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March 10, 2007

Mike Conley, Jr.

Thad Matta

Greg Oden


COACH THAD MATTA: Well, it was a game. That's what I love about these conference tournaments, when you're playing quick turnarounds. There's wasn't a lot of juice there from us at the beginning of the game. We really had to challenge our guys at halftime. It was really simple. We had to get a little bit more active defensively and I thought we did that, and probably the coaching move of the year, I said we've got to make some shots. Ivan (Harris) got us going, Greg (Oden) had it going, Mike (Conley Jr.) had a couple nice finishes down low. We beat a great basketball team today. I thought we, at stretches, played well. We're moving on.

Q. Greg, can you just talk about the put-back dunk you had, and when you came back out on the court with your arms spread what you were feeling at that moment?
GREG ODEN: I have no idea (laughter). I didn't get blocked out, so I went up, got offensive, tip dunked, and ran out and I don't know what I did. I was just yelling. I enjoyed it (laughter).

Q. Mike, everybody talks about the NCAAs next week and that will play out, but can you tell us what it means to you in your first year to play for the Big Ten Championship tomorrow?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Well, it means a lot to play. It's an honor to be in the situation that we're in. Tomorrow we're going to play either Wisconsin or Illinois. They're both great teams. We're just looking forward to being a part of it.

Q. Greg, how much emphasis was put on rebounding today? You had 19 boards and you guys got a lot of second-chance baskets, and how important was that to the win today?
GREG ODEN: We just got a lot of tips, and we got a chance to get the first-time rebounds, and that helped out a lot. It helped out with our victory because it got our team going. We didn't get a lot of guys on the other team getting offensive rebounds and getting put-back points, so that helped us a lot, too.

Q. Mike, what Thad said about the challenge of playing two days in a row, how was this different than playing two days in a row at the end of the season versus two days in a row in the BCA Classic?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: It's a lot different. We've had a whole season to play before this tournament. Back then it was our opening game, so we were pretty well-rested. It's a little different now. You've got to save your legs a little more and try and conserve a little energy.
But we still try to play as hard as we can for the awards we're trying to win.

Q. In what ways do you feel you've expanded your offensive game this season?
GREG ODEN: I think as the year goes on, I'm getting a lot more comfortable just shooting that hook shot and taking my time and looking for the double teams and being able to pass it out to my teammates if I am double teamed.

Q. Mike, you had that three-pointer that missed by a few feet and then you had that big one that kind of got you guys back in. Can you talk about what was going through your mind after the first one and then after the second one?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I wanted that first one back because it slipped out of my hands, so the next opportunity I got I was going to try to put it up.
When I saw Ron (Lewis) dribbling towards me I was yelling his name because I definitely thought I was going to make the shot, so he passed it to me and it went in, so I was very happy about that.

Q. Thad talked about challenging you guys on defense, and I think the run pretty much happened coming out of the timeout at 11:41. You got a lot of your points in transition and deflections and defended shots. Anything in particular about that timeout that brought the best out of you guys?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I think the seniors stepped up in the time-out. They were getting us going, Ron Lewis and Ivan (Harris) and Jamar (Butler) stepped up and really got us going. When we got out of the timeout, I think we all took everything to heart and tried to play as hard as we could no matter how tired we were or how beat up, just come out there and play as hard as we can for that short stretch. I think it really benefited us.

Q. Greg, you got three fouls there in the second half against Landry. When you came back in did you change how you were playing at all, and how tough a guard is it for you to go up against Landry?
GREG ODEN: He's really strong and he's really quick, so what I had to do was just sit down and play off of him. They wanted me to make him shoot over me rather than him getting into me and me getting more fouls.

Q. I just was curious about your reaction to Greg's screen. Was that his best one ever?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I've seen a lot of them, and they don't change. But that was an amazing play. I haven't seen too many of them. But it was a great moment to be a part of, and watching him go crazy and waving his arms in the air was something a little different.

Q. Greg, are you mostly looking forward to dunking on Wisconsin or Illinois?
GREG ODEN: The winner (laughter).

Q. Mike, how much easier is it on you guys as a team that if you guys do miss if there's anything close to the basket that you've got Greg to come in and get it, almost like a security blanket there?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Yeah, if we can get into the lane or draw on defenses to collapse on us, we know if we miss a shot, if somebody not blocking out Greg (Oden) or not blocking Othello (Hunter) and having those guys being able to tip in shots is very comfortable because if you miss a shot, it might be a good play. That's kind of bad to say, but I'd rather have an assist or a missed shot because I know both Greg and Othello and the rest of the big men can really go get them after they get off the rim.

Q. Mike, in the game in Columbus, Purdue hurt you a little bit, especially Crump with that dribble penetration, and today that really was not a factor. Anything in particular that you did to kind of take that away?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I think we communicated a lot better. The first game they really caught us off guard and messed us up with that pick-and-roll and didn't have very good communication going. I think that was a real focal point in preparing for their kind of game because they really hurt us with that the last couple games. I think the big men did a great job of hedging out and helping out the guards that were being screened, so we definitely made a big change.

Q. Greg has obviously been really good all year, but it seems like as he's come down the stretch he's gotten better and better as he's gotten healthy.
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Yeah, he's gotten healthy, but it's that time of year. You win or go home. Greg is the kind of player who steps up to the occasion. He knows we're in tournament time right now and every game is critical. He's really stepping up his play both offensively and defensively and starting to do a little more of everything each game. He's really leading us right now.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up with questions for Coach Matta now, please.

Q. I think they were ahead by three and I think it was a 20-to-4 run over a 10-minute period when you took control. What happened during that run that kind of got it going for you?
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, they did a great job. I mean, Matt (Painter) was tremendous today. They were going four guards, they'd sprinkle a big guy back in, and I felt like they kind of forced our hand to play match-up, and I thought that really helped us and we were able to switch a little bit more on some things.
Just the activity, the help in the first half, they opened up, (David) Teague hits two tough threes over Jamar (Butler). I think it was (Chris) Kramer hits a pull-up over Ivan (Harris) for the first eight points, and I thought we lost our juice a little bit, and we weren't getting there, and we got to where we were challenging shots. We were making it hard to see the basket, Ron Lewis getting out and using his length, I think that was probably the biggest difference. It allowed us to get out and get a couple easy ones and get to the free-throw line through transition.

Q. You were 4-of-13 today from behind the arc. Yesterday you guys didn't shoot a whole lot behind the arc. Are the three-pointers becoming less important for you guys to succeed now?
COACH THAD MATTA: I wouldn't say that. It's sort of what's there, take it. The one thing that teams are really doing, they're not giving them to us right now. So hopefully we can continue to play off of that and get inside the defense a little bit more. But if they're there, I want to shoot them.
Like I've said, I want to play fast, I want more points than 61. Let's get this thing up and down and go.

Q. With Greg up here to be pretty much 100 percent and particularly his offensive game coming along, how does this team rate as far as what you envisioned maybe what it would be at this time of year. Is this maybe what you thought it could be?
COACH THAD MATTA: Honestly, great question. I don't know if I have an answer because I didn't know what this team was going to be. And quite honestly, I went in open-minded because I didn't know. With Greg's injury, we didn't know if he was ever going to get the cast off this year. We didn't know how long it was going to be.
So honestly, I had a vision, but I really didn't know where it was going. But I like the way we're playing right now, I really do.

Q. This is kind of a follow-up to that. Is this where you envisioned or hoped that Greg would be if and whenever he did get the cast off these last couple games?
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah. One of the big keys today is Greg played 32 minutes. Does anybody know how many he played in the first two games? 42. That was the big challenge for Greg today. We've got to keep him on the court.
I think (Carl) Landry played 66 minutes to Greg's 42 minutes in the first two games, and that was a huge challenge. Going in at halftime with no fouls on Greg was something that we were hoping for. I think Greg is getting to where we thought he could be.
I'd still like to see him be able to step out a little bit more and knock down those shots. He's doing that more in practice. The hard part is not getting enough practice in obviously, but I think that will be the next step for him. He went a little bit quick on his first couple post moves there. Slowing down is something that's good for him. But I think his mind is so strong, he's a winner, he's a competitor, and that's what you love about him.

Q. What do you think when you see a play like that where the ball comes off there and he slams it?
COACH THAD MATTA: I turn into a cheerleader, yeah, I do. He does some things every now and then in practice where guys will literally just stop practice and kind of start laughing. That was one of those today. I mean, the first time I ever saw him dunk, the only guy that kept playing was Michael (Conley). Everybody else in the gym stopped.
But I think he is special. I like the fact that that gave us some boost down the -- some energy down the stretch that I thought we needed.

Q. Now that you've seen Purdue several times, what's your take on them, and are they an NCAA Tournament team in your opinion?
COACH THAD MATTA: Absolutely. I think that for starters, I said this, Matt (Painter) has done an incredible job when you think two years ago where he started as an assistant. Last year's team, and you look at how they weathered the storm last year with the injuries, and I think when you've got two players like (Carl) Landry and (David) Teague, both fifth-year seniors, both have battled injuries, I thought they both played with great energy. I think the biggest thing for Purdue in my own opinion, I don't coach the team, but the supporting cast has done a great job. They've gotten those guys better.
They play extremely hard, they're well-disciplined, and there's no doubt in my mind they're an NCAA Tournament team. I don't want to see them again, I know that.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the next game, who you guys might be playing, little strategies that you might be developing for either Illinois or Wisconsin?
COACH THAD MATTA: Which one do you want me to say because that's the second time -- honestly, like we said, we knew we'd get asked. Whoever wins, we've got both teams scouted back at the hotel. When we get back, we'll have personnel roll in and -- at this stage, and Columbus people know this, I don't worry about things I can't control. I think both teams are NCAA Tournament teams, so they should be in great shape.
Whoever it is is the hand we're dealt.

Q. I know it's just another step to the big goal of winning a national title, but just kind of talk about the significance of playing for a Big Ten title or Big Ten Tournament title, and also, do you feel that you need to win tomorrow to preserve you being the No. 1 seed in the tournament?
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, I think -- it's funny, people asked coming into this tournament how important is this tournament, playing 120 minutes in 72 hours is strenuous. It's tough. If you get thrown into a Thursday bracket, what happens is because we'll have to take Monday and Tuesday off, probably have one day to prepare and we're playing on Thursday.
But I think that for us, the competitiveness comes out. As we told our guys, we came here to play 120 minutes of basketball, we've got 80 down. I think the competitiveness will come out.
As far as the No. 1 seed, nobody ever believes me when I say this, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it. I would have to think with what this team has done, I think today was the 16th straight win. You keep hearing they lost to North Carolina, well, Greg didn't play, and it was at North Carolina. They lost to Florida. Our center was back for two weeks or three weeks at that point. At Wisconsin, all those games were on the road.
I've got to think that we're in pretty decent shape I would hope, but I'm not in Indianapolis. Twenty-nine and three, that's a school record. I mean, I think we've done everything we need to do to put ourselves in that position.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. Appreciate your time.

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