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March 13, 2008

Devan Downey

Zam Fredrick

Mike Holmes

Dave Odom


THE MODERATOR: We'll ask Coach Odom for some overall thoughts on the game and then take your questions just for the three student athletes, then we'll excuse them to the locker room.
COACH ODOM: Well, in typical fashion we made it interesting at the end. We rarely ever win with ease going away looking over our shoulder into the sunset. That rarely ever happens.
You know, today was business as usual for us with the exception that we were able to hang on and win the basketball game. I've got to give our team a lot of credit for that, I really do. They've experienced a lot of difficulties during the year, and today, fortunately, going into the last three minutes of play, we had enough cushion to survive and we had enough free throws to survive. We stopped them just enough times to survive. So I give our team a lot of credit.
And it really was a team effort. But at the same time, I want to give LSU a lot of credit, particularly Butch Pierre. My goodness, what a difficult job he had in assuming control of the head coaching position at LSU. I don't know when it was, 1st of February, something like that. And what a marvelous job he did. That's not an easy thing. I thought he had his team prepared each and every night that I saw him play, and today was no exception. He's done a really good job, and as I told him after the game, I told the coaching staff, I hope things work out for them at LSU. I'm not trying to hire a coach there or anything like that, but I think he deserves serious consideration, and I'm sure he'll get that, and if it works out for him, I certainly wish him well.
And when you look at LSU's team and kind of project into next year, I told our team, and they'll vouch for me, I told them that they are one of the up and coming teams in the SEC for next year. They'll have a senior on that team, Tasmin Mitchell scares you to death sitting over there on the bench. You're afraid they're going to put him in any minute. They've had a good recruiting year, so future is very bright for Tiger basketball.
I just appreciate everybody calling my guys student athletes (laughter).

Q. Zam, can you talk about that last play when LSU misses a three? You get the ball off the floor and all that action.
ZAM FREDRICK: Marcus threw into the deep three-pointer, and I saw it was long and I just tried to get back in on the action, just to get my hands on the ball. I happened to knock it loose from one of the big men, I can't remember which one it was, and I was going to throw it down the court but I was afraid to turn it over, so I just held onto it and got the foul called.

Q. This is for both of you guys. I think you were something like 4 of 28 when you went into that 13 two run, ten minutes to go or so. I saw you, Devan, get kind of fired up when the shots started falling. Can you talk about that run and how you two played into it?
DEVAN DOWNEY: Your question is how we felt during the run?

Q. Yeah, because you had struggled so much to that point shooting the ball.
DEVAN DOWNEY: It just felt good to finally hit a shot. I felt like I didn't shoot it good from the field. But like Coach told me before the game you can have a good game without making shots, so I found my teammates and contributed in other areas of the game.
ZAM FREDRICK: My shot wasn't falling early, either, as we all know. But I just tried to make sure I concentrated more on defense. I had to run around with Marcus, throw it the whole game, try to focus my energy there, and when I got shots I was going to take them. Unfortunately I wasn't making them. And then when I made a couple I usually score in bunches and I just tried to do what I could to help my team win.

Q. Can you guys talk about when you guys were down a couple there in the second half? Tell us about what was going through your mind and how you were feeling, man, this could be our last game? Could you talk about that?
ZAM FREDRICK: When we went down in the second half? We just rallied together. Next time-out we had, we felt we were still in it. We were down three. The time we went down by five or seven, all we knew we needed was to make one shot, make a shot to cut it down and make stops. We was focusing our efforts on defense. We knew if we could keep them from scoring eventually we was going to make shots, and once we started making them then we got on a run and we went up.
DEVAN DOWNEY: During the run it was kind of crazy because it was all five guys telling each other, we're still in it, let's get some stops. Once we were able to establish ourselves on defense, the offense game. Instead of trading baskets let's get some stops. Eventually when you get enough stops you're going to score.
MIKE HOLMES: I think we did pretty good. We got a lot of stops. The Coach told us that's the key to our offense, so we did that and it came out positive for us.

Q. Talk a little bit about Marcus Thornton and how you defended him, Zam and Devan?
ZAM FREDRICK: I knew I had to keep contact with Marcus all game. He can shoot it from deep, he can put it on the floor, so just play him straight, make it difficult for him. Make him do things he don't want to do. As on offensive player, I think -- like a defensive player, too, you have to be able to counter the things they do, attack him on the defensive end and make him do things that you can defend well. So I just tried to stay close to him and guard him as close as I could and make it difficult.
DEVAN DOWNEY: Marcus Thornton, he's a great offensive player. The game plan, some teams go in saying we want to keep guys under average. Our game plan, we want to make them shoot a low percentage. If you shoot the ball -- not saying he did, but if you shoot the ball enough times you're going to get your average. The game plan was just make it as hard as possible, make him shoot those 30-footers. If he can come off a ball screen and hit a contested 30-footer we'll leave with it. So I just think Zam did a great job making him throw the ball, and every time he scored, he earned it.

Q. Devan, you guys have to turn around and play a Tennessee team that has a lot of depth and plays at a fast pace. How much do you think this game took out of you today?
DEVAN DOWNEY: I mean, every game takes something out of you but for the rest of the day we've just got to eat and rest and get ready. Tennessee is a good team. They've beaten us twice. Like Coach said, we've played two good halves against them, the first half in both games. And the second half we've kind of let it slip. So the mindset tomorrow is put two halves together, go out and compete. It's not really that hard. We've got to go out and compete and match their intensity.

Q. The last game against Tennessee JaJuan Smith, he made the all SEC defensive team, he made one basket. What's the mindset when you go up against a stopper like that that was able to control you like he did the last meeting?
DEVAN DOWNEY: I had eight assists in the first half, so if it happens again and I can get eight assists, I'll take it. I don't have to score the basketball. I think I scored so much early in the year, now when I don't score people thinks something's wrong, but like Coach said, you don't have to score to have a good game.
COACH ODOM: I do think it's important, it's not something Devan would say, I think he tied his career high with assists today at 11. What he tells you is real, is true. You know, he, Zam, Michael, all of them have the ability to do things that help win basketball games other than score, and I think that statistic, 11 assists today, tying your career high, personifies that.

Q. You stuck with Baniulis when he was 1 for 6 from the three-point line and you were using man-to-man defense and Dwayne Day is a senior. What was your thought process of keeping him in there, and what did you think when he hit those three straight threes?
COACH ODOM: Evka has been shooting the ball very well in the last week to ten days. He went through a period where he was not. Dwayne has not shot the ball well in the last two weeks. He has not. It was difficult to pull Dwayne today in one way and it was not difficult in a another. When you look at decisions like that, you do what's best for the team, not for individuals.
Dwayne totally understood. I think also that today was a match-up decision. Evka has a chance to guard Alex Farrer. I don't know that he has a chance to guard JaJuan Smith on a regular basis, you see. And I looked at LSU, I'm saying, defensively we've got a chance. And that really is what I look at more than I do the offense, are we going to be outmatched anywhere and can we compensate. I think Evka more than held his own from that standpoint today. I knew if we just stuck with him long enough, he'll make shots. So will Zam. Those are the two guys that are kind of an X-factor from an offensive standpoint.
We needed shots today. Last time we played them I think we scored 56 points. That's not enough to win an SEC game. It's not. As a matter of fact, it's probably enough to win an ACC game, just not enough to win an SEC game (laughter). Barnhart won't miss that. That will be up there. I'll catch all kinds of mess when I do get to the beach (laughter).
56 is not enough to win in this league night in and night out, unless you play really good defense. We don't. This team does not. We did play better today.
It was more of a match-up decision, really.

Q. You just touched on it right there, this isn't a team that's played consistent defense all year, and LSU's players and coach really credited what you guys did today. I think you even slipped in a zone that you really hadn't much this year. What does it kind of mean that you kind of won this game by defence?
COACH ODOM: We did run a couple things that were different today. It won't be a secret tomorrow because Tennessee saw the game today. Unless we go back to the hotel and put something else in, they've seen everything we've done, so it won't be a secret.
I think today was won on both ends of the court, really. Defensively we did have some good runs until LSU figured it out, and again, you've got to give Butch a lot of credit for that, he and his staff put together a good offensive plan at halftime. What worked in the first half defensively didn't in the second half. We added a second defense in the second half which did help us. So defensively, you know, I'll go back and I'll sell that to our team, and perhaps it'll give us a few more possessions tomorrow perhaps out of Tennessee.

