March 27, 2009

OKLAHOMA QUOTES

THE MODERATOR: As you can see, we've been joined by Oklahoma contingent head coach Jeff Capel along with student athletes Tony Crocker, Blake Griffin, Taylor Griffin. We'd like to get things started, have coach Capel make a few opening remarks. Then we'll open the floor first for questions from the student athletes. Then we'll follow with Coach Capel.

COACH JEFF CAPEL: First of all, I'm really, really proud of my team. They were tremendous today, and we beat a really good basketball team, a team that was very hot.

I thought the way we came out, we attacked right from the beginning. That's one of the things we've been talking about all week.

We moved the ball against the zone. We hit shots. Tony was tremendous. I had a feeling coming into this game that he was going to play well and he was going to shoot the basketball well. Taylor led us, and Blake was again, incredible, like he's been all year.

Really proud of our guys. Quick, quick recovery because whoever we play on Sunday is going to be really good. Both teams play really fast. We need to get off our feet and get some rest and get ready to see who we'll play.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. For both Blake and Taylor, when Tony goes off like that, or you get that kind of scoring support from the perimeter, what does it do for you guys' overall game?

TAYLOR GRIFFIN: I mean, that opens up so many things. You know, for Blake especially, seeing the double teams and triple teams all the time, you know, it forces people to have to step out and guard guys like Tony and Willie and Austin.

It just makes us that much better.

BLAKE GRIFFIN: The same as what he said. It makes our job so much easier when he's playing like he did today.

You know, they can't sink down in the zone, and they had to respect him all game long because he was hitting shots all game long.

I think it takes our team to another level when he plays like he did today.

Q. Tony, you made your first shot. You were rocking and rolling from that point. Talk about your game today, and how much did it mean for you to make that first shot and get going?

TONY CROCKER: It meant a lot. When you're struggling, after a while, making that first shot always makes it better.

The zone gave us a lot of spots to have open shots, so we just tried to take advantage of that.

Q. Tony, I asked you yesterday, I said, how do you feel? And your response was my jumper is wet. Did you have a feeling you were going to have a night like this? Were you shooting well the entire time you've been here in practice?

TONY CROCKER: Yeah. I did a lot of extra shooting before and after practice. I was just hoping it all paid off.

I felt good shooting around and everything. So I just had a feeling they were all going to go in.

Q. Blake and Taylor, it seems like this team is getting its swagger back. It just seems like playing so much better than you were early. Just a lot of little things?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: Everybody's competing the whole time. Everybody's playing hard, and everybody's doing the little things.

Against Michigan, caught taking three charges. Guys getting on the floor after loose balls and stuff like that. That makes us play even better. We have guys that can score points. That's always going to happen. It might not be as much every game, but I think the biggest key for us is getting down and getting stops on the defensive end and can bring that into offense.

Q. Tony, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about Coach Capel and his approach with you over the past month because a lot of people have talked about your struggles shooting the ball. Seemed like last week when you had the big defensive effort, he was you know, he mentioned that a lot in the post game, and it just seemed to kind of have your back a lot.

TONY CROCKER: He stuck with me, you know, never took me out during that last game after struggling shooting and everything.

Because he has faith in that I can, you know, make shots whenever I get open ones. They just didn't fall last time.

He's been there encouraging me and asking what he can do to help throughout the whole season really.

Q. Was there anything in particular that he mentioned to you over and over again?

TONY CROCKER: Just take your open shots when you're open. You know, step up with confidence and knock it down.

Q. Guys, so much is made of Syracuse's two three zone. What was the plan? How did you attack it from the outside and the inside? Starting with Tony, from the outside for the guards.

TONY CROCKER: We just shot open shots that we had. You know, we were going to keep going inside out first and see how that goes.

When they kick out, when Blake gets all the attention or Taylor cutting and getting attention, that gives us open shots. So we just try to attack inside out.

BLAKE GRIFFIN: Same thing he said. Just attack and hit open shots and be ready to shoot open shots and move the ball well and pick our spots well.

TAYLOR GRIFFIN: I think we prepared really well. I think our coaches prepared us really well. Going into that game, we knew exactly where the open spots were going to be, and, you know, we knew what kind of shots to look for.

I think our game plan was right on.

Q. Blake, looked like they came out intent on pounding the ball maybe to try to get you in foul trouble. Did you feel that?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: Yes, I feel like that was kind of their plan from the beginning. You know, we did such a good job collectively on defense that it kind of got them out of that.

And everybody was kind of swarming all over the place. Crock came down and helped. Taylor came across and helped. Which takes pressure off me down low. Or any one on one situation.

Q. Tony and Taylor, you guys had like an 11 2 run to end the first half and then 17 3 to start the second half. Can you just talk about that eight minutes or whatever of basketball that really blew this game open.

TAYLOR GRIFFIN: I think, you know, it comes down to us getting our swagger back and knowing, you know, what everybody knowing their role and doing what it takes to win.

You know, we executed really well. I don't think we turn the ball over that much. And that makes a huge difference.

Coach is always saying, when we don't turn the ball over, we get a good shot. And that's true, and I think that was very true today.

TONY CROCKER: Can you repeat the question?

Q. There was an 11 2 run to end the half and then 17 3 to start the second half. Can you just talk about how important that was for you?

TONY CROCKER: Jumping out and getting a big lead in the first half, you know, we talked about when we come out, you know, stay on top of them. Don't let up. So we just tried to stay attacking and stay in attack mode to start the beginning of the second half.

Q. Blake, this is a conditional question. If Carolina would win the second game, honest answer, please, how much more would it juice you to have an individual matchup against Tyler Hansbrough?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: You know, it's another team. I'm not going to get into a personal battle with Tyler Hansbrough. I have no beef with him. They're a good team. This game, if we do play them, it's not going to be me against him. It's going to be Oklahoma versus North Carolina, and that's how we plan to attack them.

Q. Blake, it looked like you hit your head on the backboard on the dunk. Can you talk about that one? Is that what happened? Does that happen often?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: No, that's actually one of the first times that's happened in a game, so it kind of took me by surprise.

I just got too close.

Q. For Blake, when Flynn got there in your path as you were going to the basket there near the end of the first half, 6 footer in your path. What were your thoughts as you kind of mowed through them on your way?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: I wanted to dunk it, but he stepped out a little too far. When I went up and took the contact, I was just kind of thinking put it up. I was hoping it went in our favor.

Q. Tony, even during your shooting slump, you didn't seem hesitant to shoot. Can you talk about your mindset of not really letting the slump get to you and get you out of your offense and always putting it up no matter even if it wasn't going in.

TONY CROCKER: I guess, when you're marked as like a shooter, you have to keep shooting. If you're missing, you've just got to think it off and just go to the next shot and keep going because you can't just not shoot when you're wide open.

THE MODERATOR: Tony, Blake, Taylor, you're welcome to head back to your dressing room. We'll continue with Oklahoma news conference with Coach Capel.

Q. Coach, you said in your opening statements that you could kind of sense Crocker was going to have a good game tonight. What was it you had seen in him in practices or the days leading up just to make you confident in his ability to play well tonight?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: First of all, I believe in Tony. You know, Tony went through a stretch early in the season when we first started where he didn't shoot the basketball well.

And then we went, and we played in a pro arena, played at the ford center, played VCU, and he had 26 points. I think he hit five threes. When we got here and we practiced here yesterday first of all, all week long in practice he's been making shots, and he has been doing some extra stuff.

When we got here yesterday, he really shot the ball well, and it's just something maybe about being in a pro arena again.

And then the guys have been really, really encouraging to him, and he's a good player. And sometimes it's tough to keep guys for a guy to stay down that long when you're as good as Tony Crocker and he's played so well for us this year.

Q. Jeff, in the first half, Syracuse 0 for 10 from the three. You hold them to 40% shooting. Talk about your defense tonight. I know the offense always gets the accolades, but defensively, wouldn't you say this was a good game for Oklahoma?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: I thought our first half defense was great. We contested shots. We swarmed. We mixed our defenses up. We got fortunate on a couple of those threes. They had wide open looks, and they just missed them.

The majority of them, I thought, were pretty contested in the first half. And we went to a two three zone, played one three one, gave them some different looks.

One of the things coming into the game that I kind of noticed watching on tape was Jonny Flynn is so good that you can't give him a steady diet of the same thing because eventually he's going to pick it apart.

We switched how we did ball screens against him throughout the game. Every time out we tried to give him a different look on the ball screen so he wouldn't just get comfortable out there.

I thought the main thing was our guys really played hard defensively. They got out. They understood the game plan. They understood the tendencies. And that's one of the things we talked about all week in preparation for Syracuse, understanding each guy's tendency, and I thought our guys did a good job with that.

Q. Jeff, what's the biggest concern with your team when you have such a big lead going into the last ten minutes? And at what point, if any, in this game did you get uneasy?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: Well, the biggest concern for our team we've had leads. As we were in conference play, just about every game we played except for maybe two or three, we had double figure leads. And we let teams back in.

One of the things that concerns me when we get leads like this is, we get a little bit complacent; we get satisfied instead of staying hungry. When we get up 24, I thought we got that way a little bit.

I got uneasy. I think they cut it to I can't remember, but I got uneasy when they started making threes and getting to the basket.

We called a quick time out and getting back to our defense. We were able to do that. We were able to get stops finally down the stretch, and we were able to execute offensively and get some scores to extend the lead back.

Q. The run at the end of the half and then just putting it away in the second half, how key was that?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: It was huge. One of the things we talk about when we try to practice is end of half situations and then the first five minutes of the second half.

I call it silent runs. And we did that. We executed out of the time out, got a three by Crock to end the half, and then we opened the half up. We knew we had the ball, and we opened the half up with a three.

But the main thing was at the start of that second half we got stops, which enabled us to continue to extend our lead and felt really good about that.

Again, it was all our guys. These guys played their behinds off. They worked. They played with a sense of urgency. They attacked right from the beginning.

Q. You being ex guard, do you think you handled Tony's slump maybe differently than other college coaches would because you played the position in college?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: Not only played the position, but had slumps. So I know what it's like.

I know what Tony was going through, and it wasn't because of lack of effort or he didn't want to. Crock's a kid he wants to play really well. He wants to be good.

I just think sometimes, you know, if I would have sat him or benched him, that could have destroyed him where you don't get him back. So we stuck with him because I believe in him.

And he's been really good, and he's done good things. The other thing that he was doing and it's one of the things that makes him a little different from a lot of guys is that the Michigan game was a perfect example.

In that game, although he was not playing well offensively and he didn't make shots, he still impacted the game as much as anyone. I mean, he had six assists, one turnover. He rebounded the basketball, and he did a really good job on their best player.

And so he's grown so much as a player where he understands now as a junior that his game is not defined solely by offense.

And that's what made it easier for me to stick with him. If he would have, you know, not reacted that way and pouted and things like that, then I probably would have had no choice. But because of struggling at times as a player, and because he was still trying, I mean, it was a little bit it was easier to stick with him.

Q. Coach, do you ever worry about Blake sometimes? I mean, you've got guys setting themselves in their path like Flynn did trying to take a charge, and then he gets up so high and knocks his head against the basket. Do you worry about the physical toll that he sometimes takes?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: Not really. Not things like that. I mean, he's going to play. He's going to be him, and he's going to attack.

If you've seen us this year, you've seen all those things happen. Kid comes back from a concussion and dives over a table. That's who he is.

He's a really, really physical player. With that, there are going to be some confrontations. There are going to be some exchanges, some physical exchanges.

I'm not that concerned about it anymore because we've seen it for two years now.

Q. Jeff, if your guards shoot like they did tonight, your three starters, 9 of 18 from three point range, how difficult are you to beat?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: Well, our guards shot like that for a good part of the conference. We were number two in the league in three point field goal percentage in conference games only.

We're very efficient offensively when we shoot the ball. We were also near the top of our league, if not number one, in conference play only in field goal percentage. So we've been a pretty efficient offensive team.

Down the stretch, we couldn't make shots. So when we shoot the ball well, that makes us tougher to guard because then you have to make a decision on how you're going to play Blake. And if you play him one on one, we feel very confident there, that he's going to score and get fouled and get teams in foul trouble.

Before making shots like that, then if you leave guys, Tony, A.J., Crock, Cade, Omar Leary, those guys are all very capable of shooting the basketball, which they've done all year. We've been a pretty tough team to guard all year, I think.

Q. Jeff, I'm just curious your thoughts after a win like this. You've fielded so many questions about what's wrong with this team since the Texas game. Is it a sense of relief, satisfaction? How does this strike you as the coach of this team?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: We have one more game to play here. We came here to play two games.

I don't worry about that stuff. I never really did. That's for people to talk about. I know my team. I'm in that locker room. I'm with them every day.

So I don't pay attention to those things. I heard some of them. You know, again, you guys from back home heard me say your sources have been wrong. The sources that have been saying stuff about our team, they've been wrong.

We never panicked. We just got back, and we worked. You know, teams hit a tough stretch from time to time. We lost two games without Blake, and we lost to a Missouri team that you guys have to say, they're pretty good now.

You know, the game against Oklahoma State, they're pretty good. It's tough to beat a team three times in the season, and they play with more of a sense of urgency than us.

But we never panicked. We just got back to work, and we've been pretty good in this tournament. Hopefully, we can be good one more time here in Memphis.

And if we are pretty good, then we get a chance to be pretty good next weekend too.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

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SYRACUSE QUOTES

THE MODERATOR: We've have the coach of Syracuse, Jim Boeheim, along with students Jonny Flynn and Andy Rautins. As procedure, we'll start with opening statements from coach and then take some questions for the student-athletes.
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I thought Oklahoma played tremendous today. They were very good offensively in both halves.
I think the game hinged on, you know, we've been making shots for the last nine, ten games. We had really good looks in the first half when we went 0 for 10 from the three. I think that was -- we just got in a big hole we couldn't get ourselves out of. I think that was -- again, we got pretty good shots. We got good shots.
We got the shoots we've been trying to get and we have been getting and making. We just didn't make them in the first half and got into a big, big hole.
But, again, Oklahoma is a very, very good basketball team. When Griffin's healthy, they have been very difficult to beat.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Jonny and Andy.

Q. Jonny, they threw man at you, zone, trap. How hard was that to deal with on the offensive end with all the defenses they were throwing at you?
JONNY FLYNN: It was definitely a great coaching job to, you know, give us a different look every trip down.
Sometimes if you're pushing the ball and you don't know if they're in man or zone and just that split second, a couple seconds to think what defense they're in, they're already set up and keying to try to stop you.
Tonight Oklahoma just was a better team than us tonight. Blake Griffin as good as advertised, and Crocker came out there and had a tremendous shooting night. They deserved to win, and they were the better team tonight.

Q. Andy, could you talk about how Oklahoma was able to move the ball around the zone and get open shots.
ANDY RAUTINS: They were very efficient on offense tonight. You know, they were getting their shooters pretty good looks. You know, we hadn't been shooting well in this game. When he got good looks, he knocked them down and went 6 for 11.
Their entire group of guards were shooting well. They were getting Blake Griffin good looks from the high-low. They did a great job executing tonight.

Q. Jonny, can you talk about trying to take the charge there under the basket and just what kind of a toll that took on your body taking that collision.
JONNY FLYNN: Well, coach always tells us every day in practice a charge is a game-changing play, especially the situation you have Blake Griffin, and he had already had one foul. If you can get that second foul on him, momentum can swing, and you never know how the game can change.
I saw opportunity. I thought I was there. Obviously, I wasn't there. But a guy like that running you over is definitely going to hurt you.
And it hurt a bit, and my back is a bad bruise, but I saw an opportunity right there for a game-changing play, and I thought I got it. The official thought otherwise.

Q. Jonny, I know the game just ended, but everybody's going to ask you, have you thought about your future after this?
JONNY FLYNN: I love my teammates. I'm happy just being a student at Syracuse. That's all I got to say.

Q. Andy, could you talk about the first half on offense, shooting the open shots you got, and some of them that were contested.
ANDY RAUTINS: I mean, I feel largely to blame for this loss because, you know, as a shooter, that's my job. You know, I was getting the looks I wanted, but I just didn't knock them down.
Teammates did a good job of finding me, but shots just weren't going down. Had I shot better, maybe we would have been in the game.
You know, for a team like that to execute so well on offense, you have to take advantage of the opportunities you get. But, you know, they just weren't falling tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Jonny, Andy, thank you. We'll now take questions for Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.

Q. Jim, I noticed you guys were back out on the floor after halftime with about 8:30 on the clock. Was that just getting out and shooting?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: That's when we come back. That's when we come back, eight, nine, ten. Between eight and ten minutes usually.

