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March 21, 2018
Q. Caleb and Cody, you guys have talked a lot this year about having the confidence of this team, having the confidence of Coach. What has it meant to capitalize on that confidence, especially in these last two tournament games where you both have kind of come up big in the last few minutes?
CODY MARTIN: I think the biggest thing is when it comes to confidence, just being able to play, especially the situation that we're in. It could have been easy for not only us but our team to fold, but with Coach and our teammates instilling that kind of confidence in us, it was easy for us to keep going, especially during the game and seeing who you're playing for and your teammates and realizing how much work you've put in over the summer.
You know, it wasn't -- so it was easy for us not to give up. Even though the deficit was kind of large, we were playing for each other at that point, and then good things happen when you play hard.
CALEB MARTIN: Pretty much just -- he took all the words out of my mouth. Just the same thing really. Coach doesn't ask us to do much but play hard and play confident. Just like he coaches, he focuses on defense, and he knows that we're a pretty good offensive team, and he knows that we'll put them up and eventually stuff will start falling.
But yeah, pretty much our whole entire theme of our team is just playing hard and playing confident, pretty much the whole thing that got us here.
Q. Hallice, what stands out about Loyola Chicago? Are they the type of team that's going to want ball control and keep the score down?
HALLICE COOKE: Yeah, they like to control the pace of the game. They play together. They share the ball. You can tell that they don't care who's taking the big shots, who's scoring, who's the leading scorer, and they really get after it. And they have a tight-knit group, and they have a lot of chemistry.
Q. Your mom was on TV quite a bit during the Cincinnati game, they kept flashing to her. How has she processed what you guys did last week and her becoming a little bit of a TV star herself?
CALEB MARTIN: She feels like a celebrity now for some reason. I don't know why. But she's having fun with it. I mean, she just -- it's something that she hasn't always been used to or anything like that, so I think it's pretty cool for her to get some recognition, to shine some light on what she's done for us and how we got here. But she's been loving it like anybody else.
But it's crazy to go back and watch games and see the camera pan over to her and stuff like that. It's pretty cool, honestly. She likes it.
CODY MARTIN: Yeah, pretty much the same thing. She's just having fun with it, and to see her like that and have all smiles, that's something that -- all she wants us to do is just have fun and enjoy what we're doing. For her to be able to be here for that, it just means a lot, especially knowing the circumstances and situation that was early on in life. And to see us here and how far that we've come, along with her and everything that she sacrificed, it just means a lot, and it means a lot to us to see her have that kind of joy.
Q. Hallice, you guys have been trailing at halftime each of your last five games. What will be the key to not putting yourself in position and getting off to a better start against Loyola?
HALLICE COOKE: Just coming out and executing offensively, getting everybody the ball and involved early, just getting a feel for it. And then defensively, that helps us talk and communicate and everybody feels like they have a groove.
I believe like if we get behind with this team, it'll be hard to get back in front because they execute so well offensively. They know how to control the pace of the game. It's very important for us to get off to a hot start, crash the offensive glass, take our time offensively and get great shots.
Q. I know Davie County is pretty excited about what you guys are doing. What's the outreach been like since you guys have made the Sweet 16, and is there something that's surprised you about the amount or the person that reached out to you?
CALEB MARTIN: I mean, the outreach has been amazing. We look -- stuff on Facebook, there's been a lot of people, even at our old elementary school, there's been signs and stuff put up like by the road where they have the signs in front of the elementary school. Our elementary school has putt our signs and our names out there saying good luck and congratulations.
And just all the people, old teachers and old teammates, old coaches, just the support around me and my brother from my hometown has been awesome. Just to see everybody reach out and know that everybody is keeping up with us, so it's been great.
So for us -- for it to be a very, very small town, it feels like a big town, like everybody is behind us and supporting us, so it means a lot. Like I said before, it's bigger than just us, and you don't realize how many people that you touch and how many people recognize and realize what you're doing. You know, there's some people that wish that they were in our positions, but there's also some people that do everything they can to just support us and let us know that they're behind us in everything that we do, so we really appreciate that.
Q. Cody, one of the big topics that was discussed when Loyola was up there was the pace of the game. What's going to be the key, you being the point guard, of getting this pace in you guys' favor throughout the game?
CODY MARTIN: I think the biggest thing for us to control the pace is to start off with getting stops, and we know that they execute really well. And for us to play the pace that we want to, it's going to have to come in getting stops and getting rebounds and getting out and going. But they do a really good job of getting back, stopping the ball, because they execute not only offensively but defensively, as well, and they rotate really well.
It's going to be tricky, and there's going to be a lot of times where we're going to have to be able to execute our half-court sets because they do a good job at that. But I have the utmost confidence in my teammates and our staff to realize that. And that's something that we're very capable of doing. I don't know, it's going to be an interesting game, but I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Coach, you've had a few days now to go over film, et cetera. What does Loyola like to do, and why are they so good at their efficiency?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Well, Loyola is a great offensive team, great defensive team, top-50 ranking in both categories. They do a great job of spacing the floor. Offensively they can shoot the three. They've got a point guard who was Player of the Year in their conference. They have a big man who was Freshman of the Year in their conference, another player who was First-Team All Freshman in their league, Defensive Player of the Year at the off guard. Really, really, really well-coached.
So they present a lot of problems. They can space you out. They pass. They have good ball movement. They have good body movement where they move well without the basketball. And then on defense, they just play with great effort.
Q. You've played a couple other Missouri Valley Conference teams this year. Do they remind you of other teams you faced earlier?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: No, they're a lot better than either of the other two teams we played, without question. If I had to compare them to style and how difficult they are to prepare for, it's like a St. Mary's team, for people on the West Coast. They're just so well-coached, and they move the ball so well that they present problems for what type of defense you're going to game-plan for them.
Q. Coach, Kentucky is kind of perceived as like an overwhelming favorite in this region. As a competitor, how do you process that? And how do you want your guys to process it?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: I'm only worried about one game, one team, Thursday night at whatever time they tell us we're playing, 7:00, whatever. I'm not -- I don't even know who else is here.
Q. Just wondering, you have a very unusual perspective, pro and college side, and the games seem very different. I was wondering if you can put yourself back in your pro shoes just for a moment. If you were in the NBA, affiliated with the NBA, and watching the college game, would you find it easy or challenging to kind of analyze players playing in the college game and college systems and that different style of play?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Yeah, I mean, the two games are distinctively different. For instance, when I was in the NBA coaching, I never watched a college game. But you know, I think if you're asking strictly about evaluating, I think from an evaluation standpoint, it's a little bit easier to evaluate now than it was 15 or 20 years ago. Because I think that the college systems and style of play are slowly but surely evolving towards how NBA teams play; shot clock has a lot to do with that.
Today's student-athletes are looking -- for the most part, looking for styles and systems that mirror NBA-type play. There's more teams in college shooting the three ball than there were 15 years ago. And then I think the pace of play has picked up in the college game for the most part.
So I think from an NBA evaluation standpoint, which is, I think, kind of where the question was going, I think it's a little bit easier now to evaluate than it was 20 years ago.
Q. I don't know how many times in your life you've given the "Don't Ever Give Up" speech, and how many times it's actually worked, but why does it seem to resonate so much better with this team?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: You know, I just think that it doesn't start when you're down by 22 with 10:58 to go against Cincinnati. That's not when that starts, that mentality. That mentality starts in August, in how you prepare, the way that you practice every day. It's not a one-time thing. Last year we came back in Albuquerque. I got a text message from Keith Smart talking about 16 or 17 years ago, whatever it was, when we were in Rapid City and down by 27 in the second half of a game. And I think that for us and our group, our whole thing is about how to compete on the next possession. It doesn't matter if we're up 20, down 20. It's about the next possession, and that's -- we talk about that.
We were on an overseas trip this summer, and some of our guys were new to our system and stuff, and we might have been up by 30 with two minutes to go in the game, and we were not taking bad shots. We weren't turning the ball over. We were playing the possession.
There's no question that there's some luck involved. There was some luck involved in Albuquerque last year, and there was some luck involved in Texas and some luck involved in Cincinnati. But when it keeps happening, I do think it's a credit to the players' mentality and the toughness that the group has.
Q. I know you've talked about how you went about recruiting the Martin brothers. But just in general, when you're asking two guys to move cross country and come to your program, does that make it any more difficult getting guys to come across the country when they've never been out of the state before?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Well, I mean, it's kind of interesting because when we first got the job, we were basically only recruiting California, and we got Cameron Oliver, who was from Sacramento and Lindsey Drew who was from LA, and then we started working on some transfers, and obviously Jordan Caroline is from Illinois and Marcus Marshall from Minnesota, and those two guys came in that same class.
Now the four sit-out guys that aren't playing right now that are sitting out, Jazz Johnson is from Portland, and Nisre is from the East Coast, and Corey Henson is from the East Coast and D.C., and Tre' Thurman is from Omaha. We've had really good success for whatever it is, recruiting guys that are far, far outside of where we originally thought our recruiting base was going to be.
And obviously the Martin twins, we took a little bit different approach to recruiting them. We knew that everybody wanted Caleb. Everybody in the country. And we kind of didn't worry about Caleb and just went after Cody really hard. We knew that they were going to play together no matter where they went, so we recruited Cody more than we recruited Caleb, and Caleb actually liked the fact that we wanted his brother so badly, and I know that his mom felt the same way.
Q. Not to give any secrets away, but I know when you guys set your code for your locker room, you set it as 1616 because the goal was to get to the Sweet 16. Now that you've achieved that, do the goals change for what you want to accomplish out of this season?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Yeah, we didn't go to back to Reno, so we couldn't change the code to the locker room. But yeah, I mean, we went to advance. And we know Loyola does, too, and one of us is going to and one of us is going to be really disappointed. But we don't feel like, hey, we're ready to go home. I mean, like I want to coach them again. I want to coach them on Friday. Hopefully, they want to be coached again on Friday.
But none of us want it to end. We have some seniors just like everybody does. We don't want their college careers to end, and we'd certainly like to go down as the greatest team in school history to advance to another game. And I know anybody that's in this situation when you make the Sweet 16, everybody wants to advance, all 16 teams, and all 16 teams probably have great confidence and belief that they can do it.
Q. I see you taking your shirt off, getting your players hyped, feeding off the energy. I read an article that described you as an often-shirtless madman who has driven his team to follow his lead. Guys love you. In life, how important is it to live with passion, and where did you learn that philosophy?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: My dad was pretty passionate. And I guess at this stage of my career, like the only ones I'm really worried about, so to speak, are my bosses, our school president, and our athletic directors and our players. I guess my wife, too. I don't want to embarrass her too much more. This morning I was going to sleep in, and she said, you need to go down and get on the treadmill if you plan on winning another game.
But look, our guys get me, and we have fun together. We really work hard and we grind together. And I think if you don't have time in life to celebrate the good times, then it makes it a lot harder to work hard. Our recruits can see the passion from afar.
Look, we're having a blast. I'm not going to tell you we're not having a blast. You know, that's why we don't want this thing to end. We want to keep playing and keep competing.
Q. Coach, I know you just talked about recruiting the twins and the recruiting on the West Coast; how do you think the Sweet 16 berth for you guys is going to affect recruiting in the grand scheme of things?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: I mean, we hope that it helps. We hope that guys that we're recruiting that are being recruited by -- and no player in particular, but just anybody that's on our recruiting board that we've had discussions with that's looking at Power Five schools -- I hope that they look at us and say, hey, they have their own practice facility and they're winning at a high level, and you can go to a Sweet 16 if you go there.
You know, that's kind of how we look at ourselves, like we are a Power Five school. Hopefully young kids that are looking at their next landing spot feel that way, as well. We won't know the effect of it until two, three years down the road.
Q. You have coached at the highest level in this sport, and I was talking to someone who was on the bus with your players as they were coming here, and they said, my gosh, this is a real police escort. When you see that and hear things like that, what does that mean to you, and what is your biggest hope for these kids?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Well, for sure with our student-athletes, and they might not know it right now, this is going to be the greatest time of their life, and these memories for these two games and the game coming up will last them forever.
You know, I tell the guys all the time, I was part of two NCAA Tournament teams at the University of San Diego, my freshman and senior year, and I can vividly remember the entire 40-minute games, both of them. We lost both games, once to Auburn, once to Princeton, and those two games, those 80 minutes -- and obviously you can just look at me and tell I didn't play much -- those 80 minutes to me are 80 of the greatest minutes ever. Doesn't matter if coaching an NBA game or whatever; participating as a player in an NCAA Tournament, it does not get any better in life.
If we have guys that are fortunate enough to play at the next level, these two games that they've just played and the one coming up are going to stand out in their minds for the rest of their lives. And to me, that's why -- this event is indescribable when you win and you advance. When you lose, it kind of -- it happens so quick, and you go to the game, and if you lose in that first game, you don't get the full flavor of what we're getting right now.
Q. During this latest run, how many times have you heard your father's voice in your ear, and what is it saying to you?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: I hear it all the time before I go down and address the team. I think about things that my dad would tell his team. It's not often that your dad is -- he was my best friend. He was my idol. I wanted to walk in his foot steps. If you look at our careers, our minor league records, it's eerie. There's barely percentage points in our difference, in our win/loss records, at least at the minor league level where a lot of our careers were spent.
You know, when most kids come down to get ready for school and watch cartoons, my whole life I was either talking X's and O's or we had game film running. But I hear him all the time, and I also hear him talk about: Are you insane? Have you lost your mind? Why are you shooting so many threes? Why are you playing fast? Slow the ball down. Because obviously my dad's teams were grind-it-out, defensive-oriented teams, and we play a completely contrasting style from the way that I was raised and watched his teams play.
Q. In the past two games, you guys had to overcome deficits of 14 and 22 points, respectively. What have you guys worked on this week to prevent having to play from behind?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Try to change up our offensive sets so we can score some points in the first half. Look, our guys -- I think that we might have played a little bit tight in both games, to be honest. And we're still going through an identity crisis, so to speak, without Lindsey Drew, who has been our three-year point guard starter. And Cody has done an unbelievably incredible job, but we're just a different team.
And there's been times over the last three weeks that I've felt like we can get discombobulated, not because of any one player, just because everyone is playing out of position. Now Caleb Martin is playing the 4 spot on offense oftentimes, and he hasn't done that all year. He's played the 2-3. But when we moved Cody down, we're kind of still evolving, so to speak.
And I think that's why we have the ability to continue to get better throughout this tournament, because we haven't peaked in who we are. We're still -- we feel like we're still getting better, which is probably why we've advanced, as well.
Q. How much do you take away from your mom, and how much do you take away from your dad on a percentage basis?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: You know, probably 90 percent of my dad, and 50 percent of it, I need not to take. And then that's where my mom comes in. So if it's 100 percent, I'm probably going to go about 180 on percentile, even though I know it's supposed to be 100. But my mom, you know, she's a little bit lower key, more practical jokes and stuff than my dad, kind of a lighter side.
So I mean, I hope that all of us, no matter who's in the room, I think that we all want to -- I hope my sons take half of me and half of their mom, and I hope my daughter takes 99 percent of my wife and 1 percent of me.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports