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March 21, 2009
MODERATOR: USC student-athletes joining us on the far left is Dwight Lewis, Daniel Hackett, DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson.
Q. For any of you four, I guess. The number of minutes that you four have all logged, how has it affected you this year, or has it affected you?
DANIEL HACKETT: We practiced in the off season. We prepare. Obviously it has been tough on us. And the training has done a good job on our legs. We are just playing basketball and having fun and I think we can sustain that.
TAJ GIBSON: When it's do-or-die and guys just want to win games, the fatigue doesn't even matter. You just want to go out there and play hard. Because, you know, there's always time to ice down and time for rest. But these memories last forever. So guys are just taking advantage of them.
Q. This question is for DeMar. Some weeks back Taj gave a very emotional speech to rally you guys. Can you talk about how it hit you?
DEMAR DEROZAN: You know, he is one of our leaders, you know. When he steps up and voices his opinion, we all listen and we follow behind him and follow his lead. And that's something that really helped us out and we still carrying on to the tournament.
Q. DeMar, the last six games you've kind of really stepped up your scoring, which is kind of the same as this six-game winning streak that you guys are on. Do you kind of think that is not a coincidence and it has been a big part of that?
DEMAR DEROZAN: You know, I just think we are all clicking at the same time. And everybody finding each other in the right spot, saying we are all trying to make everybody's game come easier. You know, I think that's what has been happening these past six games.
Q. Taj, this one's for you. Yesterday in the game you were 10-10 from the floor, shot 100 percent. Have you ever done that before? And how does that happen? Is it technique or just pure luck?
TAJ GIBSON: I don't even remember the last time I went 10-10. Probably went 9-10 or something like that. But my teammates just finding me on the court. And it was just making the game real easy. And I was able to finish a lot of good plays.
It happens in a game, I just warmed up real hard. I got a taste for the rim early in the warm-ups and the pre-showcase, so I just felt good.
Q. For any of you guys. Wondered what your impressions are of Michigan State. Have you look at them much? Get to see much of them last night? What kind of pace do you expect in this game?
DWIGHT LEWIS: Michigan State, they really push the ball off makes or misses. They get down the court real fast. They like to post their bigs a lot and they have a couple of great guards that like to penetrate. We just have to contain them as much as possible.
DANIEL HACKETT: It is a great program, you know, great history, great tradition. You know, they have been playing great all season long. And as Dwight said, they like to push it a lot, play at a high tempo. And, you know, we expect Lucas to make plays off the dribble all night long and we'll be prepared.
Q. Daniel, can you talk about the foul trouble that you guys played with last night, and what it means for Coach Floyd to leave you guys out there? Obviously there is a lot of trust in. And can you talk about now the effectiveness of your defense doesn't seem to change, even if you have three, four fouls in the minutes you are playing?
DANIEL HACKETT: I think we are used to that. We've been playing all season long. And throughout these years we learn how to adjust to foul situations and playing in foul trouble, you know. Taj had four, but was still effective on the defensive end. And I think Dwight had three and myself had three.
It's nothing, you know. It doesn't affect us in a negative way. So we have been able to play our defense.
Q. This question is for Daniel. As the leader in minutes on this team, what kind of confidence do you have in your bench? And how much will you need your bench against a Michigan State that can often go 10, 11, sometimes 12 deep?
MARCUS JOHNSON: You know, guys coming off the bench, like Nikola, Leonard Washington and Marcus Johnson, they have to come in and give us good minutes to give us some rest. And we have confidence in them that they can step in and do a good job. They are doing that in the past, and hopefully they will give us good minutes.
Q. Taj, historically when the Pac-10 and the Big Ten meet, it's the two styles are pretty different. Do you see some similarities, though, in the way you and Michigan State play, the attention to defense and rebounding?
TAJ GIBSON: Both teams play phenomenal defense. Our coach stresses us to rebound the ball as you look at them and they are one of the top rebounding teams in the country.
And being from the Pac-10 we learn to adjust real easy to so many different styles each different night. So looking to see how we fare against a top talented team like that.
Q. For Taj and Daniel. What have you learned from Coach Floyd in the years you have played for him and what has he brought to the USC program?
TAJ GIBSON: I learned how to just become a man. To just take advantage of situations and just try to become a leader. As far as on the court, it's just expanding my game, just like any good coach is going to do, he is like a father figure and he teaches you things you need to learn for life and it's been working so far. And he gave us a long speech before we made this run as well. Just telling us about all the times he has been playing in the NBA and in college, about how many games he has been through and just telling us it will be okay.
DANIEL HACKETT: To start, he is a great teacher, off the court also, not only in the gym. You know he's been great. And the past three years in dealing with us and, you know, building a real strong program.
He's very demanding, very intense. But he knows what he talks about. He played the game. He coached the game for a long time. Coaching pros and in college. So we respect him and we have been able to go on this nice ride this past three years.
Q. For any player at all, because of the injuries you've had, do you feel like you are a much better team than your record and seeding reflects?
DWIGHT LEWIS: Like you said, we had with a lot of injuries. And around this time I don't believe too much in seeding. Any team can lose in any given night and everybody in this tournament is a good team.
And I think with all the injuries we had, it really made a lot of players step up and have to play. And we've done so. And getting everybody back healthy now and we are just clicking right now, like DeMar said.
Q. For Daniel or Dwight, I am not sure who is going to be covering Kalin Lucas, but if you know who -- or what's it going to take to shut him down? What is kind of going to be your approach to that?
DANIEL HACKETT: We don't know that. We wouldn't know until Coach talks to us.
But he's a tremendous player. We have seen him in person and on tape. And creates a lot for their team. So whoever has him is going to have to be very aware of his style of play and his aggressiveness off the dribble.
Q. Just for anybody. Yesterday Coach talked about psychology of winning. How important do you think it is to be on this winning streak, especially in a game tomorrow where you are going to be kind of an underdog? How important is that momentum going to be in pulling that off?
TAJ GIBSON: It's going to be big. It's about coming in, basically trying to let another team know that nothing's going to be easy and just let them know that we're going to have a good game. That's the first thing. Every team wants to come in feeling the good about themselves and just trying to let their stake be known.
Q. Taj, I was wondering what you thought of Goran Suton and how you look at that match up and in general all of the big men in the inside matchup tomorrow.
TAJ GIBSON: I have been really watching a lot of college basketball the last couple of years and I have been really watching their team. Their big men are very skilled. After just seeing how they played, Kevin last year at UCLA and seeing how tough the battle was last year, and seeing how much they have grown this year, it looks kind of scary on film.
But just trying to go out there and give it my best effort. They have a lot of talented guys, go like five or four deep, so just looking forward to the challenge.
Q. Taj, in talking to you in the locker room yesterday you could really get a sense for your emotion. Are you carrying that on the court or just, you know -- just leaving that separate?
TAJ GIBSON: Every day. On the court and off the court. That's the way you have to think about it. Coach really stressed to us and I really talked to him in his office like about personal stuff, about basketball and life, and just using both aspects in the classroom and on the basketball court.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, gentlemen. Best of luck tomorrow. We're going to excuse them back to the locker room.
Joined on the dais by USC head coach, Tim Floyd.
Q. Just wanted you to talk a little bit, you touched on it the other day, just about your team getting healthy now. I think 9-0, if that's correct, when you're at full strength. Is that really the biggest answer to maybe some of those struggles? I know you had a tough schedule there in February, and why you're now playing so much better?
COACH FLOYD: I think it has had a lot to do with it. It's allowed us to play different lineups and different people. We can go small, we can go big. We couldn't do that earlier.
And Marcus Simmons's health has had a great deal to do with our success. And he didn't score a field goal last night, but he is anchoring the defense out front. He's really getting us into play and has created problems for teams getting into offense.
It's limited the strong point guards. This time of year you are always playing against a great point guard and he has been able to do a job on those guards out front.
Q. Tim, how deep do you feel like do you want to go to your bench? And how deep do you feel that you need to go against a team like Michigan State that can go 10, 12?
COACH FLOYD: You would prefer to go as deep as they go. That's just not who we've been and we don't probably have the same depth that they have.
We do recognize that you can't go play these guys, all three of them, 40 minutes like we did last night. That is not something that will happen in Saturday's game. But we felt like it was necessary last night. But we feel like we have some quality inside depth with Washington. Brett Winkelman started several games, and Washington started several games for 24. And Vucevic started a couple of games for us. And this game might require us to go bigger because of their ability to rebound.
Q. Yesterday Taj was perfect 10-10 from the floor. How does that happen in a game? Did you teach him how to do that?
COACH FLOYD: Yeah, I taught him every bit of that.
No, heavens no.
No, he just -- we played through him. He's an experienced player with talent and skills. And we always play through him because he's such a great passer. And he's a good decision-maker.
It so happened that he had the ability in last night's game to go make plays. You know, we typically get him anywhere from 10 to 14 shots a game and he was just able to finish last night. He played at a high level. He played at a high level.
Q. I was wondering what kind of pace do you want to see in this game? Obviously you're able to get some run-outs last night, Michigan State more depth. Do you want it to be an up-and-down game?
COACH FLOYD: You know, I feel good teams can play fast or they can play half court. It seems as the tournament progresses you watch teams play, and this is true even in the NBA, they become more half court because guys are -- every possession means more. Defensive transition gets better. Guys sustain stances longer.
And I think that, you know, we'll hopefully be prepared to play however we play. We got locked into a half-court game with Arizona State in the conference final, but we were able to make it up-tempo by trapping and pressing the last half of the game. And I feel like we can play different ways, but I think Michigan State is going to have a lot to do with that.
I feel like they are the best conversion offensive team in the country, as well as being the best rebounding team in the country. They get it out of the net and get it from one end to the other with a purpose better than any team in basketball. They also do it, convert off of misses better than any team in basketball and convert off of steals better than any team in basketball.
So defensive transition is real key. But I am sure that all of you in Michigan have heard that from every coach that they played against.
Q. Tim, how long did it take for you to instill the defensive mindset that this team seems to have? All of them mentioned how big of a key that has been in this run, and especially last night in the second half.
COACH FLOYD: Well, we have been a good defensive team since our second year. And every year we've been in the top two in our league in defensive field goal percentage.
And Daniel, Dwight, Taj and Keith were all parts of that. They came in our second year. And Taj is a guy that cures a lot of ills on the back end of your defense. When you have a guy who is the third leading shot blocker in Pac-10 history and in his junior year, he can create a lot of things for you with his individual talent and length.
You know, he's 6-9, but he's not 6-9, he is about 6-11 1/2, 7 feet with his length. He has great, great length.
And then we have determined defenders like Tom does. I don't know that they are as good as Tom's. He has five guys, and I never seen guys sustain a stance like they sustain a stance. Sincerely beautiful to watch, how hard they play. There is a reason why they have been in three Final Fours.
And I felt like I was looking at a team last night that can win the national championship. Nobody in basketball has done a better job than him over the last 12 years. It's a real credit to him, to how his guys play and how they represent that school with consistent passion and smart play.
Q. When you're leaning on a couple of guys for a lot of minutes, how do you manage the foul trouble, keeping them all in the game? I know it was kind of an issue last night, but you managed to avoid it.
COACH FLOYD: Well, we -- you know, first of all, you have to be in great condition. You're in great condition, then your mind remains strong. And we don't play defense with our hands, we play defense with our feet.
So these guys are very experienced. They played a lot in this situation. This isn't the first time they have been playing 40 minutes. We've been doing that for a long time around our place. We've had a lot of early departures to the NBA. We lost our five leading scorers over the last two years and four were early departures.
As a result our depth may not be like Michigan State and some of the other teams, and these kids have had to play long periods of time, but they are experienced at it and they are in great condition. And they don't play with their hands, they play with their feet. So we haven't really dealt with foul trouble.
Q. Coach, for those in Big Ten country who haven't had a chance to see DeMar DeRozan, can you talk about what kind of player he is and what he brings, and, you know, what talents he will show on Sunday?
COACH FLOYD: Well, in a game that features exceptional athleticism, he is over the top. I don't know that I've ever coached a greater athlete.
And sometimes that statement means that a guy is just an athlete, but he's not. He is a skilled basketball player who has got a mid-range game. He's a guy that can drive and get it to the rim. He's a good passer. He uses his athleticism on the offensive board. He is the fourth leading offensive rebounder in the Pac-10 this year, which is a stat that sometimes goes unnoticed with his game. And he's a more confident player right now.
He felt his way through the first 10 or 12 games, but he's without ego. He's humble. And he's a guy who truly wants to be a great player. And with the package that he has, I have no doubt that he will be an elite player at the next level, at some point in his life whenever that time occurs. But he is a great, great talent.
Q. Coach, what do you enjoy most about being back in the college game after your stint in the NBA? And what makes the USC program a good fit for you?
COACH FLOYD: Well, it would be a good fit for any coach in the country. I mean, it's the best job I've ever had. Because we're in an area with 18 million people, at a highly-ranked $55,000-a-year private school education and kids growing up wanting to go to school. There are a lot of basketball players in Southern California and now a brand-new $147 million facility. It is the most expensive college facility in the country.
The school has made a commitment to basketball. And that makes a coach's life easy. Or timing is certainly better than when I went to the Bulls, okay. In that, you know, it's a place where guys are really wanting to go right now. And when I got to Chicago, Michael and Scottie and Dennis and those guys had left. And it was difficult because, you know, it was hard to attract guys to come win when we knew we were going to try to build through the draft and be bad for a while.
What was the first part of the question?
Q. What do you enjoy the most about being back in the college game?
COACH FLOYD: I enjoy being in control of my own destiny. The fact that, you know, we pick our players, we pick our team. I enjoy being back on a college campus and being around young people, you know, that really are aspiring to be someplace.
And just being on a college campus is to energizing. I always said if I wasn't coaching, I'd love to be a professor and just be around young people that are trying to go someplace with their lives.
But, you know, I had a guy come up and talk to me about whether or not he should get married. That didn't happen in the NBA, you know. Guys come up and, you know, bring me a newspaper article from their hometown and show them to you and sit down. That stuff is kind of corny, but it's fun.
Q. How big is the momentum brought in with this winning streak, having that behind you for tomorrow's game?
COACH FLOYD: Well, I think that's a good question, because, you know, I think teams can learn how to lose and they can also learn how to win. And I think the way we've won has been with a consistency on the defensive end and we've limited our turnovers from who we were early. And I think our players understand that.
Q. Just in general, wondering what your biggest concerns about Michigan State tomorrow.
COACH FLOYD: Their ability to play the game with a passion and a high level for 40 minutes and do it by playing smart. The efficiency with which they run their offense. The detail. Their great ability to get from one end of the floor to the other at a high rate of speed off of makes, off of misses, off of steals. And their great ability to rebound the ball on both ends. And their talent's pretty good, too. How about real good.
Q. Going back to the winning streak, right when you guys took off was about the same time DeMar started his kind of scoring terror. How related are those two things?
COACH FLOYD: Well, DeMar had other games early in the year where he was outstanding. You know, I think our first -- the thing that's been great about him is he's played when a lot of other players can't play in their freshman year. He's played on the road and he's played in big games. A lot of freshman don't know how to play on the road, how hard you've got to play.
But I remember, you know, 21-and-12 game on the road early in the year. A couple of other big road games.
But he's just more settled, more confident and it breeds confidence in other our guys to include him in what we're doing, and the staff to include him more. He has grown. He has been earned that trust.
Q. How well do you know Tom? Did you have a relationship back in the college days?
COACH FLOYD: I don't know -- didn't know him at all till I got back from the NBA. And all I told him one time is I heard his name mentioned with NBA jobs and to stay put. I think that's the first thing I ever told him when I met him, you know. Because he's too great at what he does. And I've been an admirer from afar for a long, long time.
And the thing that I think is so great about him, nobody ever says anything bad about Tom. Nobody does. I guess maybe the guys at Michigan would. But nobody -- I never hear anybody ever say anything negative about Tom. He is one of the good guys. And he's one hell of a coach.
Q. Michigan State has had some trouble this year going against zone defenses, outside shooting would be maybe one of the weaknesses. Can you talk about your philosophies on that? It seems like you switch back and forth again.
COACH FLOYD: Wait a minute, what do they have trouble with so I can go back and look at the tape? With zones and what else? I really do need you to answer the question. What was the other part of the question? Zones and what else?
Q. I think I said zone defenses. Their outside shooting. Does that help?
COACH FLOYD: Yeah, that helps.
We've been playing a lot of man-to-man. Who knows with a day rest what we'll do. We will go back and watch some more film.
You know, I watch a game glancingly during the year and seen them play ten minutes here and eight minutes here and haven't really studied them. Saw them last night and left with about six minutes to go to press. I just got my yellow legal pad and went home and went to bed because they played so well.
I don't know. I don't know how we'll play right now. I couldn't tell you.
Q. On that note, is there anything special you're going to do to shutdown Kalin Lucas? Or what's it going to take?
COACH FLOYD: No, you know, he is a great guard. He's a great guard. I don't think we would do anything different than how we have been playing to this point in the season. I really don't.
You know, we played Collison and Jerome Randle in our league, two very, very good guards. And Rice, of course, was a good guard last night, and I don't think we would play any different than how we have been playing.
MODERATOR: Okay, thanks, Coach. We appreciate the time and best of luck tomorrow.
COACH FLOYD: All right.
End of FastScripts