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March 26, 2010
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
Tennessee Â– 76
Ohio State - 73
MODERATOR: Ohio State is now with us. We're going to ask Coach Thad Matta to open up with a statement on the game, and then we'll go to questions for just the student-athletes David and Evan.
COACH MATTA: As I told these guys, it's tough because I think that they're never going to appreciate -- it's going to take time to understand exactly what this team accomplished throughout the course of the season.
And I couldn't be more prouder of what they did. And tonight's game, we just -- our defense wasn't as sharp as it needed to be and rebounding the ball, the 20 offensive rebounds.
They were physical, and they got some angles on us. But I thought our offense was for the most part good enough to win the game. It just probably came down to our defense and the easy buckets.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. The first half you guys shot 56 percent from the floor. Only 32 percent in the second half. What was the difference defensively for them in the second half, or was it just a matter of shots not falling?
DAVID LIGHTY: To tell you the truth, they played a good game. But I think it was shots falling for us. I mean, it just didn't happen. It's like that sometimes. You gotta step up and make it, though, when games are on the line and coming down to the wire.
But you give them credit. They did a good job pressuring us.
EVAN TURNER: Shots didn't fall.
Q. It just seemed like Tennessee's defense in the second half was able to keep you on the perimeter for most of those shots, which probably contributed to the shooting percentage. They really wouldn't let you get inside close to the rim for many opportunities. What was the reason for that?
DAVID LIGHTY: Like I said, they just pressured us pretty much. And we still had good looks, good open shots. They just weren't falling for us like they did in the first half.
Q. Evan, can you take us through that last sequence, the two shots and then the very last play?
EVAN TURNER: We were running a pin down for Jon, but they overplayed it, except the first shot I had fake out bumped and I shot the ball and we missed and the second one, you know, I still got a clear shot. And then it just didn't go in.
Q. Evan, it was such a seesaw game and came down to one or two possessions. Just talk about the feelings to have your season just end so abruptly like this.
EVAN TURNER: In a certain situation, certain type of game it's definitely tough, because we had a chance to win it the last 12 seconds of the game. And we came down, I think we made a shot. Got up by one, and they came down and they missed a shot, and then got a tip in and we came back and we just missed a shot.
It's tough, but it happens. You gotta let the ball, I guess.
Q. Evan, looked like you were looking for a foul on that last play or did he just block the shot and not get you with the body?
EVAN TURNER: They didn't call it, so I guess it wasn't a foul. It happens. The shot didn't go in. A call could have went both ways, but the call didn't happen, and that's how it happens. So you can't really dwell on it anymore.
I think it shouldn't have came down to that certain situation. I think we could have helped ourselves from putting ourselves in that predicament.
Q. The first shot from the corner, Evan, did you like the look you got or whatever?
EVAN TURNER: I definitely liked the look I got. I thought it was going to be like an and-one shot. I thought I was going to get a call or something. I liked the look on the second one, it was just I saw one second on the clock and I turned and I missed.
Q. Tennessee mentioned they thought that maybe in the second half you guys might have got a little worn down and fatigued. They obviously play a deeper bench and it was an intense game, Coach Pearl said. Could you comment on how tiring of a game it was for you guys in the second half?
DAVID LIGHTY: I don't think anyone was tired. We were still out there making plays. And today we had rotations in, because of foul trouble and things like that. So I don't think that was a factor at all for us.
EVAN TURNER: I think they got confident. They started making plays, and they played out of their minds and that was it.
Q. It seemed in the second half because of your foul trouble after you got that third one in the first minute, it just seemed like Chism was able to be a lot more successful down on the baseline because you kind of had to play more carefully than you might otherwise. Is that correct?
DAVID LIGHTY: You could say that. But you can't worry about fouls pretty much especially at this time of the year. You just gotta keep playing hard and have backside help and things like that. But our defense just wasn't what it used to be today.
Q. Coach mentioned the year that you had. Just can you even look at it right now and feel good about it, or just talk about your feelings right now after a terrific year, but ending the way it ended today?
EVAN TURNER: I had most fun I ever had playing basketball. I think we grew as a team. We genuinely care for each other. And just had a lot of fun to overcome like the situations we had, proved a lot of people wrong and just believing in each other was one of the best times in my life.
And it was just fun. And we did a lot of things to be proud of. And right now it's tough to go through, but feel like we did a lot of great stuff, and we had a great season.
DAVID LIGHTY: I mean, the same pretty much. It's tough right now especially with the loss we just had, when we feel we could have had the game. But at the end of the day when everything's over with, you can look back and see that we accomplished a lot of things that people really didn't think that we would have.
So just coming through that and playing as well as we did and the team bond that we had, you can never lose that.
Q. Evan, Jon said in the locker room that your goal was the Final Four, and as all of us know you don't like being stopped short of your goals. Could you give us a percentage chance on the chance that you'll be back next season?
EVAN TURNER: I can't give a percentage right now. It's just sticking in my head. I really don't want to go out like this. I don't even know.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We'll stay here with Coach Matta.
Q. You mentioned your defense wasn't as sharp as you wanted it to be. Seemed like your zones sort of stifled them at times and the trap did. Caused a few turnovers. But did it not get you exactly what you wanted there?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I thought the zone was really effective. And when Dave picked up his second foul, we kind of got out of it there. And Jeremie did a great job coming in, knocking down shots.
But we really struggled on the weak-side rebounding there. Chism kind of anchored down and was getting them coming off that weak side there.
And we were trying to mix and match it as much as we could. I thought the press was -- Maze got the layup the first time we did it. And I thought we were really effective with a couple turnovers. And Jon reached in and hacked on that one when we took the lead. I mean, he was going to shoot a layup on that.
But, yeah, it was -- the changing -- and we've changed. At one point I thought maybe the changing was messing with us, but we've done that throughout the course of the season. And they've got great players out there making plays, too, and I think that is something that you sometimes take out of the equation, is guys making great plays.
Q. Were you surprised by the magnitude of the offensive rebounding and points in the paint, and maybe conversely, the smaller guys you had out there maybe weren't able to take as much advantage of that matchup on the other end?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, we knew that they were going to rebound the basketball. And Williams was obviously very, very active. They didn't shoot a ton of 3s, and they kind of anchored down their 4 position. But defensively I think people missed the boat on Tennessee's defense.
It's one of the best defenses we've gone against this year and just sort of how they use their length and the switching that they were doing was very, very effective. I mean, they do a great job on the half-court defense. So a lot of times it looks like something's easy, but it really isn't.
That's why I think starting the game we were executing at a high level. We just didn't make the shots in the second half.
Q. Thad, Evans made so many great shots and all that. Can you speak to kind of the irony of the season ending with Evan missing the shot as opposed to making the shots like he's done all year?
COACH MATTA: It's funny because we took the timeout before the free throws because I didn't want to take one because they're so good at out-of-bounds defense. And we had said for everyone we were going to try to pin for Jon and hand off, and last thing I said was, Evan, maybe open on the throwback where they were pinned on the sideline and he's got a shot fake. And I know this: I had no problem with him taking the shots, because exactly what you said. That young man's made so many huge shots for us. And, I mean, the 3 he hit right there with two minutes to go was a big one.
But maybe a little irony in it that he got it. But I'm going to put the ball in his hands and we'll roll with it from there.
Q. Thad, you've been dismissing the fatigue angle for most of the last two months. And Tennessee thought it may have had something to do with your shooting percentage in the second half. I wondered if you thought finally it may have caught up to you a little bit, or was there another reason in your mind that you guys shot as poorly as you did in the second half?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, honestly, I never -- like fatigue never crossed my mind. But we had the timeouts there. At one point I think we played 30 seconds and sat for five minutes in the second half.
I don't know. I think that so many people, with the fatigue issue -- the people that probably say that are overweight and eat bad food, that sort of thing. I mean, these guys are conditioned to roll. And it never to me -- I think Dallas got a little bit tired there, especially at the end of the first half. But he and Kyle did a pretty decent job.
Q. Jon had come up so big for you guys last weekend and tonight he didn't have a good night. And Evan was doing most of the offense the second half. How difficult is it when you're not getting the contributions that maybe you've gotten, especially in the tournament?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I thought Jon got a couple good looks. He hit that one there, and I thought, all right, here he goes. And they did a very good job of really locking on him. And I'm watching Jon run in transition and guys are pointing and running right with him. I think that was probably a huge component of what they were trying to do.
It definitely played a factor in it because we couldn't -- he couldn't get a bucket to go down for him and 1-for-7 from 3 for Jon with his percentage on the season isn't Jon Diebler-like.
Q. Some of the players that they thought that the -- some of the poor plays on defense carried over to the offensive end, some of the easy baskets led to poor shot selection on the other end. Is that what you saw?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, we had the two turnovers, they back-tipped one and then blew up the handoff, which it wasn't supposed to be a handoff, and those were more execution errors, I think, than anything else.
This got us to this situation, Big Ten championship, a conference tournament championship, and 29 wins on the year. We're going to go. And maybe a couple of shots in transition might have been a little bit quick. But that's kind of what we've done to get us to this point.
Q. You've talked to us this year about how much you've enjoyed coaching this team. It's a simple, stupid question, but how difficult is it to end it with these guys? And what made these guys so enjoyable for you?
COACH MATTA: It's funny, because they -- as I told them after the game, that I wanted to be very careful how I chose my words of what to say, because, number one, I don't know if I've ever been more proud of a basketball team. And they had a belief about them that became contagious.
And the quality of young men that we have on this team and just the togetherness that they had, I don't know if I've had too many teams that are close to this in regards to just who they were and their work ethic and every day they'd come in and you just enjoyed being with them. And obviously it hasn't hit me to the point yet where you think it's over.
I mean, these guys just quietly continue to play better basketball. And they continue to win basketball games. And they were never way up here. They were never way down here. They kind of just kept going. And I think that's the hardest part as you look at them after a game and they're distraught because this isn't where they thought it was going to end.
And when it comes to the point -- we always talk about it as we start tournament play -- it's one and done, you lose and you go home. But with these guys, they just had a different way about them. And it's really, really hard to explain. They were a very mature group. And you think about we don't start a senior, which is very impressive for them.
Q. Thad, with the way Jeremie shot the ball in the first half, with your guys other than Evan struggling to make shots in the second half, did you consider putting him in and why did you decide not to?
COACH MATTA: I did, and I just didn't go with it.
Q. You've obviously been through this a number of times now, but how do you approach Evan's decision now that the season's over?
COACH MATTA: For me, I think it's -- I've told him a million times, I couldn't be prouder of what I've watched him accomplish. I mean, every award that he has won, he's deserving.
As I tell my young men when I recruit them, I want what's best for them. I think that the challenge right now is he and I just sitting down and having a conversation of, you know, where his mind is, what exactly he wants to do.
As we were talking back there, I told him, You better hang on, there's going to be people coming at you. They're like vultures out there right now. I would venture to say by the time we get back to the hotel it will be a who's who trying to get to him and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. But my whole thing is what's best for Evan Turner and exactly what he wants to do.
What he's given this program and the three years he's been here, it's truly amazing, and I love the kid. And I'm going to do what's right for him and what he wants to do.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
End of FastScripts