March 15, 2013
COACH MATTA: Well, we got off to a slow start. I thought once we focused in and got our minds where they needed to be, we were very effective, especially with the defense. Second half, shooting 77 percent, we had a better pace to our offense, which was what we needed.
You know, I thought our bench did a great job coming in and getting us ready. Our contributing, Shannon [Scott] was good at the start; Q [LaQuinton Ross] came in, banged some shots there. And honestly, just a great team win for Ohio State.
Q. Coach Miles from Nebraska mentioned last night after their game that one of the good things they have done this year is not turn the ball over much and I don't think that you guys turned them over a lot in the first two games this year. Why was there such a difference tonight?
AARON CRAFT: After that first four minutes where they were kind of shooting any shot they wanted and knocking any shot down, we just went back to playing Ohio State defense and that's when we are at our best.
When we can keep guys in front us to make them make more decisions than they are used to and normal to, I think that's when guys tend to make poor decisions, kind of throw back passes and things like that, that always helps.
Q. Deshaun, Thad said, once we got our minds into the game, in the first timeout, he was really doing a lot of screaming at you. Did you not feel like you were into the game maybe the way you should have been at the start?
DESHAUN THOMAS: No, it was -- I don't think I was. You know, I took a bad shot early. Didn't run a play all the way through, and then I scored on. But Coach grabbed me, took me, out and my teammates and my coaches -- just calm down, get your mind right and things going to come to you and just relax.
And in the course of the game, everything was flowing. Got a couple easy buckets down low. Teammates got a couple passes; hit [Aaron] Craft on a three, and that's when you have your game right. Your game right you got stops and steals and our offense got clicking.
Q. Deshaun, what was going through your mind when you were sitting out that early? You haven't been benched that early in a long, long time.
DESHAUN THOMAS: Actually, I was just cheering on my teammates. Sam [Thompson] got an easy bucket to the lay in and I was just thinking about getting my mind right, that's what I was thinking on the bench, and that's what I did, and cheering on my teammates.
Q. Aaron, what happens to the other team when Shannon [Scott] checks in and all of a sudden seems like the temperature in the building goes up about 80 degrees? Do you see a different look on their face or do they get panicked when they have to go against both of you out there?
AARON CRAFT: I don't think you see too much but you can definitely tell the energy level rises. I hope I did it -- that's how I was when I was a freshman when I was doing it but I don't think I was doing it as well as Shannon is.
He did a phenomenal job coming in and really getting us going. It wasn't just the defense either. He hit a big pull-up and hit another big three which really got us going and that's awesome and that's something that all great teams need, that little lift off the bench to get us going.
Q. Aaron, you always hear people say, they would be great -- get a couple days off when you see that first timeout and -- get the impression that's not really something that you think is a consideration? I'm just wondering, is Thad's demeanor during these games, is that one reason why you guys are really successful in this tournament?
AARON CRAFT: Obviously that really stems from the top and comes down. Coach is one of the biggest competitors that I know. Whatever it is, if we are in a game, we are going to play as well as we can hopefully and we are going to try to win. We are not here to just kind of have fun and be in a new city.
We try to come in and prepare just like any other game, and we want to -- you know, this is an opportunity to hopefully put another banner up in the gym and that's the way to look at it, trying to take it one game at a time and hopefully we can be there at the end again.
Q. This isn't the first time coach has had to light in you guys to get you guys kick started; why is it that it maybe takes you a few minutes to get going?
AARON CRAFT: We are just trying to make sure that coach is into the game really. (Laughter) We don't want him to be sleeping on the sidelines early, either, because we know if we can get him going, he's going to get us going. That's really worked out well for us. (Laughing).
But no, it's on us. I think we have done a better job recently of getting ourselves ready to go and it's been a while since we've played in a new environment and things like that. But we don't have any more excuses.
We have a big game tomorrow against whoever we play. It's going to be a tough battle. We can't afford to not be ready to go at the beginning, otherwise, maybe we won't be able to come back.
Q. For either one of you guys, it was mentioned coming in here that I don't think Illinois has played on this floor in this shooting environment. You guys didn't have a chance at a shootaround, you were out early but you couldn't touch the balls until an hour before tip. What did you think, did it take getting used to, and when you shoot 77 percent in the second half, I guess you like this place now.
DESHAUN THOMAS: Well, I mean, you know, we didn't have enough time to get in early to shoot. But I mean, we are all basketball players. We know we've got to take our shooting really serious and we feel kind of comfortable.
The one thing that we did out there, we shared the ball as a team and we hit the right spots and we knocked down the jumpers. Q [LaQuinton Ross] came in, [Aaron] Craft had one at the top. Sam Thompson had a great shooting night. But we feel kind of comfortable. This is what we love and we take shooting very serious.
