March 19, 2009


COACH FEW: Well, it feels great to win and move on. That's what this tournament is all about. I really liked how our guys hung with this game. It was a grinder, and I think our staff and our players understood the kind of game it was going to be. I think Akron has been playing terrific down the stretch during the season. And the way they shot the ball in the first half, we could just not quite get a handle on consistently getting stops. But the second half we were able to drive their shooting percentage down, which got our transition game going, when we're at our best. We were able to extend the lead and get it done.

I'm real proud. The guys stuck with it. Didn't panic, didn't get antsy, didn't get frustrated and just stuck with the plan.

Q. For Josh or Matt, both of you guys talk about the difference the first half to the second half and kind of that run there when they were up 52 51, you went on a 19 1 run. Just what got you going?

JOSH HEYTVELT: I was rattled in the first half. We weren't playing our game exactly. We came in the second half and just kind of settled down, back and forth a little bit with the lead change. And then we kind of just settled into our offense and pressure defense, and pressured them out of doing what they did in the first half and that led to fast breaks and easy buckets for us.

MATT BOULDIN: Yeah, I thought that first half we didn't ratchet it up defensively very well. That's the difference. The second half we did a lot better job defensively and that, like Josh said, led to a lot of easy buckets for us. Getting out of transition is when we're at our best, and that's really how we opened it up.

Q. Josh, during that span, Steven hit a three and then I think you went to the floor a couple of times, you got tossed down, you took a charge, dunk, three pointer, can you talk about it? Was it opening up for you and your participation in that particular stretch?

JOSH HEYTVELT: Since our guys were doing a great job of shooting jumpers and making them it opened up the roll and there was opportunities for them to get me a ball, and they did a great job of feeding the ball inside for easy baskets.

Q. For the guards, what did you do to Linhart in the second half?

MICAH DOWNS: He came out hitting his shots in the first half. We weren't closing out on him good enough. We knew in the scouting report that he could shoot the three, and we didn't take that scouting report serious enough in the first half. Coach always tells us close on their toes, so they can't get a hand up. We did that better in the second half. I think all around the second half we were just more intense and more enthused to play defense and that's what got it done for us.

Q. Matt, during the 19 1 run it seemed like you maybe were a little more assertive, more aggressive. Did it feel that way to you?

MATT BOULDIN: Yeah. I felt like that, too. I thought I was getting the ball a little bit more on the break, able to push it a lot more and try to make plays for myself and my teammates. But, yeah, it was mostly how we were doing defensively I thought really opened it up for me and the transition game. I thought that's when we really kind of blew it open.

Q. Mark, in deciding to go with the zone in the second half, did you run the risk of becoming too passive?

COACH FEW: That was a great call by you. We just opened in zone for a possession, and we in it until they scored. And I think they missed maybe three jumpers at the start of it. And then got an open one that they knocked down. So we like mixing in our zones once in an while.

I thought Leon made a great call. They had their offensive rhythm in the first half we needed to try to disrupt them a little bit. So we tried, worked for a little bit. But our bread and butter has been our man all year, and that's kind of what ended up getting us going there in that stretch run.

Q. Who are you looking forward to, Western Kentucky or Illinois?

COACH FEW: It doesn't matter. One thing that being in this thing for 11 straight years now, each of these teams is capable of moving on and making a great run. We knew we were going to be in for a ballgame the minute we watched the first five or seven minutes of Akron on tape. Sure enough, they came into this thing on fire. They've really been shooting the ball well all through their conference tournament.

So whoever wins this one tonight is going to be a very worthy opponent. They either won their way in or got hot in the conference tournament. I don't have a preference one way or another. You just want to win, advance and move on.

Q. Do you feel like there's a team, though, that matches up better with the Gonzaga style?

COACH FEW: No, not really. I think they both, from a coaching standpoint, I mean I think they both pose some serious problems that we need to address, just like Akron did. So I think head coaches are always worriers by nature, so I don't see one or the other.

Q. There's about 14:59 left and you guys were kind of neck and neck. At that point in the game were you thinking, okay, it's time we make a run, come on, guys, let's get this thing clicking?

COACH FEW: I think that when it's 0 0 and they toss the ball up. I prefer that. The one thing that I will say, especially with this team, you know, it has some Bud needs to help me with my vocabulary, spurtability [sic] or something.

We can make runs, when you've got Micah Downs that can make threes. Steven Gray, Matt Bouldin can make threes. They can make them in transition. Josh Heytvelt, Austin Daye can. And again, if we can get out in transition and run, that's when we're at our best. And what you saw was a lot of transition baskets there and that kind of gets our guys going. But with that, you know, I thought we did a great job. We settled down in the half court and executed and we got several of those dunks were just real solid half court execution.

Q. Does your transition game on this team distinguish it at all from previous teams that have been in this event?

COACH FEW: You know, I mean I'd like to think we've always tried to push the ball and run. We've always been great running teams. But I think this team especially from the perimeter is always maybe more capable of running out and hurting you from the three line, as opposed in the past we did a great job usually running and catching our bigs down low in the transition. FastScripts by ASAP Sports...


COACH DAMBROT: I told our guys after the game that as competitive as I am I was a little bit disappointed that that game didn't go into the last three minutes. We were right there. We played with good passion and desire but we just had a hard time when it really mattered. And you could tell that they'd been there before.

When you have a team like that scrambling and on the ropes a little bit you can't let them off the hook. What happened is they made a few and we missed a few. And it looked like we tired a little bit. I thought it was going to be reverse, to be honest with you, because we played our bench quite a bit. But we just tired, I thought. They made some unbelievable plays.

Like a lot of people have said, I think I'm a pretty good judge, that's the most individually talented 4 seed you'll see. Those guys are pros. I kind of had the tendency to judge people by LeBron. I don't think they're LeBron, but they're pros. And I'm proud of our guys.

We were picked 4th, 5th and 6th in the East, which means WE were 8th through 12th in our league. We were dead in the water about 55 times this year and we came roaring back, and we'll come back again.

Q. Nate, you guys played so efficiently, and you seemed like you were very comfortable and five minutes into the second half you were right there. And then just the roof caved in. It was 27 4 at one point. What were the factors that went into that collapse?

NATE LINHART: Well, I think it started at the defensive end for us. We kind of let them get going a little bit, gave them easy baskets. And to their credit they started hitting tougher shots, some three's. And it was kind of a snowball effect. Once they got going we kind of got down on ourselves a little bit. It's a credit to them. They've been there before. And they knew what they were doing. They had the confidence to push through our storm. It's unfortunate we weren't able to fight back in that second half.

Q. Can you talk about what the team has done this year and your thoughts on that?

NATE LINHART: On the state of the team? I'm really, really proud of our team. If you had told me a few times this year that we'd ended up in the NCAA tournament right now I wouldn't have believed you, because we've had some ups and downs. It's a real tribute to our guys and the toughness that we have to be able to bounce back from all the hits that we took this year.

This is probably the most fun I've ever had in my four years, this year was. And it didn't start out that way, but being able to push through, it was I'll remember this year forever.

Q. Chris, can you talk about how this can be a springboard going into next season?

CHRIS MCKNIGHT: I'd say just being here is a great experience first off. And with the young guys that we have, just going into next year, this right here is just something to build on. I feel as though with me being a senior next year and us having 7 sophomores and juniors, it's just a stepping stone right here to get back get right back to where we were this year. We made a nice run in the MAC tournament and toughed it out and was able to get in the NCAA. Next year I feel like we can do the same thing, you've just got to keep pushing and make sure we're working in the offseason.

DARRYL ROBERTS: Same comment that Chris was saying. As far as this year, we had a lot of experience coming here and going through the MAC tournament being a young team. I feel we can build on that. Like coach tells us in the locker room, we have to work hard, it's not going to be easy. As long as we do that I think we'll be successful next year, also.

Q. Can you talk about what you told the team at halftime knowing that Gonzaga was going to make a run?

COACH DAMBROT: You know, after the game what I told our guys is I think to win a game like that you have to make sure that you play the game to your strengths and not your weaknesses. And I thought to Gonzaga's credit they played to their strengths, which is the three ball. And they crash the boards. Their margin of error is a little bit different than ours.

But our strength, believe it or not, was going inside. We forget where our bread and butter is, which is low block. That's hard to believe when you're throwing it against 6'6" guys against 6'11" guys. But we had success throwing the ball inside.

And I felt defensively we were not aggressive enough to really guard them. Against a team like that, and against great players like that, you have to get them out of their comfort zone and their speed level. If you let great players play at a slow pace you're going to have issues, especially when you're much smaller in all areas. And we never really got them out of their comfort zone in the second half.

Now we tried to be more aggressive but we never quite got there, and I think that's why they shot the ball so well in the second half.

Q. Next year it will probably be a reversal of this year. You won't be picked as low in the conference. How is that a challenge going in to next year?

COACH DAMBROT: That is exactly what we talked about in the locker room is next year everybody is going to think automatically that we're going to be a good team. But we're a good team because we're a meat and potatoes, hard nosed midwest team. We play with heart and passion, and if we don't do that we're just average to below average. Just because we finished well, doesn't mean we're going to be good next year.

And the one thing I will tell you with our administration, that's the president, the board of trustees, athletic director, they're going to put money into the program, which is going to separate us before it's all over. And you like that pressure I put on you?

And you know, with my passion for Akron, being a hometown guy, like I want beat Gonzaga. And I think USAToday hit it on the head, we're kind of Gonzaga 1999, that's the biggest compliment you can give somebody. That is not a mid major anymore, my friend, that is one of the best basketball teams in the country.

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