Memphis vs. Ohio State Pregame Quotes
Memphis vs. Ohio State Pregame Quotes (Elite Eight)March 23, 2007
COACH CALIPARI: We're excited about playing. I think the team is excited. They're really, really focused today. They know how good Ohio State is, how talented they are, how big they are, how deep they are. We're talking about a team that's won 20 straight games and won them in every conceivable way, on the road, in tough environments, down 20, I mean every possible way you could win, they won. And our guys know it. So I think they were pretty prepared today to come in and say, please give us a good plan.
Q. How do you handle Greg Oden? He's had some struggles, so he's vulnerable. But what do you think?
COACH CALIPARI: I think he's very big and he's very good. And it's not just Oden, though, because you also have Conley. You have Harris, their senior, Lewis. Their back up their former point guard in Butler, experienced. I mean if you just worry about Oden you lose the game, you can't win the game. And Conley is so good getting in the lane and creating for his teammates.
Q. Coach, Coach Matta is in some regards maybe in the same spot you were in at U Massachusetts then years ago. Do you see a lot of yourself in what he's put together at Ohio State and Xavier, as well. Maybe your thoughts about him and maybe where he's gotten to in the coaching profession?
COACH CALIPARI: I'm happy for him. I helped him with the Xavier Tommy Hof, the Associate AD at Ohio State, we worked together at the University of Kansas, when they were thinking about hiring a coach we talked about that. I told him you cannot go wrong hiring that guy, he's unbelievable. Thad and I go back through those times when he was at Xavier. I just look at what he's done recruiting, what he's done to coach them. The biggest thing with Thad Matta, he is so positive it's incredible. I mean he's positive. And he wants his staff to be positive. He really is on the officials all the time I'm just kidding (laughter). He's positive about how they work throughout their practice. And that upbeat style shows through with his team.
Q. I'm wondering to what extent do you think your team has been under appreciated or underrated this season? Ohio State has this winning streak, but you have won 25 in a row, and have not gotten the notoriety they have.
COACH CALIPARI: We won three in a row. We're at three. Rod Strickland had a great thing he told me last night, we may be the first Cinderella two seed in the history of the tournament (laughter). There are a few people, if they pick us, that just absolutely are in the throws of impression. Because they picked the Germans in World War II, and I do not want them to pick us. What we have is a good bunch of guys that really respect each other that can count on each other.
I'll point out Willie Kemp, Willie is a starting point guard on the top five team in the country as a freshman, with no pressure because if he doesn't play well or doesn't make shots or is struggling, I play Andre. Andre really struggled last game and he played great. He showed his toughness, and he's fine. We were playing Nevada and I thought I needed to play Andre in the second half. I said I'm going to start Andre, and he said I'm fine. Every one of them will do whatever it takes for us to win. If that play's somebody else, they're fine with that. If that's let somebody else shoot the ball, they're fine with that. That makes this team unique. Our style of play, the offense is a combination of European basketball and a Princeton offense. You see the back cuts and the patterns we run and all that stuff. It's a combination of those two. You must be a very smart team of players to run this stuff. It's not just drive and kick. If that's what you want to think what it is, I'm fine, let's drive and kick, then. But that's not what it is. And these guys have come together as a team and it's been kind of fun to watch.
Q. This is for Joey. Joe, you wanted them and you got them, talk about your match up with Greg Oden.
JOEY DORSEY: This is a big challenge for me. I think right now I'm No. 7th in the nation of rebounding, and I don't know where Greg Oden is. I'm going to try to beat him on the offensive end, and keeping him out of the lane.
Q. Coach, there seems to be a pattern around the country of coaches, people like you, Floyd and Kruger, even out our way, you go up to the NBA for a few years and then you come back
COACH CALIPARI: You get fired, say it, you get fired. Say it.
Q. You turn these programs around really quickly.
COACH CALIPARI: Ours wasn't really quickly. This is our, what year, 7th year. I've been here when we were at U Massachusetts, I was there eight and it was year five, six, seven, really six, seven, eight that we got it going. Here it's the last two years. So it takes five years. It takes a long time.
Here's what happens, when I was in the NBA, I was a college coach. Now I'm in college, I'm an NBA coach. It's the craziest thing, I don't understand it. He coaches like he's in the NBA. And so obviously it helps us recruit. These guys love playing the style that we're playing. And I'll be honest with you, it was a great experience for me. Pro basketball is about spacing. College basketball is about moving, screening. Pro basketball is spacing. We've kind of combined the two in how we play.
Q. You were in this position last year, John, and the team went out and played a game that I don't think you thought you'd see out of them. What the heck happened then? This group seems utterly undaunted. Can you imagine them coming out like that?
COACH CALIPARI: It could happen. But last year, my last life we went to the Elite 8 and lost to Oklahoma State and Big Country and those guys and went back and expected to win and played Georgetown. They had this kid, this little guy, Iverson, and four NBA players. But we expected to win. I don't know if we're going to win, but these guys, they've all been here except this kid. They were all in the Elite 8 last year. And so the next year we go to the Final Four, but we didn't expect to you know what I mean? You need to be there and you need to experience it and then you understand it's just a ballgame.
You treat it like it's a scrimmage and you're better off. But these guys, you know, again, they understand. We have enough guys returning from last year's team. And we went 0 15. We could have shot hooks and went one for 15 from the three point line. We were 0 15.
Q. Coach, Ron Lewis said one of the reasons he thought he's been playing so well lately is because he thinks that maybe he's flown under the radar a little bit.
COACH CALIPARI: Not with us.
Q. What do you think about him and also
COACH CALIPARI: Unbelievable.
Q. Do you defend him like you did Lofton or different?
COACH CALIPARI: Not Lofton. Lofton got about 67 on us, so let's hope not. I think you have to guard him like Carter, except that he'll put it on the floor and try to go to the rim and probably is better off the bounce than Carter. But he's the same with Carter, we knew if if you watched that game last night, the time I went absolutely nuts and dropped the clipboard and spun in the air, we left Carter. We were not going to leave Carter, when he went to get a drink, we went with him. When he went to the time out, we went to half court to make sure he was going for time out. We weren't leaving him. Lewis, you better play him the same way, but it's harder, because the other guys, you have to help them a little bit. They're a challenge?
Q. You and Oden kind of had foul trouble yesterday. Are you hoping the refs drop the whistles and let you do some banging tomorrow?
JOEY DORSEY: That game yesterday was crazy. I think the guys, they fell asleep in the paint yesterday. They got in the paint and they stayed in there for about eight seconds. One time I complained to the refs, can I get a three second call. And he said no (laughter). I said I'm I think it's going to be like David and Goliath. I hope it's a good rebounding game against me and him.
Q. Do you think maybe we're making a bit too much about Oden, maybe he's a bit over rated. Do you think he's ready for the NBA?
JOEY DORSEY: He's an excellent player. He's a good shot blocker, he's a great rebounder, he needs to work on his offense a little bit. He's a great player.
Q. You've talked about guys on this team playing their roles and being good in their roles. What about the leadership roles, can you address that?
COACH CALIPARI: They're tremendous. And it's been leadership by committee. It's been a lot of leadership from a lot of different guys. And it's kind of like instead of the Buffalo mentality of Buffalo and if the Buffalo goes off the cliff everybody follows, this is kind of like the geese. One stays for while, it may be Chris Douglas, maybe it's Joey, maybe it's Andre, maybe it's Willie, we've just had a bunch of guys lead us at certain times. And that's why we've been able to string a lot of games together, because it's always been somebody if someone struggled, someone else picked up the metal. Antonio would do it, and they kind of covered for each other.
Q. The fact Oden has nine fouls in his last few games, does that give you reason that you can get him in foul trouble again. And secondly, have you noticed NCAA Tournament games being called any differently than regular season?
COACH CALIPARI: I thought yesterday's game was called pretty good under the circumstances, because that was a rough game. I thought the officials never lost control of the game. That's the most important thing. So if you asked me yesterday, as physical as it was inside, Robert was in foul trouble, Joey was in foul trouble, I still thought they controlled the game pretty good.
But you cannot coach a game to try to get a guy in foul trouble, because you'll lose the game.
COACH CALIPARI: Anytime I've ever done it, the guy has three, let's get his fourth foul, go at him. And they stop us, and now we're down 12. I may tell the guy guarding him, ball fake him, lead him, but I don't like doing that.
Q. You talked about Kemp persevering after the conference realigned. Was there a moment of dread or a moment of where do we go? Have you had to do anything differently as far as scheduling or
COACH CALIPARI: We've scheduled the best nonconference schedule we can do. Us and Gonzaga and maybe one other team had the best nonconference schedule in the country. We always want that to be us. We had a blueprint, as soon as it broke down, it was U Massachusetts, Atlantic 10. I was comfortable. I told everybody, calm down, we'll be fine. As a matter of fact we may be better. This may be better for us. We're too far away from the Big East to be the Big East. They might as well have taken Long Beach State if they had taken us. Just too much. I was fine. What we've got to do is continue to build our entire program, football, women's basketball, baseball is getting better, build the whole program so that as this realignment keeps going, and it's going to keep going, I would say in the next three to five years you'll have another break up or two in different leagues' movement, that we're primed to say, hey, football, baseball, women's basketball, basketball, that team can move if we choose. But if not, our league right now is getting better.
Next year, my prediction would be two in the NCAA, maybe three, and two in the NIT, because we've got everyone back in our league. Three teams are building practice facilities. One has just built a new building that opens next year, Central Florida. Rice, 12 million dollar improvement to their gym that gets rid of the curtain and all the other stuff. This league, what we've got to worry about is helping our league improve, but just keep on point of what we're doing. It hasn't hurt us on national television. It has not hurt our national recruiting. It hasn't hurt us in any way.
Q. What do you think it might be better?
COACH CALIPARI: Be careful what you wish for. If you try to go in a league where the other dudes are coming at you, be careful what you wish for, just look. All of a sudden you're standing there where you could have been one, two or three and our 10, 11 or 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. Wait a minute, we're going to get better next year, okay, now you're 13. We'll get better now you're 11. You go back next year, you're 13. You busted through, you're nine (laughter). I mean, we're fine. Our program is fine. If you think these guys let me just say this, in all my years of recruiting, there's only one league that ever gets brought up.
COACH CALIPARI: NBA (laughter). They ask me I don't even bring up the league, I didn't before. I never have.
Q. Chris, what is it about the group of guys that you have that you've been able to buy into and develop a chemistry and maybe overcome some inexperience and the loss of a bunch of guys to the NBA?
CHRIS DOUGLAS ROBERTS: I feel that it starts off the court. We're like a family off the court. We don't have that many friends outside of our team. We do everything together. And that carries on the court. And that leads to trust. And we really trust each other on the court. Whoever can make a play, we trust them that they can do it, no matter what time it is in the game. And that's what makes us good. And that's what makes our chemistry tight.
Q. Chris, where would you say your ankle was last night? Because the lateral movement seemed like it might have been just a little bit tougher. How are you today? Any soreness?
CHRIS DOUGLAS ROBERTS: I'm fine. It's going to be sore and I'm just staying around, but once the game gets going I am fine. I barely feel it. honestly, it really doesn't matter. Even if it's hurting a little bit, I'm not going to show it. There's no excuses when you get down to these games.
Q. John, where did you get the geese and the Buffalo? Where does that come from? And secondly, you have lately been saying can we win one more. Is that that becomes a mantra for you?
COACH CALIPARI: I think it's we're like the only ones that are saying yes. Can we win one more? And then everybody says no, absolutely not. And can we win one more? No. And that's why I'm saying it. And then the city of Memphis is like saying, absolutely. This team is saying, we can. And just trying to lay it out there for everybody to hear and see. Sometimes I wonder if it's hope or opinion. I wonder if it's hope or opinion. Smack.
Q. How big of a lift was it to see Chris back, to see Chris in the starting lineup, and making those moves?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: It was a big lift for us, but I told the papers back in Memphis, if he was 10 percent or 20 percent, he was going to play regardless of the situation. He's a competitor and wants his team to win and he would do anything for us to succeed and he did that for us by playing yesterday.
Q. Why do you think people might hope you'd lose?
COACH CALIPARI: We're not in the BCS league. We're not in the BCS league. We're not one of those schools that's supposed to do this. We're doing it with an unorthodox style. I love coming out and shooting crazy shots?
Q. You like that?
COACH CALIPARI: Kind of enjoy it (laughter).
Q. Kind of?
COACH CALIPARI: Really enjoy it (laughter).
Q. So do you think you're the one guy people in the NCAA offices don't want to see?
COACH CALIPARI: Oh, no, it's not me personally, no.
Q. You think they'd be glad to have you in the Final Four?
COACH CALIPARI: It's not even them, it's what would CBS like. They were so excited Mason made it (laughter).
Q. Back to the NCAA question, do you feel like they'd rather have anybody else or glad to have you?
COACH CALIPARI: Let me ask you I think the NCAA by putting us the two seed. Everybody said we should have been three or four. But the NCAA looked at it and had basketball people now making these decisions, that's who is making them, they're not football ADs. These are guys that coach basketball, they're from leagues that are basketball leagues, and they step in there and say no, no, they're a two seed. Not only were we a two seed, we were one of the early two seeds. We were 6th. So we were one of the early two seeds. And everybody else said they're a three or four. Now not only that we advanced, which we proved them right. So, no, I think they're being fair with us, more than fair. They made us a two seed. Last year they took crap for making us one seed. I say that more of a general, you know, sense. I don't think it has anything the NCAA, that's not an issue whatsoever.
Q. So what do you think CBS's reaction would be in you're in the Final Four?
COACH CALIPARI: There was something they told me that the team that everybody enjoys watching, they had 480,000 hits for us, and was it on one of those it was a page, which team do you enjoy watching most, 480,000 hits for Memphis. Two hundred thousand for Florida and 90 thousand for UCLA. So I'll be honest with you, I think when people watch us, they'll keep the TV on. They enjoy watching it. Wow, that's a fun style, they just get after it.
We're really trying to unleash these guys the way we play. Just go play. And they're doing it.
Q. Can Joey, Robert and Willie just comment on what you thought about when you saw Chris explode to the basket the first time and what kind of lift that might have been last night?
ROBERT DOZIER: I just knew he was ready. I thought from there on, just play hard, made some tough shots when we needed him to.
WILLIE KEMP: Yeah, I knew Chris was ready to play coming into this game because I know he wanted to win and help his team win. He just came out last night and played a great game.
JOEY DORSEY: I knew Chris was ready when he came in the huddle and told me, he said I'm ready to go. His adrenalin was pumping and he was in the flow of the game, so I knew he was ready to play.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk about as a coach how you were able to bring this team together, the team chemistry. Were there any specific ways that you were able to do this?
COACH CALIPARI: The biggest question, and they knew this, because I called them in matter of fact I met with some of them together. The question was going to be, could our support players from a year ago become stars. That was it. How many times have you seen a team lose one or two guys and the players that have to step up and start performing can't do it? They can't carry the load that those two players or that player had. And that was my biggest challenge to them. Are you going to be capable of taking the mantle and running with it, can you do that? They all said, coach, we are ready. Matter of fact it showed that they could probably have done some of this last year, but they deferred to the senior, to the juniors.
What Chris said, and I think Antonio, you recruit good guys. And if they're good guys and they have good hearts, doesn't mean they're not emotional or do dumb things, but they're goodhearted people, they'll come together. Bad guys won't. They just won't, because they're more worried about them, how they are, they don't care about a team, they break a team down. They don't care about winning, because it's what their numbers are about. We don't have that here. We don't have that. The guys we're bringing in now, Jeff Robinson just won his state title, and the two twins from Philly are playing for the state championship. Well, that's what you recruit. Now, when they come with us, he won two state championships, they won 40 games they only know winning. That's all they know is winning. And that means they're good guys, because they would not win if they if share and respect the other teammates.
Q. You had some nice plays against Acie Law, all the guards did, rotating on him. You had that memorable pressure on him as he went for that lay up. What about Ohio State's guard, especially Mike Conley? He likes to penetrate, draw fouls. How will you guys play him?
COACH CALIPARI: We haven't made a decision exactly how we're going to play him (laughter). But you can talk about him in general.
ANTONIO ANDERSON: They've got some real good guards. They all shoot pretty well. They can get in the lane pretty easily. Like coach said, we haven't went over that yet. Guys have to dig in and like coach says, that's what we have to do.
Q. I was just curious, one more thing about you can't get coach to get a guy in foul trouble. Can you remember when you did that and said I'm not going to do this again?
COACH CALIPARI: It's like prevent defense in football. It prevents you from winning. It's the same idea. You shift your whole team to that action, they all stop playing, they the official is not going to bail you out and you lean in, it's a charge. Now you get two charges and the kid scored three what are we doing, stop, just play. So I never believe me when I tell you, we are not playing the game to get him in foul trouble. I hope he fouls us in the warm up times, but we're not playing that way, we're not going to do it.
Q. I was just curious, on the final sequence last night, were you supposed to create for a specific person or just take us through how that whole scrum developed?
ANTONIO ANDERSON: Well, we were Jeremy drove and they helped a lot, kicked it out to Andre, and shot the ball and shot the ball.
Q. Have you guys kind of taken on your coach's attitude, talk about how CBS doesn't want you guys to win.
COACH CALIPARI: I don't know if they don't want us to win.
JOEY DORSEY: Seemed like every round we played we were supposed to get knocked off. We were watching ESPN to watch the highlights, they don't show us the highlights. One of coach's best friends said we were going to lose in Nevada. And we proved them wrong. They thought Acie Law was going to kill us and we stopped him. We're going to try to keep proving everyone wrong right now.
Q. John, CBS and NCAA didn't want you to lose ?
COACH CALIPARI: I didn't say that.
Q. The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce might wanted to have seen that?
COACH CALIPARI: They wanted to see us go down. There were 27 thousand Aggies in that building. They were everywhere. It was incredible. So I don't blame the Chamber of Commerce being mad. And Texas A&M deserved this game, because they won on Louisville's home court. They deserved to do it, but I'll say this, the pressure was on them, because I've been there. That thing shifted. That became like a monkey on their back. Now they're supposed to win. And we are a pretty good team. I think with Ohio State right now being what they've been ranked and doing all that, it's kind of on them now.
Q. What do you bring that Greg Oden hasn't seen before?
JOEY DORSEY: I bring intensity to the team. My leadership out there, just anticipating, playing a hard defense, helping my teammates if they get beat on the dribble or the back court, I'm there to help them. That's all I bring to the team is defense.
Antonio Anderson, Sophomore, Guard
On expectations this year & The expectations werent there at all this year because of the guys we lost last year. The guys stepped up with leadership in a lot of different ways. Everyone has their role and it has helped us get this far.
On winning against Ohio State & It is going to take a team effort like last night. When you are playing good teams like Texas A&M and Ohio State, you dont have much time to prepare. It is going to be tough for us and them to guard each other. The guys just have to go out and have the mentality we had last night. Go rebound relentlessly, play defense and see where it takes us.
On people doubting the team & It is going to take all our efforts to get a win. We beat Texas A&M and it was no big deal but had it been the other way around it would a big deal. It is going to take a lot to beat this team. They were down 20. They are young but talented but for them to come back like they did you have to respect them and how they play. It is going to take a lot for either team to get the win tomorrow.
On being the underdog & The pressure is more on them. They are the No. 1 seed, they are Ohio State and they are expected to win. We are not expected to win so we can just go out and play our game.
On advantage of playing loose.. Regardless of if we are supposed to win or not we are always going to play loose. No one is ever uptight. We all know what it takes and we are just going to try and play our game.
On biggest challenge playing Ohio State.. Rebounding will be the biggest. We all need to help Joey rebound. Besides (Greg) Oden they have other big men to rebound. It will have to be a team effort to rebound the ball.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, Sophomore, Guard
On his one versus two seeds & It is definitely going to be a good game. We are looking forward to it because we look forward to challenges. All year they have been saying how overrated we were and how bad our league is. We just want to come out and play an elite team, like Ohio State, and see where we are at.
On challenges of playing Ohio State & Just playing in an NCAA tournament against a great team. They are balanced and they go from bigs to smalls and they are all good. The age doesnt matter. Everyone tries to tell me they are young but age doesnt matter. So the challenge is just playing a good team in an NCAA tournament.
On a team is not safe with a lead against them & They are capable of coming back. They have players that will make big plays and when you have players like that, you can always come back. They can shoot the three as well.
On confidence in team making Final Four & I am very confident. We are probably the loosest team in the Elite 8. We are expected to loose every game we play for some reason. As a two-seed we are expected to loose every game for some reason. That is how we play, like we have nothing to loose because after all we are supposed to loose.
On being called upon to be a leader... It has been fine. It has worked for me. The team trusts me and it is great for a player for a coach to tell you that they want to you step into the leadership role.
On momentum gained by being the underdog... Honestsly that is what we like. We want to be the underdog all the time. We hate when we hear someone say, Memphis has a chance to win this game. We dont want that. We have been expected to loose all year and everyone thinks we are overrated. That is our good luck charm. We dont want to hear anything about us. We just want to go out there and play.
On how team spends their free time & We just stay at our house on campus. It is a big house and we call it the White House. There is nine in one house and across the street is the rest of the guys. We are always around each other.
On playing the top teams& Honestly when Ohio State was playing Xavier, Joey (Dorsey) was routing for Ohio State to win. We hadnt even played Nevada or A&M yet but he was routing for them. That is what he wanted and we are behind him no matter what he says. This is what we wanted because he wanted it so bad.
On the ankle... It is sore but I am getting treatments. By tomorrow it really doesnt matter.
Joey Dorsey, Junior, Forward
On the matchup with Greg Oden and if scouts will be watching & I think they really will be watching this game tomorrow night because its two great big men going up against each other. Im an underrated big man and hes a lot overrated as a big man. Its going to be a great rebounding game for me. Im going to try to outrebound him.
On his play and if the refs will let them play & This is the game I wanted. I also wanted the game against Nevada. Im just trying to prove Im a great rebounder, so I did want this matchup. (Will the refs let them play) I think so because everyone wants to see me and Greg Oden go against each other.
On the David vs. Goliath reference & I think its going to be David versus Goliath. I think Im going to overcome every ball. Im going to have a twenty rebound night because Coach (Calipari) said this was going to be my breakout game.
On people doubting Memphis & Everyone is still doubting us. Were just trying to prove everyone wrong. We want to prove Conference USA does have a good team in Memphis.
On Greg Oden and his style of play... We watched tape this morning and last night and hes a lot like me. If he gets his head out of the game, he easily can pick up a couple of fouls. Then he stops playing and then he picks up a foul trying to play too hard.
On the number one seed playing the number two seed.. Every game Ive said I wanted to play a tough team because they say our Conference is so weak. I wanted to play every tough team in our bracket that we played. Thats what we wanted...one versus two.
If they are feeling any pressure... We arent feeling a lot of pressure because everyone is underrating us in this game. A lot of pressure is on the other team.
Robert Dozier, So., Forward
On his improved play as of late& I dont know what it is, I guess Im just not ready to go home yet. The guys want to win, so I knew I had to come with it and be a difference for this team and come out and play.
On last years trip to the Elite 8 and the loss to UCLA& Man we just didnt shoot the ball that night. I mean we were 0-for-15 on 3s, and that is just unheard of. If we make two of those we win the game. I hope we are better equipped to handle this. They just kind of out muscled us last year. We just know what to expect since we have done this before.
On facing Greg Oden& Joey will be on him a lot, but I am going to get him as well, so I am going to have to elevate my game as well. We want to go against the best, so I think this will be fun.
On Memphis being considered the underdog by the media, despite the #2 seed& I dont know what it is. People say our conference isnt that good, we havent played anyone, we are a young team, we lost too many players from last year. We have heard it all, but here we are. We just have to keep proving people wrong. The game is decided between the lines, so we are just going to worry about what happens there. We have really been feeding off that, really for the last two years, because last year we didnt get much respect either.
On the chance to play in the Final Four in his hometown& I just know there are going to be a lot of people disappointed (about not getting tickets). I know a lot os people are going to ask though. I havent been home in nine months, so that would be lovely.
Ohio State Quotes
Q. Coach, between the two teams, you guys have won, I believe, it's 45 games in a row. Just wondering the characteristics of a ball club to be able to do something like, to be able to keep its poise, and the type of players you have to do that.
COACH MATTA: Well, I think for us, I'm not speaking for Memphis, is certainly taking a day by day approach and keeping the majority of the focus on ourselves and what we have to do and honestly not getting tired of preparing to win. I think it says a lot about these guys that they have been able to do that, to keep the focus and going from playing at Northwestern, who plays a different style to playing a Michigan State to playing a Wisconsin, and I think these guys truly have a great appreciation for winning and what it takes to win. And that's the thing I've enjoyed about this team is their mindset every day when they come in.
As we got back late last night to the hotel and began talking about Memphis, their focus and concentration we didn't do a lot but was very good and a thorough understanding of what we have to do. I think that's probably what we haven't talked about a winning streak or anything like that, it's just who do we got next, and let's get ready.
Q. This is for anybody, and I know you guys weren't here, but kind of like the 2002 football season, this living on the edge. I'm just wondering how you're handling that, every night is another heart pounding game or maybe it's not for you guys, but if anybody has brought that up, friends, family or anything?
RON LEWIS: I think they bring it up to me and Ivan because we're the seniors. But it is kind of we really don't think about that, we just play basketball, come out, play together as a team and try to do the best we can.
Q. How do you keep your cool in this situation? V
RON LEWIS: I think just go out there and play. You start thinking a lot, start thinking about what's going to happen and if you lose this game, you're not going to do the team any justice. You have to keep with the game plan and keep focused.
Q. Coach, talk about Ron Lewis, is this the best basketball he's played in his career, do you think? Is it his leadership as much as his scoring that you value right now? V
COACH MATTA: I think Ron is playing tremendous basketball for us. One of the things we talk about in our program, the more you give the more that will come back to you. And probably about a month I started to notice Ron really taking personal leadership responsibility and the little things that he's done in time outs or in the locker room or in practice has been tremendous. And I think that he's really reaping the rewards of giving and receiving. I couldn't have been happier for Ron. From the day Ron came to The Ohio State University I've watched his growth as a player and as a person and I'm extremely proud to be a part of his maturity along the way.
Q. I wonder if you could talk about what makes this team so successful in pressure situations. You guys are a young group, a young point guard, why have you been able to thrive in a situation that would be daunting for a lot of other teams?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: I think earlier on in the year, going down to North Carolina and Florida really helped us out in the long run, playing teams like that and being in close game situations. As the year went on we grew as a team. We were able to stick together and not drift apart in those times that we really need to be together. It's definitely helped us out in the last two games with Xavier and Tennessee.
Q. Greg, what are teams doing or what are you doing or not doing that's leading to foul trouble in the last couple of games?
GREG ODEN: Just being more physical with me and me being physical back, just putting the refs in a position to call those fouls. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. The thing with me is I just can't put myself in those positions and be able to hold my ground and just not use my hands as much.
Q. Coach, what's the most amazing thing that you've seen Greg do all year?
COACH MATTA: There's been a lot of them. And I would say probably the No. 1 thing would be how he taught himself to shoot free throws left handed and shoot them in the way that he did. I think the other thing would be along those lines of sitting out for 7 straight months and being thrust into the pressure situation that he was thrust into and everybody expecting him to be 100 percent from the day he got back and how he handled that and how he continued to work. He road the peaks and the valleys and just was extremely diligent, every day after practice he would spend about 40 minutes working with Allen and just developing his game. You think of the frustration, we've laughed about this, when he came back he was rebounding with one hand, he was catching with one hand. He couldn't use his right hand and people at times would criticize him and we were laughing as the staff saying they have no idea what he can't do. We didn't want to tell anybody because we didn't want to exploit that weakness for Greg. Now his hand is much more mobile, and I think those have probably been the most amazing things?
Q. When you were at Xavier, what was the scouting report on Ron? I know you talked about his leadership, but his skill level, how much has that improved since the first time he showed up at your doorstep?
COACH MATTA: We never played against Ron when I was at Xavier.
Q. You scouted him as a coach, didn't you?
COACH MATTA: I'm embarrassed to say we didn't.
Q. Why didn't you?
COACH MATTA: I don't know, but a couple of coaches lost their jobs over that (laughter). Honestly, I am embarrassed to say we didn't know who he was. He played on such a great high school team. But in watching him develop I think that you've got, one, a very passionate kid who wants to be a great player. He wasn't a great shooter when he came to Ohio State, he could drive a ball and get fouled. But I think he's really added a lot to his game and his assisted turnover ratio has got a lot better. One of the greatest things that ever happened to he and Jamar was a teammate called Je'Kel Foster in practice every day. Those guys were Je'Kel was like a mentor to those two. Ron was even a red shirt. But they weren't in the starting lineup and every day they would battle and beat the heck out of the starting team. And I think that really set the stage for those two.
Q. I think there have been some skepticism that Mike Conley could hold up physically in the Big Ten. I wondered what you saw that convinced you that he
COACH MATTA: Well, I think that the first thing would be Michael is one of the toughest kids I've ever met, but you never see that side of him. I think he's ultra competitive. He's got tremendous athleticism coupled with intelligence. I think one of the biggest things that has helped this team, for instance we didn't have last year, was the nine guys that we play. And we've been able to give them longer breaks. I've probably been a little smarter with practices and trying to limit his minutes in practice. But the one thing, he's accustomed to winning and he's going to do whatever he has to do to win basketball games?
Q. Mike, you talked after the game last night about playing the whole game the way you guys did the second half. I wondered if that was anything that you talked about as a team after the game, why it didn't happen from the outset last night and what you need to do to make sure it does happen tomorrow?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: Yeah, that's a big point that we need to improve on. I think we weren't ready mentally the first two minutes yesterday. And they came out and punched us in the stomach and we didn't fight back. We have to be ready for those situations. You have to be ready for big games like that. We can't afford to play that way against a team like Memphis or anybody else from here on.
Q. Any ideas why it did happen?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: I'm not sure. I felt like we were ready, but maybe the way they came out firing kind of caught us off guard a little bit. But I'm not really sure. Hopefully we can change that next game.
Q. Have you been able to put your finger on or figure out why Greg has 9 fouls, the last few games. Have you been able to figure anything out?
COACH MATTA: I think it's been a little bit of both. You go through a Big Ten season, and you look at go back to Wisconsin game, that was literally amazing the physicality of that game. But I think the other thing is, just the match ups and what teams have attempted to do have probably played more into that. And I think Greg, I love his basketball IQ and he knows what he has to do, get a little bit more in the stance and alleviate those situations as much as we can. We've got to do a better job on the perimeter as well and not put Greg in those situations.
Q. I know it's been a quick turn around, but so far in Memphis, what are the things that stand out for you?
COACH MATTA: I think extremely talented, deep basketball team. They're high powered on offense. They create a lot of their offense through their defense. I think they're a little bit like us on any given night they've got a lot of guys that can step up and make big plays for them. And I think they play extremely hard, they rebound the ball well and get out and score easy baskets.
Q. Greg, you came in a big name, drawing a lot of attention, but guys like Ron Lewis had said that you and the other freshmen were very respectful of the veterans. Can you talk about what you've learned as far as leadership, emotional stuff from Ron Lewis?
GREG ODEN: Ron has been here before, so this is my first go around in college and so I just come in with my eyes open and a lot to learn and I listen because those guys have been through it before and they have a lot to teach me. So you just want to come in and be real respectful and know that you have a lot to learn and improve on.
Q. Question on injuries, Ivan, what was your thought when you went down on your leg, first of all, was it because Greg fell over the top of you? And also, after that, Greg, just a question on your chin. I understand you had three stitches. What did you think might be wrong when you hit the floor?
IVAN HARRIS: Yeah, I was trying to take a charge and Greg was trying to block a shot. I guess I was behind him and I tripped him up and he landed on my knee. But my knee is fine right now. I'm just ready to play tomorrow.
GREG ODEN: My chin is fine. I got three stitches, that's it (laughter).
Q. I was just curious, is Coach Russell still texting you, and has he said anything about what a wild ride you're on, kind of like what they were on?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I get my I don't think I sleep, he sends texts like at 3:00 in the morning. He's been great. He's always offering up words of encouragement. It says a lot about him, it's all focused on team and playing hard and trying to finish a mission and it's always good to get those and read and ponder them and take it and let the guys know kind of what he said. He spoke to us he came in one day unannounced and spoke to the team, I don't know, I think in Lexington, and as always he does a great job for us.
Q. Did he make any mention of 2002?
COACH MATTA: He did not, no, he did not.
Q. Coach C has spent a lot of time defending the conference that they play in. You just mentioned the rigors of going through the Big Ten. Do you feel like playing in a tough conference like the Big Ten better prepares you for this time of year or has Memphis dispelled that theory?
COACH MATTA: I think Coach C has done a great job of he goes out and plays a heck of a non conference schedule. I don't know a lot about conference USA, but as I told these guys, they were in this exact same game last year. You obviously look at what Calipari has done. He obviously put himself in a category of being one of the great college coaches in the country. He recruits great players and coaches them and obviously is achieving high success.
Q. After the Xavier game, you mentioned how determined you were to go out and do better. Do you think you were maybe almost too determined with how the Xavier game ended?
GREG ODEN: No, I think I got in foul trouble in the first half. I think I did a pretty decent job? In the second half. It was more about effort and not about me scoring. It was about me being out and running the floor hard and creating things for my teammates. It was the effort that I felt I had a pretty decent game yesterday. We needed to play hard in the second half and I think I stepped up and did that, also.
Q. Does it hurt at all, talking about Greg's foul trouble, does it hurt at all to have officials who haven't done his games at all, don't know what he can do? We were talking to one of your assistance in one of the Big Ten tournament games, he was commenting we haven't seen these guys all year, because sometimes Greg might pick up fouls?
COACH MATTA: I think that it is at times unique. It's funny, we hear, as the season winds down and teams stop playing, kind of their approach. I don't know why people didn't think Shawn and I were going to talk after the game, and he told me what people were saying, he said just call them, they won't call them all. And that was pretty consistent across the board of what they were saying. I don't think, if they've seen us or haven't seen us it's a whole lot different. I think we just we have to be smart as coaches in our approach and Greg has to be smart in his approach.
Q. Jamar, I don't want you to feel left out. Could you just talk a little bit. Lighty has spent the better part of the season trying to get a shot to fall for him. Would you just talk about what you thought when first he had the three point play at the end of the half and then he made the three down the stretch when you guys were making your run, what did you think when those after seeing a lot of his shots go in and out all season, what did you think when a couple finally went in?
JAMAR BUTLER: I think he got his momentum going in the halftime, and the second half, you know, kept thriving on that, and the big shot in the second half, it was a huge three, and he played to the very last.
Q. For any of you players, just your impressions in the crash course you're getting on Memphis what you've seen, just your impressions of the team and the challenge you face tomorrow?
RON LEWIS: They're an up and down team, tempo. They like to drive the ball, pass and kick, they play together a lot. They're a young basketball team but their poised and their big man offensive rebound a lot, so we have to keep them off the glass.
Q. I know you probably wouldn't root for anybody in the first game, but now that Memphis has won, are you happy that you won't have to deal with that Texas crowd, it's going to be a little more even for your game tomorrow?
COACH MATTA: I didn't get out to see, but the coaches we were scouting were saying it was predominantly Texas A&M, as it should be. I think that will even the playing field more in that situation. The funny thing, you think about it, for Texas A&M, they did have to play Louisville, 70 miles from home, as well. But I do think that will be hopefully a little bit of an advantage for both us and Memphis.
Q. Greg, can you talk about the block at the end, what you were thinking as Tennessee is bringing the ball down the court, if you knew you were going to block that shot or what it felt like after you did block it at the end?
GREG ODEN: It felt like we won (laughter). It was just I didn't want I saw that Ramar Smith had his head down and he wasn't going to pass it to my man, so I went over to help. I'm happy to get the block, but I think the time expired before I got the block, also.
Q. Just for the record, Thad or Greg, was that officially a block or did time expire?
COACH MATTA: I don't know. Bill Rafferty told me after the game he didn't think it would have counted. I haven't seen it close, I didn't rewind it, sorry.
Q. Kind of along those lines, Mike, when you're at the free throw loan at 6.5, was anything going through your head?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: I was trying to keep a lot out of my head at that time, I was just concentrating on the free throws. I wanted to make both of them, but I knew I was going to make this one. After I made that one, unfortunately I missed the second one. At that point it was trying to get back and get a defensive stance and not let them get an easy shot.
Q. This question is for Jamar and Ivan, is this the best basketball you've seen out of Ron so far and you played with him now for an while, are you guys looking for him now, because he's so hot?
IVAN HARRIS: I think so. Ron Lewis is an excellent player. When he got to Ohio State I always knew he had it in him. Around this tournament time we needed him and he's stepping up his game. And we're going to give him the ball and let him go to work.
JAMAR BUTLER: Obviously Ron is playing really great right now. He's stepping up, he's making big shots towards the end of the game. He's been the senior leader. If he keeps playing like that we'll keep going to him.
Q. Since coach said he really is embarrassed and didn't know about you before you transferred in, other than just leading his team to the Elite 8, what did you know about Coach Matta when you transferred to Ohio State?
RON LEWIS: I know he'd been winning since he become a coach. And I also knew that he played the style of basketball that I would like to play. So those two go hand in hand with each other. I made my decision off of that.
Q. Thad, despite the winning streaks that both teams bring into this game, how different do you think the tracks are, when you guys are No. 1 in the lime light and they certainly haven't gotten the attention you have, does that have an impact tomorrow?
COACH MATTA: I don't think it does, because of the magnitude of the game. I really believe at this stage, 25 hours or 26 hours from tip off, win streaks, where we're ranked, all that stuff is really out the window, in my mind, for our team. It's more about let's get ready to play and try to get the job done. If we had a week to prepare or something like that, I think maybe it plays into it, but Memphis has shown all year long, as I think we have, we have two really good basketball teams going head to head tomorrow.
Jamar Butler, Junior, Guard
On similarities of the two teams but the differences in schedule& We are both in the Elite 8 for a reason. They have been playing the same caliber of teams we have to get here. Like coach said, their non-conference schedule was off the charts. They made it through that and are here now.
On their physical play& I think this is one of the more physical teams. You look at a guy like (Joey) Dorsey and how physical he in inside. He is a beast in there. I was watching film on him yesterday and he is like a mansion.
On their depth& They have several different players. Dorsey is not the only one we have to worry about. They have good guard play as well.
On biggest challenge& Biggest challenge is getting on the glass. They like to get those offensive rebounds. They are the best rebounding team we have played all year.
On Ron Lewis& Ron is huge for us especially in the last two games. He has wanted the ball at the end and he has been knocking them down so we feed it to him.
On the last two games& We have been lucky I guess to get two in a row. Both times the teams had us down but we figured out a way to come back and win. It says a lot about our team.
On being tougher mentally because of the last two games& We know we are never out of a game. All we need is one player to step up and get us going.
On team chemistry& It is great right now. This is the closest team I have been on. No one person cares about being in the spotlight.
On the teams (Memphis and Ohio State) winning streaks& There are two teams with winning streaks to play in the Elite 8. One will come to an end and hopefully it wont be ours.
Mike Conley, Jr., Freshman, Guard
On Greg Oden... Hell be the first to tell you that hes feels he has a lot of work to do and hes not the most skilled player right now, but I want to say that he will be the most skilled player. He will be the most dominant player because his work ethic is so unreal and he always wants to get better regardless of how well hes playing. Hes always going to be that dominant force down low.
On Greg Odens stiches... I really cant even see them. Hes got a lot of chin hairs there so they kind of blend in.
On Memphis beathing Texas A&M in San Antonio& We didnt really want to have to face Texas A&M, basically in their backyard. It would have been a tough game, but it speaks volumes about them (Memphis) being able to come in and beat Texas A&M in almost like a home court advantage type deal. Memphis is a really tough team and we saw that yesterday with them beating Texas A&M so at the same time were kind of happy, we know that Memphis is a really tough team.
On Memphis& Theyre athletic and they like to get up and down. They play off of each others energy. Theyre a very up-tempo style team and they can definitely hit the glass. Those are areas we need to shore-up on and try to prevent them from getting a lot of rebounds and starting their fast break.
On being 40 minutes away from the Final Four... Its a sense of urgency. Theres no room for error now. You have to pay attention in every scouting session and every time we watch film. There no time for people to mess up right now.
I think about that every night. Just to know we are 40 minutes away is where we wanted to be.
Greg Oden, Freshman, Center
On the attention he is receiving & Id rather it come towards me and have my teammates like Ron Lewis go under the radar and work on their game and improve without all the media attention and other distractions. I can handle it well. I dont mind it. I just keep working on my game. I enjoy it can come on to me and my teammates can improve their game and step up and not have to worry about all this.
If the last couple of games have been a learning experience... Its been a big learning experience. The last game I was disappointed with my performance against Xavier, but this game I scored less but played better. We needed somebody to step up and play hard and I feel I did that and helped my team and we got on a run. Every game is a learning experience. I just have to keep playing.
Memphis Joey Dorsey... Hes a great rebounder and a great blocked shot guy. He can score. Every time I see him hes on highlights catching one-handed alley oops. The thing Im going to have to worry about is being able to help and watch out for him going up because hes a high-flyer and hes very strong. I have to help and not let him get easy shots.
On how Ohio State is feeling... We just have to keep on playing. Its a Tournament. Were not worried about our feelings right now. Were just worried about playing and improving and trying to make it to Atlanta.
On how hes maintaining his composure... I wanted to play a lot, but things happen and I really didnt play much because of my fouls. The thing I had to do was stay in the game and sit on the bench and be a cheerleader.
Ivan Harris, Senior, Forward
On the mentality coming into the tournament & Everybody has been pretty calm and focused so far. You dont see anyone really celebrating. We all know we have another game to go to and everyone is taking that approach.
The team effort in Thursdays come-back win & We were down by 17 at the half, and we knew it was going to take everyone to be able to come back. No one person was going to do it. When it came down to crunch time everyone wants the ball and everyone stepped up and made a big shot or a big play. That is what I like about this team. Everybody steps up. I was just like when David Lighty hit that three, everyone is stepping up in situations when we need it.
On leaving the game hurt and having Greg Oden fall on him & It hurt. I didnt think I was going to get up, but I am alright now and I am looking forward to playing Memphis. I think I was (shooting) 4-for-4 before that happened and I felt like I couldnt miss. So I was looking forward to getting back in there.
On playing last two games to the wire & I think we have been very lucky. I dont know what it is, but when it gets to crunch time everyone has stepped up. It is confidence that we get from coach Matta. We just know how to stay together. We have the mind focus that we are not going to lose this game. We just know how to win, and that is what I like about this team. I do hope we dont get in that kind of situation again.
Ron Lewis, Senior, Guard
On his drive & You just live for the moment and my whole thing is I dont want my college career to end on a loss. If I can help us keep winning that is what I am going to do. I have all the confidence in the world and my teammates have all the confidence in the world in me.
On teammates feeding off him & I think they do. Once you have a guy that shows toughness and tenacity to do things, people get in line. It is like follow the leader and everyone is getting on the bandwagon. You see Mike Conley coming through and being more aggressive in the second half when he needs to. He is doing great things for our team
On thinking about loosing & I dont think. I just think about winning and whatever I can do to make my team win, either stop a basket or dish to the open man.
On getting down and coming back & I think it is just coming out being aggressive. To say we are lucky, I dont think so. We are just coming out playing better than what we do in the first half of games. We just have the extra effort.
On the last two close games & We are probably a little tired but we dont think about that during the game. All we think about is winning the game and right now is not the time to be tired. I know I am not going to play that way and I know my team is not going to play that way. We are just driving and living for the moment.
On Memphis It is going to be a big challenge. They are an up -tempo team and like to drive the ball. It is going to be a real physical game because they have great front court players that are real physical and like to get on the glass. It is going to be a great opportunity for us to just play solid basketball that we are used to.
On their big guys & Their front court players are 260, 290. So they are real big. I dont think it is something we cant handle. We are just going to exploit their weaknesses.
On being 40 minutes from Final Four & It feels great. You try to live for these times and for these dreams. If we can get the job done, then it will be a dream come true.
On leaving Bowling Green & I was in a place where I wasnt winning. I wanted to go to a winning program. With me being able to come under Thad Matta and with all his success was great for me and to be back at home was great as well.
On not being recruited much out of high school & I think a lot of it was that I came off the bench my senior year in high school. I didnt start but that was what was best for the team. I was the leading scorer and rebounder but my job was to be the 6th Man and that was the best as we won a championship.
On his streak & I think it is just being aggressive. By being aggressive I am making shots easier for me and helping our team out. Teams werent really scouting me and were more focused on Greg so I think it has given me a better opportunity to step up and help our team out.
On what worries you about Memphis & What worries me is that they play loosely and they drive the ball in. They play with a lot of effort. They press like Tennessee and we have to be able to counter that.