Q. With the way that Shannon [Scott] comes in and impacts games five minutes or whenever you choose to put him in, obviously there are a lot of people out there that wonder why you don't start him. Do you just like -- do you think it's more beneficial to you guys the way he changes the tempo in midstream rather than trying to set it from the beginning?
COACH MATTA: I do. And I had kind of used Shannon as a starter in terms of -- especially the way he's played over the last month. I love having something coming in that, I don't want to say is game changing, but it's a different look for Ohio State. There's a different pace. There's a different tempo.
You know, he's really settled into that position here lately. And you know, he has a great understanding of what he needs to do when he comes into the basketball game. I think one of the biggest things I've seen with Shannon is just his communication skills in terms of he comes in, he feels like he's running the team and couldn't be happier with how he's playing right now.
Q. How does the Big Ten Tournament prepare you for the NCAA Tournament and your thoughts on just the conference this year and how dominating they have been?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think the biggest difference between the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament is you have so much familiarity with who you're playing. If Iowa would knock off Michigan State tonight, we only played them once this year but our guys still have a pretty good understanding.
A lot of the tape that you watch leading into games, it's all Big Ten tape, if you will; where you get to the NCAA Tournament, if you don't know your opponents very well, now you've got a little bit more time to prepare. We didn't know until last night who we were going to play.
In terms of the Big Ten this year, I think it's as good as I've seen it. I think you've got great players, you've got great coaches, you've got great fans. When we finished on Sunday, I was exhausted after 18 games. It wears you down. But it's exciting when you walk in and you know that you're going against the best.
I think that's kind of the beauty and that's why I don't ever look too far ahead. Our next opponent, I don't know who we play through the season, because just I don't want to get freaked out thinking about it.
Q. Going back to the first timeout, what was going through your mind, you looked pretty angry.
COACH MATTA: Yeah, it was déjà vu. We have notoriously started our first game like this, and the thing is, I would try the best that I could to warn our guys that this could happen.
You know, I felt like we needed a timeout to say, hey, this is what I was talking about last night in the final meeting; it's what I talked about this morning after the film session, if you're not ready to go, you're going to get embarrassed and we were getting embarrassed out there in terms of -- and quite often, it was just the little things that we weren't doing that was bothering me.
We had 18 hours to prepare and these things were important and we didn't do them to start the game. Our body language wasn't good. Guys were complaining and you know, it just -- we're not good enough to play like that.
Q. Is this team different than some of your other teams? You've had a few of these, isn't the first time you've had to get these guys going, or is that the same with all your teams?
COACH MATTA: It's probably the same. I mean, I can take you back stories of Big Ten Tournaments of screaming at Greg Oden one time; to screaming a timeout, my gum landed off David Lighty's leg which kind of broke the mood of what I was doing. But I say that, you know, it's at that stage.
And what happens I think is guys sitting in the hotel all day long, and they look and there's games going on, guys that are analyzing every single situation. Maybe they get filmed a little too good and they forget what they are good at and that was probably the gist of my timeout in terms of just reminding them of who we were and how we have to play.
Q. You started on that 26-5 run there at the start of the second half. The importance of that separation and giving the guys -- the fact that they didn't have to play a full 40 minutes?
COACH MATTA: That's one of the things we talked about at halftime. We felt like trying to start the second half, with as much as we have -- because we knew Nebraska, you look at from where they have started to where they were to end the season, [Nebraska head coach] Tim [Miles] has done a phenomenal job of bringing this team along. He made some changes, and we told our guys at halftime, they have got to come at you. You know, it's all on the line for them. Let's answer the call.
And I thought the start of the second half was big for us.
Q. I just wondered, with Sam [Thompson] coming back to his hometown, if you had any inkling he was going to shoot like this tonight.
COACH MATTA: I did, because we drove him by Whitney Young High School today right by the gymnasium and everyone pointed to it for him. It was on the way.
I don't know, Sam has been a steady this season, and I've always said this, when he takes his shots, he can leave out of Ohio State as one of the greatest that ever played here.
COACH MILES: Congratulations to Ohio State. I thought we had a good start. Just couldn't get the clock to run fast enough to get out of that first half. But have to credit Ohio State. That defensive pressure made all the difference.
Q. Brandon, was the turnover thing kind of puzzling? You know they play good defense but you guys have just not had those in clusters like that, was it confusing or puzzling?
BRANDON UBEL: It was definitely something that that's kind of what the game came down to was us not handling the pressure well. You know, kind of being loose with the ball at times; it ended up costing us the game.
Obviously it's frustrating when you're turning the ball over and they are turning that into buckets on the other end. We just weren't tight with our games, and you know, kind of let that pressure get to us a little bit.
Q. Shavon, Ohio State in the second half only missed five shots from the floor. Is that one of those cases where they were just red shot, or was it a combination of you guys having some lapses on defense as well?
