Pregame Notes & Quotes: Southern Illinois vs. Virginia TechMarch 17, 2007

2007 NCAA Division I
Mens Basketball Championship
Second Round
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
March 17, 2007

Southern Illinois Press Conference Transcript

REPORTER: What do you guys remember about that win over the Hokies in Orlando in November, what do you need to do just as well that you did in that game to get a win?

TATUM: I think the whole team needs to understand that this is a completely different Virginia Tech team and we've got to go out and prepare for them and go out and execute. That's about it, we have to go out and execute our game.

YOUNG: I think we all know how hard they play. They've got a lot of athletes on their team and a bunch of big guys. We've got to go out and match their intensity, match their physicality and just play hard.

MULLINS: What Tony said, they played really hard and obviously have got a lot of athletes and they're a completely different team, they're in one of the top conferences in the country so we know we have to match their intensity from the start of the game.

REPORTER: You've got four guys in double figures, you forced 18 turnovers, what was clicking with you guys that you need to capture that tomorrow? You had four guys in double figures, they shot 50%, what was really working for you guys to get that victory that you want to do just as well tomorrow.

YOUNG: I think we just played hard that game. It was one of those games we come out and leave it all out on the court and I think from here on out that's how we've got to play. They're a different team than they were in Orlando. They may not have seen the pressure or whatever it was, it was a totally different team when they went through conference play and played against a bunch of different teams, so they're going to come out and be ready to play.

REPORTER: When you guys played them down in Orlando, that was really your first sort of tough win of the of the year, the first one you pulled out at the end of the game, how much do you feel that sort of set the tone for the rest of you guys at the end of the year.

YOUNG: I think it just boosted our confidence that much to realize that we could win those kind of games. Last year we lost so many close games, that when they won a close game, we actually saw that we could do it, saw how to do it, it just boosted our confidence so much more that we could go out there and play with confidence and win games and try to put teams away.

TATUM: I think the same, it does help our confidence knowing we can win tight games, because last year, it was one of those things that came down to the wire that, okay, we can win it, but after being with Virginia Tech in that close game and beating self other teams in close games, we know we'll win tight games. And if it goes down to the wire, we'll fight to the end. We know they'll do the same thing so it's definitely helped us.

REPORTER: Are there more similarities between you two teams than perhaps differences?

YOUNG: I think we're similar in certain ways, for the fact that they come out and they play hard. I mean, that kind of team is not going to give up regardless of what's going on. They play a lot of defense, they pressure the ball, they're just a real hard-nosed team, a tough team to play against, I think those are the similarities between the two of us, but there's a lot of difference too, but we are similar in certain ways.

REPORTER: How important is it to get the program back, it seems like teams are different once you get to the second week of the tournament?

YOUNG: I don't know how to answer that question, but it feels important to us to get back there, but I'm going to say to get to the Sweet 16 all around, we just want to win. Wherever we go, we just want to keep winning. As far as we can take, I mean, that's how far we're going to try to go.

REPORTER: You all mentioned how Virginia Tech is different, how are they different and how will that change what you guys do, if at all.

TATUM: I think they're different in that they're a lot more mature of a team just like we are. The more games you play, obviously you're going to be more experienced, have more maturity and they've beaten some great teams so that shows they can overcome adversity in hostile situations. Same with us, we've beaten teams like Creighton at Creighton with 17,000 there so we're a lot more mature as well. Tomorrow that's going to help us because we've been in that situation before.

YOUNG: I don't think it will be any different as far as what we do when we play basketball, it's pretty much as the same thing, go out and play hard, play defense and just let it carry on from there.

REPORTER: You guys are one of the best defensive teams in the country, can you talk about your style of defense and what makes you guys so good defensively?

YOUNG: I think it's just constant pressure on the ball. We study our scouting reports so we know what people like to do and we know people's strengths an we try and play against that. Our biggest thing is just pressure the ball and just guard. It's hard to do, it sounds real simple when you say it, that's the biggest thing, you've got to guard the ball and pressure a lot.

REPORTER: Tony Boyle last night, the second half that he had, had you guys seen him do that at all in practice and gave you an inkling he had that in him and now he has more confidence in going forward?

MULLINS: At practices, sometimes he'll just be the best player on that drill or a couple drills, when he gets clicking on offense and defense, he's a real force for us and obviously with Matt going down, we needed him to step up. He played huge for us and I think that gave us more confidence in him too knowing that he can play that well in one of the biggest games of his life so I think we're looking forward to seeing what he can do on Sunday too.

REPORTER: You guys have been able to avoid injuries, everyone's been relatively healthy, how important has that been for your success, and with Matt being sort of uncertain for tomorrow and his ankle not a hundred percent, how does that change what you guys do?

MULLINS: Obviously it's always great when you can go through a whole season without losing a player. Last year we lost some players, but for the most part we've been pretty healthy. We're not going to change what we do. We're going to see what Matt feels like tomorrow. We are still going to go out there and other guys will step up. Every time someone's had a bad game this year, when we need someone to step up, somebody has, so we're looking forward to seeing who's going to step up tomorrow.

REPORTER: Jamaal, are you any better player than you were last season? Do you see any improvement in you or the other guys and how would you characterize your season this year as compared to last year?

TATUM: I think just like our team, I'm a lot more mature player now and Coach has really been on me a lot throughout the year about making better decisions on the court as far as shot selection and when to take over and when to push the ball, when to pull it out, how to make plays for my teammates without the ball and I try to get better and I still have plenty of things to work on. Just what I said about the team, it comes with game experience and the more games I play, the better off I'll be.

MULLINS: Jamaal has always been a great player obviously. I think last year with Jamaal and Tony being juniors and not having any seniors, it's been a learning process and we've really done a good job of leading. J. T. has made how many huge plays for us throughout the year and that has helped us a lot.

YOUNG: I think he's grown as a player in a lot of different ways. He's a lot more mature. He goes out and does a lot more than score points for us now. He talks to everyone, he knows what's going on on the court defensively and offensively, he trusts his teammates and it's just a bunch of little things that people probably wouldn't notice that we notice as teammates, but he's grown a lot as a player.

REPORTER: Are there comparisons that Virginia Tech can draw, the fact they played Illinois and the common denominator with the former coach, do you consider that you play a little bit like Illinois?

YOUNG: Illinois is Illinois, Southern Illinois is Southern Illinois. Two totally different teams. We play defense similar, but we think we're two totally different teams.

REPORTER: The way you guys play points sort of have a different value. Like when you guys were upset, it kind of feels like a 12, 14-point lead, does it feel that way for you and is that any different than other teams you've played for like AAU or high school?

YOUNG: I think the biggest difference is, on a collegiate level, you can never be comfortable with a lead, you can have a 15-point lead with three minutes to go and teams playing against you always know that your lead is never safe. That's why we play defense the hardest. If we can't score, we can at least try to stop somebody from scoring. You can never be comfortable or be safe with any kind of lead.

MULLINS: If you look at all of our scores, we really don't blow a lot of people out, so we play close games and when we win by 10 or 12, that's a pretty good margin for us. A lot of games are close throughout the whole entire game so I think that's really helped us as a team. When we're down, we don't feel like we're out. When we're up, we always know the other team can come back. We know we have a lot of confidence in our abilities.

REPORTER: As you get ready to leave here, can you tell the story, how did you wind up at Southern in the first place and how do you want to be remembered as you leave?

TATUM: Basically I just happened to be recruited from the Eagles AAU team and a lot of guys who already played on the Eagles previously were coming to Southern Illinois. I kind of heard of them, didn't know much about them and Sweet 16 in 2001 or 2002 kind of opened my eyes up to them and I kind of realized they were a winning program and that's what I wanted to be a part of. And I came on campus, got to see everything, got to talk to a couple academic people, the business department. I really liked them, and was really happy to know the coaches were there, Coach Lowery was there and then he actually left, but I just like the coaching staff and familiarity with the people that were already there so I decided to come. As far as leaving here, it's going to be tough for me. I have a lot of great memories here and I definitely want to be remembered. So right now we're just concentrating on winning the games and that's one of the main ways you can remembered.

REPORTER: How much do you judge the success of a season by how you guys are doing in this tournament?

TATUM: It weighs very heavily. It's no pressure for us, but it does weigh very heavily because if we would have lost yesterday, we'd have a pretty good season, people remember our record but they don't remember what we do in the post season. So I think what you do at the end has a lot to say about what you did throughout, so like I say, we need to go out and win some games and keep winning.

REPORTER: Chris, everybody's talking in here about playing Virginia Tech early in the season. Does that game by now really mean anything in terms of what you're going to expect to see from them or what they'll see about you?

COACH LOWERY: It doesn't really mean that much now. Obviously it meant a lot to our program then. They're totally different and they're much better. Obviously we're different too, so the only thing that matters is that we see each other before we know their personnel and they know our personnel. REPORTER: Can you talk about Shaw, what his injury is, his availability and how if he plays or doesn't play affects you guys?

COACH LOWERY: If we had to play today, he probably wouldn't play. He needs some more time. I'm saying that meaning that we don't have a sense of urgency for him right now because obviously he's a junior, he's not a senior. So right now we're just going to kind of see how he does and judge that tomorrow and tomorrow when we play, we'll go forward and act like he wasn't there and I think that's the best thing to do. He's going to be the biggest cheerleader on the bench and our kids will continue to play hard.

REPORTER: What is the nature of his injury and how does that affect things?

COACH LOWERY: He has an ankle sprain. We have several different people that are leading scorers, they're different than they were then, I don't think that game has anything to do with it right now, he has a high ankle sprain, that's what he has.

REPORTER: Tony Young won a high school state championship, how do you think that kind of team success in high school benefits a kid when he gets to college?

COACH LOWERY: The number one thing, it helps you to be a part of a winner. And understanding how to be a part of a team concept, because they were huge underdogs in the game that they won, obviously there were some other guys on that team that they beat, it shows he can overcome adversity and do whatever it takes to win. I think he's brought that toughness and that willingness to win to our program. So I think it was very huge in developing him as a player and as a person.

REPORTER: For the most part this year, other than maybe now with Matt, you guys have been able to avoid injuries and sicknesses, how important has that been for the success you guys have had this year?

COACH LOWERY: We've got a lot of small things, a lot of sicknesses, but our kids have fought through it. We just don't announce and talk about it because we don't want anybody to have an advantage mentally over us. We had a kid with a broken foot, a kid with a torn ACL, we've had things, but we don't talk about them because it takes away from the kids that are healthy and what they're trying to do when they're consistently being asked, like we're being asked now, I think it takes away from the concentration level. Injuries are part of sports so we learn to deal with them in a positive way and that's something we've done all year.

REPORTER: Going back to that game in Florida, that was really sort of the first tough one, the first one you called a gut check, how much did that set the tone for the rest of the season?

COACH LOWERY: I think it set the tone, but I think playing Arkansas set the tone, knowing we could compete at the highest level. We didn't execute, the difference is after we played Arkansas, we executed at the end and did the things we needed to to win the game. So playing Arkansas was really the first thing that got us over the hump. But it showed our kids that they had confidence in each other and they really trusted each other and that was the start of that.

REPORTER: Chris, what did you like about how you played offensively and defensively the first time you played the Hokies? Was there anything, you weren't too thrilled about you wanted to improve upon?

COACH LOWERY: I didn't remember that game. I mean, it's three months ago. For us to go back and think they're going to do the same thing would be stupid on our part, so we really focused on now with them and focused on now.

REPORTER: You haven't looked at the tape from the November game when you played them?

COACH LOWERY: We watched it after we played them. We're focused on them now. We know what we did when we played them. We understand what we did then, yeah, we understand what we did, but our biggest thing is now.

REPORTER: What did you understand that you did well in that game then?

COACH LOWERY: I thought we attacked them. I thought we really got a chance to get some things on them offensively by being patient and slowing down a little bit and not trying to get a track meet with them.

REPORTER: Chris, I notice your philosophy seems to be to run a lot of guys in, give them even just a couple minutes, like Tony Boyle last year didn't play a lot of minutes but played a little bit in every game. Is that part of your philosophy to get guys in situations like that so that when a situation like that last night comes up, that everybody's got confidence in game situations that they didn't before?

COACH LOWERY: That's true, but it starts in practice too, we never play our first five minutes until the following day, so he's always playing with different mix-ups in practice and learning to play with Jamaal on a more consistent basis, so we'll do a whole two-hour practice where he's with one group and the next day he might not be with that same five guys until a week, two weeks later. What it does, they will have confidence and our other guys have confidence in him playing that way and I think that's the best way and that's usually why most of our guys develop in a manner that's beneficial to our program when they're a four or fifth year senior, they become more role players.

REPORTER: If Tony is forced to start, who are you going to have to move up on the bench to take Tony's role?

COACH LOWERY: I think it's difficult with Virginia Tech because they have really played four guards, two guards and two forwards that are skilled enough to be a three. I think it's different, we didn't want to play Tyrone Green as much as we did because Holy Cross is so big, so we moved foster into that rotation and played him about a minute or two in the second half. He'll be the likely candidate, but probably you'll see more of Tyrone Green and Josh Bone than yesterday.

REPORTER: How important is it to get to the Sweet 16 in terms of getting your name out there and people recognizing you, do you think they do that now? Or do you think this is a much bigger step to get it out there?

COACH LOWERY: We were ranked for seven or eight weeks, so I think that has gotten our name out there. Being a 4 seed has really gotten us known. Sweet 16 is not about putting our name out there, that's about our program, about our future, about getting more recruits to be visible in their eyes. We want to be visible in the midwest but we want to reach out even further than that. Getting past the first round helps, obviously going even further than that makes it even better.

REPORTER: Can you talk about what makes you guys one of the best defensive teams in the country, what's kind of your approach to defense and is it similar to Illinois from last night or different?

COACH LOWERY: I think what makes us good is that we trust each other. I think that's the biggest thing when you come into our program learning to go all out and guard your man when he has the ball and just be a helper when your man doesn't have the ball. So many kids don't trust their own feet enough to get up on somebody and guard them, because maybe in high school or wherever they came from, they didn't play a defense like we do, so getting to trust the person behind them that they can't see is really the biggest thing with us and once they do that with us, we really try to take away so many different things and getting our people to focus and believe in each other.

REPORTER: Along the lines of building your program, you talked the other day about nonconference scheduling, I believe, is that still a struggle for your program or is it something you want to improve upon a little more.

COACH LOWERY: I don't know how we can improve upon it. We would love to schedule at homes with a lot of people but I think it will get worse with what our league did as a whole nonconference on the road in hostile environments, it will be tougher because our league is not an easy out in nonconference especially when you see somebody early in the year when you're trying to figure out who's playing, who's not going to play.

-- Courtesy Ohio State