Ohio State-Michigan State postgame quotes

March 14, 2009

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THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the Ohio State contingent. Coach Matta, if you'd open up with a few comments. We'll take questions for the players and finish up with Coach.

COACH MATTA: Tremendous win for our guys, very proud of them. I think in the first half our defense was active, it was good, but the key was the rebounding. We did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.

I thought we took good shots. We lost our minds there a little bit in transition on a couple of possessions, turned it over and we had numbers.

But I think at halftime the big key was telling them to keep rebounding. Obviously we gave up 16 in the second half, so they didn't listen to that as well as they should have. But for us today the key was getting the ball in the right guys' hands and making plays and shots.

The beauty of this team, Will kind of led us there in the first half and ended up with one point in the second half and ET (Turner) was scoreless. Jon was as steady as he can be, and this was a great team win for us.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Evan or Jon.

Q. How can you describe the aggressiveness and toughness that the team has played with these first two games compared to the way maybe that you played down the stretch defensively especially? It looked like a bit of a different team.

EVAN TURNER: I just think we're really focused right now. We focused on what it takes to beat a great team like Michigan State. We know to win this game we had to play tough. Our focus was being tough. Coach said toughness and rebounding is going to win this game, and that's what we were trying to do.

We just came together. This was a good team win all around. We all keyed in for 40 minutes to play hard.

Q. You were scoreless at halftime, what did you do different in the second half to get your game going?

EVAN TURNER: I made baskets, obviously, but Coach called some pretty good numbers, pretty good calls for me to get me open and let me create, but also my teammates were hitting jump shots which opened stuff up.

And at the beginning of the game they were focused on me a lot, Michigan State was. And as my teammates made more shots, then we were an all around offensive threat just as a team and it just made things way easier for me.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about how good of a shooter Jon is and some of the shots he makes? You guys can't be surprised to see that.

EVAN TURNER: I'm not surprised. When I first met Jon I was like a junior in high school. We were getting ready to play versus each other in AAU. And my coach said this is going to be by far the best 3 point shooter in your life.

Once I seen that, I think every shot he shoots is going to go up, it's going to go in. He's just such a good shooter. He works on it. That's what he's known for and he just has confidence, he has great confidence in his shot and looks the same every time he shoots it.

Q. Could both of you guys comment on the play of your big guys, both of them were really active. Looked like you were looking for them. They were playing some offense and getting a lot of rebounds and blocking shots?

JON DIEBLER: When they're a force inside, we're a totally different team. These last two games, I think B.J., Dallas, and even when Kyle has been in, and even when Evan has been in the post, when we establish the inside game, it's hard to defend us because we have a lot of weapons on the outside, guys who can shoot and Evan who can create for himself and other guys.

I think they take it upon themselves to be a source inside and that's really helped us a lot.

EVAN TURNER: Just the second thing, I think Dallas has done a great job setting the tone which gives B.J. energy as he comes off the bench. When we have a presence down low in the paint, it makes the game way different. And it helps out a lot and, once again, it's an all around team game and makes us a better team.

Q. Jon, you talked a little bit about this the other day before you came here, part of getting those big guys involved is hitting them with the pass off the pick and roll. You guys seemed to be doing that a lot more and a lot better in this tournament than you did at times during the season, what's been the difference there?

JON DIEBLER: I think just how the teams are guarding us right now. Usually when we come off a curl, the teams are showing hard on the guy curling and the bigs are doing a nice job of opening to the ball, to the basket and we're finding them.

And, again, I think they've worked extremely hard on getting us open. When they do that, I think they're seeing the rewards, because we'll get it to them and they're finishing really well around the basket right now.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks guys. Questions for Coach.

Q. Same question I asked Evan about. They're too young to know this, but this isn't the first time your team has seemed to transform itself into something different at the start of the tournament season. How can you explain what happens or maybe is it something in the way you coach teams going into a tournament versus for a long season?

COACH MATTA: I really hold back throughout the course no. (Smiling) I think that you look and I said this yesterday. You look at all the Big Ten teams, I think we've all gotten better throughout the course of the season, without a doubt.

For our guys, the motivational tactics and all that stuff, there really isn't a whole lot of that for them. And like I said, we go into film last night, they were attentive to exactly what we were going to do. We didn't have a practice this morning. We didn't walk through in the hotel; it was more of a pause, you should be here, pause.

And I think those guys are starting to come together. I think the other thing is these guys are growing together as a team, which I've been very pleased from dating back to June 16th when they all got there and kind of the commitment they've made. But when you're this young and really a lot of the teams we've had here with the exception of the first two years have been really young.

So I think you're going to see that hopefully we'll see that improve as we keep moving forward. But I don't think there's anything magical that we've done in that regard. And a lot of luck. Michigan State didn't shoot the ball particularly well for us.

Q. Just wondering now with you guys beating Michigan State, the league champions in five of the six big leagues have been beaten before they made it to the finals in the tournament. What's that say about this season and maybe what's to come in the NCAA Tournament?

COACH MATTA: I think it speaks of the parity across the board in every league. I think I've always said this in conference tournaments. It takes a team to kind of get on a roll and get going. If somebody's capable of doing that, they can become hard to beat. It takes an eight minute stretch to open up a game, and legs and depth and all that stuff, foul trouble, becomes very crucial in that regard.

I think as you move forward, I've always said this, you get in the NCAA Tournament, the cream will always rise. You'll have a guy or a team make a run here or there, but you get a little more prep time in between and guys get a little bit more rest. So usually your best four out of six teams will be where they're supposed to be.

Q. Have you emphasized getting the ball down low more or is that is that just happening because of the way they're playing you?

COACH MATTA: A little bit of both. We have been screaming to get it in there. But those guys have it's a two fold situation. We can look in there. We can pass in there. But they've got to be in a position of where they can do something when they get it. And it's one thing, going back to Bob's question, that this team's gotten better out of understanding, hey, don't throw this guy the ball when he's posting here. Don't give it to him. And we tell him not to.

And before there's a lot of times where we're feeding it and they're posting it at 16 feet. We don't want that situation because I know what the result is going to be, and we actual saw it a time or two today.

But then hopefully we're getting better, I think, and now 30 whatever games that the execution and the timing's a little bit better as well.

Q. How has your defense changed here at the end of the season and how is it different today compared with the last time you played Michigan State?

COACH MATTA: I think we have a little bit better understanding of roles and actions that are coming at us and I think we're just a little bit more used to it. When our defense was at its prime this year, we had Evan up top and Dave was down low and that gave us a 6 9 wingspan up top and a guy that had a motor along the bottom that helped us.

A guy like William Buford, you look at the progress he's made defensively throughout the course of the season. At times it appears he's made none. But, believe me, he's made tremendous strides defensively, and I think Jeremie and P.J. up there have really kind of developed an understanding of what they're supposed to do.

Q. Evan talked about the calls you made in the second half to try to free him up there. At times before that happened, it looked like they had three guys guarding him at the foul line. I don't think you'll be playing Michigan State again this season, but what did you do, if you can talk about it?

COACH MATTA: They do a great job of putting three on the ball off the passer, off the screener, and really tried to move him a little bit higher. And to their credit, and Evan even said it, we made some shots because they were helping off of Jon in the first half, getting the ball moving I think helped us. Once we got Evan to understand, if they're going to put three up there, just get it swung and good things, which then opened up the post for us a little bit as well.

Q. Talk about the difference that B.J. yesterday obviously kind of struggled a little bit with fouls and so forth, how much more he contributed today?

COACH MATTA: He did a better job finishing around the basket. Both he and Dallas. The thing I liked is he went up and he's got a tendency to play volleyball every now and then on defensive rebounding and he goes with one hand and tries to hit it and got on him on a timeout and got a big rebound with two hands.

I thought both he and Dallas did a better job of challenging when those guys were driving in, they were more of a force of challenging shots. And you see he got out, ran the floor, was just a little bit more active. He gave us everything he had there in that stretch from the 15 to 10 or whatever, and we got him a blow, and I think that always helps him and sometimes I don't recognize it. I'm glad I saw it today and we were able to get those guys in and out of there.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.


THE MODERATOR: We'll have Coach Izzo make an opening comment. We'll do questions for players and finish with questions for Coach.

COACH IZZO: I'm trying to decide am I more disappointed with us or more impressed with the way they shot the ball, but I just didn't think we played our our defense wasn't as good and that's been pretty good. And our offense, we thought early we had some good shots and we didn't make them. And we missed a lot of free throws, missed a lot of shots. They made a lot of shots. Better team won today.

So disappointing, because I don't think we gave it our best shot. But at the same time we looked a little tired out there. And we're going to go home and regroup and see if we can make another run.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the players.

Q. Travis, can you just talk about what they did to your defense today and why you guys seemed to have so much trouble, giving up open shots?

TRAVIS WALTON: First off, they did a great job executing. They made shots pretty much. They came off, cut us hard. And our coaches, like always, give us a great scouting report how to guard them and what we should do, what our business should do and what our guards should do.

