March 20, 2009

THE MODERATOR:  We're begin with an opening statement from Coach Ford followed by questions for the student athletes only.  Joining us this evening are Oklahoma State student athletes Byron Eaton, Terrel Harris and Marshall Moses.  Coach Ford, please begin with an opening statement.

COACH FORD:  Well, I'm just really proud of our guys.  We've battled some serious foul trouble.  We made a lot of mistakes today with the ball and some different things.  But we made the plays when we needed to.  This game was played pretty much how I thought it would be.

I knew it was going to come down to the wire.  If you just study our team and study their team, it's just the way it was going to be.  But I'm proud of each of these guys making big plays each of these guys down the stretch made a huge play.

But we've gotten in foul trouble a lot this year.  And we're a team that doesn't play a lot of people.  We're going to play six, seven guys.  And we've learned a lot in getting in foul trouble.  It's something that for some reason we just continue to do.  But I think it's paid off for us today because we figured out how just to survive without Byron in there full strength in the first half, without Terrel being able to play full strength.

We got these guys minutes but they couldn't play as hard as we wanted them to because they couldn't get their third fouls or they're trying to stay out of foul trouble.  So we're just trying to mix and match, change defenses every probably five possessions, just to try to obviously keep Tennessee off bounds but also to keep our guys out of foul trouble as well.

So just very fortunate to get this win, but it was how I thought it would be played, just a very hard fought NCAA same in March.  And just proud of these guys to get that first win under their belt.  And all three of these guys played a huge role in it.

THE MODERATOR:  Questions for the student athletes.

Q.  Byron, could you just talk about what this means to you considering your career and what's happened, and was there specifically a time something happened in the last couple of years where you thought a day like this would never come for you here?

BYRON EATON:  It was definitely one of my goals to get here to the NCAA Tournament, and not only just get here, but to win some games.  And like you said, I wish it would have came a little bit sooner in my career where I was able to play in an NCAA Tournament.  But it's just something that I wasn't able to do until my last year.

It started last year, though, after we lost our last game, we started working on the NCAA Tournament right then.  We didn't wait until the summer or we didn't wait for anything, we just started working then.

And I'm just happy that I was able to make it here, and for this opportunity that I was able to do just have fun with the situation that presented itself.

Q.  Byron, can you talk about that last drive and what you were looking for and the feeling when it went in, you made your free throw?

BYRON EATON:  It started when Tyler made his shot.  I told our guys don't worry about it, we're going to win this game.  We're going to come down, we're going to get us a good shot and we're going to win the game.

And after they made it I said we're going to run flat, and you all just get in the corners.  But then coach called a timeout and he drew up a great play in order to open the court a little bit wider.  It was a fake handoff to Terrel and Marshall came and hit a screen.  All night I was hitting Marshall on the row.  I was either going to be able to get the bucket or he was.

I was just able to go to the middle.  He got all the way under the screen and gave them the middle.  Once I got miles by him I was looking for the contact because I knew it was coming.  I tried to concentrate on making the basket for my team.

Q.  Marshall, could you talk about the night you had overall and then just what happened there with the technical?

MARSHALL MOSES:  That technical, for the most part I was more afraid of coach than anything.  I was scared to look over there after I got it.

But Byron made a play, I screened, he made a great pass, and after I dunked it being in the NCAA atmosphere and close game, getting those two points, that really mattered, it all kind of just got to me.  And I kind of show boated a little bit and it won't happen again, Coach, just to let him know now.

I was just looking at the stats.  I didn't know how many rebounds or points I had.  I just wanted to win, man just looking at our guys' eyes especially our seniors you could tell they wanted to win so bad and so did I.  So I just went out and played my hardest for my family.

Q.  Terrel, talking about how excited you were about getting out there and being able to see the NCAA on the court, what was the whole thing like for you?

TERREL HARRIS:  It was a great experience.  I never experienced I've never experienced nothing like this.  The only time I've really been in as close to this is Big 12.  So really I was just anxious to see what it would be like and like Coach said the first game is always the hardest game to get through.

So I'm just ready to get to this next game and glad we won this first one.

Q.  Terrel or Marshall, can you talk about how nice it is to have a guy like Byron, who, late in the game, you can kind of give him the ball you know he's going to go make a play?

MARSHALL MOSES:  Well, I think it's great.  He tells me during the game, before the games, all the time that just do this, just do that.  It's actually kind of easier playing with a guy like Byron because he tells you exactly where to go.  If you do what you're supposed to do you're going to score the ball.  I see him do it all the game, with all the guys in the game, Terrel, go to that corner, Marshall, screen and roll here, pop here, and if you do exactly what he says, it's an easy two points or three points for some of our 3 point shooters we got.  It's great.  I love playing with Byron.

TERREL HARRIS:  Well, for me, I've been playing with him for four years and a little bit of high school.  He definitely makes my job a lot easier.  All I have to do is hit my shots, and he's happy with that.  If I hit my shots then he's happy with that.  But as far as just him creating, he helps the whole team.  He creates so much and people sink in on him so much that it just opens up everything else for everybody else.

So with this type of team that we have, with the shooters and now Marshall and our big men, makes a very powerful as an offensive team.

Q.  Marshall, I guess coming in it looked like Tennessee had a decided advantage inside and yet you looks at the statistics you had a real dominating game.  Can you just talk about how you were able to do that?

MARSHALL MOSES:  Again, I was just playing hard.  I knew they had some big time players in the post.  Two 4s and 5s are their leading scorers.  And Chism is a really big guy.  And Tyler Smith isn't as big but has got the toughness of a seven footer.  He plays big.

And I just wanted to go out there and play hard.  I picked up some fouls trying to front those guys and get physical with them a little bit, but coach told me not to worry about it, and we came out with a victory.  So I'm pretty sure they was happy with how I did down there with those big guys.


Q.  Byron, how quickly did this become not so much an NCAA Tournament first and just a game that you guys were playing and were trying to win?

BYRON EATON:  That was the main thing I was telling our guys while we were warming up.  Don't think of it as an NCAA game, just think of it as another game on our schedule.  Don't put too many emotions into the game because that's when you start doing things that you don't normally do.

And one of the main things the guys did, we went out there and had a lot more fun after the first few minutes of the game. They put that in their mind, that it is just another game, another opponent.  They're not just in the Big 12.

We went out of there and did some great things.  After we got the NCAA jitterbugs out of us.

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, guys.  Questions for Coach.

Q.  As the game went down to the wire, how much were those two technicals weighing on your mind that that could be the decisive factor?

COACH FORD: I don't understand.

Q.  Two technicals, his and yours in the first half.

COACH FORD:  I don't know what one thing had to do with the other, to be honest with you.

Q.  The score they had and it being a close game?

COACH FORD:  I told my assistant, I was going to get mine.  I wanted one.  Because it kind of goes back to his question in the back.  These guys, I thought the first eight minutes of the game were just playing as if we're having fun out here.  They were playing hard, but I told our guys we're not focused right now.  We're not competing the way we need to compete.  I said I gotta do something.  That's why I called timeout.  After I got it, give me a chance to get into my guys.

And I got a little quicker than I thought I would.  But I was going to get it.  And I went back to [Tuttle] and I said you gotta get as fired up as I am right now, you have to get as upset as I am right now.  You've got to compete.  Let's forget about this is the NCAA Tournament and you gotta start playing.

But even Marshall's, I wasn't that upset about for the fact he was playing good basketball I knew why he got it.  It was an emotional.  He shouldn't have done it, but it was very emotional.  One thing doesn't have to do with the other.  We missed three or four wide open 3 pointers.  We missed free throws, we missed a lot    I never look at that.

It's like if a guy misses a game winning free throws did he lose the game for you?  No.  One thing doesn't have to do with the other, really.  I would never have thought about that.

Q.  After Marshall's technical, he sat for quite some time.  How much of that was to calm him down and he was playing so great, were you tempted to leave him in or must you sit him?  And was there any confusion if that was a personal foul, that he had four after the technical, even though it didn't count against the personal?

COACH FORD:  We thought he had four.  That's the only reason I took him out.  I knew why he got it.  He knew he shouldn't have done it.  And it wasn't blatant or anything like that.  So it wasn't anything I was going to take him out for.  I just took him out because we thought he had four fouls is what they told us.

Q.  When did you realize he didn't have four?

COACH FORD:  As soon as Joey Biggs told me, "Hey, he's got three, let's get him back in there," he needed a little bit of a rest, too, so it didn't hurt him to get that.

But I didn't take him out because I was upset with him.  Because he was scoring back to back.  It was just an emotional.  It wasn't taunting.  I think didn't think unsportsmanlike, I think they call it.  It's something he shouldn't have done.  But that's not the reason I took him out.

Q.  Your next round opponent is probably going to be a pretty physical one.  How do you balance getting your guys to match that physicality and getting them out of foul trouble?

COACH FORD:  There's no question Pittsburgh is one of the great teams in the country.  They're extremely veteran experienced team.  And very big.  You know, we've played against Blake Griffin three times.  But they seem to have two or three Blake Griffins on their team, it seems like.

No question we've got our hands full and we're going to have to figure something out in the next two days.  But I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for Jamie Dixon, the job he's done at Pittsburgh.

And we understand the challenge at hand.  And I know they're big, physical.  I played against    I think our team played against, I think Oklahoma played them last year, if I'm not mistaken at Pittsburgh.  And it didn't go too well, if I'm not mistaken, for the Cowboys.

But we'll let our kids get off their feet and not think about Pittsburgh probably until the morning, just let them mentally rest and physically rest and start preparing tomorrow.

Q.  I know it's early to try and get a big picture on this, but what does it mean to you to be able to have brought your seniors to this place and get a victory in the NCAA before their careers were over?

COACH FORD:  I've said it from the time we made it, that I'm so excited for these two seniors who have been at Oklahoma State for four years and have experienced a lot.  Three coaches.  Not making post season as far as NCAA Tournament, making NITs, but not making it to this point, because these two young men have been here the longest, from the time I stepped on campus and asked them to do some things that I know they looked at me and said, "Why in the world are we doing this?  This is more like boot camp than it is basketball."

But they never questioned it.  They never    they've been extremely coachable.  They've been very receptive to everything we've asked them to do, and they've been a joy to be around every day.  So those type people you want success to come to them.

And so I've said it, they deserved it.  I told them before we went out to the game tonight, right before we went out for the last time, I said, "You guys will win this game because you deserve it, because you've worked extremely hard, and you've persevered.  You two seniors, Byron and Terrel, have been through a lot.  Your four years at Oklahoma State and it's all come down to this.  You've made it to this far, so you're going to just be content that you made it here, or are you going to go out and try to figure out how to play on Sunday?"

And gotta put the ball in their court a little bit.  And both these guys, Terrel Harris, we called timeout, changed defenses, he makes a big, big steal, scores a lay up.  Obviously Byron makes the last play there.  Both these guys, I thought, played a big part into why we're able to move on, on Sunday.

But it's been about them, really.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.

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THE MODERATOR:  Joining us are Tennessee student athletes Cameron Tatum and Tyler Smith.  Coach Pearl, opening statement, please.

COACH PEARL:  Oklahoma State played very well, particularly in the offensive end and had their way with us with their ball screen offense.  Marshall Moses' elevated play was a real factor in and around the basket, and making one on one plays, scoring on the post, and then, of course, Byron Eaton off the bounce was very, very effective.  Both from a strategy point by the coaches, as well as in execution standpoint by the players, we did a lousy job on ball screen defense.

We played a lot of good basketball out there today, and we played against a really good team, one of the better teams we played in a few weeks, and we're right there.  We were right there.

THE MODERATOR:  Questions for the student athletes only, please.

Q.  Tyler, that last play with Eaton, what did you see?

TYLER SMITH:  Where he scored?  We were trying to switch the ball screens.  He refused the ball screen guy, penetration in the middle what he had been doing all day where we were trying to just keep him out of the lane.  He got in the lane and made a tough play.

Q.  Tyler, can you just talk about your last shot and what you saw, where it was headed?

TYLER SMITH:  I had Cameron on a circle back.  Those are plays we run every day in practice, as we're shooting.  It's just a drill that we run.

He came off and his man was really tight and just tried to get a shot off.  And I thought it was good.  But bounced right out.

Q.  Tyler, I hate to throw this at you right at the spur of the moment but I don't know when I'll see you again.  Any sense this was your last game or what are your thoughts toward that?

TYLER SMITH:  Right now I'm still on this game.  My teammates, we worried about on the court what's going to happen to us when we get back, really not worried about that right now.

Q.  Cameron, you guys came in.  You had the worst shooting percentage of 3s.  Do you think they laid off you a little bit not expecting you to make as many 3s?

CAMERON TATUM:  I think they did just a little bit.  Like you said, field goal percentage and 3 point percentage hasn't been good our season has been up and down, a lot of teams scouting report said back off of them and make them shoot 3s and zone us up.  And Coach Pearl and my teammates was always saying shoot with confidence, to me and Scotty and Wayne, and we just tried to knock them down as much as we can.

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, guys.  Questions for Coach.

Q.  Talk about the last    the very last play and what you wanted from referee Mike Sanzere, looked like you wanted some sort of foul call.

