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March 19, 2015

Thad Matta

D'Angelo Russell

Shannon Scott


VCU - 72

THE MODERATOR: Ohio State head coach Thad Matta and student-athletes. Coach is dispensing with the opening statement, so the floor is now open to questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Talk about the way the freshmen class and senior class played big on the big stage.
D'ANGELO RUSSELL: I mean, Shannon made it easy for everybody. He was breaking the defense down. He had 10 assists. Probably would have had more if we would have finished the bunnies for him. He made it easy. Played big today.

SHANNON SCOTT: Our biggest thing was making sure everybody was ready to play. I mean, guys stepped in, made big shots, especially Keita. D'Angelo always has pressure on him. Whenever he draws a guy, we have to step up and make plays. I think everybody did that.

Q. D'Angelo, did you have to get stitches just now?
D'ANGELO RUSSELL: No, not yet. It hasn't happened yet. I think we're going after this.

Q. When you went to shoot those two free throws that iced the game, you were talking quite a bit, talking a little trash.
D'ANGELO RUSSELL: No, I was talking to coach. He told me to get one. I told him I had to get two. That was it (smiling).

Q. D'Angelo, they threw a lot of double-teams at you. What did you do to overcome that challenge and still be able to work within the offense with what their defense was trying to do to you today?
D'ANGELO RUSSELL: I mean, it sounds simple, but I just passed. I mean, my teammates stepped up, like he said, Keita Bates was huge. I made the right pass, then they made the right pass from there. They made it easier on me.

Q. D'Angelo, early in the game, they double-teamed you. How were you able to break free a little bit and score 10 points during a crucial run to get you guys back in the game? Also, at the end after you got hit, did that really stop you from seeing the floor?
D'ANGELO RUSSELL: The coaching staff made great calls, drew up great plays for us just to make basketball plays as a unit. Had me going backdoor, coming off screens and stuff like that, just to set up the offense that they were playing great defense on me, face guarding me. It forced me to go backdoor, use screens. I got to credit to the coaches.

Q. D'Angelo, you and Jae'Sean have had a lot of success this year at freshmen. How nice was it for you to see Keita hit a shot like that? You looked pretty fired up.
D'ANGELO RUSSELL: Keita is huge. We see it every day in practice. We know what he's capable of. It just comes with confidence. I feel like that's what anybody on our team, the confidence will raise everybody's level of play. I mean, you're seeing a star in the making with Keita. He just needs the confidence. Like I said, we know what he's capable of, so...

Q. Shannon, can you talk about just how physical and chippy it got, especially at the end, out there.
SHANNON SCOTT: Yeah, I mean, we knew they were going to play a physical game from the get-go. They pressed for the whole 45 minutes. They weren't going away from their game scheme. We did a great job of handling that and being able to make plays after the press.

Q. Shannon, guards take over in March. That's what they say. Do you think the difference in today's game was how you and D'Angelo were able to impose what you wanted to do in the second half and overtime?
SHANNON SCOTT: I mean, I think we both tried to have an impact on the game in some way or form. It wasn't just us. Amir had a great game. Jae'Sean had a great game. Keita had a fantastic game. Everybody stepped in and did what they had to do. They had to step up and they did a great job with that.

Q. Seems like the press wasn't really too effective against you guys, even backed it off late in the second half, maybe a little bit in overtime. Why were you able to get by the press so easily? Did you see them afraid of you guys in the press a little bit and pulling back?
D'ANGELO RUSSELL: I wouldn't say afraid of us. I mean, press, it's a great scheme. But if you beat it a few times, the coaches usually back out of it. I mean, we didn't really turn the ball over from it, so they wasn't really getting easy buckets from it. Coach was smart and he backed out of it, so...

Q. D'Angelo, what happened on the layup that you were contesting where you got the cut? Describe that play a little bit.
D'ANGELO RUSSELL: I mean, I seen -- I had no clue that it was a flagrant or whatnot. I just tried to contest it. Five minutes later, I was shooting free throws for a flagrant. I mean, I had no clue, honestly.

Q. D'Angelo, first taste of March Madness, how exciting was that, an overtime game? Is it good to have one under your belt?
D'ANGELO RUSSELL: I mean, definitely. I mean, I watched this my whole life. Just knowing that a lot of great teams go down, a lot of underdogs achieve, just with the mentality that anything can happen. Coach has been preaching it for weeks now, that anything can happen. I mean, there's been games on today where it messed up everybody's bracket. Just keep that mentality. It feels great to be here with success for the next round.

Q. Shannon, do you ever have to guard D'Angelo in practice? If so, what's it like?
SHANNON SCOTT: Yeah, I guard him every day. All those other guards have to go through once or twice a year, I have to go through it every day. It's hard to go through. But it's fun playing against him. Makes me a lot better as a player.

Q. In a game like that, you've been in these games, it's going back and forth, take me inside your mind a little bit the last couple minutes knowing this could be the end, you want to play another day. Emotionally what's it like to see that clock strike zero and you move on?
SHANNON SCOTT: You don't want to think about it like that, if you lose, it's all over. You want to find a way to have your team playing their best ball. I think everybody realize at the end of the game that we have a chance to win the game. We just got to come out and keep playing our game and stay consistent with what we had to do. I think everybody did a great job with that.

THE MODERATOR: Shannon, D'Angelo, thank you very much. Good luck in the next round. Floor is now open for questions for Coach Matta.

Q. How creative do you have to get to help D'Angelo get shots? Or is this the great thing, can he do it on his own?
COACH MATTA: A little bit of both. I think from the standpoint if you can create some angles for him and give him a half second, he's so good at making the right read. You know, the great thing when you try to get creative for D'Angelo, he picks it up just like that. I think that makes his knowledge of the game of basketball, he knows exactly what we're trying to get accomplished and can execute it.

Q. You talked for years about how this tournament is all about matchups. Seems like you matched up really well with VCU today in terms of having the guys to break their trap. Talk about how you matched up across the board with VCU today. The next thing is Arizona is a completely different team size-wise. Compare and contrast those two things.
COACH MATTA: I think from the standpoint, you know, with VCU, they haven't pressed as much as people probably think they have since they lost the Weber kid. But I felt good that Shannon and D'Angelo were good enough to get through the press and make the right reads, take care of the basketball. It is matchups. I think, you know, you look at, there were like three different games being played out there today. There was the big lineup for both teams, the small lineup for both teams, the zone lineup. There was a lot of different things going on to create the matchups that we were trying to get. I think in terms of Arizona, you know, they are probably completely different in terms of how VCU plays. You know, the big guys, Ashley, Tarczewski, are definitely monsters down there. We've got to come up with something.

Q. That one really had it all for you guys, everything that you'd want, good or bad. Yet I feel like we've seen that game with you guys a lot. What is it like for you coaching in a game like that and having a kid like Keita make the shot he did?
COACH MATTA: You know, I think this in terms of the runs. We had talked to our guys. VCU is probably as good as anybody in the country at putting a run on in the games that we had watched. It was astonishing watching how they could get going. We get down 12, I said, There's one. They have about three or four in them. We got to get this thing cut down. I think we went into the first timeout the first half down seven or eight. I said, let's try to cut into this lead here. We got it to one. I think from the standpoint of, you know, trying to mix and match with those guys -- I got to be honest with you, I forgot the second part of your question. I'm just up here babbling.

Q. When it strikes zero.
COACH MATTA: I want to say it's like a relief feeling. I told our guys, I've been doing this for a while. One of the greatest feelings in college basketball as a player or coach is to hear your name advances. Sometimes in this tournament you got to go unconventional. You got to find ways. Guys have to step up. Keita did just a phenomenal job of knocking down the two open shots he had. As I say, we'll go back to the hotel, take a deep breath and start our preparation in terms for the next one, know that it's another great challenge for us.

Q. What is your initial reaction, speaking of moving forward, taking on good friend Sean Miller once again?
COACH MATTA: Well, you know, Sean and I have -- number one, it's amazing to think back that, I don't know, 20 years ago, he and I were sharing an office together in Miami of Ohio. The time we spent together working together, we lived like a mile apart from each other for three years in Cincinnati. I'm very happy for Sean and the job and the program that he has built at Arizona. I know this: he's got one of the best teams in college basketball. There's no question about that. He's done a tremendous job with these guys. I don't like coaching against friends. But when you do this long enough, you have to do it. We've had a couple of phenomenal battles over the time. I hope we get to that point with him on Saturday, whenever we play.

Q. Why the zone and why today? You've been threatening to use it for a long time, but...
COACH MATTA: The only reason I did it was because of all the people that had questioned me for playing it earlier in the year. It won us a game today in the NCAA tournament (smiling). No. We were struggling guarding them. And they went small on us. They were big, and we decided to go with it. We had seen from Fordham to Davidson, they slowed down a little bit against the zone. They were on that run on us, and we decided to try it for a couple possessions. I thought it was pretty effective. You know, give them credit. They figured it out. Then we kind of mixed and matched from what they were doing to that point. I thought our guys were doing a pretty good job in it.

Q. Right there toward the end of regulation, a couple minutes to go, Amir grabs this rebound, goes out of bounds, fouls the guy out. He screams at the camera. He's waving. He's in there. He says he was really focused, really feeling the moment, all that. How much do you need that? You're playing a big team in Arizona. He hasn't always shown that emotion.
COACH MATTA: Well, we have to have that to have a chance to win. I think from the standpoint of his energy, we were laughing, I told him I had never seen anything like that on the layup in the first half that got wedged between the bucket. Man, oh, man, how is this kid going to respond? I was very proud of how Amir played. When he has that emotion, I think he's a better basketball player. We talk to him about it often. I know this, he's very aware of the challenges that lie ahead with Arizona's size on Saturday.

Q. You've seen D'Angelo throughout the year have these spurts where he almost looks unstoppable sometimes. When he gets in that kind of mode, what is it like as a coach and what do you tell him when he's doing that?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think one of the biggest things with him is sometimes we have to prod him a little bit. I was not happy when he missed the layup in the first half. I think that's when we got down 12 and we took the timeout. But, you know, he's shown throughout the course of the year, as you're saying, he can get kind of rolling. Sometimes he wants to get a feel early on for how teams are trying to guard certain situations. To his credit, he's very good at figuring out. And back to an earlier question, when you put stuff in throughout the course of the game, he picks up on it really, really quick, does a great job with that. The other thing I would say about D'Angelo is he's a winner. The kid loves to win. He's going to do whatever he can to win basketball games.

Q. Back to the zone. VCU's second to last offensive possession about a minute to go, you came out of a timeout, you missed the three, you went man out of the timeout. Did you think they were drawing up a play for zone? I'm testing your memory, sorry.
COACH MATTA: You know, they went small. That's when we went back to man-to-man. If I'm not mistaken, I think they got us on the substitution because I think we had Amir in there. At that time we weren't using Amir in the man-to-man situations when they had their bigs out. Fortunately we got a challenge and a great rebound.

Q. This team this year has probably cost you some hairs, caused you to grow a beard. Did you see anything from them today that you hadn't seen before this season?
COACH MATTA: I did. I talked about it. Being down 12 or whatever we were, we took the timeout. I went at 'em and challenged them to man up. You know, I said at that point, Hey, it's time to play our best basketball, and you got to man up. Both ways, it was a very, very physical basketball game. You look at all the layups we missed in the first half, early on, I think we missed like 10 straight shots. You know, the talk was so effective that we inbounded and turned it over the next possession. That went well. You go to the next one. J.T. goes down and shot fakes, gets fouled, gets two points. That kind of ignited us in terms of plays. I thought we did a much better job of finishing. D'Angelo hit a couple big threes there on the wing in that stretch. But we had to play tougher. I challenged them. To their credit, they did a great job of doing what we asked.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck on Saturday.

COACH MATTA: Thank you.
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