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March 16, 2011
UTSA Â– 70
ASU - 61
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by UTSA coach Brooks Thompson and student-athletes Melvin Johnson and Jeromie Hill. Coach, an opening statement.
COACH THOMPSON: Obviously we're very proud to be sitting up here with the first win in any NCAA Tournament, in any NCAA Tournament game in any sport. We won this game for the first time in our school's history, and we're very proud to be in this moment as we speak.
About the game, I think that you have to give a ton of credit to Alabama State and their coach and their student-athletes. They've done that all year long. You knew they had a bunch of character on that basketball team when you start your season off 1 and 7, finish it at 17 and 7, and make it to the NCAA Tournament.
So they deserve a ton of credit. We knew they were never going to quit. I think things obviously were going very well for us in the first half and they weren't going so well for them in the first half. And we played a tremendous first 20 minutes, and I think it kind of snowballed on them.
But to their credit, in the second half they came out and never stopped fighting. So they deserve a bunch of credit.
But on the flip side of that, I think our guys deserve a ton of credit as well. Our locker room's a little bit -- I don't want to say somber, but it's a little bit low right now because of the circumstances of the game. You jump up, you have a 27-point lead at halftime, and then they keep fighting back and crawling back, and we didn't take care of our business the way we needed to in the second 20 minutes.
But anytime -- if you would have told me at any point of this day or in our preparation in the last couple of days that we were going to come out with a nine-point victory, I would have taken it any day of the week.
So I'm very proud of my student-athletes and my team and my basketball team, not only for what they've done all year long and what they mean as people to me, but what they continue to keep doing not only in Katy, Texas where we had our Southland Conference tournament championship. But to be here in Dayton, we're proud to be here in Dayton. It's been a wonderful experience thus far.
And our guys have taken full advantage of it and got this win today, and my hats are off to them and they deserve this win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Melvin, talk about your start and then your finish. I mean, you had to be thinking -- what were you thinking at halftime? 25 points, I think that's a career high for you. And just take it from there.
MELVIN JOHNSON: Coming out I really wanted to get a win and I knew it was important to our school and our basketball program as well. I came out and played as hard as I could, and seemed like everything was going in for me. So I just kept fighting and kept fighting, kept playing with my teammates, and it seemed like it kept going in.
Q. The second half.
MELVIN JOHNSON: The second half, I don't know what was going on. I guess they came back, they came out with a little more fire than we did. We didn't play our best half. But we came out with a victory, and that's all we can ask for.
Q. Both of you, not to put a damper on this, but you'll now face the No. 1 overall team in this bracket. First of all, how much have you seen of Ohio State and what are your thoughts on playing them?
MELVIN JOHNSON: Ohio State is a very good team. They are the No. 1 team in the nation for a reason and No. 1 team in this tournament as well.
We're going to come out and fight just like we would any other game. I'm not going to guarantee a victory or come out and say anything like that, but we're going to play to the best of our abilities and keep doing what we did to get here, and whatever happens happens.
JEROMIE HILL: We've been playing as underdogs pretty much the whole way through. Again we're going to be underdogs in this game I'm sure. We just take each game as it comes. We've just got to go out there and play basketball, and whatever happens towards the end of the game happens, but we're not going to take a backwards step.
Q. Melvin, have you had many games like that in your career, or in your life, like that first half you had today?
MELVIN JOHNSON: I can't really think of a game I've had like that in a while since high school, really. But I've been in college two years now, me being a freshman last year I had a couple of big games, but I think this is by far one of my best games. I really thank God for giving me the ability to play this way and helping my team get a win today. So this is the first one in a while.
Q. Melvin, as well as you played today, you also had some open 3s that you couldn't knock down. Do you wish you had a couple of those back? Are you going to spend some extra time in the gym?
MELVIN JOHNSON: I do wish I had a couple of those back. I've been known as a shooter my whole life. Seemed like the last four or five games I can't make a shot. But I need to get back in the gym and work on my mechanics and I need my team to help build me up, and I hope I can knock a couple of shots down in the future.
Q. Jeromie, your university never won a tournament game until you came around. Just talk about the atmosphere here tonight and what you think it will be like going to Ohio State to play on Friday.
JEROMIE HILL: Being a freshman coming from Australia, I've never seen anything quite like this. This is a whole new level. And it's really exciting to be a part of.
And I know if it gets any bigger than this I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to handle it. But it's exciting to be a part of, and I'm really looking forward to going up there and playing in front of a big crowd and just giving it our best.
Q. You guys have mentioned that you've been underdogs and everything like that. Does it help to have won a game and now be the underdogs to have a little momentum under your belt, a little bit going into Friday?
MELVIN JOHNSON: Yeah, it does feel good to get a game. Like I said, we made history. And I think our confidence is up right now. We were the underdog also in our conference tournament coming in as 7 seed, beating a first seed, second seed, and third seed, and we got our first tournament win today.
So we're confident right now and we'll play to the best of our abilities on Friday against Ohio State.
JEROMIE HILL: It's good to get a win against such a big -- in front of a big crowd like that.
Q. Melvin, what's the significance of what you have written on your shoes?
MELVIN JOHNSON: I can't really explain. I can't really explain. It goes into a lot of -- a couple of my friends back in college, and I have swish on the side of my shoes because I used to make shots, but I haven't been making those shots, so I kind of blacked it out right now until I start making shots and I can write it again. Just something kind of sentimental to myself.
Q. Jeromie, can you talk about rebounding? I was talking to your coach; that was by far the biggest area that they stress that we have to succeed here. And you guys ended up outrebounding them by one. Pretty much a dead heat. Can you talk about the job you guys were able to do on the glass tonight?
JEROMIE HILL: We know they're an athletic team. They're long, tall. All week we've been talking about to win this game you've got to win the rebounding count. They go to the glass hard. It's not just their bigs that go, it's their wings that go to the glass hard. So that was a focus for us all week, to focus on boxing out and getting those rebounds. And I think we did a good job in the first half. Could have been a lot better in the second half, but we'll work on that.
Q. Jeromie, could you just talk about the challenge maybe of going up against some people think the Freshman of the Year Jared Sullinger and what kind of challenge that imposes?
JEROMIE HILL: Definitely going to be a big challenge for me or anybody who plays against him. He's Freshman of the Year. He's a very good player. But you always dreamed to play against the best, and to have that opportunity in college come up, I couldn't ask for anything more. And I'm just going to enjoy the moment and give him everything I've got.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Brooks, what are your thoughts on playing the No. 1 team in this field? How much have you seen them and what's the challenge going to be?
COACH THOMPSON: Well, I obviously haven't broke down film on them yet. But I've obviously seen them play on TV and understand how good they are and how well coached they are.
I think Thad Matta does a tremendous job with them, obviously. And they've got guys that can do a lot of things. They've got Sullinger as you said on the inside, Diebler that can shoot it.
It's going to be tough. When you ask what my thoughts are, my thoughts are that we're very happy right now to be 1-0 in our first-ever NCAA Tournament. And it's going to be an exciting time for our young basketball team. And we're going to go and do everything we can and game plan as well as we can to do everything we can to go try to upset them.
Obviously it's never happened, a 1 losing to a 16. But I've never coached a 16-seeded team before, so hopefully something can happen.
But we have a great amount of respect for their program and what they do. And our guys are going to have to play as perfect as they possibly can.
But my biggest goal will be that we go and we play as hard as we can, represent our university to the best of our abilities, as we've tried to do all year long and our conference, and just go over there and have fun doing it.
And you never know what can happen. But I can tell you this, that we've got a great group of kids in there, and we're going to have a ton of fun with this, and we're going to enjoy every single moment of it. I can promise you that.
Q. Coach, was that the best first half you guys have played all year, would you say?
COACH THOMPSON: I'm not sure if it was just the best first half that we've played or if it was just a combination of things. I don't think our shooting percentages were just phenomenal and things were just going crazy. Obviously when you've got Tyler Wood throwing it in at the end right there, that's a shot he can make.
But things definitely were going our way. And I think Alabama State came out a little bit sluggish and things weren't going their way.
But as I alluded to earlier you've got to give those young men a ton of credit, to be down into the NCAA Tournament down 27 at half and to keep fighting and to come back, I think that talks a lot about the character of that group of men that he's coaching over there. And I think it says a lot about him as a basketball coach.
But it was one of our better halves. There's no doubt about it. Especially to be on the stage that we were on, to play that well was very important.
But I also, on the flip side, and not to discredit anything that Alabama State did in that second half, I think it was one of the worst halves we've played in that second half.
Q. You leave for Cleveland tonight. Regardless of the next 36 hours, how hectic it is, will you quit smiling at all?
COACH THOMPSON: Well, I'm not smiling now, but now I am. No, I will not. And I don't want our guys to either. I want them to enjoy it. Now, we won't be smiling when we're on the practice floor and in our film sessions and preparing. We're going to prepare for this game like we would any other game.
But there's no reason not to smile and not to be very proud of a great group of young men that I'm able to lead.
I'm proud to be a part of it. I'm proud to be their coach. And with that being said, how can you not be a very happy, happy guy.
And I'm happy for my assistant coaches. I've been fortunate to have a lot of -- my coaches have stuck around and been very loyal, and we've had some great continuity with them and their families that are all here.
And when you're a head coach and you're able to enjoy not only with your student-athletes but your coaches and coaches' families and administrators, you know, I hope all of Roadrunner Nation is smiling, because they deserve to be.
Q. Will you leave tonight?
COACH THOMPSON: We will leave tonight.
Q. You talked about the second half already. And in five years nobody's going to remember that probably or care; the result will be in the books. But right now are you worried about any carryover? That game is going to be tough enough, and are you worried about any potential carryover?
COACH THOMPSON: I am, to be honest with you. And I was trying to talk to our guys about that in time-outs and on the bench, of saying, you know, you don't want to create bad habits.
And in our kids' defense, they've never played with a 27-point lead before. And it's hard to handle prosperity when you don't see it every single day.
So they did what they had to do to win this basketball game.
But to answer your question as directly as possible, yes, I am concerned and was trying to coach through that and coach them through those things. But the good thing is that we've got two days and we'll have some practice time to get back up on that horse and do things the correct way and to play the correct way.
Q. You talked about you wanted your guys to enjoy this and have fun. And I know it's still fresh, but what can you say in a situation where I think the record is 0 and 84 or 86, something like that? What can you say to this team in the next couple of days before you play this game?
COACH THOMPSON: The truth. That's what you do. That's what we believe in. And every one of our scouts and every one of our preparations, if we think we're better than a team, most of the time those guys will think they're better than most teams they'll play. I don't think they'll go into this game thinking they're better than Ohio State. But we'll tell them the truth. That's what you can do.
It's like as I was about to say, when we go into our scouts, we tell them, guys, we think you're better than this basketball team but they do this and this and this well.
So they've all got their smartphones and they've all got Internet, and they know exactly what's going on. And we don't ever want to mislead our guys.
And this group has been very resilient. They've been pretty tough when they've had their backs against the wall to do what they had to do. So they'll know going into Friday night's basketball game what the odds are and that the odds are probably against them just slightly.
But I can tell you that it won't affect them. At least that's what I've got to try to make sure and do is not allow it to affect them.
Q. Can you almost treat it like a reward, in a sense? Like you guys are basically a half away from not even being here and you pull this stretch off. Odds are going to be so far stacked. Can you roll the ball out and say no matter what happens happens and try to enjoy it, or do you approach it differently like you would maybe a game like tonight?
COACH THOMPSON: We're going to prepare for it to try to win it. And I do know the odds are against us. But when you try to build a program, you try to build tradition in that basketball program.
And the tradition, hopefully we'll get to the point where we're in our program where we're just not happy to be here to play a game. We're here in our first NCAA Tournament in our tenure and we won a basketball game in the NCAA Tournament. No matter what kind of game you want to call it or what it is, it's an honor to do that.
But in building a program and building it the way that we're trying to build it, we want to get this thing to where we're expecting to win some games in the NCAA Tournament, where we get there there's a lot of hard work to go. But we've put a lot of hard work into what we've done so far and we're proud of where our program is.
So we're not going to just roll the ball out and say let's go have fun, we are going to have fun, but in our business, as a coach or as a basketball player, if you're going to play Division I basketball, winning is fun. And we're going to do everything we can to do that, but we are going to have fun. But we will have a game plan, and our guys will fully expect or know fully what we expect out of them as a coaching staff, and we're going to go play as hard as we possibly can.
And when it's all over, whether it's Friday night or whatever, I know that I'm going to be able to look every one of those young men in the eye and tell them how proud I am of them.
Q. To finish up with how Melvin played tonight especially in the first half, you were a shooter, scorer yourself. What does that feel like when you get going like he did?
COACH THOMPSON: Things go right for players that play the right way. I'm a firm believer in that. I think that offense comes to yourself. Now, obviously you look at Michael Jordans and some of the greater scoring performances in the history. Obviously you've got to have that skill set and those tools. But I think what I try to preach the most, especially to a guy like Melvin, if you play right on the defensive end and you do everything right in the game, the game will come to you.
And I believe that's what happens with a bunch of scorers and people that are capable of scoring big games. I think that sometimes you get a little bit too wrapped up in what you do offensively and you push things too much.
I think tonight was a perfect example. I thought Melvin was excited. I thought he was defending. He was rebounding. I think that's why all those opportunities came to him on the offensive end.
And when you play right, I'm just -- as I said, I think that things come your way when you do things the right way.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports