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March 20, 2019
Salt Lake City, Utah
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Syracuse student-athletes Tyus Battle and Elijah Hughes to the stage. Questions, please.
Q. Did you ever play a zone in high school, like a real zone defense, not just a lazy two-three zone? Also, what was the initiation like in learning the Syracuse zone?
TYUS BATTLE: The Syracuse zone is different to anything I have played in high school. We played more of a lazy zone in high school. We play a higher, a lot more movement, so it's completely different. It was kind of hard for me to adjust to it as a freshman. But, I mean, it's easy for me now as a junior. It is a really tough defense to stop.
Q. Elijah Hughes?
ELIJAH HUGHES: Coming from high school playing a more laid-back lazy zone it has been an adjustment. But as the season went on, it's becoming easier and easier.
Q. We just learned the news about Frank Howard a couple of moments ago that he has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of rules. When did you find out and how did that impact things for your team going into tomorrow night?
ELIJAH HUGHES: We found out and can't really do anything about it. We played without Tyus our entire ACC tournament. We have to pick it up a bit and that is what we have to try and do at the NCAA tournament.
TYUS BATTLE: We found out when you guys found out. The team picked up. They picked up their play when I was out. I mean, we have played without players before. Foul trouble, you have to play without players, injuries you have to play without players. If we play our game, we'll be fine.
Q. I have a zone follow-up. Coaches will say when kids come to college they have no idea how to play defense and they scream and yell at them a lot about that. Was it like that and what was like the single biggest part of the zone that was hard to learn? Tyus, you mentioned you play it really high. I just want some really good Coach Boeheim stories about him yelling at you. (Laughter.)
TYUS BATTLE: The coach gives you some time to adjust to it. It is something you are not used to, especially coming from high school. He doesn't yell too much, but if you don't get it right, it might become a problem. It was definitely an adjustment period for me. I have gotten it down so far.
THE MODERATOR: Anything to add?
ELIJAH HUGHES: I came in and sat out so I don't have a lot of time to watch some of the guys in the zone. When I come to play this year, the coach wanted me to be perfect at it because I had the whole year to watch it. I have my moments where he yells at me and gets on at me. But it's getting better. Nothing crazy.
Q. Obviously, if you go to Syracuse you know that the zone is a huge part of it. Before you got there, did you appreciate the zone, like a zone? There are a lot of basketball people that don't think it's a worthwhile defense. Were you in that camp and did you ever say, "Can we play man?"
TYUS BATTLE: When you go to Syracuse, you know you are going to play zone. I know I'm a good -- before college, I'm a good defender and I believe now I'm a good man-to-man defender. There are man-to-man principles in the zone and I don't think people understand that. A lot of time you have to guard the player in your position. You have help but there's help on man-to-man as well. You have to keep the man in front of you. If he goes by, coach is not going to be happy about that. I don't think people fully understand that part of it.
ELIJAH HUGHES: To piggyback what Tyus said, there are a lot of man-to-man principles in our zone. That shuts down a lot of teams, confuses them a lot. With our length and athleticism, it's also huge for teams to see that.
Q. This is for both players. Buddy and Jalen will play bigger roles tomorrow. How have they developed over the course of this season, seeing they are both freshmen?
TYUS BATTLE: They have developed a lot throughout the season. Buddy -- it is tough playing for your dad and everything else and coming to a prestigious club like Syracuse, I mean it's a lot of pressure on him. I think he's handled it great. And Jalen has been doing a great job as well. Playing hard in practice. When he gets in the games, he does a good job. This is a big stage for him.
They're good kids and they have worked really hard. They will be ready to play.
ELIJAH HUGHES: Piggybacking what Tyus has said. Buddy is getting better and improving all year. Even on the defensive side of things, people gave him a lot of crap about before the season started, talking about he wouldn't be good defensively, and he's been doing good defensively over the last couple of games. Jalen has not had an opportunity this year, but he's still been in good spirits, he is working, coming in practice early, he is getting better and I'm excited for those guys.
Q. Tyus, when you guys play open gym, when you play with each other in the summer, do you play a zone? Do you guys play man? Is that a weird question?
TYUS BATTLE: (Laughter.) We play man. We all play zone. We get away from the zone during the summer, so it is straight man-to-man.
Q. I'm going to keep asking questions. You obviously both have friends that play on other teams. Have you ever had a scenario where after a game maybe another player has come up and said, like, Man, this zone is legit? So many people, probably not with you guys, but write off zone defenses a lot.
ELIJAH HUGHES: Definitely a few times. They have never realized how effective a zone really was until they have played in the game or against us. It is not sweet. People think it's sweet. It is really not sweet. That's probably the biggest takeaway.
TYUS BATTLE: The biggest takeaway is you can't really -- you can try to prepare for it all you want. But once you see it in the front, it's hard to assimilate it. We have so much length. I'm 6'6", Frank is 6'5", we have 6'8", so you can't simulate that. And we are moving, talking, communicating, it feels like there is nowhere you can shoot the ball or pass the ball so it's tough to stop.
Q. This is for Tyus. Baylor also plays a zone. Is their zone anything like yours and will that help with preparation?
TYUS BATTLE: It is hard to simulate our zone. Our zone is very unique. I mean, we practiced against the zone every single day so we will be prepared to attack that and get good open looks in the zone.
Q. What's something that's impressed you about Jalen Carey on the court that people haven't seen out of him throughout the year?
TYUS BATTLE: I mean, he's just -- his resilience, I think. A lot of players -- I mean, when they're not getting the play-in time that they want, a lot of them they don't put their full effort in practice and stuff like that. But he's there every day, early, getting the shots, defending as hard as he could, playing as hard as he can play in practice. That says a lot about his personality and how good he wants to be. I truly believe he is going to be very good, very good.
Q. So, you have been really good at causing turnovers. How do you plan on capitalizing that in tomorrow's game? Elijah?
ELIJAH HUGHES: Really playing our game. To us it's another game, big tournament, but it is another game. We will do what we do, try to play defense and try and score in transition every opportunity we can.
TYUS BATTLE: We want to cause turnovers and we want to get out in transition. I mean, transition is where you score easy baskets, get to the foul line and just cause pressure on the defense, so that's what we look to do.
Q. For either player, have either of you had a chance to reach out to Frank and talk to him and how is he doing?
THE MODERATOR: Tyus?
TYUS BATTLE: I'm not going to get too much into it right now. It's tough. I mean, it's a tough situation to be in. We as a team, and I know we're going to pick up the slack and we are going to be ready to play.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Boeheim, please.
Q. Jim, what can you tell us about the situation with Frank? When did you find out he wasn't going to be able to play? How does that change the look of your team tomorrow?
JIM BOEHEIM: He's not playing. We know that. We practiced -- we had an indication that would be the case. We started the year without him at a point obviously. Very difficult to make that change now.
Fortunately, Tyus has played the point quite a bit this year, even when Frank came back at Duke and several other spots along the way. Pittsburgh, Boston College, we did play Tyus at the point, so he's been there. Jalen's had good practices. Everybody -- it is very similar to last week when we found out Tyus wouldn't play. I thought the players made a great adjustment. We played really well in both games in the tournament. And we're going to have to make that same adjustment this week with a different guy going.
Q. Jim, I have a question about the zone. When you recruit players, do you ever see guys playing a zone in high school and think, yeah, this kid will work really well in our system? Or are they exclusively playing man or as Tyus said, lazy zones?
JIM BOEHEIM: We see them playing both. High school kids will play both. We don't -- we recruit good players. We're like everybody else, we're looking at the offensive abilities of players and then we can adjust them to our defense.
We don't need a particular type of player. We've played with small guards, Gerry McNamara, Devendorf, and had real good success. We have played with big guards like this year. That's not that important, people think it is, but I don't think it is. I think I know more than they do. Size is always important in defense, whatever defense you play.
So, length helps man-to-man or zone defenses. I think we can get away with a thinner kid in defense because in man-to-man you are more physical, you have to be more physical. You don't get isolated as much in a zone where you are going one-on-one with guys. So, length and strength isn't quite as important. But we recruit to get really good offensive players and we can figure out, we can figure out how to use them in our defense.
Q. Over the course of your career, have you been in situations when you're recruiting a guy and he says, Coach, I like you, but I don't want to play a zone, and have you had to talk guys into appreciating it?
JIM BOEHEIM: What I do when I start out, I say the NBA drafts for one reason: Offense. The NBA has never drafted a player for defense. At any position, even at center. Like when they drafted Tim Duncan or David Robinson, or Olajuwon or Shaq, they didn't get one of those guys because of their defense. They didn't draft Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, go down the list. They didn't draft one guy because of defense; they draft because of offense.
We had more first-round picks in the old Big East than any school because they draft guys based on their offense. That's what we tell recruits and that's the truth.
Q. Walking into the building today, nine years later, what kind of memories did you have?
JIM BOEHEIM: Not good ones, at the end, that's for sure. It's a nice city. We had a good time here. You get to go to a great Italian restaurant in Salt Lake, which I never thought would happen. Valter's is here.
But, you know, we came out, we lost our center and he was a big part of what we did, but we played really well, it was a game that could have gone either way. Butler made a couple of threes at the end and that was the difference in the game.
Q. Coach, Baylor has had success with zone in the past, is that a factor at all, that you run it so well and run it so often and see it so often, is it not so much of a factor seeing Baylor run that?
JIM BOEHEIM: Their defense is good. It's definitely a factor, whether they play man-to-man or zone, you have to play against both. And we see that in our league, we have seen some zone this year. Obviously, we work against it every day because we play against our zone every day. So, you have to be prepared to play against both, but they are very good.
When we played them the last time, I think they didn't really play much zone the last time we played them. We played them in Hawaii, they played mostly man-to-man there. You have to be prepared at this stage of the year to play against both.
Q. Did Frank make the trip? If you advance, will he potentially be available for a second-round game? Or are you going forward as if he is not going to play in the post-season?
JIM BOEHEIM: I don't think I quite -- we're going to play this game. That's what -- we know who we are going to play this game with, that is all we are focused on.
Q. Did he make the trip?
JIM BOEHEIM: He won't be here with us tomorrow.
Q. Going off of that, do you know who is going to be in the starting line-up tomorrow?
JIM BOEHEIM: Yes, I do.
Q. Do you know who that might be? Would you be able to tell us?
JIM BOEHEIM: Yes is my answer.
Q. You are ranked amongst the best coaches, active coaches in close games, games decided by five points or less. Curious if you have had a few thoughts on what has kind of helped you in tight games, fouls, time-outs?
JIM BOEHEIM: Players, playing good games, that is how you win those games.
Q. Baylor is a good rebounding team. What makes them that way, do you think? What problems do they present on the boards?
JIM BOEHEIM: We played against some good rebounding teams this year. It's always a problem. That is something, you know, you're not going to be able to really do much about. You have to do -- obviously, we need to do as good a job as we can on the boards. But they're aggressive, they're strong, they're physical, they go after the ball. That is what good rebounding teams do. We have to do the very best job we can on the boards in those situations.
But Baylor is a very good basketball team. They can score. They can rebound. They've got a lot of guys that can shoot threes. They've got inside presence. And that's why they're in this tournament.
Q. Jim, Baylor has lost four in a row, you have lost four of your last five regular season games. Does end-of-season record have any impact on how teams do in the NCAA tournament?
JIM BOEHEIM: I don't think so. I think you start out here and you're ready to go. We lost. They lost to really good teams. We lost to three No. 1 seeds in the tournament. So, I guess they're pretty good. That has, you know, nothing to do with what's going to happen here tomorrow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports