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March 16, 2017

Tim Jankovich

Sterling Brown

Ben Moore

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Q. You've played these guys before. It was much earlier in the season, played them in November. Your team is completely different now. From a comfortability standpoint, how are you guys feeling going into this matchup?
STERLING BROWN: We're feeling pretty confident. We've came a long way since the first match up. I feel like we got better in all areas and we're just ready, ready for the game.

BEN MOORE: The coaching staff has done a great job of getting us prepared. We know USC is a great team, but we feel like we're going to do well against them.

Q. Given the new makeup of your team and the new offensive schemes that you've brought to the table since transitioning after Harry Froling and Tom Wilson transferred, what new challenges are being presented to you with your new style of play, and what do you feel that you don't have to worry about anymore?
BEN MOORE: Well, we feel like we're very versatile on offense, so that's a big plus for us. As far as worrying about different things goes, we're not as big as most teams, but we feel like we can use that as an advantage.

STERLING BROWN: Like he said, we're pretty versatile, and I mean all we gotta really worry about is just staying out of foul trouble since we're limited with guys. That's pretty much it.

Q. Does the fact that you guys lost to USC earlier this year give you any extra motivation?
STERLING BROWN: Yeah, it definitely does. Getting a chance to play them again, that's something special, especially in this tournament and just being in this tournament for us is special. So I mean, we got a lot behind us. We're going to be ready for the game tomorrow.

BEN MOORE: Just to build off what he said, yeah, we're excited to play them again. We feel like we owe 'em one. And we know they're a great team, so it's a great opportunity to play them in this tournament.

Q. You guys are part of the senior class that has really been instrumental in the turnaround of this program. You were in the tournament two years ago, got out in the first round after a heart-breaking controversial call in the final seconds. What would a win or possibly multiple wins in this tournament mean to you guys going out as seniors?
BEN MOORE: I mean, it would mean everything because that's what we're trying to build is winning basketball. The senior classes before us they've established a great program. The coaching staff has done a great job, so we're just trying to build on that and keep it moving?

STERLING BROWN: Like he said, it would mean a lot to us. This is what we came here to do. We came up short a few times, but just to have the opportunity right now, that's all we ask for.

Q. What can you guys take away from your last March Madness two years ago?
STERLING BROWN: I mean, pretty much just take every possession, just cherish it. Don't take it for granted. Late in the game we gave up a couple easy baskets and turned the ball over. You gotta take care of the ball every possession.

BEN MOORE: Yeah, valuing every possession is the key. Staying composed throughout the game is a big key. So, you know, I think we're ready for that and I think we're just looking forward to playing tomorrow.

Q. So last night in the Southern Cal-Providence game, I believe Southern Cal came back from a deficit of either 17 or 18 points. You guys have been one of the best defensive teams in the conference in all of the nation per defensive efficiency. So are you concerned about their ability to get hot quick and make a run on you, especially after what happened in the American quarterfinals against East Carolina?
STERLING BROWN: No. I don't think we're concerned at all. We just stick on our game plan and stick to our principles. We should be fine. That's March Madness. Teams make runs. You just gotta withstand them.

BEN MOORE: We're not really concerned. We're looking forward to accepting the challenge of a great offensive team.

COACH JANKOVICH: Okay. The statement, real excited to be here. So happy that we were lucky enough to get a venue that was really close by, so our fans could get here. But even more excited for our players, the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament again, and you know, after some of the heartache from last year. So unbelievably excited to be here.

Q. Tim, can you talk about what Shake Milton has meant to your team and what it's like to have an opportunity for him to come back and play here in front of his hometown people?
COACH JANKOVICH: Yeah, I was asking him about that, is this a good thing or a bad thing and he was like, It's a great thing. So he's excited. He always seems to play really well here. And I hope that holds. He's a great player. He's a great person.

Last year you could argue that we had to play him out of position. He loves to play point guard, even though he doesn't look like one. And we played him off the ball a lot. Of course he's such a darn good shooter and good scorer, you can do that. But we had Nic Moore, so he didn't have the ball in his hands. And people thought, well, we'll have no one that can play the point this year, of course. And he's just been amazing. His numbers are great.

But it always goes way beyond the numbers. It goes into winning plays, IQ, toughness, you know, teammate, all those kind of things, and he's an A plus in every one. We love him.

Q. Having played Southern Cal earlier this season, do you find that this opponent is going to bring an extra sense of motivation to your team or like in the conference tournament, does the opponent really not matter to your players?
COACH JANKOVICH: I doubt something that happened in November is probably the biggest deal. This is the NCAA tournament, and that alone -- that's enough motivation, no matter who you play. I'd like to think that -- well, I know we are a completely different team than we were then. We didn't even play the same.

But at the same time, they're a much better team. They're very well coached, and that's kind of the idea of coaching. You start out in November with the idea of making sure you're getting better, and they certainly have. So I think that is more just a coincidence. I don't think it'll have a bearing at all on the outcome.

Q. Your thoughts watching the USC game last night and the differences from the first half to the second half?
COACH JANKOVICH: My thoughts are I wish they would play two halves like their first half. That's kind of what I'm hoping. I like their team way better in the first half, and I recommend they stay with that plan. They are incredibly explosive, and I was saying at halftime when everyone -- I shouldn't say everyone, but I still felt like I've seen them play enough. I've seen the records of when they were behind. I saw them come back on Arizona from I don't know how many points back. It's -- you better get way away from them.

So not surprising. They're so explosive, so many weapons, so many ways they can score. And I thought that he had an incredible second-half performance.

Q. Coach, you've been playing against the zone all year, a lot of teams like to play zone defense on you. They like to play that as well. They like rotating a lot, especially. What challenges does that bring, their rotation in the zone?
COACH JANKOVICH: You know what, the zone, we had a favor done to us -- didn't feel like a favor, but early in the year, and if I'm not mistaken, it was our second game of the year in our MTE, we drew Eastern Michigan, who basically runs the Syracuse zone. And because of the fear of that, we spent an inordinate amount of time way back making sure that we were going to be advanced in zone offense, just for that game.

And also, as time has gone on, knowing that we're a little bit of an awkward matchup for some people, we knew the first -- the first answer to bad matchups is to go zone. So we've spent a lot of time, as much time, more time than I've ever as a coach spent trying to be equal zone and man, knowing that the kind of team we are is going to have people going back and forth. So we're ready for both.

I honestly don't prefer one over the other. I've seen games where we're tremendous against both. I've seen games where we're not so good against either one. But I don't think that will matter. I think what'll matter the most is just our mindset, our confidence and our comfort level.

Q. You talked a little bit about the uniqueness of your team, the unique matchups that SMU presents. What advantage do you think that has against teams in a tournament of this magnitude?
COACH JANKOVICH: Yeah. This has been the most unique team I've ever coached in all my years, either as assistant or a head coach. Because of that, most every single team I've ever been around has been pretty traditional. You got your big guys, you got your point guards and wings, and you kind of go from there. And that's just kind of our game these days.

This team is so fun because we really -- we don't have -- I mean we don't have positions. I think they're five guards. We just got five guards on the floor, and it allows us to try to get out of the box and not play traditionally and make them play out of their box. I think that's the biggest thing. Out of their normal things that they work on, hopefully we're taking some people out of their comfort zones to guard us.

And it has worked well for us. It doesn't always work. Certainly we -- you know, we have some challenges because of the way we are, but we hope that we have more positives because of our difficulty to match than we do the negatives.

Q. Some of your friends are here from Kansas, Bill Self and everybody. Will you have a chance to get with them at all or run into them, talk to them?
COACH JANKOVICH: I'm glad I have friends. I'm glad I have friends in Kansas. That's really good to know. Sometimes I'm not sure. But yeah, we've been texting. I don't know if you're going to get together for dinner. We're a little bit busy. But we definitely have been.

I'm excited that Kansas is here because I do hope that, you know, run into a lot of people. I haven't been back in a while. So it's a little extra exciting for me that they're here.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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