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March 14, 2008

Gary Ervin

John Pelphrey

Charles Thomas

Darian Townes


THE MODERATOR: We'll ask Coach Pelphrey for some overall thoughts on the game, then we'll take your questions just for the three student athletes and then we'll excuse them to the locker room and then finish up with Coach.
COACH PELPHREY: First of all, I think we're very fortunate to have won the basketball game. We have tremendous respect for Vanderbilt and Coach Pelphrey. Shan Foster, very, very deserving of player of the year. Ogilvy, all his accolades, two tremendous players, and Coach Pelphrey is one of the better guys in our league and proved that when he won the coach-of-the-year award a couple years ago.
We did have our hands full. Really good players and a very good team.
I'm proud of our guys. I thought outside of fouling way too much in the first half, I thought we played pretty good basketball, and it was team basketball. We were able to take care of it, keep our turnovers down, had five guys in double figures, and when certain guys had to go off the floor, other guys stepped up. I thought Stefan Welsh gave us a huge lift, I thought Charles Rhodes was big for us, Gary stepped up, Darian had a big game for us offensively, it was good to get Steve back on the floor in the second half, makes our defense a lot different.
So proud of our team effort. Down the stretch, we really executed press offense every single time and made our free throws. So that was good. Very good team effort. We knew it had to be because of our respect for Vanderbilt.

Q. Gary, Coach Pelphrey said that you guys seem to play with a confidence against Vanderbilt that maybe he didn't see on tape, I guess, when you guys play other folks. Can you just talk about your approach against Vanderbilt? Do you feel like you guys are in their heads at this point?
GARY ERVIN: Not at all. It's just we wanted to come out with a sense of urgency to win a basketball game. That was the only thing that was on our minds. This is just something we wish we could have done throughout the whole day, to play smart basketball and play with that intensity and that urgency to win basketball games.

Q. This is for all three guys. You guys may have been in before today, but this pretty much puts you in for sure, the NCAA Tournament. Talk about winning a game like this that clinches that.
GARY ERVIN: You know, going into today's game, that's something that we wasn't worried about. We didn't come here to worry about the NCAA Tournament, we came down here to win ballgames, an that's something we wanted to do. To get to the championship game, hopefully, that's something we've been talking about doing throughout the season. We missed winning the Eastern Conference -- the Southeastern Conference championship or western division championship, and we just wanted to come out and play.
CHARLES THOMAS: Echoing what Gary said, it's one of those things where we wanted to come out here and take care of business, no matter what's going to happen, we were going to come out here and play hard every night, and that's one of the things we wanted to do coming into the tournament.
DARIAN TOWNES: We're not worrying about what people are saying on television. We come here for one thing, to win the whole thing. We got past one. The first game is always tough, and we've got another one tomorrow against Tennessee.

Q. Just for any of you who want to answer, a lot of times when you get a new coach and a new system and things change it takes some time and teams don't do it very well and very quickly. Can you talk about what it's taken for you to get back to this point with a new coach and what he did to ease that transition?
GARY ERVIN: It's all about, you know, buying into the system. I don't think our coaching staff got this job just by mistake. They're professionals at what they do, and they did a great job of taking us and helping us to become a better team and a better person. That's just the biggest thing, just to buy into what our coaching staff has taught us. By doing that, we'll be winning some ballgames. That's just the biggest thing.
CHARLES THOMAS: I agree with Gary (laughter).

Q. Darian, you obviously had a good offensive game, had several good offensive games. Can you talk about how your teammates are getting you the ball in good positions to score and how that's been key in your offense?
DARIAN TOWNES: I'm just posting up real strong, make sure they see my number and I'm holding the guy in the back and I'm moving my feet and the guards are delivering the ball to me, and I'm going to do one thing, to score.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse the student athletes back to the locker room.

Q. 21 more rebounds than Vanderbilt, 22 offensive rebounds, you got more loose balls than they did. That's the toughness you've been talking about, just the kinds of things you've been talking about. How gratifying was it to see that performance?
COACH PELPHREY: You know, we've had a tough time at times this year, especially on the road, being tough when we needed to be tough. Tonight I thought we were. Loose balls, we got some offensive rebounds, converted some shots when we needed to, Steven Hill going against a great player inside, getting it done, limiting Foster, even attempts, and then down the stretch to be tough enough to execute press offense, knowing they're going to grab hold and there's no way you can call them all, and to be big-bodied, strong-based, pivot, face-up handle traps, not worry about it, knowing you're going to get hit, just split it, advance the ball and have the toughness to make free throws, yeah, it would be nice if we could duplicate some of those things. It was nice to see those guys do it. We tend to do that, but Walton -- today it showed up when we needed it to because it was not easy.
The thing, too, when you look at this thing, what happened with Sonny only got three points. So that's big. That's big for other guys to be able to kind of concentrate, understand what's going on and make the right plays over and over.

Q. Turning to tomorrow, what do you take out of your first game with Tennessee, and is it even relevant to a rematch at this time of the year on a neutral court?
COACH PELPHREY: I think Tennessee is awesome. Yeah, we'd like to go at JaJuan Smith maybe a little better. He was spectacular. They've got two guys at every spot. Tyler Smith is awesome. Chism and Crews have made great progress, got the coach of the year. Nobody has a Lofton and Smith. They just stretch you and put as much pressure on you as other guys. I think we need to play better together as a basketball team. We can't just have Sonny playing. From what I remember, I don't know if Pat had a very good game, I don't think Charles was very good. We need some of this where everybody is contributing and getting into it, but we know how tall the order is. Tennessee is awesome, they're probably No. 1 seed, to be four or five team in the country, and we're excited to have a chance to play them.

Q. You talked about two different things; one, the importance of what Walsh gave you offensively in the first half, and two, you had gone a long stretch without a three-pointer and Gary got one to go down the second half.
COACH PELPHREY: Stef was tremendous. I think Stephen Walsh has really made a lot of progress. We're getting close the last two or three weeks. His attitude has been terrific. He's been a team player, taking coaching. I tell these guys all the time if you listen and take coaching and have a good attitude, and be a good teammate, you'll be surprised how well you're going to end up playing. It's not a surprise that Sonny Williams whose our most coachable guy had tremendous success individually, so I'm very proud of Stef. That was huge.
You know, the other thing is that Beverly popped his jaw out tonight. He played the last, I don't know how long it was, but when he got hit in the head, his jaw got dislocated again and he did not want to come out of the game. There's some desire and some understanding and concentration that was very good tonight. Our challenge is going to be able to do it tomorrow.

Q. Pretty much clinching that same bid, I know you guys want to keep winning, but talk about beating Vanderbilt again, and knowing your team is in, there's no doubt now.
COACH PELPHREY: You know I don't have a crystal ball. I'm going to give you that same old coach speak. I don't have a crystal ball. I'll be doing my team a disservice if I focus on anything other than trying to get them prepared for the next game. Being a kid who's from the Southeastern Conference, I've had a chance to play and coach in, I'm very, very excited about being here and having a chance to stay alive. This is good.

Q. To struggle at the free-throw line early and then make 11 down the stretch, I know that's kind of crazy to think about --
COACH PELPHREY: Yeah, I'm just happy for those guys, because if you don't do that, you know, Sonny said something at time-out, he said, I know you guys don't want to go home. There was about 3:20 on the clock. Pat is over there mumbling something and I have no idea what he was mumbling, but he was mumbling, and he won't come out of the game. Darian was very, very focused. It was good to have Steve back on the floor, and Gary. Those guys, that's what they need to do.
Hopefully we can find a way to get that done again tomorrow.

Q. Can you talk about the way you guys kept the ball away from Foster, kept him from shooting the ball, and then also the job you guys did on Ogilvy in the second half?
COACH PELPHREY: First half, you know, we struggled. He's tremendous now with his -- he's got a gift. He and Patterson. I don't know if I've seen two young guys with just a knack for posting up. Both those kids are very well coached, but they just do a great job of getting touches. And then Vanderbilt moves the ball with speed and precision inside, and it's just hard. He's too good. First half we just could not keep him from catching lay-ups. Steven is a little bit different animal himself because of his size and agility and strength but Steve didn't play the first half. That was the biggest thing in the second half, that and probably a little bit more zone, although we played some zone down the stretch in the first half, as well, but probably the biggest thing was Steve.
Foster, you know, gosh, just watch him on film. Some of the performances, knowing how he closed the game in Fayetteville, he just scares you to death. Yesterday watching him play, I think they had 27 assists in the game. It's always a catch-and-shoot, and it's just something special. Coach Pelphrey does a great job coaching him. We just talked about whatever he's doing, man, just to be standing in front of Shan Foster is not enough. You've got to find a way to make him bounce it. Sonny has got great size, Pat's got great heart and determination. I thought Stef and Gary, when they were there they had a sense of urgency with it. A little surprised we were able to limit him to ten shots, but at times we were able to turn him into a driver and passer.
We wanted somebody else from Vanderbilt to shoot the ball besides Foster and Ogilvy.

Q. Throughout Gary's career he's been a guy that's really blown hot and cold and a lot of times plays at a speed too fast or takes a bad shot. Last five of six you put it in his hands and he brought you through. Talk about his maturity.
COACH PELPHREY: He made a huge three-point shot there. Gary has made some plays for us on the clock. He made one at the half. He's been known to kick in a three here or make a tough shot. Certainly I've challenged him to stop going inside and keep getting hung up. At five-foot nothing that's not the best thing for you, making post moves, but if you get up there and bounce off your feet and get to the guy before he gets to you, that's okay. He's turning down three-point shots early in the clock, and obviously at the end we needed him to make plays and he made them. He made some free throws. That's what a point guard needs to do, he needs to handle traps, break it open, handle pressure, get him fouled, don't worry about it, and then you get your chance to step up there and put team in a situation where you've got a little bit of a cushion because you've got a chance to make free throws, do it.
Position was my biggest concern coming into the season. I don't think it's any different than probably any other basketball team, just the way it is with that spot. It's like the quarter back. I think if Gary and Stef could continue to give us solid play there with that, we'll have chances. We can't go much longer, though, with Sonny and his streak of not reaching double figures. We've got to get him back, and we will. But those guys, performing at that level, helps when Gary Ervin and Stephen Walsh play well.

Q. How much difference is there in this team when you get the kind of toughness that we talked about earlier as opposed to when you're not getting those loose balls, you're not getting those rebounds, the guys aren't on the floor?
COACH PELPHREY: I just think, you know, that in this league there's a lot of good players and there's a lot of good coaches, and it's going to come down to that type of stuff. You know, who's tougher -- I hate this term, but who wants it more, but kinda, sorta, that kind of rings true. I think it's hard at this age to recognize that as the game is going on, to be able to seize that moment. It's easy to go back and look at it and say, that was a big play, that was a big possession, just like when you're going through a season, you just don't know what game it is that can hurt you down the road. Oh, I wish we had that one back.
I think as you go on, you get experience at those things and that really, really helps players. I don't know if we recognized that tonight. But yeah, tonight was positive for us. I felt like when it got tough, we were able to make some toughness plays. That hasn't always been the case. I'll be anxious to see how it turns out again tomorrow.

Q. Obviously if you look at the stats in the paint scoring and off of rebounds you guys creamed them inside, and Charles Thompson looks like he's back among the living the last couple games. Talk about Charles Rhodes looking like he can still play a little bit.
COACH PELPHREY: Yeah, we had a terrible run there with opposing power forwards going against us. It started in Tennessee, I'm not sure, with guys getting double-doubles. You know, that spot was -- we don't expect to lose in the front court. Worst case we should break even with our guys. So it's good to have him back. Obviously those guys competed at a very high level tonight when you look at Vincent and Charles and Michael Washington. Michael has five rebounds in four minutes, man, that's -- you get your chance, you're doing some things. Yeah, it is good to have him back among the living. I thought his concentration was better. He looked like he was able to recognize plays and seeing high-lows, when to drive, when not to drive. I thought he did a very good job of a big, strong base down in the post and making strong moves as opposed to the seizures sometimes we see him have with the basketball (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We'll end on that note.

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