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October 29, 2009

Thad Matta


THE MODERATOR: Joining us now at the podium is Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. Matta enters his sixth year with the Buckeyes and welcomes back the squad that went 22-11.
Opening statement and then questions.
COACH MATTA: I think it's an exciting time as we near. I think our players are getting tired of banging on each other, and for us we open up college basketball on November 9th. So trying to get ourselves as ready as we possibly can is very important to us.
As you look at the schedule -- I was just sitting in my hotel room changing and a friend of mine texted me and said, geez, I saw you're playing five of the top 10 teams this year. I said, yeah, we've heard something about that.
So I think as we continue to move forward and you take your nonconference schedule and get yourself ready for the Big Ten, and for us we open up with four of our first five games on the road in the Big Ten, which is going to be a tremendous challenge for us.
And I think that this season, as you look at the Big Ten and just the parity in it, it's going to be the team that catches a break here or there, stays injury-free and gets on a roll at the right time.
So, like I said, it's an exciting time for us.

Q. Now that you recently moved Evan Turner to the point guard spot and a lot of guards within the league that people know about, what do you expect from the guard position in the Big Ten?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think that you're looking at a league that is very guard heavy. You've got some great guards, some great wings. And you look and say those are the guys that make plays for their teams. And as you look down the rosters, and you're looking at guys that have the ability to make plays, there's a lot of them. And there's multiple guys on a lot of teams as well.
So I think it's where the defense is going to come into play. I think in regards to Evan, what he is in my mind is a play-maker. Would I call him the perfect point guard, I don't think that, but I don't want him to be that. I think the way that we're trying to play is maybe a little different where it's not like a few years ago where you've got a true great point guard and you put the ball in his hands and let him go from a certain spot on the floor.
I think we want to do that with Evan because he has I think made major improvements in his game over the course of the summer.

Q. You're picked third in the pre-season voting behind Michigan State and Purdue. What do you think your team has to do or maybe some key aspects of the game or some key positions that have to come through for you to challenge for the title?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think that we have to -- in those regards, I think, number one, you've got to be a great road team. You're going to have to get some wins on the road that maybe you're not projected to get.
I think that we've talked about we're going to have to rebound the basketball at a high level. We're going to have to take care of the basketball. We're going to have to be a team that is very sound and very disciplined with what we're trying to do offensively.
And then I think in regards to staying together as a team and as you look at this season for I think any team, there's a possibility for some highs and some lows. And I think really just keeping the focus on exactly what our job is and what we have to do every single time we take the court.

Q. Coach, you said that you heard about playing that tougher schedule, five out of the top 10 teams. Could you elaborate? Did you feel you had to play a tougher schedule? Or did it come from some circles where you had to beef up your schedule? What did that mean?
COACH MATTA: I think, first of all, a few of them are Big Ten teams, which I think says how good this league is. And, like I said, we open up Coaches vs. Cancer on November 9th, we play two games and we go to Madison Square Garden, we play North Carolina and then either Cal or Syracuse. And we have to go to West Virginia this year in a return game in the course of the Big Ten season.
I didn't feel that we had to -- I think we've always played a pretty competitive schedule and this just is one of those years where everybody's going to be really good on our schedule.

Q. Back to that Evan Turner thing, how much is based on what you saw in late games last year when you did that and how much of it has to do with Lighty and Buford who may be able to play the forward positions? Are they healthy at all?
COACH MATTA: Both. I think to answer your question, I think seeing the things that Evan can do in watching him this summer and with a foreign trip that we had, you know, getting David Lighty back is huge for this basketball team.
And I thought last year right at the time when he went down we were playing some great basketball. We were undefeated. Had the No. 1 defense in the country. And I think we're 13th in the country. And I think that speaks volumes to what David is, what he brings to our team. And he's a guy a lot of times that you may not see it on the stat sheet, but he's a guy I know that I need on the floor as much as we can possibly have him on there.
And having a guy like William Buford coming into a second season, I thought Will last year, as he got thrust into when David went down into a position of saying we need you to play and we need you to produce, I was very pleased with what he brought to the table.

Q. Talk about your center position and the injury there and the loss of Mullins?
COACH MATTA: I think that's the great thing. I don't have to sit up here and talk about one-and-dones because I have no freshmen. I think in regards to our center position, I think that Dallas Lauderdale with the break in his hand has set us back a little bit. I think Dallas was -- had a great offseason. But I do hope the surgery went well. It will be three weeks I think next Tuesday, the surgery has happened.
We've got him in doing things in practice. We put a quarterback jersey on him where nobody can hit him. He's able to condition. The hand therapy is going great. So hopefully we have him right around the opening of the season or shortly thereafter.
Kyle Madsen being a fifth-year senior, he knows the system. He knows his role on the team and have been very pleased with his play and also adding a seven-foot Zisis Sarikopoulos who sat out last year but has been able to practice with us, we're pleased with what he brings to the table. Very cerebral basketball player and knows what he needs to do to help us.

Q. Can you talk a little bit more about just the impact of having David Lighty back and what that adds to this team?
COACH MATTA: As you look at David, and he's a guy that has won a Big Ten championship, he's played for a national championship, a key role in a run to the national championship game. He's a guy who has been in your program now for four years.
I think this: I think David Lighty is a strong candidate for Defender of the Year. I think he's a great defender. The thing that I like is he started this year he's really shooting the ball well and just he's a glue to a team that's been through a lot of different situations in the time, in the games that he's played at Ohio State.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

End of FastScripts

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