March 19, 2009


LARRY WAHL: We'll get started now. We've got the Temple Owls, the 11th seed in the south region, champions of the Atlantic 10 Conference, and from your left we have Sergio Olmos, Semaj Inge and Dionte Christmas, and we'll open it up for questions.

Q. Semaj, this is your second time around now in the tournament. How does it feel different compared to last year? You guys were first game in, first game out. What's it feel like now?

SEMAJ INGE: This year I think we're a little bit more focused. Last year we were real excited coming off the Atlantic 10 Championship because we beat our rival St. Joe's, and a lot of guys kind of settled for that. But this year we've got a lot of guys that came back from that, and I think we just want a little bit more this year.

Q. For any of you guys, have you had a chance to see Arizona State's zone defense on film and what they do so efficiently and how tough it will be to get shots against that zone?

DIONTE CHRISTMAS: Last couple weeks we've been watching Arizona State and the defense that they play. I think it's a great defense that they play. It kind of reminds that the zone defense that we used to play with Coach Chaney. It's very similar. Those guys are very long on the defensive end. I think Pendergraph does a great job in the back of the defense. So I think it's going to be tough to get shots against that defense. But I think as long as we move the ball and keep cutting and using each other, I think we're going to do a great job against them.

Q. You guys for the second year in a row had to play your way in. Does that give you an advantage do you think over a team that was probably going to be here regardless? You know, you guys are kind of used to the one and done already, because you really had to win every game last week.

DIONTE CHRISTMAS: I mean, I don't think that gives us an advantage. Going to the Atlantic 10 tournament we don't think about, well, if we lose we might not be able to make the tournament. Our goal is to win the Atlantic 10 championship, and to all of us, me, Semaj and Sergio, that's the only way we're going to get into the tournament. We go into every game like that.

I think going into the Arizona State game we're going to have the same mindset. We don't want this to be our last game because potentially this could be our last game. We want to keep on playing. I think Arizona State is going to come with everything they've got and we're going to definitely match that intensity and come with everything we've got. So it's going to be a hard fought game. I'm excited to see how that game will turn out.

Q. Dionte, you've been here now for a day. What have you guys done differently that you did as opposed to last year, and what have you learned already being here a day that maybe doing something differently could help you tomorrow as opposed to what happened last year?

DIONTE CHRISTMAS: Well, last year I think around this time we was on the court getting ready to play. This year that day of rest definitely is helping, and we get an extra day to prepare for these guys. I think like Semaj said, we're more focused. Last year, like Semaj said, we kind of hung on to the Atlantic 10 championship and beating our rivals and everything. This year we're going out with a different mindset. We won the Atlantic 10 championship, that's all fine and well, but we want more. We don't want to be a one and done team this year, we want to go further in this tournament and make a lot of noise.

I think last year I thought the game kind of came quick. We had the first game I think in the tournament, and this year we've got a little bit more time to prepare and just look over everything and just stay focused for Arizona State.

Q. Question for any of you: James Harden obviously is a load. Southern Cal did a great job on him in the tournament final. Did you watch that game, and what can you say about what you might learn from that and how to deal with him?

DIONTE CHRISTMAS: Well, we definitely watched that film, and like you said, they definitely did a great job on him. But James Harden is a great player. He's the motor to their vehicle, man. He makes those guys go. Depending on how he plays, that's how those guys play. We've just got to pay a lot of attention to him.

But they do have a lot of great complement players, Glasser and Pendergraph is a great player. But with James Harden, man, he's definitely a load to handle. I think we're going to do a good job. Ryan Brooks, we might start off with him, Semaj and myself, I think we're going to do a good job on him because we've been watching film. We know what his strengths are and we've just going to contain him.

Q. Sergio, you've had some big games this year, Tennessee among them. When you look back at your good games, what do you see? Do you see a more physical player? Do you see just a more thinking player? Like when you're good, those games, what is it that you see?

SERGIO OLMOS: I would say it's more confidence than anything else. I think confidence helps your game a lot. As you say, in the Tennessee game, I had a couple other games that I played really, really well. I think that's what it is, confidence.

Q. Semaj, everyone keeps talking about how Dionte has to have a good game for you guys to have a shot. Do you feel that way, too, or do you feel like maybe the offense right now is clicking to the point where you may not need Dionte to score 28, 29 points?

SEMAJ INGE: I think Dionte has been a catalyst for us these last couple years now. I don't think we're going to win a lot of big games if Dionte doesn't have a great game. He hasn't been shooting the ball that well lately, but I think a lot of other guys are ready to step up like Ryan Brooks and Lavoy Allen and Sergio Olmos. If teams try to focus on Dionte, we have other guys that are ready to step up and just try to take over that scoring that Dionte provides for us if he can't get it done.

Q. Semaj, two things: How would you describe Dionte's range? And how much does he actually need to get a shot off, or how much space?

SEMAJ INGE: Dionte is a great, great shooter. I've been playing basketball for a long time now, played with a lot of great guys, played against a lot of great guys, but as far as shooting the basketball, Dionte has to be up there with the best. We call a lot of sets for them and sometimes he might not be as open, but just because he has such a quick release he can get a shot off just about any time he wants. He has long range, he's athletic. I think just as far as him shooting the ball, I think he's one of the greatest in the country.

Q. Your coach has a 1 9 record in the tournament. A lot of times with Penn they were outmanned, a different situation. Any awareness on the part of you guys about that and maybe the idea of trying to get one for him?

DIONTE CHRISTMAS: It would definitely be nice to get coach other win in the tournament. I thought him being the Ivy League he's always been given a lower seed, but I think him being at Temple and doing such a great job thus far, we're probably the highest seed he's ever had, so I think it gives him a little better chance to get a win in the tournament. This year I think we're definitely on the right track, and I think we've definitely got a chance to get Coach Dunphy another win in the tournament.

Q. Dionte, there's been a lot of talk about Arizona State's offense. Dunphy has a pretty good motion offense. Do you guys feel like maybe it still hasn't reached its full potential this year, and if so, why not?

DIONTE CHRISTMAS: I mean, I think our offense I think the last couple games has reached its potential because the last couple games, like Semaj said, I haven't been shooting the ball well. Last game I thought I did a pretty good job of shooting the ball, but previous games I haven't been shooting the ball well, and we've still been coming out with wins. That shows a lot about our games. When I don't shoot the ball well, Ryan Brooks steps up, Semaj, Serge, Lavoy, Juan, everybody does a great job of stepping up. That's why it's kind of hard for me to get down on myself and not have confidence in myself, because I know those guys, at any time any one of those guys can step up and take the load off of me.

I think our offense is definitely starting to reach its peak right now because those guys are definitely stepping up offensively to help not only me but Lavoy and Ryan Brooks. Everybody is starting to contribute on the offensive end.

LARRY WAHL: Thank you, guys.

(Short break.)

LARRY WAHL: Coach Fran Dunphy of the Temple Owls. Do you want to open up with remarks on your season and being here in Miami?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Well, we're certainly appreciative of our opportunity to come to Miami and to be in the NCAA tournament. We finished our regular season with a pretty strong finish of 10 2 the last 12 games and winning three games in our Atlantic 10 tournament was a great accomplishment for our team. We needed to do that in order to qualify for the tournament. So again, we're grateful, honored and very happy to be here.

Q. For those of us who haven't seen Dionte on a day to day basis talk about his shooting range and just how good of a scorer he is.

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Well, he's a terrific shooter. He doesn't need a lot of time, nor space, to get shots. He has very good range. He's had an interesting year. I think he's made more big shots this year for us but not he hasn't shot the best percentage this year. He's had some struggling games that teams have really concentrated their defenses greatly on him, and other times where he's had open looks, and we've become so spoiled watching him play that we think that every time he shoots it, it's going to go in the basket.

He's had a fabulous career at Temple. He has represented our University as good as he possibly can and really very proud of all of his efforts over his career.

Q. Just to follow up, are you concerned about A.S.U.'s match up zone defense, how he'll be able to get some shots up?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Yeah, their defense is very good, and their defensive numbers are good, as well. We're going to have to do a lot of probing to get good looks at the basket. I think we know that going in. As much film as we've watched, we've seen exactly how they change and they match people up very, very well. I think Herb is a tremendous basketball coach, and we've seen this kind of defense before. We understand what it is. That doesn't mean it's any easier to defeat, but hopefully when we do get some open looks, we'll knock them down.

Q. I've heard Herb mention and also you, as well, that you guys have known each other for a while. Was there any specific place where your paths have crossed during your careers?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: We did coach against each other when he was the head coach at North Carolina State and I was the coach at Penn back in a tournament a couple of years ago. I want to say 2000 and 2001. But I think he's just a guy that I have admired as I've watched his work over the years. I certainly know his pedigree and what he's been through and how successful he's been. But I think more than the coaching piece, everybody that I talk to, and I haven't spent that much time with Herb, but what I've experienced is he's just a good man and everybody talks about that part of his personality, that he's as good a person as it gets, and I think we all respect him greatly as a basketball coach.

Q. How has Sergio evolved and changed both as a player and as a kid in his time there?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Well, I think as a person first, I would say to you, if you said to me I need to go to dinner with any one of our players tonight and break bread with them and have a conversation that would be mature, enlightening, profound, I would choose Sergio Olmos. I think he's got a great way about him. He has a great sense of who he is, and I think that's always a pleasure to watch and see in somebody his age that knows who he is.

I think as far as his basketball and the evolution of it, he has done a terrific job. He had a tough start in that he missed the first four games for us. That didn't help him much. But then he really started to come on. I think his game against Tennessee at home is as fine a game as he's played as a collegian. Then he hit a wall a little bit and we went with a little different lineup so he was coming off the bench, and he wasn't real happy about it, and I was glad that he wasn't happy about it because I think that helped him work a little harder and get back into the lineup. I think since then he's really played extremely well for us in both facets of the game.

On the offensive end he's had opportunities to score, and he's so long that he changes he not only blocks shots but he changes a number of others. I think he's really developed into a very good basketball player at this point, and I'm glad that he's our starting center.

Q. Does the fact that you've had the win last week give you any kind of an advantage, you've kind of been through that one and done thing, and they really were probably going to be here regardless?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: I don't think so. I think once the ball goes up tomorrow, especially for both teams, we've had an extra day to prepare for this tournament, so I don't think it matters that much. I think what matters is how your guys start the game and then build confidence, lose confidence, whatever it happens to be.

Once the ball goes up, you're either going to make shots because you've done a good job of getting decent looks or else you're going to struggle like crazy. There's a lot of adjustments going to be made in a game like tomorrow because we talked about it all the time, we're going to have to try a lot of things that hopefully are going to be successful at some point.

But I don't think the preparation or the fact that we had to win our conference tournament to get in, I don't think that adds any advantage or disadvantage to us.

Q. When you watch video of A.S.U., what specifically about their guard play jumps out? Obviously Harden. Just can you address Harden and Glasser and what you see in them?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Specifically with Harden and Glasser, but really everybody, I think their knack for playing the game is as good as any team that I've watched on film this year. What I mean by that is, if you attempt to make a move defensively, let's say trying to reach in and get a steal or whatever, they're reacting to that right away. Their counter to that is quick, it's decisive, and it has a good effect on how they're playing the game. So right away you reach in, they go by you, they're playing 5 on 4 basketball. That really is to a man, specifically to Glasser and Harden, in different ways, too. Glasser is getting in the lane, he's maybe not going to draw the same kind of fouls that Harden knows how to draw, but he is good at making floaters, he's good at seeing his teammates. So both of those guys are really good. But I wish it was limited to just those two. I think of five guys out there have a good sense of how to play the game. I think some of it is because they're well coached, I think some of it is because they're just good basketball players innately. That's a difficult chore as you're trying to watch and set your defense to that.

Q. Did Harden simply have an off day in the conference tournament final, or were there things Southern Cal did that made a difference there that maybe will help you guys?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: I think any time somebody of his ability, and you could say the same thing, people will look at Dionte and see some games where he didn't knock it out, what happened. Some of it was him. Maybe he wasn't really finding his way as best he could that day. Some of it is the opposition, and some of it is just the way basketball goes and the way athletics go.

For us as we look at Harden, we know how good a basketball player he is, and unless we pay attention to every detail defensively, he's going to take advantage of that. I think he's a terrific basketball player. The guys that I sit and listen to, the prognosticators, the pro guys who talk about him, they liken his game to a Paul Pierce. Everybody likes to say, "Who does he remind you of?" and they're mentioning his name with a guy like Paul Pierce. That's pretty lofty company.

Q. A lot of the players have been talking about the different feeling this time around, the extra day, being here a day. Do you sense that being around the players that maybe they're a little more relaxed this time around?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Well, I don't know that I feel it specifically today, but I did feel it after our game against Duquesne to win the Atlantic 10 championship. It was much different than the way we handled it last year against St. Joe's, the first time these guys got back to the tournament. They were ecstatic, they were running around the gym not sure how to act. This year we just acted like we had been there before. So I'm sensing a certain amount of maturity that is in our team.

Again, I don't know that any of that is going to make a difference tomorrow. I think this is the moment you've got to perform within the moment, and I hope that we are as ready to go as we possibly can be because if we're not, then we're not going to be successful tomorrow.

Q. The veterans on this team are from your early recruiting classes. What are the challenges of going from the non scholarship world to the scholarship world? Has it changed the way you evaluate? Has it changed the way you recruit?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Actually these three guys up here before, they were seniors on our team and I did not recruit them. They were sophomores my first year of coaching at Temple. It's interesting, somebody will say, when you get your guys, you're going to really see what the true Temple team is and what have you and put your stamp on it. Well, my statement to that is, let me get this straight, so when Dionte Christmas goes up and tries to make a jumpshot he's not my guy, he's somebody else's guy? He's playing at Temple, I'm coaching at Temple and I love all three of them to death. I'm sure they don't feel that as we go about practice because I'm in their butt all the time. But he's my guy. Yes, he was recruited by John Chaney and his staff, but I think really the question is for me, it's no different coming from Penn than it is now at Temple.

The process is all the same. You're going out in the July of the summers and you're saying, okay, I like that kid and you're calling his high school coach and talking about his academics, the quality of his person, what his growth can be like and how do you like the coach, all those things. Now, in a non scholarship situation you're worried about the academic restriction, the financial restriction. In our situation the academic restriction is not as difficult and the financial restriction is not there. We're offering scholarships.

But for all of us, we're all trying to get our kids to be the best students they can be, the best basketball players they can be. For us our APR right now is at an even thousand. That's pretty good. We're proud of that. We're proud of everything that these kids do. But they're my guys, and I'm hoping that they have a great game tomorrow because they're representing a wonderful institution.

Q. When Dionte Christmas talked about watching film over the last couple days, he said he realized it really is 80 percent about James Harden. How do you get this team to not focus too much on him and kind of recognize the surrounding parts?

COACH FRAN DUNPHY: I appreciate you saying that because when Dionte speaks, I listen but I don't always believe.

80 percent, what's that about? James Harden is a hell of a player. I wish he were the only guy on Arizona State that we had to worry about, but they have a number of players who are very good. Jeff Pendergraph, when he shoots it, he makes it more than any other player in the country. I'm looking at that, as well. Derek Glasser is running the show for them. I'm looking at that.

James Harden is a terrific, terrific player, and arguably a lottery pick, should he decide to come out this year. I'm sure Coach Sendek doesn't want me talking about that, but he's a tremendous athlete. He's got the great knack of scoring and getting to the foul line, all those things that make him so effective. We have to worry about him, but he's not the only one we have to worry about.

LARRY WAHL: We're going to let Coach go. Thank you, Coach.

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