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March 22, 2008
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
THE MODERATOR: With us from Mississippi State, Jamont Gordon, Barry Stewart, Charles Rhodes. Your questions for these three fine gentlemen.
Q. Charles, I'm just wondering with yourself and Jarvis in the paint for Mississippi State with all the big men Memphis rotates in and out the game, how physical a game are you expecting it to be tomorrow?
CHARLES RHODES: I feel it's going to be a real physical game, real up-tempo game because of all the plays we have and they have. It's going to be a great matchup, but with the bigs with Dorsey and Dozier, those big guys bringing off the bench, it's tough for us, but we're up for the challenge.
Q. Both from Tennessee, how big is this game with y'all playing Memphis? Jamont, did they try to recruit you?
JAMONT GORDON: Yeah, they tried to recruit me, but I guess I chose Mississippi State. I liked Mississippi State better. They're a good program and everything, but it ain't going to mean -- it's just another game to me. I ain't going to get overexcited because it's a Tennessee team or anything. Just another game, come out and play hard like I always do.
BARRY STEWART: It's always fun playing against your own state, but we've got to approach it as business. All the other stuff doesn't matter if you don't get the win.
Q. Charles, after last night's game, how long did it take you to start thinking about Memphis? Could you look ahead a little bit, knowing if you beat Oregon, you get a shot at a number one seed like Memphis?
CHARLES RHODES: After the game when I was doing my interview when Memphis came, I run out on the floor. That's when I started thinking about playing Memphis and getting really excited because I always want to play again the best, and this is a great opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the nation.
Q. Charles, last night you said that Memphis was a good matchup for you guys. Could you expound on that, why do you feel that way? Is it a good matchup?
CHARLES RHODES: I don't feel like anybody else say it's a bad matchup. I think it's a great matchup with the guards and the guards we have and the bigs we have. It's kind of like it's the same, but they're more athletic. It's going to be a great matchup, man. We're just ready to play.
Q. Jamont, and maybe Charles or Barry, is there anything different about playing a number one seed in the tournament as opposed to playing the number 81st? Does it feel any different going in, or is this just another game, so to speak?
JAMONT GORDON: I think it's just another game. They are one of the top teams in the country and everything. They got a lot of good players. We're going to approach every game the same way. Going to come out and play hard and try to get a victory.
Q. Charles, same question?
CHARLES RHODES: You got to ask that again.
Q. Is there any difference about playing the number eight as opposed to playing a number one seed in your mind, just when you see it in the bracket or step on the floor?
CHARLES RHODES: Not exactly. I could just remember when we was number nine seed and we was the underdog to Stanford and we beat Stanford and had to play Duke. Basically just the same type of game. It's just a different atmosphere, and right now I know we're underdogs in this game. I think we're going to step up from that because nobody has really given us a chance but the guys in the locker room.
Q. Jamont, how close were you going to Memphis, if at all, and who else was involved in what was the deciding factor not to?
JAMONT GORDON: I was really close going to Memphis. They recruited me very hard. I talked to Coach Calipari a lot and everything, but I seen better opportunity here at Mississippi State, so I end up coming here.
Q. Jamont and Barry, how important is Charles to you guys, not just for what he does on the floor but what he does as a team leader, especially in a game like last night?
JAMONT GORDON: He's great for us. Despite the things he does, the things on the court, he's just a good guy to be around. He motivates the team just off his energy. He's just a great player for us.
Q. Charles, just the last five games, you've really been on a tear. What's been -- just the sense of urgency being a senior, this being maybe the end? What's been the difference for the last handful of games?
CHARLES RHODES: I think just the team, just the team has me playing like this. With the group of guys I'm around, I don't pass the ball to myself, you know, I don't get motivated by myself. I think it's a team. Like I said, this is the best team I've ever been on, best group of guys I've ever been around. I think just the team has me playing like this.
Q. Jamont, how much have you seen Memphis like on TV this year, and what were your impressions of them?
JAMONT GORDON: They're pretty good ball club. I've seen them a lot. I seen them against Tennessee. I seen them a couple other games. They're a really good team, get up and down the floor really well. They got a lot of good athletes. They're pretty good team.
Q. Charles, what are your thoughts on Dorsey and seeing him from afar and what you have to do to get the better of him in this matchup?
CHARLES RHODES: I really think he got to get the better of me in this matchup. He's a great offensive rebounder. He's not really offensive player. So there's just a lot of things we got to do with him because he's so strong and athletic. Those guys look for him a lot on penetration and things like that.
We're thinking of a lot of things to do to him. We'll find something.
Q. Jamont, importance of avoiding the start that you guys had last night against a team like Memphis, the slow start, the off-shooting night and everything, how important is that going to be to getting through this game and surviving it, avoiding that start that you had against Oregon, the off-shooting night that you guys were having there in the first half, how important is that to be able to avoid that?
JAMONT GORDON: It's very important. Can't get too far behind against these guys because they are a really good ball club. I think we'll come out pretty strong against them. I think we'll be motivated, little hyper to play against them. I don't think we'll play that bad in the first half. I think we'll play really well.
Q. Any of the players, if there's one thing that you have to do against Memphis, what would you say the one thing is that would be the key to winning?
JAMONT GORDON: I say limit their transition baskets. They're a great team in transition. They get up and down really well, got really quick guys on the wing. Limiting their baskets on transition, we'll have a good chance of beating them.
Q. Barry, for you, how important do you think the 3-point shot is in this game against a team that likes to play tough man-to-man defense to try to open it up inside for Rhodes and Varnado?
BARRY STEWART: It's going to be real important for us tomorrow night. The more 3s we hit, the more they have to guard it so they can't double down and sink in on defense on Charles and Jarvis.
CHARLES RHODES: It's going to be real important because I think that Memphis, you know, probably going to, you know, not double me but double me a lot, attention to them and for my guards to knock down 3s will be excellent for me.
Q. Charles, you're shooting so much better this year. Did you change anything, or is there anything about your shot or just practice or what?
CHARLES RHODES: It was kind of like one dimensional my first couple seasons. My freshman season I didn't play that much. My sophomore year I have more a banger. My junior year I started working on a jumper and it started falling. It started make the defense having to guard me different ways. I made sure I worked on it a lot this past summer.
Q. Jamont, there's a chance that the Tigers may try to go at you -- go against you with Antonio Anderson. What's your impression he's of him as a defensive player?
JAMONT GORDON: I know he's a good defensive player. I'm not worried. I get guarded by the best defender on each team every game. I'll be ready to give my team the best chance to win.
Q. Jamont, and for Charles, the proximity of these two schools playing tomorrow night to this arena here, talk about the electricity. What do you think with taking the floor with a bunch of fans for both schools right here?
JAMONT GORDON: I think it will be a good game. We've got a lot of fans down here and they do, as well. The atmosphere is going to be crazy. It's going to be a good game.
CHARLES RHODES: It's going to be exciting. I've already been dreaming about it. I already know it's going to be a packed house with blue and red. That's the type of atmosphere you want to play in. Memphis and Mississippi is just down the street. I just can't wait to play. It's going to be real crazy.
Q. Charles, so if you've been dreaming about it, how does the dream go?
CHARLES RHODES: The dream is going fine. I can't tell you about the rest of it. I can tell you the first half. That's about it. It's going to be real nice. I'm ready for it. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Anyone else?
Q. Charles, you hear announcers like last night talk about how much money you made with the performance last night and how much you've raised your draft status. Does that -- does any of that go through your mind now?
CHARLES RHODES: Not at all because you know, like I said, every game I play, I got to play my hardest, and I can blink one time and my season will be over. I can be in Starkville in my books, you know. I'm just taking one game at a time. Not thinking about nothing, not looking at the Internet because I don't like reading blogs. I'll try my best not to try to read that type of crap and just stay focused with my team.
Q. Charles, you said last night that you didn't play a lot the last time you guys were in the tournament. What do you remember about that, and how much does that motivate you right now?
CHARLES RHODES: Oh, motivate me a lot. The atmosphere and getting a chance to play against Coach K and those guys when I got in, and just -- it's like deja vu, a flashback. Because that's a game I never forget in my life, playing against Duke and having the opportunity to play with those group of guys that I played with.
So now to have another opportunity with some young guys, great guys, it's just unbelievable right now.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Have a great evening. We look forward to a tremendous game tomorrow. Thank you.
Mississippi State coach, Rick Stansbury. Questions, please.
Q. Rick, for those of us who aren't around Charles every day, do you mind sharing your thoughts on his personality, his humor and gift for gab?
COACH STANSBURY: Well, probably be better to ask my beat writers who follow my program every day. Barry and Kyle, they can fill you in. They like to hear him give those one-liners that coaches don't like to hear sometimes. But Charles has come a long way from where he was four years ago.
Now, I do think he understands what he says sometimes is wrong. Four years ago he may not have understood what he was saying you shouldn't say it. Now he knows right from wrong. That doesn't mean he always says the right thing, but he's come a long way at least understanding, no question. He keeps things loose. He's a guy that has a hard time ever making him feel any tension.
He's the guy on the bus, he's a guy at pre-games, he's the guy whenever there's some tension or have a chance to hold an audience, it's Charles. He's the guy holding it.
So -- again, he's come a long way in learning right and wrong things to do and say.
Q. Rick, how often have you had a chance the see Memphis, either bits and pieces or whole game this year, and can you compare in any way this team to the teams they've had in the last couple years that have piled up all those Wednesday?
COACH STANSBURY: Again, I don't know if Cal has been here or not. I don't remember a lot about last year's teams. I would think this is the best team he's had there ever. Again he's, he's had some good ones.
He's had two teams -- correct me if I'm right or wrong. Last two teams gone to Elite 8. I think this one here everybody is forecasted, and I think they feel the same way, they have a legit chance to win a national championship. I think they're that good. They've had more experience than they've had in the past couple years. Even though you're a young team, they had a difference maker and a changer, they brought in from Chicago last year in the Rose kid. He's absolutely as good as they were taking that team to another level.
Q. Rick, after that matchup you had last night against Oregon, is this I don't want to say easier but a better matchup, more manageable matchup for you or not?
COACH STANSBURY: I know what you meant with that question. It's good intent, but to say Memphis would be easier or better, boy, I have a hard time. Whatever I said there would be wrong. I know what you're saying. Oregon presented problems because they were small. This team presents problems just because they're so athletic in every spot. Three, four perimeter guys, they attack you in different ways. Oregon attached you with the 3-point shot. Memphis is going to attack you off that dribble and with their athleticism. And to say I'd rather guard that versus Oregon, boy, I don't know. It's a scary matchup having to defend Memphis. That's very obvious to the people who have played him ahead of us.
We don't have the 4 guy who steps out and leads their team in 3-pointer shot attempts like Oregon did. From that standpoint it's better, but they can put a guy at the four spot now that's so good off that dribble. I can't say it's any easier or any better. Different kind of monster.
Q. Coach, did you get a chance to see Memphis play Tennessee, and if so, is there anything you gained from that in terms of ways of beating Memphis?
COACH STANSBURY: Well, I guess Tennessee is the only team that's beaten them. We are familiar with Tennessee and familiar with their style and their team and their personnel and how they do things.
Tennessee played exceptionally well that night. I know Memphis, if I'm correct, I think they were 1 for 16 from 3-point line. You guys follow Memphis -- is that a correct stat? Is that a correct stat? What was it? They had a horrible shooting night.
Q. They missed their last 12, 14.
COACH STANSBURY: They had a horrible shooting night against Tennessee. We'll take some things we saw from all the other films. Again, this time of year, you know, teams are not going to come out in one-day preparation and change a lot of what they've done.
We all going to watch film, and we're all going to study personnel. And we've seen Memphis play couple times during the year and besides all the tapes we've got, but again there's no secrets.
It's the team that's going to be able to try to pressure their will on the other team, things you want to do to maybe not allow them to do or play to their strengths.
I'm sure they're going to do the same thing, try to keep us playing to our strengths. And the team that can impress their will the best on the other team is the team that will win. It's very obvious we have a much more difficult job than they have trying to impress our will.
Q. Rick, playing number one seed, do you think that will filter through your team at all, or do you think they're the kind guys that will let it go and won't really be thinking about that when they step on the floor?
COACH STANSBURY: I say all the time those numbers beside you don't mean a whole lot. Everybody knows this with Memphis. Basically they've been the number one team in the country all year long. Forget the number one. I don't have to talk about that. Your team knows that and understands that, with the media print, with the media 24/7 nowadays, Internet. Everybody understands that a lot of people picks Memphis to win the National Championship. That's not something we have to build on. Our guys understand that.
We'll draw from the things that we can use to our advantage. But at the end of the day when the ball is thrown up, none of that stuff matters. It's what happens between those lines.
Q. Coach, can you talk about Chris Douglas-Roberts and some of the problems he can pose for you guys?
COACH STANSBURY: He's just a bad matchup. He's one of those guys who just finds ways to score in so many different ways. Leads them in scoring. He does it, you know -- shoots the 3. He's just clever around that basket. Finishes different ways.
He's just terrific off the bounce. Changes directions. He's got a little mid range game. Hasn't been anybody all year really slow him, shut him down for sure. He presents a very difficult matchup for us as well as anybody else he's played. If you're going to have a chance to beat Memphis, he doesn't need to have a career. You can make some of the other guys to find ways to beat you. He's one of those guys they depend on to get some points.
If we're going to have any chance at all, we can't allow him to have a career day in here tomorrow.
Q. A lot of has been made of Memphis's talent offensively, but talk about their defense, if you will, how good of a defensive team they are.
COACH STANSBURY: Everybody talks about their offense, but defensively they're seventh in the country field goal percentage-wise. They're so athletic and quick. They got great D. They're going the play nine guys ten minutes or more. They can switch screens if they want to and not present a problem.
They've got a huge guy on the inside that kind of controls that middle in Dorsey. Again, you know, Cal has done a great job getting that team to buy in, defending and playing as hard as he needs to play for him at the defensive end.
I think that probably separates them from the last two years, in my opinion. As good as they've been the last two years, I think offensively they're just as good this year in a different way, but I think the thing they're better at this year, they defend better in the half court.
Q. Teams usually try to sag or zone or junk them, something like that. As a coach when you sat there last night courtside and they shoot 50 percent from three, how does that impact your thought process, or do you try to block out that one game?
COACH STANSBURY: I mean, hey, like say, they're very capable, 8 for 15 against Tulsa -- weren't they in the tournament games? They're very capable 3-point shooting team. Those nights they shoot the 3-point ball well, I don't know if anybody is going to beat them. You got to hope maybe the night you play them that you can get a little help from them and they're not at their best, because when they shoot the basketball, they're very, very difficult to defend.
Q. Based on the conferences you guys play in and the one that Memphis plays in, do you think maybe you guys might be a little more battle tested and that could be an advantage to you guys in a close game at the end?
COACH STANSBURY: I hope it's a close game so we can find it out tomorrow, Greg. No one has played close enough to them to see how they play in a pressure situation. I think that's our challenge. Can we keep the game close enough that it becomes a close game in the last five minutes? There's no question we've been tested there a lot more than Memphis has. That doesn't mean it's bad from Memphis's standpoint. All it tells you they've been so far ahead of people at the five-minute mark, they haven't been tested.
Somewhere along the way they're going to get tested. To answer your question, no question our league tests us every night. Their league hasn't tested them as of. That's not a negative for Memphis in any way. It's the league they play in. They done what they supposed to do in their league, blow everybody else. If they were playing everybody close in that league, it would be different, but there wasn't many games in that league that was close at all.
Q. Rick, you talked a minute ago about Charles and how far he's come off the court. How about his game and particularly his shooting? It seems so much better this year. What happened? What occurred?
COACH STANSBURY: You've heard me say this many times. There's no substitute for experience. He's a senior now. I think the biggest thing in Charles's career, as we've all seen and witnessed, is getting him to focus and play at the energy level that he needs to play with every day in practice.
I think once he started doing it in practice consistently, his game started doing that (indicating). Then the game became easier for him. And again, some guys do it quicker than others. You like for every guy to come in ready to do that, but that's not the way it is.
I think it's very obvious we've seen his game elevate this year in a different way. Last year even though he averaged 17, 18 points a game, it was mostly in that paint. Off-season he expanded his game some. He's gained some confidence now, which makes him even that much more difficult to defend.
Q. Rick, Ole Miss has played Memphis I think nine times in the last ten years. You guys haven't played them since back in the '80s. Is there a reason for that, and would you want to play them on a more regular basis than once every 20-some years?
COACH STANSBURY: You ask me that tomorrow night, I might say I never want to play them again. there's been discussion through the years. I don't know that we haven't played. It was more of a football issue than anything else. I think that's probably why, you know, Ole Miss was able to get the games worked out. We have tried. It hasn't worked out. You ask me that question tomorrow night after the game, I may tell you we never want to play them.
Q. Coach, sounds like the recruitment of Jamont Gordon came down to you and Memphis. Do you remember what it was maybe that put you guys over the top and then what it has meant to your program?
COACH STANSBURY: I didn't know Memphis was involved. I don't think they were involved at all. Never visit there. I think they may have called him some his junior year in high school. Once he went to prep high school, I don't remember him involved at all. Tennessee where he was going until Buzz lost his job. At that point we kind of hung around, hung around. Basically wasn't anybody else left in there but us and Tennessee. I don't remember Memphis being involved.
Q. Can you just talk about inside and that matchup where you got Charles, Dorsey, two pretty big physical guys and what you expect and what you have to do so that that matchup tilts toward your favor.
COACH STANSBURY: Well, we're going to have Jarvis in there. Jarvis will be the guy that will be matched up on Dorsey. Dorsey's game is not about throwing it to him and scoring. It's about him going and getting it off the backboards and then dribbling to the paint and throwing it to him on lobs.
They don't. Strength of his game is his body. You've got to build -- you've got a limited amount of times that he can take his strengths and put it against you.
You can't let him take his body and put against you all day long in there. And especially Jarvis. We got to keep his body off of him the best that we can.
Q. There's a possibility that the Tigers, the Memphis Tigers, will place Antonio Anderson up against Jamont Gordon. Does that concern you at all, and how do you counter that?
COACH STANSBURY: I mean Jamont has had great people play against him all year long. I'm sure Anderson is a very good defender. We couldn't counter anything different. There won't be anything special we try to do against Anderson. Maybe if Anderson was five-six or something, we may try to post him up a little bit. That's not the case. Anderson is a big, strong guy, and Jamont has had those kind of guys guard him. Lot of teams have taken their point guard and put them on someone else and taken their small forward and put him on Jamont.
That won't be anything new he hadn't seen this year.
Q. Rick, I wasn't in here, could you just talk about you always recruited the State of Tennessee pretty heavy. You've got more Tennessee guys on your team than Memphis does. What is it about Tennessee that you feel like you go in there and get people almost every year?
COACH STANSBURY: We basically took some guys nobody else wanted. The guys that we have, Tennessee or Memphis never recruited them. So I'm smart enough to know I'm not going into Memphis and beat Memphis on a kid or go into Tennessee in their backyard and beat them on a kid Tennessee wants.
Those guys that we can get in early and find out about them before anybody else finds out about them and recruit them, get them done, that's basically what our team was. Jarvis wasn't recruited. Barry Stewart he went through the whole season, wasn't recruited. Even to the end after he played he wasn't recruited. Jamont was a recruited guy with Tennessee and that fell through with Buzz.
Q. Rick, you guys are pretty good at defending the 3, at least percentage-wise and last night into the second half. Do you have a particular philosophy in defending the 3 other than getting a player in someone's face?
COACH STANSBURY: I think it depends on how the teams get into the 3-point shot. Anybody can stand out there and if a guy is standing there shooting it, defend that. Are they getting it off screens, ball screens? Are they getting it off penetration and pitching?
I think those are things you make decisions how you determine, how you guard things based on how they're getting their shots, and I think we guard certain things a certain way. We figure out maybe what the other team's strengths are and how they're playing to their strengths, and we try to do things to not allow them to play to their strengths defensively.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, we appreciate your time very much. Have a great evening. Look forward to tomorrow.
End of FastScripts