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March 21, 2019

John Brannen

Jalen Tate

Tyler Sharpe

Drew McDonald

Tulsa, Oklahoma

THE MODERATOR: We're open for questions.

Q. Back, you know, four years ago did you imagine that you guys could get where you are, maybe the NCAA two, three years as you entered Division I?
DREW MCDONALD: This experience has been incredible. When I came here a couple years ago, I knew it was going to be a process, a journey and I didn't know what to expect. Coming here I knew we had a foundation, we had something that was built and very new Division 1. Didn't know what to expect.

We came and bought into the Coach's plan, and I knew I wanted to be part of that foundation. I didn't know success would come as early as it did. The fact that we've gone to two NCAA tournaments in two years and first three years eligible, that is amazing.

Q. Obviously Coach Brannen was the right choice. Is that the key, did he have a vision to build what he's built?
DREW MCDONALD: Absolutely. He called me the first night he got the job and talked about his vision that he had, why he was taking this job. I mean yeah, home town school and where he's from. He saw a lot more for this university like I did. We had that vision and he had that vision specifically and came in and built that culture and really demanded it out of us and the players and the players he recruited to come there. It was his vision we work every day and that's really why we've gotten where we are today.

Q. Tyler, you went to Louisville your first year as a walk-on. When you transferred to NKU, it was through that transition, how that went for you and what helped you make that decision to leave a program where you were from basically, Louisville to come to NKU.
TYLER SHARPE: Basically I just wanted to find an opportunity where I could compete every day and contribute to success of the program, and I had a couple pretty close friends growing up that played AAU that were on the team at the time, and one of them called me and was like you should come up here after I signed the transfer. I came up to NKU on a visit.

Coach Brannen honestly he didn't sugarcoat anything. He told me it would be tough and a grind. Might not be what I was looking for, but what I did see is just the work ethic the guys had, the success they had the previous year and Coach Brannen, I saw a lot of myself in as opposed to his work ethic and ambition. I thought that was a place I could fit in, and I really just kind of fed on myself and I get it worked out.

Q. Drew and Jalen, what has stuck out on this Texas Tech basketball team for both of you guys looking at film the last few days?
JALEN TATE: They're definitely a great group of guys. They shoot it really well. Have a lot of athletic guys. What sticks out most though, they're one of the top teams defensively in the country. We focused on that, being able to still run our offense and still get into the pace of the game the way we like it. Like to slow the game down some. The Coach definitely put that in front of us and put it into work this week in practice.

DREW MCDONALD: They're one of the best teams in the country for a reason. Defense is amazing. Create a lot of turnovers. Offensively they play really hard. Obviously they have a Top 10 pick in the draft. That kind of starts with him and players that play off of him. They have good spacing and movement on offense. They shoot the ball really well. I think mostly they just play really hard and we'll have to match that energy and intensity.

Q. Jalen, I know you didn't start your career as a point guard. How has that gone for you, and do you think like a point guard now?
JALEN TATE: I feel I am getting there to thinking like a point guard more every possession. Obviously it's been a difficult transition moving from the 2 to the 1. The Coach has been behind me and my teammates as well have been keeping me confident in that and trying to keep my head up as far as being confident, as far as just taking care of the ball and getting into the offense, keeping pace, stuff like that. So, it's been definitely a better experience now more than during the beginning.

Q. Drew and Tyler, kind of wanted to get your thoughts as to how you feel the team is playing, especially after winning the conference tournament. How is your confidence right now?
TYLER SHARPE: Coach always tells us we're going to make sure we're playing our best basketball 10th through the 12th in the conference tournament. Hit a little bit of a bumpy road in February. I believe we were like 4-4. We just had to stick to it and we were able to regroup in the conference tournament like we always say, we felt we were playing our best basketball. Coming into this tournament we're looking to continue that. Just keep doing what we're doing, working hard every day, and continue to ascend in the right direction.

DREW MCDONALD: I believe this team is more confident, more connected, and we're playing our best basketball than we ever have right now. It took some bumps in the road to get there, but every season that's how college basketball is. There will be bumps in the road. All of ours happened February felt like.

But I think we've rebounded from that. That was really a positive from the team. I think it's really got our sense of urgency higher, brought us together and brought us more connected. I think you could see that those who have watched in Detroit the last two games we played, March 11th and 12th, and especially the championship game. That was one of the best games we played all year. Really connected defensively, we were flying around. Having fun out there as a team. I feel like this is what this team is capable of. We've had a great week of practice and I think we're looking to play better come Friday.

Q. Playing in basketball-mad state like Kentucky, does that help bring attention to your program when you got powers like Louisville and Kentucky within the state borders, or do you feel a sense of being overshadowed by those two at times?
THE MODERATOR: Jalen, start with you.

JALEN TATE: I feel there's a sense a little of both. There being such a Kentucky mad when it comes to basketball in the state, it's like it brings out the commitment to a lot of our games, and honestly you have that support but there is also a sense with us playing Louisville and Kentucky in the tournament the last couple of years of just, you know, we're still kind of overshadowed because we didn't perform the way we wanted to in those games, per se, like I said, a little of both.

TYLER SHARPE: Yeah, I would have to say the same thing, honestly. Kentucky fans in the state are wild. You go far west, far east or everywhere, and they're showing up to Kentucky games that are all the way across the country. It's going to be tough for us to build that brand up to that level. Same goes for Louisville, they sell out a 22,000-seat arena every night. Our goal is continue to work hard and get to the success we have and over time start to build our brands, not necessarily exceed those two programs, but just keep building it so where we have our own fan base and it's not Kentucky fans, but we also have all fans.

DREW MCDONALD: I think the region we're in just right across from Cincinnati, you have Cincinnati and Xavier, less than ten minutes away. You have five Division I programs within an hour and a half of each other. So, it's definitely a basketball crazy area and I think that's helped us in the fact that we've kind of been the Cinderella story, we've kind of come from nowhere.

I think we've kind of been the team that can be a second supporting team or Kentucky or Xavier. We're the second team. We're going to work to keep building that brand. We're growing continuously, the university as well and the entire area. We've become Northern Kentucky's team, essentially. We'll continue to build on that. I'm not going to say we'll over take Kentucky and Louisville because they're blue bloods.

You look where Wichita State was or Xavier was, 10, 20 years ago, we're not that much different than that. Just the whole university, I can see us definitely being a big time program in the future.

THE MODERATOR: We are under five minutes in this session.

Q. This question is for all three of the young men, how you guys feel that the last two post-seasons have set-up where you're at today?
DREW MCDONALD: Experience is never -- it's always something you like to have. You can't -- you can rely on it at times and I think we have a couple of us, Jalen, Dantez, myself who have played in NCAA Tournament games before, most of the team played at Louisville in the NIT. That experience, that post-season we get some experience that we're there, just playing in different arena, neutral site with all the media and the exposure we get that we're not always used to. It definitely helps. Can't hurt.

I think at the end of the day, Coach and the players have done a great job of taking us another game. We focus. Every game is a championship game for us. We'll take that mentality moving forward. The experience never hurts.

TYLER SHARPE: Kind on what he said. We do a good job. Our coaching staff treats every day like we're preparing for a championship and so we prepare every day as if we were about to go play in the NCAA Tournament, so when we get here it's not a shock and awe feeling.

Obviously, like Drew said, we don't have media exposure every day or week that you do when you get to the level of this, but I think our preparation every day to play for a championship and compete for championships just kind of instills the confidence and allows us to come to these moments and not being shell-shocked.

JALEN TATE: Obviously like they said, two years we've had prior leading up to them, kind of prepared us for this year, and it's like you're going to continue to get better and continue to improve your preparation. So the experience that we've had before has allowed us to be prepared as we are this week and getting ready to play well tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the young men from Northern Kentucky? All right. Gentlemen. Thank you very much. Best of luck.

The head coach of the Northern Kentucky, John Brannen. We're going to ask him to make an opening statement about his team, about being here in Tulsa, then we'll go to questions.

JOHN BRANNEN: What an honor it is to compete in the NCAA Tournament. Very appreciative of Tulsa. Been an amazing host. I actually got a text this morning from Dari Nowkhah, one of Tulsa's greats, welcoming me to Tulsa.

It's been really good. Excited to get a chance to compete on this stage against a team in my mind one of the best of the country. Certainly Coach Beard has done an amazing job and probably one of the top coaches in the country. It will be a tremendous challenge for us tomorrow in a lot of different facets. The guys are excited to have the opportunity to get out here for the second time in three years on this stage and hopefully perform to our best.

Q. John, when you took this job, did you envision that this two NCAA berths in three years, did you think that that could happen that quickly?
JOHN BRANNEN: Yeah. I get this question a lot, John. I didn't put a ceiling on this team and this program. The expectation it we would be sitting here one day. Didn't know it would happen this quick. I am surprised it hasn't picked up more national exposure in terms of -- I don't know how many Mid Major programs have actually been to an NCAA Tournament and NIT Tournaments and won two league titles much less in a program that's been eligible to do it in those three years -- that's kind of caveat. Something our young men deserve a ton of credit for because there's a lot of sustainability on the roster and lot of guys that have gone through it for the first few years. Once we started doing it, we've been able to sustain it and continue to build on it. That has been a real accomplishment.

Q. John, what stands out about Jarrett Culver? Does he remind you of anybody you might have seen in the last couple years?
JOHN BRANNEN: Anytime it's on film, it's different when you see him in person. His length and speed, his ability to get where he wants to go. The great ones always looks like they have about 30 percent more to give. That what he looks likes. He always looks like he can turn it on at anytime. That's s sign of unbelievable talent. The piece people miss on unless you're a coach, the fact that he does it within their system, defends at a high level and does all the other little things at a high level, not just scores like a Top 10 draft pick he is. That's impressive.

Q. Coach, just in terms of what you were able to do getting on this run and winning the Conference Tournament, how much did the adversity through the season help you get there? What's the team's confidence going into the tournament?
JOHN BRANNEN: It's a great question. Last year we went 15 - 3 and wasn't a whole lot of adversity. This year we also won the regular season title at 15 - 5. We were 3 - 4 one time in February. Little bit of lull in terms of we've done this before, when is March coming? I think that adversity helped. We went through some injuries. I don't think we're sitting here today without that adversity.

We didn't really experience that until the end of the year last year when we were upset in our conference tournament. I like where this team is at. There won't be a coach that's sitting up that you don't like where your team is at AQ, automatic qualifier. You have to be playing your best basketball. I certainly like where our guys are in terms of mentally.

Q. With what Texas Tech is able to do on the defensive end, how to counteract that?
JOHN BRANNEN: Selection Sunday is like Christmas morning only I didn't ask to play Texas Tech. You know what I mean? They get to ask what they want their gifts to be. They're an unbelievable defensive team. From a coaching standpoint, it's enjoyable to watch. I'm on the other side of it. I have to come with a plan to attack it. Not many teams have been able to do that. We have great spacing, be able to move the basketball. At the end of the day you have to make some shots. My assistants are in charge of making shots. Hopefully it will get done tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the head Coach of Northern Kentucky?

Q. What will your message be to the team, playing with house money or do you expect to win? What's the mindset when you go into like this sort of three, four team sort of matchup?
JOHN BRANNEN: Our mindset it's a 4 team tournament. That's the approach we've always taken. Third straight year playing in post-season. It's a four team tournament. Obviously our focus is Texas Tech and our ability to play well. We'll focus on the process of what we do which is every possession and that's the only way you can do it. Coach speak in a lot of ways for people that are inside the eye of the storm. If you're going to compete at this level it's possession by possession. There may be a few other things I'll say you that I won't share with you.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for John? All right. Thank you very much. Best of luck tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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