SHAVON SHIELDS: I just think it was our turnovers, like Brandon said, our turnovers, they were getting wide open shots. Once you get on a roll, or once they get on a roll, they are hard to stop.
So if we would have eliminated turnovers, I think we played them well in the halfcourt. But once they got in transition, that kind of killed us.
Q. Brandon, maybe just reflect a little bit on the season and what you guys were able to accomplish. A lot of people didn't expect a whole lot; do you feel as you leave the program you set a really good foundation?
BRANDON UBEL: I hope so. Our goal this season was to exceed other people's expectations. Obviously we expected more out of ourselves. We believed in ourselves in the locker room, but you know, we wanted to prove everybody else wrong. We did that I guess to a degree, but we definitely had higher aspirations than what we came out with.
But I think as the season went on, we were playing better and better basketball. You know, everybody on the team came to practice every day and wanted to get better. I think you saw that as the season went on. Hopefully that will carry on to the next season and the next season, and guys like Shavon will kind of carry the torch and keep building on what we started.
Q. Coach, Ohio State got those three free throws at the end right before the half. Did you feel like that could potentially be a turning point in the game, especially with how Ohio State came out to start the second half?
COACH MILES: Yeah, we had Shavon with two fouls, so we didn't want to risk a third.
So we put a young guy in there, and he went down and he traveled on one end and I think he was trying to make up for it on the other end and just have to let that play go, just have to have amnesia sometimes. That was a critical play; it hurt us.
But at the same time, we kind of did it to ourselves to start the second half. Their ability to get in transition and hurt us off their defensive pressure was the key to the game.
Q. When you look back at the entire season, is it safe to say your team exceeded expectations, your expectations?
COACH MILES: I want what the seniors wanted. Those guys wanted to play in the postseason, and it's that simple.
You know, we have to build our own tradition, our own expectation. If we sit here and say, oh, it's okay, we had a pretty good year, because everybody thought we maybe exceeded expectation, we are just digging our own grave.
We don't live in that world. That's not our language. We are going to build our own future, our own tradition. And those guys wanted to play postseason, and like Brandon said, we fell short.
Q. The fatigue factor, mentally or physically or both, was that evident in the second half?
COACH MILES: I thought the Ohio State factor was a bigger factor than anything. Those guys are really quick. They can put a lot of pressure on you and make it difficult for you to play. I think that was the deal.
Q. If you wouldn't mind, just talk about the year you got from Ray [Gallegos] and his emergence, in a lot of ways, he became the Big Ten's 'Ironman.'
COACH MILES: He did. I think he's ready for any triathlete in the world at this point in time.
Ray, I just kept saying, take him out, but he never looks tired. I always found somebody else that looked a little tired.
But Ray just competed as well as he could. He gave us everything that you could ask for. He's a great kid. He wants to do so well and just he'll miss two shots in a row and just breaks his heart.
You see it in his eyes and his body language, and yet we are making him, you know, raw screen constantly, guard some of the best players in the Big Ten, and do it without any breaks and don't make any mistakes while you're at it, right. That's a lot to expect out of a young guy.
Q. Can you just talk about the conference itself, the calibre of play, the style of play, the competitiveness.
COACH MILES: Well, I just glanced at it, so don't hold me to the math, but it looked like today, if you didn't include the Huskers, the average win was about 24 wins out of these teams. That's pretty impressive stuff with seven of those teams that's a lot of wins. You know, we were holding down the mean.
But it's a phenomenal league. I think it's only getting better. I watched today, and I was just Sam Thompson. I think he's just developed and improved. He didn't look as good shooting the ball earlier in the year as he does now; every time he jumped up, it looked like it was going to go in.
And when you look at that athleticism and that quickness and those things, and now you throw a great three point shooter on top of it, and if he can develop that consistently, and put up more volume; his numbers are solid, but doesn't have a lot of them to go by, wow, what an element a guy like that has. And he's, you know, an elite player on that team in a way, so pretty amazing league.
Q. You often hear this time of year coaches talk about how they can hardly wait until next season when their season comes to an end. As you sit up there tonight, is that your mindset, just going with the fact of what you saw here towards the end of the year?
COACH MILES: I'm excited about our future, there's no doubt about it. I think we've got some talent on the way.
But, you know, we've got a lot of work to do to replace the heart and soul of this group, and that's what we lost with Dylan Talley, Brandon Ubel, André Almeida and we lost a lot of veteran leadership.
So we are going to have to develop some of that. That's going to take some time, and it could come at a cost, I don't think there's any question about it. But I'm looking forward to improving our program and I think we have guys that are really invested.
One neat thing I thought you saw in a lot of Husker home games this year is we had three guys red shirting at the end of the berth up cheering every play and up into the games and want to go support their teams and they gave us their best shot in practice too, and we needed that. There's some bright things but we are going to miss these guys, too.