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March 22, 2007

Chris Lowery

Jamaal Tatum

Tony Young


THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up with a comment from Coach Lowery, then questions and answers for the student-athletes.
COACH LOWERY: First of all, just very, very proud of my seniors. I know a lot of people probably thought we weren't going to compete with them based on the type of questions we were asked when we got here, but we do what we do to everybody. No matter who it is, no matter what's on the front of their jersey. Your hat's got to be off to Coach Self because they do a tremendous job of managing a lot of talent. They are very talented.
We came up short. We got some looks. We missed a layup there, a turnover there. Maybe the outcome of the game is different. These two seniors up here with me, obviously they're the face of this program, did a tremendous, tremendous job.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Jamaal and Tony.

Q. Can you talk about the last shots you both took, what was going through your mind.
JAMAAL TATUM: Well, the last shot I took, a shot I practiced numerous times in a gym late at night, early in the morning, between classes. I mean, it felt good. The release felt good. I didn't make it. That's part of basketball. That's part of competing. That's part of athletics.
Sometimes things go the way you want them, sometimes they don't.
TONY YOUNG: I think the last shot was nothing but just trying to get a good shot, trying to get a good look. Two seconds to get halfway up the court and get a good shot off. They stepped back and played a good defense. Just trying to get one up there and see if something could happen.

Q. Both players, could you just sort of sum up your feelings here having played them down to the wire, yet having your season end?
TONY YOUNG: I think, we played a good game against a very good team. I mean, it's bad and you feel upset that you lost a game. But I'm proud of everybody on my team, everybody that stepped on the court and fought with us, fought for us.
I mean, there's no doubts, no regrets. A couple plays could have went different ways. They made a couple plays at the end of the game and happened to get the lead. I'm proud of everybody that stepped on that court.
JAMAAL TATUM: I think everybody competed. I'm definitely proud of the way everybody on the team stepped up and played, you know, the hardest they could. With all that said, it's still a loss. A loss is a loss. There's no moral victories just because they're Kansas and we're Southern Illinois, you guys put it, "the mid-major."
I think everybody on the team fought hard. When it comes down to it, we still lost and they still won. They played a good game, they beat us.

Q. Jamaal, can you talk about, obviously you assumed a lot of the scoring load in the second half, were you feeling like the season was on the line, you had to take over?
JAMAAL TATUM: Well, I just started slowing down a little bit, kind of stopped going for the three-point shot, stopped relying on the three-point shot because it wasn't falling. My teammates screened and got me open, got me a couple looks. I got started early in the second half. That's what got me on a roll to continue playing good offensively throughout the duration of the half.
Q. The program was in pretty good shape when you got here, was still a tournament team. How much better do you feel like this program is now as you are getting ready to leave it?
TONY YOUNG: I think every year the program's grown. The caliber of recruits that we're getting, understanding that everyone comes in what we want to do, how we play, I mean, I think this program has a huge future ahead of it. We got a bunch of guys in the locker room right now that are tremendous players, all the way to the first guard, all the way up to Matt Shaw and Randal, the guy is going to be seniors next year. I'm proud of how hard everyone has worked, all that everybody has put into it. I know they're going to continue to do it, keep it going.

Q. Jamaal, there was one play, for all the shots you made, where Bryan had a fast-break layup, it wouldn't drop, you had a put-back. That might have been the shortest shot you took all night. Talk about that one.
JAMAAL TATUM: Well, I was just trying to basically run down and get in front of Brandon Rush because he was coming. I was just basically trying to screen him off. I knew he was going to try to jump and block Bryan's shot. I tried to get in front of him, and I ended up doing that. Bryan got his shot up; it was a good shot, just didn't fall in. I was right there for the tip-in. Easy shot. One of those shots you play when you're little, 21 Tip-out, you always tip the shots in. I have got one in a long time. I got it. I don't know if I could have shot it any softer than I did.

Q. Jamaal, you talked again just now about the name on the front of the jersey, whether you're a mid-major or not. Did you believe that you guys could win this tournament? Were you surprised that you lost this game?
JAMAAL TATUM: I definitely believe we could win. We can play with any team in the country. That it is not arrogance or being cocky. That's confidence. We work harder than any team in the country. I'm confident of that, individually and as a team.
I don't know. I guess we have to win a national championship before we start getting national exposure we deserve. We work super hard. We still get this media attention saying we're going to lose and get blown out. I can't turn on the TV because I don't want to hear that. I know how good we are. So I guess I don't know what we're going to have to do to get that attention. Hopefully we'll get it sometime soon because everybody on this team deserves it. Coach Lowery deserves it, our coaching staff deserves it. We put in a lot of work. We work in the summer. We are up early. We condition hard. This team deserves a lot of respect. I definitely think we'll get it in the future or definitely deserve to get it in the future.
Q. Given the way the game was going tonight, was there a point tonight where you were thinking, We got these guys, they're playing our game? What will you tell your grandchildren about this game tonight?
TONY YOUNG: I don't think you're ever comfortable to the point where you're saying you're going to win a game. I mean, with teams in this country pretty much, a team like Kansas, teams in the NCAA tournament especially, you're never comfortable with any kind of lead. You got to take it all the way to the end every time. I don't think that there was ever a point where we thought we got this game. We knew during the entire duration of the game that we could win. There's a difference in saying, all right, I know we're going to win, to we can win this game, let's be confident.
I don't think when I talk in the future about these games, about Southern Illinois basketball, all my stories won't be about basketball. I mean, this is a family. We have so many other great times off the court, being with each other, around each other. I think most of my stories are coming from something totally different than what everybody expect.
JAMAAL TATUM: As far as telling my grandkids something one day, I agree with Tony a hundred percent on that. We'll tell them about some of the things that happened at practice. We'll tell them about how you grow closer, you know, through adversity with people. Don't ever be afraid of adversity because that type of thing makes the bond that much tighter.
I'll tell them about how we went bowling as a team. It was so competitive because we're all competitors. We're out there clapping and cheering for each other. People in the bowling alley looking at us like we're crazy.

Q. Nothing about tonight?
JAMAAL TATUM: It probably won't be one specific game.
TONY YOUNG: Unless they happen to get a tape of it, then I'll answer their questions (smiling).

Q. What has Coach Lowery meant to you over your time here?
JAMAAL TATUM: Well, just going back from the time he came in, having Tony and myself going against each other, trying to kill us, and laughing about it. Him getting onto me about being able to run plays at the end -- practicing at the rec, and him getting mad at me because I didn't run a play right as a junior. Just from him telling me to take better shots, to practice good shots, having all that stuff pan out this year, then him trying to coach me off the court to be a better person, to do things right all the time.
I mean, he's been a lot to me, man. I can't even sit up here and tell you in just a little bit of words. But, I mean, he's one of the best coaches I ever played for. I know a lot of schools are going to be trying to get him right now, but they going to have to come with it if they want him for real, because he ain't going nowhere. Ain't that right, Mario?
TONY YOUNG: For me, it's more personal than it is basketball. I mean, basketball-wise, he was the one that believed in me and told me what I could do. When he came back, he pushed me and made me work on my game, he made me stay after practice and shoot jump shots, he made me come in early, he made me be a leader, he made me stop cussing at everybody. For me it's a lot more personal than it is just basketball. He played a huge part in me becoming a person and a man that I am right now 'cause, I mean, I've been through a lot of stuff, been through a lot of the adversity. When he came back, he just jumped down in my life like more of a friend than he was a coach.
My respect for him as a coach grew that much more because I knew I could trust him, I knew I could talk to him. It's still like that to this day. When you grow on people, you constantly around people, it's like that with the whole coaching staff, I think it's going to be a lot of relationships that are going to go on for a long time from here on out.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellas. We'll open it up to questions for Coach Lowery.

Q. What are you going to tell your grandkids about Tony and Jamaal?
COACH LOWERY: I just tell them they grew up a lot and learned how to be good players and good people at the same time. You know, most of the stuff that I will tell them, obviously the basketball side is so little a part of what we do with them. We're around them so much. They're my other kids. You know, we're consistently doing stuff with them and trying to get them to do stuff together and trying to force them to understand what it's like to run something. We always talk about daily business and all that stuff. They're in charge of our business today. When you make mistakes, you can get fired. We always try to make them understand that there's more to life than basketball.
I think that's why they respect me and play so hard for me because I make it real for them. Everything, the basketball side, off the court, before practice, the realness of life is always talked about with them. I think that's probably why they play so hard.

Q. You had a second-half lead, they made some plays, from your perspective, how did it get away?
COACH LOWERY: Well, they're good for one thing. You know, obviously we've been very, very good this year of not letting that happen. You know, we missed a layup. We had a turnover, things that normally we convert and normally we take care of the ball in that situation and we didn't. A lot of it had to do with them, and a lot of it had to do with us pushing ourselves to the limit knowing this could be the last game.
I don't think it got away. I think we ran out of time. We still had opportunities even though we missed and then got an offensive rebound. We fouled the right people we needed to foul and we game-planned the last minute very, very well, like we always do. We had opportunities, and we didn't make the shots that we needed to.

Q. Could you go over that last minute or two in terms of you said the game plan, the decisions you faced, why you decided to do what you did.
COACH LOWERY: We did everything we needed to do to win the game. We were down five, hit a three, tied it up, pressed, fouled the right person, missed two free-throws, got Tony Young back in. You know, we turned it over. I mean, that's the things where we talked about poise and composure coming out of the locker room at halftime. We can't have those things. They're too good.
Obviously Brandon Rush hit a couple in the lane. I think one or the other banked one in the lane. Tough shots. They weren't open shots. We made them earn everything they got tonight because that's how we play. They made 'em. They made a tough play to win the game.
You know, my hat goes off to them because they did a good job. But, you know, we were right there. We had an opportunity to win the game, and time just ran out for us.
Q. Can you talk about your last possession on the missed three-pointer by Jamaal. What did you want to do in that possession?
COACH LOWERY: We ran a split. We had Tony in the corner, JT at the top of the key. Maybe we could have hit Tony right away and gone into Randal for two. But, you know, as we left the huddle, JT said, what do you want? I said, I want a basket. At that point, you know, he got a wide-open, clean look. That's a shot he can make. I'm not going to second guess that because he's made a ton of those this year. He missed it. It was wide open.
But then we get the rebound back, and panic, and not realize how much time is on the clock. If we had another timeout I would have called timeout. We didn't. We ended up throwing it away. They ended up getting two free-throws. Still got a last shot. You know, I thought our kids did a good job.
Q. What will you remember about the way this season ended?
COACH LOWERY: You know, I remember these guys growing up. I think that's the number one thing. Remembering how close they've grown together, how they've handled the media, how the two seniors and the older kids learned how to deal with being in the limelight, how we learned to deal with being ranked for six or seven weeks, whatever it was, learning how to play, deal with that, not let it affect you I think was key.
It's huge for the future of our program if we're going to continue to have the consistency, like I think we can. That's very good to have early on in your career, like some of our kids did.
Q. Talk about Matt Shaw. What percentage was he? Why didn't he start and what did he give you tonight?
COACH LOWERY: He didn't start because we just had started Tony. We wanted to make sure if we did get in foul trouble, it was going to be Tony instead of Matt. That's kind of how we game-planned. We knew he was playing. Obviously we don't want to tip our hat to what we're going to do. That's kind of why we held him out. He was fine. He didn't have enough legs on some of the shots he took, but he was going to play for the seniors. He did a very good job.
Obviously if he's healthy, maybe it's different, because maybe we can run more stuff with him like we normally do for him. You know, his whole deal was he didn't want to come out anymore because he didn't want it to tighten up. He's very admirable. He's very, very hard-nosed and tough. He did a good job tonight for us.

Q. How soon do you have to try to put this behind you and start looking towards next year, keep building on what you did this season?
COACH LOWERY: After we told our seniors good-bye, the toughest locker room I've ever had to be in, you know, we started immediately with everybody else that's left, and the next two guys, Matt and Randal. They're our next two guys. Kent and Jermaine, Stetson and Darren, Tony and Jamaal, now it's Matt and Randal. Obviously those two guys are going to mean a lot to the program. With that foundation, along with Bryan, you know, everyone else that's coming back, we feel very good going back towards the future and what we're going to do with the program.
Q. What is it going to take for the school to keep you, to retain you for next year?
COACH LOWERY: You know, I'm the coach of Southern Illinois right now. So that's the most important thing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

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