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March 20, 2011
Marquette – 66
Syracuse - 62
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Marquette head coach Buzz Williams and student-athletes Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler. Coach, an opening statement.
COACH WILLIAMS: I thought we tried to be way too pretty the first six or seven minutes of the game. We're not talented enough. I'm not a good enough coach to be able to play like that. I thought the last seven minutes of the first half we were much more active. I thought we were playing much harder. I thought we were tougher.
And I thought that in the second half, I thought we were okay. I thought our energy level at times was really good, and even when it was poor, we were able to hang in there. When Chris got in foul trouble, we had no choice other than to play small.
And if we would have lost, I'm sure that's what your questions would be about. But I thought Jae did a really good job on 0. I thought when D.J. went to trap the post he was really good at when to go and when to come back.
And I thought those last three minutes we played really well. And we gave them two points on offensive rebounds, which is huge when you're as small as we are.
We gave them four points in transition. And we made 19 free throws and they attempted seven. So those are all really, really good numbers.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for our student-athletes.
Q. For all three of you, what are the feelings obviously of not only going to a Sweet 16 but a Sweet 16 with Ohio State, Kentucky, Carolina? Is that sort of petty company for you guys?
COACH WILLIAMS: I'll help answer that. I'm not a student-athlete. It's four junior college guys up here, D.J., Jae, Jimmy and Buzz. Four jucs. We were trying to figure out if we could eat at McDonald's or Burger King. We weren't sure what Sweet 16 meant other than it was our 16th birthday.
DARIUS JACKSON-ODOM: All those teams are great, but I feel like we are just as good. We worked so hard during the off-season, preseason, to put ourselves in the position in the way we are now.
When guys come out and play just as tough as ever and put it all on the line, then you're supposed to be in positions like this. Sweet 16 is for us.
We just played great. And the team did a great job of fighting, fighting, and fighting.
JAE CROWDER: Like D.J. said, those teams are great. As a player you want to play against great competition as you can, the most competitive competition as you can, when you look at that schedule and look at those teams you light up, once again, as we did coming into this tournament.
I'm very fortunate. These guys up here are very fortunate. We look forward to taking on that task.
JIMMY BUTLER: I know I can speak for myself and all my teammates when I say that this is an incredible feeling. Nobody ever could have thought we'd be here with teams like that.
But each and every day we work so hard to prepare for this type of situation. And now that we're here and we've reached it, we don't want to stop now. We want to make it to Houston and we want to be in that Final Four, but we gotta take it one day at a time, like we always say.
So we're just going to do what we do tomorrow and the next day and see how everything works out.
Q. Darius, I was wondering your thoughts on this, when you hit that 3 to go up three with not much time remaining, a lot of perimeter ball movement, didn't seem to be like -- and then you took the shot. Can you walk me through that? And for the other guys, when you saw his shot go up, what you were thinking, and, Darius, you as well?
DARIUS JACKSON-ODOM: We were getting a lot of ball movement, like you said. The ball wasn't sticking in nobody's hand. We kept moving it, kept moving it, trying to penetrate, trying to attack.
I know it came down to the end of the shot clock. And Jimmy made a hard dribble to the left, and I happened to be spotting up right behind him. He just found the open man, what we do every day, and luckily I knocked the shot down.
JAE CROWDER: When the shot went up of course I boxed out. I was trying to get the offensive rebound. When I saw it go through the net, I was thinking in my head we get one stop, we can take this thing home, to be honest with you.
I knew it was coming down to -- I knew the time with the clock, I knew we was going to need a couple of stops to close the game out. When the ball went in the net, I knew we needed a couple of stops to end the game.
JIMMY BUTLER: I was the one that threw it to D.J. and the thing was, it was a horrible pass. I did like a 360 and turned around and threw it behind me. What was weird, I did it like three days before in practice and he made fun of me for it. And he still knocked the shot down. And it just happened to happen the same way in the game. And he's a big player, and he just makes big-time shots.
Q. Jae, that zone, I mean, you guys obviously have figured it out to some extent this year because you beat them twice. But watching the game, can you talk about the patience it requires to find the seams in there, to find the soft spots, to keep probing, even when they knock your shots down and go down the other end and score? What were you thinking? And what was the team doing to break down that defense?
JAE CROWDER: We as a team just wanted to keep turning the ball over from side, top side. Turn down that first good shot because in the zone you can get really any shot you want.
So we wanted to turn down that first shot to get the second and third shot, which was the best shot for us. We came in with a game plan and just wanted to make them play defense, because we knew they didn't want to play defense but they like to get out in fastbreak situations.
So turn the ball over, make them play defense just like they make us play defense. So wanted to return the favor and just get the ball, turn the foul top side, and I think as a team we did a great job of it. The ball, like D.J. said, wasn't sticking. We got the shots we wanted when we needed them.
Q. How much did familiarity with them having scouted them earlier in the season, played them earlier in the season, watched them in the Big East, how much did that play into your comfort today, particularly in the second half as you're coming back?
DARIUS JACKSON-ODOM: You know, you can be as familiar as a team as you want. But Syracuse is -- they're a good team. I think it comes down to doing what you do best. The guys were very poised tonight.
And we did a great job of just attacking their 2-3 zone. We definitely got stops when we needed them. I think that was the key in the game. I think we took like six charges, maybe. Five charges. And that was very huge.
With guards you have you have to step in there and be tough and take one for the team. Guys like Jae and Jimmy did a great job doing that. I'm happy to be up here with these guys.
Q. This is not the easiest season for you guys. Was there ever a moment during the year when your confidence waned and maybe you wouldn't have thought being up here going to the Sweet 16 was a possibility?
JIMMY BUTLER: I don't think so. I think me, all my teammates, we always find the bright end out of every situation.
We also learn from every mistake. That's what we're taught. So that's what we live by. I think we stay in it until the very end. We never give up. We fight. We be tough in every situation that we can be.
I think that we worked hard enough that this is a blessing, but I can say that I think we definitely deserve it. I think we just gotta keep working, keep pushing, and it's no telling how far we can get into this tournament.
Q. For all three, when you made the decision to go to Marquette, did you envision having this kind of success in the NCAA Tournament? And now that you're on to the Sweet 16, does it feel maybe even better than you imagined?
DARIUS JACKSON-ODOM: I did envision having good success here at Marquette. That's why I came here. Coach Buzz does a great job of motivating his players to be the best players on and off the court. And I don't know if I can speak for these two guys, but I think I made a great decision.
Coming out of juco, a lot of players, they are tough. They come out from a small school that they wasn't heavily recruited and they want to show the world like why they wasn't recruited. And guys like Jae, Jimmy, Joe and Dwight, they put their heart and soul into becoming great basketball players. And when you work as hard as we do, I think it's going to come out in the end.
JAE CROWDER: You do as a player envision it, dream it, think about it. But when you come out to reality, you really want to get that win. And you know what it takes to get there. I feel like we as a group of guys, from coaching staff and players, we're doing the right things throughout the whole season to get to this point.
So when you get to this point, it feels like hard work paying off. So it's a blessing for us to be in the situation that we're in. And I speak for every last one of us, and I'm happy. Can't explain how much happy I am, but you do envision it and it does come out when you win as you saw with our players and our fans. This is a great moment for us.
JIMMY BUTLER: I think being from junior college, it definitely shows that at first you want to win a national junior college championship. Jae got to do that. Jae got to be a part of that. And I think, you know, that makes you more hungry for an NCAA national championship. And I think we all fight the same amount. We all go into everything every day with the same mindset. And it's an incredible feeling to be up here and be able to talk about going to the Sweet 16.
The guys back in the locker room, I know they're still cheering and excited as ever. And it's just a great opportunity for us to make a great name for Marquette University.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Is there any bit of symmetry in that two and a half, three weeks ago your season kind of looked -- the NCAA prospects looked a little dicy after you lost to Seton Hall at the Prudential Center, now you'll be going to the Sweet 16 there?
COACH WILLIAMS: They just told me that we were staying in the same hotel that we stayed at when we were in Newark. Obviously we can't change that, since the NCAA's paying for it. But we probably need to change where we eat and what we eat, because they need to be better.
Are the games where Seton Hall plays? Can you get that changed? We've won there every year since I've been there except that last game. I think they made 11 3s. I thought they were playing incredible. I think they played St. John's before they played us.
You know, that's the thing is, is it ironic that it's played out the way it has; is it symmetry? I think this: Not everything -- not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
And I know Einstein said it, and he's a lot smarter than I am, but when you think about the answers that our guys just gave, and if you had lived what they have lived through, not just the games that the media saw, but the practices, the film sessions, the things that they endure for me, I can't think of a better quote than that.
So is it symmetry? Is it ironic? Is it things that can't be counted? I think it's all of those things. Just depends upon your perspective.
Q. Buzz, somebody told me before the game: Forget about the first 36 minutes, this will be won in the last four minutes. When you approached the game plan, did you feel that this was going to come down to the last couple of possessions, and what did you maybe do specifically to prepare for that?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, no, I never believe that stuff. If you have to endure the first 36 minutes, you know, you gotta put yourself in a position to be able to win it in the last four.
But over the last two years, if you count this game, if you count this game, it was our 43rd Big East competition over the last two years. 22, counting this game, has been decided by two possessions or less.
And so going back to what Brendan asked, is it ironic, is it symmetry, what is it? Is it we're overachieving? Is it we were underachieving at Seton Hall? Whatever your perspective is, as I told our guys in the second half, they're kids, they're 18, 20, 21 years old, 20 more minutes, 20 more minutes. That's what every player says.
And I said, Hold on, guys. Just a second. We worked our entire lives to get here. We're going to enjoy it. We're not thinking about the end. Let's do the first one, let's do the first possession. It's not pressure. What brought us here is what will keep us here. But you can't -- you can't be thinking, well, if we play the next 20 minutes like we did the last seven minutes, we're okay. That's too wide of a forum for our players and for their coach to think.
Let's just do this possession, and let's enjoy it, let's be the absolute best, and the toughest we've ever been. We took five charges. That's the game. That's the game. Those five charges are five turnovers for Syracuse. That's five shots they don't get to take.
They're going to make more field goals than we are. We can play ten times, ten out of ten, they're going to make more field goals than we are. It's those possessions like that that teeter on giving us a chance.
And you've got to make those in the first 36 minutes to be in a position in the last four minutes.
Q. Could you describe your emotions at the end of the game when you came over, looked like you were hugging your wife, and why it's so important to share these experiences with the fans and the band and seemed like you got everyone wrapped up in your cell abrasion there at the end?
COACH WILLIAMS: It's not about me. It's not about me. I wasn't trying to make it about me.
I was -- hmmm -- I was a Division II assistant when I met my future wife. Nine months later I took another Division I job and proposed to her. And we were -- I bought my first house in January the 1st of 2000 with the check from the NCAA because of the previous four years that I had been a restricted earnings coach.
And her family moved all of her stuff in, and as they were moving in the boxes, I said, Hey, sweetie, I gotta go interview for a job. And she was like, What the hell? Eighteen days before I was married I was hired at Colorado State, and, man, we've been all over Timbuktu. And I'm just as happy that I get to experience it as I am that my wife and my four children get to experience it, because they're the ones that have to go through the sacrifices of living a coach's life.
And the emotional level of our fans and of our administration and of our Board of Trustees, all of the people that were here, they care just as much as I do. It just so happens that I get to speak on their behalf.
So it's not about me. It's about all of those people, just as much as it is about our players.
Q. Is there something about a player that's gone through juco is maybe a little older that is willing to take a charge more so than maybe a younger kid, maybe kids that have been blue chips all the way?
COACH WILLIAMS: No, I think that's stereotypical. I don't mean that to be mean. So much is made of where our kids went to school prior to arrival at Marquette. Maybe that matters. Maybe that's a story that can be written on several different levels. I think the story that should be written is the resolve of who they are as competitors and the character of who they are as people.
And I do kind of have an edge about that, not to take it out on you, but I kind of have an edge like let's not just completely stereotype that it's just a rag-tag group of jucs, because I'm right in that group, too, except I never went to a Division I school. The first time I was ever on a Division I campus was when I was employed. So does that mean because of their heritage or their plight to Marquette that it trends towards they take more charges, I think it speaks to the resolve of who they are as competitors and the character of who they are as people.
Q. Does that follow, then, into them taking charges then?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think so, ma'am, but I don't think it's because of their academic transcripts.
Q. But they've come a longer route than some other people perhaps?
COACH WILLIAMS: Just like I have, the road less traveled, two roads that diverged in the woods. Those three guys and myself, we took the road less traveled, Robert Frost.
Q. A lot of people now are singing that the Big East didn't deserve 11 teams because somebody had been eliminated already. Does the idea that perhaps you guys were the last Big East team in and yet you made the Sweet 16 actually suggest that the league was just as tough as we thought?
COACH WILLIAMS: How many teams are left? I don't know, honestly, how many teams.
COACH WILLIAMS: Is that right? Yeah, maybe. I mean, in sticking up for our league, I think that it's suggestive, if we were the last team in, which I think is hard to argue that we weren't, for us to be one of three still remaining, that it speaks to the depth of our league and the talent depth of our league.
I think Syracuse was ranked tenth in the country this week. When we played them on January 29th in Coaches Versus Cancer, they were 11th. They had lost four in a row and they were still 11, you know what I mean.
We've won four out of our last five and on Monday we still won't be ranked. But I think that it does speak to the depth of our league. I think it kind of gets into he said/she said, whether too many teams are in, we're not any good, we're supposed to win in order to prove that we're good.
I think over a period of time is how you can tell how good teams are. And I think the resumé of those 11 institutions speak for themselves over the course of from Christmas to spring break.
Q. Can you talk about the way you guys have played defensively these two days, with what you guys did to Tu Holloway and today with Jackson and Jardine with 13 points, taking charges, just the whole defensive effort these two games?
COACH WILLIAMS: Kind of almost in some ways two completely different scouts, you know. Obviously we had much more time to prepare for Xavier and their multiple ball screens, but the thing about Syracuse is Rick Jackson demands so much attention per possession, and he's such a good player passing out of the post, because he's so accustomed to being double-teamed, that you almost have to pick your poison on when you're going to double-team, how you're going to double-team, and the rotation out of that double-team.
And that's why it's worked out the way obviously that we would like. But those last four minutes, how we were doubling and who we were doubling with, you've got a lot of money on the pass line and you've got full odds and you've got money on every number and you've got to keep throwing, because if you hit a 7 you're out.
And it just -- that's the way it worked out. But it's dangerous. And our guys have gotten much better at being able to execute a scouting report over the last month, even though our numbers may not suggest that, and I think through that we have built more pride in what we're about defensively, because I think they're much more confident in why we're doing what we're doing, and they're able to execute it.
Q. When you put together, when your staff puts together a scouting report, how much do you use tempo statistics, and do you use much video from Synergy Sports?
COACH WILLIAMS: Not a lot of tempo stuff. I do a lot of tempo stuff, but that's just because I'm a freak for numbers. But I do not -- I don't push that on anybody else.
I study our points per -- I study all of that stuff. Our floor percentage, all of it. Anything number-specific I study.
Now, Synergy, I think how we prepare is unique. And part of it is -- how it's evolved is my way of making sure that I'm not overwhelming our guys with information I know but making sure that I give them the highlights of what I know they have to know.
And so like when we do a scouting report, our assistants do an unbelievable job. We have a primary scout. We have a secondary scout that are assistants. And then our video guy and myself kind of work together. And then it all meshes.
But specific to personnel, so when you talk about Pat Borzi, all of your info, and then I'm going to give our guys three things about his game, and I'm going to give him two numbers. That's it.
I'm in charge of the numbers. Our assistants are in charge of the three things. And then as we begin to build it, any numbers that I give our kids relative to the team I'm in charge of. I don't want our staff saying, Guys, they do this this percent. If it's team based, I get the numbers, because I study all of that stuff. Synergy is -- I'm not sure how much we pay for it, but if you really study it, that's some big-time stuff.
And Jimmy is -- Jimmy is a film freak. D.J.O. has kind of gotten to that point. Davante Gardner has really learned a lot. I'll spend time with them showing them Synergy clips, not necessarily telling them the Synergy numbers, but so they can see it. And I don't know if that necessarily is important, but I feel like all of that stuff is important.
Q. What was the difference for this team this year even though they were lower seeded than teams in years' past that they were able to advantage to the Sweet 16 and those teams did not?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, we're 3 and 3 in the NCAA Tournament since I've been the head coach. The games that we have lost -- we lost to Missouri. I don't know if you remember that. That was when I was standing at half court acting as if I was an airplane, and then I covered my mouth and used all the letters in the alphabet because of how the game ended.
Last year we got beat on a last-possession shot by Washington in San Jose. And we haven't lost yet this year. We beat Utah state. We lost to Missouri. We lost to Washington. We beat Xavier. We beat Syracuse. So we're 3 and 2. You know, we lost to Washington on a one-possession game, and we lost to Missouri on a two-possession game.
I do think that despite our youth, that through the volatile season that we have been a part of, there's nothing that shakes our core because of what all we've been through.
And I thought our previous two teams were extremely tough as well, but they did not have to endure the roller coaster of what this team has been through, and I think that may somewhat trend towards why we were still playing.
Q. You've now beaten Xavier and Syracuse, No. 6, No. 3 seeds in the tournament. What message do you feel like you have sent over the last couple of days with your team?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think there's a gazillion lessons from it. I think they'll learn -- I hope that the thing that they learn the most will help them as people, help them as future husbands, help them as future fathers. Because at any point in time we could have shut it down. I would assume there's no other team of the 16 remaining that have 14 losses.
And as I said earlier, I just think the resolve of who they are as competitors, but, more importantly, the character of who they are as people, is what's allowed us to stay afloat.
And I think there's millions of lessons. It's just somewhat hard to absorb amongst all the emotion we've been a part of over the last couple of weeks.
Q. You beat Syracuse by six the first time you played them at your place, correct?
COACH WILLIAMS: Yes.
Q. It came down where you hit a 3 to go up?
COACH WILLIAMS: D.J. hit a 3 and then Jimmy hit a 3 out of a side out of bounds -- well, we hit three 3s, to be honest with you. Jimmy called time-out, ran a play to get D.J. a quick 3, it ended up the counter was Jimmy at 3 in the corner, Jimmy hit a step-back 3 and D.J. hit a 3 off an assist back from Buycks. That's what won it, yeah.
Q. We hear so much about muscle memory, you're shooting free throws, so you know. How much do you think what you just explained played into those final possessions in those kids believing that been there, done that, in their mind that they could do it again?
COACH WILLIAMS: I believe that's the difference, personally. As you progress through life, whatever your goals may be, make sure you keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole. And so I think that when you've been through something like that, like what we've been through, you've got to believe it. And I know that's kind of coach-speak or cliche, but I do believe it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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