Q. I think two years ago, I think Tennessee beat you twice during the regular season when you knocked them out of the SEC Tournament. Do you see any similarities to two years ago, and just how tough is it to win three times against an opponent?
COACH ODOM: Well, only in that the scenario is set up for that. I mean, they did beat us twice. We did beat them in the second round. But everything is different. Their team is much better, much better. Ours is not. We're not as good a team at this time as we were that particular night. Remember, that's a team that beat Florida twice during the regular season. It was a team of veterans, it was a team that had actually been together for a couple of years, and it was a team that actually had two NBA players, although we didn't know it at the time, playing on that team, and a third I think will make it, Tre Kelly. So it was a team that was a little bit more together. Not that this team's not, it's just a younger team.
So from that standpoint, the scenario of second time with Tennessee is true, but as I said to the media yesterday, Tennessee is the overwhelming favorite to win this tournament. I mean, they have proven over the course of the conference season to be the best team. They played the second best, maybe the best schedule in the country. They are expertly coached, and they have good depth. They hurt you at every position, and they play confident. Their style is different than any other team -- every other team in our league, every other team. Nobody plays the style they play. It's a quick turnaround for us.
The only advantage probably we have is that we just played them Saturday, and I am going to talk to our team between now and 1:00 o'clock tomorrow relentlessly about the first half. I'm going to show them that over and over and over again because that's what it will take for us to be in the game the last two minutes. We've got to play like that for 40 minutes.
They're capable of doing that. I'm talking about Tennessee. Tennessee is capable of playing 40 minutes.
Is our team capable of playing that? That's what we have to do in order to be in the game. We have to play like that for 40 minutes.

Q. Was there anything that you saw today that would make you feel more confident about how you can play and compete with Tennessee tomorrow?
COACH ODOM: Well, I think any time you win a conference tournament game, an opening round game, and I've told our team, the only advantage about not getting a bye is you get an opportunity to get the opening game jitters out of the way.
I think that's more important for teams like us than it is for, say -- well, Tennessee, for instance. I am certain Tennessee does not fear South Carolina. Respect us, I think they do. But they don't fear us.
I don't think they fear anybody in this tournament.
The teams that have problems in the opening round are those that have had good seasons, barely. In other words, they've won a bunch of games to finish third, maybe second in one of the two divisions. And those teams are nervous in the first round. Those teams that are bubble teams, if you will, they're nervous as heck. Tennessee is not nervous. They're not nervous. They're confident, they're relaxed, and they'll run. They would like a circus atmosphere tomorrow, alley-oops, dunks behind the head, their tails fall off, pick them up, throw them on their arms and let's go. That's what they want. They're not nervous.
You know, their future for next week is secure.

Q. Knowing this is a one and done situation in this tournament, what's your feeling that you get to coach this team one more day?
COACH ODOM: I'm thankful. Listen, I've been blessed. The Lord gave me one more day. I'm going to enjoy it. I go into tomorrow with no fear, no trepidation, nothing. I'm not anxious about it at all. I don't wish it were an hour from now. I'm going to enjoy the next, whatever that is, 20 hours, between now and then. I'm going to enjoy the heck out of that. Hope I don't sleep tonight so I can stay awake and think about it, go back in there and wake my wife up and say, "Hey, let me tell you something." I want 20 hours of no sleep. I'll probably get it (laughter).

Q. Is there anything match-up-wise that you think you could do differently against Tennessee after you played them that you came away thinking, hey, maybe we can try this or that?
COACH ODOM: Not really. You know, as I said yesterday, it's no secret, my belief is that Tennessee, they create the tempo of the game with their defense. Their offense feeds on their defense. They tease you from three, and they beat you from five. I mean, that's what they do. They make you guard them at three so they can score at five feet. And somehow we know that we've got to find a way to guard them at both. Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith both can beat us. They scored, what, 28 and 22 last weekend? 50 points. They got 50 points. We only got 56 ourselves or something like that. I mean, come on. So you have to guard them at three. But in truth, I mean, it's the second shots, it's the offensive rebounds, it's the tipped dunks, it's the running lay-ups across the breaks that really beat you. We've got a better chance of guarding them inside of five than we do at the three. We've got the dome; maybe they don't shoot well. Maybe. The best chance we've got is to make them miss. We can't sit back and hope they miss. We've got to be aggressive with that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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