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March 11, 2007

Mike Conley, Jr.

Ron Lewis

Thad Matta


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Mike or Ron, please.

Q. Mike, now that you know who you're playing, what do you think about that opponent and the fact that you'll be in Lexington, which isn't too far from where you live?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Well, they made it to the tournament for a reason. They're a good team. Coach has been scouting them pretty well. I know we're looking forward to getting down to Lexington because it's pretty close to home and looking to see a lot of fans out there.
RON LEWIS: Yeah, the same what Mike said. Our coaches have been scouting every team. They made it to the tournament, we know they're going to be a tough opponent because they are in the 65. We're just going to be ready to play.

Q. To Ron and Mike, can you both talk about winning this tournament and how you think that experience might help you going forward into the NCAA Tournament?
RON LEWIS: I think it helps us with our confidence, and I think it helps us with growing as a team. As you can see, in those three games we relied on each other, we played team basketball, and we took the negatives that teams had and made them into positives for us.

Q. Mike, in terms of the game today, how big was it for you guys with Greg only playing six minutes in the first half and not scoring and you were still up six at the break? How big was that for you guys?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: It was really big. We were just trying to keep it close without him in the game. A lot of things are a lot harder because he takes up so much space down low and we rely on him for a lot of things. I think a lot of us stepped up in that first half.
The seniors played great. The bench really came into play with Greg out of the game. Matt Terwilliger played great, did his thing, got rebounds, and Othello did his thing, as well.

Q. How much of a factor in this game do you think was the fact that it looked that you were able to impose a faster pace, on this game today more so than you had in the two games before against Wisconsin, and I wondered how much of that was a factor in how the game turned out.
RON LEWIS: I think it was a factor. We got a lot of rest, rested our bodies and our legs. So it was a major factor. Plus we were in zone, so it gave us a lot of rest, as well, to run on the offensive end.
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Yeah, that definitely helped us out. They're a great rebounding team, and we felt if we could get rebounds and turnovers, I think it turned into fast break points and rebound opportunities, and I think we took advantage of that early and we just never let up.

Q. It is said that offense wins games, defense wins championships. You were definitely impressive the first half the way you held them with Greg out. Do you think this kind of performance pronounces that you are defense-ready for tournament play?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Yeah, I think it was a statement. Three games in three days is a tough thing to do, and for our guys to come out and play defense for 40 minutes, even with Greg out of the game, and to stay in defensive stance and do those little things that helps the team win, that goes to show how far we've come as a team.

Q. For either of you guys, you mentioned three games in three days. Now in a Thursday-Saturday regional. What's the key here? I imagine getting rest because it's going to be kind of a quick turnaround. How do you handle this now?
RON LEWIS: Just like you said, just to get rest. Our focus is on the tournament. After we go home, finish our finals, we'll be on spring break, so the main thing for us is just to get rest and focus on the tournament.

Q. I'm just curious for both of you guys, how did you rank your goals through the season; the conference championship, the Big Ten Tournament Championship, the NCAA Championship, did you talk about that during the season and how did that rank?
RON LEWIS: We ranked it like you said, conference championship, Big Ten Tournament, and then going into the NCAA Tournament and doing well in that.

Q. In that order?

Q. Mike, there was talk amongst you guys yesterday about the importance of getting the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and obviously the way it looked on CBS was that they put Florida and North Carolina ahead of you guys. Number one, why do you think they did that, and number two, is maybe a little motivation from that not such a bad thing going into the tournament?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: You know, Florida and North Carolina are both great teams, and they're deserving of the position they got. We're just playing each game as that game. We're not worried about what's ahead of us and focusing on seeding and who we play next. It's just one game at a time.
We're not worried about getting that No. 1 overall seeding. We're fine with where we're at right now, and we're just looking forward to getting into the tournament.

Q. So much was said about you being so young. Did you surprise yourself, the things you were able to achieve with so much youth on the team?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: I think a little bit. You know, I didn't come in with as much confidence as Coach and the staff had on us as freshmen as being so young. They had a game plan laid out for us, what we were going to do. I'm just sitting there listening to every word he says, all right, we're going to do it, and then finally we're getting into the season and we're actually achieving some of these goals. Now we have the utmost confidence in ourselves to do what we've got to do to make a run in this tournament.

Q. Mike and Ron, you've been through this conference one and a half, almost two times. What are your thoughts on five other teams from the conference after playing all these teams, five other teams from the conference, making it to the NCAAs?
RON LEWIS: I think it's great. I think it's great for our conference. It shows that we have a good conference and that we're still building.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up and go ahead with questions for Coach Matta.

Q. The same question that Mike answered earlier. They did see the No. 1s and they had you technically No. 3. Was there any surprise to that?
COACH THAD MATTA: Not really. I don't know how it works. So wherever they put us, like these guys said, we'll play whoever. I think it's exciting. We were a two seed last year, now a one seed this year. I think that hopefully says a lot about our program and where it's come in three years.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about how the question I asked Mike about being able to force the pace more so in this game, what were you able to do in that zone to cause the turnovers that forced the pace?
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, I think a couple things happened. Number one, Wisconsin was a little bit flat on their shots today and it caused some long rebounds. I thought that we did a better job. The challenge was to be more active in the zone, get a hand up.
We knew that Tucker and Taylor were going to try to take the majority of their shots, Bohannon was going to catch and shoot. The big thing was the activity we could create to force them out a little bit farther. And from there we picked up a couple rebounds, got an advance pass, and it really seemed to get the pace going for us.
The other thing I think is we got our hands on a lot of balls deflection-wise, and that led to advance passes and easy opportunities.

Q. Two things. One, how do you handle with finals and everything and having played here, a Thursday-Saturday in Lexington, and two, how far ahead in the brackets do you look, because there's a potentially interesting second game involving you?
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, I think in regards to how we handle it, honestly, I would love to get these guys on a plane to get home immediately because they do have tests. We've been studying up here each day that we've been here. We've got our people with us to help the guys. It is a quick turnaround. When you play the last game and now you're playing on Thursday in Lexington, which is close. With the potential second match-up we've got to take care of our first game as they do, and we'll kind of see. It's a little bit ironic, though and I think Bruce (Weber) is in the same situation and (Marquette head coach) Tom Crean and Michigan State. There was somebody else in there and we were laughing about it. It's part of it.

Q. You needed a last second shot to beat these guys at your place in the last week of the regular season and now you beat them by 20 with Greg essentially available for a half, do you feel that in these past few days that you're pretty much peaking and playing your best heading into the NCAA Tournament?
COACH THAD MATTA: I hope we are. I think that we're doing some things very well right now. I think we're getting a better feel.
The thing I'm most excited about and I think one of the big differences today was our bench. I've said all year long I think we've got nine starters, and one of the things we dwelled on last night in the team meeting was how many minutes their guys were playing to how many minutes we had played in two games. Was it psychological warfare? Yeah, maybe it was, but we wanted our guys to understand that everybody has been contributing and we've been able to give guys rest, and I think that was good for us.

Q. Curious about your thoughts on five other teams from your conference making it.
COACH THAD MATTA: I think it's phenomenal. I think as you go through a Big Ten season, it's amazing what it takes to win in this conference. Honestly, that's why I'm so proud of what our guys have been able to do this year. There's great players, there's great coaches, and for six of us to be in out of 11, I couldn't be happier for the league. I think it's just another statement of why the Big Ten is the Big Ten.

Q. Can you just talk about why Greg only played the six minutes in the first half?
COACH THAD MATTA: Foul trouble. We had the lead, they cut into it but they never got it over the hump. I thought those guys were doing a pretty good job without him.

Q. Did you foresee a No. 1 seed right off the bat when you brought in this great recruiting class with all these freshmen?
COACH THAD MATTA: No (laughing). As I said yesterday, I really didn't know what to expect. I thought that we could have a really good basketball team. To be sitting at 30-3 and have won 17 straight games and two of our losses are to No. 1 seeds that were ahead of us, one was without Greg Oden, the other he had been playing for three weeks, the other one was at Wisconsin, I'm pretty excited with where we are today.

Q. Obviously Greg didn't play a lot of minutes in the first half because of the foul trouble you mentioned. But can you just talk about him still ending up with a double-double basically all done in the second half? And also if you could comment on how your kids take experience from winning this tournament into the next one.
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, I think with Greg (Oden) it shows the player that he is, and I had to get on Greg's rear end in one of the timeouts. I didn't think he was playing as hard as he could play, and really challenged him like I haven't done before. He responded, which was good, and I'll put that in my memory bank for when we play on Thursday.
The second part of your question --

Q. Taking the experience into the next tournament.
COACH THAD MATTA: I think the one thing we've tried to do all year long is learn from wins, from losses, from close games, from big wins, and really build on it and try to exemplify through example of what we can learn from this, and these guys, the thing I love about this team is they have been phenomenal at listening and applying what we're trying to get done and how we're trying to do it. I wish I was a great coach, but these guys have done a tremendous job of listening and coming in every day and working hard.
So I think that they see the benefits of playing because all we've talked about all year long is playing our best basketball at the end of the year, and hopefully we'll go along those stages.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. We appreciate your time.

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