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March 14, 2019

Cuonzo Martin

Jordan Geist

Torrence Watson

St. Louis, Missouri

Auburn-81, Missouri-71

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Missouri. We will begin with some thoughts on the game by Coach Martin.

CUONZO MARTIN: I felt both teams fought hard, both teams competed at a high level. I thought our guards did a tremendous job really containing Harper. Brown got going on a couple loose balls, long rebounds. He made some shots. Of course, he's a tremendous shooter.

I thought we were right there. Just didn't have enough to get over the hump. Give those guys credit for winning the game.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Jordan and Torrence.

Q. Torrence, what do you think changed for you in the last couple games?
TORRENCE WATSON: Just getting more confidence, then getting in the gym, shooting more. Coach always talks about the work that you put in is going to show on the floor. Just putting in more work, getting in the gym, shooting more. That builds confidence when shots fall in.

Q. Jordan, the threes were really falling for you all today. What about it was so effective, shooting 50%?
JORDAN GEIST: I think these last couple games our confidence has really grown, especially with the young guys coming in. I just thought we were just taking what they were giving us and shooting the ball with confidence.

THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse the student-athletes and continue with questions for Coach Martin.

Q. Obviously Kevin and Jordan pretty emotional. What have those two meant to building this program?
CUONZO MARTIN: I think they've done a great job. Even before I got here. Didn't show in a lot of wins with the program. But two high-character guys, guys that work hard, two guys that will get their degrees in May. Parents did a tremendous job in giving them balance with sports and life. Two guys you'd like to be around away from the game.

I respect and appreciate the fact that they allowed me to coach them, allowed me to demand certain things from those guys. I put a lot of pressure on those guys because we needed them in order for our team to be successful. I thought they did a great job of not giving up, continuing to fight. It gave the young guys hope from the standpoint of seeing older guys that have been through some tough times, but they never gave in.

They continue to work extremely hard, bring their hardhat to practice every day. Geist gets a lot of accolades, plays hard. Kevin did the same thing. His numbers didn't show up at the level he would have liked. I thought he did a tremendous job as a senior leader. Our program is better for what those two guys have brought to the table. Not to take anything away from Cullen VanLeer, I thought he did a tremendous job behind the scenes, talking to guys about what it takes, what it looks like.

Q. You've talked a lot this season about how you don't see fighting or coming to play as optional. There were a few times today where it looked like Auburn might pull away. Were you impressed with your team's ability to claw back?
CUONZO MARTIN: One thing I've always tried to do as a player is play extremely hard. I just think it's the least you can do as a teammate, as a player. Take away the university you play for, take away your teammates, I don't get along with my teammates, but you owe it to your family's name to compete and play as hard as you can, first and foremost. Just do that.

Again, like I say, I appreciate the fact that guys would never give up. I don't know what that looks like. If that's the case, it's probably the wrong program for you. If you lack certain things, you don't have enough right now, we'll get enough. You got to be ready when tomorrow gets here. It will be here before you know it, yeah.

Q. How valuable are some of the minutes that the young guards were able to play this season? How could that carry over into future years?
CUONZO MARTIN: They grew up. I know I had the luxury as a freshman not to play a lot early. Older guys in front of me I could learn from. When I had my opportunity, I learned from those guys. Those guys learned some tough lessons but became better because of it.

Torrence, 20 points. It's a team game, but you also have to take the personal challenges. Torrence, at the end of the day, when he leaves his freshman year, he went up against one of the better guards in the league in Brown, elite guard, shooter, freshman to senior played great basketball. Torrence went toe-to-toe with him.

Same thing with X. He had eight turnovers. But Harper is an elite guard in our league. That gives you hope as a young player to understand what you have to do going into the spring and summer. I think the biggest thing is the physical part. I don't care what you say about your game, your talent, when a guy is strong when he's older, that's valuable. I remember when I was older than younger guys, you can impose your will on them. That's what it is.

Torrence and Javon, they'll learn from those lessons, grow from it, be better players because of it.

Q. With those guys coming back, plus what you're adding, how far away do you feel this team is to being back in NCAA tournament contention?
CUONZO MARTIN: I think one, if you're healthy. You take away that part. Anything can happen, as you guys have seen. If you're healthy, you're just as good as anybody in the league. I've never been a guy to get caught up in stars, ranking. You have to play on the floor.

I think if we're healthy, with what we have returning, guys you are bringing into your program, you got a chance to be as good as anybody. Again, you still have to play the game.

Q. Bruce Pearl referenced this game as a passing of the torch from Geist to Watson. What similarities do you see between the two of them?
CUONZO MARTIN: I think when you say on the surface talent, you would say Torrence has more than Geist. Geist proves that it doesn't matter how high you jump, how fast, what your physique looks like. Geist has done a tremendous job with his will to compete, with his will to win. Not fazed by the stage, atmosphere or opponent. He actually embraces those challenges.

Torrence, learning the edge that Geist has to him. Geist has an edge to him. Geist always plays with a chip on his shoulder because he wanted to be at this level. He never lost sight of what he had to do to get to this point.

Torrence on the surface was talented enough to be here. Torrence has the will to be a great basketball player, to be the best shooting guard in the conference. That's a lot of work, focus and preparation. But Geist's will has willed him to this point.

Q. Auburn shot three for 17 from three in the first half, then nine for 17 the second half. Were they getting good looks in the first half or did they change something?
CUONZO MARTIN: I thought four -- I have to watch film, four of those threes were long rebounds, ball tip. We didn't get the rebound. Bam, bam, three-point shot. Brown had two of those. He had the third one I think in the corner. He shouldn't have got that shot.

I didn't think we did anything less defensive. I thought loose balls. Again, I go back to I said it about Auburn: if you pick any team out of the league from top to bottom, Auburn, when they step on the floor, they're good enough.

Not to take anything from anybody, but they have every part, have nine, ten guys that are talented enough. If you don't have nine, ten guys to go toe-to-toe with them, something is going to give there at some point. That's what happened.

Q. NIT seems like a longshot for you. Would you accept a CBI bid or not?

Q. Was Javon healthy today?
CUONZO MARTIN: He hasn't been healthy in the last month. But he's a fighter. I mean, he's probably the guy that's the most upset and frustrated, whatever word you want to look for, because he couldn't give what he needed to give.

But it's probably been about a month or so. Tried to keep him out of practice. But he's a fighter. He'll be better because of these last couple games because he couldn't produce and perform the way he's capable of performing.

Q. Since the season is over, have you heard any more from Jontay Porter about whether he'll be back next year? Is there a timeline for that decision?
CUONZO MARTIN: I hear from him via text, that sort of thing. Not necessarily that question. We'll see when we get to that point. He'll make the best decision. The most important thing is he makes the decision based on what's best for him. He'll do the right thing.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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