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March 23, 2008
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
THE MODERATOR: We are ready to do business, Coach.
COACH BARNES: First of all, let's give Miami a lot of credit for a lot of heart, lot of grit, lot of determination and the way they fought to the very end. But as I was sitting there, I mean, I knew that would happen because obviously y'all know my relationship with Frank, and I know what he's about and his team. And they really at the end got done what they wanted to get done and -- but I'm obviously proud of these guys and the fact that we were able to win the game and get a chance to play again next week.
But this time of year, it's not easy, it's never easy, and we didn't expect today even when we were up, we knew we would have to finish it out, and even though it wasn't real pretty from our point of view, a lot of it has to do with the fact they did what they needed to do, but we got it done.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for A.J., Damon, D.J., Justin.
Q. A.J., can you describe the range of feelings during the game and the end when you have a big lead and it almost goes away?
D.J. ABRAMS: I was real happy with the effort that we put out there. We had a great defensive game. We had a couple lapses in the last couple minutes. Like Coach said, we kind of knew they were going to go on a run, but, you know, we made some free throws. I think we had to do a better job of just slowing down at that time of the game. But overall I think we're all pretty happy with the win.
Q. A.J., they didn't seem to guard you too closely. Were you surprised by that? You seemed to get a lot of open looks.
D.J. ABRAMS: You know, I was kind of surprised about that. With the penetration that D.J. and Justin and Damion did, it kind of frees me up. That's my job just to, you know, knock in some jumpers and try to get in the paint myself.
Q. Given the road-like atmosphere y'all had to deal with, are you happy to be saying, "Houston, here we come"?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: We're excited about going to Houston. We been through those kind of games before. It prepared us for today, and they was a great team. We knew they were going to come back and fight back. We had to withstand that.
Q. Damion, would you describe your emotions in those last few moments and what you were thinking when you saw that inbounds pass come sailing your way?
DAMION JAMES: Well, really, me and Justin were fighting for the ball. I was just trying to get the ball and throw it on the open end because we only had like 1.8 seconds left just to get the game over with.
Q. D.J., can you talk about the shots aren't falling right now, but you're making it happen for everyone else and how lethal you guys are when everybody is hitting like were you today.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: I'm going to go through stretches like that when I'm not shooting well, but my job is to get my teammates involved. They do a great job of stepping up and knocking down big shots. I control the offense and make sure we're doing what we have to do. That's pretty much it. My shot is not going to go down all the time. I'm still going to be confident and keep shooting.
Q. For all the players, can you talk about the defensive effort y'all did against McClinton? He didn't hit his first basket in the second half until five minutes left. At that point he only had 8 points.
JUSTIN MASON: It was a team effort to guard McClinton. He's a great guard coming from the ACC. Just a team effort, you know. A.J. and myself had duties on guarding him, and I think A.J. did a good job as well as me, but our postman, screens, and things like that is what really helped us keep him contained in the game.
D.J. ABRAMS: It had to be a team effort because of the type of player that he is. He can get going, and I think it was our job just to try to contain him and try to shadow him so he couldn't get any open looks and get into a good rhythm. Like Mase said, our post guys did a good job of slowing him down and showing on the screens so he can get back in front of him.
Q. Justin, given the great defensive effort that y'all had most of the game, does it get frustrating when you're in their face and they're still shooting those seemingly impossible 3s?
JUSTIN MASON: I wouldn't say it gets frustrating. Towards the end of game, teams are going to get more aggressive and take some shots they wouldn't take earlier in the game. They were going in. There's nothing more we can really do about it but besides contest the shots and try to execute on the offensive end.
Q. Two fellas. Damion, I was wondering what you were thinking when you missed some of the free throws late? And D.J., could you describe your next to last free throw?
DAMION JAMES: Well, D.J. and A.J. always come up to me after I make or miss and tell me "Just keep shooting it because sooner or later it's going to go." I have been doing good on free throws before. I missed the last two. It happens and we won. I ain't sweating it anymore. Just go back and shoot free throws at practice and get better.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: We try to be confident at the line. DamionJ does a great job. We try to help him out. My last shot -- the first one it was short. I shot it little short, but second one I knocked it down, we won. That's all that matters.
Q. A.J., you guys ended up making 13 three-pointers, 12 two-pointers. Were you guys thinking that you had to shoot well from the outside? Were you expected to do that well tonight?
D.J. ABRAMS: No, I don't think we come in expecting just to shoot well from the outside. You know, we have a lot of players on our team that can go inside. I think our main focus is that we need to start penetrating and getting to the lane because we're a pretty good free throwing shooting team. Once we get fouls, it draws the defense in and we can start shooting the open free throws.
Q. For D.J., it happens in some games, and I know by the book when you've got a double digit and the clock is winding down, you want to use as much of it as you can. Sometimes does that disrupt a team's offense exclusive rhythm or not?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: I think sometimes in those situations other teams, they know what we're trying to do, we're trying to waste time. They get more aggressive on defense, and that kind of speeds your team up. We just try to slow it down, waste time. When the clock gets down to ten, try to take a good shot. We want to get a shot every time. Don't turn it over. That's what comes down to.
Q. Damion, when the seedings came out, the bracket came out and you saw you had a chance to go through Houston, what went through your mind and now talk about the excitement that you guys had to sort of hold back until you knew were you going there.
DAMION JAMES: We really wanted -- we looked at it, but we really focused on Austin Peay and we want to take it one game at a time. The coach said we were in a tournament like -- whatever seed we was in and we had to go come and play here and win two games. We've got a chance to come out and play in Houston. Everybody was against us here, it seemed like. So we want to have a lot of fans in Houston rooting for us.
Q. D.J., sort of along the same theme, you know, can you describe sort of the relationship between the basketball team and your fans who seem to be willing to travel and whether you expect that Houston could have a real home game feel?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: We have a good relationship with our fans. They've supported us all year, and we know they're going to be in Houston supporting us, and that's going to give us momentum going into games. And I think it's going to help us a lot because I think playing in front your home crowd, it can really help a team out, help them play better. We didn't have that here, but we stayed together, and we've been through those situations before and we fought through it.
Q. A.J., do you look at the way you finished the game, does it trouble you a little bit with how much pressure there's going to be, or do you feel like surviving a game like that strengthens your team?
D.J. ABRAMS: We won the game. We didn't execute down the stretch like we wanted to, but throughout the whole game, we had a good defensive effort. We're taking good shots on offense and executing on the offensive end. Last couple minutes can't ruin a game for you. We can go back to practice and work on free throws and just being more relaxed when that time comes, but, you know, at this point of the season, a win is a win.
Q. A.J., can you talk about when Connor, he was back hitting 3s again today, just what that means when you have five guys hit 3s in the first half?
D.J. ABRAMS: I think that says a lot about our team, how we can stretch defenses on the perimeter, as well as go inside. I was happy to see him find his stroke. We're going the need him down the stretch because he's such a force on the defensive end and offensive end.
Q. A.J., early on the way you guys were playing, is that about as well as you guys can play during those stretches when you were shutting down McClinton and making 3s?
D.J. ABRAMS: I think we're playing pretty good, but you can always get better. We can always work on the details of defensive end and get better screening or whatever it is, but I think we played pretty good, but we can get better.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions for the players? Guys, thank you very much. Good luck to you as you move on to Houston.
Questions for Coach Barnes.
Q. Rick, can you talk about the job your team did rebounding the ball today against a team that looked like it could rebound really well?
COACH BARNES: We felt coming in, two biggest keys were the fact that we could contain Jack McClinton and we really assigned Justin to him and with no responsibility other than making everything hard for him to catch it, but Justin was right in terms of getting the post guys when he would come off those screens to show.
D.J. on the ball just trying to have his hands in the passing lane where they couldn't put it right on the money was important. Also you saw a few times when I caught it there was three guys surrounding him, whether it was D.J. -- I mean A.J. or Justin, post guy, and we felt that was important, and then we said we felt that most important thing was offensive rebound to go keep them off because they averaged right at 13, 14 a game, and they do a lot with it. And we felt like we had to do that, and you go back and the most impressive thing from where we sit right here is they ended up with eight offensive rebounds, and three of those came within the first two minutes of the game, and that was huge for us and -- but -- A.J. came down a -- really came up with some early.
You look at his four rebounds, I thought they were really big early and Damion, again, did a good job coming back. He gave up two of those 3s to start the game. He came back and Lexi rebounds I thought he came in the game, both ends getting us extra possessions were really important.
Q. Coach Barnes, can you talk about your team's offensive rebounding. Y'all had one stretch in the second half looked like it's real key, y'all had possession in your end for about two minutes and 20 seconds, and it was just because of your offensive rebounding on misses. Talk about that.
COACH BARNES: On the offensive end, that's what we talk about trying to get extra possessions, trying to give us extra opportunities. We don't want to be a one-and-done team.
You know, all year long, Justin Mason has come with some really, really big rebounds. He did tonight, got called for a foul, which I'm not quite sure about, but he went and got to the inside there and Damion has also got there. Connor, had a huge night, but we talk about just that, and some of that comes from the fact that when we start moving like A.J. does and he's so clever, so evasive, when he starts moving, and certainly Frank Haith and his staff knows A.J. He doesn't need much separation. When he starts moving like that, the fact is their post guys have to help on him, and when the shot gets up, allows you to get inside rebound position, and our guys were able to get some of that today.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about how you guys shot the ball long range; and then secondly, are you concerned at all that the 3-pointer seems to be such a big part of your offense?
COACH BARNES: No. It's been there all year. We won games when we haven't shot well. We're going to shoot -- I think that's the single most important thing this time of year, that you shoot -- you take your shot. And we know that shots start going in -- we talked about the other day. The one thing we said, Be aggressive, take good shots, and we're not going to change. We're open with the right guy shooting it. We're going to shoot it and hope that if we miss it, we can run down some of those rebounds, which, when you shoot the 3, it does allow you to run down some of them.
And the fact that we are often in a spread-type set, it's really hard to block a guy out when he's so far from the basket for post players that are running in to rebound and -- we're open, and again the right guy, I wish D.J. would actually shoot it. At the end of the first half, he came over, and we ran a set for him. I said, "Look, I just want you to raise up."
He actually said to me, "I'm going to raise up."
I said, "Do that."
He made -- he drove it, but too soon and gave them a chance to get something at the end or get a shot at it, but we'll shoot it when we're open.
Q. Coach, it was pointed out to you yesterday that the goal you were shooting on in the first half had a significantly lower percentage through four games than the other goal. Then you kind of laughed it off and said it would be out of your head after the question was asked.
I was wondering when you guys were making all those 3s under the cold basket if you thought about that at all and said anything to your players about it?
COACH BARNES: No. I don't remember even knowing that. I didn't say anything about it. I didn't.
Q. Rick, you mentioned you guys get offensive rebounds because people are chasing A.J. and sometimes you give up some for the same reason. Did you make any adjustment to shore it up in there after those three you mentioned early?
COACH BARNES: We talked about it during the first timeout. You really do expect maybe the players to be a little bit jumpy at the start of the game. Again, they went and got it, but we talked about it and said we've got to get that done. And again those were -- that was the biggest offense key we put on the board. We feel like that, obviously A.J. said it, we can still get better defensively, but we felt that blocking out was a really, really, really big part of this game, and we just talked about it, and we were able to get it somewhat under control.
Q. What role do you think the crowd played in the last seven minutes of the game?
COACH BARNES: Well, it happens everywhere. I don't care where you play this time of year. The building gets full. Memphis's fans are here. The good fans from Arkansas are here, and -- I like the fact they like me, you know, really it makes me feel good that at least they know who I am here, you know, and I like that.
You expect it. You really, really do. I don't care where we were playing. This time of year, this tournament, people love to see the darker uniforms win. It's just the way it is.
I actually told our team, and I meant this after the game, I said, "Hey, we came up here. We were in a four-team tournament. We've got -- guys have won this tournament. Now we go to Houston and actually said to them, "I'm a little bit concerned about it because we've been a better road team." And I can only tell you this, yesterday when our team -- two days ago when our team came on the floor, they were boo'd. Todd Wright, my strength coach came in and said, "Coach, the boys are ready." And we've been in hostile situations, and I can't tell you why, but we've been a good road team.
We talked about that coming here. You're on the road this time of year. We've yet -- until after the game today, Houston has never been mentioned by the coaching staff. We talked about this site, these four teams and what we would have to do to get to the next round. We never once talked about the next round and said get to Houston. We're going to play this tournament and see what happens.
Q. Two quick questions. Rick, the teachable moment in the final four minutes, would it just be stay aggressive? And then going to Houston, just talk about the potential for having -- you've been there before with the Alamo Dome and all the fans you had there, what you hope to see at the Reliant Stadium?
COACH BARNES: It's interesting. A.J. made a great point about like when we went back after the game the other night. We went back and watched our tape. We didn't start working on Miami until yesterday because we have looked into worrying about us, talking about us, how we can improve. And from the game the other day, we did some things, but I promise you we'll learn from this game some of the things that we didn't do well, and, you know, we're going to be asked that question all week, and I like to be able to answer it one time.
I remember when we played Michigan State in San Antonio a couple years ago in the round of 16. They asked Tom Izzo, "What do you think about playing in front of a home crowd?"
He said it can work against you because he said your fans are there, they're expecting it. We had to deal it with in Auburn Hills, which is a great thing from his point of view, talking about it.
A year ago when I was talking to John Calipari -- and John and I go back 30 some years -- and he asked me, he said, "What do you think?"
I said to him, "I'll tell you something, I thought Tom Izzo did a great job of trying to flip it the other way." Last year I don't know if John said it or anything about it or not. I don't know it matters. I don't know. I know our guys love -- have enjoyed playing here, and again whether we're in Little Rock or what I remember of the other sites are, we probably would have got somewhat the same treatment. I'm not sure they would have been on me, but that's okay.
Again, you can use it any way you want to use it. We've got to worry about what we do between the lines and who we're getting ready to play.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Barnes, we appreciate it very much. Congratulations tough. Best of luck down the road.
End of FastScripts