Today it was on the players. We didn't execute the game plan out. Coach said you've got to give credit to them because if you are open you've got to make that shot. We had some open looks and we didn't make ours and they made theirs. So they played the full 40 minutes. Even when we made our run in the first half and the second half, they made shots, players made free throws also for them. So it was a good game for them.

Q. Following up on that, did the jump shots they made in the first half kind of change what you guys were doing in the second half, and open some things up on the drive for them?

TRAVIS WALTON: No, not really. I think we kind of stuck to our game plan, but you're making game shots you've got to change it up a little bit. You want to press up on them a little bit. I think when we did press up on them, Evan Turner wasn't creating problems for us early in the second half. He started the second half he had some good buckets and we started to have to help out on him, which we was kind of afraid of early on, but he didn't do that early.

Like I said, they made shots. Diebler made big shots and Buford had a great first half hit one or two shots in the second half. But, like I said, you've got to take your hats off to that whole team, because from Lauderdale to Turner, they all did a great job today.

Q. Travis, you mentioned that Evan wasn't getting his shots early in the first half, what was the defense then in the second?

TRAVIS WALTON: I think he started to attack even more. He started to pass the ball, create for other people. And as you create for other people, then it opens up for you. So early on he was creating and passing and often getting other people's shots. And you couldn't cheat off him as much.

In the second half, the start of the second half he kind of drove into the hole and he got a couple easy baskets. And he also got to the free throw line and made some free throws.

Q. Goran, you said yesterday you think the best basketball is still ahead of this team going into tournament play. What encourages you about this group despite a loss like this?

GORAN SUTON: Coach said it's not how good you are and how good you play, but we've been up and down, but at times we play some of the best basketball. And I think if we can really buy in and do what we're supposed to do, we can really step our game up and make a run in the tournament.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. Tom, with you guys losing, North Carolina lost, the league champions in five of the six major conferences have lost before even making it to the finals of their conference tournament, does that indicate this is going to be a wide open NCAA Tournament, or is there something to be made from that?

COACH IZZO: You know, I'm not sure. I don't know what other teams go through at this time of the year. I've been a 1 seed in this tournament and a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament three or four times.

And each time it seemed like something different happened. As I've said, I've been a 1 seed and gone to a Final Four and been a 5 seed and made it to a Final Four. So I think it's the ability to stay focused when things happen. And sometimes the end of the year accolades come and different things come and I think everybody wonders why coaches are paranoid. It's hard to be 18, 19, and 20 anymore. And there's so much exposure and so many things happen that keeping focused I think is the key. And those that can keep their teams the most focused have success.

I did not think we played that well yesterday. And I did not think we played very well today. And so I don't know how North Carolina played. I watched some games the other night and saw how some teams played. Nobody's looked unbeatable, if that's your question to me. But my eyeball is through the TV. It's not there in person.

But I was surprised by some of the losses and some of the tournaments and I'm sure those guys are sitting there surprised at some of the ones in this. To me this is not totally surprising. I did not think there was a big margin even though we won the league by four games. I did not think there was a big margin between first and ninth as we proved by getting beat by ninth at home.

But nationwide I think parity is here to stay, guys. I think it is. I think anybody can beat anybody on a given night.

Q. Following up on that, did you detect any lack of focus coming into the game?

COACH IZZO: For our media, I've been concerned about our instability, and I called it a lot of different words. Some probably wrong words. But I think I've said I did not think we were a smooth team even though we kind of battled our way through some things. And it's been for a couple of reasons. We just haven't been able to get a rotation down, and that was one.

And I think the other one is you know when you're struggling we're awfully young. Durrell Summers, we need Durrell Summers and sometimes when young guys struggle, they don't handle it as well as veterans that struggle. So have I detected some things? Well, sure, but in talking to other coaches, I think everybody's detecting something all over the country, as Pat said, nobody's teams that we thought were invincible have gotten beat on a regular basis.

So we weren't one of those that we thought are invincible, and I'm just disappointed we didn't play better. But I would agree with Travis: Ohio State really made some shots and played awfully well.

Q. Coach, although I'm sure you're pleased with how much depth you have, is it getting to a point where you'd like to see more consistent and productive play from guys like Kalin and Raymar, your other starters?

COACH IZZO: No question, I think that's very important in tournament time. You have to have some guys you can rely on. And I still feel for Raymar in some ways, because he's battling back, but along with when you miss time, you lose your confidence in your shot and doesn't matter even if you're Travis Walton, everybody wants to be able to make shots.

I really thought today and this takes nothing away but I thought in the first half we had a lot of good shots. I thought the second half we didn't have nearly as many good looks. The first half I thought we had a lot of good shots and they just didn't go down. Even Kalin had some good shots in the second but they just didn't go down. When we had a chance to cut it down, we just didn't make the right free throws.

You need consistency out of your best players, there's no question about it.

Q. Tom, you've been talking about time possibly running out on this team. How nervous are you getting that you aren't building to the peak you should be at this time of the year?

COACH IZZO: I'm not nervous, because it is what it is. I've said that the whole season. You can't just snap your fingers and expect something to change that hasn't progressed in the right fashion. But I'm not sure a lot of other teams aren't in the same boat.

We still have a couple of things to our advantage. We normally check very well. We normally rebound very well. We almost always have depth. We still can play big, small, slow or fast. Those things will be like everybody, you always look forward to the NCAA Tournament more than your conference. We've played some of these guys three times and they know what gum you're chewing just like you know what gum they're chewing.

And I think that's going to help everybody in every conference, to be honest with you. The more publicity you get, the more games on TV, the better the scouting is and the better people know you, and I think that has something to do with why games are a little crazier and a little tougher.

Q. You mentioned just in the past about how you needed Allen and Summers down the stretch to really get that together, and neither one of them were there today. How much, again, does that prove the importance of having them do things in this case?

COACH IZZO: I think you remember Diebler, last year or early this year, was missing every shot and today he made a lot of shots. You need your shooters to shoot well always. I was pleased with how Allen [played] other than his shooting. I mean, his defense is getting better, he's going to the boards, he's starting to do the things we need him to do. But he missed some shots and he missed some good shots. He took a couple bad ones late.

For the most part, I had no problem with most of the shots taken. We just missed them. I watch him make every shot in practice. I watch him make every shot in shoot around and Durrell has been struggling and he was the guy on fire for half the year, half the Big Ten season. That's the way it works.

And, remember, those guys are still young. We're in an era where we think a sophomore is old because everybody should be leaving school. That's the rare air, the rare breed that do that; most guys have to mature. And I think we have some guys that have to do that.

Q. When you go into halftime and you're only down by five and Turner hasn't scored at all, is that a confidence booster at that point or are you more worried that he's going to go off at some point?

COACH IZZO: I wasn't worried that he was going to go off. We had a good game plan on him. I think Travis was right, we didn't change everything. But I do think we have to extend ourselves in the second half when we got behind.

I thought a critical I don't know what the score was, seven or eight, when their 3 point play they got underneath when Suton, I thought, had a charge. And then once he got to 10, I think we started extending, which is right up Evan Turner's alley, because we didn't do it the first half and I thought we shut him down.

But I agree with Travis, too, that I think Turner did more the second half, but they could put the ball in his hands and just let him dribble because there wasn't the same necessity to maybe score at a more rapid pace. So I think it was a combination of both. He was more aggressive, but we did extend a little bit more. We had no choice, just because of the way they were playing.

Q. You're plus-6 on the boards, plus-10 on points in the paint, plus-4 off turnovers, plus-1 on fast-break and plus-7 off the bench and you lose by 12. What

COACH IZZO: Probably should have been more than that. Fifteen turnovers, that's one, and we just missed shots. Chris was I think 2 for 11. I think he had some pretty good shots. I guess we only had 10 turnovers. So I can't use that one.

I mean, we were 27 for 71, 38 percent. I think that kind of says it all, because when you do that you get more chance at offensive rebounds, things like that.

But we do have to play better and the NCAA Tournament's another chance. I'd be remiss if I didn't try to straighten out ESPN that if you talk to any of our writers, I'm not pleading or begging anybody for a 1, 2 or 3 seed in it; in fact, I could care less what we get. I'm shocked of how that took a life of its own when you could talk to any writer in here and I've said all along that I said we don't even deserve a No. 1 seed. Now we've made it easy on them. But more importantly it's not like we're the only team that struggles once in a while.

There's teams with better players that are struggling once in a while. And my job in the next week is going to be to see if we can get our guys back together. You shouldn't be judged on one game on a plus or a minus. The way this in and out has changed, one game seems to make a difference in 30.

I mean, not for us but I think some of the teams that are going to lose out because of one win or one loss in the tournament, that almost seems ridiculous. I think Jay Bilas had it right today when I listened to him, why should one game I don't mean it for us I'm talking about some guys I feel for right now, guys in our own league, you earn your mettle over time, and we've earned our mettle.

We've had a hell of a year. I'd like to finish it off by making a deep run in the tournament and we're going to see if we can do that. So thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.