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March 10, 2012

Aaron Craft

Thad Matta

Deshaun Thomas


Ohio State テや 77
Michigan テや 55

THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll have Coach Matta make an opening statement, then go to questions for Aaron and Deshaun.テつ Coach?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, this game definitely was about our defense.テつ I thought that we had great activity on the ball, off the ball.テつ Our ball screen defense was good.テつ Our bigs were extremely active.テつ I thought we had great communication.テつ Challenging shots.テつ Offensively, we got off to great start.テつ The ball was moving and we were able to maintain.テつ Knew Michigan was going to run at us, and these guys countered.テつ I thought the start to the second half was really, really big nor us.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.テつ Aaron, what do you have to be most conscious of when you're guarding Trey Burke, and what were you trying to do against him?テつ And based on his performance last night, was it kind of a personal challenge to take it on today?
AARON CRAFT:テつ A little bit.テつ But stopping a great player like him, especially with how he was feeling from yesterday, it was definitely a team effort tonight.テつ And just trying to not make it about me against him because that's not what it's about.テつ And our bigs did a great job hedging ball screens today and everyone else did a good job of zoning up and not giving easy baskets for the most part.
So it was definitely a team effort on him today much.テつ He's a great player, but fortunately enough today, he didn't make too many shots.

Q.テつ Aaron, after the way that‑‑ I guess it took 30‑odd minutes last night before you guys turned the game in your favor.テつ How much of today did you talk about right off the jump just pouncing on them and, as you guys like to say, step on their throats and not give them any hope?
AARON CRAFT:テつ I don't think we're that mean.テつ But, no, I think we started off well yesterday also, and that was was just what we wanted to come in to do today.テつ Be the aggressor and don't try to just feel our way through the game and see‑‑ and have all these other things kind of get in our minds.
We came in with a good game plan and we were able to execute it today, and fortunately enough we were able to do it for majority of the game.テつ That helped us out.

Q.テつ For Deshaun.テつ Over the last seven or eight games, you've played it seems some of you best basketball, averaging right around 20 points a game.テつ You had two 22‑point games here in Indianapolis.テつ Just what's really come together for you here the last three weeks or so?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Really, just working hard and listening to Coach, you know, and listening to my teammates.テつ A great leader, Craft, and just coming in with my mind right and just be ready to play and take my pride on defense because I know the defense brings offense.テつ And we always preach that, and so I'll just take pride and that and just try to come in and just play as hard a I can.

Q.テつ Deshaun, building off that question on your offense, you're one of three guys on this team averaging at least 15.テつ No one else is in double figures.テつ How do you avoid putting pressure on yourself you create as an offensive player and get your points?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ I mean, just we're a team.テつ We got many guys who can score.テつ One day I'll be hot, Will, or Craft.テつ So I just try togo to the offensive glass to get easy baskets, and don't‑‑ try not to throw a bad shots and just do the little things.テつ Get the extra rebounds and extra kick outs and get it back inside.

Q.テつ This is for Aaron and Deshaun.テつ The team has Michigan State tomorrow.テつ Is that a match up that you and your teammates have been looking forward to and‑‑ yeah, if you could just address that?
THE MODERATOR:テつ Aaron, start with you, please.
AARON CRAFT:テつ I think your organization.テつ But, yeah, they're a great basketball team and that's the type of basketball teams you want to play this time of year and we split during the regular season.テつ So we need to get some rest tonight, figure out what we need to do for tomorrow and just try to come out and execute and play good basketball and see where it goes from there.
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Well, they're a great team.テつ We know it's going to be a battle, and we just want come in and try to hit them first, like we've been doing for these last two games.

Q.テつ For both players.テつ You guys have a chance to win your third straight tournament title tomorrow.テつ What's it say about where this program is if you can win that title tomorrow?
THE MODERATOR:テつ Deshaun, start with you this time.
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ It's going to be history, coming in, trying to win another title, three titles in a row.テつ It's going to be special for us and the program at Ohio State.
AARON CRAFT:テつ I just think it goes to show the type of coach that we have and his ability to have his teams ready to go and be successful at this point in the year.
So with that said, it's definitely not going to be given to us tomorrow, so we need to come in and hopefully just try to continue to play our best basketball and see where it goes from there.

Q.テつ For both you guys, given the quality of the league this year, does tomorrow's winner deserve a No. 1 seed and something that's important to you guys?
AARON CRAFT:テつ The Big Ten is a really tough conference.テつ Every team you play, you have the chance to lose if you're not ready to go.テつ So but as for the NCAA Tournament, that's not something that we're‑‑ we're not worrying about right, we haven't talked about much either as a team or with the coaching staff.
Right now our focus is on Michigan State tomorrow and what we have to do to be successful in that game.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Deshaun, do you want to add anything?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Well, like Craft said, we're not worried about it right now.テつ We worry about Michigan State and getting the Big Ten title.

Q.テつ For both players.テつ Between yesterday and today, this looked like the Ohio State team that a lot of folks anticipated.テつ What's been the key to this late surge and how do you all maintain this?
THE MODERATOR:テつ Deshaun, back to you.
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Just coming in being ready, staying focused, getting the rest we need.テつ Because you know it's going to be a big game tomorrow, and just, like I said, listen to Coach and reading the scout report real well and just coming in ready.
AARON CRAFT:テつ Yeah, just understanding it's a team game.テつ We play our best basketball and we don't rely on one person to try to score a lot of points.テつ And we're playing great on the defensive end, and everyone's talking, everyone's into the game.テつ I think we're starting to understand that's where we're at other best and that's what we need to do for however many games we have left to play, just continuing to go out there, have fun, be positive with each other, and enjoy it.

Q.テつ Deshaun, when you were in here last night, Thad told a story about how he called you Shaun until you deserved to have "D" in your name.テつ I wondered, when is the first time you remember him saying that to you, and was that a motivation to you to improve your defense?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Honestly, I don't remember.テつ But he always, you know, gets on me with the defense.テつ But, I mean, in high school, one of my coaches, they took the "D" off and called me E‑Shaun.
So I see what Coach Matta means because I had to learn a lot coming into Ohio State, knowing that defense can win the game instead of just let‑‑ not helping my teammates and not getting over there, taking the charges.テつ So I learned a lot and thanks to Coach.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Fellas, thanks very much.テつ You may return to the locker room.テつ Good luck tomorrow.
Questions for Coach Matta.

Q.テつ Thad, have you noticed something different about this team in recently weeks, and how much of that is attributed to what Deshaun and Jared have done?
COACH MATTA:テつ They've obviously played a significant role in terms of this team's development.テつ I think both guys touched on it.テつ We have a very good togetherness right now, a very good understanding of how we want to play, what we want do, how we want do it, and I think those are the things that we've been striving for all season.
And it's good to see, over the course of the last couple weeks, just the energy and the enthusiasm this team has had.テつ And I think it carries over to the court for us as well.

Q.テつ Thad, all season people have kind of pointed back to that Duke game as the bar that you guys set for a 40‑minute effort.テつ Where would you put today's game as far as how this game stacked up to any other game you felt was particularly good for you this season?
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah, I would say we'd probably be in that category only from the standpoint of what we were able to do defensively against a high‑powered offensive team.テつ I mean, Michigan, you talk about a problematic offense, and we were able to blow some things up.テつ We had active hands.
When you're playing a team that is‑‑ timing is very important to them, and I thought we were able to take away a little bit of their timing just by doing two things at one time, and that was one of the things we talked about with the quick turnaround of activity on the defensive end.

Q.テつ Coach, how important has it been the last couple of games just to have Jared Sullinger just completely impose his will early on?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, it's obviously been big for us, and it's good to see him get going.テつ I know everybody's looking at 24 points today, but I thought his defense as good as it's been all season today and just his activity and got his hands on some passes.テつ He's really taking ownership for this team.
We gave up a couple offensive rebounds.テつ We were talking about it in the time out, and he said, "Hey, I'll get the rebound; that's my fault."テつ And it wasn't, but he wants that right now and that's good to see.テつ It's refreshing for me.

