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NCAA MEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: NEW ORLEANS


March 24, 2011


Matt Howard

Shelvin Mack

Brad Stevens


NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Butler 61
Wisconsin - 54


COACH STEVENS: Well, I know it's late, so I'll keep it short. Obviously we're thrilled to still be playing, and that's the bottom line. I don't think that this group goes into games not believing, and I don't think that this group came here not believing.
And so we're going to see if we can't try to get one on Saturday and move on. It's going to be really tough against an outstanding Florida team and a coach that -- and a program that we know well.

Q. I don't know the circumstances of what happened six weeks ago, but six weeks ago you come off three consecutive losses to Valparaiso and Youngstown State, and I can't remember the other team in there?
COACH STEVENS: Milwaukee at home.

Q. Milwaukee at home. No one was thinking then that six weeks later you'd be in the Elite Eight. What were the adjustments and what was the turnaround for this team? How did you go from losing those three right there to being here today?
MATT HOWARD: You know, I think that there was a lot of things that we weren't doing really well. You know, with us, it always starts with our defense, and our defense wasn't very good. But at the end of that game and within that game, our last loss, we were starting to do things a little bit better as far as trusting our teammates within our system, and I think that was critical to us being able to get it turned around.
SHELVIN MACK: To go along with Matt, I think our defense is the biggest thing. We played Valparaiso early in the year and we lost. We gave up 60 points in a half. That's not us. We usually don't give up 60 points in a game. We knew what we had to get back to.

Q. Shelvin and Matt, what were you guys thinking when Wisconsin was narrowing the gap so quickly there in the last two minutes? And what was Butler not doing to allow that big lead to shrink so quickly?
SHELVIN MACK: We know Wisconsin is a very good team, know that they're going to make a push towards the end. We've just got to stay more focused and play the full 40 minutes of the game. Just take it one second at a time, don't play the score, just play the game.
MATT HOWARD: You know, I think we weren't really moving the ball the way that we had in the last 10, 11 minutes, and then really down the stretch, not being as strong with the ball as we could have or getting to the right spots.

Q. Matt, do you ever just kind of think to yourself, wow, we're doing it again? And are you just shocked by everything that's happening for the second year in a row with this team?
MATT HOWARD: I don't know necessarily that I'm shocked by it because I know what this team is capable of. You know, the type of guys that we have, and when we buy into the coach's game plans and are able to execute it. So not necessarily shocked by it, but very happy that we were able to execute again tonight and get the job done.

Q. Matt, you did a lot of everything tonight. How would you rate your play?
MATT HOWARD: You know, I don't know if that's best for me to say, maybe for coach. He had a better -- or the best seat in the house watching me play. But you know what, I really don't go back and evaluate that personally. I'm just really glad that our team got the job done.

Q. Shelvin, will you evaluate, please?
SHELVIN MACK: I think Matt did what he always does, he just plays hard and knows the team, sacrifices his body. The thing that sums up Matt is me missing my free throw and him getting a rebound in a crucial part of the game.

Q. What is your perception or what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Florida's basketball program? And do you give any thought at all to the history that they have with Butler even though it came before you came on campus?
MATT HOWARD: Well, I think we know that they're a very tough basketball team. The year before I came here, I remember watching the Sweet 16 game. You know, there is some history that I do remember with that. Obviously a very good basketball team.
SHELVIN MACK: You know, they're a well-coached team with Coach Donovan. They're going to play hard every day. They have great players, individual players that play well as a team, and also they're a very experienced team. I think they're the only team that has like five returning starters from last year, so I think it plays a key role in their success.

Q. There are two All-American candidates started out 3 of 22 from the field, obviously way off. What were you doing to get them off their games, and can you sense that you had them rattled or second-guessing themselves?
SHELVIN MACK: I wouldn't say that. I think the coaching staff did a great job of having us a game plan. We came out and executed. They're great players. They just weren't able to knock down shots tonight.
MATT HOWARD: I think with guys like that, it takes a team awareness. Everybody has got to know where they are, and you know, what you can do to help your teammate that's guarding them, because they're really tough players, and if you let them get spots and open shots, they're normally going to knock those down.

Q. How does the feeling compare this year to, say, last year when you were sitting here after the Sweet 16?
SHELVIN MACK: To me it's kind of the same. You're going through the process right now, so you really can't enjoy it. You have to get ready to get out there again. You're going to get your rest tonight, get a few phone calls from family and friends but then get focused back to tomorrow for your next test.

Q. Matt, you kind of hit on this a little bit, but could you elaborate on what it's like for Butler to try to set a defensive tone early? There have been times at these games that teams made a lot of difficult shots against you and you would usually say, well, that's kind of our fault because we let them get comfortable. Do you think Butler has sort of turned the corner on that and teams start off and they really can't quite develop the rhythm that maybe your opponents could have earlier this season?
MATT HOWARD: I think that's really important for us to do in any game. It is important because if you let Leuer and Taylor get wide open and hit their first four or five shots, they may continue to hit those shots. So it is really important to start off the right way. And I think any team is going to try to set the tone early in the game defensively.

Q. What was your message the last two or three timeouts of that game as that lead started to melt?
COACH STEVENS: I just wanted to play with a little bit better pace than we were playing with. I thought the last eight minutes we didn't play with very good pace. And I think that's human nature a little bit. One of the things that I really, in the moment, was disappointed in the way we played, and now, don't care. Let's move on. That's the way I feel about it now. It's all about pace, it's all about focus, it's all about attention to detail, and we'll have that again. I'm not worried about it.

Q. Going off of what David asked you, early in the game I heard you say like five minutes in, "I like the way we started on that end of the floor," meaning the defensive end. Did you feel like you maintained that for a good portion of the game?
COACH STEVENS: We did.

Q. How did you do that?
COACH STEVENS: Well, the first couple shots they hit were big shooting contested jump shots, and that's what they do, they're really good at it. But I thought our rotations off ball screens were outstanding, really, really good, to point where I thought they didn't run them as much later on. They went to a little UCLA pop action and iso Taylor, and he's a hard guy to stop because he can kind of shake you and raise. If he gets you off balance at all, he's going to pump fake and draw a foul. He drew a ton of fouls on our guards tonight. It was very, very difficult for us to guard. I thought we did a terrific job on Leuer, and I do think he missed some shots that he might normally make, but I thought our guys were really, really in tune to maybe focusing on what he likes to do and trying to be as good as we can at making it as difficult as possible.

Q. Now that the game is over, can you -- you alluded to it some, can you tell us what maybe the main two or three things that the scouts showed that you needed to concentrate on? And also, how astounded are you that one year later after Duke-Butler, Butler is alive and Duke is eliminated?
COACH STEVENS: I haven't even thought about it. I really respect Duke quite a bit, really good friends with Sean Miller, so happy for him and happy for his program.
But at the same time, we all cross paths in this business, and certainly feel for the Duke seniors because they just had an incredible run. You know, did nothing but -- acted with nothing but class towards or program both times they played us, and we appreciated that.
You know, I think to go back and just to kind of talk about just being back here is -- I don't know how to put it into words. I think it's just one of those things that we're just trying to win the next game, and like these guys said, you kind of miss all the -- I just got a text message from a friend, he said, I think we're having a lot more fun than you guys are. That's probably true. But trust us, we are very happy to be here and we're having a lot of fun.

Q. Do you mind reflecting on how Matt sort of sets a tone of unselfishness for your program?
COACH STEVENS: I think Matt sets a tone of unselfishness with everything he does. You know, I can't talk about Matt without thinking about all the people that he's come across, not only in our program but in the community and Indianapolis, certainly from Connersville. He's Mr. Connersville. Matt will go out of his way to engage himself with anybody that wants to have a conversation. He's a special person because he really is -- he's all real. There's none of that -- none of it's fake. Everything that you read and everything you hear and everything you see is real.

Q. Eleven years ago Mike Miller had a game-winning shot against Butler that kind of ignited the Billy Ball Era. Where were you at that point? You had just graduated from college a year earlier. Was coaching definitely on your radar?
COACH STEVENS: I was driving to Buffalo, New York, to watch a friend of mine play for Indiana in the NCAA Tournament, and we pulled over to the side because we had whatever radio station it was on broadcasting the game, and we were screaming in hopes that Butler would win. So I remember that vividly. I was not part of that team, but I know guys that were really hurt by it. But they're also really proud of that game, because that may have been the launching pad of their era, but it's also probably been a significant point in our era. And so it's a great program. We're not playing their program, we're playing this team, and that's what we've got to prepare for. They're a terrific team.

Q. Who was your friend?
COACH STEVENS: I was with my -- I'm trying to think all the way back then. I guess it was my girlfriend, now my wife, Tracy, and then my good friend Matt Broughton.

Q. I wanted to ask you the same thing I asked the two players about the three losses you had back to back to back, how you were playing then and how you wound up winning 12 in a row and being in the Elite Eight now.
COACH STEVENS: There's a lot of good teams, and just because a team doesn't have a great record doesn't mean they're not capable of being very, very good on a given night. We're not playing Florida's program, we're playing their team on Saturday for 40 minutes. I don't want to take anything away from the teams that beat us, they beat us. What we've done better since then is we've been better with our rotations, and it's been a lot of technical work, been a lot of practice, been a lot of talk, been a lot of focus, been a lot of attention to detail. We've said it all along, we were very versatile last year, and we weren't -- we're not as versatile this year. And so all of the work that you put into being technically sound, we have to be more technically sound this year than we were last year, and that's just a fact of who we are. We've got a really good group of guys, and they've really bought into it, and they never once pointed fingers or were worried about how we were viewed in the public eye. They only cared about each other and getting better. That's a real testament to them.

Q. You may have already answered this, but two years ago Matt was the conference player of the year. Last year some would say it was Gordon's team, and since that winning stream how is this team in your eyes different from your other Butler teams?
COACH STEVENS: It's just another team, right? I mean, it's a group of individuals coming together all playing a role. Matt plays a role, Shelvin played a role, I play a role, our managers play a role. I mean, we're just all working together to try to win, and that's the bottom line. I don't think it's anybody's team. I don't think we've ever had anybody's team. I think that's part of the reason why we're sitting here. I just think we have a team.

Q. That said, given what you just said, Matt didn't want to touch the question on rating his play, but will you please do that for this game and for the tournament?
COACH STEVENS: He's been outstanding. He's been outstanding the whole tournament. You'd be hard-pressed -- I don't know if this is a fact or not, so you'd have to check, maybe Kemba Walker did, I don't know who was the MVP last year of the Big East tournament. Matt was the MVP league tournament last year, he was the MVP of the Diamond Head Classic this year, and he was the MVP of our league tournament this year. Matt's a guy with -- you know, when it's a one and done situation, he is a fighter anyways, but he is a winner, and he's played -- his play has been special.

Q. You said earlier that you have relationships with all kinds of coaches in this industry. What is your relationship like with Billy Donovan, and what have you learned or taken from his program that you have applied in any way to yours?
COACH STEVENS: Well, I go down there every summer for a retreat that a bunch of us go to at the University of Florida called the Annual Clinic run by Larry Shyatt and Scott Duncan who's at UCLA, so you get to send time with those guys. I've got a lot of respect for him, it's an awesome program, I think he's done a great job.
I reached out mid year to talk, talked about some ideas, talked about what it's like to come off a national championship game and have to perform the next year. He was more than willing to share and he's been great to me. I just think there's a lot of neat stories like that throughout this coaching fraternity. That's why it's hard -- there's a part of us that hates to see these seasons end for seniors of other teams because we know what that's like. But I really respect him. I have a great deal of respect for their program. I love their team, and I appreciate being invited to attend their clinic every year.

Q. Maybe this is above your pay grade, but with the success Butler has had, could you ever see the school aspiring to be in a larger conference? I guess the Big East might fit into your profile since you don't have IA football.
COACH STEVENS: That's not part of my job description to make those calls. I think one of the things we need to do is raise the perception of our league, and our league is very good, and I think that right now that's who we are, and we need to do everything we can so that people understand you can be 13 and 5 in your league and be a contender on the national stage when it's all said and done, so the teams don't have to play with that kind of pressure in January and February when they're asked to go, like Siena was 17 and 1 last year. Teams we all know are very good, but we just magnify their losses in January and February.
I think if we can be a -- if we can use this microphone to spread that cause, I think that's a really good thing, and I think you end up getting more teams like VCU, who's hotter than heck. They were whatever they were in their conference, we were 13 and 15, I thought Cleveland State, 13 and 5, unbelievable season. You just go down the list. We talked about it last year; this is the third time I think we've been a three or four-loss or more team that's been to the Sweet 16 from our league.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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