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March 25, 2010
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
MODERATOR: Student-athletes from the Ohio State University Buckeyes are with us. We'll go to questions for Jon Diebler, David Lighty and Evan Turner.
Q. David, can you compare this year's team with the '07 team that played Tennessee and how are you guys different now, similar, and in your mind is one team better than the other?
DAVID LIGHTY: I mean, you can't really compare the teams, because the pieces you had then and that we have now. I think we have grown a lot since then, though. Our capability of finishing all the games, and playing together, knowing more about each other, has pretty much grown since we played them in '07. So it's been something that it's just been building on.
Q. Evan, can you talk -- Jon's been on a hot streak lately with his outside shooting, with his 3-pointers. Could you talk to us about what that means to your offense when he's hitting his 3s?
EVAN TURNER: When he's making his 3s it definitely opens everything up. It gives our drivers a lot of opportunity to penetrate, because now they have to worry about Jon a little more. It gets the offense going. I think the more he scores, the greater chance we all have to have balanced scoring. And with this group there could be two or three guys in 20 points or high teens.
Q. David, I know you've had a lot of different types of matchups this year. Could you talk about going up against bigger players and how you've managed to hold your own against guys that are taller, bigger, stronger?
DAVID LIGHTY: Pretty much just try to use the athleticism that I have, the quickness that I have, and just play smart, try to make things as disruptive as possible for them.
I know they're bigger than me, so they have a height advantage. But if I'm fronting them, sitting on their knees, don't give them the position that they want, things kind of get frustrated for them. When they don't get touches, they get a little mad. So that's all basically I really try to do.
Q. Evan, going into the year, as it turned out you've gotten some national Player of the Year recognition. Going into the year, where was your mind on what this season would be like? I know you think team first, but just for you, did you think you would be in a conversation or actually a finalist, winner of a national Player of the Year award?
EVAN TURNER: Not to be into myself or arrogant or anything, but I did. I always say I don't want to be mediocre; I wanted to be the best. And I've worked and more on my game and the better I got within the system and stuff I got confidence that the stuff will play out the way it is.
And as a unit we're definitely playing on bids in tournament championship and the bids in title to try to make a Final Four run. I think we prepared for it and I'm not really surprised. I'm just more happy that we all stuck together and we bought into the commitment.
Q. For all of you, it's pretty well documented that you guys have played with a short bench and played numerous minutes. Could you talk about the advantages to that. All we hear is disadvantages, but obviously Ohio State made it work pretty well this year.
JON DIEBLER: I think by playing -- most of us playing the whole game, you get to stay in the flow of the game. And mostly we're all usually in a rhythm. So I think sometimes you come out, yeah, you get a break, but by staying in the flow of the game, it really helps us and allows us to be successful.
DAVID LIGHTY: I would say the same thing. I mean, it's basketball. You want to be in the game. If Coach takes you out, you'll probably be mad that you're not in the game. But like when you get on the bench or when we get in foul trouble, it's kind of different, coming back in the game. It's like you don't have any rhythm and you gotta get warmed up again and get loose.
It's been working for us. So as long as it keeps working, we're good.
EVAN TURNER: Definitely, just pretty much I second what they said. Definitely we keep a rhythm, we keep a flow, and we have a great opportunity to keep building momentum and keep going and good things happen when we're playing well and we have the confidence to do certain things.
Q. Evan, you went through the injury situation middle of the season, and now you see Michigan State getting ready to play without Kalin. Could you just talk about what the impact might be for them losing a guy that's so central to what they do playing this week?
EVAN TURNER: I think, first off, sorry to hear about Kalin and everything. He's a great player. But I think, you know, most of their stuff runs through them. And he's a really strong part of the team and one of their leaders. And I just think that it takes time to try to rebuild things to kind of switch things around, especially when you have to do it so quickly in a NCAA tournament.
And it's going to be tough. But I think Michigan State sees the big picture and they see the opportunity, and they have confidence that probably every game is a winnable game.
So it's going to be tough. But I think they're going to try to come out to compete.
Q. Jon and David, not many people thought Tennessee would be here, Sweet 16. When the bracket came out, everybody thought Georgetown would be here. And then maybe even Ohio University. Were you all surprised Georgetown isn't here, that Tennessee is here, and what are your thoughts about Tennessee being here?
JON DIEBLER: I think obviously in a tournament the team who survives is the team playing the best basketball. They're playing the best basketball right now of the season. I think there were some upsets in our bracket.
But, again, that's the tournament for you. That's basketball. So I think Coach Pearl has done a great job with what he had, with what happened to them early on. They've come together as a team and they've been playing really well.
DAVID LIGHTY: I would say the same thing. You've got to come ready to play as a team, and I think that's what Tennessee's been doing so far in the tournament. Everyone's been contributing to their wins, their bench as well.
Like they said, they go deep into their bench. When everyone comes ready to play and they stick to their system, they play well. And they've been doing that.
Q. Evan, what does a team like Tennessee bring to the table against you guys tomorrow night?
EVAN TURNER: Uptempo style of play. I think they really like to get out in transition, get fastbreak points. Really pressure you. That's what you have to really ready for, because that's what they rest their hats on, so...
Q. Evan, when you played in Knoxville, I believe you had a double-double. Did you go up against J.P. Prince at all then, and have you studied him on tape? He seems to be the matchup for you just size-wise. I'm not sure what they'll do, but that would be the logical matchup, it would seem?
EVAN TURNER: No, I don't think -- I don't remember who was guarding me my freshman year. But it's more like a transition game. So we rarely ever kind of slowed the game down and got guarded or anything like that.
But we just have been studying the whole team and, more importantly, I've just been focusing on my team and trying to get execution done and playing Ohio State basketball. If we play Ohio State basketball, we'll be fine.
Q. Jon and David, especially at this time of the year because you guys do have some other weapons in addition to Evan, does it make harder for a team to guard you that doesn't see you that often like a Big Ten team, which maybe they've got film on you but they haven't come up against you in a couple of seasons?
JON DIEBLER: I think maybe a little bit, just because, like you said, the teams outside of conference aren't as familiar with us. And, again, obviously they've been doing a lot of scouting and trying to get as familiar with us as they can.
But like all conferences, the games are hard, because you know the players. You play them two times a year, and just you're so used to seeing them all the time and watching them on TV.
So, again, I think that's what makes the NCAA tournament so unique, because you are playing against teams out of conference and teams you might not play during the regular season. And as far as Tennessee, they're very similar to us. They're long and athletic, and I think that's why it's going to be a great matchup.
DAVID LIGHTY: Yeah, I would say the same thing. I mean, it's different playing in conference and out of conference. I mean, it's like a battle when you're in conference. Everyone knows everyone's plays. Everyone knows everyone's players. It's just about getting the job done.
When you get out of conference, it's kind of like what Evan said, just worrying about yourselves, execution, because you really don't know too much about everybody but what you watch on film.
But I think if you just go out and play your game and play the way that Coach wants you to, you'll be all right.
Q. Jon, being a shooter, is the dome -- is it harder? The background? Bigger place, does it affect you at all? Do you have any history shooting in domes?
JON DIEBLER: No, I don't. We did actually play one last year. We played Notre Dame at Lucas Oil Stadium. So it might be weird at first when you walk in just to see how big it is. But again when you're playing, you don't really think about it that much. You just really focus on the rim.
So I think as a player and as a shooter, these guys can probably tell you, too, you don't really focus on the background anyway. So it shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Q. Jon, did you happen to see the shot by Ali Farokhmanesh against Northern Iowa?
JON DIEBLER: Yes, I did.
Q. What were your impressions?
JON DIEBLER: Takes a lot of guts. That's just playing on an unconscious level right there. That's just unbelievable. I mean, obviously they were going to have to take a shot anyway.
But to take it that early on and to make it, I mean, that just shows how great of a player he is, because I'm not sure many people would have taken that shot. And for him to have the confidence to step up and take it and make it is -- that's just a credit to him. It takes a lot of guts.
Q. Given the situation, would you have taken it? The guy had backed off, 34 seconds left, one-point lead. How tempting is that as a shooter to take that shot?
JON DIEBLER: It's very tempting because, as a shooter, you don't usually get that many good looks. I know I had a similar situation. We were at Michigan State, and I shot one in the corner. I missed, but Coach said to me, he's like, "I don't have any problem with you taking that shot. I want you to shoot it every time."
That's what he's supposed to do. He's supposed to shoot the ball. I give him a lot of credit, because that was the game right there. That gave them all the momentum again with a couple seconds left. That's just a lot of credit to him. Takes a lot of guts.
MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
We're joined by Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. We'll start off with a statement about his team.
COACH MATTA: Stating the obvious, it's great to be here. And I think as you get this late into March, you don't have the time to really cherish each win and each thing that develops for you. It's on to the next task at hand.
And I think our guys have done a good job getting home from Milwaukee, getting some rest, and refocusing, going into what we know is another great opponent.
Q. Coach, you obviously started at Butler, had success, have gone on to the next level. Coach Lickliter followed you at Butler. He went to Ohio and struggled a little bit. Is there one key factor that's huge in determining whether you succeed after or moving up to the BCS level?
COACH MATTA: I think players make a huge difference. I think that there's so much luck involved. And to me, and I've said this, in regards to Todd, I played for Todd. We coached together. And then he worked for me for a year. I don't know if there's a better teacher of the game of basketball, a better coach than he is.
And as I look back at his track record and talked to him at Iowa, the injuries, I mean, seemed like we go in there play this year, Gatens sprains his ankle at shootaround.
There's so many things that can happen and just a twist and a turn here or there, and maybe things don't work out the way that they should.
But, no, I don't know if there's a magic potion for a coach. Young coaches ask me all the time about how do you get to the Ohio States of the world, and I tell them I'm the luckiest guy of the world. I've coached at three programs and all three are in the Sweet 16 right now. So I've been in great situations.
Q. Oddly enough, another Butler question. Did you and Bruce -- I'm sure you were at Butler when Bruce was at Milwaukee?
COACH MATTA: No, I wasn't. Bo Ryan was there.
Q. No overlap?
COACH MATTA: No.
Q. It's pretty well documented you guys only go six deep usually. How do you keep your guys fresh, and I'm sure opponents have tried to wear you down. Obviously haven't done too good of a job, but how do you keep six guys that fresh and stay at that competitive level when you're playing teams that are seven, eight, nine deep?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think that we try to train every guy on our team to have the capabilities to play 40 minutes, and through recruiting and getting athletes. And I would guarantee you this: If you polled the Tennessee players, they'd all say "let me play 40 minutes," if they could.
But I think with this said, for us right now, and the situation we're in -- and I've said this about our players -- we've got tremendous kids. I don't know if you could play the guys we're playing the minutes we're playing if they weren't great kids, if they weren't competitive kids.
Because a lot of times when a guy knows that maybe he's not going to come out of the game he might shortcut something, and "I don't need to play defense this possession, I'm not coming out," these guys have never done that the entire season. And I think that speaks volumes to their character and who they are as players and people.
I think that for us and how we practice and what we try to get established, we try to practice at a fevered pace from October 15th all the way through. And it may only be for sometimes an hour and five minutes. But it's non-stop activity.
Q. Thad, Jon's been on kind of a roll lately. I went back and looked through the season. I noticed the seven games you lost, six of the games he didn't have a very good offensive game. And I'm wondering if you can analyze the relationship, whether that's because something else is going right and he's not getting open or whether there are subpar shooting performances from him and the other guys aren't getting the benefit?
COACH MATTA: Right. It's funny, because I think that you look at some of the losses. Butler, Wisconsin up there. Minnesota. I know, let's just take those two, for instance. Both teams locked a guy on him and basically said, "You're not going to get a shot off," and his shot totals were down and maybe he didn't get great looks.
Well, that's a lot harder to do now when Evan Turner is playing, just strictly from the standpoint of you may want to give a little bit more support for a guy like Evan when he has the basketball.
And there's no secret we need Jon to play well. And I've said this with Jon. Not even so much score well, I just like him moving and cutting and passing the basketball. When he makes shots, it definitely helps the cause.
Q. How is this team similar and how is it different to the one in '07, and how do you see Tennessee as being compared to what you saw three years ago?
COACH MATTA: Well, I would say that Tennessee, from what I've seen, is probably more similar to that team than they were -- I mean, it's kind of the same system, same pieces. You know, they're doing a little bit different I think defensively. I think their half-court defense is probably a lot better this year than it was back then.
For us, I think we're quite different. Just from the standpoint of the actions we're running, how we're playing, where we're trying to attack.
And defensively we're even a lot different just from the standpoint back then we were really trying to keep Greg around the basket as much as we could. We were running nine guys in the game at the time.
And so we're probably the one that's more different than they are.
Q. When you look at the one-and-done guys you've had the last few years and what this lineup could be, not that maybe they all wouldn't be here together under any circumstances, but how have you been able to just keep plugging in the guys and marching on, given your losses like that?
COACH MATTA: You know, it's amazing. We laugh about it as a staff all the time. We've got five guys in the NBA that would still be playing today that left as freshmen.
And I think from that standpoint for us as a staff -- and I've been fortunate, I've got the greatest staff in the country and have had guys who have gone on to be head coaches -- we just keep going.
And to sit around when you lose one and pout or think about it, is he ready, is he not ready, it's irrelevant. You've got to get the next core of guys together. And I look back to like Jon and Evan's freshman year, and we laugh about it now.
They had to play. We had nobody else. And so the minutes those guys got as a freshman, was it the type of year that we wanted? Well, maybe not necessarily. We won the NIT. But that was a great experience to play 30-whatever games and play into April again for those guys.
And so with this team, a lot of guys' hands have been forced at a young age, and basically it's this is all we've got. And to their credit, like I said, they're great kids. They're hardworking. They love the game of basketball. It's made it that much more enjoyable.
And for a guy like Evan who probably could have came out last year and probably would have been a first-round pick somewhere along the lines to come back and just reap the rewards that he's getting now and to see him laugh and see him smiling, it's great as a coach.
Q. Some teams lose starters, but you lost reserves?
COACH MATTA: Yes. We're leading the country in sixth men that get drafted. It is amazing in that regard. And that's the hard part, because normally in a program, today's bench is tomorrow's starters. And we haven't quite had that luxury. You hope -- and I don't know what's going to happen, but we don't start a senior this year.
And we've got some very, very good players coming in that we feel great about. So you hope, but you never know what's going to happen.
Q. Thad, I know the other game's not on your radar screen, but as a fellow coach in the Big Ten, what have you grown to admire most about Tom Izzo?
COACH MATTA: I think this: The thing that I probably admire most about Coach Izzo is, in my mind, he's in it for all the right reasons. And for what he does for his players, what he does for his coaches, but probably most importantly what he does for the game, the college game of basketball, I think that he's a guy that I look up to.
And being younger when I started, you say here's a guy that has built a great program. He's done it the right way. And he cares about the overall game of basketball. Yeah, he wants to win every time he plays. But I think there's a side of him that wants it to be done right and wants the college experience to be right.
And he's a tremendous coach as well.
Q. Thad, you know the '07 team got so much attention, probably because Greg and Conley from high school. But if you were an opposing coach and you were going to play your team this year or your team from '07, which one would give you the most problems and which one would you sort of less want to play?
COACH MATTA: I've never thought about that. You know, like I said, I think both teams are -- they're so different with kind of how they played. It would be hard to -- I'd probably have to look at my roster, the team I was coaching, and say what have I got that would be advantageous to go against either team.
So you know, that team, there were so many different -- you've got a guy like Daequan Cook coming off the bench. A guy like Othello Hunter who has been in the NBA coming off the bench. You had a completely -- somebody asked me in the locker room about Evan and Michael Conley. They're the antithesis to each other, in regards they're both point guards but they do completely different things.
I don't know if I could really answer that as much as I just did.
Q. Thad, you said on Sunday that when you get to this point in the tournament there are no more mid-majors, but obviously the mid-major schools have taken pretty big steps in the last few years. How do you think that's happened? What has allowed smaller programs to really be able to compete with the Ohio States and the other big teams out there?
COACH MATTA: I think one thing is what we just talked about, the early departures. I know that that's hit us. You know, it's hit like a North Carolina, it's hit Georgia Tech, UCLA.
When you look at what happens when a guy goes -- and I say this all the time. If you take the top ten players coming out of high school in the country, I can give you a lot of examples of how those guys are different. But from 10 to 150, there's really not a difference in the players. Each class is a little bit different. So I just think that the caliber of basketball is higher than it's been in a long, long time.
And you look and take Butler, for example, Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward, both guys were recruited at the highest level, but there was a uniqueness about them that they didn't want to go. So you get those type of guys that want to do that. I mean, there's two Indiana kids that were offered by Indiana and Purdue and didn't take it.
How many times does that actually happen? And so I think that there's -- you're starting to see more and more of that kind of evens things out a little bit.
Q. I had a Tom Izzo question for you. His success in the NCAA tournament is really well documented. And having coached against him and being in the same conference, do you have any insight about what's just led to that success, even in regard to the regular season, seems like his team takes another step?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think, like I said, number one, he's a tremendous coach. And, number two, he's got great players. And usually when you put those two things together, good things happen.
I mean, you look at his roster even this year, he's got some veteran players. There's a lot of guys on this team. He's not counting on true freshmen a whole lot to carry the load. So you're looking at a group of guys that last year played for the national championship. And a lot of them are back.
They lost some key pieces, but that's the magic of Tom Izzo to plug the other guys in and get the job done.
Q. Thad, did you ever give Mark Titus any instructions on how to be a blogger or just this subject is off limits, please do not discuss it on the Internet. Or how did you handle it?
COACH MATTA: I'm not a blogger, Tweeter, whatever they call them. I couldn't tell you how to do that. All I ever said to Mark -- and I love Mark; the four years that he's been in the program have been tremendous -- is just use your head. And that's all I've ever said to him. I don't read his stuff or anything like that.
But he's got a pretty good feel for what he's doing, I think. I hope.
Q. Going back three years, when you guys played Tennessee, what are your thoughts and what do you remember most about that game? And do you see it as being a factor at all tomorrow night?
COACH MATTA: No. Number one, I don't see it being a factor whatsoever. I mean, because we went back to Knoxville and played them the next year.
You know, if you said what do you remember, I remember Greg Oden hitting his head on the Alamodome blocking the last shot as he was flying through the air. I remember the swings in the game, just the runs that took place, us being down 17 at halftime and four minutes into the game we've cut it to -- I think it was like eight. But it was just so back and forth and it was one big play after another big play.
I thought, even when we had played them earlier in the year at our place that season, you know, those were the types of games as a coach you go back and look in the offseason as you're watching the film and you're like, wow, there were some big-time plays made out here today. And that's kind of what I remember from the game.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
End of FastScripts