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March 17, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the student-athletes from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Melvin Johnson, Jeromie Hill and Devin Gibson. Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Now that you guys have had a chance to look at a little film, what's your impression of the team you're going to face tomorrow?
DEVIN GIBSON: They're extremely talented. Got a lot of players, I think, that can play at the NBA level. But it's not about them; we gotta go out there and compete.
JEROMIE HILL: Extremely talented. Some very good players there. They've got a lot of size as well. It's going to be difficult for us to match up against them. But what Devin said: It's about us and we're going to go out there and not take a backward step.
MELVIN JOHNSON: Very talented guys, as my two teammates to my left said. We have to go out there and compete and work hard and everything has to be right, and we'll see what happens.
Q. Could you just talk about what the last week has been winning your conference tournament when you weren't even -- you were close to not getting in there and then winning in Dayton and making the quick trip up here to play the No. 1 team in the country?
DEVIN GIBSON: Last week pretty much kind of been on a high, like you said, from winning the conference tournament. We were almost out of the conference tournament to winning the first-ever NCAA Tournament game in our school's history. And just driving down here to Cleveland last night, getting here at 2:30 in the morning and waking up and eating and then going to practice and now here, like you really -- really just haven't had a chance to take a step back and really enjoy it. We're still on high and ready to go out there and compete.
JEROMIE HILL: As a freshman, it's all happened really quickly for me. It's a bit surreal. I'm just trying to take in every day as it comes and enjoy the moment, and just take it from experience and enjoying the basketball.
MELVIN JOHNSON: It's been a real hectic week, like Devin said, having to practice and wake up this morning. We haven't really had a chance to enjoy. But it's not really about enjoying; it's about going out and trying to get wins. So we have to do everything it takes to get a win, and that's all we can do.
Q. Brooks said last night even before he studied film it's basically going to take a perfect game to beat this team. Is that kind of the mindset you guys are taking going into this?
DEVIN GIBSON: I wouldn't say perfect game, but it's going to take a very, very good game for us. Maybe a few mistakes by Ohio State. But if we compete and the ball falls our way, you never know what can happen.
JEROMIE HILL: We're the underdogs. We have nothing to lose. We have to go out there and execute a game plan and play to the best of our ability and hopefully at the end of 40 minutes we're in the game and anything can happen from there.
MELVIN JOHNSON: I wouldn't say perfect, because there's no such thing as a perfect game. Because if there were such a thing as a perfect game, I would strive to try to have a perfect game.
But we're just going to go out there, and they're a great team, great team. That's all we can really say. It's going to be hard. We're going to have to work hard and compete and we can't go out there scared and we have to play to the best of our abilities.
Q. The history of this tournament, I think the 16 seed is something like 0-104, and not only that, you guys are going to be playing in front of basically a home crowd for them. How do you put all that stuff out of your minds and just go play a regular basketball game?
DEVIN GIBSON: To be honest, I don't think you put it out of your mind; I think you embrace it. Like the gentleman right here said, our backs have been against the wall. We've embraced that and it's actually been a great motivational tool for us, being down 10 at half, trying to get into the tournament, being down 14 in our conference tournament game, we kind of embraced it and took the challenge.
So I think us take -- we're going to have to take the challenge again come tomorrow.
JEROMIE HILL: This is probably the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of. Doesn't matter whether they're in orange or red; I'm just going to enjoy the experience of playing in front of a large crowd in such a big event and just strive to do the best we can.
MELVIN JOHNSON: This is one of the biggest crowds that any one of us has played in, in front of. And of course we'll have butterflies and stuff like that, but once the game starts and the ball starts bouncing, we'll be good after that.
Q. Jeromie, typically when you guys are playing a big post player like Sullinger, do you guys double the post a lot? Do you try to go straight up? How do you guys usually go about defending an inside presence like that?
JEROMIE HILL: We're not the tallest team out there. We're a shorter team, so we look to front the post a bit. Just trying to get him off the block and not allow them to get deep seals and back us down, because that's where our weakness would be.
Q. Melvin, somebody was telling me they saw you waving at yourself coming down court after a shot last night. Was that true? And, if so, what shot was that?
MELVIN JOHNSON: I think it was the one when we were on the fastbreak and I pulled up for the 3, the one that Steve passed to me. But I haven't been on TV that much. I just kind of cherished that moment and embraced it and I was on TV. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. So it's something funny I did.
Q. Devin, you're kind of the leader of this team. Can you talk about where the program's gone from the time you came there to where it is now?
DEVIN GIBSON: Well, it's grown not only from a basketball standpoint but just from a school standpoint. Our school has grown to I think the third largest -- I think even bigger than Texas Tech -- in the state.
From a basketball standpoint, we went from winning 13 games, I think, my freshman year to 19 and 19 and then finally 20. So I think we've improved every year. And it's been great. It's been a great four years.
Q. Melvin, after a night like you had, how do you expect Ohio State to try to attack you defensively, and do you have an idea who you think Ohio State might use to guard you?
MELVIN JOHNSON: I don't have any idea. I'm sure their coach is going to come up with a game plan to stop everybody on the team. I don't think that he's going to change up anything just because of the performance I had last night.
I'm pretty sure they're going to play straight up and just compete like we're going to compete with them. So that's probably what they're going to do.
Q. Jeromie, we were joking at the press conference in Dayton that your gym back home has about room for 50. You were pretty impressed with the Dayton arena. What's your impression walking into a building like this?
JEROMIE HILL: It's a bit of a wow factor for me. A little bit of shock. It's going to be a little bit of nerves set in to start with, I'm sure. But as Melvin said before, once we're out there it's playing basketball, playing a sport that I love that I'm sure I'll settle in just fine and embrace the moment.
Q. How often have any of you guys been to Ohio before and do you feel like you're on a little Ohio vacation here getting to go from Dayton to Cleveland on a bus?
MELVIN JOHNSON: I've never been to Ohio before and I never thought I would ever be here, never.
JEROMIE HILL: Funny enough I don't even know where Ohio is.
DEVIN GIBSON: And never been to Ohio and, like Melvin, never planned on being here. But I think it's more of a business trip still. At the end of the day we're still trying to get another win.
Q. Melvin, I think I read in the story about last night's game that you made a basket from the floor, you were on the floor. And I was just curious was that one of those -- just one of those nights or is that a roll you could get on?
MELVIN JOHNSON: When I made that shot, when I was on the floor, I fell down, I kind of threw the ball up there and it fell in. The ball was just going in last night. I don't know what was going on or the stars must have been aligned, I don't know. But the ball just seemed like it wouldn't miss.
So I haven't been on a roll like that before in my life. That's probably been the best game I've ever played in my life, so been the best game.
Q. You guys are kind of a hodgepodge of players, international transfers. How difficult was it to assimilate everybody and get everyone on the same page?
DEVIN GIBSON: At first it was kind of difficult. But Coach Thompson recruited really high-character guys. So I think we kind of meshed and our chemistry got better as the season went on.
JEROMIE HILL: We didn't have too good of a start to the season. We have so many different backgrounds, international players. We had to work towards the final goal and the coaches knew exactly what they wanted out of us. And we just kept listening to them and working towards that goal. And we came good right at the right time.
MELVIN JOHNSON: It was something we have to work on. Having six, seven freshmen come in, it's something that you've really got to work with. Coach Thompson did a great job with the freshmen that came in. I was a freshman last year. He did a great job with myself. And Devin leading his team four years, it's been real good. It was just something that we had to overcome.
Q. Could you fall asleep on the bus on the ride last night, or were you too jacked up after the win?
MELVIN JOHNSON: I had a major headache when we were coming from Dayton. I don't know why. I guess I was thinking about a lot, thinking about today, thinking about Friday or whatever. But I couldn't really sleep last night. But when I got to the room I fell asleep kind of good. We didn't get here until like 2:45 this morning. So I didn't get any sleep on the bus.
JEROMIE HILL: I'm fairly gifted; I can pretty much sleep pretty much anywhere, on a bus or plane.
DEVIN GIBSON: I'm like Jeromie; once the bus got moving, slept like a baby.
Q. Forgetting trying to win, do you guys feel pressure to at least keep it close and have a good showing just to kind of justify the season, as it were, and kind of validate what you guys have done, especially as kind of a lower-tier seed?
DEVIN GIBSON: To be honest, no. We're going to go into it. We're going to approach it like any other game. And we're going to compete, because that's what we've done all year. So why change it up now? Just go in there, compete, hopefully the ball falls in the right places for us.
JEROMIE HILL: I don't think we have too much pressure, too much expectation. I think we have expectation from ourselves to do well and keep it close or if not win.
So we're going to go out there and enjoy the experience and try to keep it close and do the best we can to even get a win.
MELVIN JOHNSON: We're going to go out there and play hard. They put five guys out on the floor just like we put five guys out on the floor. They put their pants on just like we do too. So they're college basketball players and we're going to play them like college basketball players, and hopefully we get a win.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for your time. We're joined by head coach Brooks Thompson. Coach, an opening statement.
COACH THOMPSON: Obviously it's pretty obvious we're pretty excited to be here. We've had a wonderful NCAA experience so far, heading to Dayton and playing Alabama State last night.
It was a historic moment for our program and our university. We're excited about it. We got our first-ever NCAA Tournament win in the history of our school. So a lot of credit, I tip my hat to my players. I think that they're really soaking in this experience and really enjoying it. I thought they played very well last night for quite a bit of the game.
And they're excited. And we're having a great time as a program. We're excited to be here at Quicken Loans Arena. We understand that Ohio State is a very powerful and very good basketball team that we're looking forward to playing. It's going to be an exciting day for our program tomorrow, and we look forward to the adventure.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Brooks, typically do you have a philosophy about defending a big guy in the post like Sullinger, whether you like to double a guy like that, play him straight up? How do you typically go about dealing with those kind of players?
COACH THOMPSON: Well, I have a philosophy. We haven't faced one quite that good this year yet. But we'll have to throw quite a bit of stuff at him, to be honest with you. I think, you know, obviously we all know what a load he is down there, and we don't have quite that size and girth and strength to us.
But we're going to throw the kitchen sink at him. We'll have to double him some. We'll have to mix in some zone some. We're going to have to do things. But I think that's what makes Ohio State a very talented team, obviously being the No. 1 seed in this tournament.
It's kind of a double-edged sword: If you want to go and throw the kitchen sink at Sullinger, then it's going to leave their shooters open. I think they're a very good shooting basketball team. Obviously we know what Diebler -- what he can do.
So you kind of gotta pick your poison with it and see what happens. We'll mix in some different things to try to even it out, I guess to say, to try to stop -- you gotta stop Sullinger but you've got to stop their guards as well.
We've got some mismatch issues out there that we'll have to do different things to than play straight up.
Q. It's been such a whirlwind week for you. Can you talk about the challenge it is as a coach to try to prepare for Ohio State given that you were in Dayton last night, got here late last night, and have one day to prepare?
COACH THOMPSON: Well, you gotta prepare in that one day. I don't think it would make a difference if we had a year to prepare, to be honest with you. I think it's the exact same situation we're in.
I think we are in a whirlwind because we did get in from Dayton late last night. We let our guys sleep a little bit this morning. But I've been very impressed with our basketball team today in our film sessions and in our practice. They're a pretty focused group, and they know what the odds are. They know a 16's never beat a 1, but they seem excited about it.
We went over in our closed practice our game plan and our strategy and every single one of them accepted it very well, because we're going to have to do some different things than what we normally do to try to have a chance.
And I think our guys are mature enough. As inexperienced as they are, I think they're mature enough to understand that if we just played Ohio State straight up or the way that we would want to play, the odds become even greater.
And I think that we put a game plan in today that they've all accepted very well, and it's soaked in with them and we'll get to get to it again tonight at film and shootaround.
But I think our guys deserve a lot of credit, because I think they've really soaked it in and understood that it's a team basketball game and that they understand what they've got coming in front of them tomorrow afternoon.
And it's been pretty impressive to see, to be honest with you. And with that, you know, I think that it's huge for our program that having seven freshmen and such a young group with just one senior, we're putting this as, hey, this is unbelievable for the future of our program. Because you can't gain as valuable as experience as we have of playing in the conference tournament championship in Katy, Texas, against McNeese State and winning that and getting to go win our first NCAA game in the history of it. That's huge for our program, and I think that we're going to build.
And then going to play Ohio State, the No. 1 ranked team in the field, that it bodes well for the future of our program because of the experience they got. And that's what we're making sure we preach to our guys.
Q. What are some other details about just the game plan, I guess? Obviously with Sullinger, you've talked about that. What are some other things you're going to have to change up and switch and do different to have a chance tomorrow?
COACH THOMPSON: Maybe try to play six or seven at one time.
You know, there's a lot of different things. We're not going to go crazy on the defensive end and just try to do crazy things. I believe in discipline. I think the biggest thing that we're going to have to do is match their physicality. And I'm not sure how we'll do that.
I think they're a very physical team. The Big Ten's a very physical league and I think we'll have to match that physicality. But I don't think we're going to have to do any -- I'm not saying we don't have to, we're not going to do anything crazy on the defensive end to do it. We're going to try to be as solid as we can and make sure we do everything they can to just get one shot, try to keep them off the offensive glass and do everything we can to keep the ball out of the paint and make them take as many contested jump shots as they can and make them have to make it. That's it.
Q. I'm just curious, did you see a game like that from Melvin on the horizon, or was he just unconscious?
COACH THOMPSON: We did as a staff. It's funny, we thought he was due to have a big game. I didn't think that he'd come out and get 25 in a half.
But with Melvin, just being a sophomore, what I'm trying to coach him up on and what I'm trying to teach him is that he's got such an offensive mind that sometimes he lets his offense dictate what type of game he's going to have.
And what we're trying to coach Melvin with is play defense, rebound, do the things, play the right way, and the game will come to you. And I think that was a perfect example last night because he came out with a lot of energy and did some things on the defensive end and got some rebounds. And I think the game came to him. The opportunities came to him because he was playing the right way and playing hard.
And I think that's something that Melvin, and all great players, most of the time, will allow if they let the game come to them. The game becomes a lot easier on the offensive end, and he got that run-out dunk. And he was just doing things and I truly believe that the game came to him. It was not just like he went crazy from the 3-point line. And that's usually where Melvin's most dangerous.
To give him a lot of credit, last year he came in as a freshman as just a spot shooter, and a great spot shooter, but he's really developed his game where he can bounce the ball and get to the rim a little bit better.
So was he due? Yeah. And I'm glad it was at that moment. But it also speaks a lot of his character being a sophomore on the biggest stage of his career that he came out and had his best scoring game of his career.
Q. Some teams have had success slowing the ball down against Ohio State, work the shot clock. What's the tempo you prefer to play at if you're able to dictate pace?
COACH THOMPSON: We like to play faster, no doubt about that. We like to score points and get up and try to take as quick a high percentage shot as we possibly can. We don't like to play crazy. We like to play within ourselves and play disciplined. But we do like to force the pace. I don't think we can force the pace on Ohio State. I don't think, I know we can't force the pace on Ohio State.
I think if you look at anything that Ohio State has maybe struggled with is like the Northwesterns who kept it close and tried to keep it. But I'm not a good enough coach to coach that Princeton offense. And I don't think our guys are disciplined enough.
But I think that we've got to try to control the tempo and we've got to try to shorten the game as much as we can. But I don't think that we can just sit out there for 35 seconds and then just heave one up either.
So I think we've got to pick our poison. I think we've got to take our opportunities when Ohio State allows us, and I think that we've got to be smart and make sure we protect the basketball.
Q. What's the process been like incorporating the seven freshmen? A lot of international guys. You really only have two experienced guys. What's the process been like for you guys and what kind of challenge has it been as a coach to get them on the same page?
COACH THOMPSON: It's been like a roller coaster. It's been up and down, no doubt about it. But we've got a great group of young men in there.
The process -- it's been fun to coach. It's been trying, because we've gotten leads a lot in games this year and just haven't understood how important every possession or every rebound is. And it's been a process where they've understood time and management of the clock and things of that nature of what it takes to win. And we've had to teach that, and we've had to teach it with game experience, with young guys who haven't played in a lot of game experience.
But obviously they're coachable and they've learned, because you can't go win a competitive Southland Conference tournament without having that discipline or that experience, and I think they've gained valuable experience.
It's been a challenge, but it's been a lot of fun because you get to obviously tell it's well worth it now and we're having the time of our lives. But it's been fun because the character of our student-athletes is unbelievable and I couldn't imagine coaching a better group of young men than who's in that locker room now.
It's been a challenge and it's been a process, but it's been a well-deserved process and it's been a lot of fun.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports