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


March 15, 2012


Will Barton

Tarik Black

Josh Pastner


COLUMBUS, OHIO

THE MODERATOR:¬† We're joined by Memphis student‑athletes Tarik Black and Will Barton.

Q.  Will, at one point this season Coach Pastner had the names removed from the back of your jerseys.  Why did he do that?
WILL BARTON:  Coach did that to remind us that we should be playing for the names on the front of our jersey, which is Memphis, instead of the names on the back, which is our last name.
He just wanted us to play for each other and not play individual basketball and try to do it by yourself, and we should work more as a team.

Q.  Is that what was happening, you guys were playing more individually?
WILL BARTON:  Yeah, I think guys were just trying to put a lot of pressure on themselves and doing things by themselves.  We weren't playing selfish, just guys were trying to win the game by themselves and we were losing and things like that when the team made a run at us.  So I think that's what it was.

Q.  Will, will this season be a success if you lose tomorrow?
WILL BARTON:  In ways it will and in ways it won't.  We accomplished our goals of winning the regular season title and the conference tournament title, so you look at it that way as a success.
But we got goals of not just getting to the tournament, but making a huge run in the tournament.
So in ways you could look at it as a success, but in my eyes I'll be a little disappointed if we were to lose tomorrow.
So I feel certain ways about that.

Q.  Both you guys can answer this.  Just talk about the difference of you guys coming in as sophomores and one year of experience in the NCAA Tournament behind you, how different it is this year coming into this first game compared to last year?
TARIK BLACK:  It's a lot different.  We're a lot more calm and a lot more mature this year.  Last year coming up to this stage, doing this interview, we were amped and we were just so excited and exhilarated about playing the next day, but today it's just a calm, cool feeling and we're ready to take care of business and do what we have to do in order to accomplish the goal that we have set as a team.
WILL BARTON:  Just to piggyback off what Tarik said, we definitely came in more mature, more experienced, and this year we're more comfortable, and we feel like we're here to take care of business.  Last year we were so excited to get here, we were happy that we were here.
But, like he said, now we have to take care of business and get wins.

Q.  I assume you've seen some video of your opponent.  What do you think is the number one advantage you've got going into this game?
WILL BARTON:  I think Tarik is our biggest advantage.  They're not the biggest team as far as height in the paint.  They have a good player in Conklin.  He's real good, but Tarik is much taller and much stronger.  So I feel like we have a real big advantage down low with him.
TARIK BLACK:  I feel like it's our athleticism and speed and our versatility.  That's why a big part of our team is versatility.  We have guys like Will Barton who is 6'6" and lengthy, but he can sit down and stick defense, and he's a guard.
We have guys like in Wesley Witherspoon, 6'9", played point guard, he's really played every position at Memphis.  You don't usually see players like that in college, really in basketball period.  Our whole team is made up of players of that caliber.  They can play different positions and they can run the floor.
And we also play smart basketball.¬† We are a great defensive team and we're a great offensive team because we have our‑‑ our efficiency numbers show, and that's just what I feel like is our best advantage, is just our versatility and athleticism.

Q.  Do you guys get offended at all when you hear the experts saying the test will be if they can play the half court game, this is not a half court team, and do you think tomorrow's game will be that kind of game?
WILL BARTON:  Yeah, we get a little offended.  I think people take for granted because how explosive we are in the open court and on fastbreak opportunities.  They forget how efficient we are as an offensive period.  That just can't be fastbreak.  That's in the half court too.  We're one of the only teams in the country that are top 10 in defense and offense efficiency.
So we feel like we could play in the half court or just getting up and down.¬† We've got guys‑‑ we can throw the ball down low to Tarik or I'm coming off curls, Joe can break anyone down.¬† We've got guys like Chris and Antonio, Adonis hitting 3s and doing what they do, Wesley.
I feel like we can win the game no matter what style we have to play.  Like I said, we have so many versatile guys on our team we can get it done in any fashion.

Q.  Tarik, how is your arm?  Is it 100percent?  80percent, give us the breakdown?
TARIK BLACK:  It's 100percent.  The thing that happened is I hit the chair.  It's one of those things that hurts worse when it happens.  You kind of wondering like are you okay, and so you just lay there for a second because you don't want to make a move too fast and something end up being wrong and it gets worse.
I'm 100percent.  I'm good.  Not really any soreness or anything about it, it was just a bump, bruise, in which, like I said, it's just one of those things that it just hurts on the initial impact.  But once you get to the groove of working it out, massaging it, getting it moving, and then after days and days of taking care of any treatment, then it starts to feel better and you're okay.

Q.  Tarik, obviously in the past week Coach Pastner has had quite a few interviews just raving about his respect for Coach Majerus in Saint Louis.  What has he told you about Coach Majerus and how he coaches?
TARIK BLACK:  He hasn't really told us much about him as an individual.  He just told us basically what type of team we're going to play against tomorrow in our game.
But as far as his coaching style or his methods as just a coach, he hasn't really told us anything like that.

Q.  Tarik, what took you guys so long to get going?
TARIK BLACK:  Just finding our maturity.  Finding our place where we're all one.  We came in last year, eight freshmen, and Carmouche came in with us, and he wasn't a freshman, but he was a new face on campus, and we had a new coach that hasn't been coaching as long as others, he's not a veteran coach yet.
It takes a while to find your chemistry and find your niche.  Coming in we loved playing defense, but we didn't know we could play defense as well as we have this far in our careers in college.  But now that we understand it, now that's what we hang our hats on.
If you listen to our interviews maybe last school year or last season and even the beginning of this season we wanted to play good defensive rebound, but nowadays we're saying we are defense.  This is what we do.  We stop teams and we get out and run.
And also on the previous question about our offensive game, we can score.  We have efficient scorers.  And that's just how I feel, is defense.

Q.  Tarik, you've had a chance now to break down Saint Louis a little bit.  What do they do well?  What are a couple of their strengths and a couple of the keys for you guys tomorrow in terms of winning?
TARIK BLACK:  They're a solid team.  They play as one.  They're not a team that's going to shoot themselves in the foot.  They don't turn the ball over much.  They have good players.  They have a good player on the side and they have also great guards to go around the play that they have inside and they have great shooters.
And on the defensive end they play great defense.  They played a lot of help side and they can scramble out the shooters, and they're great at scrambling and communicating while they're on the floor.

Q.  Will, you saw box and one, you've seen triangle and two.  Majerus has done that in the past; he hasn't done that this year.  How patient will you be this game against Saint Louis when they'll hold the ball for a while and you might want to rush things on the offensive side?
WILL BARTON:  I try to be as patient as I can.  Just depends how the game is going and what we're doing as a team.  If I feel like we're losing, the game is getting out of hand, then I'll try to go to work and just make plays.  Not just for myself, but for my teammates.
But if we've got a nice handle on it and we're winning and things like that, I'll just keep being patient and letting my teammates go to work and do what they do.
It all depends on how the game is going.  But I won't be just sitting back and letting someone just control me out there.  I'm going to try to be aggressive and play like I always do, about picking my spots and just trying not to force anything crazy or dumb, just being patient, but at the same time being aggressive and being my normal self.

Q.  Was part of that challenge in terms of chemistry just that development process, guys just learning to accept their roles and being okay with their positions on this team, what the responsibilities were going to be?
WILL BARTON:  I think that's a part of it.  Especially with our team.  You know, coming into college, you know, you're coming out of high school where mainly you're the star of your team.  And, like I said, with us, we were all made up of freshmen and sophomores and guys not used to being a role player or not taking all the shots or stuff like that.  And that's not a bad thing, it just takes time.  It just takes time because it is a hard thing to overcome.
But guys who did that, we've all gave a little, sacrifice our game for each other, and it's paying off for us.  But it's definitely a hard thing.  I've had to give up things, Tarik, Joe, everyone.  Everyone on the team has gave up something that they do just for the betterment of the team.
So I think that was a big part of it.¬† And a lot of it is just‑‑ we started off 1‑0, and then we went straight to Maui, which was a tough field.¬† That's when things got rocky.¬† We only played one game.¬† Most of the teams playing already had have five or four games in.
So I think we jumped into something that was kind of difficult, you know.  The teams already had a lot of games under their belt, and we had just played one game of the season.
So we overcame it and we got through it, and we are who we are now.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We're joined by head coach Josh Pastner.
COACH PASTNER:  Well, I come in and everyone leaves.  I bet when Coach Izzo and Coach Majerus are here everyone shows up.  It's a joke.
We're obviously privileged and honored to be here.¬† We understand that this is not a birthright to be part of the tournament.¬† It's a great thing.¬† But you're obviously here.¬† You want to play as well as you can, try to win as many games.¬† We understand we have a very tough opponent, very well‑coached opponent in Coach Majerus in Saint Louis.
And they've got good players.  As good of a coach as Coach Majerus is with Saint Louis, they've also got really good players.  They've got good guard play, good front court guys.  They're really good defensively.
One of the myths about Saint Louis is that they don't want to play real slow, they'll push the ball.  When they have opportunities to push the ball, they're going to push the ball.  They're really good defensively, though, and we know we're going to have to play a great game.
We know we're going to have to play a great game, and we'll be ready.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions.

Q.  You guys played so well at the end of last season.  But I guess I thought it was going to carry over into the early part of this season, and that didn't happen.  Why not?
COACH PASTNER:¬† Probably because you came and did an article on us and it inflated our egos and that's why we started 6‑5.
But, no, we just‑‑ we played a tough early nonconference schedule.¬† And we still are a relatively young team.¬† We had some opportunities early.¬† We didn't convert as I would like to say in some of those early games, but we played tough teams.¬† And the good thing is we didn't have a false sense of who we were.
We knew what we were about; that we needed to make some adjustments.  There were some strengths and weaknesses, and we worked on those during the break time.  And then right after the Christmas break, since that time we've won 20 of 23, which isn't easy to do.  And to be able to win the regular season and the tournament championship, which only few teams do that.
So we're playing really well, but I think the start of the season, again, it wasn't easy.  It wasn't fun to go through that, but it also helped us in the long run.
Sometimes things are deeper than they look on the surface.¬† And the moment you feel‑‑ it's not good, but then later on you look back and you realize how great of a game that experience might have helped you later on.

Q.  You said how you feel differently going into this game.  This year versus last year in the tournament, do you sense that the players feel differently going into the tournament this year?
COACH PASTNER:¬† We were on the radio show the other day and we were talking about that.¬† I said the difference last year is I was probably‑‑ you know, it was just so up and down at times and to get in was such a relief.¬† And here we've been playing so well, you have more of a peace about it.
So I think our guys‑‑ the experience from last year has helped.¬† There's no doubt about that.¬† But with all that experience being said, you still gotta go out and get the job done.¬† And getting the job done means you've got to try to win games.
So being part of it last year I think will help us, but it doesn't guarantee you any victories.

Q.  Players talked about just the changes in chemistry from the start of the year to now.  Was part of that guys just learning to accept who they are on this team and their responsibilities and maybe they're not the stars, maybe they have to take a back seat to some other guys?
COACH PASTNER:  You know, it's a good question.  Again, as I've said, you go through a season.  It's like a book.  You can't just judge on the first two chapters.  It takes a little time.
We obviously had to work some kinks out.¬† Early on, when you have a collection of good players and you're trying to fit the roles, and we were able to just kind of work through things, and I think through some tough times, when I say‑‑ meaning tough times, with some tough losses, it forces guys to either say, okay, we're both feet in or this isn't going to work.¬† And I think guys understood we gotta have both feet in and we've got to all be on the same page and about team in order for us to do what we need to do.
I think that just took a little time.¬† I don't think there's anything‑‑ rarely do you find anything in sports or business or life where you just snap your fingers and it happens overnight, especially when you have a collection of individuals and you're trying to mold them into a team.

Q.¬† I'm going to ask you something off the beaten path.¬† We've seen not just in college basketball but in college football and other college sports sort of the perils of social media with regard to players, Twitter, Facebook, whatever.¬† Does Memphis‑‑ do you have as a team‑‑ have any policies in place?¬† How do you police it?¬† What do you do?
COACH PASTNER:  Hard to police.  And it's not an easy thing.  But I address this at the very first team meeting.  And if we had anything that I felt was detrimental to the program, detrimental to the individual, embarrassing to the individual, embarrassing to the university, anything that I felt, and it was my judgment that I felt it wasn't appropriate, I was going to take action.
And the action could be from‑‑ I had no problem from doing it, from whether it was‑‑ depending on how minor it was to maybe early morning running to something severe, if I needed to throw someone off the team.
It was a wide range.  And those things you have to be careful about.  And I told our guys:  I don't want to hear that someone broke into your Twitter account.  If you retweeted something, that's your tweet.  If there's something that your family wouldn't like, then don't put it out there.  Sleep on it before you do anything.
I just think those are some of the things‑‑ it is a dangerous tool.¬† It's a great tool because it's instant.¬† But sometimes people make mistakes.¬† I mean, how many times have you seen with coaches where something's being said out of the heat of the moment or the energy of the game, the game's done you say something and the next morning you're having to issue an apology, when you're better off sleeping on it and dealing with it the next day.
That's the same way I've tried to educate our guys about Twitter or anything they would put on Facebook or social media:  Sleep on it.  There's nothing better before making a decision until you sleep on it the next day.

Q.  If something comes up, are you more reactive or proactive?  Do you have somebody monitoring?
COACH PASTNER:¬† Yes, in our university they have somebody in the university in the athletic department that monitors all student‑athletes' Twitters.¬† There's some tool they have there.¬† But I have someone on our staff.¬† They have to follow us.¬† On Facebook they have to friend us or whatever that stuff is so we're able to follow and make sure that there's nothing we would feel that's not right.

Q.  The 1998 Final Four, Arizona, do you recall anything specific about that Utah team or perhaps the way they were coached that made them stand out?  Because that was considered a pretty big upset at the time.
COACH PASTNER:  Big upset, are you kidding me?  We won the national championship the year before.  We had the entire team back.  We were crushing people, crushing people.
And I remember we‑‑ we beat Maryland in the Sweet 16 game.¬† We were in the Elite Eight. ¬†Morning game in Anaheim.¬† I remember getting in the elevator‑‑ again, I was a walk‑on and to have a chance to be part of something going back to back, and I remember a couple of our players were like‑‑ my teammates at the time were like:¬† Do you have your bags packed for San Antonio?¬† I remember them saying it.¬† I won't say which one said it.
And Utah came out and just kicked our butt.¬† There was a total thing where our guys just‑‑ they might have looked past Utah.
Now, a lot of people made a thing about the triangle and two.¬† And Coach Majerus‑‑ Utah kicked our butt.¬† They deserved to win the game.¬† From top on bottom they deserved to win the game.
Basketball is not about‑‑ I really think the coaching thing is overrated, because here's my thing:¬† Everyone made a big deal about the triangle and two, but if we hit a couple shots, then all of a sudden what are you going to say, is Coach Olson the greatest zone offensive coach ever?
I think we get too wrapped up into Xs and Os instead of about the Jimmie and Joes.  When teams go zone, if you make some shots, then does the zone look that good?  If you miss shots, the zone looks good.  So I think a lot of that gets overlooked more so than the margin of error whether the shot goes in or not.
But, again, that was a crushing loss because you had a chance to go back to back.  In Utah they had Andre Miller, Doleac, and those guys, and they just kicked our butt.  Just kicked our butt.
And to be in the game of basketball and to have a chance to go back to back, and knowing you were the best team‑‑ I know most people might have said, well, the next game you would have played Carolina, we would have beaten Carolina.¬† We were crushing people.¬† We won the championship the last year and had everyone back.
We just weren't ready to play, and that's a credit to Utah and Coach Majerus.

Q.  I don't feel so good anymore; you're complimenting everybody.
COACH PASTNER:  Better to be positive than any other way.

Q.  Speaking of that, you're very positive and upbeat here.  But earlier this year you must have been upset because you had the names taken off the jerseys, on the guys' jerseys.  What was going on in the team at that time that you decided to do that?
COACH PASTNER:  We were playing well.  We played UTEP, and I felt it was just like the game in Utah, because I'm a big believer basketball is a game of energy.  It's like life.  It's all about energy.  In college basketball you can win off of energy, emotion and urgency.  You can't do that in the NBA because the players are so good, they're so talented.
But in college you can win off of energy, emotion, positive emotion, and urgency.  Well, it was just like the Utah game back in'98.  We came out to the UTEP game, we had none of that.  I felt we played selfish that day.  We played selfish.  We didn't play Memphis basketball.  We played for the name on the back.  I was furious because that wasn't the right way to play.
So I just felt that‑‑ I took the names off the back of the jerseys.¬† I locked them out of the locker room.¬† I stopped feeding them hot meals, gave them a ham and turkey on white bread and bag of chips.¬† Wouldn't give them anything with the name of Memphis on their practice gear, anything, because I wanted them to understand it was a privilege and honor, and even one game‑‑ was it a bad game?¬† Yes.¬† But I wanted them to understand that that game is not acceptable.
We can lose.  You're not going to win every game.  But if you're going to lose, you gotta lose and play with great energy, emotion and urgency.
So I think that was a wake‑up call for them to understand that and it's a privilege and honor to wear the name on the front of the jersey because this program‑‑ one thing that's made this program so good for so long, it's never about the coach or the players; it's about the front of the jersey.
That's why you go from Gene Bartow, Dana Kirk, Larry Finch, John Calipari and everyone else, you just keep going on and on, the program is going to be able to sustain at a high level because it's the program.  And for anyone to forget that, that I just think needed to be reenergized to understand.  Even if it was one game, I didn't want anything to tailspin from that.

Q.¬† They don't have the names back yet, but when did you bring back‑‑
COACH PASTNER:¬† I said, hey, you backed yourself in a corner.¬† I said if you back yourself out of the corner and win the conference championshipand do your thing ‑‑ all they wanted was the hot meals back.¬† So I started feeding them back hot meals.

Q.  When?
COACH PASTNER:  We were about to play Tulsa.  If we beat Tulsa, we were going to win the conference outright.  Coach, have we backed ourselves out of the corner?  I go, absolutely not.  You win Tulsa, then we're backed out of the corner.  We're the regular season champs.  They go, yes.  I go, so you can get back in the locker room.  No, no, no, we just want a hot meal, Coach.  We want to get back to having a hot meal.
Because I think they understood how fortunate it was to have meals like that.  Those are things you can take for granted if you don't enjoy it while you can.

Q.  Could you enlighten us with any stories you might have of Rick Majerus or anecdotes from the past?
COACH PASTNER:  No, I don't really know Coach Majerus.  I don't know him as friends or anything.  He's one of the great basketball minds, he's a future Hall of Famer, the guy's won over 500 games, he's won everywhere where he's been.  His teams are always really, really good.
So you don't‑‑ for me for being a younger guy, I remember in high school watching him coach.¬† He was coaching before I was even born.¬† So great honor to be on the same sidelines as Coach Majerus.

Q.  Will Barton made the statement earlier that over the course of the season each player has had to sacrifice something in their game to give for the betterment of the team.  If you wouldn't mind, talk about what you think each player gave up in order for this team to come together.
COACH PASTNER:  I think for us, each guy just had to understand that for us what we needed to do was defense.  We were going to have to be a really good defensive team.  We're the only team in the country that's top 10 in defensive field goal percentage and offensive field goal percentage.
And part of it is‑‑ like the reason Joe Jackson has been playing so well.¬† Through defense.¬† You look at all our guys, it's through defense.¬† And one of the other things, is my number one rule, I've said it since day one, since I've been the head coach, is the open man is the go‑to man.¬† And if you look at our stats and the number of assisted‑made field goals that we've had is a high number, not only this year, it's a little over 50percent, but also the previous two years.¬† So I think it's one of the big things.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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