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March 20, 2010
BUFFALO, NEW YORK
MIKE ANDERSON: Joined by members of the Missouri Tigers. Missouri was 22-10 going into the matchup against West Virginia tomorrow. We are joined by closest to me Keith Ramsey, next to him Zaire Taylor and J.T. Tiller at the far end. Go ahead and take questions for these gentlemen at this time. We'll start over here and come down front.
Q. You all stumbled at the end of the regular season and yet you were extremely confident Thursday coming into Friday's game that you would dominate Clemson. It happened. Can you tell me what you saw in yourselves and especially the guys next to you that gave you that much confidence?
J.T. TILLER: We were just going out there -- what Coach preaches is that we should have a short-term memory loss. You can't dwell on what happened in the past. You have to look forward to the future and you have to play our games. Zaire and Keith, they really stepped up as senior captains yesterday and just led the way and let our guys start off really strong.
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I was just there. They did all the work. Keith I mean he gave you 20 and 10. When he gives that you that kind of effort, I mean I don't think anything is going to beat us. I mean I knew coming into the game he was going to give us that effort because he never came to me with so much reassurance and just so much confidence going into a game. And I think when we have that, Keith, then we are a completely different team. I'm pretty sure we're going to have that the rest of the season.
Q. That's what I was going to ask you. All three of you feel the same way about Sunday?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: Yeah, I feel real confident about Sunday. You can't win a game if you're not. I mean I think the guys to the left of me -- left and right of me, the guys in the locker room are all confident. The coaches are. And we're ready to just get on the court and start practicing and get prepared.
Q. Zaire, you grew up in the BIG EAST backyard. What do you make of the comparison between which is the better conference, BIG EAST or Big 12 this year?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: This year I would say -- I would have to say the Big 12. I say this every year. I say this since I've been in the Big 12. The BIG EAST has a lot of talented teams. Some elite teams. But at the same time they got about 30 to 40 teams in the conference. So you have got to measure -- so when you figure the BIG EAST brings eight out of 20 into the tournament, and then the Big 12 brings seven out of 12, so you're going -- we're going over 50%. They're still around 30.
THE MODERATOR: Numbers may vary depending on where you are.
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I still take nothing away from the conference. The conference is still a very strong conference. The Big 12, it's been proven. I think we're great example, that any team can beat anybody. We lose to Nebraska, Iowa State beats Kansas State while they're still in the hunt for first place. I mean every game is a battle. That's who finished 11th and 12th in the conference. When you get more to the bottom of the BIG EAST, I think they are still competitive teams but I think the teams in the bottom of the Big 12 are better.
Q. One follow-up. Keith, I don't know that you can, but would you like to top that and address the same question?
KEITH RAMSEY: I really couldn't top this. Let Zaire have that one.
Q. How important is it for the younger players like Mike Dixon and Bowers, the role they're playing with the team this year, especially someone like Dixon who came in as a freshman and how he's matured?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: Well, I mean Mike -- just from the second he got out there, I think he felt like he was at home. He made some big plays yesterday. He seemed extremely comfortable. I think I need to talk to him a little bit more, had to feel that comfortable out there. The way he was playing I think was amazing.
Q. You guys have given great answers about the two conferences. The West Virginia guys were in here earlier talking and the Syracuse guys were talking about it last night. It would seem in this tournament you wouldn't think that much about -- you would only think about, hey, my next opponent. Is that rivalry between conferences the thought of outdoing another conference really a motivation; is that something you actually can be able to bring into the game tomorrow?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: Personally, I don't think so. It's Missouri versus West Virginia. That's where it stops. It has nothing to do with the conference. I honestly don't think there's a rivalry. I think -- looking at the conferences, I don't think that people really judge it as much. I think -- I know personally I'm concerned about what we do. I mean if teams from the Big 12 win, hey, that's great. Whatever. But at the end of the day, we want to win. I mean, I don't think we're going to be celebrating if Kansas or any other team in the Big 12 wins the national championship. I don't think we're throwing a party at Missouri's arena. But at the end of the day, we want to win. I'm sure West Virginia wants to win. I don't think they're going to be the most excited team in the world if Syracuse wins the national championship.
But I don't think there's really a competition. Because I think a couple of years ago you would have been saying the same thing about the ACC and the BIG EAST. Right now I think we're the two best conferences in college basketball. So there's a lot of talk about it.
