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March 4, 2017

Barry Hinson

Sean O'Brien

Mike Rodriguez

St. Louis, Missouri - Arch Madness

Illinois State - 63

Southern Illinois - 50

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the Salukis from Southern Illinois. Barry Hinson is the head coach. Sean O'Brien and Mike Rodriguez represent the student body. We're going to have Barry start off with a statement on this game, then we'll go to questions.

BARRY HINSON: I think I'll reserve my comments -- or actually talk more about Illinois State. If there's anything we made a decision on today, if you're looking at this game from the national side, the Missouri Valley is going to get two teams in the NCAA Tournament. If there's anything, if you ever had a doubt today, then you can erase that doubt. The Redbirds were absolutely awesome today. They were turned up. That's an NCAA team right there.

I just told Dan after the game, I told him just now in the hallway, I'm proud of him. I'm proud of what they've done. As a guy that's had a 14-year love affair with this conference, that's one of the best teams that I've seen come out of this conference in my 14 years.

So I don't think there's any more -- I don't even think we even need to have the conversation anymore. Hopefully, somebody will put that on the air.

Q. Sean, you kind of struggled again today to score the basketball. Yesterday it was your back. Was your back still bothering you, or was it something else that just kind of kept you from scoring the ball?
SEAN O'BRIEN: No, I wasn't feeling any type of pain. I was just -- I felt like I was getting good looks, just maybe rushing my finishes a little bit. Their length bothered me a little bit. They're a really good defensive team. There's nothing about an injury, though. Just didn't make shots.

Q. Mike, can you just kind of reflect on your career at SIU and what the program did for you, not just as a player, but also as a person.
MIKE RODRIGUEZ: Since I got here, it's been a learning experience of just how to be uncomfortable and just trying to get through stuff like that. My team, the last two years, they just let me be me. Coach just -- I just can't believe I'm done.

I'm just -- I'm happy with my two years here. Coming from junior college, it's kind of everything I wanted. I got to play right away. I got to start every game. Of course I would like to go to the tournament, but I got to meet a group of guys that I could call them my brothers for the rest of my life. So I'm happy.

Q. Sean, what did you sense different about Illinois State today compared to obviously when you played him last week?
SEAN O'BRIEN: They just jumped on us early. They were fired up. They came in and shot the ball really well. I think we're trying to get into a bit of their game, running up and down, instead of sticking to our game plan, just executing offensively, I think that hurt us a little bit.

As far as when I touched the ball, I just felt like they were really keyed in like every shot. It seemed like there were two or three shot blockers. I probably should have done a better job of finding my teammates.

Q. I guess Sean again. You guys have had games where teams have shot the ball really well but you've been able to bounce back in the second half. What kind of kept you from doing that a little bit earlier in the second half? Was it something they did in particular or something that held you back?
SEAN O'BRIEN: I mean, they didn't shoot it as well in the second half, but it seemed like, if they weren't making shots, a lot of times they were getting their own offensive rebound and putback. So they hurt us on the boards a lot, I would say. That was a huge part that kind of kept us from making a run back into the game.

Q. Could you guys just talk about they're a dangerous offensive team. Just how difficult is it to guard them when they have three, four guys making threes. I think they made 7 of their first 11.
MIKE RODRIGUEZ: I mean, that goes for anything if they're hitting shots like that, man. They're able to beat anybody in the country. And they've got a lot of length, so if they're making those threes, it's really going to be hard to beat them because, when they miss, they're going after the offensive glass every single time. So they're pretty good.

SEAN O'BRIEN: What makes them tough to guard, in my opinion, is they have a lot of players that aren't one-dimensional. They have shooters and drivers, so if you're going to close out on them hard, they're really good at getting to the basket and also crashing the boards. So you've got to pick your poison with them.

They shot the ball really well. We probably should have done a better job running them off the line and keeping them off the glass. They're definitely a really hard team to guard.

Q. Sean, if you could just talk about the program was a little different when you started, and here you are ending four years later. Where do you think the program is right now?
SEAN O'BRIEN: I think it's in a good place. Obviously, I wish I would be able to play in March Madness one time and maybe got to that championship game. I think it's on an upward trend. Hopefully, I can come back to this tournament as a fan next year and a couple of years and see the Salukis in the championship game. I'm confident that's the direction they're headed in. They have a really good core group of guys coming back. If they just work hard and someone takes a hold of the team and leads them, they can be really good. We can be really good.

Q. You did come back at the end there and even made it pretty close, I thought. Did you feel you had a chance there with a couple minutes to go and you're down?
MIKE RODRIGUEZ: I mean, it was like two minutes to go, three minutes to go? I mean, I kind of stopped looking at the scoreboard, and I kind of just went into -- just reminiscing my last couple minutes of college basketball. So I just realized that we lost by 13 at the end. So I think we were just playing just because it was the last time together.

Q. Barry, they're a challenge, but you kind of helped off Wills the second time and he made a couple threes. Was that the game plan today, or was that just how it worked out?
BARRY HINSON: No, that was what our game plan was. We were going to make Wills beat us from the perimeter. Even coming off of senior night, we just felt like statistically we played the stats, and we were going to make him make outside shots. I think that's the game today. They made shots from the perimeter. Four different guys made threes. We still win the battle in the paint.

Our defense was 36.8 percent. I mean, that's just two percentage points of what we held them for in their place. The difference in the game was today, two things. They made shots from the three-point line, and we just couldn't score. I think you have to give them credit for that because their length really bothered us. We couldn't score at the basket, nor could we score on the perimeter.

Q. I guess I'm kind of an optimist looking to your next season. I guess the passing game, you could say Sean Lloyd has really stepped up. Could you talk what you expect out of him heading into next season. Is it too early to ask?
BARRY HINSON: No, I don't think it's too early. I appreciate that question. I think Sean Lloyd was established he can be a guy for our basketball team that can be a defensive stopper, and then now he can also score.

Today he hits his first three shots, if I'm not mistaken, and that was it. If I'm not mistaken. Yeah, he went 3 for 10 and missed seven in a row after that.

But I do think -- Sean's right. Michael's right. We do have a core coming back. We have two guys sitting out that nobody really knows about. Tyler Smithpeters, which is a really good shooter, and Tyler is medical redshirting this year. And then Marcus Bartley just started for St. Louis as a point guard. I think Marcus has a good chance to be a really good player for SIU. And then we're going to go out and sign some guys, but I'm confident we'll be able to do that.

Q. No one would say it's easy, Barry, but why do you think it was so hard to get all three of those guys -- Armon and Leo and Mike -- all set together all season? Never could get all five together?
BARRY HINSON: I think you're right. I think you hit the nail on the head. We kept referring back to that with our team. We have not yet played our best basketball. I wish I could put a thumb on it. We never got all three going.

You look at what Illinois State did today, and you got four of them that clicked, and they had their guys scoring around inside. We just never got to a point this year where Leo, Michael and Armon were always on point. Or Sean Lloyd. Three or four of those guys were making baskets. We just never got there for whatever reason.

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