March 20, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with the Missouri press conference. We'll have an opening statement from Coach Anderson and then take questions for the student athletes.
COACH ANDERSON: First, I thought it was a well played ball game. I thought both teams came out and you could see the nerves going. That's why the shooting percentages were like they were. But you got to credit Cornell also. They one of the things we always do, we pressure people and make people turn it over, they had three turnovers at half time. But I still thought our pressure defense was very, very effective because they had to use some personnel that probably they're not used to using.
I thought the second half was typical of our basketball team all year long. I thought we came out in the second half and we had super energy and our defense really, I thought, triggered our offense and you could see the percentages went up. We had some seniors step up, DeMarre, Leo, I thought they set the tone. And, of course, our guard tandem, to me, is one of the better guard tandems in the country, because it's not all about offense with them.
But it was a good win for us, it was a good opening game and we survived and advance, that's our thing.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student athletes.
Q. Leo, talk about your game and it seemed like they didn't really have the athleticism inside to match up with you.
LEO LYONS: We had a little quickness advantage when it came to the rebounding and I just tried to stay close around the rim and get a lot of those loose balls because they were getting all of them in the first half and I came in the second half with the mindset of trying to get them.
Q. J.T., Zaire, talk about what it was like in the morning leading up to the game? Did you ever have to deal with the butterflies? And if so, how?
J.T. TILLER: Me personally, I always have a couple of butterflies, especially this being my first appearance in the NCAA tournament. But just leading up to the game just got to get the right mindset and know what you got to come in and do and then all that goes away.
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I actually felt the least amount of butterflies I felt all season. It kind of shocked me. I was trying to get myself nervous a little bit, because I felt I was too cool. So, but I don't know, I guess it worked out good.
Q. Leo, when you went to the bench early in the game, can you tell us what hurt and if you thought you could come back and give that kind of an effort.
LEO LYONS: Well, I got to tell you I was hurt. You already know what happened. And I was a little winded anyways. Just going out there in this part of the country, I know it's kind of like Colorado was and I got kind of tired at the beginning and he hit me and made me realize that it's time to take a seat.
But I came back with the right mindset. It gave me a chance to sit on the bench and look at the game and try to catch the speed and try to see what our strengths were.
Q. Talk about what it's like to speed up a team like Cornell that wants to play slow and why it was so much more effective in the second half?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I thought the tempo was pretty good. I didn't honestly feel like they were going that slow. But I can't, we can't really be concerned with the tempo that they're trying to play at. If you want to control tempo, you got to get after it. With Coach A you don't have an option because I know there's a lot of guys ready to get after it, so if I don't, somebody else is.
J.T. TILLER: I think tempo played a very important part in the game today because Cornell's a very good offensive team half court wise and if you don't get them out their comfort zone they can definitely kill you with the shooting and inside play. So I think that our speed got them out of their comfort zone and it played in our favor.
Q. DeMarre and Zaire, can you guys just talk about now that you have one won, is there a little sense of relief, you got some footing in the tournament, and how do you look at where you go from here?
DeMARRE CARROLL: The first game is always the most important game. We kind of got through the first game and now our next opponent is Marquette. They're a very talented basketball team. They're small, athletic. So hopefully Leo can do the same thing he did tonight, catch the ball inside. And myself I can get down there and give J.T. and them somebody to throw the ball to in the post and we can take advantage of our size.
ZAIRE TAYLOR: It was just a it's good to get a chance to get acclimated to this situation a little bit, but pretty much the same thing he said. Get a little feel a little more comfortable.
Q. DeMarre, can you talk about the lift Kim English gave you guys with that little run he went on in the second half?
DeMARRE CARROLL: Kim, wow, he came out of the bench, he is one of them guys that you can't shake his confidence. He can miss about 30 shots but he's going to come back and shoot the next one. But he came off with the right mindset and knocked down some big shots for us. He played a really good game for us.
I don't call him a freshman no more, they're sophomores and they should be used to this kind of game time experience and hopefully we're going to need them tomorrow to come off the bench and do the same thing.
Q. Question for DeMarre, you got off to a slower start in the first half, but it seemed like when you picked it up in the second half, your team flowed around that, sort of built on your momentum. Can you describe how that worked for you or what was going on at the time.
DeMARRE CARROLL: Well, you know, I handled the nerves like J.T. said, but once I got into the locker room my teammates, they were looking up to me and they really told me to be the Junkyard Dog I am. So I tried to go in there and get in every play. My teammates did a good job of feeding off me, J.T. and Zaire, they made it easy for me to get a lot of steals and get a lot of easy buckets. So I give credit to my teammates.
Q. For DeMarre and Leo, can you talk about that stretch that always seems to come for you guys where you kind of go on a little bit of a run and the energy really builds up. Are you starting to expect that you've been doing that a lot in the second half, are you starting to feel that coming and start to expect that and see the other team start to lose it a little bit?
DeMARRE CARROLL: We're a second half team, like Coach always says. He always, we come in the locker room and he's like it's 20 minutes left, you know, everybody get excited because it was a he gave us a great motivation speech. I think we're a second half team and if we can put two halves together like we did in the second half, watch out for those Tigers.
LEO LYONS: It's more we try to keep the pace of the game coming up. In the second half that seems like when the teams get tired. We talk about the wear and tear that we put on people by putting pressure on defense and offense. So if you run for the whole game, sooner or later you're going to break down. And today we played a team and it seemed like we took their legs from them in the second half and we got the opportunities we needed to score and the stops that we needed.
Q. Can anybody tackle this that feels free to, what was the content, sum and substance of that great half time speech?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: DeMarre got it, he wrote it up. No, really.
DeMARRE CARROLL: It was a great speech and let's say that, and it was a great speech.
COACH ANDERSON: We can't tell everything, man.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, thanks, guys. We'll excuse the student athletes and take questions for Coach Anderson.
Q. Can you just give us a little hint about the half time? Was it your actions, was it your words? Anything in particular that you used to convey your message?
COACH ANDERSON: Actually, I'm probably a little bit more calm and I think that's probably shocking to them. Because right there you got to remember right at the end of the half we had a six point lead and we gave we made Wittman take a tough shot and they got the offensive stick back and put it in. And I had two freshman guards just kind of watching in amazement.
I thought coming in they thought I was going to go off. But I thought we had to settle down more than anything else and I always say there's two halves to a game. But I thought our guys came out with tenaciousness on defense that we played with all year long. I thought we made the subtle adjustments. I thought we were doing the same thing over and over where they were trying to attack us.
And they only had three turnovers at half time. So to me that played into our hands because they're more concerned about taking care of the ball than they are maybe trying to score or get into what they want to do. And I think that's what, as you look at the stat line, they had nine turnovers for the game, but I thought our pressure defense was very, very effective. It was as one of the guys alluded to. I thought we got to their legs and we tried to take them out whatever they wanted to do and I thought that enabled us to really get into a bit more aggressive offensively. It created some offense for us.
Q. Do you see these runs coming? With the way you guys play and the style you guys play, it seems like the run always comes. Do you see it coming? Do you see it building up to that?
COACH ANDERSON: I think we're capable of it. I think more than anything else we're capable. I thought in the first half we didn't make shots. We had a lot of open looks, as a matter of fact, we shot 12 threes and you can see the effectiveness because we ended up shooting 57 percent in the second half. We were 3 for 8 from the, I think from the 3 point line, and we make free throws. So we didn't settle. I thought in the first half we just kind of settled.
And getting a little bit more familiar with a team like Cornell, coming in we knew they could shoot the basketball. And of course, they started off the game with a zone which I expected to see that. But I thought we made the adjustment at half time and that's what good teams do.
But the runs when our defense is good, they're going to come. And I thought our bench was a big, big key with that. Guys like Kim English coming off the bench, Marcus, Justin, whoever came in, I thought they gave us some great, great energy. But I thought the guys that started off in the second half, I thought they set the stage and it was a good balance scoring and 19 assists on 28 field goals. That's pretty efficient and that's something we have been doing all year long.
I think this is a very unselfish team and, of course, Leo had it going on tonight. He had a double double and we know he's capable of it and I thought he played very athletic tonight. He showcased that. And I thought DeMarre, you look at the stat line, 13 7 5 assists, no turnovers, that's pretty strong there. So again, it's those seniors that are doing those things. And of course, I still like our guard play.
Q. You mentioned Leo, can you talk a little more about the way he played. It just seemed like they couldn't handle him inside.
COACH ANDERSON: Well, it was to his advantage and you could see it early in the game. I think he was making attacks to the basket, and that's, I think, what our basketball team is and I think our guys are figuring out now that we take advantage of that where people can. He's an inside outside guy that can score. And the great thing I'm liking seeing now is he's doing a lot more things on the defensive side. He's getting those rebounds, he's getting outlet passes, he's having assists. So he's come a long way, he's playing some he played one of his better games I thought in awhile tonight.
Q. Coach Williams sat up there and gave a dissertation of numbers and statistics. I wonder if there's a number or a stat that you guys pay specific attention to and can sort of tell if you're going to win or lose a game?
COACH ANDERSON: I think when we share the basketball. I think when our assist turnovers ratio, we recreate turnovers and if we can stay in the ballpark of rebounding, tonight we were in the ballpark. They had 17 offensive rebounds. Now that's a stat I don't like, but and of course, they got a lot of them going down the stretch. But I think you're we're going to be one of the better field goal percentage teams. We didn't shoot well in the first half. Second half we ended up shooting 47 percent.
So, that's been the theme of our team all year long. I mean, we have been pretty good in those numbers. If you look to the conference and look at those efficiency, the stats, the assists, the steals, the field goal percentage, the defensive field goal percentage, those are some things that really stand out with our basketball team.
But I think more than anything else when I got the guys coming off the bench, Kim English gives us 13 points off the bench, we have some other guys come in and give us some quality minutes. I think that's more what I'm looking at.
Q. A lot of guys new to this experience of the NCAA, what's been the demeanor of the team? And has there been any surprises since they have been here in Boise?
COACH ANDERSON: No, I tell you what, they have been following my lead. These guys are this is a great group of guys. They listen to, for the most part, the things that we talk about. But I think the great part about it has been the constant theme all year long, one game at a time. Every game's a big game. No matter who you play, they're capable of beating you. And it's a big game for them and it's a big game for us.
So coming in you want to take out all the doubt in their minds and you know there's going to be some nerves going. But I think that for our guys, things have been pretty simple for them. And all I wanted them to do is bring the energy and defense and I think the rest will take care of itself.
I think I got some guys sitting there on the bench, they know that they're going to have an opportunity to go play and I think that's been the secret of our team. We're the ultimate team. The ultimate team.
Q. I understand in the grand scheme of things it's probably not something you think about right now, but your team tied a school record for wins in a season. Is that an accomplishment down the road that you would be pretty proud of?
COACH ANDERSON: Probably on down the road. Right now it was the next game and we got that one is over with and these guys can enjoy it to midnight and then we get ready for Marquette. But these guys, again, these guys have done an unbelievable job. They believe in one another, they trust in one another, if you look out on the floor they're having fun.
Q. With all the nerves and that going into this one, you guys come out and turn the ball over the fewest amount of times all season. Can you explain how that happened.
COACH ANDERSON: Well, I just think the flow of the game. We were shooting it, but we wasn't making any. So I guess, you know, that's probably good in a way. Most times you turn over you don't get shots. At least we were shooting it, so they were shooting it as well. So it wasn't a thing of beauty from a shooting standpoint. And I thought both teams got real tired early on. But that's nerves, I think.
If we can take care of the ball and create tempo I think more than anything else and that's probably the fewest turnovers a team has had against us this year, maybe somebody else. But at the same time I thought our pressure defense was the difference in the game. I really, really did. There was a lot of different ways that it can have an effect on the game and I thought you saw another way tonight. And I thought that it was good on our guys' part because I always tell them there are times when you're going to have patience on your defense as well and I thought we did that tonight.
Q. You talked about the zone in the first half and you guys had some long possessions. How do you stay aggressive and maintain tempo without forcing up bad shots when a team is packing it in like that?
COACH ANDERSON: I think we got to make the zone move and make our attacks, we got it to the baseline as the game continued to flow I thought we started getting the ball to the baseline, you see J.T. sneak back there, we got a lob in there to Leo and eventually they're going to have to come out of that zone.
But we just didn't I thought we didn't have we didn't take good shots. I thought we just turned the ball around so we could shoot a jump shot. We can shoot that on the first play if that's the case. But I thought we did a better job of us start attacking and seeing the gaps and attacking and not only that, putting our big guys in position where we can get in there to them and they were a lot more effective.
Q. In your opening statement you said that your pressure defense put them into personnel groupings that made them uncomfortable that they hadn't used before. Can you be more specific in terms of what you saw from your defense?
COACH ANDERSON: I thought that Wittman is a big key in their team and I thought that we did a good job on their screen and roll, they do a lot of screen and roll and a lot of screening for him and I thought we had people wherever he was. And obviously they had some shots that they missed too.
But I thought just our presence, guys of being there in position, I thought it kind of made them a little hesitant. And so again, I just thought our defense was pretty darn good and we were rebounding the ball, we were pushing the ball, and I thought that you saw the effect of it in the second half. And our defense is to disrupt what other people want to do and I thought we did a good job of that in the first half.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, Coach.
COACH ANDERSON: Okay, thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll ask Coach Donahue to make an opening statement and then take questions for the student athletes.
COACH DONAHUE: Thank you. I thought that the game was probably lost for us in the first half, where I thought we played extremely well defensively, took care of the ball, and then shots that we normally make, we didn't. And all of the things that you look for and what things we worked on, I thought in the first half we did, except make shots. I think it's down four at that point, it made it difficult. Then the second part is they make a great run to start the second half. And I thought our defense let up at that point.
But I said to myself, and I never mentioned to the guys, I thought if we could hold our turnovers under 10, which I thought would be difficult, and limit them to under 10 offensive rebounds, we did both those things. And I thought it was basically a 10 to 12 point game for the most part. And honestly, we got fouled at the end but I give Missouri credit. They're obviously a terrific basketball team. I think the kid Lyons and Carroll are just terrific basketball players, just terrific defenders, take care of the ball, great experience. And I think that's what makes them special at this point.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student athletes.
Q. Alex, talk about the trouble that Leo Lyons gave you guys inside. Seemed like he was a problem throughout the game.
ALEX TYLER: I think that he's a very talented player and he works really hard. So he was working on not only getting position, but once we played pretty well, he would throw up a shot and get his own rebound. He just kept going after it. So I think that's what gave us a little bit of a problem.
Q. For Ryan and Alex, can you just talk about the toll that the pressure defense takes over the course of the game.
RYAN WITTMAN: Obviously they play a lot of guys. But I thought we handled it pretty well. Like Coach said, we only had nine turnovers. I think when we broke and we were aggressive we got some easy baskets, but I think at times it led to some quick shots. And it wasn't so much the turnovers that hurt us, but them getting out in transition. They got some easy baskets in the second half when they were making that big run. I thought maybe their press sped us up a little bit, but I thought we handled it pretty well for the most part.
ALEX TYLER: I think we did a pretty good job with it. We had a lot of passing through all the pressure that they put on and I think that overall we did a pretty good job. But like he said, it sped us up a little bit and took a little quicker shots in the second half and it just went from there.
Q. Ryan, coach was saying that you guys played really well in the first half and maybe didn't get as much out of it as you should have. Did you feel like going in the locker room that you didn't get what you could have out of that half?
RYAN WITTMAN: Definitely. All year long we shot the ball well and so it was kind of disappointing to play a half like that and not knock the shots down. But it was there, we were going out in the second half saying if we play that same type of half and shoot the ball better, we're going to be in great shape.
Obviously that didn't happen, they started making some plays in transition and that's what cost us.
Q. For both the players, does the loss like this put a damper on the season at all when you've been back two times now and then the game gets away from you in the second half here?
RYAN WITTMAN: Doesn't necessarily put a damper on the season, it's extremely difficult to win back to back championships in any conference. It's disappointing in the fact that we know we could have played better, we could have hit more shots and things might have turned out differently.
Any time your season ends like this it's always difficult. Especially having four seniors, it was their last game. It's always difficult when your season ends like this, but we don't want to take anything away from what we accomplished earlier in the year.
ALEX TYLER: Exactly. We went through a lot this year. As a group I think we matured so much throughout the course of the year. And a game like this, where we felt like we could have won if we played better, it's definitely disappointing, but none of our guys gave up, we all worked hard all season and that's what we have done all year. So I think for winning back to back Ivy League championships is still a great accomplishment.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you gentlemen. We'll take questions now for Coach Donahue.
Q. Mike Anderson said that even though you guys turned the ball over not that much, he thought the difference in the game was the defense and the way that it kind of sped you up and made you do some things in the second half. Is that kind of how you saw it a little bit the second half?
COACH DONAHUE: You know, I'll respectfully disagree. I think that, I thought the pressure helped us get open shots. That's, to me, that's the underrated thing with Mike's team is their offense. They don't turn the ball over. They share the ball. No one does anything out of the ordinary where you say, wow, what would a guy do there? Why did he do that? There is none of that.
And I go back to the two bigs, they just have a great assist to turnover with the big players. And they still can guard and they still can be physical, yet they're a multi task on the offensive end. It just makes it very difficult to guard. And I thought that stretch where they took it to us was their offense.
I know I just thought that and it's difficult to press us because we can make shots and I just thought that allowed us to get open looks, where I think we might have been, it might have been more difficult if they stayed with us and guarded us straight up.
I'm as I said, I was disappointed in shots that I thought we could make and obviously a couple guys in particular just had bad days shooting. And it's hard to get tired in an NCAA game. These timeouts are three minutes long and you get an extra 30 and that's three minutes long, and I didn't sense fatigue at all and we played a lot of guys and they played their guys about the same. I thought they're underrated offensive basketball team. It doesn't jump out at you, but they're an underrated offensive basketball team.
Q. Some things obviously didn't go your way today, but yesterday you talked a lot about wanting to play better than last year. How do you feel like the game went in terms of that?
COACH DONAHUE: Yeah, I thought that we played much better. And as I said, for the most of the game I think it was a 10 to 12 point game with about three to go and we got to take chances and we got to start fouling. And they're not a great foul shooting team, but they made all their foul shots today.
I think that was where, if we wanted to keep the game close and look like it was, I think we could have kept it around 10. But that's not why you do this, you try to win games. And I thought we played much better, there's a much better sense of poise and confidence about us. Way different and I have great aspirations for this team. All five of these starters are back, top seven guys for the most part are back. For the obviously we're going to try to win our league again, we're going to challenge ourselves in the preseason, we're going to try to get to this stage again and we're going to try to win. And I'm confident that we'll continue to grow as a program and a team and we'll show better next year and try to advance.
Q. You talked in the opening a little bit about Leo Lyons and the challenges, how difficult is it really, it seemed like there's not a lot you can do to defend that?
COACH DONAHUE: You know, I just think he's as good as it gets in college basketball. A senior like that, plays at a great pace, very skilled, yet tough. When he misses his shot he has the ability to chase it down. He does it against all competition. That's what makes him really good. I just think those two kids are just so much better than everybody else in college basketball because they're older and tougher and veteran oriented and they buy into what Coach Anderson is doing. That jumps out at me. All the other guys are good basketball players. I think those two are just really special.
Q. We're doing something with stats. The Marquette coach has been talking a lot this week about statistics and breaking everything down. Is there one that you really pay attention to, something you track very closely?
COACH DONAHUE: Well, I think that depends on each team, to be honest with you. What's important to you. For us we need to take care of the ball if we're going to win. We can't make up with athleticism and length and size many mistakes. So we got to take care of the ball, and obviously move the ball and get shots for each other.
So the assist to turnovers are a huge one for us. It may not be big for other teams that can offensive rebound, can cause havoc on the defensive end. I go back to this Missouri team again, their advantage is that they do both. They cause havoc and they take care of the ball. And they assist. I mean that's the thing that amazes me. But for us, that's something that's big for us.
If I had a different type of team I would look at it differently, but that's a huge stat for us and if you look at our team as a progression over the years, that continually gets better as we do it. Same thing on the defensive end. We want to limit teams in their ability to get assists and try to limit those things and then obviously you try to, obviously, don't let them get as many turnovers as you can get as well.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you, coach.
COACH DONAHUE: Thank you.
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