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March 31, 2000
Q. For any or all of you, describe their style. Everybody seems to think it's really
ugly and it's like going up against kind of a meat grinder. Do you enjoy playing against
teams like that?
MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, one thing about them, I mean that's one thing you have to be
prepared for and to know when you're going to go in and play Wisconsin that it's going to
be a slow-up game, it's going to be physical. We know they play very hard. They do a great
job of playing defense. So, you know, I think a lot of teams get frustrated by that but
you shouldn't get frustrated by that if you know going into the game what type of game
it's going to be. Teams like Wisconsin, you don't enjoy to play but unfortunately you have
to play them. You know, I was just joking with a guy outside. He asked me a question, he
said did I think -- did I figure I was finished with them in the Big Ten Tournament. You
think you're finished with a team like that, when you get done playing them, next thing
you know, you're playing them again. It's like oh, my God. You know the type of defense
they play, the type of team they are, you should be ready to expect how the game's going
to go when you play them.
Q. This is for Mateen. Can you go back to the Ohio State game on the road, the one you
lost, and talk about what that game meant for you guys in terms of the development of the
toughness that got you through to where you are now.
MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, you know, that was a long time ago. Going back to that game, you
know, I think a lot of guys were very disappointed in how we play, you know. We went out
to play a good team, and we were very disappointed with the lost, you know, a lot of guys
kind of took that loss and were mad about it. And we want to do something about it. The
next thing we did when we got back to practice, you saw a lot of guys that was there an
hour before practice working out, a lot of guys staying after, watching film to see what
we needed to do to get better. One thing we want to do, our plans were to win the National
Championship this year. We knew if we played like that, you know, against some other good
teams that we wouldn't be able to win. We wanted to just capitalize and learn from our
mistakes and get better on it.
Q. Mateen and Morris, Mateen, Coach Izzo let you blow up the team half time against
Syracuse. Morris, he more or less let you call that alley-oop. What does that say about
his ability to take input from the players?
MORRIS PETERSON: I think a lot of coaches, they, you know, they really don't let their
players get involved with some of their plays. I think that's what kind of separates Coach
Izzo. He can really relate to his players. He's always willing to, you know, listen to
them and get some of their input. I think, you know, as Coach is about to draw up a play,
I just thought about that, because -- I thought about that play because they were
overplaying us a lot during the game. Thankfully it worked. Mateen did a great job of
throwing the ball up. He kind of made it easy for me.
MATEEN CLEAVES: Yeah, one thing we have here with Coach Izzo, as far as player-coach,
we have a great player-coach relationship. You know, he lets his players have input on
what we need to do, you know, he's not one of them coaches that think it's just -- it's
gonna be his way or the highway. He lets his player, you know, he loves to have your
input, you know, and as far as on the court, if you see something out there or if you need
to, you know -- if you think you see something different, you can tell him that. That's on
the court or off the court. You can go in his office, his door's always open for us, he's
always available for us. If you have any suggestions or anything like that, he lets you
have your input on that.
Q. This is for Mateen and Morris both. Would you both talk about A.J. as a player and
what he means to this team?
MORRIS PETERSON: A.J.... (Laughing)-- A.J. has been an integral part of our success
this year. One thing I like about A.J. is that he's gotten a lot better every year. He's
learning. You know, he's a great shooter, a great guy. Not only on the court but off the
court. You know, he has just been somebody I can go up to and talk to, you know, about
anything. He's always willing to listen to you. And I think A.J. has really done a great
job this year of becoming more of a leader and stepping up and making big plays for us
because without A.J., or this year or even in the tournament, we wouldn't even be in the
position that we are in now.
MATEEN CLEAVES: That's the main thing about him. If A.J. wouldn't play like he played
last year or if A.J. didn't play like he played this year, we wouldn't be in this
situation. A.J. has stepped his game up to a whole other level. It's not just by, look,
you know, A.J. is a guy you see out before practice shooting, a guy that stays after
practice to work out. He's been doing a great job for us. One thing he's been great to our
freshmen, you know, guys like Anagonye and Adam Wolfe. A.J. has -- every time he's always
stopping practice and showing those guys what they're doing wrong and what they need to do
to get it right. He's been great to those guys. A.J. has been more of a leader this year
for us. He's been the guy that wants to take big shots for us. Every time in a huddle or
something, A.J. is like somebody set a screen for me and Mateen you get me the ball and
I'll knock it down. He's been very inspirational to our team, a big help for our freshmen
and he's a big reason why we're sitting here today.
Q. Morris, condolences to you and your family. Can you talk about what the last 36
hours or so were like for you emotionally? .
MORRIS PETERSON: It's been like an emotional roller coaster. I think about the game, my
family, my grandmother. I got a chance to see my family yesterday, spent some time with
them. I went to my grandmother's funeral. I talked to my family a lot yesterday, they told
me to go out there and concentrate on the game because, you know, my grandmother she's
going to be here in spirit. I think actually she's going to have the best seat in the
house. She's going to be sitting right there watching over the team and guiding us.
Hopefully we can make something happen for her.
Q. Mateen, can you talk about your decision-making process a year ago when you decided
to come back this year and at any time this year did you question yourself?
MATEEN CLEAVES: Well, you know, last year, you know, it was a lot of hype about me
coming out or whatever. One thing, me personally I never thought about coming out. You
know, Coach Izzo was the guy saying we need to see where you're going when you leave, but
I was never a guy that thought about coming out. And, you know, I think I made the best
decision in my life, you know, if I was coming back this year. That's not because we won
Championships and that's not because we're back in the Final Four. That's just the
relationship I've had with the guys, you know, the fun I've had this year. I'm on schedule
to get my degree. I mean it's been key. A lot of people thought when I got hurt, you know,
when I hurt my foot, that I had regrets about coming back. I didn't. It was an unfortunate
incident with my foot. One thing I was still able to get to class, you know, I got to
class on my crutches, I am still on schedule to get my degree. And like I said, this has
been the best year, one of the best years of my life as far as just, you know, hanging out
with the guys and being around the guys for another year.
Q. Morris, what's it like being the son of a basketball coach when the basketball coach
in your family is your mom? And how old were you before you could beat any of the women in
MORRIS PETERSON: Well, I probably couldn't beat them now still. But it's tough, I mean
it was tough growing up with my sisters. We were very competitive with everything, not
just basketball. I think that's kind of where I got to be competitive. We would challenge
each other, seeing who could roll up the window the fastest or something. Or, you know,
who can drink their juice the fastest, just stuff like that. But my mother, you know,
she's been my biggest fan. She's also been my worst critic. Sometimes I might think I had
a good game, she'll come back and say, "You missed two free throws, Son, you need to
work on that. You're not getting enough lift on your jump shot." Stuff like that.
She's done a great job of being there for me not only on the court but off the court.
Q. Mateen and A.J., for those of us who aren't as familiar with Wisconsin's defense as
you guys are, what makes them so tough defensively?
A.J. GRANGER: They really slow the game down, you know, they really put an emphasis on
that, and, you know, that's what they rely on to kind of win their games and keep them in
ball games. You always have to be on your best offensive, whatever you want to call it,
when you're down there running things just because they're so tenacious. They run through
picks, they always got their hands active, trying to swipe at the ball their post players
are always banging you around. We faced them three times already this year, we know what
to expect from them, we're going to try to come out and take care of business.
Q. For A.J. and Mateen, does beating them three times already this year give you guys a
little extra edge or a little extra confidence in your mind?
A.J. GRANGER: I mean I think it has to. You can't kind of overlook that. We know this
is a new game and we know we can't rely on those wins to kind of get us a win here. It's a
whole different ball game. They've been playing better basketball. I think they're really
starting to gel as a team and playing the type of basketball they wanted to play all year.
It looked like they were kind of out of sync earlier in the year, I think that's all come
around for them. We'll have to play our best basketball game to try to get a win.
Q. Mateen, you're having to -- your habit of sticking your tongue out on the court, is
that subconscious or do you do that intentionally?
MATEEN CLEAVES: I've been doing that probably since I've been a kid. I've always been a
silly guy, you know, somewhat silly. I always just like to have fun, you know, and it just
happens now. I guess it just became a habit since I've been a kid. You know, from playing
around, even not playing basketball, I stuck my tongue out at people as a kid. So, you
know, that's something I do. I enjoy myself doing it. I'm not going to stick my tongue out
to the other team or embarrass them or nothing, but that's something I do when I'm feeling
good, having fun out there.
Q. A.J., could you just talk a little bit about your practice in the tournament, the
way you've picked your game up?
A.J. GRANGER: I really have to credit my teammates for that one. Like Mateen said, you
know, I've kind of been trying to get open more, trying to do some things that help the
team out. I think they've really done a nice job of getting me open in the offense.
Mateen's been looking for me more. When those things happen, you're naturally going to
play better. I have to give all the credit to them, and, you know, I've just tried to -- I
think you can attribute to, that we're not conference play anymore. You have some teams
out there that don't really know your face or aren't, like we've had problems with other
teams where we haven't known their face and, you know, I think you can kind of attribute
it to that, too.
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