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March 14, 2008

Jamar Butler

Kosta Koufos

Thad Matta


THE MODERATOR: Coach, we'd like you to make a couple quick opening comments, then we'll take questions for the players and then finish up with you.
COACH MATTA: I think obviously hard-fought game. Michigan State made some huge plays down the stretch. I thought our defense was off the charts there to start the second half.
And, you know, they got us from the foul line and Neitzel came out firing and made some huge shots, the 3 there late when we cut it to two, we were in scramble mode and he shot it from about 25 feet. I mean, that was probably the back-breaker for us.
But they were a very good basketball team, and I felt like going in at halftime we were in the position that we wanted to be and came out and got a quick layup to start the second half then we hit a little bit of a slide there offensively. We were struggling to get a bucket, which is a credit to their defense.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either of the Ohio State players now.

Q. Kosta, can you talk about the sequence where you got the offensive foul then a couple more quick fouls, things just started going against you guys a little bit there. Was it hard to bounce back from that at all?
KOSTA KOUFOS: I just wanted to play hard through that. You know the referees know better than I do with the calls. And I just wanted to play through it. Had great teammates to pick me up. And not much to be said about it.

Q. Jamar, do you think this is an NAC tournament team?
JAMAR BUTLER: I think so. I think we've shown this past week with the two teams we beat with Michigan State being one of them and Purdue the other one, the kind of ball we're playing right now I have to say we are.

Q. What will it be like the next couple of days, Jamar, as you're waiting until Sunday knowing that it's out of your hands now waiting for Selection Sunday?
JAMAR BUTLER: Try to make it like any other day. Pretty sure we're going to look at film of this game and go about everything like we normally always do. Next time we practice, go back on the court and go back to work.

Q. Jamar, looks like you guys are obviously playing a lot better. Does it bother you a little bit that you're in this position now where if you had played a little better a little sooner you might not be waiting like this? You look like right now you're a tournament team, but maybe that's -- what happened before that might cost you.
JAMAR BUTLER: I really don't look back on things and say if and, I mean, we're here now. It is what it is. And I don't know how to even do the selection committee. I don't know how they put teams in. But I think we're one of the top 65 teams in the country.

Q. Jamar, can you talk about the intensity of the game? It felt like almost every possession for both teams, there were very few easy shots, just seemed like everybody was in each other's face the whole game?
JAMAR BUTLER: It was very physical out there. It was a battle. This is a typical Big Ten game. And we knew what it was going to be like coming in. It was tough out there. I'm sure we'll be sore tomorrow, some bumps and bruises.

Q. Kosta, this is the second game in a row where you didn't start the game but when you got in the game immediately made an impact, 13 points in the first half. Just talk about maybe that changing role, not if it's permanent or anything, but that difference for you coming off the bench and the way you responded to it?
KOSTA KOUFOS: Of course, Matta knows best. He runs the team well. I want to come in and provide a presence off the bench. God blessed me with wonderful teammates and wonderful talent, and I just want to play wonderful for 40 minutes.

Q. Jamar, can you talk about your 3 at the end of the first half, the play you guys set up and what it was like to hit that and go into halftime tied?
JAMAR BUTLER: I think it was a great play that Coach drew up on the board. And I think that gave us a little bit of momentum going in, to start the second half. And we started off good, easy layup, and seemed like every loose ball just fell into their hands and Neitzel hit a big 3.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up with questions for Coach Matta now.

Q. Coach, can you talk about Michigan State's ability to deal with the press Sunday, made a big difference, and today it seemed like they were able to deal with it?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I think one of the big -- the two times we played Michigan State and the press was very effective in the second half. And we talked about taking it off in the second half from the standpoint of we felt like we were getting fouled. I think the big difference they looked at today, what they did, is they looked to attack more once they got it down. Sunday at our place they were resetting and the shot clock a lot of times was at like 15 seconds. Give them credit.
But we like the fact that they were speeding up because we wanted to try to get it up and down a little bit more. And so they did obviously a better job of taking care of the ball.

Q. Kind of what I asked Jamar before, looks like you're playing a lot better right now. Is it tough for you? Looks like right now if you base this on the last week or so you guys are definitely a tournament team. But do you feel kind of, I don't know, a little concerned because you didn't start a little sooner?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I think -- you know you hope they take this into consideration. You know, we went 35 and 4 last year, played for the national championship. And had one guy who was a player -- Othello, David and Matt had a role on that team last year. Some games it was more, but no guy played over 20 minutes a game.
As you look at this team and I think the one thing we did is we went out and we played one hell of a schedule. I think in the RPI we've played one, two, whatever, I don't know.
And I don't think when you have as many new guys as we have this year, people, like you lose, people complain about it the next morning. Then they're on to the next thing. Well, a team, when you're as young as we are, you hang onto that. You ride emotional confidence. You ride a roller coaster. And this team has been that way and I think it's been obvious.
Now, with that said, they talk about playing a tough schedule early. We did that. They talk about getting better. And I don't think, without a doubt, this team has shown it has gotten a lot better. What, five of our last six games have been against top 15 or, I don't know the rankings, top 20 teams.
I hope that they look at that and say we talk about tough schedule. We talk about -- there's not too many teams that have played a schedule like we've played with the lack of experience.
So as you watch this team grow, as you watch this team get better, I think we're an NAC tournament team without question.

Q. Thad, when Neitzel was in here he said that was the best he's felt offensively this year. Izzo said he hit some shots that he's been missing this year. To be on the other end of maybe the old Drew Neitzel, do you feel a little snake bit at all?
COACH MATTA: Yes, I'd like a get well card. Like I think with Drew, from last year, the two games he had against us, we knew he was very capable. And I thought what I had seen on tape he was probably more aggressive hunting shots today than what I had seen a lot of this year. And the other day he hits his first two 3s and backed off a little bit. I think he had nine shots in that game. He had 10 at halftime today.
And he had that look that like, hey, I want to take the big shot today. And fortunately for them, unfortunately for us, they were going in.

Q. The sequence, Coach, early in I think the 13 minutes left. You got five fouls called on you in 42 seconds and it went from a tie game to a five-point game. Can you comment on how seemingly that was, because seemed like it was a up hill battle after that?
COACH MATTA: We never fully recovered, to be honest. Because like I said I felt like we were playing hard. I felt like we were playing great defense. And Kosta just lowered his shoulder and bulldozed Naymick over on that drive. And that kind of got it going there a little bit.
And then the rebounding started and we never got it back completely.

Q. With what you just said about whether you're an NAC tournament team, will you try to spend the next two days trying to make your case? I mean, if anybody in that room would have a chance to be listening, will you try and do what you can? Because you seem to be very passionate with what you guys did. You haven't wanted to talk about it all year, for good reason. Now that you're here, do you want people to know that you think you should be in the tournament?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, but I don't think I can probably get to the right people. My wife doesn't even listen to me half the time. Yeah, I would love to walk over across the boardwalk there and knock on the door and say, hey, I've got a couple of things I'd like to say.
I don't know -- I feel strongly about it for, in my opinion, and obviously I'm going to be a tad bit biased in my beliefs, but I do think that with the strides that this basketball team has made from where we started to where we finished, in my opinion I think we're a team worthy of being in the tournament.

Q. Asked Jamar this earlier but the intensity of the game, courtside it felt like a very intense game. Could you sense it? What was it like?
COACH MATTA: I felt the same way. I think that you had two very good basketball teams banging and you play 20 hard minutes and you go in and it's tied. It's amazing how that -- I was happy and proud of our guys for the intensity of staying with it and battling, and it was rough. It was physical. There was no open cuts. I mean, guys were banging, and it's the way -- that's the way this game should be a 4-5 game.

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