Q. Jim, Tony Crocker had not been shooting it very well of late, but over the course of this season, he has been a good shooter. Were you concerned about him and Willie Warren and Austin coming into this game?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: I'm concerned about all their guys. They're all good shooters. They all shoot over 35%. Four guys shoot over 35% from the three-point line.
So we knew that coming in. We played teams that are good shooting teams. We just played Arizona State. They're a very good shooting team.
They hurt us a little bit from the three-point line, more than we would have liked. Griffin got -- you know, we thought he'd get inside.
It's strictly looking at this game, it was our chance to win, it would have to be a good offensive game. We're not going to stop Oklahoma. We haven't stopped that many teams. Our defense has been a little better during this last ten-game stretch, but we have to be good on offense, and we weren't good on offense today.

Q. Any way to assess the season? You had said, of course, that the tournament is what matters. Getting to the Sweet 16 is pretty good accomplishment in my estimation. What's your view of what this team accomplished?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: Well, I think that overall this team has played well. You know, we had a horrific stretch of games during the course of the year where we played -- we lost five games against teams that are still playing in this tournament -- Connecticut, at Pittsburgh, at Villanova, Louisville and Villanova at home.
We lost five games, and that could knock anybody out of the box. And our team did not let that happen. They were able to get through that and finish the year and win four games in the conference and then go to New York and play very well, get some momentum going for this tournament. And then play well in the first two games in this tournament.
And so if I look at the entire year, it's always hard to do that right now. But if you look at the entire year, you know, we were picked eighth or ninth in our league. We weren't in the top 25 preseason. Three weeks ago we weren't in the top 25 in the country. So you just have to let the facts speak for themselves, where we are now and what we've done, what these guys have accomplished.
We don't have the senior in the starting lineup. We've got two guys that didn't play last year, Eric and Andy, and we're in, obviously, the toughest league in the country, and we survived it.
We come in this tournament, and we played well. You know, we have to make shots to win and when we were 0 for 10 the first half, we were pretty much in a lot -- we were in a lot of trouble.

Q. Now that you've had a chance to play against Blake Griffin, what makes him so special?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: He's a great inside player. He's as good in around the basket as anybody.
He's patient. He takes his time in there. He's obviously a very good rebounder, but he's just very strong around the basket. He's as good around the basket as anybody that I've seen.
You know, he's very strong, very physical. He's got a good feel for the game under there. He's a good passer.
You know, he was going to get 25, 30 points. That never was an issue. You know, we're not -- you know, he obviously played well, but in the neighborhood. We didn't do a good job obviously on Crocker, as good as we needed to do.
But I thought the game in reality, it wasn't even that. There were three loose ball plays in the first half that we had the ball and lost the ball under our basket, and they scored eight points off those three plays.
So besides the shooting factor, those three plays were -- we really played pretty good defensively the first half. We really were pretty active, and we forced them into some things. We got some turnovers. And we got it and turned it right back over to them under our basket three times.
And it was, I think, two three-point plays and a layup. That was eight points. And that was, along with the shooting, really the difference in the first half. In the game. That was it.
The second half, we got our offense going a little bit, obviously, we scored. But we just dug too big a hole. And, again, Oklahoma is a very, very good team.

Q. Jim, Jonny talked about that charge block call on the Blake Griffin play as a potential game-changer. Did you have the same feeling as that play was taking place?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: It's a close play. I can't -- it was just a close play. It could go either way. It's all the other plays that were really the factor. That was one play.

Q. Coach, what would be your advice to Jonny? I know we're a little ahead of that. But in terms of going or staying?
COACH JIM BOEHEIM: First of all, we're done with the season. We don't talk about it during the season. We'll look at it, and he'll decide what he thinks he should do. We'll get an evaluation of where he goes, which you can never get. They told Dante Green he'd be in the top ten, and he went 28th.
You can talk about it all you want. You can get as much information as you want, and you can never know unless a kid's a top five pick. He can go anywhere.
He'll have to decide what's best for him. You know, you just -- he's -- you know, if you talk to -- look at these things that people say, he's 25th, he's 15th, he's 30th, he's 10th. They don't know. They haven't even started to evaluate players yet. So there's no way of knowing what's going to happen in the draft.
Anybody that would ask him right now what he's doing is an idiot. Not a journalist. He's an absolute idiot. But that's okay. There are some players and coaches that are idiots too.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

End of FastScripts