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March 20, 2010
DENNIS KRAUSE: We're joined by Ohio State student-athletes David Lighty and William Buford. After that we'll hear from Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta. Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. You're the old veteran of this team. What do you remember about the way you guys escaped Xavier in the second round, and is the second round like a really big step? It's the first time you were a pretty high seed, usually.
DAVID LIGHTY: I would say so, but I just remember us having to come back like the last five minutes of the game, and everyone just making plays, coming together and get stops when we needed it and making big shots when we needed it. I think that carried over into the overtime. And after that we kind of just trailed on into the national championship.
Q. Just as a follow-up, Georgia Tech has a young team. It seems that it took much of the season for them to kind of get in the sync according to their coach and realize what's at stake. After missing a year, I guess there's no question that you wouldn't realize what's at stake. Could you address that with this team and the chemistry you guys have?
DAVID LIGHTY: Yeah, we know what's at stake without saying it. We don't try to pressure too much or reinforce it too much. Because we know if we lose there's no more playing, the season's over. But in the back of our mind we know that. So just going out there and executing our game plan and playing together like we've been doing is pretty much what we try to focus on.
Q. David and William, Evan looked pretty flustered yesterday. His body language looked, well, like he was flustered. When was the last time you've seen him that agitated?
WILLIAM BUFORD: I don't think he was too much frustrated. They were just closing the gaps on him, and he was penetrating and kicking it to us, and we were just knocking down shots. I don't think he was frustrated.
DAVID LIGHTY: I'm not really sure. I mean, yeah, I really don't know about that one. It's hard to answer that one. He's always calm and collected. But I don't know that it really bothered him that much. It's the game, you can't worry about calls. But he was out there still being effective and being himself. So it worked out to our advantage.
Q. When Evan's name comes up, is there a story that comes to mind, or what are the first stops that pop into your head?
WILLIAM BUFORD: Unstoppable. He's a tremendous player. He can score at will. He rebounds. Looks for his teammates. And he's just a terrific player.
DAVID LIGHTY: What word comes to mind?
Q. Thought or story?
DAVID LIGHTY: Different. I'll give that one. Off the court he's different, I guess you could say. He's a tremendous hard worker and it's showing off right now. And so everything that he did in the offseason is just coming to light.
Q. We assume, media fans, that you guys know about Georgia Tech and that Georgia Tech knows about Ohio State just because of technology and games on TV and things like that. How much did you know prior to last night? How much had you seen Tech play? Are we maybe taking more into account than we really should be when we talk about these two teams?
DAVID LIGHTY: I've seen them during ESPN, watching ESPN, watching games throughout the whole season. So I mean, we've seen them a little bit. Pretty much didn't probably didn't focus on it too much or think about we would be playing them in the tournament. But we know what they have and the strengths they like to do.
Just keying in on things like that, what coaches have planned for us for the game plan is basically what we go off of.
Q. Were either of you surprised here in Big Ten country that the crowd got so behind USCB? Do you think that was an underdog thing or Badgers don't love Buckeyes or what?
DAVID LIGHTY: I'm not sure. I mean, really try not to worry about that. Just go out there and play the game. It's always like that. It was like that in the Big Ten tournament as well. Michigan started hitting shots. You hear everybody yelling and screaming for them. You can't do nothing about it.
Q. Kind of sort of continuing along that, as you guys have had more success, and with Evan getting all the media attention and Mark gets a lot of media attention for his Club Trillion blog, are you finding that there's a lot of people that want you to lose the more success you guys have?
DAVID LIGHTY: Not in Columbus, we know that for a fact. They love us there. But as you wander off and go other places, it's going to be people who have their own opinion and teams they root for. So you can't doubt them for that or worry about that, pretty much.
So we just continue to love the people who love us.
Q. David, you used the word "different" to describe Evan. Could you kind of explain that or give us some insight there?
DAVID LIGHTY: He's just different. Like we go out to eat or something, he'll just order steak and bread, like a plain steak with nothing on it. That's what he'll eat. If his food is touching, he won't eat it. It's hard to explain. He's a little different in his own way. But it's not nothing weird or anything.
DENNIS KRAUSE: Thank you, guys.
Questions for coach.
Q. Thad, Evan's body language kind of surprised me yesterday during the game. It just didn't seem like -- didn't resemble his personality, maybe, off the floor. Were you concerned about that? Did you talk to him about it? He seemed flustered?
COACH MATTA: We talked about it throughout the course of the game. I've known Evan for a long time. He may have reverted back a little bit to his freshman-early sophomore year. But he's in great spirits. He was in phenomenal spirits after the game last night.
He's one of those guys, I don't know how he knows it, but he knows everything about everything, so he kind of gave me the scouting report on Georgia Tech right after the game. He and Shumpert were teammates as kids, so... he's been in great spirits today and asking questions in video just like he always does so I think he'll be fine.
Q. The two guys that were just here, William and David, do you feel they benefit like from all the attention that Evan gets, like they fly under the radar?
COACH MATTA: I do. I've said that. I throw Jon in there as well. There's so much made about Evan, as there should be. He's a tremendous player. But these guys have shown the capability of playing great basketball throughout the course of this season. And I've said it before -- everybody forgets Dave Lighty didn't play last year. And when he went down with his broken foot, we were 7-0, I think 13th in the country, and you lose him -- David is just a guy -- as a coach I don't think you can put a price on him for everything that he does on both ends of the floor and really doesn't get a whole lot of recognition.
I've said this before with his defense. I, obviously, as a coach don't have a real good feel on how to nominate a guy for Defender of the Year, but I would take David Lighty over anybody on defense in the country. And he never gets the play that he deserves in that regard.
Q. What would be your thoughts about Georgia Tech and what has to be done to stop them?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think this: They're obviously a very talented basketball team. And stopping them, they're going to -- as they've shown game after game after game of really trying to pound the ball inside to the big guys, which they should because they're extremely talented. But I think the misnomer is the guys on the perimeter can also play. They shoot the 3 well.
We've got to do a great job of making it as difficult as we can for them to score. When I say that, really alleviating easy opportunities for them, be it in transition, big post-ups, off their actions.
We talk to our guys as we've gone into preparation about we don't want to get burned on something that we know is coming. And then conversely, their defense is -- their half court defense is sound. And 38 percent, it's very similar to, as we told our guys, a Florida State who we played in the Big Ten ACC Challenge. I think Florida State ended up No. 1 in the country defensively. A little bit like West Virginia. But conceptually they don't to all the things that West Virginia does. But those two types of teams, I think, are very similar. So scoring the ball also is a big challenge.
DENNIS KRAUSE: Talk about the journey that this season has been for you guys.
COACH MATTA: I think it's funny, when you look at what this team's had to overcome and you -- as a coach -- I was just talking about it in the locker room -- you have a player like Evan Turner, and you go into the offseason and you kind of gear everything through him, around him, and you lose him all of a sudden on a fluke accident for six games. I think that -- as much as we hated it because we went 3 and 3 in the stretch, I think it made us a stronger basketball team. I think it made us a better basketball team because guys all of a sudden now had to play a different role, had to do different things, had to handle the ball, had to guard different positions, and I think it just made us more of a well-rounded basketball team.
And the stretch that we've been on since starting 1 and 3 in the Big Ten, you've got five- or six-point loss at West Virginia and three-point loss at home to Purdue, these guys have definitely bonded together. And I've said this: It's the greatest group of young men that we could ask for. They've got a tremendous understanding and appreciation for the Ohio State University. P.J. Hill graduated yesterday. He's the second Ohio State graduate we have on this basketball team.
And I am just proud to bring them to the gym every day.
Q. You said he's your second graduate on this team?
COACH MATTA: Yes.
Q. Who is the other?
COACH MATTA: Kyle Madsen. Kyle will, I think, have his master's degree in August this year.
Q. Did you do anything for P.J.?
COACH MATTA: We just had an announcement, and it's a funny thing, because I think as we got the text yesterday during shootaround in the morning, that grades were in. It wasn't like he skated by on the skin of his teeth. We knew he was going to graduate, but it's funny that it came across Dave's phone and so we announced it. And quite honestly it made me proud just to see the players, his teammates, kind of embrace him, and really the look in P.J.'s eye of like, "Wow, I did it." And I think that's what it's all about. And a lot of times we laugh that three years ago Ron Lewis hit a shot to put a game in overtime. We won. The next day he walked across the stage and graduated in the arena. But, no, it was really kind of a neat moment yesterday as we concluded practice.
Q. When Hewitt was in here, the first thing he mentioned when asked about Evan was his composure. And I know sometimes when we see him on the court and he's a little demonstrative when he thinks that maybe something's not going his way, with as physical as they were with him last night, do you expect to see more teams try that to get him off his game, and what do you tell him on how to deal with it?
COACH MATTA: I think -- number one, I think Evan has such a spotlight on everything he does from getting on an elevator to walking down the hallway everybody is -- because of who he is, everybody is judging every move that he makes. And I think with the physicality yesterday, we saw quite a bit of that down the stretch in the Big Ten, teams really starting to try to do that.
Probably one of the biggest differences from last night to here was the hand-checking and that was called. And so he's got to do just a better job of kind of playing through it. But I felt like last night we put him in a position, and what Santa Barbara was trying to do defensively, and said go ahead and put everybody here and we'll attack you over here, and that's kind of what happened.
Q. Could you talk about Buford's career here in Columbus, how he's developed, and also just how high do you think his ceiling could be, potentially?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think William has -- number one, his ceiling is very high. I think he's going to be in -- and I've said this. He'll go down as one of the all-time greats in Ohio State history. He's on pace to do that.
I think the biggest growth that I've seen in William is just the mental aspect of the game. And I say that from the standpoint he takes a lot more pride now in the minute details of the game of basketball.
And I've joked about this with William many times. Last year as a freshman, 19,000 shots taken, you could stop the game, walk out and say what's the score and how much time is left, he'd be like, "I have no idea, but I'm having the time of my life out here." He was playing. Now he's got a great understanding of defending. He wants the challenge of guarding the other team's best player. He understands the help. He understands the time, the score, the situation offensively.
I think he has a better feel for the actions that we're running, and his timing and his cutting is a lot better. So I think he's going to be -- he's going to play basketball for a long time.
Q. Were you surprised with the crowd? Do you think it was an underdog thing that they got behind USBC that much, or did you expect to see a more warmer reception in Big Ten territory or anything like that?
COACH MATTA: I hate to say it. I didn't even notice. The one thing I'm excited tomorrow is I'm sure the Xavier fans will be pulling for us as we go.
[Laughter] so that will be really, really good.
Q. Have you been asked about your memories of that game and [question off microphone].
COACH MATTA: Nobody's really asked me. I think the memory was Siena last year. That's probably the most talked about thing going into the game. And there's a lot of guys in that locker room down there that haven't won in the NCAA tournament. And you look at David, Danny and Mark, and those are the only three guys. Kyle was on the team, but he wasn't playing. They had advanced in the NCAA tournament. And I think Danny and Mark, they just keep adding as Ohio State's all-time winningest players. Their list just keeps going.
Q. With the matchup tomorrow, talk a little bit about their ability to rebound and pound it inside, how do you combat that? What do you see as keys to offsetting their size and strength inside?
COACH MATTA: Rebounding is always going to be key when you go against a big team. And for us I think getting -- trying to get the position we need and going and pursuing the basketball is going to be important. Because I think if we can get it, we can get out and go a little bit.
But I think that's going to be the biggest thing of positioning for us and trying to challenge. As I said earlier, one of the big things we don't want to give Georgia Tech much easy. We want to try to make them earn as much as they possibly can.
Q. Along those same lines, when Dallas was in here last night he said that you two had had a conversation after last weekend and said something along the lines if he didn't -- I guess if he didn't play better you were going to step on his neck or something like that. Could you elaborate a little?
COACH MATTA: He said it one way; I said it probably another way. In essence, I just said we need him to play better. And the funny thing -- I had been on him all week. When we broke film Thursday night, he left a scouting report in there which kind of pushed me over the edge.
And so I took it to his room, and I basically said, "I don't believe that your mind is ready to go if you can't carry ten pieces of paper upstairs; therefore, we'll find out tomorrow night at 9:30 whether you're ready to go or not." And he was. To his credit, he did a good job responding.
Q. Just to be clear, so you did not threaten to step on his neck?
COACH MATTA: No, I would never ever-ever do that. Never. No. Let's get that straight. I would never ever step on a guy's throat or threaten to. No. Thank you for asking so we can clarify that.
DENNIS KRAUSE: Thank you.
End of FastScripts