Q. For Zaire, when teams have been successful against your press and it hasn't been very often, what have they done to beat it?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I mean, I don't know that's a question we really want to answer right now, if I do know the answer. I think I'll just leave that question alone. Honestly, I don't know the answer. But if I did, I wouldn't answer that one.
Q. If you were playing against your press, what would you do to try to be successful against it?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I think that's the same question.
Q. This is for J.T. Is there any sense of pride or motivation in trying -- don't disrespect last year's team because you guys did so well, but to build on last year's accomplishments and show that you guys are just as good as you were last year without those three guys?
J.T. TILLER: Last year was a great team. But this year we want to put our mark or our stamp in the history books for Missouri. So like every game, we want to prove something new. We want to win more games than we did last year. But with even five more wins we wouldn't do that. With this chance, with this opportunity we do want to take it one game at a time and go past that Elite Eight mark that we had last year and try to get even further.
Q. Along the same lines, when did you get a sense that this team had it in itself to at least reach this point?
J.T. TILLER: I believe we had this type of team to make a run in the tournament right after, you know, we ended the season last year. We have ten returners from last year's experienced team. So I figured we could use that experience to really go even further than we did last year.
Q. For J.T. or Zaire, I'm wondering how much does the pressure help you particularly in the postseason when you're facing teams that haven't necessarily seen it before?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I think the pressure is good. I think sometimes you need pressure. Pressure can bring the best out of people at times. I think only the future will really tell how much the pressure is really going to affect us, if it's going to be in a positive or negative way. But I feel pretty good about it.
I like the fact that there is pressure and knowing that any day could be the last game. As you can see, I mean, from Keith's performance and J.T.'s performance yesterday, they definitely rose to the occasion.
Q. That's a good answer. I was referring to your pressure defense. How much does it help when you are facing teams that haven't necessarily seen your full-court pressure?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: Oh, pressure busts pipes. Like pressure, that's the way we're going to play. We're going to live or die by that. I mean, the pressure is what -- that's what got us here. We can't stray away from what we know and what got us to this point this far.
We don't know any other way to play but to pressure.
Q. J.T., what is -- West Virginia has a core of three really good players: Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones. What's your impression of them and how much of them have you seen on tape from the BIG EAST tournament?
J.T. TILLER: From the BIG EAST tournament, unfortunately, I got to see a couple more games than I really wanted to seeing that we at our tournament we got bumped really early. Those three are some really good players. They are really talented. In the BIG EAST you really have to be really talented. Those are some physical players that can shoot from the outside and take it inside. So it's going to be pretty much a battle of wills tomorrow to see who can overpower the other.
Q. Zaire, can I ask you the same thing?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I would go as far as saying they have four good players if you add Wellington Smith, then you add their two guards, I mean they have two starting point guards. Like with Mazzulla and Bryant. I think they're both talented. But at the end of the day, we're talented too.
Q. How would West Virginia fare in the Big 12?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: That's neither here or there. I can't answer that question. I'm sure they will be one of the better teams in the Big 12. I'm sure they would be a real solid team in the Big 12. But at the end of the day, they're talented and we're talented. It doesn't really matter who is more talented. It matters who plays better that day, who executes and who lays more out on the line and who plays with more heart. God willing, we'll be that team.
Q. Keith, can you tell me what you expect of what you're going to face in the paint with three guys that will bang, and can you compare it to any other game you might have played in the Big 12?
KEITH RAMSEY: Every game in the Big 12 for us. It's so physical. And I've seen them play. They have a lot of strong guys on their team. I mean, me, Laurence and Steve are going to be in for a challenge all night. We have to box out. Because they crash the boards like Kansas and Kansas State. We faced both of those teams twice.
Q. For Zaire or J.T., either one of you. When you talked about bursting the pipes of guys when you're putting that full court press on them, how much is it about the mental aspect of it, making guys overthink their game, pass too quickly, handle the ball poorly, and you just want to get in their heads with that kind of style even before you take the court?
THE MODERATOR: J.T., do you want to start?
J.T. TILLER: I think the mental aspect of the game is very important. Especially with the pressure game that we put on. If we can get you psychologically and mentally out of doing what you want to do, then that really plays into what we're trying to do to be successful in the game.
ZAIRE TAYLOR: I mean, I think the press, I feel like it's supposed to wear teams down. When you look at the way we've been playing, there's games where we were -- we were down last game. And I think the wear and tear of the press both physically, mentally and even emotionally, I mean in every possible way, I feel like it will wear teams down. Teams start to get on each other, start to yell at each other, or coaches get on you. There's just a lot -- the pressure just -- when we say pressure busts the pipe, that's in every way. Physically, I mean, you're breaking the press in the first ten minutes of the game, come the last ten minutes you're starting to get a little more tired. And I'm out of the game. Now you have Mike Dixon, a fresh body on you. When he's tired, Miguel Paul is coming after you. It never stops. It seems like the number of bodies never end. So I mean that's how we try to wear a team down. I think it pays its toll physically, mentally and emotionally.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you. Good luck to you tomorrow. Head Coach Mike Anderson joins us. After getting his team to the Elite Eight last year has them in the second round here in Buffalo. Coach, good to see you again. Go ahead and make an opening statement.
MIKE ANDERSON: We're still here. Obviously we must have done some good things yesterday.
Tell you what, the game, Clemson and Missouri, a hard-fought game. We were just fortunate to come out on the winning side of it. I think we got one of those spurts. It was a game of runs. I think we had the run the longest and we kept it the longest in the second half. We were able to keep off a Clemson team that was charging there at the end.
With that being said, it allowed us now to advance and to face against one of the better teams in the country in West Virginia. A team that has been in the top five, top -- all year long.
Coach Bob Huggins does an outstanding job. They have a tremendous assembly of talent when you talk about Da'Sean Butler, Ebanks, Smith. You can go on and on about that basketball team. And one of the guys that's really playing well for them is the Jones kid.
With that being said, it's a long athletic team. We're not an overly-sized team. We certainly are going to have to play this game and play lights out from the standpoint of matching their size, their toughness and especially at the rim. I think that's what they do well. They can shoot it and they can go get it. It's going to be a game of will of tempos. But I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity to continue to advance in the tournament.
Q. Mike, what is a coach's concern when you have to compensate, change rotation, that type of thing as late in the season as did you after you lose player?
MIKE ANDERSON: Well, I think that was obviously, when you look at what took place in the last four games with our basketball team, last five games, it had an effect, because now we have a lot of productivity. We had one of the best benches in the country. When you have Bowers coming off the bench, you have Marqus Denmon, you have two of your top scorers coming off the bench. Now there's got to be an adjustment with Justin Safford going out. And Justin, he was really starting to play some real good basketball. That was another guy of size. I think the adjustments started. When that took place, we're going into places like Kansas State who is one of the top five teams in the country. We play a team, Iowa State, and we eked one by. Zaire makes a big shot.
So you could just see the adjustment. That's why the score -- it goes the opposite way. Our defense, I thought, was pretty decent, especially at Kansas State. And then of course you play one of the best teams in the country in Kansas at home. And of course we shot the ball well earlier and then it kind of went away.
I thought those adjustments -- those guys adjusting to roles, that's huge for our basketball team. And so then we go to the Nebraska game. And I thought we just didn't show up from an energy standpoint. So when you look at the last few games, we lost I guess three out of the last four. What people don't understand -- that's a big adjustment. I'm glad you kind of brought that up.
Justin, he's one of the few veterans we have. We have 11 guys on our team that are first or second year. The other two are -- J.T. Tiller, who started for us, I think he was the only one. Isn't that right? J.T. Tiller. We have Justin, and J.T. and Justin is out of the equation. Eleven guys are in the first or second year. That's a big-time adjustment. But I'm proud of these guys in terms of what has taken place.
Now, Steve Moore has an opportunity to step up. He's given us some quality minutes.
Q. I was wondering, the pace you play at, how much does it help you particularly in a tournament atmosphere where teams don't have much time to prepare for it and they're not necessarily as familiar with it as maybe your Big 12 opponents?
MIKE ANDERSON: I think that's been the secret as we got into tournament play. I always talk about that first game being the most important one. Because you don't know how your kids are going to come out. You just have to survive and get past that one there. I think as you get more and more through the tournament, I think your kids get more into a rhythm. Not only that, the turn-around, the quick turn-around. And I think with the depth that we play with and hopefully that will pay difficult tends as we continue to move. I don't just play these guys when it's a game when we're blowing people out. I play these guys when the game is on the line from the non-conference through the conference. So it's times like this here that can draw back on those experiences and continue to help our basketball team.
Q. Even back to your time with Coach Richardson, whether it be a kid taking a long time to tie his shoe or officials needing to beckon people out of time-outs, what are some of the things specifically you've seen from other teams to sort of kind of slow the game down?
MIKE ANDERSON: I think CBS is helping a little bit. They got them long time-outs. They've got them long time-outs. Man!
Q. Have you seen specific things like that whether it be guys purposely untucking their shirts or their shoe laces? Do you feed off of that when you see team tiring such as that or trying to do that purposely?
MIKE ANDERSON: We've seen it where guys are grasping for their shorts. Especially within that last ten minutes mark. I heard Zaire while I was coming in, he talked about that last ten-minute mark that they think those ten minutes are ours. Because of the depth and how many guys we play, they actually believe that. And the game may go back and forth. But we feel like the last ten minutes fatigue will become a factor. That's when our guys really step it up.
Q. Coach, along the same lines, Kevin Jones in the locker room had mentioned that we've got to make this the slowest 40 minutes of basketball. How do you respond to that? You have their respect, I guess.
MIKE ANDERSON: Well, it's a game of wills. Wills and tempo, I guess. We'll see what takes place. We can play a lot of different ways. The bottom line is you want to find a way to win. And I always say we want to be unpredictable. And I think when you watch our team play, you may see us in a bunch of different defenses. But at the same time, we still want to -- the up-tempo. I think that's what we thrive at. That's what we do, that's who we are. But I think our defense, that's what I always talk about. Our defense is the key to what takes place with our basketball team.
Q. Coach, you talked a little bit about it yesterday. Seeing Da'Sean over the summer at the World University Games and Team U.S.A. Can you talk a little more about what you saw in him then and after that can you elaborate on how much he has grown since then?
MIKE ANDERSON: Tell you what, I like his toughness I like his basketball IQ. He's very versatile. He can post up, he can put it on the floor, he can shoot. Makes tough shots. One thing about him, he loves to go to that glass. He loves to go to that glass. I think he's playing off guard for them now. His ball handling has gotten exceptionally better. And he's a leader. He's leading this team. He's willing this team. When you look at what he did in the BIG EAST tournament, that's phenomenal. Guys know you're going to get the ball. They know what you're going to do. He just comes through. That's a big-time player there. That tells me he's got a lot of heart.
Q. You mentioned a couple of minutes ago about one of your deep benches. This is sort of another growth question. Michael Dixon, the role he's playing in this team, he really came through yesterday and earlier games.
MIKE ANDERSON: I tell you what, he's done a phenomenal job. He started off real fast. I think non-conference he played really well. We got him to conference play and I think the sense of urgency goes up many, many more notches. I think he found that out.
I think through the conference and through practice, having an opportunity to go against J.T. Miller, Zaire Taylor, each and every day. I always tell him they pop him around. He really is popped around in practice. On the floor. But I think that is hopefully the proving ground to get him ready for situations like this. But he's quick, he's got good basketball IQ. He's learning as he goes. But he's a spark off the bench. He was certainly a spark last night -- yesterday.
Q. Coach, there's been a lot of talk today about BIG EAST versus Big 12. When you look at West Virginia, who would they be comparable to in the Big 12 that you've played in terms of either personnel or style?
MIKE ANDERSON: I think we probably played against every kind of style in our league when you talk about guys that rebound the basketball, toughness at the rim. Baylor's got some big guys that go to the board. Kansas State. They're a team that is one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the country. They are going to push the ball, throw it inside and try to go get it. They get to the free-throw line. And because they get offensive rebounds, you end up fouling them. So they attack the rim. So I guess -- Frank was with Bob, so I guess if you want to say similarities, it would be that.
But at the same time, I mean West Virginia is a totally different team. The versatility that they have. They have a lot of guys that can handle the basketball. They can make passes, they can score. And evidently they have a tremendous leader in Da'Sean Butler.
Q. Mike, along those same lines, if this team for you was in the BIG EAST, how might they fare?
MIKE ANDERSON: They would do well. I think they would do well. I think they would do well. There's a uniqueness in terms of how we play. I think -- I really think we would do well in the BIG EAST.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions for Coach Anderson? Tip-off the second game tomorrow against West Virginia. Coach, best of luck.
MIKE ANDERSON: Thank you.
End of FastScripts