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March 15, 2019

Aric Holman

Ben Howland

Reggie Perry

Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee-83, Mississippi State-76

THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with Mississippi State. We'll ask Coach Howland for some general thoughts on the game.

BEN HOWLAND: Tough loss for us. I thought we really played tough, physical basketball. It was a very physical game. We went down six at halftime, but we came out and had the game tied there at, like, 44 all or 45, right in that area, 42 all, right there. We had a free throw to tie it again. I think Tyson got fouled on a three. 46 all, 46-45, I think we were down one there. Then they went on that run.

The thing that hurt us were allowing second shots. They got some key second shots that led to baskets. Schofield played great to stretch out the lead. I was really proud of our guys' fight, the way they hung in there, fought back once we got down. Cut it to seven. Aric came in and gave us a great lift off the bench, knocked down some big threes.

Credit Tennessee, they're a really, really good team. They're either going to be a 2 or 1 seed based on these next two days coming up. We're going to get back home and rest the next two days and find out who we've got to play in the NCAA tournament on Sunday.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Reggie or Aric.

Q. Aric, coach mentioned rest. You played two really late games here. The rotation is a little shorter than it has been. How much was fatigue a factor when Tennessee made their run in the second half?
ARIC HOLMAN: I wouldn't say it was that big of a factor. We've been practicing. We practice really hard. The game is not as hard as practice. That's how we prepare.

I wouldn't say fatigue was that big of a deal.

Q. Aric, how well were you seeing it tonight?
ARIC HOLMAN: I give all things to my teammates. They were finding me. At the end of the day I just step up when I'm needed.

Q. Reggie, you got another double-double today. How confident are you no matter who you match up with in the NCAA tournament you can play with anybody?
REGGIE PERRY: I'm real confident in myself and my team. But I feel like I can go out and get a double-double every night. Double-double doesn't mean anything if we're not getting the win.

Q. Both players, how nice is it to be part of a team, disappointed tonight, but to know for the first time in a decade getting State in the NCAA tournament and having that to look forward to?
ARIC HOLMAN: I would say it's a great feeling. When me and Q first came here, we came here, our goal was to change the program and get it back on top to where it needed to be. I feel like we accomplished that goal.

REGGIE PERRY: Yeah, I feel like it's a great feeling, too. It being my freshman year, I feel like I've accomplished, and my team accomplished a lot of things I wanted to do as soon as I stepped foot on campus. I feel pretty good.

Q. Coach talked about how physical this game was. How physical was it down low battling with those guys?
REGGIE PERRY: It was real physical. They're one of the most physical teams in the league. We just wanted to go out and try to out-physical them. We made some good plays. We made a couple bad plays.

I feel like as a team we played pretty well.

THE MODERATOR: Reggie and Aric, we'll excuse you. We'll continue with questions for Coach Howland.

Q. Aric said fatigue probably wasn't a factor. Given what the rotation is right now, how confident are you the guys can give it their all for 40 minutes?
BEN HOWLAND: I think fatigue probably was a factor because we played last night and they didn't. That's definitely an advantage. We're not going to have any situation here the rest of the year, this is the only time, in November when you play in tournaments or this kind of tournament, post-season, where you're playing back-to-back nights. That definitely was a factor I felt in the first half. I didn't think it was the second half. I used two timeouts in the first half to try to get us through. I thought we made that run to start the second half where we got tied. There was a key juncture there.

No question, fatigue was involved tonight, largely because we played last night, then you have a turnaround, play back-to-back days. I think the NBA does this 15 times a year, it's just amazing to me.

But I'm really proud of our team. I'm proud of their fight, how they hung together, continued to compete. Even there in the last three minutes, we got it down to seven. One point we had it to seven, they got a long rebound, got back, scored again. We had our chances even then.

There's no quit, no give up in them at all. That makes me feel really good.

Q. You lost to Tennessee by 17 10 days ago. What allowed you to play a better game against them tonight?
BEN HOWLAND: I thought we came into this game with some momentum, having played really well last night. We won a couple games in a row, seven of our last nine. I thought we were feeling pretty confident.

Even though it wasn't a true road game today, it felt somewhat like a road game. A lot of orange in this arena tonight. But I'm proud of the way they handled themselves. I'm really excited for our team because every team, all 360-plus, go into the end of year fighting and hoping to make that tournament at the end of the year.

As was pointed out tonight, the first time in 10 years we know we're in. Really anxious and curious to find out where they're sending us and where we're seeded. Really excited about playing in the NCAA tournament for Mississippi State for the first time in a decade. Pretty special, something we're all striving for. Seven teams I know are getting in out of our league. That's incredible for the SEC. We played a very tough non-conference. A bunch of those teams are getting in, too.

Q. You've taken a lot of teams to the NCAA tournament in your career. Does this team have some of the tools that you've had in the past?
BEN HOWLAND: We do. We have a team that, number one, is very talented. I mean, Tennessee is a 1 or a 2. They're really, really good. Kentucky and them are right now 1 and on the 2 line, I believe. That's a very, very good team that we played, on a not-so-neutral court.

The NCAA is more neutral than this, even though the first four seeds are protected. I feel good about our chances. I thank God tonight after the game for keeping us healthy as we go into this. That's key for us here this next week.

We'll take the next two days off. They haven't had two days off in a row for their bodies since Christmastime. This I think will be really therapeutic, especially where we're playing with a shorter rotation than earlier in the year as was pointed out.

Q. We all know how great the conference has been this year. You played Kentucky a couple times, Tennessee. I think you lost all four. It's late at night. Can you go out on a limb and give us a prediction for tomorrow?
BEN HOWLAND: I didn't see Kentucky play today, so I'm not sure of Reid Travis, how he looked or did. He's obviously a key guy. He's the guy that matches up with Williams inside. They both handily won those two games. There will be a lot of fighting to see who can get more people in this building tomorrow between those two programs.

I think it will be a great game. But I'll be honest with you, I think it's going to come down to the wire. I think it's going to be decided in the final minute of that game tomorrow. That's how good and that's how close they are. It's going to be a great day for SEC tournament to have that as the nightcap tomorrow.

Q. Aric mentioned yesterday talking about the NCAA tournament that he hasn't had this feeling before of knowing what it feels like to make the tournament. Looking back at him and Q, what they've done, have you been able to think about maybe what their reaction might be on Sunday?
BEN HOWLAND: I think they're going to have an enormous amount of pride. When we arrived at Mississippi State, coming off some pretty tough years consecutively. The first year was really tough. We have improved every year during their four years, our four years together.

So proud of these two seniors, the leadership they provided, the improvements they've made in their games. But leading these others and really setting this year up.

Unbelievable kids. Unbelievable families, Aric and Q. I think they're going to feel very good. As I told them, we want to go in. It's not just making it, we want to go in and win. That's the key. We want to go in there and perform. No doubt, this entire team has earned this through a long campaign. Everybody who gets in it is incredibly pumped and excited. We're really looking forward to it, want to play our very best game next Thursday or next Friday that we played all season long.

Can't say enough about those two. Appreciate you asking that. I just love 'em both. Realize this is coming to an end here in the next weeks to come. There will be a lot to reflect upon.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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