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March 20, 2015

Thad Matta

Sam Thompson

Amir Williams


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Ohio State student-athletes. At this time the floor is open for questions.

Q. Arizona is the type of team, their size, teams that have given you some trouble this year have been big teams. I was just wondering from both an offensive and defensive standpoint, what do you have to do against bigger teams to be successful?
SAM THOMPSON: Just execute our system, set screens, cut hard, you know, play with a purpose. On the defensive end, stick to our defensive principles. When a team has the size and athleticism that Arizona has, it's that much more important that we really do what we set out to do in scouting and execute well.

Q. A lot has been talk about the friendship between Coach Matta and Coach Miller. Has coach talked to you at all about that in relations to this upcoming matchup?
SAM THOMPSON: No, he usually downplays any situation like that. Coach Matta is all about Arizona versus Ohio State. He's not so much concerned with the Coach Matta versus Coach Miller matchup, so to speak. Everything has been about how Ohio State can put our best effort against Arizona.

Q. Amir, could you compare Tarczewski to any of the other big men you've gone up against this season?
AMIR WILLIAMS: To be honest, I don't know too much about him. We just watched a little bit of the offense yesterday. I think as I watch film later on today, I can more feel for what type of player he is. As of now, I don't know too much about him. I haven't watched West Coast teams that much this year, to be honest.

Q. Sam, you guys played Arizona same building, Staples Center, two years ago. What was your memory of that game?
SAM THOMPSON: Obviously it was a big game. Obviously we remember the shot that Q hit for us to beat them. I remember it being a game of runs. I think we started off pretty slow in the first half, then I think we were able to put a run on them in the second half. Then they came back again and tied it up. We know they're a great team. We know that. They still have a few guys left from that team that played a few years ago. It's going to be great matchup tomorrow.

Q. Sam, Sean Miller said that you guys are basically an entirely different team than you were two years ago when you had success against them, playing with a little bit of a smaller lineup. If you can explain how you are different, maybe how that small lineup you played last night was different when you went small two years ago against Arizona.
SAM THOMPSON: Yesterday against VCU, we kind of went to a small lineup out of necessity. We had been in the zone. They hit a few shots against the zone. We tried to switch back to man. They had their small lineup in. We kind of subbed in to match up with them. We obviously had different personnel than we had a couple years ago. The principles are still the same. But the small lineup, we still have to pay that much more attention to rebounding, boxing out, beating our gaps, because we don't have a guy like Amir or Trey back protecting the rim for us. Obviously the personnel is different, but we're a little bit similar.

Q. For those of us that saw D'Angelo Russell in person yesterday, it seems effortless for him. Sam, describe how he goes about his business every day in practice. Is he that effortless and makes the game look so easy?
SAM THOMPSON: Yeah, you know, he's kind of just an everyday guy. He comes in, has great energy in practice every day. He works hard every day. Really tries to get better every day in practice. That drives the rest of us. He's one of the guys that helps drive the rest of us to really go hard in practice, really bring our A game. Obviously you guys saw yesterday the type of stuff he can do when he gets into a rhythm. You know, he's a great player.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow. We're now joined by Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. Coach, if you'll begin with a statement, then we'll open it up.

COACH MATTA: I'm honestly ready for questions.

Q. A lot has always been made of your relationship with Sean Miller. Coaching in a game like this with a berth in the Sweet 16 on the line. You said last night it's tough to coach against friends. What is your mindset as you shake hands before the game and shake hands after the game, once things are finished, whether you move on or not?
COACH MATTA: First thing I do when I'm shaking hand, I'm trying to get my $400 I loaned him back in 1999. He never repaid me for all the lunches I bought him (smiling). I know this. I'm very proud to have worked with Sean, and to watch what he's done from Xavier to Arizona, I couldn't be happier. Obviously I told those guys in there it means a lot to me to have played these guys two times in the last three years in the NCAA tournament, once in the Sweet 16, now in the Round of 32. I think it says a lot about the jobs that both of us have done. I think you've got two of college basketball's top programs in terms of what have stood the test of time. The fact that one of my best friends is coaching the other team, I've always said this, a lot like last year when we got by Dayton, Archie Miller was the coach, I hated to lose, but I was so happy for him, that he got to continue to advance. I mean, it stings. You don't want to do that. I think in terms of tomorrow, if we were fortunate enough to win, it's one of those that you kind of feel bad going down shaking the hand. But, you know, it sort of is what it is.

Q. A lot of coaching staffs don't always have a lot of cohesion or get along as well as you did. What brought you together to make you friends? Is there a story behind this?
COACH MATTA: There's a lot of them. I started at Miami of Ohio on a Thursday. That was the day Ron Hunter got the IUPUI job. I worked with Ron who had a great day yesterday. That Friday, it was about 4:30, Sean said, I have to run down and do this speaking gig for 10 minutes. Why don't you ride with me? I didn't know him real well. I said, Where is it? He said, I'm not exactly sure. But it's around here somewhere. I got a hotel room. We got to Cincinnati, then he informed me we were going down to like Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It was like a seven-hour drive. At that point he pulled the wool over my eyes. Here I am riding down there. But the fact that we lived together when his family moved up from NC State to Cincinnati, you know, he and his family lived with us for like a month, and from there we were maybe a mile apart. We spent so much time together that you build a special bond and have a unique relationship.

Q. How does Arizona compare to some of the teams with size that you've had trouble against this year? Both offensively and defensively, what do you have to do to be more effective against them than you have been against some of those other teams?
COACH MATTA: I think the best comparison would be North Carolina, that December game we played, in terms of just the size that they have at all positions. McConnell is a lot like a Paige. Probably doesn't look to score as much as he does, but the same size. Really has a command of the guys. In terms of what we have to do, you know, obviously I think from the standpoint of you can't really combat their size, I need David and Trevor to play, as well. But, you know, you've got to use your athleticism. You got to be very, very intelligent in terms of what our game plan is and what we have to do to execute. I think offensively, you know, they do such a good job of challenging shots. They only block like four shots a game on average, but they're there with their length on every shot. We're going to have to make some. We can't go through a spell like we did yesterday where we missed 10 straight shots. We're going to need to be a little bit more consistent in putting the ball in the bucket, knowing it's going to be very difficult.

Q. Could you picture yourself doing this as long as, say, Coach K or Boeheim has done? Is it more demanding now?
COACH MATTA: I think it's much, much more demanding now. You say that, back when those guys started, I think there was unlimited recruiting. I think the times have changed. In terms of my timetable, I go day by day, see what happens. Hopefully I can do this a long time. I think the unique thing about the two guys you mentioned is they've been at the same place for so long and have really built programs that, you know, have stood the test of time, there's no question about that.

Q. You've had a couple of epic battles with Sean in the tournament. I wonder about your recollection of both of those, particularly the one two years ago.
COACH MATTA: Those were classic moments. I can still remember the Xavier game, being down nine points with like two minutes to go, telling the guys, Hey, we got them right where we want them. They believed me. That was maybe one of the harder games I've had to coach in my career because I had recruited -- been a part of recruiting those guys to that university, a majority of them. So that was challenging in some ways. I think the funny thing about two years ago is on Monday night, Sean and I were talking, after the selection thing. Sean says, God, if we can get to L.A., could be like a home game for us because there's a lot of Arizona people there. I said, You're going to L.A.? I said, I think if we win, we go to L.A. We did the numbers. Oh, my God, we could be playing each other. That was just another one of those games, like Q fouling the guy on the drive, giving them a three-point play. Comes down and makes the three. You know, it's been amazing. I hope like crazy it comes down to something like that tomorrow.

Q. In that game two years ago, it was kind of like your smaller lineup versus their size and who is going to win with what they wanted to do. You went small yesterday. Is the small lineup you put out on the floor now anything like it was two years ago or is it primarily now for defensive purposes?
COACH MATTA: Yes, in terms of, you know, we were a little bit different two years ago when we went small because Deshaun was our five man. Deshaun could score inside. He could score outside. You know, there's a lot of variety to his ability to score the basketball. Sam, as he's doing now, Sam knows every position. He knows every player, is Arizona going to run, he's got a great mind for that. Yesterday we knew at some point, I really thought we were going to struggle with our bigs in terms of guarding Cox yesterday. To their credit, I thought they did a heck of a job in terms of doing that. When they went small, we were in the zone, they went five out, they were driving us. That's when we went small and went man-to-man. In terms of tomorrow going small, I don't know if we can do it. As you guys know, sometimes we throw it out there and see if it sticks.

Q. Kind of like Sean has had some really talented freshmen come in. What has that process been like for you this year? Was there a point when things came together with the experience and the youth?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I will say this. I've been very pleased with the way this team has come together in terms of the dynamics. You've got seniors, no juniors, one sophomore, and all freshmen. Just from when the freshmen moved in in June, the job that our upperclassmen have done of kind of opening their arms and saying, Hey, the fact that you got a great player in a D'Angelo, you're starting another all-freshman team player in Jae'Sean Tate. Those guys have been tremendous, because sometimes it doesn't go that well. As good a job as the seniors have done, I think the freshmen have done a great job of kind of keeping their mouth shut and their ears open and learning in terms of how we want to do things. They've been great guys and great teammates, which really helps things.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.

COACH MATTA: Thanks, guys.
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