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March 16, 2016
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student-athletes.
Q. A.J., all year people talked about your motor. What changed from last year to this year for you?
A.J. HAMMONS: I would say just really my team just pushing me, everybody having a negative opinion on me about my motor. It's just something I had to keep picking up every year.
Q. Usually in the NCAA tournament, the refs get a little bit tighter with calls than the Big Ten. Are you worried about that at all?
RAPHEAL DAVIS: No, we just going to go out there and play hard, play Purdue basketball. Defensively we going to play how we taught and hope for the best.
Q. A.J., how much did the tournament run in the Big Ten tournament, even though you fell in the final, how much did that help you get ready for this weekend?
A.J. HAMMONS: It helped us out a lot. We noticed -- we just kind of figured out exactly what we could do as a team, making sure we really just come down, watch film. Just get over our mistakes, make sure we just work on everything, make sure we just keep pounding inside and outside.
Q. This opening weekend, a lot of people around the country are always cheering for the underdog, a Cinderella story. Is that first game the toughest one for an accomplished team like yourself?
A.J. HAMMONS: Yeah, you know, we lost last year, so it's a tough game to me. We got to get past this first hump.
We did great all in the Big Ten tournament, but just believe in this tournament, believe we're going to get this win.
Q. (No microphone.)
A.J. HAMMONS: Just the flight out here, the different altitude. Make sure you have to get your body ready and make sure you just prepare.
Q. A.J., talk about what it's like being a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award? Do you pay attention to that?
A.J. HAMMONS: I heard I was in the running for it. But I haven't paid any attention to it at all. I'm just worried about my season right now.
Q. A.J., is the altitude a bigger concern for a team with bigger bodies like your squad has?
A.J. HAMMONS: No, not right now. We've been working out, making sure everybody is prepared, hydrating. Doing everything we do, everything to make sure the altitude is not a factor in the game. I feel like we should be ready.
Q. What is your pregame hype song, the song you have to listen to before a game to get mentally ready?
RAPHEAL DAVIS: I don't have one.
A.J. HAMMONS: Yeah, I don't really listen to music before games. Actually, I just sit there and ponder about the game, wonder what everybody is going to do.
Q. A.J., I know you've probably answered this before, but there have been chances to maybe go to the NBA. You've ultimately kept staying at Purdue. What led to those decisions?
A.J. HAMMONS: Staying at Purdue? Really just we lost early last year in this same predicament right now. Really come back, make sure I get a ring - try to get a ring. Just make a good run in the NCAA tournament, for my team, just help the program rebuild really.
THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss you at this point. Thank you, men.
We are with Matt Painter, coach of Purdue.
Coach, just start with some general comments on being here in Denver and thoughts on your matchup.
COACH PAINTER: We're obviously excited to be in the NCAA tournament, to be in Denver. We know we have a tough matchup here with Arkansas-Little Rock, their ability to defend, their athleticism, their quickness. Just their overall game.
A lot of times when you see a defensive team such as Little Rock, now they're not quite as good on the other end. These guys are. They're a good defensive team, but they also can make plays. They're very dangerous.
You just don't see that combination of leading your league in three-point field goal percentage, but also being maybe the best defensive team in the country by numbers.
We're going to have our work cut out for us. We understand that seeds really don't matter at this point. It's more about matchups. We obviously need to take care of it, take care of the basketball, play to our strengths.
But we will go into the game understanding how dangerous and how good Little Rock is.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now take questions.
Q. The Big Ten is one of the physically rougher conferences in the country, almost like an old Big East. You're one of the bigger teams in the country. Did you set up your team specifically to withstand the conference or did it happen to come together like that? Do you find you have an advantage being so big and physical?
COACH PAINTER: Well, no, you're just trying to get quality people and players. You coach your whole life, and you never have, you know, big guys. Now we're fortunate to have a lot of big guys. So you really learn a lot about yourself, learn a lot about your team in terms of trying to coach those guys.
It is very advantageous at times, but there is a downside to it. If you don't take care of the basketball, you take poor shots, it's hard in transition with size. So it's very important for us to take care of the basketball, get good shots. When we get good shots, we miss them, we still give ourselves a chance to rebound. That's a real important aspect to how you have to play.
Our league is physical, without question. But college basketball in nature is smaller, so it's not your dad's Big Ten, so to speak. There's not a bunch of teams like us in our league, there's just a couple.
Q. Coach, Chris is out there with a cast on his hand after losing a battle with a white board in the locker room. Does that speak to their intensity at all? Do you have any similar close calls with inanimate objects?
COACH PAINTER: No, I haven't hurt myself. You get mad, you get frustrated, you know, at times obviously.
But, no, they are a tough team. They're a hard-nosed team.
The thing that amazes me is their ability to defend in a short amount of time. Normally when a coach takes over -- and they have quality players. But it's hard to get anybody as a group to play that well defensively in a short amount of time.
So you have to give him credit. I think a lot of time when you make hires, you get coaches that have been through the game or whatever, they don't have a high level of experience of being a head coach. He does. He's been Division II. He's been D-league level in terms of coaching. He's been junior college.
So he's a very, very experienced head coach, even though this is his first year in Division I as a head coach.
Q. Do you take offense at all with the constant storylines that the big man is out of college basketball?
COACH PAINTER: No, I think it's pretty accurate. I think on top of what we deal with in college, you know, Golden State is so good, but I would argue just with their versatility, they're very rare in what they can do. There's not a lot of Draymond Greens, not a lot of those guys. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are an unbelievable duo.
Then the versatility of all their other guys, the guys that come off the bench, that's a unique group together. People are trying to get to that point across the board.
There's just more skill. I would say we've had a big effect from international basketball, and that skill level has improved. But with that, more people want to face up. They want to get back to the basket.
It's hard to guard those big guys, but then it's really hard for those big guys to go out on the perimeter and defend. I think you've seen that through the years in the NBA with some of those guys that are huge, like Shaq, Sabonis, they were always trying to drag those guys out.
You always watched it, but as a coach you never dealt with it because you never had any size. Now we deal with it. We flip it to them, try to get them the basketball as much as possible, be as detailed as we can defensively, especially in ball-screen defense.
Q. You made a comment on Sunday after the field was released that you thought it looked like the whole Big Ten was knocked down a seed line. Do you feel slighted at all with the five seed?
COACH PAINTER: No, we don't talk to our guys about it. We talk to our guys about Little Rock.
I do think they got knocked down. It doesn't make a lot of sense because we have unbalanced leagues. We have some guys in the league that their schedule is tougher than others. If you want to look individually at somebody that had a lesser schedule, it's not their fault anyway, but it does happen.
I just didn't understand about Michigan State not being a one seed, that makes no sense to me. Indiana being a five seed, that makes for sense to me. They won our league by two games. They had a couple losses that were bad. But there are one seeds that had a couple losses that were bad.
I thought those two schools in our league really got the shaft. I didn't think we got it as much. If you look at our wins against NCAA tournament teams, we've won eight games. You look at seeds in the four and the five, we're up there pretty high with those wins.
Doesn't mean it's great. It's why we're right in the middle there. I think you can be nitpicking and keep your focus on things that don't matter. I don't think this stuff matters a whole lot.
It comes to your matchup. You can move down to the four line, not get a better matchup than staying at the five. Right now we know we have a tough matchup with Arkansas-Little Rock. You're not going to exclude having a tough matchup by moving a seed or two. When you've worked and won our league, or you have done what Michigan State has done, I feel like those two schools got slighted a little bit.
Q. What do they do well defensively as it relates to what they'll need to do to try to take away your strengths, whether it be the press, what they do in halfcourt to protect the lane?
COACH PAINTER: They're a very good halfcourt team. They'll extend and press a little bit, get after you. Just depends on what you can handle and what you can't handle.
They're very good weak-side help. They do a good job of not let ting the ball get in the paint. They'll swarm the ball when the ball goes into the post. They'll make you prove it, make the next play. More than anything, they do a good job of protecting the paint and not letting the ball get inside.
Q. I hate to belabor this, but when you mentioned trying to flip the script a little bit, the adage is that backcourts win in the tournament. Because you're so unique, can you double down on your advantages in the front court or do you need to maybe change a little bit to try to keep up with backcourts?
COACH PAINTER: Well, I think games can go different ways. Sometimes we'll have a game where we really struggle. Sometimes we'll have games where we dominate. Doesn't mean the quality of teams are different.
It starts for us with taking care of the basketball and taking good shots, because we need to stay out of transition defensively as much as possible. When we can set our defense, it really helps our size. That aspect is really important no matter who we're playing. So that is what we try to do.
I've never had a team that the offense and the defense was connected as much. If we take care of the ball, if we take good shots, man, we're going to be a lot better defensively. That is so important for us.
But their speed and quickness, their ability to make plays, you know, concerns us. Sometimes we get a guy back, sometimes we get two guys back just to try to limit those opportunities.
Q. Now that you are in March, what is your trust level with your guys now that the turnover issue is relatively out of their system?
COACH PAINTER: Well, I don't know if it's out of our system, even though we've had some good games here of late. I don't think it ever leaves you when you have an issue with something. I think you've got to keep talking about it, trying to figure things out, especially when you play with teams you're not as familiar with. I think you get things figured out because you're so familiar with teams within your league.
Our trust level, I don't think you ever say your trust level as a whole is great. I think your trust level is always different with each guy. Each guy has a little bit different freedom because each guy has a little bit different game.
For us it's keeping it simple. If we can keep it simple, pass and catch, because people normally double us in the post, but you got to be able to get the ball in there. Little Rock is going to do a good job of trying to prevent that in some capacity.
For us with each guy, each guy plays to their strengths, keep things simple. When we do that and take what the defense gives us, then we've been pretty effective.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time, coach.
COACH PAINTER: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports