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March 20, 2009
Marquette - 58
Utah State - 57
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from Coach Williams and then take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH WILLIAMS: As I said yesterday, I think Utah is the hardest team to prepare for of any in my career as an assistant or as a head coach. Similar to some of the things that I said yesterday, it's almost a little bit of a mathematical problem. They average 72 points, they average 72 possessions, and over the last 10 years in the 86 losses that they have had, 70 of those have been with a score of less than 72.
In the first half we had 18 stops out of 27 possessions. In the second half in the first eight minutes we only had two stops, they had eight baskets. So it was a tale of two halves. Obviously we were able to get consecutive stops in the first half and not in the second half and that's why it turned into the game that it did.
But at the end of the day, they had 66 possessions and they scored 57 points. And so we were able to limit their number of possessions and particularly in the first half hold their field goal percentage down to a number that we could at least give ourselves a chance for success. We're grateful for the victory, Coach Morrill and his team they were a perfect example of their institution and the way they competed and in their preparation.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions now for the student-athletes.
Q. Lazar, yesterday everybody talked about how this was going to be a guard's game. You changed it. Did you expect to be able to do what you did?
LAZAR HAYWARD: No, I don't think so. I just think it comes down to with the confidence from my teammates and just being able to help those guys. I never go into a game thinking I'm going to have a game like that. I just do what I'm supposed to do and when things happen, they happen.
Q. If you do happen to play Missouri, particularly without your point guard, how dangerous a situation is that, given the way they play defense?
LAZAR HAYWARD: I don't think it's any different than any other team we play. You can never replace a Dominic James, but Maurice Acker does a great job running our team and he's getting better day after day and he's getting better each game. So of course, it's going to be a different look and it may be a little bit difficult for our team, but it's not a hard adjustment.
Q. Did you sense a change in Utah's intensity to start the second half as compared to the way they played most of the first?
JEREL McNEAL: I think for the most part in the second half they just came out and any time you're down going into half time, I'm sure the coach got them real revved up and ready to go in the second half. But more importantly the thing that we didn't do that was effective for us in the first half was guarding their actions and things like that and they came out and we weren't getting after it on the defensive end like we needed to. We weren't getting stops and that limited our easy baskets in transitions and things like that. So that's the reason I think the swing came in the second half, more than just them being ready to play.
Q. Talk about attacking their zone and it seemed that there were stretches especially when they came back in it that you guys were kind of just standing around the perimeter, really couldn't get inside.
JEREL McNEAL: I think the situation was where starting off just against them our pace was bad going into the period. We weren't cutting hard, we weren't hitting gaps and playing inside out like we needed to. Once we started doing that we started to get a lot of looks that we usually get and a lot of shots that we usually make. But a lot of them were falling too. It was just one of those nights from the perimeter for our team.
But I think we did a lot better job as the game went on, just doing a better job keeping the up-tempo pace and hitting gaps and creating for others.
Q. Your coach is like a human calculator breaking down numbers. How much of that do you absorb and how does it help you when you're on the floor?
JEREL McNEAL: It's something I got used to. He always every time we see him he got some type of stat for you. So whether it be a time out off the court, on the court, it's like he's like a number freak. And after awhile you get kind of used to it. You expect to hear some type of stat, some of the stuff will be just like, you know, you want to know how he actually gets these numbers and things like that, you know.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I think we're starting to absorb it even more. I know the first time he started doing it, we would look at each other and smile like, man, he's making these numbers up. (Laughter.)
There ain't no way like off the top of his head he's calculating these percentages, but they make a lot of sense. When he broke down Utah, they said they average 72 points and the 72 possessions, and they're averaging just a point a possession. So when you break stuff down like that and break down what we need to do in order to prevent the outcome from happening, then it's simple.
We took to heart the game plan today where we wanted to get stops, consecutive stops in a row, per TV time out. And we were able to do that a lot in the first half like Jerel said, we got away from it a little bit in the second half, but we were still able to fight and get this victory.
Q. Talk about Lazar's game and it seemed like every time you guys got in trouble he hit a big shot and you guys looked for him and he made a shot.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: Lazar said he's doing what he's supposed to do. Lazar is a big-time player. I still don't think that he gives or gets enough credit for what he does with the opposing teams, which is fine for us. If you want to play off Lazar, we'll pass it to him all the time and he'll keep doing what he's doing. I think the two of us draw a lot of attention and Lazar, he's a smart player. He's got a great basketball IQ. He knows how to get open, he knows to get in the spots where we can find him. And then he does the rest of it.
JEREL McNEAL: Pretty much same thing Wesley just said. A situation where me and him just draw so much attention, that's one of the things, that takes pressure off us as well as getting us open looks when we draw attention and Lazar is in the right spot we get him the ball and he's knocking down shots. So that causes the defense to have to account for him a little bit more well too and that allows more drive angles and things like that that start to open up for us.
Q. Coach said when you guys were in the Big East tournament you played three of your first defensive halves in the first year. The first half, especially the first 12, 13 minutes you guys really shut down Utah. What have you guys changed lately or how have you really been able to tighten up the defense?
JEREL McNEAL: I don't think we changed a lot. It was just more than anything with this team, I think it's just a mindset. We're in a situation now where we're understanding that for to us win games and to be successful we got to be unbelievably a defensive team and that's not just a couple players, that's the entire team and everybody got to cover for each other and things like that.
But lately we have been working hard each and every day over the last couple weeks just to get that defensive edge back. And I think it's here even though we're still not perfect by any means, we still got a lot that we can get better at that you're seeing a lot more stretches where we're shutting the opponent down. But now the next step is to try to take away those stretches where they're scoring too much on us too.
Q. For Lazar, you drew that fifth foul on Jared Quayle with about a 1:45 left in the game. Were you aware of his foul situation and how big was that?
LAZAR HAYWARD: I was definitely aware of his foul situation and the coaches make sure we were all aware. When we had the ball they made sure we were attacking. So it was definitely big for us in the outcome of the game. We got the win, but you never know what may happen. We could have got going into an overtime and he would have been out of the game, so we just always make sure we're aware of certain situations and fouls and making sure we were attacking the right way.
Q. Talk about what it was like to play against Tai Wesley and the kind of game he had against you guys. What made him difficult to stop?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I think he's difficult for anybody. He's a skilled big man and he works hard. He knows the game well. He's a smart player. He uses his body, his positioning, to just make it tougher for any defender. Then when you try to help he's a good passer and he plays off his teammates very well. So I think that's what gives him his success.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse Marquette's student-athletes and thank them and congratulate them. And now we'll take questions for Coach Williams.
Q. Can you explain what seems to be almost a borderline obsession with the numbers where you learn this and how critical it is to sort of dictate how your team's going to play.
COACH WILLIAMS: I probably was a little overboard yesterday in my comments and I know that I'm new to this forum. It's probably not quite as "Rainman" as you think, but I do think this, I think when you're teaching 19- and 20- and 22-year-old young men the game, I think any statistical evidence that you can give them to support your teaching, I think it gives them another perspective on how to absorb and comprehend what you're saying.
Just to holler and scream and say, Do this, do this, do this, I think sometimes if you can show them in a different light how to execute and why the execution is important, no matter whether that's on offense or defense, I think that anybody, I think in any sphere, in any profession I think if there's statistical evidence to back up what you believe to be true, I think that it helps everybody better absorb.
Q. On that note, is there a number on the stat sheet beside the final score that explains why you won the game?
COACH WILLIAMS: We don't -- we study the stats, but really we derive a lot from the stat sheet.
Similar to what the guys were saying, as it related specifically to Utah, I thought that if we could get three consecutive stops per media time out we would win the game.
And in the second -- or in the first half we did that all but one media time out. In the second half, we only did that once. The last eight possessions that Utah had we stopped them five times. The three times that we didn't, obviously it was the last shot of the game, the shot that No. 5 made, kind of off the glass there when Coach Morrill called time out after he made it and then the other time the previous possession we fouled Wesley.
So I always look at rebounding because we're so size deficient, I always look at free throw makes, and then I always look at field goal percentage. But I don't mean this to enhance the first question, but I have a pretty good feel for how many shots they have made. Whether -- I don't have to wait until the end of the game to look at a stat sheet.
Q. Coach Williams, given your ability to get to the lane this year, how fitting was it that that ended up being one of the biggest keys to the game?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think that -- I appreciate you calling me "Coach Williams." Not because I need my ego stroked, I think that just means that you respect what you're doing and you have pride in your profession. That means a lot to me.
I think this: Like I said yesterday, it's not so much free throw makes in relation to our guards it's free throw makes in relations to our team, because we do not score many points from post feeds or points from the post. Lazar scored a lot of points today, but I don't know that more than two baskets were from the post. So any time we can get up in that 19 to 20 to 23 range, it always gives us a chance. It doesn't ensure us success, but it gives us a chance.
I think for the first 17 weeks of the season we were ranked in the top three and then it went to fourth and fifth and then since Dominic's injury we haven't shot near as many free throws. And so for to us get back to where we were doing that like we have been doing it earlier was key for us. It was definitely important.
Q. Coach, what are your thoughts on being the better seed and having to come in here and play in front of such a big Utah crowd?
COACH WILLIAMS: Oh, I was just -- when they announced us last Sunday I was just thankful to see our name. I'm not -- I don't have a very good grasp of geography, so I wasn't sure where Boise, Idaho was in relationship to Logan, Utah. And then once I found that out, I think it's good for college basketball. I don't know that anybody in this room or anybody in the TV media or Internet media picked us to win. So maybe it was due in part to their partial crowd, I don't know, but I think it's good. I wish we could host one in Madison. And maybe we can try to get that figured out and we can go there.
Q. You talked about your free throw discrepancy and how you like to shoot more than the other team or make more than the other team shoots. Utah has done that a lot this season as well, what played into it so that they only shot 8 this season? Was it their aggressiveness or your defensive pressure?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think one of the reasons that Utah has had the success that they have had is a lot of their shots where they get fouled come off actual shots. We're a different team in relationship to how we get fouled. We typically get fouled off penetration. They're a team that typically gets fouled off shots. So that leads directly to free throws every single time. And I think that when they shoot the percentage that they shoot and when they shoot what they do from the free throw line, not percentage-wise, I know it's really good, but when they shoot the volume of free throws that they do, that's really hard to beat. That's really hard to beat. But I think that for us to have a chance we definitely have to get to the free throw line, but ours comes a little different than theirs. They manufacture their free throw attempts in a different manner than we do.
Q. It looked like you were having a lot of trouble getting past their zone in the second half -- they played a lot more zone in the second half. Then when you got down six about five minutes to go, it changed and you were able to have success offensively from that point on. What did you do differently at that point?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think it was similar to what Jerel had to say, I think that our pace, we always talk about pace not just on offense but on defense. The zones obviously tend to slow you down and to pull you down and I told our team at half time I anticipated that they would play the entire half in zone. Not to be a prophet, but I just thought that that's what they were going to try to do to try to slow the game down and we did not attack it with pace, not off the pass or off the bounce.
And I thought that when we went on that stretch there where we started playing better what happened was we got two consecutive stops for the first time in the second half. And that trended towards us being able to play in transition and so now the pace of what we're doing helps us and so the next time that we didn't get a stop and they were in zone our pace had kind of picked up. So it's pace not just off penetration, it's pace off the bounce.
They were really good in the zone, they matchup really well out of their slides, their slides are not unique to a lot of zones, what they are really good at is bumping. They want to keep as many guys matched up as they can and they do a great job bumping in their zone.
Q. Coach Williams, I hate to ask you about the whole number thing again, but where does that kind of stem from? Were you a math major or anything like that?
COACH WILLIAMS: No, I wasn't smart enough. I went to junior college out of high school. I couldn't get into a four-year school.
It comes probably from a lot of different things. My father has a Master's Degree in chemistry and in mathematics and my grandfather quit school in the third grade and he taught himself how to count and how to read. I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandfather and I learned how to count and I taught him how to multiply and divide using dollar bills. And so that's just kind of how it started and there's some guys that I've hired on my staff that are more "Rainman" than I am.
And I think that we spend a lot of time when you watch tape of opponents, we watched every team that Utah has played this year that was televised in some sort of manner. But in that 18 games that I've watched them play against Utah, not only do we watch it and study it, but we chart every single possession that they have on offense and defense. So when they're on offense what play did they run? Obviously they run a lot of play, within that play how did they score? And within how they scored, who scored? And so when you break it down is No. 5, is he a driver left or is he a driver right? You can always say well he's lefts handed so he probably goes left. So we give our guys statistics on this is what number 5 does. This is what 24 does. This is what 21 does. 21 is getting two offensive rebounds per game 5.8 for the game, and he got two offensive rebounds in the first half and that's why the first 12 or 13 minutes we were doing a great job. And then he got two offensive rebounds in the last six minutes of the first half, that breaks your back when a point guard gets an offensive rebound. So it's a combination of growing up the way I grew up and it's a combination of who I hired and how I like to teach in relationship to supporting what I believe to be true from a statistical standpoint.
Q. Coach Williams.
COACH WILLIAMS: Thanks.
Q. For the game you guys shot 36 percent from the field and 26 percent from the three. Was that due to their defense or were you just off a little bit tonight?
COACH WILLIAMS: No, we always give credit to our opponent. I thought we were okay in the first half I don't think we, I thought we were a little quick, at times, on four different possessions, I thought we were too quick offensively. And then in the second half we were too slow. And I don't mean slow in regards to when we shot the ball, I mean slow in regards to our pace, like I said earlier.
The man first half with I think they probably ran four or five possessions of zone and then exclusively for the most part except on missed shots or out of bounds plays they were in zone the entire second half. And you could tell that they have watched the six games that we played without Dominic because a lot of teams have played us zone.
And it was in large part to them, it was partly due to the fact that we had poor pace in the second half, and when you have poor pace on offense it typically trends towards you having poor pace on defense which normally means you're getting the ball out of the basket. And those two combined normally trend towards losing.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you, Coach.
COACH WILLIAMS: Thank you.
End of FastScripts