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


March 16, 2012


Ivan Aska

Isaiah Canaan

Jewuan Long

Donte Poole

Steve Prohm


LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

THE MODERATOR:¬† Good afternoon.¬† Welcome to the KFC Yum Center for conferences in games before Round 3.¬† Let's start with questions for the Murray State student‑athletes from the media.

Q.  Donte, how is your nose?
DONTE POOLE:  It's fine.  It's a little sore, a little congested.  But I can still play.  Everything's still okay.

Q.  To all you guys, some people nationally have already started throwing round words like Cinderella, darlings, all of that kind of stuff.  How do you guys respond to those labels?
ISAIAH CANAAN:  We just look at it as an honor.  We've come a long way as a team.  We've been through a lot this year, and we've weathered almost every storm that's been thrown at us.
For people to look at us as a Cinderella story, it's an honor.  But we try to stay level and remember the things that got us to this point and try to remember to continue to do those things because we know, if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.
DONTE POOLE:  Like he said, it's just an honor.  We can't get caught up in being a Cinderella team or being a team that makes it to the Final Four or et cetera, whatever label people want to put on us.  We've just got to continue to stay focused and just handle ourselves the way that we've been doing it and let everything else fall into place.

Q.  For any of you guys, do you follow Ed Daniels' hair on Twitter, and what do you think about the phenomenon of his hair?
IVAN ASKA:  Well, I really don't follow him on Twitter because that's my teammate.  So I follow him everywhere.  He's just fanatic with his hair.  He's always got to have his hair right, pick it up.  He usually don't like us touching it.
So if you ask him to touch it, he's going to say yes, but he's not going to let you play around with it for too long.

Q.¬† The last game, you guys were favored to win.¬† This game, you were kind of the underdog.¬† People can talk about being a darling all you want, but seeding‑wise, you're a little lower than Marquette.¬† Does this kind of feel like the rightful place, maybe a different mindset than what you guys had to have yesterday?
JEWUAN LONG:  We just feel like we've got to have the same mindset going into the game.  We had the mindset to play like underdogs going into the first game.
So we've got to go in the same way and play with a lot of energy.  We go into every game thinking we're going to win the game.  No matter who you put in front of us, we expect to win.  So that's the same mindset we've got to go in with tomorrow.

Q.  Have you all gone up against anybody that's as big and physical as Marquette is?  What can a team with the size of Murray State do to offset that?
IVAN ASKA:  With our size, we're big also, but we're also quick.  So we're going to use our quickness against them and stuff like that.
We're just going to do what we do, which is play defense and just try to rebound more and get better every day.  We're just going to do everything we can to execute what the coaching staff has for us.  But really, we're going to use our quickness against them.

Q.  Isaiah, not to bring up bad memories, but can you take us through the last couple seconds of the Butler game and what you've learned from that and how you think that's made you a better player and gotten you to where you are right now.
ISAIAH CANAAN:  Initially, the play wasn't even designed for me.  I was just supposed to go run and spot up.  And hopefully, if it came to me, I could get a shot off.  I ended up just going in to get a rebound, and the ball ended up coming to me.
So I kind of looked up to see how much time we had.  There was about ten seconds left.  So I kind of called the screen, told Ivan to try to come set a screen, and they both doubled off of me.  So I took another look at the clock, and it was about five seconds.  So then I saw Danero, tried to find him and tried to get a pass to him.  Haywood got a hold of it.
Most people try to look at it and kind of somber on it.  I just use it as a learning material.  I watched the game over and over, just seeing things I could have did better, different reads I probably could have had, and I just learned from it.
I didn't stay on it too long.  I mean, it hurt.  Nobody likes to lose, and it just so happened I was put in a position where I didn't come out victorious.
So you've always got to take failures in order to learn.¬† I just use it as a learning material and just try to‑‑ it made me a better person and a better leader.¬† Hopefully now I won't be able to make that bad decision if it ever bore down to it again.

Q.  Isaiah, can you talk about the seniors and kind of what they've meant to you and also to the program?
ISAIAH CANAAN:  These three guys have meant a lot to me and meant a lot to this program and to this team.  They was here when I got here.  They took me in, showed me what I needed to learn, the things I needed to do to be a better person and a better player.
Just being alongside them, they're great guys.  They're going to be very successful wherever they're at in this world, and they're just a great teammate.  I could count on them whenever, and I try to give back to them the best way I can so they'll know that they can count on me whenever.
I mean, they push me every day in practice.  I ain't going to say every practice was my best practice.  And when I didn't have good practices, they picked me up and told me just keep going.
So I try to go out each night just knowing, just try to play hard, play for them, play for the rest of my team, and play for my coaches.
Like I say, this is a great group of seniors, and we all as a team have learned a lot from them.

Q.  Donte, you talked a little bit about the nose.  Are you going to have to wear a mask or something to protect it when you play Saturday?
DONTE POOLE:  That was brought up, but I don't think I will.  I think it will be too much.  Just having the mask on, it will be too uncomfortable.  So I'll probably just go without it.

Q.  How much time did you all spend on free throws today, and can anybody explain the poor shooting yesterday?
IVAN ASKA:¬† Well, we worked on a lot of shooting today free throw‑wise, but I guess we haven't played in so long, we just had to get adjusted, especially for me.¬† Usually, I make the free throws, but I just had to adjust a little bit and shoot the ball in a way kind of different because the ball felt kind of funny to me.
I had to step back a little bit.  So really, we adjusted as a team, shooting free throws.  Well, I hope everybody did.  But I was just working on my free throws, and we put up a lot of free throws today in practice.

Q.  For all of you, Coach Williams with Marquette was saying this is going to be like a home game for you guys and a road game for Marquette.  Can you talk about that a little bit.
JEWUAN LONG:  We do have a lot of people coming to the game.  A lot of blue and gold will be in the building.  And even the UK fans, they've given us a lot of support as well.
He's probably right about that.  It will be like a home game for us, but we don't expect it to play any role with them just because they are a great team, and I don't think it will bother them none.  We've just got to be ready to play.

Q.¬† Jewuan, sort of along that line, looking at the roster, the team's unusual makeup‑‑ I think there's only one player from the State of Kentucky‑‑ what is it that attracted you guys to Murray State, and how much has the community embraced you all, especially this season?
JEWUAN LONG:¬† I definitely believe it's the winning tradition at Murray.¬† Whenever you come to Murray, people expect you to win championships.¬† Whether you win 20‑plus games or not, if you don't win a championship, you don't win a conference, regular season championship, your season didn't go the way you were planning.¬† So it's a failed season.
You definitely have a lot of pressure going into Murray to win championships, and the people welcome you there when you get there.  You go to the practice, and you see people just interested in watching you practice, and it helps you make your decision even easier.

Q.  You guys have a chance to go to the first Sweet 16 in team history.  How excited are you?
ISAIAH CANAAN:  Very excited.  I'm sure everybody looks for that each week.  That's what we try to do, we take one game at a time.  The next game, we win Saturday, it will be the Sweet 16.  We're going to love that.
But like I say, we just try to keep it one day at a time and keep the season going as long as possible.  I'm sure they don't want it to come to an end.  So we're all going out there competing for 40 minutes and hoping for the best.
THE MODERATOR:  Guys, thank you very much for your time today.
Joining us now, Murray State Head Coach Steve Prohm.

Q.  Coach, could you share with us a game plan tomorrow for shutting down Crowder?
COACH PROHM:  Looking at his stats from last night, 25 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, four steals, it keeps ringing in my head.  I just think you've got to match his energy level, you've got to match his toughness level.  You've got to limit his catches.
We've got to do a great job getting back in transition, slowing him down, and make them have to play in the half‑court.

Q.  Could you just comment, Coach, on your seniors and what they've meant to the team and what they mean to you?
COACH PROHM:  First off, what they mean to this team, we wouldn't be where we are as a team without these guys.  They're the winningest class in the history of this program, and this program goes back 50, 60 years.  Fifteen NCAA Tournament appearances, 25 consecutive winning seasons, 23 Ohio Valley Conference championships.  You could go on and on with the accolades of what Murray State, not just this season, but the tradition.  It's one of the elite basketball programs in the country.
And they've won 104 games, I believe, in their career.¬† But they define and they embody what our program is about, what Coach Kennedy‑‑ when I came to Murray State with Coach Kennedy five, six years ago‑‑ being accountable, having great character, having great toughness, great leadership, going to graduate, representing the program the right way.¬† That's why I'm most proud of these guys.
And then as a first year head coach, to have Donte Poole, Jewuan Long and Ivan Aska be your leaders, you couldn't ask for three better people to be your leaders.  So what they mean to me, their leadership and their character is invaluable.

