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March 21, 2007

Thad Matta


COACH MATTA: Obviously glad to be here. I think that we've got a unique situation because we're playing a team that we played in January. Our guys have great respect for Tennessee and their players.
I know as a coach it helps a little bit that we can go back and show film of what we did well, what we didn't do well from Game 1. And I expect tomorrow night to be another tremendous NCAA Tournament game.

Q. Bruce was saying they have an advantage over teams the way they played the first time around, he wishes he hadn't played you. Do you think that is a big help, because of the way they played?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I think that it helps us a little bit from the standpoint of it's hard to simulate the -- in practice, what they do defensively and the speed that they play at offensively. And through the Big Ten season we don't see a lot of pressing, gambling type of defenses. So as we went back and showed our guys the film from that game I think they can draw the correlation of when that was and what our game plan was in that game of what we did well, what we didn't do well. But you don't see a lot of teams that play like that.

Q. Bruce also said that one of the things that concerns him about tomorrow night is that he doesn't feel like you guys have had that break out game. Your thoughts on that, I guess?
COACH MATTA: Well, I don't know -- I think we've had some moments where we've played really, really good basketball. I think that the thing I love about this team is we've shown that we can play a lot of different ways, from a Tennessee game to a Northwestern, to Michigan State running a lot of set plays. So I think that -- I hope he's right and tomorrow night is a big break out game for us.
But I think when I look at our team and as young as we are, this is all new to our guys. And as we said down nine the other day, our heads were under water and we had to survive and I was very pleased with the effort and what we got. The big word I've looked for or used all year with this team is consistency. Give me consistent play. And I think our guys are understanding that a little bit more.

Q. A little off topic, here. With Florida and Butler playing this weekend as well, would you mind pondering back on that game, when you were assistant coach at Butler, just any moment stand out from that game?
COACH MATTA: It's funny you asked me that, because a girl asked me yesterday what was your feeling when Ron Lewis made that shot the other day. I said I was worried about how much time was left and there was two seconds, not a big deal. And she said, you've got to be kidding me. I said I've been on the other end before, when Mike Miller hit that shot there was no time on the clock.
That was such a -- I probably think about that game every day and the fact that Lavoe (ph.) was at the line and had two free throws. He was shooting close to 88 percent. And Barry turned to me and said should we take a time out? I said we don't want to ice our own shooter, and we'll let him shoot and then take a time out. It is unique that they're playing again tomorrow night -- or Friday night, and I think it will be, honestly, a heck of a game.
I've often told people that that probably propelled my head coaching career, because they kept showing that shot over and over and Carter went to Nebraska because Florida did so well. I was standing there as the next Butler head coach.

Q. Is there any part of you, I know you're not going to complain or whine about anything, but is there any part of you who wishes for the fan sake you would have been in the mid west region, where it's easier for them to get to St. Louis than it is to San Antonio. I heard something about airfare being hard from Columbus to San Antonio.
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I would like to be closer, but I honestly don't care. We're kind of excited to be -- I've never been to San Antonio, so last night was awesome, walking down the river walk or whatever it was. I actually gave our guys an hour and 23 minutes, which I've never given them, to go out and enjoy the city. And so I honestly don't mind. I wish -- you always want your fans to have the luxury to be there. But I think -- I've said this, the hardest job in the world is being on that NCAA selection committee. Can you imagine trying to pick the teams getting into this thing, let alone where you're going to put them. I like our draw. I like coming down here. I think this will be good for us. And I think we'll have some fans. I know we have a huge alumni base in Texas, a bunch of them met us last night at the motel. We'll be well represented.

Q. You've never been to San Antonio?
COACH MATTA: Never have.

Q. One hour and did you say 23 minutes?
COACH MATTA: I think that's what it ended up being, yeah.

Q. How did you come up with that figure?
COACH MATTA: We had a 10:00 film session and it was 8:27 when I told them they could leave the restaurant and do whatever they wanted to do. A couple of guys went to the Alamo and took a picture. I'm not exactly sure what they did, but they were all on time for the film session.

Q. A lot of times when you bring in an influx of young players there's resistant from vets at any level. Why hasn't that happened for you guys?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think, No. 1, they knew we needed threes one of them. Because we only had four guys back. And we had to field one of them to be a starter.
The greatest thing that happened with the four guys returning is the five guys we brought in are all great kids. They've all come from tremendous high school programs. I've said this, our four freshmen last year on the same day in March all competed for a state championship, two in Ohio and two in Indiana.
When the new guys got here, one of the things we wanted to do was win a Big Ten championship. And the younger players were looking at the veterans and saying you've got one, show us the way. And I think that you also throw in the fact that these guys have been so well seasoned. You look at a guy like Greg Oden, everybody forgets, they think the notoriety and publicity started when he got to Ohio State, it's been following him for three years. He's such a great kid, he doesn't like it, he doesn't want it. And I think his teammates picked up on that and appreciate the fact that he is who he is. And I think that's made things better. And one of the biggest things that we've tried to change in our time at Ohio State is the culture and environment of our program. And it is -- we preach family. We preach togetherness. And I think all the guys have done a great job at that.

Q. Can you pinpoint why Cook has been struggling, and why it coincided with Greg coming back? They played so well together previously?
COACH MATTA: Daequan has done some great things for us all the way through this year. You look at last Saturday's game, the way he finished it. He was really good. He was grabbing rebounds out of his area. He was defending, guarding big guys in the post. Even through the Big Ten tournament he hit big shots for us. I think people look at Daequan and he's been labeled or targeted as a scorer, and if he doesn't score people say, well, he's not playing well or he misses some shots, they say he's not playing well. And I think maybe it was Wisconsin or Purdue where he missed his first few shots. I said Daequan, I have no problem with you shooting the ball, but your shot set up has to be better. Daequan has done a nice job for us. He's elevated his practice level and he's made guys better around us, as well. We need Daequan to play well for us to win.

Q. When you are the No. 1 seed in this event, how easy or difficult is it to enjoy being and going through the NCAA Tournament?
COACH MATTA: It's funny you ask that, because I don't want to say I don't enjoy it, but it seems like I haven't had the time to sit down and say, boy, that was fun or that was great. It's always, now what do we have to do next? And I hope at some point I can enjoy the ride these guys have taken me on this year.
Really being the No. 1 seed, or a few years the 7th seed being in this situation, I don't feel any different. I know it's not any easier. So I think you really become almost callous to it and saying what do we have to do to get our team ready to play.

Q. I apologize if it's already been asked. I want to know about Mike Conley and how much his maturation this year has meant to you guys?
COACH MATTA: It's been -- it's made a huge impact on our team. Michael has really grown in his time at Ohio State. He's one of those guys, a classic example, as a coach you want him to do really, really well because he is every day the last one to leave the practice floor. He's got his routine before practice. He's got his routine after practice, where he's going to get his shots up. He's going to do his ball handling, he's going to do all those things. And I think that that is gratifying to me to see a kid working as hard as he does, to progress as well as he's done.
I think Michael came in a little bit, I've said this before, the only two guys that knew Michael Conley could play were myself and Greg Oden. From the first time I saw Michael play in eighth grade or his freshman year or whatever it was, I knew he was going to be a great fit for our system. And going back to I even saw his dad play in high school. And I think I was 11 or 12 years old and he stole the ball and dunked it from the free throw line with two hands in a state championship game. I remember saying to myself at 11 years old, if he ever has a son I'm going to recruit him (laughter). I'm joking. But it was one of the most impressive dunks I've ever seen by his dad.

Q. Aside from Ron's winning shot against Tennessee the first time, what did you like, what have you shown the kids from that game on the plus side?
COACH MATTA: There wasn't a lot. Tennessee had us. I think that we did a good job at times of executing offensively. Defensively we weren't -- we didn't have as many possessions as I'd like of solid defense. I thought we showed some toughness to get it to ten points where we had it, but then we weren't able to finish off, which was a tribute to them, because they came at us and made huge shots. But I think that we've got to do a better job -- we've been saying this all year long. We've got to defend better and we've got to execute what we're trying to do offensively and get the ball where we want it when we want it there.

Q. Greg fouled out of the last game. Was he hard on himself? What kind of feedback did he give you about his performance?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think Greg was a little bit down because Greg is a winner. And Greg is a competitor. I once asked Greg, you have a 3.9 GPA in high school, and 3.7 GPA at Ohio State. And he said "my name." I don't want my name to be scarred. When Greg doesn't think he played well he's always a little bit down. He's been great in practice this week. He was great on the ride back home. I expect him to play very good basketball tomorrow night.

Q. You said Greg doesn't want the attention. Did you guys do anything to shield him from it or try to keep those NBA questions off of him? How did you handle that?
COACH MATTA: You know, I don't think that we shielded him a whole lot because Greg is the type of kid, he's very respectful and knows what comes with the territory. But I think that there's been a day or two where he sat and one of the coach's office and said please don't make me go back down there and do more. But I think that he has handled that about as well as he possibly could. He's a guy after we win a Big Ten championship the other day, a tournament championship, I'm trying to finally get with our team and talk to them and I can't find Greg. He's out there signing autographs for 50 little kids. He wasn't going to leave until they all got his autograph. That's who he is. He knows what comes with it and I think he handles it tremendously well.

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