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March 14, 2008

Devan Downey

Zam Fredrick

Dave Odom


THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and begin with the two students athletes. We'll have questions just for them first.

Q. Zam, you guys did a great job on Chris Lofton throughout the game. Could you tell exactly what happened when he got that last shot and was able to get a clear look at it?
ZAM FREDRICK: On that possession, we were switching everything because they kept hitting us with the back screen for lay-ups. So we switched it twice across the top end and they hit us with a strong pick. I don't know who was supposed to step up or whose man that was, but he got a clean look and he made the shot.

Q. Could each of you describe how disappointing this was considering what type of game it was and how close you game?
ZAM FREDRICK: Of course I'm disappointed that we lost, but the effort and the courage that we showed out there today, you know, that's something for us to grow on. But there was a lot of games this year that we lost by four or less in the last minute or so of the game. So hopefully next year we'll grow and we'll be that team that's on the other end instead of losing all the games by four or less?
DEVAN DOWNEY: You know, I'm very disappointed, but like Zam said, I'm so proud of my team because the effort we showed, we're talking about a team who embarrassed us twice. I mean, that's a simple way to put it. They embarrassed us at home and they embarrassed us in Tennessee. To come out and fight like we did, man, I'm disappointed we lost, but I'm just so proud of my team because, I mean, they came with the knockout during the second half. They came with it, and when we stood strong we showed we had grown as a team.
Like he said, I'm disappointed we lost, but I have no complaints about the effort. It was 13 of 14 guys out there giving it everything they had. Nobody left anything on the floor. I'm just proud that we was able to be in the game and be in a position to win it due to the fact that they had embarrassed us twice.

Q. Devan, on your last shot that you took from three, you fell a little short. Do you think fatigue might have had anything to do with that shot?
DEVAN DOWNEY: The shot felt good. I understood we was in a double bonus, and I could have tried to get a foul, but I wanted to go for the kill. I wanted to beat them. I mean, the shot fell a little short, but it felt good, and if I had to do it again, I would take the same shot.

Q. What was the strategy coming out of the timeout with 1.1 seconds left? What were you trying to do?
DEVAN DOWNEY: They were switching everything on the inbounds so we was just trying to set two -- I was to set a screen in the reciever screen, but they switched it so good where I was not able to get outside. So we just -- Dominique was the open man, so you've got to hit the open man. We had no time outs so you've got to hit the open man. I don't know if it was a foul or a tie-up, but we was unable to get a shot up.

Q. This question is for both of you. I know you said you have no complaints about the effort, but I'm sure there were a couple things you wish you would have done different. What was the reason that Tennessee won this game?
ZAM FREDRICK: In the second half they started owning the paint, the rebounds and the back screen that led to the lay-ups, the fouls, and-ones. I felt that stretch where they kept scoring in the paint kept them in the game and gave them a lead that we had to fight back to get the lead again, so that stretch where they scored a lot of points in the paint.
DEVAN DOWNEY: I think it was probably the free-throw shooting. I'm going to say free-throw shooting. I don't know if it was fatigue, but it seemed like we could never hit two out of two. That was the only thing, one out of two or we would miss both. So I don't know if it was fatigue, but at this level right here and to beat Tennessee as good a team as they are you've got to make free throws. But yet still at the end we was in a position to win the ballgame.

Q. Having seen Tennessee three times now, can you both assess Chris Lofton, particularly you've seen him in his good and his bad, just the kind of player he is?
ZAM FREDRICK: We all know that Chris Lofton can shoot the ball from anywhere on the cross half court. Bruce would probably let him shoot it before he gets there (laughter) he's a good player, they're going to run him off of a lot of screens, and if he gets in space it's going up, and there's a 47 percent chance it's going in. You just can't give no space, and that just sets up his drive and ability to create his jump shots. I wish him luck the rest of the season and at the next level.
DEVAN DOWNEY: Like you said, Chris is a great player. He's a shooter. But I think that as a defender you'd rather have him driving. I think he can beat you in driving but he can hurt you penetrating and trying to find an open man, but he can beat you. He can beat you when you let him set his feet and get an open look. When I say set his feet, Coach Odom tells us just because you're on a man doesn't mean you're guarding him. Chris Lofton can be there and if he doesn't feel you it's just like he's in the game shooting by himself. Chris is a great player, and I wish him and his team the best.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to excuse the players at this time and we'll continue on with Coach Odom momentarily.
We'll ask Coach for some overall thoughts on the game and then go to questions.
COACH ODOM: Well, when you look at the basketball game as a whole, you had two teams that were determined to win the basketball game. I think both teams evenly felt like they could win it, and I know our team did, and I'm most certain that the UT team felt like they could win.
You know, I could be happier if we had won, but I couldn't be prouder. It was a very proud moment for me, for our staff, for our University, for our team. I think for this conference, for the Southeastern Conference, I think it was a proud moment. And again, I don't make light of the fact that we did not win.
As I said, I could be happier had we won, but I don't know that I could be any prouder.
You know, the game offered whatever you wanted. I mean, there were spectacular plays, there were answers by each team, on occasion there was decent defense. I don't know that it was the greatest defensive game I've ever been in. But I think defensively both teams played well at times. Both teams played unafraid. Surprisingly, both teams got to the other's basket almost at will.
I think really when you look at it, that was probably the difference in the game. As I said yesterday when we were talking about Tennessee, they tease you from three and they beat you from five. Well, today they beat us from two. I mean, the number of lay-ups that they got off their back screens, we just never negotiated that. And I would really say the one day of non-preparation hurt us in that. I think we would have done better had we had one day of practice to -- because that's a different technique than we saw yesterday with LSU. It's decidedly different. They do it with different people, different sizes, causes different -- a different approach, and we didn't have enough time to really get that done.
I wished I had not been so prophetic in terms of tease us from three and beat us from two. I know people are going to say they beat you from three, Lofton hit the three to beat you. Maybe they did, I'll give you that one, but the game wasn't won there. The game was won with Tyler Smith getting to the basket, Chism getting to the basket, with Brian Williams' four for four getting to the basket. That's where the game was won.
And then I heard Bob Knight, by the way, who I think is very good on his deal there as a surrogate media person, I heard him say the other day that he felt that some games were won and others were lost. I think Tennessee won the game today, and I think we lost it, and not just the way -- 89-87 or whatever it was. We lost it at the free-throw line, and they won it from two. You give them credit, a lot of credit.
But had we been able to shoot better from the free-throw line, we might have won it instead of lost it. I think that's a good way to put it. So with that, I'll open it up to questions.

Q. On the basket that Lofton made, the three, what was your defensive plan on that play going into it?
COACH ODOM: Well, you know, we toyed with two defenses. I chose just to stay straight man-to-man because I felt that there would be more responsibility, more accountability on a play like that. And to be quite honest with you, they set a road-block screen. Legal, legal, nothing illegal about it, don't want anybody to feel that. I mean, that was the kind of -- as important as the shot was, the screen made it happen, and it put it in the best three-point shooter in the history of this league's hands, and he delivered like he has so many times.
You know, what we wanted to do, obviously the plan was to switch all screens. Our big guys didn't see that one coming. They should have switched out on it. They didn't see it. There was no way -- I think Zam Frederick was guarding Lofton at the time, and there was absolutely no way he could get through that. But our big guys didn't see it because it came from behind -- he came from behind, and they should have switched out there and hopefully kept the ball out of his hands. They didn't do it, and again, he had a stone-cold open look at it. That brings misery to the Gamecocks as he's done so many times.

Q. You said you felt you lost -- you lost the game with free throws, but earlier you mentioned it wasn't the greatest defense. What do you think was the biggest detriment to your team today, poor inside defense or faulty free throws?
COACH ODOM: The inside defense I think was horrendous at times, but the other thing that hurt us badly, I think, was transition defense in the first half. That really hurt us. There were a couple of times that we penetrated to the basket, took a shot, missed it, and then they came back on us on the other end. If you're going to be an attacking team, you've got to cover yourself on your flank, your backside, and we didn't do that. So I think those two things really hurt us.

Q. One other thing about that last play, we've been talking all season about which Tennessee guy is the first guy in line to try to contain. I'm wondering on that last play how you try to prioritize, let's try to take this away or that away.
COACH ODOM: Well, obviously we talked about Lofton. One of the defenses that we were going to use or that I was thinking we'd use -- considering, not thinking, we had been messing the last two days with a box and one. I thought about that, but then I looked out there, JaJuan Smith scared the heck out of me, and they had been getting to the basket with that thing on the cuts. It wasn't like they were pinched for time. I mean, they had 16 seconds on the clock, and that's plenty of time to get the ball in and move people around.
I didn't like the odds of that, and so I stayed with the man there because I really felt that the shot would come quickly and that we would have enough time to get a shot off if they made something of their possession, which they did. So thus I made the decision to stay with the man there.
You know, when you look at it, to me the priorities are Lofton and Tyler Smith. With JaJuan Smith as an offset shooter who can certainly do damage. I mean, there's no question about that. I talked to our team about offensive rebounds and everything else, too, if they would miss that shot we have to go get the board because they are easily the best offensive rebounding team in the league.

Q. You've seen the SEC conference teams two or three times. What are your favorites to come out of this tournament alive, so to speak?
COACH ODOM: I said it yesterday. You weren't here, were you? Tennessee is the odds-on favorite. They're close to a double digit favorite over anybody they play. Today will help them. They were scared today -- not scared. I mean, they were not scared, please scratch that. They were close to losing today, and that will get their attention, and they will be more difficult to beat tomorrow no matter who they play, believe me. They're the odds-on favorite to win. That does not mean they'll win the tournament. That doesn't mean somebody else can't win the tournament, but clearly they are the favorite. They've proven that now over 17 games for them. They're 15 and 2 in this league counting that one game today. They've got great personnel, they're expertly coached, they've got great backing out there. The UT orange today pulled a UK blue. I mean, they were in the eyesight of everybody today. They bought tickets and they got in there, and again, commend the Tennessee people for that. I was thinking we'd have a little more of an advantage today. I didn't see too many schools pulling for -- I didn't think that they would be pulling for Tennessee because they don't want to play them. I thought we would have had a little more support today. But I under estimated the wallets of the Tennessee people. They went out and bought tickets, much like Wildcats usually do. Wildcats had better get in line if they're able to buy tickets. You may want to put that in your paper because the biggest competition is who can get the biggest ticket bought between UT and UK if they end up playing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We wish you the very best.

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