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March 20, 2008
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
THE MODERATOR: With us from Austin Peay,, Drake Reed, Derek Wright, Todd Babington. Question and comments for the players.
Q. I'll direct this to Drake. You're facing a team, especially with Damion Jones that's done a lost damage in rebounding on the boards. I know you guys kind of have a smaller team by comparison.
How do you plan to minimize what they do against you in the paint?
DRAKE REED: Well, we just have to, you know, make it a priority to continue to block out every possession and slow down some guard penetration and our guards help us out on the boards a lot. We know that's an area we need to cover if we want to win this game, and we're going to try to address that.
Q. Todd, I'll direct this to you. You had a good -- you had a real good shooting performance from beyond the arc in the OVC Championship games now some time has passed. In your mind how important is it going to be to maybe continue that if you're going to keep up with this team?
TODD BABINGTON: I guess kind of goes on, if I can get some confidence going early, I seem to get that in the OVC Tournament game when I made a couple shots and everything. I just continued to have that the rest of the game. So hopefully if I can get a couple open looks early in the game, then maybe I can continue that throughout the rest of the game.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions and comments?
Q. Hi again. This is curious for any of the three of you. There is a precedent I think as recently as 2001 of a 15 seed knocking off a two seed. Has Coach Loos at all mentioned that to you, maybe showing you the some of the film from the Hampton Iowa state game or brought that up at all this past week?
DRAKE REED: I mean, of course, he's mentioned it because we're not just here for the festivities. We're hear here to win the basketball game. He's shown us the Austin Peay film against Illinois when Austin Peay beat Illinois back in the '80s on a couple free throws. So that was a nice inspirational tape to watch, and we had a great practice afterwards.
THE MODERATOR: Question in the back.
Q. Just when you watch film of Texas, what was something that stood out to you the most as far as just maybe their biggest strength, and then what do you think is their weakness that you like to put to the test?
DEREK WRIGHT: They're the number two seed for a reason. They prove they don't have too many weaknesses and they can play with the best of the teams in the country.
We just going to have to go out and continue to play our basketball, be confident and have faith in one another that we can win the basketball game.
Q. Todd, how do you guys approach this game mentally as an underdog?
TODD BABINGTON: I guess mentally, I guess, you know, you're looking at a 15/2 seed. There hasn't been too many upsets there. Looking at it, I guess we're not really expected to do so much. So I guess we can kind of go out there and play, play loose and just have a good time and just play our basketball. Maybe anything can happen.
Q. Known as a physical player, Drake, and former football player. What position did you play, and when did you quit?
DRAKE REED: I played football my sophomore and junior year of high school. I've been playing -- I played for awhile as a kid, and I stopped playing my senior year, but I played wide receiver.
Q. Question for DJ. Talk about playing against Texas's big, 6-7, 6-10, 6-7. You guys have been undersized all year. Talk about playing against a guard like Augustine who is one of the best in the nation.
DRAKE REED: Playing against 6-7, 6-8,, that's pretty much what we've been doing all season long. I'm not sure we played anyone that we weren't outsized. We've been pretty successful so far. Hopefully we can continue that.
DEREK WRIGHT: One of them is an All-American in J.D. August. I think we believe when we go out on the court that we're capable of playing against and guarding anyone in this country, and we're not here just because we're in the Ohio Valley Conference. We're here because we won and able to get here. Those guys are good, and we're just going to have to go out there and play.
TODD BABINGTON: I guess going along with what DJ said, they got some great guards. They got great guards. It's really going to be a team test of defense. I guess we're going to have to limit their turnovers in the paint, and we can make them take contested jump shots and hopefully anything can happen after that.
Q. Drake, since y'all started studying Texas, is there a player that you didn't know about who now you're really interested to see on the floor who really stood out to you in?
DRAKE REED: Well, you know, we watched the film. I definitely pay attention to the guys I will be guarding, and Atchley is definitely a player that I noticed. Throughout the media coverage you hear about a lot about A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin and James as well, but he's definitely a terrific player and as well as some others on their team. We just have to go out like we said earlier and just continue to play hard and have our team chemistry will carry us throughout the game.
Q. Drake, I thought I read that maybe you were overlooked in recruiting. Do you know why, and did any of the bigger schools or both mid major level?
DRAKE REED: There were really about five major programs that looked at me for basketball, and I was pretty much overlooked because I wasn't super athletic like most -- a six-four guy coming out of high school (Mark), I wasn't a very good jumper, very fast player, but that's probably why I was overlooked.
Q. Talk about what you guys have done defensively and how that chemistry has developed with you guys defensively the last five games, you've held opponents to about 40 percent shooting or less. You've doubled up on turnovers, things like that.
TODD BABINGTON: We've played good team defense. We've taken it to heart and all played really well together as a team, and along with our team defense, we got individual guys like Kyle Duncan and Wes Channels that have taken on the role of stopping the opponent's best player. They've really taken that to heart, and along with them and with us as a team unit, we put five guys on the floor, and we try to just play good team defense, team rebounding.
DRAKE REED: That's what makes us go is our team defense. You know, teams look at us and wonder how we're successful with being undersized and the camaraderie of our team, our team chemistry, we feel like is one of the best in the country, and that's what help helps us to win games. We have five, six guys around double figures and we have seven, eight guys who can come in and produce offensively as well as defensively, and we proved that throughout the course of the season and, you know, when we fall on hard times, we just lean on each other.
Q. Just any two of you. I'd like to -- you played Memphis, been a long time. How does Memphis and their athletic ability and overall skill level compare to Texas, what you've seen on tape?
TODD BABINGTON: I mean, you know, big time programs like that, they're all very athletic and they got some big players, but I mean, as far as Memphis goes, I don't know. I think they're one of the most athletic teams in the country, but Texas has definitely got some athletes on their team, and we've watched them on tape and very athletic.
DEREK WRIGHT: Memphis, they're amazing, man. From Derrick Rose to Chris Douglas-Roberts. They just have a great program, and I mean, when you talk about those guys, they're the number one seed in this tournament, and I think they have a couple of comparisons in D.J. Augustin and Derrick Rose. But I think that Joey Dorsey, their big man inside is -- I think he just has it in his head that he doesn't have to score, and he's just going to go out there and defend and get on the boards and just help his team win. I think that's what Texas lacks from that category.
Q. Drake, you guys could have gone a bunch of different directions after a triple overtime loss and you won 11 of 12 from there down the stretch. Did that spark you guys in any way?
DRAKE REED: Well, this year I can say we peaked at the right time. You know, I believe last year we peaked a little early, and I don't know about the triple overtime loss being what brought us together, but somewhere along the line, we just clicked, and that was the most probably intense game we had all year, you know. It was a rollercoaster like no other. I don't know if anyone in the country has had a game like that this year. It was pretty wild.
You know, it was definitely a seesaw, but that was probably the week that we did come together, that week, not just that particular game, but that was our toughest road stretch. I remember we had five games over ten days, and we got hammered by Samford that week. We lost to SEMO. That's the week where it kind of changed for us. We knew we had to bring a certain amount of intensity to win some games.
Q. Just simply, it's probably already been asked. You guys are the OVC champions with an RPI ranked 30. Texas was regular season champions, Big 12 Tournament runner-ups. Why are you guys even here? Why are you playing this game? Theoretically you guys are already out the door.
DRAKE REED: Well, we know what the voters say. We're 99-1, I believe. So this is why we play the games, I guess, you know, it's March and anything -- something crazy happens every year, and we just hope that we can be the crazy team this year.
TODD BABINGTON: I guess just going along with what Drake said. They don't call it March Madness for nothing. You never know what can happen.
Q. Derek, Drake said when he was coming out of high school, he wasn't the best jumper and fastest guy around. What makes him so good, then? He's undersized, at least in height for playing inside.
DEREK WRIGHT: His heart. He plays with a lot of emotion. His work ethic and his heart just -- I think that he's one of the most hard working players that I've ever played with, and I've played with some pretty good guys. He just has a mindset that he's going to go out and get the job done, and I think that's what makes him a good player.
Q. I came in late. I don't know if you've been asked this already. How have y'all -- you don't really have a true big man. How have y'all been able to overcome that lack of height all season long, and how much do you think it's going to work against you these next couple days?
DRAKE REED: Well, our team, you know, even though we're undersized, we don't have a dominant big man as many people pointed out. We're just a great team. We just come together, and whether it's our guards have to get a couple more rebounds, you know -- you know, whatever. We have to cause a few more turnovers per game. Our defense is kind of what offsets most things, most big men. We played against dominant big men before a,nd we've had success against a few of them and not so good against the others. But when -- we've been outsized every game for the last two seasons and we've come -- we're used to winning games that way.
THE MODERATOR: Drake, Derek, Todd. Thank you guys very much. Appreciate you being here.
We welcome to the microphone, Austin Peay coach, Dave Loos. Coach, opening comment from you, and then we'll open things up for questions and answers.
COACH LOOS: Good morning. We're obviously honored to be here. We knew going in that we would draw one of the premiere basketball teams in the country. Texas is certainly one of those. We understand the challenge that faces us. We've got a veteran group of guys who have been down the road. Until now they did not have an NCAA Tournament on their resume, but they're excited and we're going to give it our best shot.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Coach, could you tell me what you might have seen in Drake, recruiting him that others missed and what makes him so good at his size?
COACH LOOS: His work habits, I think, is a big thing. He's a tireless worker, a guy that is constantly looking for ways to improve his game, you know, and he has stretched his game since he came to us. I think work habits and work ethic are real strengths.
Q. What did he stretch?
COACH LOOS: You know, he can play away from the basket. He's learned how to -- even though he's a little undersized at his position, he's learned to play against bigger people and he's learned to -- he understands what it takes to, you know, to be successful against bigger inside people.
Q. Just talk about the aspect with this basketball team completely undersized, but it's your defense that has really gotten you guys going especially the last six games.
You've held opponents to about 40 percent shooting, and you're doubling them up on turnovers, and scoring off of turnovers.
COACH LOOS: At my time at Austin Peay we've hung our hat on defense. That was a particular strength of ours through the first two-thirds of the season. We did a lot of talking about it, but really weren't playing that well on that end. Over the last third of the season, I thought our defense has really come alive, picked it up, made it more of a priority. We're playing very well on that end right now, as you know.
It's also created some scoring opportunities for us. We've got some transition baskets. We haven't had to hammer everything out in the half court, which has been real important to us because we're a little undersized.
Q. This is kind of in line with the last question. How have y'all been able to overcome that lack of size the last couple years? Seems like you really don't have a true big man, so to speak.
COACH LOOS: We have created some mismatches, actually, with Fernandez Locket and Drake Reed and Ernest Fields. Those guys have been able to take some big guys away from the basket, and, you know, that's created some mismatches from our side now.
On the defensive end we've had to get some help. We've really had to use some quickness in the post to defend against big people, but we really worried about our size disadvantage, but it is, in fact, you know, worked the other way for us on many occasions.
Q. Some of your players were talking about how Texas might compare to Memphis. Having played Memphis, can you just answer that question yourself.
COACH LOOS: Well, you know, we intentionally schedule people like that in the pre-conference season so that -- actually for two reasons; to help expose our weaknesses and teams like Memphis will do that so that going into the conference season, you know exactly who are you and what you are and what you need to do better.
The other thing it does, I think it prepares us to some extent for a challenge like this. You know, Memphis and Texas are two of the better teams in the country, so it's not like we haven't been there.
You know, we've seen teams with great size, depth, ability, skill. So I think that will serve us well tomorrow.
Q. Your guards have kind of lived a little bit off what you've done defensively. Talk about how the guards have kind of picked things up.
COACH LOOS: Well, Todd Babington, of course is a guy that, you know, you have to play honest. He's a terrific three shooter when it's catch and shoot. DJ Wright has really improved as a point guard over his time there. I have complete confidence in him. Wes Channels is a guy that's made some big shots and Duncan.
You know, I remember at one point in his career I had everybody in the dressing room. I said, "I want you to write down something that I don't know about you." And Duncan's response was, "I shoot better than you think I do." (Laughter.)
He was right. He does. He's been a guy that's really been good for us in terms of the three-point area.
Q. Coach, you were asked about guards. I wanted to get your impressions of D.J. Augustin.
COACH LOOS: Well, I haven't slept much lately is the first thing I will say. I continually hear Coach Knight talk about Augustin being toughest guard in the country. That makes you worry a little bit. He's a terrific player. I think he's a guy that can raise up and shoot it. He's a guy that can get in your defense. It's almost impossible for one guy to keep him in front of you as a defender. You've got to get a lot of help. Extremely good at using the ball screen.
When they screen and rescreen for him, it causes a coach to have nightmares actually. So he's one of the best, and we will certainly have our hands full.
Q. Anything particularly about Texas's style of play? Have you played many teams that use their style of play? Do you see any weakness in their play?
COACH LOOS: I said this morning, the only weakness I see is that Kevin Durant is not there anymore. I'm happy about that. You know, they're a team that I think has terrific perimeter abilities. They're willing to let it go about anytime, you know. There's so much talk about Augustin. Both their guards are great. Abrams can really shoot it. Augustin we've talked about. James is a great rebounder. They've got all the pieces, I think. Atchley is an exception TPHAL mobile big guy.
Q. Coach I asked the players this: You guys are the OVC Champion. Low RPI. Texas Tournament runner-up. Theoretically you guys aren't even supposed to step on the floor and play the game tomorrow.
COACH LOOS: I saw 99 percent of the voters said we're going to lose. Crazy things happen in the NCAA Tournament. They've happened before, and they'll happen again before this tournament is over, and you never know. We showed our team parts of a tape from 1987 when Austin Peay beat Illinois. Austin Peay was a 14 seed and Illinois was a 3.
So, you know, you never know. They're going to get our best shot is all I can assure you of. We've got a good group of guys who are very focused and they will play hard.
Q. Being the athletic director as well, how difficult has this week been, and are you able to at least delegate some of the responsibilities?
COACH LOOS: It has not been difficult. It's been fun. It's because I've got great people that I work with, one of whom is sitting next to you there, our assistant athletic director, Cheryl Holt, has kind taken over the administative duties for me, and I've had very few distractions from that standpoint.
It's been fun. It's been almost two weeks since we've played a game. That's a concern of mine. We've gotten terrific exposure for our team, for our university, for the Ohio Valley Conference.
It's been fun over this period of time. Haven't had to worry about it that much.
Q. You mentioned the videotape of the '87 game. When did you do that, and what specifically did you tell your guys as they were watching that?
COACH LOOS: That's last Saturday. I told them this is living proof that anything can happen in this tournament, and it depends on whether you believe it can happen or not. And, you know, they got a big kick out of watching that. The first thing noticed were how short the pants were. (Laughter).
After we got over the initial shock of the difference in the way people wear their uniforms, I think they responded. We had a great practice that day. I know that.
Q. Coach, you guys lost a triple overtime game to SEMO. The guys said that week is when everybody kind of came to go for you. Did you notice something after that happened?
COACH LOOS: That's probably easy to say based on what transpired since, but actually we had lost the game before that, too, and did not play well. We played very poorly in the game at Samford. Played a little better in the game against SEMO. And, you're right, that's kind of when we took off. I felt like our defense really kind of took over then. We played much better on that end. We were much more focused. We took our defense on as a priority, and that's when we really started clicking.
Q. Coach, you touched on it. It has been two weeks since your guys last played. Talked about the Rockies last year once they stopped playing. How does it affect you guys? What you have done to try to stay fresh and keep in game mode?
COACH LOOS: First of all, it is what it is. We always talk to our players. It's not all that important to what happens to you; the important thing is how you respond to it. And we've tried to look at the flip side and, you know, we've gotten great exposure for our university and our program. We tried to take full advantage of that. I've had lots of interaction with the media, not only locally and regional but nationally, and we think that's going to pay off for us.
You know, as I said, it is what it is, and we've tried to keep practice short, intense, competitive. We've tried to have some fun and enjoy this thing. It's a little difficult to do, but we'll see.
Q. Dave, two-part question. As AD did you give yourself a pay raise for making the tournament?
COACH LOOS: Our AD is hard to deal with. he's a tightwad. He ain't going to let go of any of that money.
Q. I don't know if you're aware of Rick Barnes' comments about coming to Arkansas. Do you expect the crowd to be behind you tomorrow?
COACH LOOS: Let me just say that we will be glad to have the support of anybody that doesn't have a favorite team right now.
Q. Talk about the fun things you guys have done while being here. I know for you guys, you kind of keep things comfortable. Keep things as loose as possible.
COACH LOOS: Well, when we got on the bus to depart from Clarksville yesterday, they handed me a wig to put on, to begin with, and to say it was unsightly would be -- I'd be underestimating the whole thing. We got off to a little light moment there at the start, and I do, I think our guys are mature and, you know, they know when to bear down, and so we've enjoyed this we're going to continue to, but we're going -- we know this is a business trip, too.
THE MODERATOR: Anybody else? Dave Loos, we appreciate it very much. Congratulations on a terrific season. Congratulations on being here.
COACH LOOS: Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts