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March 19, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with the Missouri student-athletes. So let's open it up to questions.
Q. J.T., can you just address your relationship with Zaire Taylor off the court and how it's come together on the court to really form a guard tandem on defense?
J.T. TILLER: My relationship with him is we just are like the best of friends off the court. Just like I have a relationship with everybody else on the team. We just talk about what we're going to do on the court most of all.
Some kind of joking manner, but you can tell it's in a serious manner also. But what we have to do to get a win and help Leo and DeMarre and Matt and everybody else on the court to make it easier for them also.
Q. Going back to that. J.T., also the guys said at the tournament that two minutes into his Missouri tryout basically Zaire was on his knees. At that point did you think, Oh, yeah, this is a guy I want to go to war with, or was he really that out of shape?
J.T. TILLER: No, if anybody can understand his situation it's definitely me because two minutes into the game I'm pretty much in the same position, bent over on my knees, gasping for air. So that's definitely somebody I wanted to go to war with.
Q. Matt, you obviously grew up following Missouri pretty passionately. Can you recall what you paid attention to when Missouri was here last time and does that stick with you at all, the whole Tyus Edny stuff?
MATT LAWRENCE: You see that kind of stuff on all the previews, a guy going full court for that layup to knock Missouri out. So there's definitely a lot of history with us coming back here and we're trying not to repeat that. We're trying to go out and have some success here and just having an overall successful year.
Missouri with 28 wins this season is one away, I think, from its most ever in its history. So it would be good to leave that kind of mark. I know for the seniors especially to leave that kind of mark on Missouri.
Q. Coming off the run you guys had down in Oklahoma City, what's this week been like for you? After seeing your name pop up, knowing you are going to the tournament and coming down here to Boise?
DEMARRE CARROLL: It's been a relief because last year we wasn't in this predicament, so to know we got an automatic bid in the tournament was really an exciting thing. Hopefully we gained a lot of confidence from that tournament and we can carry it on to the game tomorrow.
Q. How much are the steals and the opportunity for steals that you guys get predicated on the pressure that's going on out front?
LEO LYONS: Our guards put a lot of pressure on the guards up top. And most of the time when we press we're trying to put the ball into somebody's hands who doesn't dribble that much. So that gives us an opportunity to play a lot of passing lanes and play good on ball defense. And we get a lot of steals from balls that aren't normally dribbling the ball.
DEMARRE CARROLL: I got to give credit to our guards, because they really put a lot of pressure and allow guys like myself, Leo and Justin and so on to play the passing lane, because we're not your natural forwards, we just don't go and post up or that. We can guard a guard, a forward, we can guard whoever is on the court. So I think it's about putting pressure on the ball and reading the passing lanes and having big guys who can move up and down the floor is also a good key.
Q. I wanted to follow-up on that game. You watched that game, I assume. Do you recall what you did as that play happened and then after that? Could you say whether, did Cornell recruit you or did you have any visit there?
MATT LAWRENCE: Well, the day of the game it was awhile back. But I just remember a lot of people back -- I'm from St. Louis. A lot of people back there were really disappointed with it and it was kind of heartbreaking definitely to lose in that kind of fashion, because they played very good basketball game.
With Cornell, I can't remember. I think maybe, I think a little bit. Yeah, a lot of Ivy League, I was looking at some Ivy League actually and they're a great basketball team and they're here for a reason and they put some good teams non-conference as well. And any team that wins their league it has to be a good basketball team.
So credit to them for getting here.
Q. Can you talk about the season that you've had and the First Team All Big-12 and MVP of the tournament last week and just what that's done for you.
DEMARRE CARROLL: I think it's a great thing to have that kind of recognition, but I wouldn't be in this predicament or this place without my teammates. They really allowed me to be able to play basketball and be able to be a complete basketball player. So my teammates, I got to give credit to them because they really helped me get all those awards.
So I think it's a great achievement, but I'm not going to stop right here, hopefully we can take it on throughout this NCAA tournament.
Q. Certainly this is a family affair there at Missouri. Talk a little bit about having family there during the highs and lows since you've been there.
DEMARRE CARROLL: That's always great. It's a key to success too to have your family there. So because when you're down, your family is there and when you're up your family is there. So it's great to have family wherever you go. Especially in Columbia and through my hard times and through the good times. So I cherish that and hopefully my family can be there along through this whole NCAA tournament.
Q. To follow-up with the other players, is there a sense of family there with Coach Anderson and everybody that's related to him?
LEO LYONS: Yeah. We're together every single day. A lot of people don't think about that. And we become family over time. Us four right here, we have been here for awhile. We had a lot of downs, so that made us come closer together to fight through those things. And now that we're having success, we always stick together and depend on each other for advice and everything like that. So the family environment here is very strong and I think that's why we're doing so well.
Q. Looking how things worked out here it looks like your coach is about really the only person who has experience in the tourney, so what's he been telling you guys to expect coming to the NCAA tournament?
LEO LYONS: It hasn't been much he said, he showed us his ring. And that's the ultimate goal. It's not too much to say. He's been there before, so we just follow him and hopefully he can get us back there.
Q. J.T. and Matt, and DeMarre, could you guys answer this: Just what do you make of the idea that you're about to play in the tournament for the first time as opposed to Cornell team that has a lot of guys who played? Obviously you'll be pretty excited for the game, but do you have to think about reeling that in? How are you feeling about that?
J.T. TILLER: Just for our first time experience we're definitely going to have some butterflies. Just because this is a place we haven't been before. We're going to have that nervousness. That nervous energy. We're going to get rid of that very quickly.
Their experience is definitely going to lead them to do more things that a mature team would do, but we just got to play our game and continue to do the things that we do to get here, that we have done to get here.
LEO LYONS: I don't too much worry about the opponent. I think if we do the right things such as our defense, we're doing it the right way, we can compete with anybody in the country.
So this right here is just our first stepping stone in the tournament and just by being here for the first time, I don't think it's going to be like such a hard thing, because it's still basketball, it's another game that we have to play.
MATT LAWRENCE: I think Cornell definitely uses that experience to their advantage. They're a very smart basketball team. Even though we may be the higher seed, the seedings you definitely throw out the window once you get here. And you've seen it in the past. Upsets happen all the time. And people love to see them. So I'm sure Cornell will be ready and use their experience to their advantage.
DEMARRE CARROLL: The record is 0-0. They're 0-0 and we're 0-0. It's the first clean slate. So I think all you got to do is throw the ball up and we're just going to play basketball and they're going to play basketball. So I think experience really doesn't matter, it's just a game of basketball. If you go out there and play it the way that you're supposed to play, you'll be happy with the end results.
Q. What have you guys learned about Cornell over the last couple of days as you studied them? And do you guys follow at all the Ivy League, do you guys watch any of their games at all?
DEMARRE CARROLL: Me personally, I really don't follow the Ivy League. But you know we heard about Cornell and they're a pretty good basketball team and they got a lot of experience, like he said before, but there's 64 teams in this tournament, so obviously they're a good team. So you can't look past no team. I think we're just going to come out like we did in the Big-12 tournament and take it from the defensive standpoint.
MATT LAWRENCE: From what I watched they seemed to know each other's game very well, they work together, pass the ball, move the ball very well. Obviously they shoot the ball. They have multiple guys who have hit a lot of threes this year and they got a seven-footer in the middle who hustles very well and rebounds. So they work well together and they seem like they have been playing together for a long time.
LEO LYONS: After watching them, I didn't know too much about them before, but after watching them I think they're a great shooting team. It's a team that you can't gamble on, it's a team that you can't leave open. So I think our defense has to be at a hundred percent for to us win this game and to stop them from shooting.
J.T. TILLER: They're a very intelligent team. They're very great shooting team. One through five they have great players. Just seeing by the games that they have played outside of conference they can hang with the best teams in the nation. So it should make out for a great game.
Q. Can you talk about what role kind of conference pride plays this time of year and do you follow the other teams in your league and root for them, just sort of make your league good this time of year?
J.T. TILLER: Yeah, I think we do have some kind of sense of conference pride. We were watching the Texas A&M game and we just want the Big-12 to go pretty far. I guess it's kind of some kind of family pride. If you want to call it that. Because we want them to go far because we want the other teams to see what we had to go through in our conference play.
MATT LAWRENCE: There's definitely a sense of conference pride. It's kind of hard to watch last year, seeing our conference rival win it all, but it's good to see the Big-12 doing so well and it shows how tough our league is and how tough it was for to us get here.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thanks, guys, we'll have Coach Anderson here in just a moment. We'll go ahead and take questions for Coach.
Q. The first time these guys have played, but your first head coaching experience, I think, in the tournament was the Sweet 16 run. Can you just describe what it takes to get their mind right for this kind of situation when they're playing for the first time?
COACH ANDERSON: I think, first of all, we have approached this season one game at a time. One day at a time. I think that's something that's worked for us. And obviously when you get to tournament play, your conference tournament, you want to use that experience as you come to NCAA tournaments.
I think one, it's a one-game season. You survive and advance. That's the way I describe it. So we try to just stay consistent with what we have been doing all year long. I think that's been the biggest advantage for the team I had at UAB and the teams at Arkansas, of course, and it's something we'll do here. Just try to keep things as simple as possible.
Q. Your team was picked to finish sixth or seven in the preseason poll for your conference and I was told that you knew you had a special team at the beginning of the season. You guys press hard and you have great defense. Can you tell me a little bit about how you knew you had a good team coming in.
COACH ANDERSON: I think it starts with our older guys: Leo Lyons, DeMarre Carroll, Matt Lawrence, Mike Anderson, Jr., I think those guys coming back. Last year I made a statement in terms of those guys going to be the core guys. Tiller, and then, of course, Justin Safford and then we added a guy like Zaire Taylor. So I think with those guys being the core and the new guys coming onboard, they made the commitment during the summer months to come up. And that formulated a bonding situation where these guys got to know one another.
Then, of course, we had an opportunity to go to Canada on a foreign tour trip, without doing a whole lot of practicing just to see the basketball IQ, see how they came together. We averaged almost 130 points without me doing anything. So I'm looking at myself and my coaching staff and I say, We got some more options now. And so I think with that, in my mind, I thought that we had an opportunity to be a pretty good basketball team if we continued with the same attitude of working and bonding and pushing one another and look where we are now.
Q. The guys were saying that you showed them your ring this week. Can you talk about that. Is that something you wear often or just break out to motivate them once in a while or talk about sort of why you did it and the reaction you got?
COACH ANDERSON: I tell you what, it was something I thought about real hard before I did it. I never ever showed those guys the ring. I think when I first took the Missouri job I showed the guys that were here, you know, this is what I'm all about. I'm used to winning, I like to win, I want to win a National Championship.
I always said in order to have something you got to be able to see it. So I wanted them to physically see it. But that's the first time I pulled the ring out. We were getting ready for the championship game of the conference tournament. And obviously that puts you in position to have the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. But I wanted those guys to actually see it. I said all season long, as the season progressed we're in the hunt for something, I don't know what it is. Well, lo and behold, we won the conference championship and that puts you in the NCAA. Now we're in the big dance and we want to dance. So hopefully in order to have something, as I said, you got to be able to see it.
Q. Speaking of seeing it, it's all Tiger nation could talk about Sunday night was, We're disappointed we didn't get to go to Kansas City and we got to go to the scene of the Tyus Edny crime. You've been here a long time, you have been here a number of times in the NCAA tournament, but you know all about that Tyus Edny play. Is there any, with the risk of sounding tongue in cheek, is there any motivational ploy at all involved in that play that you can use for these kids today now?
COACH ANDERSON: No, that has nothing to do with this basketball team right now. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking the committee probably, I've been here like every four years, I came in '98 with Arkansas, I came in 2001 with Arkansas, I came in 2005 as a head coach with UAB. And so I think the committee looked at it and they basically said, It's time to send Mike Anderson back home. So I'm back home boys, I want you all to know that.
So I'm excited to be here. I think they do a great job with this tournament and we're excited about being here and I think that we're looking forward to playing. Again, that particular situation doesn't have no bearing on what's taking place here.
Q. Can you talk about DeMarre and the season he's had and what he's meant to this team this year.
COACH ANDERSON: I tell you what, DeMarre Carroll is like the heart and soul of our basketball team at the forward position. I say the same thing about J.T. I think he's the heart and soul of our basketball team at the guard position. I think you put those two guys together, you got a pretty good combination.
But DeMarre's a fifth-year senior and I think just to see the progression of him as a basketball player, not only as basketball player but a leader on a basketball team, I think that a lot of that credit goes to him. I think he's worked extremely, extremely hard. And not only that, I think that because of his work ethic, I think he's got the younger guys as well as the older guys, they really look up to DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons, you name any guy on our team, they really look up to DeMarre.
But coming from Vanderbilt, he was pretty limited in the things that he did. But I think that having an opportunity to play an up-tempo basketball, that gave him an opportunity to really broaden his game. You can see now at times he's like a point forward. But I always tell him, you know, as you continue to improve and develop, don't forget who you are, what you are. And I keep saying he's a junkyard dog and that's what he does. But he's important to our basketball team.
Q. Can you talk about Cornell and what you see with them when you look at that team?
COACH ANDERSON: I see a team that's a very dangerous team because any time have you a team that can shoot the basketball with guys that Wittman, Louis Dale, of course I'm very familiar with him from Birmingham.
When you talk about that, Foote, I think he's a tremendous passing center, handles the basketball. A good passing team, they average almost 15 assist as game. And I think they're good at what they do. Then you put in some of the role guys that are playing real well, but they shoot the ball extremely well and they make good decisions. So it's a very dangerous team and they have won quite a few games and they won the league two years in a row and they have been to the NCAA tournament two years in a row. I think that gives them an edge because they have been here.
So I'm sure that coming in I think they're looking forward to the challenge of playing our basketball team. We're going to have to play some pretty good basketball in order to try to pull out that win.
Q. Someone asked Cornell's coach why we don't see more 40 minutes of hell, more of your pressure style of defense. And he said maybe it was a challenge to recruit the type of players that would be willing to play only 24 minutes, that some people might not see it a conducive system to making the jump to the NBA. And I'm curious to get your thoughts on why we don't see more of it and whether or not it really is a challenge to get those types of players and who you look for?
COACH ANDERSON: I tell you what, we're pretty fortunate at Arkansas we got some guys to play it. I think it's just a process at Missouri. This is only my third year. I think when you watch our basketball team play the guys get, actually get a chance to really showcase their God-given abilities and I think that it all comes back to winning. You want guys that want to win. I like winners more than anything else.
So Corliss Williams on our Arkansas National Championship team, as good as he was, he probably averaged 28 to 29 minutes a game. Corliss averages 22 points and probably 10 rebounds a game.
So what I'm saying from that standpoint is, 28 minutes of the way we play, you getting quality minutes, not just quantity minutes. It's the equivalent probably of 38 minutes for somebody else.
And I think when kids see that, then I think that it makes them think again. But again, I think that you might be right from the standpoint of some kids don't want to commit to that, because we -- one thing about it, we get after it on the defensive side of the ball. But I think we did a great job at Arkansas in attracting guys that fit what we're doing and we play all kind of ways. We want to play up tempo basketball.
Q. Do you look at the tournament when it comes out how many teams from each conference got in and then do you think the Big-12 is represented enough and do you root for those teams obviously when you're not playing them?
COACH ANDERSON: I think we got six teams in this year. Obviously, I think that the Big East with all their teams and the power conference they have they probably got the most. As well as the ACC, I think.
So, but I think it's the Big-12 is kind of underrated from the most part until the tournament. Selection came then and you see six teams and possible could have been a seventh team. But I think that you'll find out how well the conference really was, I guess, when the tournament unfolds. But we do follow each other.
Q. What were some of the challenges you faced, some of the bigger challenges you faced when you took this job; and then to follow-up, do you think this trip to Boise shows that you've passed those challenges or those challenges are behind you now?
COACH ANDERSON: I think first coming in to the Missouri job it was obvious the reason why the job was open, so coming in I knew I had my work cut out for me. I had to go in and find out, number one, what we had there. In terms of players and personnel the kind of kids they were. They had to find out a little bit more about me.
And as I got in there obviously we had to do a good job in terms of recruiting and finding players. But I'm one of those guys that I don't worry about what I don't have. I work with what I got. And there was a lot of guys that were coming back and we tried to, our first year we won 18 games, and next year we had a lot of off-court issues that took place, that probably kind of dampened the season. And I thought that was a tournament team. Last year.
Some unfortunate situations took place, but it also gave me an opportunity to establish what type of program we're going to have. The brand. So I think coming in changing the culture, and more importantly, I think, getting some players.
Q. You knew what you had coming in with Tiller, how important is it that Taylor became the number two guy that gave you two kind of spear points out front? Is that a key to your season?
COACH ANDERSON: I think guard play is very, very important. And I think that again as the trip went to Canada, you could see some things that Zaire brought to the table. Sitting out the year, that's different than actually coming in and playing. So but I saw a guy that could give us a lot of versatility, a big guard that could rebound and have a good feel for the game. Just a matter of how soon he picked things up.
And I think actually J.T. probably helped him. And why I say that is because of the competition day in and day out. And so I think that I got one of the better guard tandems in the country, I really do. I think that they can have an effect on the game without even scoring. And we have seen over the course of a year that they can score and make big plays.
So I think when you get guards like that I'm sure DeMarre and Leo and Matt, those guys are happy to play with those guys. Why? They're so unselfish and they take care of the ball and they leave to know the floor. So I think it was important that you got a core of guards and I think we got some good young guards that are coming in behind those guys.
Q. Interested in your thoughts on Cornell's talent level and also what do you make of Wittman and what type of player he is.
COACH ANDERSON: I think Wittman's a dynamite player. Probably one of those guys you're going to see play like his dad at the next level. He has unlimited range and I think that he's added on some weight and you can see, Player of the Year in the league. They have had back to back players of the year in that league. The defensive player of the league in Foote. Louis Dale was the Player of the Year last year. He came out hurt and of course, so they have got some experienced guys.
They returned a lot of people from last year. So I think their talent level is a lot better than what people think. And that's why I say, the first game is one of the toughest games. Why? The nerves are going and you got a lot of guys never been here before, so it's going to be interesting. Not only that, their team, they understand the game. And they can really shoot the basketball. And they get the ball to the right people. So Steve Donahue's done a great job with those guys.
Q. It's a real family affair there at Missouri. Talk about -- or what has it meant to you personally that you've had this success this year and a bunch of your family has been able to be there with you.
COACH ANDERSON: It's kind of like you have to go through some things, so you have to go through the bad times or the storms that you go through, it makes you appreciate the good times. As things are starting to happen. So as we come through the storms it makes you appreciative of the good times. So in order to have something you got to go through some things and I think one thing about family they're going to stick with you no matter what.
So to see the things taking place for DeMarre, Mike, and all of my players, my team is my family. So I've had some guys that stuck through it. It could have easily said hey, coach, I can't handle this, let me get out of here. But they didn't. So it's kind of rewarding to see all the things that I talked about to them that are starting to happen.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, coach.
COACH ANDERSON: All right. Thank you.
End of FastScripts