March 21, 2009

LARRY WAHL:  We'll open up with Coach Waters making remarks about tonight's game, then we'll open it up for questions to the student athletes.  Coach, you want to start us off.
COACH GARY WATERS:  You know, if you've ever heard me at a press conference, the first thing I do is give honor to God because he's first in my life.  So I don't hesitate to tell the world that.
Secondly, I thought our guys came out and followed the game plan.  We talked about having a game plan, and they executed it the way we wanted it.  We had to hit them early in order to be in that game because they're a very, very talented group, and I think what we did was we surprised them.  It took them a while to realize what was occurring out there, and then it became a ballgame.
We almost let them back in, and I would have been pretty upset about that.  But our guys I thought were resilient during that time, and they continued to just press on, and that's why they've been successful this year.
 Questions, please?

Q.  Any of you can answer this:  It seemed like to me you talked yesterday about wanting control tempo.  It looked like for a good portion, a majority of the game, you were able to do that and play the game at your speed.  Is that a fair assessment?
COACH GARY WATERS:  Oh, yes, yes, a couple times it became easy to score, so we started getting into transition a little bit too much.  You know, we wanted to control it completely, and I thought our guys did a good job of it, and they listened exactly to what we wanted them to do.

Q.  Norris, at what point in the game did you say, wow, we can play with these guys and we can win this ballgame?
NORRIS COLE:  Well, we believed from the start of the game that we could play with this team, but like Coach said, we knew we had to execute the game plan.  We knew we had to go out there and jump on them early, but we were confident in the game plan, and I think we executed.  And as the game went on, we stayed with the game plan and didn't veer off, and I think that's why we were so successful tonight.

Q.  J'Nathan, what was your game plan?
J'NATHAN BULLOCK:  My game plan was the team game plan, just to come in and focus on what we do, and that's defense, and we stuck to it, and it helped us get this victory.

Q.  (No microphone).
J'NATHAN BULLOCK:  No, really just playing the system.  We don't have individuals, just trying to do it all by ourselves.  It's a Cleveland State team game.

Q.  It looked like your backcourt pretty much had its way tonight against their backcourt.  Norris, would you tell me about your approach to guarding Jeff Teague tonight.
NORRIS COLE:  Well, I knew he was a very quick, shifty guard so I wanted to break his speed, make him play at a speed where our defense could help if he were to beat me and get behind me.  My plan was to keep him within arm's distance to break his speed, then not let him get a full head of steam, and then the team defense behind me helped me on the drives.
COACH GARY WATERS:  The Horizon League is primarily a guard league.  There's some great guards in that league, and I consider Cedric to be the best, and Norris is coming.  He's just a sophomore, and he's learning each and every day.  I think they feel pretty confident when they go up against someone guard wise.  The positive thing for both of them is on defense, they've always got extra help because that's our team defense to help and support that.  But offensively you can see what they can do.  They're not afraid to score the basketball, sometimes too much.

Q.  Norris, yesterday there was a lot of questions about 1986 Cleveland State team and what they did against Indiana, and each one of you said you wanted to create a legacy of your own.  Do you feel like you got a start on that tonight?
NORRIS COLE:  I think we gave ourselves a good start.  We're not going to jump ahead of ourselves.  We're going to make it one game at a time.  We understand what the '86 team did was important for our school, but now it's time for a new chapter and we're going to try to establish that.

Q.  For both players, you didn't just beat them, you beat them badly.  Did you think it was going to be this easy, or are you surprised?
J'NATHAN BULLOCK:  We know our defense will always give us a chance to win.  As the game went on, we gained confidence, and it turned out the way it did.
COACH GARY WATERS:  One of the things we have said throughout this year, whenever we shoot 40 percent, it's hard to beat us.  Today I don't know what we ended up shooting 47, so a team is in trouble then.

Q.  I hate to be the first guy to ask you about the next game, but I'll be that guy.  Did you watch some of the Arizona stuff, and what did you see about them?
COACH GARY WATERS:  They're very good.  I mean, again, it's another talent that we have to deal with.  You know, they also play a lot of zone, and so you're going to have to hit some shots.  You can't just do moves inside and get the ball inside.  You're going to have to hit some shots.  They're a tough team, and they're a good defensive team, and their little point guard, he runs their show.  I think they do a very good job at what they do.  That player when I look at him out there today, he looks like a pro.  I'm going to be honest with you.
I don't want to think about that right now.  I want to savor this a little bit.  Give me the night to enjoy this a little bit, and then I'll think about that team tomorrow.

Q.  You guys said you believed you could win, and you did that with dominance.  As the minutes ticked off towards the end, what were you thinking, what were you feeling?  How much does this mean to you personally in this program?
NORRIS COLE:  During the game, we were focused on the game.  Even though time was running out, we were just thinking "finish the game."  We don't try to get happy even though we're up by a margin.  We're college basketball players, we work on game situations, so we were just thinking about finishing the game first and thinking about the celebrations or anything, that's after the fact.  But during the game we're focused on finishing it out.

Q.  Once the game was over and you had won  
NORRIS COLE:  There was a sense of accomplishment.  We represented our league, the Horizon League.  It was a good feeling, but we're not celebrating because we still know we have games to win.
COACH GARY WATERS:  One of the things he's trying to say is that we've got another game in two days, and we can't be getting over excited over this game.  One of the things one of our seniors said to the team is that once this game is over with, now this is before the game even started, we're going to take it in stride and be ready for the next one.  I don't know what that meant at the time.  I was pretty excited that he said that.  But by the same token this is a very what I call experienced group that understands how to take wins or how to take losses, either way.

Q.  J'Nathan, the out of bounds play, the alley oop play when they were starting to make a run, all the guys' faces lit up.  Was that the point that you think, all right, now we're back in control again?
COACH GARY WATERS:  Yeah, we thought so, and we knew they would bite on that because they were coming after us pretty hard.  If they didn't bite, we knew we'd get the ball and they'd foul us.  So we called that play, and I told him, if he's open, throw it.  If he's not, take care of the basketball.  And he did a very good job of making the play.
LARRY WAHL:  We're going to let the student athletes go back to the locker room and leave Coach Waters here for some additional questions.

Q.  I apologize if this has been asked:  How much was the accomplishment of the 1986 team in the back of your team's mind going into this game?
COACH GARY WATERS:  You know, these guys in our society, our young kids don't even care about what happened in the past.  I mean, it could be two weeks ago and they're not even thinking about it.
I'll give you a funny little story.  I took a group to Dallas, and we're in Dallas, we're getting ready to play a game and everything is pretty exciting, and we had a date to go around and enjoy Dallas a little bit.  So we went to the book store depository, where the whole issue with Kennedy.  They went in there and they said, man, what happened here?  We didn't know all this happened.  I'll tell you, our kids today really aren't caught up in history.

Q.  But there will be a lot of people, basketball fans around the country who will see this result tomorrow and maybe will not have heard of Cleveland State since 1986.  What would you say to them?  And what is it about Cleveland State in these situations?
COACH GARY WATERS:  The biggest thing I want to say to them is now Cleveland State is on the map.  All we do is try to play and represent our school and our conference, and what we did today is saying that, hey, Cleveland State is a ball player in this whole game now.  You know, a lot of people still remember that issue back then, but many people don't because it's so long ago.

Q.  Piggybacking on a question a little bit ago, you guys will be flashed across the country in highlights and all of that and you're the Cinderella of the tournament so far.  You led the whole game.  Will that get lost in translation?
COACH GARY WATERS:  Let me give you something about translation loss, we played a great game this year at Syracuse, right, and you all remember that because the shot at the end went in.  But do you know that with 20 seconds ago we were up six?  See, no one knows we were dominating that game, but they remember the shot, and that's what brought all the life to whatever went there.  Now, the positive thing is we're on ESPN for a whole day or two, and that helps, so the shot was even better.  This team has done things throughout this year that in my estimation has gone unseen, and now they're getting a chance to be seen.

Q.  How is Cedric?  And what can you tell us about his knee injury?
COACH GARY WATERS:  He didn't have a knee injury, he cramped up.  We had two guys cramping up.  He'll be ready by the next game.
LARRY WAHL:  Thank you very much, Coach.


LARRY WAHL:  Coach Gaudio with Ishmael Smith and James Johnson.  We will open it up and allow Coach Gaudio to have some remarks about tonight's game, and then open it up again for questions for the student athletes.
COACH DINO GAUDIO:  I want to congratulate Cleveland State.  I thought they played very, very well.  We have an incredibly disappointed locker room right now.  I thought a big difference in the game was Cleveland State's points off our turnovers with 25 for them, and we only turned them over six times, and I think that was a big, big difference in the game.  We congratulate them, wish them the best of luck on Sunday, and hopefully we learned from this experience.
We have a young basketball team.  We started two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior tonight, and I think we look back on this entire season, these kids won 24 games, finished I think it was 11th in the country, USA Today final poll, and I'm proud of them.  We have a bright future.  We all understand what we need to do in the off season.
We had a little bit of a taste of the NCAA Tournament and a chance to come back again if we have the right mindset.

Q.  For one or both of the players:  Can you just talk about were you surprised at the way they came out tonight and how you all feel as you reflect on what happened?
ISHMAEL SMITH:  We weren't surprised at all.  They had a really good team.  They didn't win the Horizon League Tournament for nothing.  We knew the problems they posed to us, and they just played very hard.  We played hard.  It was a tough loss.  I've never felt this way in my life.  It's a tough feeling.  I hate losing more than anything, and to taste this, it hurts.  But I think it's a learning experience.
I know as a team what we have to do to get better and I know individually what I have to do to get better.  I just think Jackson, he's a heck of a player, and he really had me on my heels the whole time.  You learn from things like this.  Hopefully I don't make the same mistake the next year.

Q.  Ish, you guys definitely like to play fast, but did Cleveland State almost make you play too fast tonight at times?
ISHMAEL SMITH:  I don't think so.  I hope the NCAA Tournament on this stage can get us all geeked up and excited to get us going.  I didn't do my job, or you've got to push the basketball if you don't have it, then you have to know, we've got to execute and get into something.  I didn't do a good job of that.  I think I just wanted to play fast, fast, fast, and before we realized we were down too far to kind of run some sets and things like that.
Like I said, it's a learning experience, and I'm going to look back at the tape and see what I have to do to get better as a point guard and as a player.

Q.  Coach, could you speak to the way the season ended as compared to the way it began for your team?  I mean, it's not been the kind of ending I'm sure you wanted, not tonight only but coming down the stretch, as well?
COACH DINO GAUDIO:  Yeah, like I said, we have a very disappointed locker room.  We wish we would have done a little bit better in the tournament.  We knew Cleveland State was a terrific team.  Like I said, we're disappointed.
I thought that our kids really played hard.  I thought James Johnson did a terrific job of keeping us in the game.  He made big shots, he made some big plays for us defensively, he blocked four shots.  I think without James, we wouldn't have been in the game.
I thought, what was it in the second half, was it six?  We cut it to six on Weaver's free throw?  And then we got within striking distance, I think Dave made the free throw, cut it to six, and then they went down and hit a three, and then they might have went on another little run there.
But give them credit; they made shots, made some tough shots.  But like I said, I'm really proud of these kids.  We had a very good year.  We're 6 1 against Top 50 teams, 3 1 against Top 10 teams.  We finished the regular season 6 of 7 wins, our only loss at Duke, start the year 16 0.  I'm proud of these kids.  I'm really, really proud of them.  There's so much for this program to build on.  We had 17 wins last year, 24 wins this year.  We lose one senior who's a terrific, terrific, four year player for us, Harvey Hale, and a couple of walk ons that have done a fabulous job, Bobby Hoekstra and Mike Lepore.  The future of this program is incredibly bright because of the guys sitting next to me and in that locker room.

Q.  They came out and hit all those shots right off the bat, and you guys had said earlier, we don't want to give them any confidence by letting them get off early, and that's exactly what happened.  How hard was it to tell yourself, we can get back in this, and they just kept pouring back in?
JAMES JOHNSON:  Our team always does a great job of keeping each other happy, cheering for one another, and just being on each other's side, so when they went on the big run and there was a little time out, we stuck by each other, we knew we could climb back in possession after possession.  But they were just knocking down big shots.  They found a way to get open and hit shots.  That was just that.
We had the team to get back in the game, and we have the team to come back off 20 deficit, 15 deficit, but they were hitting big shots.  We'd make a little climb and they'd make a big shot, we'd make a little climb and they'd hit a big shot.  Just all credit to Cleveland State.

Q.  Cleveland State played a great game, but how stunning is it that your season is over given the kind of regular season that you did have?
JAMES JOHNSON:  For me to stop playing basketball is never stunning.  I'm never happy about not playing basketball.  I love these guys as my teammates.  I love them like brothers, so going to practice is always fun.  Playing in these big time games is always fun.  The season ending is never good.
I mean, I play basketball every day of my life, and I'm sure everyone in our locker room would, too.  For our season to be over, it's not over.  It's what we do in the off season that's going to help us build this program and make it as strong as we can.

Q.  Ish, both Cole and Jackson had big games.  What was your impressions of their backcourt?  And how do you think they got the best of you tonight?
ISHMAEL SMITH:  They won the game, so I guess they did.  We played some really good guards this year, and it's kind of disappointing, for me to play the way I did.  I think they did a great job, when we would get rebounds and push the basketball, they really jammed me when I was trying to push it and try to change my direction instead of allowing me to go north and south, and I knocked the ball on my foot a couple times, but they're good players.  No one in this tournament is bad players.
But like I said, you learn from a lot    you learn from this.  Obviously I started off slow with a foot injury, and I can't be any happier the way we ended.  But winning the last six out of seven games, but it's really disappointing to lose these last two.  Those two guys are really good players.  I wouldn't be surprised if they give Arizona a run.  I don't know, but it's really disappointing.  They got the best of us, and we came up short tonight.
LARRY WAHL:  If anybody at this point has questions for Coach Gaudio.

Q.  Coach, could you speak a little bit about Farouq's game tonight?  He made some big plays when you guys needed him to.
COACH DINO GAUDIO:  He played really well in the second half.  I mean, I think he made the adjustment that he needed to make, you know what I mean?  I told him at halftime he needs to step up, and he did.  I think he made some big plays for us.  We just couldn't get stops when we needed them, and our turnovers were so critical to their success.
 Like I said, we're really disappointed, but I'm really pleased with    when we look back on the entire season, what we were able to accomplish with a really young group, and like I said, without being too redundant, the future for this program is incredibly bright.

Q.  The turnovers, you talked about the turnovers a little bit, that 16, 17 a game is pretty normal for you guys.  Is that one of the big concerns coming into next season?
COACH DINO GAUDIO:  Say it again, please?

Q.  Sure.  Another big game turnover wise.  You guys averaged 16 or 17 a game.  Is that going to be one of the focus points coming into next season?
COACH DINO GAUDIO:  I'm sorry, yeah, there's no question we've got to take better care of the ball, no question.  Is that what you're referring to, our turnovers?

Q.  Yeah.
COACH DINO GAUDIO:  Absolutely.  We've got to do a better job at taking care of the basketball.
What we're not doing a good job of, and that's on me, that's my fault, is we want to play fast.  We want to push the ball.  But we've got to have recognition of when we don't have the break, then understanding what we have, and if it's not there, pulling it out and running good a half court offense.  That's a big thing.  That's something we have to get better at.  That's something I have to do a better job of coaching, and that's on me.  But there's no question.  To play the way we want to play and to beat who we need to beat, we do need to do a much better job at taking care of the ball.

Q.  When you guys got on track a little bit in the second half, you looked a lot better, more in rhythm offensively, they kept scoring.  How were they able to get in your defense like that?
COACH DINO GAUDIO:  Like I said, they did a great job of scoring the ball.  When we cut it to six, then they went on another little run.  I don't know whether it was 11 2, they cut it to six    Dave hit the free throw, they went right down the floor and hit a three.
I thought the kid Jackson was terrific.  I thought he was terrific.  And we had, trust me, a healthy respect for him.  Two year starter in the Big East, then sits a year, we knew the kind of player he was.  He was outstanding tonight.  He was outstanding.
Everybody that we had talked to and the tapes we had seen on him, the book on him was he was more of a driver than a shooter, he wasn't a good shooter, and he bangs 3 for 4 for threes.  We go for the 1 3 1 trap, and he bangs a three.  He played really, really well.  He had an outstanding game.

Q.  Do you think people across the country who might not know a whole lot about Cleveland State would be surprised to know the talent level just of the kids on their team?
COACH DINO GAUDIO:  You know what, I think they got some tough hard nosed kids.  Like I said, Cedric Jackson, we told our kids, he could start for anybody in the ACC.  I mean, he started for the Big East for two years.  Bullock is a terrific player where he can shoot the three and he can bounce it and put it on the floor.  Tandy jumps well, and they have really good players.
You know, you beat Butler at Butler, and they maybe should have beat them twice at Butler.  They beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, go down to WVU and lose by ten in Morgantown.  Trust me, we have a tremendous amount of respect for them.

Q.  It looked like Cole got into Teague pretty well.  It looked like he was primarily the defender on Teague.  Teague scored ten points and didn't take a lot of shots.
COACH DINO GAUDIO:  Yeah, he had seven shots and he only took four free throws.  He might have taken nine shots, obviously he got fouled on two of them to go to the line.  He did a great job.  Their ball screen defense was very good.  Their ball screen defense was very good, and it bothered us a little bit.  It bothered us.
LARRY WAHL:  Thank you, coach.  Good night from Miami.
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