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March 30, 2008

A.J. Abrams

D.J. Augustin

Rick Barnes

Justin Mason


COACH BARNES: I could sit here and talk about Memphis all day, I was really impressed, especially this weekend, I thought they brought a defensive mentality, a little bit different from what was in Little Rock, and the games I've been watching coming into this, they have always played hard but it just seems like against Michigan State, and I thought again today against us that, their defense was just outstanding. Early in the game, we a little bit uncharacteristic, turning the ball over, which we felt coming in was a real key that, you know, you couldn't do that because like most teams, they are tremendous in transition if you give them those opportunities.
Again, some of those have to do with their length and athleticism. They do a great job with closing. I know for a fact, I don't think we've seen as good a defense all year that we saw today and there's no doubt that Memphis deserves all the credit.
I told our team, probably the only thing we will really look back and be disappointed about is early, we got out of characteristic in terms of turnovers and shot selection, and got ourselves in a little bit of a hole. But even with that said, we got back in it, and then let it slip again because of some turnovers.

Q. I wonder if you can talk about the length of Memphis defenders and how much problem they gave you guys as far as trying to get your shots of.
A.J. ABRAMS: Like Coach said, their defense was very impressive. They are real athletic and their length was, you know, I think was probably the most that we've seen this year, and it was pretty difficult trying to get shots off of them. You know, other than that, they just did a good job of defending both of us.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Like A.J. said, they did a great job of defending us, and their length -- and they played team defense and did a great job?

Q. Was there anything you guys could have done or should have done to get better shots against them, or were they just everywhere?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: We could have took some better shots. Like I said, they played good defense. They wouldn't be here if they didn't, and they played together, and, you know, we did our best.

Q. Everyone is talking about the length of Memphis. With those guys stepping out on the wing, did that surprise you how aggressive they were as far as keeping you from getting down on the block?
JUSTIN MASON: It did not surprise me how aggressive they were. They wouldn't be here if they didn't play with a lot of confidence and were aggressive. There's nothing out there we didn't expect and we never took them easy or anything.

Q. Flipping the other side of the ball, you have been a great defensive team all year; what makes them so hard to guard?
JUSTIN MASON: Obviously their athleticism, their length, a lot of their guards are very tall. They are very aggressive in knocking down the ball and aggressive in all three of their guards spots and their post players are really good, also.

Q. You got on that run from the end of the first half and through the start of the second half and cut it to five, the building is loud four. What happened that they were able to respond?
A.J. ABRAMS: I think we just kind of let them off the hook a little bit as far as not taking care of the ball. I think we had some key turnovers that kind of led them back in the game.
You know, we can't take anything away from them, they are a great team and they responded with great fire.

Q. How would you compare Memphis to a UCLA or a Kansas, two teams that you've beat this year?
A.J. ABRAMS: I would have to say they are just as athletic as anybody else. I think they spread the court a little bit more than those other teams as far as driving the ball, and they use every position, they can drive the ball to the hoop.
You know, they are up there with the great teams this year, and they played great today.

Q. Can you reflect on this season a little bit and talk about maybe how this fire starts to burn for next year?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: We had a great season. You know, we had some ups and downs, but we played great. We put it on our defense, and our defense did a great job this year, and we're just going to get in the gym and get ready for next year.

Q. So much was made yesterday about that matchup that you and Derrick had back during the summer at Adiddas Camp; how far has he come from last summer?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: He's a great player, he makes great decisions, he controls the ball, he controls the game and he controls the team. He did a great job.

Q. Can you talk about maybe the frustration at times about not being able to get your shot off against those guys and what they were able to do length-wise to disrupt what you guys like to do?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: They did a great job contesting shots, showing ball screens, they did a great job on defense period and we did our best on offense trying to get open but like I said, give them credit for great defense.
A.J. ABRAMS: They are a long team as far as what their length can do for them on defense. We did our best as far as cutting and trying to get open, but they did a good job of closing when we had open shots and kind of making it tough for us.

Q. Talking about how good they are, could you tell on TV or tape, before you got on the court with them?
A.J. ABRAMS: Yeah, we knew coming into the game that their length -- that they were pretty long and they were athletic. It was something that we knew we had to deal with. We knew we had to get a lot of ball movement and try to attack them but they did a great job of closing in on all of our shooters today.

Q. For A.J. and Justin, the same question I asked D.J., can you talk about what you got accomplished this season? You have all five starters back, at least by academic years, so talk about what this team might be able to accomplish going forward.
A.J. ABRAMS: Just looking back at this year, you know, we did some great things. You know, we got to the championship game of the Big 12 tournament, and I think that everybody improved this year as far as their individual game, making just the team better. Everybody just worked hard, and our defense, you know, it showed up for us. I think just working on it in the preseason and the summer kind of paid off for us.
JUSTIN MASON: Like A.J. said, we had a great year. We had our ups and downs. I think one thing that you guys saw is our defense towards the end of the season, you know, we played with the best of the teams. We beat some of the best. You know, we didn't want our road to end right here, but we're going to work hard like we did last summer and we'll be back and get ready for next year.

Q. When you have to play against Derrick Rose, is he almost more impressive when you see him live like that, as opposed to just watching him on film and trying to design defenses to stop him?

COACH BARNES: Well, what we thought coming in is they did what they have done. I'm sure they felt they could pick any spot on the floor and jump up over A.J. or D.J., and they started the game by really getting within a seven or eight-foot area. In the zone, they flashed into the middle and worked that area of the floor.
But I think they felt because of their length of their guards, at any point in time they could isolate an area of the floor, and they did that.
But what hurt us early was the turnovers. Connor and Damion getting in foul trouble took us away from what we wanted to do. We were really wanting to actually run; if it wasn't there, trying to get some ball reversals and some movement, and we didn't do that. And then when those guys got in foul trouble, we went with a different group of guys where we probably needed to score some points on the side, but when we're down like we were, you still want to play through the guy that's done it for you all year.
Even with that said, at halftime coming out, we felt fine that we could get back in it. But we knew once we went man, they were going to isolate and jump over us and do those type of things. So the zone was good, we played a little box and one for just a little bit, and even the second half when we cut it down, I don't think we really turned it over in the second half. It was just their defense, they made some plays when we -- they made it hard to score.
But again, I think Memphis deserves all the credit. Again, everybody has tried to pick them apart and talk about this, that or whatever. You know, defensively, they were really impressive this weekend, two teams and us and Michigan State, they did a great job. I still think man, because they have the size differential like they have, if we had stayed man, they would done what they were doing early, jumping over us, but they are a really great basketball team. They have a chance to move on and play for a National Championship.

Q. Everyone is talking about their length. The way they contested shots, when you call your time-outs, did you try to make rotations to get into the inspiration zone, talk to the guys about not going through droughts? Everybody talks about Memphis when they played them, don't get into a drought.

COACH BARNES: What we talked about was not feeding them by turning the ball over. Early we turned the ball over. We gave them nine points off turnovers early, and again, they don't need any help and we helped them that way but again you have to give them some credit for that. They are the ones that got their hands on balls and broke them loose.
When we told our guys early was just settle down and move the ball, and we didn't do it for the longest time. We were just too quick, we were jumpy and we needed to move them around a little bit. We felt like they do a good job of getting back in transition and we could put them on the defensive end a little bit and guard and maybe get some looks; and we felt even driving the ball to the basket that the mid-range area, if we would pull up and we didn't, we were taking it too deep and letting them block some shots.
But again, I don't want to take away from what they did. They won the game. They played hard. They did a great job. And they are an outstanding team. They are talented. They are a very talented team with a lot of bounce. They can hurt you inside obviously, and their guards are tremendous.

Q. Is there a sense of just being overwhelmed by their so good and long and athletic and quick, and D.J. really seemed to get out of his game, and is it just easier to take because maybe you feel like you lost to a better team?

COACH BARNES: There's no doubt they were a better team today, there's no question about that.
Again, really I was really impressed with their defensive attitude this weekend. Watching them, and again we obviously have spent time watching them, trying to figure out if there was some way to do it. You know, I still think this; that maybe they are not as comfortable playing against a zone, but they did a really good job today of not getting out of -- of getting guys into areas where they could still use their length and their height to get up over us.
So I think you've got to give them great credit today. I told John at the end of the game, I said, "You know, we just wanted to give you guys a chance to work on your free throws, since everybody seems to talk about it." And they made them all today. You look at it and everything, and it was their day and you just have to congratulate them and move on.

Q. What were your thoughts on D.J.'s performance today?

COACH BARNES: Well, he means so much to us, and we wouldn't even be close to where we are today without D.J., but not just D.J.; I thought we came out, again, there's really a fine line between being aggressive -- and what we didn't do early, and I told them, I said we're not concentrating. You know, we were maybe too amped up. I don't know. I just know that we as a team weren't doing the things that we did. We were really wanting to, again, move the ball, but again, I can't say anything but good things about D.J. He knows he can play better than he played today. He'll play it over many, many times here, but what I know about him, he will learn from it and get better.
But we need -- again this time of year, you need everybody to play well, it's not just D.J. I look down and there are some things and we knew we were going to need to shoot the ball well and our post guys, Connor and Damion, they are 1 and 10 from the 3 and we wanted to step those guys away from the basket and open up some driving lanes and they had some looks and didn't go down.
We needed some scoring from our post guys away from the basket so maybe they would have to extend and open up the driving lanes.

Q. You mention the zone a lot and their length and their ability to get to the rim. Did you consider starting in the zone from the scratch?

COACH BARNES: We did. Our defense is not what got us behind. It was our offense all the way; those turnovers. Again, they got nine points early off of our lack of offense efficiency. We were just impatient, taking quick shots, bad shots, and again, we wants our guys to shoot it when they are open. You guys saw the game. We were just shooting it quick. And that's what got us behind.
Again, we know they are going to score. We knew they were going to score some points and we knew they were going to use some zone, but I don't think, again, it was our defense early that hurt us. It was what we did on the offensive ends.

Q. Before Tennessee beat Memphis at home this year to break the streak; can you talk about how much more improved they are from two seasons ago?

COACH BARNES: They are older. We actually went back and looked at that tape and put together some things that we did in that game. I think John would probably tell you that up until we went in there, no one had even zoned them because they were shooting the ball so well, and then actually one of his assistants said to me in Little Rock, "Ever since you zoned us, everybody does it." I think that is the way to work.
Sometimes, you know, we did it obviously. We did that today some probably more so than anything to slow down their dribble penetration, because they do a great job of attacking. And again, the whole thing was we knew they were going to get into position where they would jump over our guards, but they were a much-improved team. They are a much-improved team from a year ago. I think they are a much, much better team. They have added a tremendous player to that group in Derrick Rose, and you know, Chris Douglas-Roberts, when I looked at that tape, he looked like A.J. Abrams. He's changed himself but look, they are a different team. They are a totally different team.
Just like our team is a different team this year than we were a year ago.

Q. Can you talk about what this team was able to accomplish, everyone investing in getting better, and then you get everyone back next year, what they can accomplish?

COACH BARNES: Well, I'm sure when the disappointment -- we get through that, we'll look back and realize as a group, I really marvel at our guys because of where we started and you guys that have covered us know by the Gary Johnson and Matt Hill and the Doz situation, we had to start over again knowing we were going to be somewhat of a small, perimeter-oriented team. I told them after the game is what I'm most proud of is the way a year ago this time, those guys took on this challenge of trying to improve themselves as individuals to make our team better which they have done; and also our young guys that came in. You know, we had to watch those guys grow, develop, and how hard they worked, and as a group, it's been a fun group. It's been a special group because they have never complained about anything. They said there were some ups and downs, and there were not that many downs believe me. Now we fought for our lives in some situations, but they have shown the fact that they can work through things, as low as we got at times and came back and improved.
We'll look back and realize this team was a special group in a lot of ways, but I like the fact that they know what we're chasing, and we'll never take for granted just being in this tournament, but in a week or so, we'll get back to work, and hope that we can learn from this experience. Because they definitely learned a year ago from losing in the first round, or in the second round of the tournament, they did learn from that. And I mentioned that. D.J. talked about him understanding the tournament different. So they all understand how quickly it can end.

Q. What impresses you most about Rose, and how good of a player, below -- how much better is he than even a good collegiate point guard?

COACH BARNES: Well, his size; and today I thought getting the ball where he wanted to get the ball. He's obviously outstanding in transition. He gets going to the rim, and you know, we felt early that we wanted to take charges, and because they do bring it to the rim, but he's so evasive, you know, I thought early in the game that we could have picked up a couple charges, but I can tell by looking at our players face when I said that, like I'm sure that looks like he can, but he was just slippery. He just slips around and comes at you so hard, and then he comes around the rim and can just elevate and get over, which obviously at the start of the game, you saw him do that.
But his tempo; and again, I was impressed with his composure. He just didn't seem to get rattled. And I tell you, last week when I saw him up close in Little Rock, I was impressed with his size. I mean, that's the one thing that being in the same hotel with him last week, they are big. They are long and they are athletic and they are quick. But he was the one player that I was really impressed with just physically.

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