Q.  Marquette's gotten off to a couple of slow starts this year.  How important do you think it will be for you guys to get off to a hot start, especially get the crowd involved?
COACH PROHM:¬† The crowd is big.¬† Hopefully, it is a great crowd, and hopefully it is a pro‑Murray crowded.¬† We've talked to our team all season long.¬† Hype's good.¬† It's not about the hype.¬† It's about substance.¬† Substance is defending and rebounding.¬† Hype's good for five to six minutes.
We compared this game a little bit to the Memphis game earlier in the year.  We've got to be great in transition.  We've got to be great on the defensive glass.  We've got to take care of the basketball.  We've got to match their energy level, got to match their toughness.  We've got to make tough plays.
We got off to a great start at Memphis.  We led the whole game at Memphis.  So we look forward to hopefully getting off to a great start.  That would be huge, and that would prove to be very, very important.  So that's a big key.

Q.  A lot of people nationally might still not be very familiar with your program.  Could you talk about the opportunity to prove yourselves against a team that finished second in the conference in one of the best conferences in the country?
COACH PROHM:  Well, that's what we talk to our team all season long.  We call it stay on our wall.  We try to continue to keep our eyes up, stay on our wall, and continue to spread our wall.  Continue to help our wall continue to grow.  From Murray, Kentucky, to Western Kentucky to Central Kentucky to Louisville, Kentucky.  And then hopefully on Saturday with a win, it will catch the national, the media, to where it will grow everywhere.
There's a lot of people that maybe still haven't heard about Murray.¬† It's been a phenomenal year, and our guys are looking forward to Saturday.¬† They expect‑‑ they want to be here.¬† They expect to be here.¬† They've had a great year to this point.¬† But they're looking forward to this opportunity.
We've got a huge task at hand.  Marquette, like you said, is second in the Big East.  We've got a great deal of respect for Coach Williams and Marquette's program.  They're very talented, and they're very tough.  It's going to be a great challenge, and we're looking forward to it.

Q.  How difficult is it to game plan for essentially two different styles of play that Marquette runs, one with Davante Gardner in there and one that likes to get up and down the court?
COACH PROHM:  It's two different teams.  When they're starting five is kind of one style.  When he subs in, it's a different style.
The way we play, we just kind of‑‑ we have one style that we play, and we guard the same way‑‑ we play the same way defensively the whole‑‑ we guard the same way the whole way all season long.¬† We're going to stick to what we do, try to play extremely hard on the defensive end, defend and rebound, and then attack and try to be in attack mode on the offensive end.
But it is two different styles, no question about that.  Two good styles because they're very good with both teams, both styles.

Q.  What are some of the things that you worked on specifically in practice today?
COACH PROHM:  Transition defense.  I don't want to talk about everything.  We shot some free throws.  I hope that we shoot them better tomorrow.
Neil Brown, the radio guy, he's sitting right here, he gave one of our assistants the free‑throw percentage between the Butler game and our game yesterday, and it's not very good.¬† I think it's in the 30 percentile.¬† So hopefully we'll shoot it‑‑ we're going to have to shoot it better to beat a team like Marquette.
You've got to take care‑‑ to beat a team like Marquette, you've got to take care of the basketball, you've got to rebound the basketball, you've got to make free throws.¬† You have great shot selection.

Q.  Coach, back to Billy Kennedy.  You sat in the stands with him yesterday evening after your game.  Could you tell us something that you took from that conversation?  Did he offer any advice to you guys?
COACH PROHM:  He was just proud.  We really just talked there.  We didn't talk too much strategy outside of you'd better make sure you keep them out of the paint, and you'd better be physical and tough because that's Marquette is about.
He really just talked about he was proud of our performance, proud of our defensive performance in the second half, and really just proud of our guys.
He spoke to our guys last night.  He hadn't had a chance to talk to them.  So he visited with the guys last night before they went to their team meal.  It was a great opportunity for him to visit with those guys.

Q.  I find it unusual that you're in a basketball crazy state like Kentucky, and yet none of your scholarship players are from Kentucky despite the success you've had.  How did that happen, and how much difficult does that make it to have assembled the talent levels that you have played with this year?
COACH PROHM:¬† Recruiting is just‑‑ you just go where you have your network of players.¬† Isaiah Canaan, Ivan Aska, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee.¬† Those are states historically that have been really good.¬† Georgia.¬† That have been really good states for Murray State to recruit from.
The state of Kentucky hasn't over the last several, several years, haven't had a lot of Kentucky players for whatever reason.  Whether we just got beat out by other schools or whatever it may be.
Recruiting just‑‑ every kid has his own story.¬† We had a kid two years ago, or really last year, that started last year on our‑‑ last two years, Jeff McClain, that was from Fulton, Kentucky, that started his senior year and was part of our back‑to‑back championship games his two years, his junior and senior year.
We have a walk‑on from up the road in Mayfield, Jordan Burge.¬† We're recruiting a couple younger kids right now.¬† I can't talk about them because of NCAA rules.¬† It's just kind of how the landscape of recruiting works sometimes.

Q.¬† Western Kentucky had the President watch them play.¬† You had Dick Vitale.¬† For a mid‑major, which elevates the program more?
COACH PROHM:  We're trying to get both next year.  I don't know how to get a hold of President Obama.  I know how to get hold of Dick Vitale.  That's the only difference.  We can tweet Dick Vitale.
That's a tough one.¬† I don't know how to answer that.¬† It's a great question.¬† For recruiting maybe‑‑ I don't even know if I should answer that.¬† I'd just say I'd love to have them both there next year.¬† I'm inviting him right now to our opening game next year.¬† President Obama, you've got an open invitation to our game next year.¬† And Dickie V., you know he's always welcome back to Racer Arena.¬† Love to have them both there.

Q.  That's the way to get Obama too, open invitation.  Coach, can quickness neutralize size and strength?
COACH PROHM:  I think so.  I think so.  I think there's going to be a lot of quickness.  I think there's going to be a lot of strength and a lot of toughness out on that court tomorrow.

Q.  Coach, I saw the size matchups, and on paper very favorable, but then I saw Marquette in person yesterday, and it looks like a football team out there.  Address that in just the physical nature of that starting lineup they have.
COACH PROHM:  Yeah, I was on a radio show this morning with Tony Barnhart in Atlanta, and he said he went to school at Alabama.  And I was joking with our players last night, I said, they look like they should all be in spring practice at Alabama and LSU playing defensive back and linebackers.
Crowder and Johnson‑Odom and those guys, those bodies are awesome.¬† They are some physical, physical guys.¬† But they obviously have a great strength and conditioning program up there.
But they're physical.  We know that.  Their style of play is about being physical and tough, and we need to be ready to meet that.
But our guys have been tough and resilient all year long.  So they're looking forward to the challenge.  They look like they should be top ten draft picks in football.  And that's a good thing, though.  That's a compliment to them.

Q.  Possibility for the first Sweet 16 appearance in school history.  How much would that mean to the program?
COACH PROHM:¬† I probably couldn't even put it into words.¬† It would mean everything, not just to the program, but to the city of Murray, to the school.¬† Yeah, I couldn't even put it into words.¬† But just even more so to those 14 guys.¬† That's what it's about.¬† That's all I'm thinking about is‑‑ you talk about vision.¬† Without vision, people will perish.
You just visualize what that moment will be like when you see your 14 guys celebrating going to the Sweet 16.  And that's how you're preparing right now, so those guys can have that moment.  And we've got to play like that, and we've got to prepare like that.
As a coach, I tell our guys all the time, hopefully, I'm going to be a head coach for the next 20, 30 years.  This is their one team with these 14 guys.  There will be a Murray State team next year, but it won't be with these 14 guys.  So maximize this moment in everything you do.  And I just want those guys to have that moment because it's about those players.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.  Good luck.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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