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March 18, 2017
Greenville, South Carolina
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by South Carolina.
Q. Sin, looking at Duke's defense seems to have the same openings that Marquette's defense has. Is that what you've seen preparing for this game?
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: We're going to attack them. We went over it, we're about to go over it in practice. Coach told us a couple of things, a couple of ways that we're going to attack them. And that's what we're going to focus on when we go out here for practice after the meeting.
Q. Sindarius, just in terms of playing in your home state, obviously it was a big thing for the program to get a tournament win last night. But for you personally, being from South Carolina, being close by and now getting a chance to get a second win at home with a big crowd, what does that mean to you? And PJ, too, you guys are two key players both from South Carolina.
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: It means a lot, not just for me and PJ but for Justin, too. We're all from South Carolina, born and raised, grew up. And for us just to be able to put our state on the map and represent our state just means a lot for us.
When we first got here the program wasn't in this situation, but now it is. Just shows that our work is paying off, and that after tomorrow's game hopefully we can be in a situation where we're celebrating and we won the game.
Q. How much of a difference did the environment last night make? And do you expect it to have another home-court feel tomorrow, even though it's Duke?
JUSTIN MCKIE: It played a big impact yesterday. The crowd got behind us after stops and made shots, which kind of helped us pick up our intensity a bit. And hopefully tomorrow we'll have the same type of energy from the crowd.
Q. Justin, did your dad have any reaction to yesterday's win?
JUSTIN MCKIE: I mean, he had a normal reaction. He was excited. He was happy. I talked to him last night. He was excited for the guys. I talked to him this morning. I think he might come by the hotel and talk to us a little bit, I'm not sure.
Q. Sindarius, Coach K called you the best, most unheralded player in the country.
THE MODERATOR: Most unheralded great player.
Q. Thank you to the proctor for the correction. Your reaction?
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: I'm thankful for it. It means a lot coming from probably one of the greatest coaches, if not the greatest coach that ever coached in college basketball, just means a lot. But the game's still gotta get played. And I feel like none of us on our team don't get as much recognition as we deserve, like Duane, the way he guards the play and the way he plays defense. PJ, Chris, I think most of the guys on our team that deserves and could get a lot more credit than what they get.
Q. Sin and Justin, last night you guys said it was the best game you played all year. Any takeaways from your performance that you think is going to help you guys perform even better on Sunday against Duke?
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: Just how aggressive everybody was, the confidence that everybody played with, starting with PJ, Maik, Justin, Ra, myself -- everybody that played last night played with a level of confidence that we need from everybody just to make a run and compete with everybody.
And I feel like if everybody brings that same confidence and that same attitude to tomorrow's game we'll be able to compete with Duke.
Q. Sindarius, Luke Kennard is a guy who can put up some points. What's the best way to defend a guy who can get a shot from just about anywhere?
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: Just make it hard for them. We've got a guy like Luke who can score multiple ways. We call that level three, that can score at the rim, mid-range and from the 3-point range. You just gotta make it hard for them and make them work for every shot.
And the most important thing is make sure he has to guard, too. He can put up points but I can, too. So when we come down -- when we get the ball he's gotta guard, too, coming down on the other end.
Q. Sin, you talked about how if you play, you guys played with confidence yesterday. You played loose. You played without worrying about too much stuff, just like yourselves. Does the pressure increase a little bit tomorrow because of what's at stake? Can you guys play still as free and easy as you did the other night?
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: There's no pressure on us. We're going in as the underdog. So we're still going in with confidence, no pressure and just go in and have fun and just embracing the moment and just taking it all in and just giving it all our all and just hopefully at the end of the game we have a chance to win the game.
Q. Sin, first of five minutes last night you took a lot of 3-pointers, not a lot were going in. Was it just what Marquette was giving you? Were you not being as aggressive as you wanted to be? And how much do you want to be aggressive from the tip tomorrow night?
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: I think those shots were good shots. A lot of them came off drives or kicks, guys helping. When I drove I kicked it out. Guys stepped in and took shots that just didn't fall.
I think the difference was last night was in the second half we got more paint touches and the ball came from the paint outside, so it made it a lot easier and the guys had more time to set their feet and make a shot. So I think tomorrow's focus is still attack the paint, and when the opportunity comes for a shot, for us to step up and make our shots.
Q. Sin, what do you do to, as a team leader steady guys? A big emotional win like that, you've got to turn around and get ready. How do you keep everybody on an even keel?
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: It's quick memory. Last night's win doesn't help us with tomorrow's game. We understand that. We know that last night is over with. It's in the past and we're moving forward.
Our focus is on Duke. We can't keep celebrating the Marquette win, because if we celebrate and still thinking about that win then we're not going to be able to prepare and focus on the next game. And that's our mindset right now is on Duke and just focusing on them.
Q. Justin, can you talk about the bench production you guys got in that first game, you, Ra and others. Everyone contributed. How were the other role players and bench players, how are you going to carry that over into Duke with even more confidence or things you guys are able to do in that first-round game?
JUSTIN MCKIE: We just gotta come in ready to play. The starting five they'll do their job like they have all season. And then it's on us to continue to keep the ball rolling once they come out and we come in -- just gotta play with confidence, the same level of intensity that we played with yesterday, and I think we'll be fine.
Q. Duke is one of those polarizing programs everybody loves or hates. When you guys were coming up, how did you view Duke? Did you have favorite players did you follow them at all?
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: I was North Carolina. You know how I feel.
JUSTIN MCKIE: I liked Duke when I was younger, but as I got older it was kind of whatever.
Q. To piggyback that question, are either one of you guys at all aware of the history between South Carolina and Duke from their ACC days and the kind of basketball battles they used to have, anything on that?
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: No, that was way before our time. Way before our time.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Coach, an opening comment.
COACH MARTIN: Watching a lot of film last night, I've come to the conclusion that Duke's pretty good. So I think they're a well-coached team, too. We've got a venerable challenge ahead of us and one that we're excited for. They're playing real good basketball. They're healthy. They got all their parts. Obviously coach's personality being there every day, again, has kicked in. And we got our hands full.
Q. It was a year ago that the SEC hired Mike Tranghese as a consultant to help prop up basketball. Now you've got five teams in the tournament. Four of them are still going and two of you have a chance to make some noise against the ACC tomorrow. Do you see your games here in particular as a real opportunity?
COACH MARTIN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, all of us in the SEC understand that we're carrying a banner that's a little bigger than just our own schools. We know we've got a real good league. It's unfortunate that there's been a message put out there -- I'm not saying our league's better than anybody's. I've been in other leagues. I comprehend how every league is. But we don't take a back seat to anybody.
And that's the one good thing that -- I can't speak for the other SEC schools, I know they feel this way but I don't want to speak for them -- our guys are battle tested because of the games that we've had to play in our conference. Playing Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, all them teams, our guys have been prepared for this moment. And we collectively, the coaches, we're taking pride in trying to change this whole message about the SEC being inferior to other leagues.
Q. Just how difficult is it to try to game plan for a team like Duke with guys who are so big and can play inside and out and don't really stick in one spot on the floor?
COACH MARTIN: It's hard. It's the same thing as preparing to play Kentucky. I mean, you know, trying to play Alabama. I'm not trying to disrespect Duke. I mean, they've got real good players. Kentucky has real good players. Florida has real good players. North Carolina has real good players. It's what you face at this time of year.
And you don't trick your way into the NCAA Tournament. You don't trick your way into winning in the NCAA Tournament. You earn your way into that. And Duke's -- Duke is phenomenal. And I'm a huge Mike Krzyzewski fan. I think we're pretty good too. I like our guys. They've taken me on an unbelievable ride right now.
Our guys will go out, they're going to do what they've done every game this year. They're going to lay it on the line. And in the end it's either going to be good enough or not. And we're excited. We can't wait.
Q. The other day you said if you win Friday night, you'd enjoy it for about 45 minutes and then go on to the task at hand. Here you are in the process. How do you get that mindset to work not only for today but for a long day tomorrow? And what are some of the techniques you can apply to make sure the guys are ready?
COACH MARTIN: Guys are fine. There were some people that weren't very happy when they announced our game time tomorrow. I was ecstatic. I remember in 2010 we played Xavier when I was at Kansas State. I was done with the media -- I got to the hotel at 2:00 in the morning. It was a double-overtime game. It was the last game of the night.
We found out right after the game that our Saturday game was going to be the first one of the day. So we turned around and tipped off at one-something, 2:00 p.m. something, it's the first one of the day. That's kind of 36 hours later from the time I walked in the hotel until the time we actually tipped off. And that wasn't very good.
So we've had time to recompose ourselves. We've got time to prepare all day tomorrow. We've got time all day today. So preparation is not going to be a problem. We expose our guys to these quick turns during the season on purpose. Who you're preparing against is what the problem becomes. And our guys will be prepared. They'll be ready to go. Our guys have shown the ability to prepare on a quick turn. We've just got to hope that we play real well.
Q. The word "confidence" has come up a lot in the last 24 hours. What can confidence do and what is it doing for your team, especially in this setting? And given that win last night, best game of the year for your guys?
COACH MARTIN: I don't care what walk of life you're in, if you've got no confidence in what you're doing, you're not going to succeed. And we became a good team because we got a lot of confidence in who we are, and that didn't start on Wednesday of this week. That's something that started five years ago.
And a lot of times you don't win a game and the people on the outside think that your team is not confident. But the way your guys handle that moment lets you know whether you can have confidence in them or not. Our guys are a confident group of kids. That's not lacking in who we are. Our guys are confident.
Once we got past the first eight, ten minutes of the game yesterday, I thought the nerves kind of went away and everyone focused in on the game itself. And we eliminated some of the mistakes that we were making. And then we played with an unbelievable desire that our guys have played with all year.
The difference is that we were able to convert some open-court opportunities. We were able to make some 3s. Sindarius made a 3 when we needed one. Ra Felder made a 3 when they were in the middle of a run where they could have flipped the game again, yet he just jumps up and makes a 3. And I'm sitting there saying, you talk about confidence? That's a freshman. I'm saying, wow. What courage to just jump up and shoot that ball, let alone make it.
And it's an unbelievable group of guys. It's an unbelievable group of guys. And we'll be confident and we'll be ready tomorrow night. That's not going to be the reason why we succeed or not succeed Sunday night.
Q. When you look at Luke Kennard, a guy who can score in so many ways, what can you do to try to get him off his game?
COACH MARTIN: He's a hard guard, man. And they do a great job of putting him in different actions. They make it hard. They put him in so many different actions that it's hard to just focus in on one part of the floor.
You gotta have guys that are connected. You can't guard them with one. Gotta be your team. And it's going to be a hard guard. He's a heck of a player, heck of a player. And it's not just that he can score; it's that he knows when to go and not when to go. There's some guys that score, they think they can go all the time and they end up taking a bunch of bad shots. So they score a lot of points but they also give you a lot of opportunities, because bad shots, it's a turnover.
He doesn't take bad shots. He knows when to go and when not to go, very efficient player. Difficult guard. Difficult guard. We're going to practice here in a little bit, and we've been studying film. And we're going to have to do the best we can.
Earlier this year, we had to prepare for a guy named Malik Monk who is pretty dynamic in his ability to score. And we did a good job at times, but we also lost him at times. But we've got our hands full with Luke. Studying him all night last night, I watch him play whenever I can. During conference play it's hard for me to watch teams from other leagues that we don't play. It's hard for me to watch them. But I watched him a lot here last night and today. And he's a hard guard, a heck of a player.
Q. I'm not sure if you understood but Brad Underwood was just hired at Illinois. I didn't know what you had to speak about Brad's job and what you've seen from this?
COACH MARTIN: Are you serious? Wow. Wow. I'm -- I'm ecstatic for him. I knew some things were going on. I'm not talking about Illinois, about where he's at. I'm ecstatic for him. He spent a lot of time at Western Illinois. So there's -- I know he and his wife love that part of the country. I'm really, really happy for him.
Q. I was just talking to a couple of players in the locker room. They said what makes this team very unique is the chemistry, the amount of belief they have in each other. They said it started in Costa Rica. How did that trip help and how do you think it's paying dividends right now, especially as you get on bigger stages and as the lights get a little bit brighter?
COACH MARTIN: There's a reason why I didn't coach in practice or games when we went down to Costa Rica, because I knew we had a lot of new parts, and we had some guys that needed to put their thumbprint on the program. They needed to become the new voice.
Michael Carrera was so emotional and so loud with everything he did that he dominated the personality of the team. I knew that other people needed to kind of become that voice, that passion. So, I purposely, I didn't do it. Not because -- some people said, oh, you run your players too much. They hear your voice; it gets old. I think that's the biggest bunch -- I've never gotten old of listening to my mother talk to me. I've never understood the whole thought process that you coach your players too much.
I needed to observe them, so I could see who was signing up for what jobs and who wanted nothing to do with certain things. I wanted to see how they co-existed with each other. And when I watched those practices, the first thing I took away from it is how good a coach Matt Figger is. And the second thing I took away from it was these guys really want to win, the way they helped each other, the way they competed with one another, the way the older guys looked out for the first-year guys.
The first-year guys didn't show up with the answers. On the contrary; they were listening to the older guys as to how do we do this. And I saw that, and that's when I said, you know what? We've got a chance. We've got a chance and it's never stopped.
It's continued to happen and that's a tight-knit group in there, tight, tight knit group. And that's why we're here. We're not here because we've got a good player; we're here because we've got a team and they're fun to be around.
Q. What did you think of Silva's play last night and the other bigs? Did you get out of them what you were hoping for?
COACH MARTIN: Yes, I thought Kotsar had the best game he's played since who knows when. Maik had a great week of practice. I told Maik, you scored more in practice, he was more engaged in plays in our four practices leading into the NCAA Tournament than he had been in the whole month of February.
I thought Chris was great until he committed those two nonsense fouls in the second half. He stayed away from those for the most part, and then he commits those two fouls that just -- I'm out of words. I don't know how to get him to stop doing that. I really don't. If I did, he wouldn't commit those fouls anymore.
But I think he's gotten better at it. But then last night, in a three-minute span he commits three fouls and two of them are, like, nonsense fouls. But I thought those two guys were a big, big reason why we won. I understand Sin and PJ were great, and they made the plays that created the stats part of it. I thought Maik Kotsar's ball-screen defense yesterday was phenomenal. The times we switched off, his ability to keep little guards in front of him, I thought he was -- that was a big, big reason we were able to do a better job in the second half on contesting a 3-point line.
I thought Chris played well until -- you know, Chris and Mike, they're so young. Chris got embarrassed when he missed that dunk, and he just kind of got embarrassed. Then he comes out and he commits a foul that's just, it's a bad foul. But those two guys, Chris was the happiest guy in the locker room after the game. It's unbelievable. He's a beautiful kid. Beautiful kid.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports