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March 9, 2007

Ron Lewis

Thad Matta

Greg Oden


COACH MATTA: I think the biggest key in the first half was the rebounding by Michigan. They did a tremendous job, had us down 21-8 on the boards, and I thought we were -- we weren't finishing plays, and that's one of the big challenges that you've got to do in this certain segment. I thought guys made plays.
These two guys were spectacular today. Once we got going in the second half we were able to put together some runs. But you've got to give Michigan credit. They kept coming back, getting it to five, getting it to five, but like I said, we were able to finish it off down the stretch.

Q. Greg, just talk about your game offensively, 8-for-12. It didn't appear they were doubling you. Just talk about your mindset as you were getting the ball in good position there?
GREG ODEN: It was just to be more aggressive and take what the defense was giving us. They weren't doubling, so I had to go to work.

Q. Greg, would you say this was your best performance of the season so far?
GREG ODEN: I don't know (smiling). It was a win. That's all that matters. It doesn't matter about me personally.

Q. Greg, it seemed like after Thad got the technical, you started getting some calls inside. Was it not going your way for a while there in the second half and after your coach helped you out a little bit? Did it start going your way a little bit more?
GREG ODEN: I guess so. I mean, I guess I looked at the referees, knew that coach was going to be on them the rest of the way after he got the technical, so they started giving us a lot more calls and getting him off their backs.

Q. Ron, after that happened, though, you guys did go on a little run. Does that spark you guys, when something like that happens?
RON LEWIS: Yeah, it does. When your coach gets fired up, you get fired up, as well. We just tried to hang on his back and ride the horse.

Q. Greg, as you get into the Big Ten Tournament here and then ultimately into the NCAAs the following weeks, do your juices get rolling even more so as these games go on with more and more importance?
GREG ODEN: It does. This is my first go-around in these types of tournaments. So I just feel for the guys who have been here before and they know when the time comes it's lose and go home. You've got to play hard every game.

Q. Greg, you looked like in the second half you were all fired up. Did Thad talk to you or were you just mad from what had happened in the first half?
GREG ODEN: I was just trying to do something for us to win. I was just trying to fire up my teammates.

Q. This is for Greg or Ron. What did you guys think of the new uniforms?
RON LEWIS: I loved them. If we keep winning in them, I'm going to keep loving them. If they lose, I'm not going to like them anymore (laughter).

Q. Either one, Greg, what did you think when you heard at halftime you had been out-rebounded 21 to 8?
GREG ODEN: I was amazed. But I knew going into halftime that we had been out-rebounded really bad, and we just had to step it up.

Q. Ron, besides winning, what do you particularly like about what they've done to the uniforms?
RON LEWIS: It gives the refs a better opportunity to call fouls if somebody is grabbing your jersey because they're so tight. So if your jersey is coming out, it's not because of you, it's somebody grabbing it. So it gives the refs a better chance to call a foul.

Q. Just a follow-up on that question about Michigan's rebounding advantage in the first half, a lot of those rebounds were second chances on the offensive boards. What was the key in the second half to keeping them off the offensive boards more than you did in the first half?
GREG ODEN: Just block out and get the first time rebound, snatch at the board the first time when you get a chance to.

Q. Ron, can you just talk about the offensive flow when you guys were getting the ball to Greg, you were driving to the basket, just how the offense was working generally, especially second half?
RON LEWIS: I was really just spacing out and taking what the defense gave us. Greg (Oden) had his opportunities when they weren't doubling him, and then I took the opportunity when they spaced the floor and he was on the other side of the basket.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up with questions for Coach Matta now, please.

Q. I'll steal Doug's question about the technical. Lots of times that's going to go one way or the other. It's either going to help the other team or it's going to help yours. I don't think it was premeditated, but what kind of an effect do you think it had on the game and what prompted you to argue the way you did?
COACH MATTA: Well, I had no intentions of getting -- I never have an intention of getting a technical foul. I thought Greg (Oden) had got hit. It was a rough game, and I just said "call the foul." It was deserved. Those guys did a great job today.
I wanted them to know that we were -- that was important to us. It's just part of what we do. I probably get a little bit too carried away with it, but it's hard because it's so physical, and when you're going to Greg so much, there's going to be contact. He's hard to guard. You know, hopefully we do what's right.

Q. You said that's important to you. What are you talking about there, impacting your offense?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, and just the overall post play and those types of things, yeah.

Q. Do you sense any kind of desperation in Michigan? Did you expect it and during the game did you sense it given their tournament situation?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, absolutely. I think honestly in the last six days we have played them twice, and fortunately for us and probably unfortunately for them we played pretty good basketball today. I've said this, I think Michigan is one of the best teams in the Big Ten. I think they're well-coached, they've got great talent, and quite honestly, if you go back and watch tapes, we've been extremely fortunate.

Q. The top seed in this tournament and possibly the No. 1 in the NCAAs coming. Do you like that pressure of everybody gunning for you?
COACH MATTA: We're 28-3, and it has been that way for 31 games. Quite honestly, I'm used to it. And the one thing through all this, and it happened really about midstream of the season and we talked to our guys about it, there's nothing we can do about it. Let's keep the focus on us. Let's keep the focus on us getting better every day because it is there, and quite honestly, I've never coached a team like this.
These guys have done a very good job of handling that, that we know wherever we go, or some of the road environments we've been in this year have been some of the most amazing things.
I think you get numb to it all.

Q. When you went into halftime, when you talked to the team, was it something in your game plan, let's go to Greg, let's make a concerted effort to go to Greg as much as we can in the second half?
COACH MATTA: No. Honestly, the tone at halftime was basically rebounding and defense, rebounding and defense. I'm trying to think of exactly what we said. We didn't say a whole lot about offense. We were shooting 54 percent. We had two turnovers. We felt like we were doing a pretty good job with it.

Q. What was it in the first half with the rebounding? Was there something you could see? And what did you try and adjust?
COACH MATTA: It was finishing plays. They did a good job -- they had 16 yesterday and 22 today. It's like we're back in November (laughter). But I think that the big key for us was finish the plays, get back in the play.
Here's the thing: When they're shooting, those guys are just running and jumping and it is a little bit of desperation. I've got to give Michigan some credit. They were relentless on the boards.

Q. Izzo credited Michigan State's good shooting yesterday to the fact that his players talked him into coming over here yesterday morning for an early morning shoot-around. I wondered if you guys had a chance to get an early shoot-around here today?
COACH MATTA: No, nowhere. We came and got on the court as quickly as we could, but no, we did not use the facility.

Q. Because of how young your guys are and all the high-pressure games you've played in the national spotlight, does that prepare a young team for the postseason or is there still a learning curve for these guys who haven't been here before?
COACH MATTA: I hope the curve is over because we're in the postseason. I think the games that we've played, without doubt, have prepared us for these types of situations. We've had some great challenges in the non-conference, we've had some great challenges throughout the conference, and it's just -- I always tell them, or they tell me this and I repeat it, "it is what it is."
But you go down to Chapel Hill, you go to Gainesville, Florida, those were two of the craziest places I've ever seen, and those were good learning experiences with the losses for us.

Q. Can you talk about what you like or don't like about the new uniforms you guys are wearing and what you think it does for the players?
COACH MATTA: Today was the first day I saw them. I was a little bit nervous with the length of the shorts and I had a couple guys change, nothing major. But I liked the look of them. I feel honored that Nike would think this highly of us to do this, and for LeBron to take a special interest in our program has been amazing. It's funny, in talking with him this summer and his people, he's a Buckeye, and when you have a guy like LeBron James with his stature that cares enough to put his logo on your uniform, it's flattering that he would do that for us.

Q. Can you just talk about defensive effort? I mean, they only shot 26 percent in the second half, 33 percent for the game. I know the rebounding is part of defense, but what did you like about what you saw for your guys?
COACH MATTA: I felt like we were more aware of what was going on. One of the craziest things I've ever seen happen happened when Michael was trying to get out on the skip pass and the guy fell on his leg and they couldn't get out there and they make the three. The coaches were yelling, "come on, Michael," and Sims was laying on his leg. He couldn't move. It was like a bear trap out there. But I thought that we had a sense of what was going on, and really, we took a calculated risk.
We thought we played Michigan -- there was a strong chance we'd play them again, and we tried to take as many similarities from Minnesota to Michigan and incorporate them in our three days of practice. The things that we focused on, we did a much better job. The cross screen they got us in in Ann Arbor I don't think they got us on one time today. The ball screens weren't as effective as they were last Saturday. So I think our guys -- I'm proud of the fact that they took to heart what we worked on.

Q. I think you called this a tough game. Could you elaborate on that? What made this a tough game?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think just the -- you play a team for the second time in six days, they're extremely athletic, you see that, they've got guys -- we're fortunate, Harris, 1 for 13 today, he doesn't do that very often. He had some pretty good looks. But I just thought it was physical at the end. They started running and jumping and trapping and all those things, and I thought we handled that well to the tune of five turnovers today.

Q. About the defense, did you switch up more today between zone and man than you did in the previous games? It looked like you were going back and forth quite a bit, and was that -- I think maybe last week you talked about doing it to keep them out of rhythm?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, and we did more in the first half. Second half we were I think all man to man. But in the first half there, and maybe that had something to do with the rebounding, I'll have to take a look at it, but yeah, we just thought that it was effective for us up there. Our offense was a lot better today than it was up there on Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Appreciate your time, Coach. Thank you.

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