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March 24, 2007

Mike Conley, Jr.

Ron Lewis

Thad Matta


COACH MATTA: Well, obviously awfully proud of our guys today and the effort. We beat a great, great basketball team in Memphis.
The game was a game of runs, from the opening tip. They got us down there in the second half and I think we went on a 16-18 to 6 run. These guys kept believing in what we were trying to do, the foul trouble we were in a little bit in the first half, Greg was out. As we've said all along, with the nine starters, they all came in and gave us tremendous minutes. Couldn't be prouder of the way we finished the game, knocking in our free throws. This is a great win for Ohio State and I'm happy to be a part of it.

Q. Mike, watching you guys after the game it looked like there wasn't a lot of celebration. Is there a sense of unfinished business after winning this, you've still got some more to play?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: Yeah, I could say that. We're happy with winning the South Region, and we thought it was pretty tough. We're happy to be where we're at, but we know there's a long way to go. There's two more games to play. We've got to stay focused and be ready to play those games.

Q. Both of you guys played well today. Talk a little bit about Greg and the impact he had when he was in there, particularly in the second half.
RON LEWIS: Greg was a real impact. He gave us another boost in our offense, for us to play an inside, outside game. It opened up drives and opened up open shots for us.
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: Basically the same thing. When he came in the game, he came in with a lot of enthusiasm. He'd been sitting on the bench for an while. He saw things on the bench from a different perspective and he let us know that. I think he just picked us up.

Q. Ron, just a Columbus kid, senior, going to the Final Four, could you talk about what this is like for you?

RON LEWIS: I'm just living a dream. It's a loss for words. I never thought I'd be in this position. With hard work and a great team behind you, you can do anything.

Q. Mike, can you talk about what Dorsey said yesterday and how that might have affected you guys and Greg today?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: I think it affected us as a team more than just affecting Greg. Greg doesn't let a lot affect him. That was kind of a one-on-one call out. We done one-on-one team. We try to play team basketball. When somebody talks about Greg, they're talking about all of us. We took it upon ourselves to come out and play the game. And I think that's why we're so successful.

Q. This is for both guys. The intentional foul that Chris Douglas-Roberts got, I just wonder if you can talk about how that was a momentum switch for the rest of the game?
RON LEWIS: I don't think it was a momentum switch, because I think we were still on a run. With Greg, it just put more fuel on the fire and it just helped us out tremendously.
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: It definitely helped with Greg in the game, scoring. We knew we were getting the ball back. We were trying to take advantage of what just happened.

Q. You touched on how this is kind of a little bit of a dream come true. Would you talk about your road here from Bowling Green. You started out, it was highly unprobable you'd get to a Big Ten school going to the Final Four?
RON LEWIS: When I first went to Bowling Green, I never had any option of transferring at all. But I was unhappy, I tried to make my move somewhere where I could be happy. And coming on with Coach Matta is a great thing, because he's been winning for so long. I made my move and great things are happening.

Q. Mike, a couple of things, hitting 18 free throws in a row to seal it. And secondly, could you talk about Daequan, not playing a lot in the first three halves and what he gave you in the second half?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: We thought this was going to be won on who made more free throws. We were trying to get to the line and not foul him on the other side. We just came and played today and really connected. Daequan, he definitely lifted us up today. He came in with instant offense, kind of like how he used to do early on in the year. He definitely lifted us up from that standpoint. And he played good defense the whole time he was in.

Q. You and Greg coming from the same high school, both freshmen, new to the system, yet Greg gets a lot of the attention, and probably a lot of the pressure. Have you tried to help him at any point being his friend and having played with him in high school, tried to ease the pressure on him a little bit?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: I've tried to do those things, but he's had that pressure all the way through high school, so he's pretty, I guess, used to it. But I really don't have to tell him much because he's just a humble guy, he doesn't let the pressure get to him. He's all about winning. And that's the reason we came here was to win. We're definitely doing that right now.

Q. What little things have you done?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: I talked to him after games, and especially games when he's been down because of the way he might have played or what his performance was or whatever. So I definitely try to talk to him then, because he has all the pressure and hype on him and he has to live up to it and he might not do it in one game. I say it's all right, nobody cares, we're a family as a team. And only worry about us and nobody else. So I think he really takes a lot of that to heart.

