q. You just answered my question, so I'll ask you another one. The question I asked Aaron about the guys being more comfortable in this situation, I wonder, from early in the season to now if you've noticed a difference maybe in huddles the last eight minutes of the game, whether it be confidence or whatever?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, you know, it's funny because we talk about that. Early on today we didn't have -- I didn't feel that energy that we wanted, that we needed. Second half I thought they did a pretty decent job with that, guys talking it through, this is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to do it, more engaged. We executed a lot of timeouts, a little bit better offensively. But we just -- some of the plays we made, especially in the first half, we just kind of like, boy, that's uncharacteristic of him or whatever it was. As hard as it is, we've got to pick ourselves and get ready to go again tomorrow.
Q. Have you encouraged LaQuinton to go closer to the basket? Seems like for a while now he's been playing a lot closer to the basket.
COACH MATTA: I think one of the biggest things, and this has become almost throughout the Big Ten, the switching that takes place, and he touched on it, a lot of times it's predicated on match ups. Last Sunday against Michigan State, I said, Q, you're going to have to shoot a three point shot here in the second, and he comes out and bangs that big three for us.
You know, he's got to, I think, continue to read where things are. I thought his decision making his pretty good today. I give him credit; he stuck with it and finished through a lot of contact down there and really even when he missed he found the ball and got some put backs with six offensive rebounds. He did a good job of that.
Q is stronger than he looks. He does have some pretty good strength to him.
Q. It's been about two months since that second Nebraska game when they were able to beat you. Is that the same formula Nebraska is using now, and have you been watching a lot of their games?
COACH MATTA: You know, I really haven't. I haven't seen them a whole lot now. Obviously I'll shift over there, but no, I think as Aaron said, they're on a roll right now. They are playing great basketball, and obviously Shields and Petteway are doing a good job. They've got guys that can stretch the defense, they're shooting the ball well. I think they're playing as well as anybody in the country right now.
Q. I just want to be sure the timeout that you called at 2.8 after he made the -- after Ronnie Johnson made the first free throw, you knew what they were going to do with the intentional miss, and you just wanted to get everything set up?
COACH MATTA: Yeah. We talked about them intentionally missing, and we also talked about quick inbounding because I had another time out left, and we were going to go as quick as we could to get it in. But yeah, I mean, what a unique play because Lenzelle said, he goes, it's off me. So then we were able to kind of set what we were going to do next.
Q. You seemed to have an ongoing dialogue with one of the officials, and you were awarded a timeout that I don't believe you called. Did you get any further explanation on that?
COACH MATTA: No. Here's what happened: And Mike probably did the right thing, but I said, at 15 I'm going to call timeout, and as soon as he heard me say "timeout," he called timeout, and I was like, no, not yet. He heard timeout. He did the right thing, yes.
COACH PAINTER: Obviously I thought it was a disappointing loss for us. It was a well-fought game. I thought we did some really good things in the first half defensively but simply couldn't rebound the basketball. And they dominated us on the glass in the second half. We challenged them at halftime to flip it on them. And our guys did that.
We out-rebounded them by 11 in the second half and really made some good plays.
I think for us I thought our effort was pretty good and this has kind of been what we've been able to do at times is we've been able to play hard. And when we play really hard, we don't play smart. You're not going to beat Ohio State with 17 turnovers. So at the end of it, you would like to have a handful or more possessions than we had.
And we had some unforced errors that got us. But I don't doubt our guys. I thought our effort was good tonight.
We weren't able to consistently this year play hard and play smart at the same time and those are two constants in the game you have to do if you're going to have a good team.
Q. Terone, I know your career wasn't as great as you like. Do you think with the new guys coming in you can get it going in the right direction? And what's it going to have to take?
TERONE JOHNSON: Yeah, I definitely think we can. We've said that after each loss each time we talked to the media the talent was there in the room. Those guys are going to have to be consistent with listening to Coach, listening to the leaders and just putting together runs and playing hard all of the time. I think that's something that Coach is going to get them to do, get them rounded up to do.
Q. Terone, just take me through that last shot and then, kind of what sunk in afterwards?
TERONE JOHNSON: We just called the play. We ran the play a couple of times during the game. But basically I just come out the down screen from A.J. We knew it was one second on the clock, so I could have a dribble. But I thought I had enough space to get the shot off to win the game. You know, it looked good when it was going up. I really couldn't see if it went in or not, but it missed.
Q. AJ, you played a career-high 38 minutes tonight, you didn't foul out. You had four fouls throughout the end of the game. How was that playing so much and just making such a big impact?
A.J. HAMMONS: It was just trying to get my men on the boards really, but I just need to play a little bit harder and after the four fouls I just had to play smart because Coach was telling me sometimes you got to give some stuff up so I gave up a couple shots, but really just tried to alter shots.
Q. Matt, in each of the three games against Ohio State, within, you know, ten, nine, eight minute marks each time, the game was there to be won. A little different in each scenario. You had a chance at the end of the game. What has it been about these three games just finishing? Is it their experience?
COACH PAINTER: Well, I thought the first two games, it was our turnovers led to a lot of fast break points. Here we had the turnovers, but they didn't get fast break points. I'd have to go back and look maybe at the type of turnover we were having. Sometimes we just don't throw it directly to them, you double dribble or you travel and you throw it in the stands.
The score doesn't change. It's not a good thing but the score still doesn't change. They were converting the turnovers and the points. Tonight we had the turnovers. They weren't converting them into points. They only had six points off of 17 turnovers. Which is really, really low for 17 turnovers. So we were fortunate in that regard. I really thought if we would have had 17 turnovers we would not be in the game.
So, you know, they didn't shoot well from the field. Some guys on their team had high scoring nights, but they had to take 21 shots to get 19 points. They had to take 16 shots to get 16 points. So I thought our defense was pretty good, but I just thought the difference at the end of the day is we turned the ball over too much.
I don't like talking about what other people did when we don't do some basic things. You leave this game and you have eight turnovers and you lose the game to make you feel better about yourself. But when you have 17 turnovers you feel like you beat yourself. That's how I always feel when we turn it over too much.
Q. Coach, do you have any thoughts on that last play, go inside for A.J. for two or were you going for the win?
COACH PAINTER: The thing that they do if you watched Ohio State is they put their center on the ball so it's very difficult to go over the top of Amir Williams and then you got to put some size taking it out. So we did the best we could with Kendall Stephens there.
We were going to set a simple screen. A lot of times when you get in those situations with one second you can overthink yourself and it gets away from you and all of a sudden you don't get a shot at all. The worst thing you can do in that situation is not get a shot.
We were going to set a simple screen with them. If they wanted to switch, then we were going to go over the top. That was our second option. But if they weren't, we were going to take our rhythm three to win the game.
Q. Matt, you talked about how seldom it was that you could get this team to play smart and hard at the same time. For a coach, how frustrating is that and what can you try to do to change that?
COACH PAINTER: Get better decision-makers. You got to take the guys that you already have and get them to make better decisions, keeping working with them. It's a game of repetition. We got to do a better job of playing fast and under control. Then you got to recruit guys, you know, that can make a better decision.
Two years ago we were the number one team in the country with the fewest turnovers. So this is a big changing of the guard for us from a personnel standpoint. I don't care who you are, but if you don't give yourself a chance, you're going to end up losing basketball games. We simply didn't give ourselves a chance this year because we turned the ball over too much.
Q. Matt, I know you have been reluctant to talk about, with the regular season still going on, the Big Ten Tournament, but just for the record would you
COACH PAINTER: No.
Q. That was it? You're done?
Q. Coach, Kendall on one of two threes made today, Kendall making one and tying it at 54 all, a big play for the Boilermakers, then Ronnie right before halftime, I think about a minute and a half or so you pulled him off of the bench, he made a couple of big plays. And then also Ronnie getting that ball and taking the full length of the court. About a minute and a half to go in the ball game and cutting the lead down to one. So good moments in the ball game and some bright spots for the Boilermakers. Just your comments on that?
COACH PAINTER: We were able to make some plays and be able to do some things today. I told our guys I didn't doubt their efforts, and our last game of the season I did doubt their effort. I didn't think we played hard as a group. We had a couple of individuals play hard, but as a group I didn't think we played very hard.
But, you know, it's not good enough. Basketball games, it's one of those threes you're talking about we banked in, so we must be living right somewhat. But we just have to be more consistent. We got to take care of the basketball.
I know I keep getting back to it, but that's the game. That is a constant in the game that you have to be able to do. We got to make improvements next year on that.
Q. You mentioned the turnovers a couple of times, but Ronnie had seven turnovers, 12 points, three assists, he got it in the paint, found A.J. a few times. You know, it comes back to the turnovers again. What did you think of his day overall?
COACH PAINTER: I thought, you know, he did some good things for us. He has the ability with his speed to break people down and to put us in situations that others can't. But he has to be able to take care of the basketball as your point guard.