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March 19, 2010
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
ROGER ROSS: We have Danero Thomas, Isacc Miles, Isaiah Canaan and Jeffery McClain, and we will open it up for questions, please. We have Coach, obviously, we'll do players first and then we'll open it up for questions for Coach Kennedy.
Q. Did any of you guys get any sleep last night?
ISACC MILES: I slept great. I always sleep good at night, especially with time change is different, but I slept great.
ISAIAH CANAAN: I went to sleep right after we ate.
JEFFERY McCLAIN: I got some good sleep after I turned my phone off.
DANERO THOMAS: I was up a little bit. I had seven messages, so I had to get to everybody before I went to sleep. I had a good sleep, though.
Q. Danero, 24 hours later what's this like?
DANERO THOMAS: Everybody has been calling, after a shot like that, it's crazy, but everything is back to business. Take care of business.
Q. Anybody that you didn't hear from that you did expect to hear from and what were the interesting messages that you got.
DANERO THOMAS: I heard from a lot of people that I hadn't heard from in years. I just talked to them, congratulating me on the shot or whatever, but ain't nothing too serious.
Q. Danero, and maybe some of the rest of you, how difficult is it to kinda collect yourselves again and prepare for another opponent after such a dramatic victory yesterday?
DANERO THOMAS: We've been doing it all year. It's just the next game, we've been winning since the beginning, so we've got to get in there, stay focus and have to pay attention to the details and whatever Coach wants us to do and execute for the next game.
ISACC MILES: Like Nero said, we played in a Tournament in Florida and back-to-back, one day rest, back to business, got to enjoy it last night, but now we back to business and trying to get another win.
ISAIAH CANAAN: That's all part of the Tournament. You win the first one you've got to move on to the next one. However many days they give us to prepare for the next game we grateful for that. Even if we don't have a day to prepare we're going to start that night after the game.
All we did is after the win we celebrated a little bit. We just got to get our minds set for this next game tomorrow.
JEFFERY McCLAIN: It was a great shot and great win, but we've got to move on to the next one, stay focused and focus in on the little things.
Q. Jeff, tell us about yesterday. You were called on for some big minutes when the big men got into foul trouble. Talk about the adjustment as a role player coming off the bench and how you flourished in that. Tell us about the progress.
JEFFERY McCLAIN: I bought into the situation. I was put in this year coming off the bench, just playing my role, playing hard, whatever I got to do to help the team win, just defensive rebounding, offensive rebounding, just being hard, tough-nosed, whatever we need and bought into that and it's been workin' for us all year.
Q. For any of you, it's kinda the nature of this Tournament, when a high seed wins it becomes a team that everybody is pulling for, wondering if here in town you've been feeling that at all, anymore tension than when you first got here?
ISACC MILES: Not exactly. I don't feel no high seed, to me everybody is the same, no seeds, no upsets, it's just who is prepared. We won 30 games and, you know, they're a good team but we know how to win and Coach preparing us all year to know how to win big games and that's what we've been doing all year is preparing to win and winning on defense.
COACH KENNEDY: I hope we can gather that kind of attention. I thought last night's crowd was good and we had the underdog role, but we don't really see -- our guys don't see themselves as an underdog but I'll take everything we can get from every fan pulling for us.
Q. How much do you guys know about Butler? Any of you guys have connections to any of their players?
ISACC MILES: You win 22 games, you know, they are doing a great job. But we heard of Butler when we was on the winning streak of 18 and it was tough, but they have a great basketball history just like us. So it's going to be a great match-up.
Q. When you guys were tied with the winning streak did you kind of pay attention to see what they were doing at that time?
DANERO THOMAS: I mean not really. I know I didn't. We just was trying to win as many games as we can, you know? It wasn't like a challenge thing, whatever, we was just trying to stay focused and keep winning.
COACH KENNEDY: We heard it a lot and a lot of people would tell me after our game "Butler won" or before the game "Butler won." So I thought we gotta keep winning, we were trying to win, too, and we did here and it was -- some of our guys follow it a little closer than others.
Q. Maybe for Isacc or any of you, high in the nation in steals, Butler turns the ball over maybe a few more times than what they used to. Do you feel like that's an area you might be able to exploit, pressure them into some mistakes and let your defense turn into offense?
ISACC MILES: All year we've been relying on our defense, defense wins championships, so I feel like they do a great job of not turning it over but at the same time I think our defense is a lot different, just getting up in it full court and making them work every possession. So our guys and Coach has bought into the defensive end and we've got to keep our mind focused on the little things.
ISAIAH CANAAN: We always work on the pressuring the wings and whoever our opponent is, so if that's one of their weak spots you know we going after that, the defense and the type of pressure we play and bring it every game.
Hopefully that will be a good thing for us.
Q. Just to all the players, do you think you're playing your best basketball of the season right now?
DANERO THOMAS: I mean as a team we haven't had our best game yet, so we kinda looking for it, you know?
ISACC MILES: No, I don't think so. Best game to me is shooting 100%, so we ain't did that yet.
Q. Before you guys found out you were a seed or anything did anybody make spring break plans other than this?
ISAIAH CANAAN: No, we were ready to get to this Tournament, spring break ain't even on our mind 'cuz we comin' in to win. Spring break is a good thing to have, and this is my first time not having a spring break.
But I mean, I would rather be here in the NCAA Tournament then back at home anytime any day. I ain't have no plans. I have plans to play in more games and that's why I'm here, and I thank God I'm in this Tournament.
Q. Isaiah, if you did have spring break what would you be doing?
ISAIAH CANAAN: That's a good question. I would probably be gettin' some rest, laying my body down. This year been good, and I think my teammates and my coaches for putting me through everything they put me through to getting me to being the good player that I am now. But going home to spring break I would say I would be resting, laying down, watching TV.
COACH KENNEDY: He would be in Biloxi, Mississippi trying to get home as quick as he can.
Q. How difficult is it to enjoy yesterday, but still not be satisfied and getting on about winning tomorrow?
ISACC MILES: Well, it's just a game and when you win you're happy, your emotions are there but our mindset is bigger and more, you know, so it's all about winning. We just want to keep the train movin' and get as far as we can.
Q. Danero, since yesterday I read a lot about your situation and Hurricane Katrina and all that. What were you doing exactly the hurricane hit and how have you managed to keep in touch with everybody who got scattered around the country?
DANERO THOMAS: The day the hurricane hit I was home. It was the summer going into my senior year of prep school. We got out of there early that morning. We was traveling all day. We kind of separated, I think me and my home and two of my sisters got to Atlanta and two of my sisters kind of went the other way.
We had connections, so I didn't really lose connections with nobody. I probably couldn't get in touch with a couple of my friends that got caught down there but my family, I've stayed in touch with them.
Q. Guys, there are a lot of people back home that the only way they can watch you Saturday is on the TV. Do you have any messages for your family, friends, people back in Murray that will be watching?
ISACC MILES: Keep supporting us, and we doing it for them and everybody else that's supporting Murray State Racers.
ROGER ROSS: Thank you for your time, gentlemen. We'll continue on with Coach Bill Kennedy.
Q. Coach, you talked about a lot of people mentioning Butler when you guys were tied with the streak. What's your impression of them? Did you get a chance to watch 'em play during the regular season? What's your impression of them now?
COACH KENNEDY: The thing that's impressive about Butler is how good they've been for the last ten or so years. Just consistency in their program and their style of play has carried on probably more so than any program in the country when you look at the coaching changes that they've had and the success they've been able to have and their defensive field goal percentage is always really good and offensively they're shootin' three's. Their system hasn't changed.
So if you saw a Butler team a few years back, it looks like the same Butler team, although they do some different things. But I think the continuity of their system and their program has been tremendous.
It's probably as good as anybody in the country.
Q. Did you ever recruit Shelvin Mack at all? Did you ever know much about him?
COACH KENNEDY: No, Eastern and Western Kentucky, I've found in the last four years we have a hard time gettin' kids out of Eastern Kentucky, they identify with the Butlers and Macks more so than the OVC. So we knew of him and we knew he was a good player, but we didn't feel like we could get him to be honest.
But I definitely know how good he is and he's been a special player for them, 7 of 9 from the 3-point line is special for the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Coach, you rank very high in the NCAA in a whole bunch of categories especially on defense. What do you see as the key things to influence this game? Is it perhaps the pressure you can apply on teams with steals and turning defense into offense? They struggled a little bit in the first half against that pressure by UTEP.
COACH KENNEDY: That's been a strength of our team and with only a day to prepare there won't be a whole lot that we'll be able to change or want to change.
Pressuring them, taking away vision so they can't find three-point shooters, but what makes them special is the big kid inside. He does as good a job as anybody in the country posting up big and gettin' in the paint. He creates a lot of scoring opportunities for them on the perimeter.
We're going to have to pressure him, we're going to have to play great defense on the perimeter and hope they don't have a 12-3 half again because when they're shootin' the ball that well, they're going to beat a lot of teams.
Q. Billy, you being from New Orleans and Danero from New Orleans did that have anything -- was that a connection there in his recruitment?
COACH KENNEDY: Right and we're trying to ride the "who dat nation wave." We're both big Saints fans, and I knew him when I was the head coach at southeastern loose and had recruited guys from his team and we both happened to leave at the same time, I went to Miami and maintained a relationship with him and recruit him to the University of Miami a little bit.
When I got the job at Murray State I knew of him and was fortunate to get him because I had connections in New Orleans to get him to our place.
Q. When Hurricane Katrina hit, I don't know your situation but --
COACH KENNEDY: That was a terrible thing. I was in Miami and we were out of electricity for a week and what Katrina came through and there was another storm that came through we rode it out in Miami and I said "y'all better leave" if this storm is anything like it was when it hit Miami you better leave.
My parents were in a position to leave and a lot of people weren't in a position to leave. Some of my former players and Danero's situation, I found him at Mount Zion High School. I went by his high school and because and watched him play because I knew about him and that one touch probably helped me get him to Murray State, and that New Orleans is a terrible thing and now with the Saints winning we were able to ride that and you saw the passion and the enthusiasm people have from the city who are from there.
Q. Coach, what do you expect to see defensively from Butler?
COACH KENNEDY: That's what goes unnoticed I think a lot about their team and their program. They're a very good defensive team, great position, you know, their post guys do a great job of getting you off the block and they don't beat themselves, they play really smart and disciplined defense.
I think we'll do a great job guarding them, you know, and they're going to score, I'm sure, some points but I'm concerned about us scoring against them. We're going to have to score off of our defense and get to the free-throw line some and we're going to have to make our free-throws because they do a good job of getting to the free-throw line.
They do a great job on the defensive end limiting post touches and paint, which we do a good job of driving' it and we got to make three's, because that's one thing they do better most teams they force you to shoot threes and you've got to make them when you get the opportunities.
Q. Billy, talking about how you were thrust into an underdog role by the nature of your seed, but you do have a 30-win team. How do you approach that with your team? Do you take the motivational ploy like nobody believes in us, we're an underdog, or do you approach it differently?
COACH KENNEDY: You got to know a little bit about Murray State. When I took the job there it was win, win, win! The pressure to win on our guys is greater than most programs our level because Kentucky basketball won, and Murray State has won so much. When we lose, our guys don't feel real comfortable going out in the community, just being honest with you. That's just how it is.
They think to win that many games we think we're supposed to win, and I saw it last night kind of reinforced me because I was really concerned about Vanderbilt. I didn't like the match-up, their post guys, their size, as well coached as they were and I was way more concerned than our players were.
So it was good to see that after the first 5 minutes when they saw our game plan was workin' and we made a couple of shots in the first half our guys thought they were going to win the whole game even the last 4 seconds. We thought we were going to win. I fed off of them more than them feedin' off of me.
When you win that many games and it's like Butler, they got down against UTEP, they didn't get frustrated, coaches were probably concerned but the players are going to keep playing. When you have teams that are used to winning like that it's amazing the confidence that breeds and it's been fun to be a part of that because I've never coached a team that's won this many games.
Q. Coach, kind of a follow-up, when you hear people say this is Butler and these guys are trying to get into the Sweet 16, these mid-majors, what's your reaction? You're probably better than 90 or 95% of the teams in the country?
COACH KENNEDY: I'm glad to hear you say that because there is a lot of good teams out there but you've gotta get off the mid-major -- our guys don't think they're mid-major, I remember Lefty Drizzel when I was coaching at Centenary College and in his drawl he said "mid major, there is nothing about me that's mid-major, I'm high major."
That's on you our guys believe they are, they all believe they're high major, they all believe they should have went to Kentucky and Louisville, and nowadays everybody gets mail so they all think they were recruited to go to Louisville and Kentucky.
So it's not bad that they have that confidence, the hard thing when they have that kind of confidence is gettin' them to play together and be unselfish and I think Butler's team has been able to do and we've been able to do and that's why it's going to be a good match-up.
Q. This is a more favorable size match-up than Vanderbilt but what does Butler do that Vanderbilt doesn't do despite the size that they don't have?
COACH KENNEDY: They shoot it a lot better. It's a different kinda size match-up, the Veasley kid is an undersized 4, and he's a tough match-up. He's had an incredible year, the first two years not to have made a 3 and then to shoot ball so well as a senior this year, he's a tough match-up. Then they have a big guy who plays on the perimeter who can make three's and is skilled.
Most post guys aren't used to going out on the floor and guarding, but the great thing about our team is in the OVC that's how most people play in our league, undersized 4's, big guys on the perimeter, and that's a mid-major trait that we're used to playing against.
So we're hoping that will help but it's really a tough match-up, because of the position guys being different. They have a good inside player, then they've got a big guy who can play outside then they've got a little guy who can play inside. It's really a difficult match-up from that standpoint.
Q. Coach, so many people watched you back in Murray and Paducah and Western Kentucky, do you have a message for the fans that couldn't make it?
COACH KENNEDY: Just keep prayin' and I know a lot of people are prayin' for us and pulling for us and I believe that's been a positive force. Our guys don't want to let people don't and when you get that kind of support you're not only playing for yourself but your region or your school, and that makes it special and that's why we've had a special year.
ROGER ROSS: Thanks, Coach, for your time.
End of FastScripts