COACH PEARL:  Don't bait me into getting fined here.  This is a little different stage.  I thought we ran a handoff that we run in practice all the time.  And I wanted to give Tyler a ball screen from Wayne and see if I could get a big on Tyler.  And see if he could get to the rim first.

They walled it off pretty good.  So he came around and he was    Cameron was circling back, and Cameron's man came into Tyler pretty good.  But with all the contact, it still opened things up for Tyler to get a pretty good look.  It's a shot that he takes and makes a lot at the end of practice.

So the first option was for him to get to the rim.  The second option was a circle back.  And I just wanted to put the ball in his hands and let that be, I didn't want anybody else taking that last shot.  At least I wanted him to be able to, if there was a pass or hand off, any other opportunity, I wanted it to be his.

Q.  You mentioned the execution problems.  You also said that coaches did a lousy job.  Hind site being 20/20 in preparation, hindsight being 20/20, what were you referring to?

COACH PEARL:  We never covered ball screens well all season long.  We struggled in ball screen defense and we struggled today.  Byron Eaton and Marshall Moses had their way with those ball screens.  I put several different guys on Eaton and they took advantage of Brian Williams and Emmanuel and Wayne and the little/big ball screen offense, and we never did wall it off, like we were able to do, we were able to wall off Florida and able to stop Courtney Fortson or some other guys, Byron Eaton, was that much better turning corners and getting to the rim.  Jumping in and creating contact.

Q.  Bruce, 56 shots today, 33 of them from 3.  Was that the plan or just the way it turned out?

COACH PEARL:  When there are five white shirts sitting inside that 3 point line, that's what's going to happen sometimes.  75 points in an NCAA Tournament game is plenty of points to win.  I thought we scored enough to win.  We scored 41 points in the second half.

And we made six 3s in the second half.  So 33 percent from 3 is something that you can live with.  My problem was our defense.

Q.  Wayne and Tyler can come back.  What are you going to say to them?  Are you going to encourage them to come back?

COACH PEARL:  We'll evaluate it.  There's no way you can make that decision right now.  We've got several juniors that will go through the evaluation process.  And we'll make the best decisions when we have information.  That's down the road right now.  We've got time for that.

Q.  In the second half there were some stretches where J.P. didn't play.  At times he's been really effective against the zone.  What was the thought process  

COACH PEARL:  Cameron Tatum was playing really well.  Cameron was playing well.  And they were packed in.  They were so packed in that we tried to    we used Cameron a little bit more at the 3 to open up the lane, and I thought it did.  You know, it's tough.  Wayne Chism only had one 2 point basket and that's tough.  And Brian Williams only one 2 point basket.  Emanual Negedu, who played six minutes had two 2 point baskets.  That was hard.  And I thought we got some pretty good    I thought they got the ball in there.  We turned it over in the post.  So I guess I would maybe fault our offense in that sense in the sense that we didn't get good    we didn't get very good conversions at the 5.

Q.  This season has been a lot of ups and downs throughout the entire season.  What did you tell your team when you will got back in the locker room after today's game?

COACH PEARL:  I told them a lot of things.  But I wanted them to know how close we were to being a really good team, to being a great team.  We were really close.  And at times we showed it.

I wanted them to know that Sunday there will be 16 teams left, and that's in two days from now.  So I wanted them to know how close they were to being in a situation whereof all the great teams in the country only 16 left.  And so we know we missed an opportunity to do that this year.  And we're certainly disappointed.

But we talked a great deal about the things that ailed us throughout the year that cost us in this final game as well as some things that we needed to do in the future to fix that.

Q.  Right before tip off, it was announced that Josh Tab couldn't play the first half.  Was it a curfew or meeting thing?

COACH PEARL:  Just a violation of team rules.

Q.  Bruce, has this been a hard year for you?

COACH PEARL:  Had we not come back and beaten Mississippi State, Florida and South Carolina on the road, this would have been a very hard year for me.  But we did win those three games and we did win the East again, for the third time in four years.  And we did get to the conference tournament championship, and it was disappointing to not win that game, because I thought at that point we had a chance to prove that we may have been the best team in the SEC.
I've said this a lot.  This season could have been a little better.  But it could have been a lot worse.  We got good leadership down the stretch and it took this team a while to come together.  We lost five of our top nine players and four guards.  And I would say that I did not get this team to play as well as it was capable of playing with enough consistency.
 
It achieved at a high level.  But we probably will walk away from this campaign and think we left a little bit on the table.
 
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.
 
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