Q. Ron and Mike both, the start of the year Thad showed you guys a pamphlet about the Final Four and said if you wanted to get there you were going to have to work hard. I wondered at that point how hard did you think it would be and at this point how hard has it been?
RON LEWIS: When he told us that, we believed it, but we knew it was going to be real hard. Going through a non-conference schedule and winning that gave us an extra boost and the extra confidence going into the Big Ten. And with everything going the right way with Greg coming back and it just made our confidence even higher. We believed in it from the start.
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: I believed him the first day I was on campus, when he was recruiting us. He showed us the same type of deal and a video of the Final Four. And that definitely stuck in my head through the whole summer workouts and beginning of the year. And the way we played against North Carolina and Florida, the performances we put on we felt we were a confident team. With Greg coming back that definitely helped out.

Q. How hard has it been?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: It's been real hard. We've been through a lot of ups and downs within the team. And we try to keep a lot of stuff between the team. And we do a good job of that. I think that's what made us so good so far.

Q. Mike, after getting off to such a slow start, did you talk about really focusing on getting off to a better start tonight and you take part of that upon yourself to do that?
MIKE CONLEY, JR.: We took it upon ourself as a team. We knew we could play a lot better at the beginning of games. The last couple of games we didn't come out to compete those first four or eight minutes of the first half. And we felt we could do a lot better job of that. We couldn't afford to get down on Memphis, they can put you down 10, 20 points real fast. We knew we had to come out and play our best four minutes of basketball from the get go.

Q. I wonder if you could talk about the motivational ploy of that pamphlet. Give me the circumstances of when you showed it to them and how that all played out.
COACH MATTA: It really was something we had, it was just kind of a manual about how we do things academically off the court, kind of training schedule, that sort of thing. We just put a picture in there and said, hey, if we work, this is what we will be working for. And along the lines it was a Big Ten Championship. I think that that was hopefully great motivation for them. I'm sure they forget about it ten minutes after the meeting, as kids normally do. But we've never really, honestly, referenced anything about getting to the Final Four. I don't think I've ever said one word about anything but the next opponent with this team. And to their credit, I think they've had tremendous focus all the way through and really every game.
This is hard to imagine, I think winning 19 or 20 games or whatever in a row, we have hit some valleys, but they've responded. And actually learned from them. I think that -- for that day, the first team meeting it was probably a good thing for them to see it.

Q. Was that back in September or October?
COACH MATTA: I think we started September 23rd, so it was then.

Q. When you were in the process of taking this job three years ago how much or how easy was it for you to envision this day this soon?
COACH MATTA: Honestly, it was a plan that was in the back of our mind. I really thought that we could build Ohio State. I didn't think that we could do it -- not that we've built it, but be as successful as we've been the last two years. And even winning 20 games the first year I didn't know it could happen that fast. I give these guys, and I say this all the time, the seniors that have played for us in two years, Ivan, Ron, Jamar and Matt, tremendous thanks for the trust in us. And the recruits we got, this is the vision we were selling them on, help us rebuild the Ohio State University basketball program. And as I hugged them out there and said thank you for believing in us, and believing in the vision that we had.

Q. It's been a long season, but you're going to the Final Four, first reaction?
COACH MATTA: Trying to figure out who we'll play next game. I'm exhausted. We haven't got much sleep since the Tennessee game, but I'm elated. As I told the guys, this is a tremendous honor. It's been 1968 since Ohio State's done it. I take great pride in that. I take great pride in the kids and the work ethic they put in. But we don't want to be a team that checks off who made the Final Four and get our rear ends kicked on next Saturday. We've got to keep getting better. I think in time, and I don't know when it will be, because recruiting starts right after the Final Four, I am going to enjoy it, though.

Q. Two parts, one, you're down 56-51, I think that's when Greg came back in, how much did that change the game? Part two, what led to Daequan coming in?
COACH MATTA: I think with Greg we got off to a great start and -- of the second half, four or five quick points. But the game was just a game of runs. You knew they were going to make their run, we were going to have to counter the run. But I didn't feel it slipping away, but I think we needed -- when I grabbed Greg and our eyes kind of met and he kind of nodded at me and I said let's go, and got him back in there. But I think it was 12:35 or 12:24 when he went on. And I said play real hard, but don't foul anybody. And he did a great job.

Q. What about Daequan?
A. Daequan didn't get a lot of minutes the first half, because David Lighty was doing such a great job. We were really trying to match-up and we had no answers for Hunt whatsoever, and Douglas-Roberts got going the second half. Daequan was -- we needed rebounding, we needed length, and a guy that would put the ball in the basket. He got into the groove and with the four guards out there, it was a pretty good lineup for us.

Q. The label that Greg has probably had since he started playing basketball is that of a game changer. And I wondered if you've ever seen him change a game more than he did in the second half today? He's five down -- you're five down when he goes in and in about three minutes you're five up?
COACH MATTA: This one would rank pretty high with the impact he had. I think you go back to the -- for instance like the Wisconsin game, in the conference tournament he had a huge impact, because he was in foul trouble.
But this one I think that with the way Memphis plays, with the driving and all that, I think this would probably be No. 1 on the impact meter, just -- I thought his rebounding, his challenging shots, finishing at the other end was tremendous?

Q. Your thoughts on the intentional foul?
COACH MATTA: We had one called on us not too long ago and it was very, very similar. That was one of the point of emphasis going into the season this year, and you have to make a play for the ball. I think we just had one not too long ago.
You know, that's what they're supposed to call, and I obviously thought it was a good call. But I don't know if it was that much of an impact. It definitely got the score tied up and we got the ball back.

Q. You look at Mike Conley, he's always got a good stat line. He played 40 minutes in this game. He was the outstanding player of the tournament. I'm guessing there's a lot more that he does than just appears on the stat sheet. Talk about -- he seems like a stabilizing force for you all, as a freshman, especially.
COACH MATTA: I couldn't agree more. And Mike will bring so much to the table besides the points and the assists. Defensively his activity off the ball. He picked that up against Tennessee, and this is a classic example, after the game I said how did you know that was coming? He said, coach, we covered that at shoot around. And I just remembered where they were going to try to throw the ball. And he picked it out of the air with two hands. Early in the game we told him to cover the high post, and sure enough he gets a steal. He gets his hands on so many balls. But the stabilizing factor is what I love about him. If the team is pressing us, once we get the basketball in his hands, I'm like, yeah, we're in good shape, here.

Q. When Mike and Greg were on the AAU circuit in high school, people said if you get to them you're immediately a Final Four contender. We hear a lot of things during the summer. Can you talk about that coming to fruition, and the impact those guys have had.
COACH MATTA: Well, you're right, you do hear that a lot. I think one of the biggest keys that people probably forget, usually when freshmen come in and they help take a team to the Final Four there's a bunch of veterans coming back. We had one starter coming back on this basketball team. We had four returning players off a team that won 26 games last year. And in essence, we've added seven or eight new guys to the roster. And at times that was very challenging, as we began practice and the fact of coaching two different teams as we've had to do this year, because Greg wasn't there -- that was kind of my big thing of do we have the ability to get to the Final Four when our center's hand won't move? And that was the theme song for me, personally, every night when I drove home was the Merle Haggard song, If I Make It Through December. Because we thought we were going to get him back in January. So I think they've had a tremendous impact. Probably, maybe unlike anybody's ever had before with the job that they've done.

Q. Two things, were you thinking, here they go again, when they were 7 to 10 on 3's, to begin the game. And what did you do so well to shut down Dorsey?
COACH MATTA: I turned at one point and said we are a get well card for three point shooters. They get us on the schedule, your percentage is going to skyrocket. They were -- we probably over-helped too much and gave them rhythm. Hunt, he shot one of them from Austin, I think, and it went in. We knew those guys were going to do that. And Willie Kemp was knocking them down, as well. That was the scariest part for us at halftime. But it was also the good thing. We felt like Memphis wanted to drive the ball so much, if they weren't making 3's, we would be in pretty good shape. They're 7 for 10 and we're still up three, I was pretty pleased with that.
With Dorsey, I don't know him real well. I saw like a couple of tapes on him and just a tremendous athlete. He seems like a great competitor, and I think as they got down they probably went away from him a little bit more. And Hunt in the first half, and Douglas-Roberts, I would have rode those guys as well, when they're shooting three, they stuck with them.

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