Q.テつ Coach, with today's win, that means William Buford will play in the Big Ten Championship game for the fourth time in his career.テつ What does that say about the state of this program right now and the way that you guys have been able to maintain excellence over a four‑year period?
COACH MATTA:テつ I think we talked about it last night for William.テつ That's an incredible feat when you stop and think about it, four straight years.テつ And you look and do this because I can't count them all, all the different players that William Buford has played with in his time at Ohio State, it's amazing.テつ So for him and I think our program, it's obviously a great accomplishment because of this league and all the change that has transpired, all the great players, all the great coaches.テつ I'm very, very happy for William.

Q.テつ Obviously you got two great teams tomorrow, but you got the‑‑ let's say you get to see two big men just go at it.テつ Can you talk about what Green and Sullinger have meant against each other and what a special match‑up?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I think this, and I've said this, Draymond Green has been eight years in the Big Ten ten, is one of my favorite players.テつ I think he's just‑‑ he's got multiple talents in terms of what he can do to help them.
You're looking at two, I think, future NBA great players, going to be going head to head.テつ And it's funny, we were talking this morning at pregame about, today, if you were a basketball fan, and you got a ticket to this game, you saw No. 8 versus No. 12 and No. 7 versus No. 15, it doesn't get much better for the City of Indianapolis.テつ There's some great basketball.テつ I think tomorrow you're kind of looking at the same type of situation.

Q.テつ You talked about what you saw now as togetherness and understanding, and that seemingly has come together in a span of a few days between the game that you lost at home against Wisconsin and the game that you won at Northwestern.テつ Was it just a realization on the part of these guys that, last week, there was a championship to win, this week it's a championship to win.テつ It's won and done.テつ Is there a greater sense of urgency with your guys now or what?
COACH MATTA:テつ I don't know if I can put my finger exactly on how things have transpired.テつ I do think that all good things do take time to develop, and there's a lot of times in a season where something can happen.テつ Maybe it was Michigan State getting knocked off the Tuesday night before us.
But doing this now, I hate to say this, but for a long time, you get a sense, you get a awareness with your guys, and it can be what they're talking about, why they're talking about it, energy.
Yesterday morning at 9:00 o'clock we had a very, very high‑energy 30‑minute shoot‑around.テつ And as I talked about last night, I was eager to see how we played in terms of coming out.テつ And hopefully we're learning.
So much of this is just the mental preparation of getting yourself ready to play.テつ And I think Deshaun, and he touched on it, it's so important for him.テつ Early in the season, he was using like the first five minutes to warm up of the game.テつ And so we kind of got that corrected and told him he had to have a bead of sweat before in the starting lineups, then we knew he was ready to play.
But all guys have certain things in terms of preparation they have to do, and hopefully we can continue to learn that.

Q.テつ Thad, Jared was talking about how those bad games he had, how he watched the films over and over and over and how painful it was, how he almost cried seeing himself play like that.テつ Can you kind of address that?テつ Did you see him get like a new motivation or something from the way he was playing?
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah.テつ I think that‑‑ I'm trying to think back.テつ Even looking today at Game 2 against Michigan, he was looking at some of the shots that he had that didn't go down.テつ He was looking at the defense he was playing and getting split in ball screens.
And Jared is an extremely prideful young man.テつ And I've said this from the day he got to Ohio State.テつ He's a winner.テつ And Jared wants to do the things that he needs to do to help this basketball team.
And I think that when he doesn't play up to his standards, that becomes very personal to him.テつ And probably the light went on for him in terms of knowing what we need from him on a consistent basis.テつ And I couldn't be more pleased with the progress he's made down the stretch of the season for us.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Coach, thank you very much.テつ Good luck tomorrow.
COACH MATTA:テつ Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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