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March 15, 2017
Salt Lake City, Utah
Q. Mike, about midway through the season you were carrying the load there for a while. What's been the difference in terms of the rest of the team stepping up?
MIKE DAUM: We've definitely had a ton of guys step up, kind of unexpectedly, guys like Chris Howell, Mike here, and Reed has been doing his thing the whole year. And Reed is really carrying the load for our team the past few weeks. It's just been guys jumping on opportunities when they get them and stepping up in big moments.
Q. Have you ever looked at Gonzaga? You've been in the NCAA tournament in recent years, have you looked at Gonzaga and said that is a program we'd like to be there some day?
REED TELLINGHUISEN: Obviously they've had plenty of success. They're good, year and year again, they're a great mid-major, top 25 mid-major each year. We would eventually like to get to be that way. And hopefully some day South Dakota State can be that program.
MICHAEL ORRIS: I agree, you see them, they're always on top of the mid-majors, and if we could battle them for that spot, any way we can, that would be great.
Q. Can you talk about how Mike Daum has lived up to what you were expecting when you came here, knowing he was the special player in this team?
MICHAEL ORRIS: Absolutely. Mike had a bunch of accolades coming in already. That was a big vocal point for me coming here. He even did some recruiting to get me here, both of these guys did. Coach T.J. talking about what it would be like to be in a pick-and-roll situation, which is my niche and have him to be able to pop and roll. He's living up to it day in and day out. And what I appreciate about Mike is he doesn't live into the hype or doesn't pay attention to it all or let it get to him. He's just out there playing basketball and having fun, as we all are. At the end of the day Mike is doing what he does best and he sticks to that, and he's always going to be successful.
Q. Big theme has been trusting the process and focusing on getting better the next day. How has that contributed to this team's success down the stretch here and why is it more valuable at a tournament like this?
REED TELLINGHUISEN: Just focusing on the task at hand. We try to get better each day, each drill, each day at practice. And just doing what we do best, getting better at those things. And it's been good -- good for us so far. And we've had some success from that.
Q. We talked about the fact that other guys have stepped up from about midway through the season. You're going to have to have a big game tomorrow. Are you excited about that challenge?
MIKE DAUM: I definitely am. This is the best time of the year, best experience I've been in since last year when I got to come back to the NCAA tournament and then coming back this year, it has been an amazing experience. I'm not even looking at any of the matchups, I'm just going to go out and play and have fun.
Q. You've had a couple of games so far this year in high altitude and that may play a factor again with this tournament playing here in Salt Lake City. How does it help to have the experience playing in high altitude?
MIKE DAUM: I think it definitely helps us. We run every single day. We're in shape. By this time of the season our bodies find a way to get through things. Looking at that doesn't really affect us.
Q. How did your time at Northern Illinois prepare you for this and why did you choose South Dakota State in the first place?
MICHAEL ORRIS: I think every stop that I had along the way prepared me for all of this. Being at Kansas State my freshman year, I got to experience an NCAA tournament, although I didn't get to play. Northern, getting on the floor again, getting back into the routine and getting coached by a coach that has been to Final Four with Michigan State, who was a point guard himself, being under that coach and learning from him, and getting that end game experience led me to here.
And Coach T.J. has done an unbelievable job of giving me the freedom to run this team and have the keys to be the coach on the floor and be an extension of him and make this ship afloat and make sure we don't sink. It's been amazing and I couldn't ask for being in a better spot or better position with all these guys around me.
Q. We in South Dakota have covered the slow start you had to the Summit League season. Was there ever a time during that slide that basketball stopped being fun? Did you have to sort of recapture the fun aspect of basketball, and if so, how did you do it?
REED TELLINGHUISEN: No, I don't think it ever stopped being fun. We're playing with a great group of guys. All of us love each other and care so much about each other. We love hanging out with each other. We're fighting adversity, and we knew we had to change some things. I'm so proud of our guys for stepping up, doing the right thing and finally turning the season around.
MICHAEL ORRIS: I think the biggest thing was just frustration, because we all knew how good we could be. We all loved each other so much and wanted to have success for each other and not just for ourselves, and the frustration setting in of why is it not happening, why is it not clicking. I think that is what hit the most. I don't think the fun ever came out of it. It just made us have our backs against the wall and see what we were made of to fight out of it or fold.
MIKE DAUM: Going off of that, it was the guys' tenacity to stick with the team, stick with each other, and stick with the. We never really got down on each other. It never made it less fun when we were going through that stretch of losing, we always had our backs against the wall and we always found a way to fight our way out of.
Q. What stands out when you watch tape of Williams-Goss, and without giving away the house secrets, what do you do to slow him down?
MICHAEL ORRIS: He's a tremendous player, tremendous point guard, obviously, his national recognition speaks for itself. I think he's an unbelievable guard in transition, and his midrange floater game is definitely big time. Just slowing him down, making sure he doesn't get downhill is our biggest priority, and I'm really looking forward to this challenge.
Q. Terrific back court play, balance with ten guys, five guys that score ten points, what do you think the biggest challenge is or the biggest difficulty that the Bulldogs present?
MIKE DAUM: Well, their guard plays tremendous, with Goss. And their big man inside, we're going to have to do a tremendous job of keeping it out. If not keeping it out, pushing them out further, so he has a longer way to the basket. That's going to be a challenge. We've looked at challenges this year and said, Bring them on.
Q. You mentioned on the offensive end or the defensive end, how about offensively, going up against a defensive unit at Gonzaga, specifically Przemek Karnowski, going up against a guy who's seven foot one?
MIKE DAUM: He's a great defender from the film that we've watched. I'm super excited. Coach is going to have us on the move the whole time. It will be fun to see us all over the court, see how they defend us with what we're going to be throwing at them.
Q. Talk about the play again of everybody else, because it seems like as a team you guys have elevated yourself. If they were to reseed you on how you've been playing the last half of the year, you'd probably be a 12th seed like you were last year. It's amazing what's happened here.
REED TELLINGHUISEN: So many guys have stepped up as of late. We had a whole new coaching staff. A bunch of transfers coming in. We had those bumps in the road. And I think we're just finally, throughout the Summit League, we started to gel better. Our guys started stepping up. Everyone got more familiar with each other, and that's what kind of led to our success.
Q. You've been on ESPN a couple of times, highest-scoring game in the nation this year. Can you talk about what it's been like to have the spotlight on you individually this season and how you've dealt with that.
MIKE DAUM: It's for sure been fun. That's everything you dream about, scoring big games, being on ESPN, things like that. None of that stuff got into my head. It's been great exposure for South Dakota State, for our program. It's a great recruiting tool for the coaches to do that. It's been a blessing to go through it all and be a part of it with a great team.
Q. Kind of an indelicate question, but the tragedy you went through with your brother, where did it put basketball in your list of important things?
MICHAEL ORRIS: When something like that happens in life everything else becomes less important. And your whole perspective on life changes. It has radically changed my life, radically changed my world. But basketball at the end of the day was a constant thing between my older brother and myself. And to be here on this stage, to be doing this right now without him is extremely difficult. But this is what he dreamed of for me. This was his dream for my life. And I'm going to go out and honor it the best way I know how.
Q. Simple stat, Coach talks about win the rebounding battle, win the game. Was there a point of emphasis later in the season, sometimes balls take a funny bounce off the rim and you can't get the board? How did you improve on that?
MIKE DAUM: That was definitely a big emphasis. We were trying to figure out what was wrong, why we were losing. We didn't look at the rebound aspect, we were going with turnovers. We started out-rebounding guys. Our record was staggering, 14-1, if we out-rebound our opponents. And next thing you know in practice that's what we were hammering on is rebounding. Every game is a fight. Momentum swing is going on, just rebound the best you can.
REED TELLINGHUISEN: I think it goes to the game in Omaha. I think we beat them by 15 or so on the boards. And I think since then our guys have really put a focus on rebounding and that's been one of the main focuses in order to win the game.
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: First of all, really appreciate the opportunity to be here. Couldn't be more proud of our team and everybody that's made this opportunity for us possible. And just excited for this next challenge. Have a tremendous amount of respect for Gonzaga, who they are as a program, what they've accomplished this year, and really excited about this opportunity that's in front of us tomorrow.
Q. Teams preparing to face Mike Daum, I imagine you've seen everything in defenses that they've tried. Have you not seen anything in particular or the whole kitchen sink?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: I'm not quite sure we've seen 7-foot-something, 300-pound-something front line guy that's staring across from him. We've seen every double team. We've seen every trap. We've seen so many different ways for people to stop him and hold him down. Mike has been sensational on staying on the move, being persistent offensively, and have the will to demand the basketball in tough spots. He's certainly gifted scoring the basketball, and we feel we've seen a lot of different looks and hopefully we're prepared for whatever we see moving forward.
Q. You've also never seen a team that's got that many tall guys. Craig Smith said the other day he felt like they had ten seven-footers. What do you have to do to play bigger to combat that?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: I think overall for us we're focused on what we've been doing. For the last six weeks as we've kind of moved forward with our team and had success it's been a by-product of us worrying about how we can be better in what we do. We understand that during the course of the game there's going to be different lineups and different things that people throw at us. Certainly we haven't faced a team with as much size as Gonzaga does, and the physicality that they have.
At the same time, Mike's had so much poise, especially the second half of the season and scored the ball in so many different spots, we're not going to go away from what's made us successful. We're going to stick to our plan and be willing and ready to adapt during the game if that's what we need to do.
Q. You mentioned repeatedly throughout the back half of the Summit League season the key is out-rebound your opponent, win the game. How did you guys improve your rebounding? Something I asked the players, as well, over the course of the season. Where does the improvement in rebounding come from?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: I think overall it's that emphasis, it's continually talking about it, it's not so much in doing drills and beating each other up, as the awareness to it, technically being more sound, but having that competitive will. And I think for our guys there's a lot of teams out there that play well as a group. I'm not sure that anybody plays as together or for each other as our guys have this six weeks, really proud of them for that. And I think there's such an ownership and accountability to each other, they want stops and to finish plays, because they know how important it is for the success of their team. Our guys made that overall commitment to each other. Obviously as a coach I'm really proud of them for that.
Q. What's been your take on Mike's season and the attention he's gotten just as far as -- obviously it brings a lot of attention to your program. But also just how he's handled that individually, having such a spotlight on him, even on a national level.
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Mike handles everything with an unbelievable amount of grace and ease. As great of a player as he is, he's unbelievable in the community. He's a phenomenal student and a heck of a teammate and great person. That character shows through especially when you put the spotlight on him. Whether it's on the basketball court, off the court, whether it's in an interview or the other attention that comes to him. He handles it with such grace because of who he is. He goes back to his foundation of who he is as a person and his upbringing and he's continued to just keep his focus on, as much attention as he's gotten, what our team needs each game and what he needs to do on the practice floor each day, and he's done a phenomenal job.
Q. Gonzaga has made 19 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. They've raised the profile of mid-major basketball. Do you feel SDSU aspires to be like Gonzaga in that regard, and what can you learn with the way Few has built the program that you can take from him?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: When you look back at their program, whether you go all the way back to Coach Monson, and then Coach Few, at the mid-major level, I don't know if you can consider them a mid-major program anymore with the amount of success they've had, you look at them and say, this is a program that 20 years ago was in a spot where they were trying to build something special. And from that vantage point that's what we hope to do in Brookings, that's what we hope to do with the Jackrabbits.
And obviously there's been some tradition there, and we're trying to get better each day and build on that. And we have a lot of respect for what they've done and how they've built it over time and sustained success. We admire that and that's something we hope to accomplish. At the same time there's going to be differences, there's going to be differences in how we do it.
And I'm just excited to keep working with these guys each day. Every day we get to practice, at this point forward we're excited, because we feel like we continue to build on this season, but also on the growth of the program moving forward.
Q. I want to ask how did Michael deal with the passing of his brother, and just emotionally throughout the season and being able to keep his mind on basketball?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Michael and his brother, they were best friends. And when he went to Kansas State and then also when he went to Northern Illinois, his brother was right there by his side, they were best friends.
When I first met Michael, I remember in our first conversation through the recruiting process, we talked about the importance of his brother in his life, his brother's passing, and how he felt like he was playing for his brother, because of the strength his brother provided him as a player, how much he meant to him.
And I'd be foolish to say that what's happened with him through the course of this season, as he's continuing to improve and become that coach on the floor for us, that he's not gaining that strength and utilizing that strength from his brother and playing for his brother to some extent. It's been really awesome to see. And you can tell the sense of pride Michael has that he's on the floor each day. And it's been great to see how he's continued to use that for strength for himself, both on and off the court.
Q. No matter how many times people look at the bracket, even though it's not indicative of the last six weeks of how your guys play, they'll see the 16 and see the 1. Are you using that as lead-up to the game or are you telling the guys to ignore the numbers?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: We've been able to play okay here these last six weeks, because we haven't really worried about the noise on the outside. We sat in a spot six weeks ago where we were dead last in the league that only takes eight of the nine teams to the conference tournament. And our guys showed unbelievable fight to come together and continue to move forward. And we haven't done that because we've worried about who's in front of us. We've worried about how together we can be as a group and how we can play for each other.
You carry that through the conference tournament. I don't think the seeds matter. Once you get to the postseason and the conference tournament, we tell the guys we're all zero and zero, and we're starting from scratch. Whether you have an 8 by your name or a 1 by your name, in our conference there's so much parity, and so many teams that had a chance to win that tournament.
When you look forward to the NCAA tournament, and you go one step forward, you hear everybody talk about the numbers, and the chances at some point does a 16 seed win. And for us our focus is really with our team and what we need to do.
We've got a lot of respect for what Gonzaga has done this year, and they've earned that seed. At the same time everybody is zero and zero. Our guys are playing loose. Our guys are playing aggressive. We have every bit as much right being in this tournament as any of the other 67 teams do, and we're going to come out tomorrow and play with some passion and show that.
Q. Things have really gone south for Washington since you left. I wonder why you think that is, and if you have any thoughts on Lorenzo Romar's future in Seattle?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Lorenzo Romar is a tremendous basketball coach. He did an unbelievable job taking a program to new heights that have never been there before, three Sweet 16 performances in that stretch. He's been an unbelievable mentor to me, leader, graduation rate with young men. Everything he's done as a head coach has been first class. I know that the wins and losses at this point in recent history aren't where he'd like them to be, but I'm confident Coach Romar appreciates the relationship he's had with me.
And hope for him that his future continues at Washington. If I ever had -- if my son was ever fortunate enough to play college basketball, he'd be blessed to have an opportunity to play for a man that's as good of a person, leader and coach as Coach Romar.
Q. Nigel Williams-Goss with Gonzaga now. What about your experience with him, what you think about him as a young man and as a player in your experience?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Much like we talked about Mike Daum earlier, Nigel is one of those guys, his character is off the charts. His work ethic is extremely impressive for me. He's such a great worker. He spends countless hours in the gym perfecting his craft. He's gotten to a point where there really isn't much of a weakness in his game, and that's a testament to his hard work and what he's put into it.
Working each day at Washington and working with the guards two years and being able to coach him what you really appreciate is how competitive he is, how much of this game matters to him, and how much winning matters to him. He's got so many things physically that he does out there, but it's more that will. It's more that competitive spirit that makes him special. We've talked the last few days with our team as we've prepared about what we need to do to be successful in trying to neutralize him. At the same time having coached him, I'm very aware that having a plan sounds good, and being able to stop him is a whole other thing.
Q. Obviously when you came in it was a hodgepodge. But there are some guys on the team with NCAA experience, and you have experience at Iowa State. Did you have any words of wisdom or talking about what the experience is like, both from your assistant coaching perspective and listening to the players from their perspective?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: As much as you can. We're trying to look at this as another game that's in front of us. And obviously there's more cameras. There's more attention. There's more social media. There's more things on the news that bring attention to it. We're trying to approach it as another game. And I don't think our guys, and I shouldn't say -- I know our guys aren't just content to be here. We haven't fought out of the hole we've fought out of to come here and have a moral victory.
I'm really excited about how they continue to work each day, how they put extra time in together. So you look at last year and say Mike Daum's played in the NCAA, and Reed Tellinghuisen and on down the line with Ian Theisen and Tevin King, you hope that gives them that extra sense of confidence. We're trying to approach this as another game and take care of the task at hand.
Q. It's your first year, how enjoyable has it been to see this come together in the last six weeks? It's been a pretty huge shift in where you're at today in terms of where you were at three months ago.
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: I take a great sense of pride, especially on Sunday at the selection show. It wasn't seeing that logo, the Jackrabbit logo called that was as much of who do we play or when do we play, it was a lot more the sense of pride I had for all the people that have worked so hard to make it possible. And that's from administration to our student-athletes to our coaches, our managers, people in the community, unbelievable fan support and how people came out to support us in Sioux Falls and that sense of pride for everybody that was a part of it.
A lot of people have asked the question this is your first year as a head coach, how great does it feel to get to the tournament and certainly it's exciting. What I'm more proud of is when you work in a profession working with men as student-athletes and you see that growth and development through the course of the season, that's what this is all about. Sometimes the wins line up, and sometimes they don't, but I'm really, really truly proud of the young men in our program with how they've learned, the life lessons they've taken from it, and how all this will help all of us as we move forward being better people from it. For that I'm really happy.
Q. Among the transfers, one of them A.J. Hess, what personally did you see out of him that you wanted him at South Dakota State and what has he brought to the team this season?
COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Well, first of all when you look at our roster, we didn't have any seniors returning. So we thought getting some experience first of all was really important. So we wanted to make sure as we evaluated whether it was graduate transfers or junior college transfers, that there are young men that had great character first of all, that they would fit our culture and the forward moving -- us as we move forward, as well.
And I think with A.J., you could tell very early on that what we wanted out of his college career is to be sitting where we are today. He wasn't fortunate at SUU to play in an NCAA tournament, and when I heard him tell his story, I asked him why he would consider an opportunity like South Dakota State and he said, Coach, you have a program and a culture that's been successful, and that's something that I'm really longing for. And that's something that really hit home with me. Because we wanted to create this opportunity and do the best we can to put these guys in position to reach their goals and their dreams. And for A.J. to be here truly is a dream.
So obviously on court he's a phenomenal shooter, he's had huge shooting games for us, and that's been a big part helping us to space the floor at times. He's been great that way. He's had some big rebounding games for us. I think far above the basketball ability is how he fits with our guys and his character is No. 1 to me. But he's a guy that's proven offensively that he can have big scoring nights, and that makes defenses have to make some choices, so we're fortunate to have A.J. that way.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports