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NCAA MEN'S 2ND & 3RD ROUNDS: PITTSBURGH


March 14, 2012


Aaron Craft

Thad Matta

Jared Sullinger


PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA

THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll get started with our student‑athletes from Ohio State.
Welcome to Pittsburgh and the NCAA tournament.テつ We'll open it up to questions for the student‑athletes from Ohio State.

Q.テつ Jared, what do you know about Loyola and what you're going to have to do to beat them tomorrow?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ They're a very athletic basketball team.テつ They like to get up and down the floor.テつ Love transition.テつ A lot of guys can score the basketball for them.テつ I mean, they have five guys averaging double figures so they're a very balanced team.
One person is not going to beat us.テつ It's a team effort.テつ We have to stop everybody.

Q.テつ Can you talk about at this time of year how good it is to get out of the conference, that you're not playing guys who know you so well.テつ Is it a relief to get to play somebody that doesn't know you that well?
AARON CRAFT:テつ I think it is.テつ But at the same time with what scouting is today, you can't go in thinking they don't know a lot about you.
But they absolutely do because of the way film is, the way you're able to get film and just watch people throughout the year.テつ Especially when you got a guy like Jared that gets a lot of attention, they're going to know a lot about what we like to do.
So we just try to come in like we do in the conference, just try to execute our system and see how we can go from there.

Q.テつ Jared, I know last year you went home a little bit earlier than you would have liked.テつ How does that motivate you?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Honestly, I think the person that's the most motivated on this basketball is sitting to the left to me, Aaron Craft.テつ I know after Brandon Knight hit that shot, he was sleeping at the gym, working every day by himself.テつ His motivation has kind of carried over to everybody else.
I think this basketball team understood that in practice this morning, that we have to play hard and tomorrow's not a promise.
AARON CRAFT:テつ Yeah, I just think it affected everyone a little differently last year.テつ Everyone kind of took a step back and felt what they could do to make the game change.テつ At the same time I think we did a good job of trying to move on.テつ We can't live in the past.テつ Figure out a way to help this basketball team be better because it's not the same as last year.
Guys like Jared, Will, Deshaun, all those guys that were there last year, I think we understand we thought we worked pretty hard last year and thought we had a good mindset, and we still came up short.
Just understanding, you know, it's a whole 'nother level, but it can be a lot of fun and hopefully we can enjoy this.

Q.テつ Jared, do you feel like you had a good year or has it gotten to the point in college basketball where you get measured by March?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ I think we had a pretty solid year.テつ But now in March you enter the tournament, records go out the door.テつ It's not about what conference they're from.テつ Doesn't matter what is the record.テつ Everybody is fighting for their life.テつ We got to understand that tomorrow is our problem.テつ I think that's the biggest motto this basketball team has to embrace is:テつ tomorrow's not a promise.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Do you feel like the old man on this team starting four sophomores?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Not really.テつ I don't feel like the old man.テつ I think that's more towards William Buford being here for four years.テつ That's the Papa of the basketball team.
I mean, there's sometimes I feel like the old man because some people come to me, ask questions.テつ I got to understand where they're coming from.テつ I also like to understand that I played a lot last year and they look at me as a junior or senior, not a sophomore.

Q.テつ Aaron, you're known as one of the better defensive guards in the country.テつ Sometimes that's not sexy, it's not scoring.テつ When did you first start to embrace defense?テつ What about it gets you motivated?テつ And, Jared, can you comment on if you ever saw him do something in practice or a game defensive‑wise that wowed you.
AARON CRAFT:テつ Defense is just something I've taken pride in since I've been growing up playing the game.テつ When I got here last year, that was the one thing I knew I needed to do in order to help the basketball team be successful.テつ I had to not turn the ball over and try to play as good of defense as possible.テつ With the guys that were around me, and again this year, the offensive threats we have, the thing that I can bring to the table every game, it's something that I like to take pride in.
But it's something that I need my teammates to help me out a lot with.テつ I play my best defense when as a team we play our best defense and I trust in the teammates behind me.テつ It's something I look forward to and enjoy every game.
JARED SULLINGER:テつ This kid never wows me, to be totally honest with you.テつ If I had to go by the first time he ever caught me by surprise, it was in ninth grade, we were playing AAU, this kid was just going off against us.テつ The week before that, Craft was in the state tournament so we never had Craft to start the season.テつ Our coach, Quentin Rogers, throws him in the game, takes the ball from the kid five straight times, walks in with a layup.テつ That right there kind of had me in shock because I didn't have to do nothing for five straight plays.

Q.テつ How do you think Ohio State as a program is regarded nationally?テつ Where do you see yourselves fitting into the national picture?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ We're still a football school, according to people.テつ We'll live with that.テつ I think this program, ever since Coach Matta came, he changed it around from what it came from.テつ I think you got to give a lot of credit to Coach Matta for his activity and his progression at the Ohio State University.

Q.テつ Do you ever see you guys not being a football school?テつ Do you ever see the basketball program being able to overcome that?
AARON CRAFT:テつ No (smiling).テつ But it's okay.テつ I mean, there's nothing greater in the fall than being in the shoe, watching our guys play football, especially with the buzz that's going around right now with the new hires and all the recruits we have coming in.テつ It's something that you get to embrace.
It's awesome to see Buckeye Nation come together through football, understanding the same fans back us during basketball season.テつ I just think there's more excitement around Ohio State all year around instead of just around the football season.
But football is always going to dominate, and I think we're all right with that.

Q.テつ Technically they're a 15 seed, you're a 2 seed.テつ How much smaller is the gap between the teams these days?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Honestly, we don't even look at the seed.テつ We kind of look at who we play.テつ We understand that the records go out the door.テつ You have teams like George Mason, VCU, Butler, they all made their runs, and everybody overlooked them.テつ We don't want nobody to do that.テつ We don't want to do that against nobody else.
We're just trying to look forward, just keep playing hard.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Gentlemen, thank you.
We have Coach Matta.テつ Obviously, I don't need to read you his rテδゥsumテδゥ.テつ His 12th consecutive 20‑win season or more, the only active coach in the country was Mark Few, 13 in a row.
Questions for Coach Matta.

Q.テつ What do you think of Loyola?テつ What do you see when you see them?テつ Do you know Patsos, his style a little bit?
COACH MATTA:テつ I've become familiar with it a little bit through the tape.テつ I don't know.テつ I've met Jimmy, but I don't know him real well.テつ Obviously one of our coaches, Dave Dickerson, they spent a lot of time together at Maryland.
What I see with Loyola is, number one, a very good basketball team a very sound basketball team, a team that has a lot of guys that can have a big night on you.テつ The only time you have five guys averaging double figures, they have the inside, they have the outside.テつ Their guards do a lot of different things, from shooting threes to driving the basketball.
Obviously Olson can really, really stretch the defense with a quick release and ability to get the shot off quickly.

Q.テつ How do you think you've done in sort of nurturing this basketball program at a school that clearly seems to have its priorities on the football side of the coin?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I think I'm very proud of what we've established in eight years at Ohio State.テつ I think from the standpoint, somebody told me the other day, I'm not exactly sure on this, but the highest win total ever at Ohio State was 27 wins.テつ We're averaging 27 wins in eight years.テつ I think from the standpoint of going to the NCAA tournament, we've been a 1 seed twice, we've been a 2 seed three times, then I think an 8 seed.
From the standpoint of who we've recruited, the type of kid that we've brought in, the character of those kids, how they've represented the program and the university probably most importantly, I'm very excited where we are and the direction we're heading in.

Q.テつ Where do you see Ohio State standing on the national consciousness in terms of basketball?
COACH MATTA:テつ It's a little bit of a tough question for me due to the fact that I don't follow a whole lot outside of our program.
But, you know, I think from a national perspective, when you play in a league like the Big Ten and you've won it five of the last seven years, you've played in six of eight of the conference tournament championships, I think one of the big gauges now is how your players are drafted.テつ We've had, I don't know, 1, 2, 4, 21, 24, 25, you know.
So I think from that perspective, you look at Ohio State and say that they're getting the job done producing the players and winning basketball games.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Four sophomores, a lot of talented youth.テつ Pretty happy the way they've blended in this year.
COACH MATTA:テつ I think that's been one of the biggest challenges with this team.テつ When you have one senior and one junior who never played, Evan Ravenel was a transfer in, then the sophomores, then five freshmen, that's always one of the hard things of bringing a team together.
As young as this team is, one of the big words we talked about as they came together last summer was 'maturity' and how quick this team could grow up.

Q.テつ How difficult is it to, as you said, when you do have kids taken that high in the draft, to be able to reload, to maintain that level?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I think that is probably in itself been one of the biggest challenges we've had in our time at Ohio State.
I think one of the things we haven't been able to do extensively is develop a 'system' of this is how we want to run our fast break, this is what we want to do in the post, this is how we want to play defense.
A lot of times with as young as our program has been, we've really had to take the first three weeks of the season and say, Okay, what do we got?テつ How do they work together?
We went through a stretch for two seasons in a row where we played all zone defense.テつ That was because I'd drive home, didn't think we were going to be able to score, so we had to spend the majority of the time in practice on offense.テつ That's always a good problem to have, but it can take its toll.
I think we've done a very good job of rebounding from it each season and been able to continue to bring great players into the fold.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Jared Sullinger, obviously he's a game‑changing player.テつ Gives you a real identity.テつ You think he's probably motivated to play in this on a national stage.
COACH MATTA:テつ I think this with Jared.テつ Obviously coming off of his freshman season, he had a First Team All‑American Freshman of the Year, was playing great basketball early for us, then he got injured and in essence missed three weeks of the season coming off of a late game in November, I think it was the Duke game.
I think he's back in form.テつ Jared has always been a guy that enjoys the big picture of what we're trying to establish at Ohio State.テつ I think watching his play down the stretch, helping us when our backs were against the wall, when a share the Big Ten championship, carrying that into the conference tournament, I think he's as primed and ready to go as he's been all year.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you, coach.
COACH MATTA:テつ Thanks.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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