March 14, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with Illinois. We'll start with an opening statement from coach.
JOHN GROCE: Obviously a tale of two halves here. I thought that defensively we were really good in the first half. Maybe as good as we have defended in a long time. Thought we were really locked in.
I thought they then flipped that switch on us in the second half and were able to get stops, kind of get us out of rhythm a little bit. Certainly credit them for that. They made some plays.
But at the end of the day, and I've always said this, at tournament time you got to try to grind and guys got to make plays. You have to have some toughness.
Obviously Brandon's shot was a big shot. And then the possession where we got multiple offensive rebounds that led to some opportunities where D.J. ended up making the three was just as big as well.
So our last two possessions there we found a way. It's fitting that two seniors in Brandon and D.J. made those plays. But the offensive rebound effort was also tremendous by our guys on the possession that led to D.J.'s three. It put us in a position where we had a chance to win the game.
I'm happy for these guys and obviously now we get a chance to move on and play a really, really good Indiana team tomorrow at 11.
THE MODERATOR: Questions of Brandon and D.J. Raise your hand.
Q. D.J., can you take us through that second to last possession and what was going through your mind?
D.J. RICHARDSON: My teammates found me. I kept shooting. I'm a shooter, I keep shooting. That's what coach wants me to do. I didn't think about how I was shooting, I just thought about how it was going to fall. I knew it was a big shot for us.
Q. Brandon, was there any thought of passing on the last play?
BRANDON PAUL: In those situations you got to see what the defense gives you. I've been in those situations before where the defense is flexing me, I hit an open jumper to win the game and stuff like that. But basically letting them come out, I saw I had some space, so I let the shot go with the buzzer winding down.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRANDON PAUL: We knew they were going to make their runs. We didn't want our offense to affect our defense. There was a stretch where we weren't playing any defense, but we were scoring. So we were trading baskets back and forth and that's one thing we can't do is to trade baskets and expect them to miss.
So we got it up on the defensive end and we had some good offense. Our bigs were there keeping the ball alive and they got us the shots.
Q. 25 points on 10-16 shooting, your mindset going in this game today?
BRANDON PAUL: I didn't want to lose. We worked too hard. This team has so much character and the coaching staff, they got us right for this one, as they do for all the games. So my mindset was to be aggressive. Coach talked to me to just stay aggressive. And I was aggressive the last few days, the last game at Ohio State. Coach Groce let me know.
So I basically wanted to attack on offense and at the same time do other things such as rebound. And I'm more excited about I didn't turn the ball over today. So that's another step moving forward.
Q. D.J., can you talk about staying confident when you're missing shots going through the game. You started out 1 12 and then you hit some big ones. Talk about what's going through your mind.
D.J. RICHARDSON: I've been in situations like that my whole career. I don't let it affect me. I'm going to keep shooting and make plays. I did a good job on defense. I didn't let that affect me on defense and I made some good plays on defense. But I'm going to keep shooting no matter what. That's my role for the team. And it worked out that I made a big shot for us.
Q. Brandon, how important is it for you guys to have that edge right now? You're probably in the tournament already, but to have that edge right now in this tournament to kind of prepare for that.
BRANDON PAUL: We're preparing for the next game. We got Indiana next and we have a mindset that this is it for us. Especially for our seniors, we got to play, go out with a bang. So we, our focus right now is on the Big Ten tournament and our next opponent. So we got to fuel up, get a lot of liquids in us, and just get ready for the next one.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRANDON PAUL: We didn't want to come in and lose three in a row. And I think we fought the whole game. Our mindset was that we finished everything. So obviously we had a good start to the first half, got a little sloppy with it, guys started getting more fancy. So coach got into us and let us know that it's not over yet. We have been in those situations. We went down at halftime down nine and we came back.
We knew they were going to make their run. And we knew we had to continue to stay poised and make plays. And that's what the Big Ten tournament is all about is making plays.
Q. D.J., talk about Sam's defensive play in this game. Obviously he forced the turnover to set up the game winner?
D.J. RICHARDSON: Sam does a lot of things that don't show up on the stat sheet. He's been doing a great job on the offensive rebounds. He can guard one through five. He's been doing a good job for us the whole year.
That was a big play for us. It set the game up. Some of our seniors made some big plays down the stretch. They gave us the opportunity, they gave Brandon the opportunity to make that last shot. So Sam made a big play for us also on the defensive end as well.
Q. Are you excited to get another shot at Indiana?
D.J. RICHARDSON: I'm ready to keep playing this tournament. I'm blessed to play against these type of teams. There's a lot of good teams in the Big Ten. We don't we're going to treat Indiana like we treat the rest of the teams in the Big Ten, take it one game at a time. We'll have scouting tonight and get a lot of fluids in us and get prepared for tomorrow.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRANDON PAUL: My parents mean a lot. They told us that they were going to head out to Darius's game. And I love them with all my heart. They do a lot for us. And I'll probably see them again tomorrow. They're super parents.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for coach.
Q. You had two timeouts there at the end, chose to just let Brandon go. Talk about that decision.
JOHN GROCE: Well, Dustin and I were talking about it there on the bench. I was about 50/50, to be honest, whether I was going to call one or not. But at the end of the day I kind of knew what I wanted to go with there. And so we, I didn't want to give them a chance really to make any type of defensive adjustment. We just decided to ride with it.
The big thing that we were trying to do there is make sure he didn't go between five and seven on the game clock. We wanted to make sure that we got the last shot and worst case scenario go to overtime. Obviously he made a big play.
Q. This series was a tale of three different games. You won at their place, they won at your place. What was neutralizing factor today?
JOHN GROCE: Well I thought for us it was interesting, I was really worried about the glass and they did a good job on the glass. They got us, they were 38 for 26 in the rebound margin.
But if you look at the offensive rebounds, they had 11, we had 12.
And then we had six turnovers to their 19.
So that was the huge thing going into the game was not to try to lose the possession battle, because that's where they're really good. They're great on the glass. His teams are always very aggressive. They force turnovers. They're good on the, as I say, good on rebounding.
When that happened, making an extra possession, we were doing the best job we could to limit that. But I thought our ability to take care of the ball was probably the difference today.
Q. In the second half I think it was 8 to 1 fouls. You guys had 8, Minnesota had 1. You had a pretty long conversation with one of the referees during the timeout.
JOHN GROCE: It wasn't really about that, about the number. Those guys have a job to do. If they see a foul, they call a foul. Their job is not to even things out. We have great officials in our league. Mine was more about a specific play I was talking to them about.
Q. The Gophers turned the ball over four times on inbounds plays in the second half. Did you see something coming in that you thought you could exploit?
JOHN GROCE: We work on that a lot. That's something, it's a very important part of our system. And there in special situations, inbounds situations, late in the game, I thought our defense was as good or maybe better than our offense on those inbounds situations. So I thought that's a very astute point. I thought that was a huge part of our ability to ultimately win the game.
Q. Heading to Indiana what can you expect from that game tomorrow and how they're playing tomorrow?
JOHN GROCE: I'll know more with when I get with Dustin. Dustin has the scouting report. He can inform me what they have done between when we played them last and now.
But for us right now total focus was on today's game. And D.J.'s exactly right, we have taken it one game at a time. We have not tried to advance our thought any further than that. So here in the next couple hours I'll maybe have some more thoughts on that game specifically.
Q. How much poise does your preparation and your seniors give them in games like this?
JOHN GROCE: I think it's huge. Obviously we played against a lot of really good basketball teams in league. I thought we played a tremendous non conference schedule, played some really good teams there. Home, away, neutral.
We have been in so many different types of environments. You add that, the X factor of experience, because we play a lot of seniors, I think that's helpful as well. And I do think that helps in terms of being poised. Kind of staying the course and trying to play the full 40 minutes and I thought our guys did that today.
Q. You guys were the aggressors most of the first half. Second half Minnesota stole that. Take me through what you saw at that point, possession wise?
JOHN GROCE: I saw great effort, guys making plays, keeping the ball alive, and then D.J. makes the big shot. But I would agree with you, I thought that, certainly not to take anything away from them, but I thought we were the aggressor in the first half. I thought they had probably a little bit of an edge in physical disposition in the second half.
We had some possessions on offense that were not what we wanted, but I'll give them credit. They defended their tails off in the second half. They did. It was hard to get good shots against them.
Fortunately, late in the game, we were able to make a few plays late in the game.
Q. 16 seconds left and the timeout before the inbounds you put your hand on Sam's shoulder and had a conversation. What was that about?
JOHN GROCE: That's between me and him. Just encouraging him. We were doing something defensively there once it was in bounded and I wanted to make sure that he and I were on the same page.
Q. You said throughout the season that the seniors try hard every night. What does it mean coming in, meeting these guys, forming relationships with them, to see them go out like this?
JOHN GROCE: Well, obviously, we have still got basketball to play. We're going to continue to take it one day at a time.
But I was happy for them. They made plays. D.J. and Sam made a huge play, forcing the turnover on the sideline.
I'm happy for those guys. They have been through an awful lot. And I'm really proud of their resilience. I said that as soon as season two ended. That they're aware that some people had written them off. I think that put a chip on their shoulder. It does, if you're a competitor.
And they responded very well in the second half of Big Ten play. And today I think that their mindset of being poised and the way they talked to one another in timeouts, our body language was really good. Those intangible things mean as much as anything in terms of being able to get the outcome we got today. Now you're able to make some of those plays because your mind is right.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
JOHN GROCE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take an opening statement from coach.
TUBBY SMITH: It's disappointing. I thought we did some things after we over came the first half. We fought and gave ourselves a chance. But in the end we just didn't get the stops that we needed.
You got to commend Illinois. They kept their composure and they made a big shot at the end. And that's what it takes.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes right here.
Q. For Andre, do you guys go into Selection Sunday feeling like you're in the tournament or do you think it's a situation where you're sweating it out and feel like you could have done a lot more than that?
ANDRE HOLLINS: It's not a feeling that you want to go into the Selection Sunday feeling. We haven't played our best basketball in the past three games.
I mean, we want to have faith. We have a pretty good resume. We have a good RPI. So we're just going in it's not a feeling that you like to go in with on a loss.
AUSTIN HOLLINS: I think Andre said it best. It's not a feeling you want to have going into it, but you have to stay confident and hope that we can get in.
We still feel like we can, with our RPI, our strength of schedule and everything. But it's out of our hands at this point.
Q. On the last possession, do you feel like you were fouled on the side there?
AUSTIN HOLLINS: I thought maybe I got pushed a little bit, but I can't, I can't say that that caused anything. The game went the way it did. It was out of my hands what happened the rest of the way. Whether they make the call or didn't. And we just got to move on.
We were in there throughout the whole game. There were some calls that should have been called or shouldn't have been called on both sides, so.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse the student athletes and take questions for coach.
Q. Coach, out of bounds play at the end of the game. They said Austin [Hollins] stepped on the line. How does your team respond when something like that happens? It seems like defensively they could have made a key stop and extended the game.
TUBBY SMITH: You're right, we had many opportunities there to kind of put the game, not necessarily away, but, you know, three or four offensive rebounds there when they made the three.
We ran a shot out of bounds play that we were hoping to get the ball in the hands of a better shooter and Trevor [Mbakwe] was screening across for him. They took away the pass. They did a good job of putting a big guy on the ball there.
So you got to search and fake and try to find a way to pass around it. And what happened was, looking back on it, I think Rodney [Williams Jr.], I mean Austin, came open earlier, but by the time he got closer to the sideline, it was a little late.
But we also had some other people coming back to the ball and that didn't happen. But, again, you got to be strong with the ball.
He's right, I haven't seen the replay, but obviously when you come to the ball, you want to come and do a jump shot and be strong with it, be physical. It didn't happen. We turned it over 19 times and we just had a real issue with taking care of the basketball.
Q. Same question I asked of the players, at this point do you feel like your team has done enough to be in the tournament?
TUBBY SMITH: We'll be wondering and hoping. We have had our chances to, for the last three games, and we really haven't shot the ball well. That's been one of our problems.
Even in this game, we do a good job defensively, we shoot 40 percent, they shoot 32 percent, hold them to 24. So we just got to find some offensive firepower.
But I think we, as I said, we have a good resume. We haven't played well of late, but when you look at the entire body of work, I think we have done enough. But it's not up to us. It will be interesting to me. It will be a sweat it out type of thing.
Q. Obviously with Austin [Hollins] he had one of his best games. Did you say anything to him personally after the game?
TUBBY SMITH: Keep your head up. I don't know. I didn't know what happened, and like he said, there are a lot of things that the one play doesn't cost you the game.
We had a number of opportunities in that previous possession when Illinois had, I don't know, it might have been like three or four offensive rebounds and they finally made the three to tie it.
And then we just couldn't seem to handle the ball very well, as we had the whole game. When you turn the ball over 19 times, it puts a lot of pressure on you to stop people. And it was too much pressure for us defensively, I guess. Because of our offense, our lack of ball possession, ball control, and execution.
Q. Do you feel like that this game kind of embodies the team, the way they have been this year? They come out with this aggressiveness and then don't do much at all in the first half.
TUBBY SMITH: We have one of the things we were hoping from the beginning of the season is that if we had a deeper bench, that we would be able to use it. It would be very, very productive for us.
And that hasn't been the case lately. We got quality minutes out of Andre [Hollins] and Austin [Hollins] though. It kind of epitomized what we, the way our play has been so erratic, so up and down, so inconsistent. We have been taking care of the ball better the last few games and we tried to simplify our offense today and be more of a ball possession type of game. And just like you saw, the guys fumbled the ball a little bit. I don't know what was happening. Rodney [Williams Jr.] fumbled a few. It seemed like we just couldn't and you're right, this is what has been going on for the last for awhile.
I know they want to play well, they want to play together. We got a good group of guys. We just haven't had that take charge, I got it under control, I'm in control here type thing, type person.
We have to do it collectively too. We had some real breakdowns out there. But today we over came that from a standpoint that we shot the ball better in the second half. But, yeah, that's kind of the way the season's been. This game is kind of typical of that. Not finishing. Same thing happened at our place. We had a possession there and we turned it over against Illinois.
Q. The first half you got into a situation again where there was foul trouble and you had to sit some guys for the entire half.
TUBBY SMITH: We were going to put him back in. But Austin, I mean, Austin was in foul trouble too. It was just a bad, bad foul. He finished with three fouls, so Austin only finished with two. We wanted to get him back in the game for the defensive aggressiveness.
Q. Did you think about putting Austin back as well? I mean, you obviously told him, you know, he's one of the star players.
TUBBY SMITH: We probably could have put him back in there and stopped the bleeding. But again, I have faith in our guys that are coming off the bench, I have faith in them, but belief in themselves is two different things. We got to continue to work on that. Looking back on it, I probably should have played them both.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you very much.