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March 17, 2012

Aaron Craft

Thad Matta

Jared Sullinger


Ohio State テや 73
Gonzaga テや 66

THE MODERATOR:テつ We're joined by Ohio State coach and student‑athletes.
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, obviously we beat a tremendous basketball team today.テつ I give our guys a lot of credit from the standpoint, you know, Gonzaga came at us early.テつ The biggest thing was probably the rebounding.テつ I think there was a stretch, maybe 16‑12, where they had seven points on offensive put‑backs.テつ We got that cleaned up.
Probably the biggest play of the game was when Lenzelle Smith didn't dive for a loose ball and we had a long discussion in a timeout about those got to become ours.
I thought at that point we elevated.テつ Jared picking up his second foul, had to sit quite a bit of the first half there, and our bench was tremendous in helping us get the lead going into halftime.
As we talked, we didn't shoot the ball particularly well in the second half, but we knocked the shots down, and everybody made a big shot here and there.テつ We were able to get the stops.テつ One of the biggest keys in the game was taking away their transition offense.テつ I thought we did a pretty decent job with that.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions now for Ohio State student‑athletes.

Q.テつ Deshaun was shut out for about 15 minutes.テつ Was there any concern from you guys that he was going to get going in this game?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Not at all.テつ Deshaun is a scorer, so he's going to find ways to score the basketball, if it's off the offensive rebound, pick and pop, creating his own shot.テつ We don't worry about him.テつ Once he makes a bucket, it's going to keep flowing.

Q.テつ Aaron, Coach Few said it's kind of pick your poison with Ohio State.テつ They paid attention a little bit more to Sully and Deshaun.テつ Did you sense that?テつ Is that why you were so aggressive?
AARON CRAFT:テつ A lot of teams have done that.テつ What Jared is capable of, what Deshaun is capable of, a lot of teams try to focus on those guys.テつ That just leaves Will, Lenzelle and myself to be open to be aggressive.
Tonight there were open lanes.テつ I found some.テつ Did a good job of getting in and letting my teammates make plays, as well.
Fortunately enough, we just made enough shots tonight.

Q.テつ Gonzaga went to the zone about 11 minutes left in the game.テつ I think you had about 11 points over the next 12 minutes.テつ What did the zone do to you initially and what did you have to do to figure it out and start converting against it?
AARON CRAFT:テつ It just kind of slowed us down.テつ The whole game we were trying to attack them.テつ When they switched defenses, I think we kind of stopped.テつ We kind of played a little more passive.
Towards the beginning, we had a few good looks.テつ Jared had one inside.テつ Deshaun had one inside that they both missed.テつ Will had a wide‑open three that he missed as well.テつ So it was just try to be aggressive again, not sit back on our heels and let them take us out of our offense.
Lenzelle came in and hit a big three for us, and we started converting late down the stretch.

Q.テつ Jared, at the beginning of the season Ohio State was a team that a lot of people identified as a Final Four‑type team.テつ Now two wins away from being there, what you guys accomplished this weekend, talk about getting another step closer.
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Can't really look forward.テつ But we know that was one of our goals of the season.テつ We just got to keep playing hard and keep playing smart.テつ We can't come out lackadaisical all the time.テつ We gonna have to jump‑start ourselves instead of the coaches jump‑starting us.

Q.テつ Jared, did the zone help you there, get a little more space towards the end?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ The zone, it kind of slowed us all down.テつ I know the open shots that we was normally getting and hitting, we was missing those.テつ We wasn't attacking like we used to, or the way we was.
But, I mean, the zone was kind of open and they kind of doubled off the post feeder.テつ Once I kicked it back out, I reposted.テつ Lenzelle, Craft or Will was able to throw it back in and I was able to move it from there.

Q.テつ Aaron, how big was it for you to make those first jumpers and also talk about the start of the second half.
AARON CRAFT:テつ It always helps when you make your first couple baskets.テつ They did a good job of focusing on Jared and focusing on the other guys, that just kind of left me a little open.テつ Fortunately enough, I knocked a couple down.テつ That just gives you confidence for the rest of the game.
To start the second half, we knew we needed to come out and play hard and not let up.テつ Fortunately enough, I mean, the lanes were open and I was finishing around the lane.テつ They fell for me.

Q.テつ Jared, after they made it 61‑all, you hit a couple of half‑hooks to put you back up by four or five.テつ Take us through those plays.
JARED SULLINGER:テつ I just wanted to score the basketball, and I knew that throwing my body and creating contact wasn't going to work in this game.テつ So I kind of just went with a little bit of finesse and just tried to get off‑the‑body contact and try to go up and finish.

Q.テつ Jared, a few weeks ago you said you were going to try really hard not to get frustrated with everything going on around you.テつ It looked today like you did get a little frustrated for a while that you weren't getting some calls.テつ How did you get through that?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Coach Dickerson just told me to play my game and stop worrying about the foul calling or the calls they was making.テつ Just play.
I think that's what got me through this game.

Q.テつ Deshaun is known for his scoring.テつ Aaron had a personal 7‑0 run.テつ How surprised were you by that and how much of a big lift was that in balancing everything out?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ We have the high hand with a certain player, we constantly going to him.テつ I thought Deshaun played really well.
Aaron, I think they wanted Aaron to score the basketball.テつ Everybody doesn't understand that Aaron is a scorer.テつ But he passes first with this basketball team.テつ I mean, that was their game plan.テつ He capitalized on it.

Q.テつ Jared, could you talk about your matchup with the Gonzaga bigs, specifically Rob Sacre, and Aaron, can you talk about your defensive effort on Pangos tonight?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Very physical bigs.テつ They're long, athletic, they know how to play.テつ They're very physical.テつ That's the biggest thing.テつ So that was a great basketball game.

Q.テつ Jared, what were you thinking when you were sitting on the bench there in the first half?テつ They're up, things aren't looking real good for you at that point.テつ You have to be frustrated.
JARED SULLINGER:テつ That's when I take the basketball jersey off and put on the pom‑poms and start cheerleading for the guys.テつ I thought that was the biggest thing, just try to stay in tune with the game, just try to encourage everybody to play basketball.

Q.テつ Aaron, they wanted you to answer a question about Pangos, so I'll ask it differently.テつ He had a lot of hype coming out of high school.テつ Do you get up for that kind of a situation when you didn't have a lot of hype coming out of high school?
AARON CRAFT:テつ The one thing I've kind of learned about all the high school things is, once you get to college, it doesn't really matter that much.テつ It all depends on what you want to do when you get there, how hard you want to work.
He's a great player.テつ He's the guy that makes their team go and he can score in a variety of ways.テつ Starting of the game, he hit me with a spin‑floater‑type shot and I was a little worried.
But at the same time, I just try to keep grinding it out.テつ Our team did a great job hedging ball screens at times and helping on staggers.
It's a fun matchup.テつ It's always great to go up against another great guard, and he's definitely one of them.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you, gentlemen.
We'll continue with questions for Coach Matta.

Q.テつ This wasn't one of Jared's best days obviously.テつ When it came right down to crunch time, you guys were still going to him and he came through.テつ Talk about that.
COACH MATTA:テつ I think with the foul trouble and sitting as much as he did there in the first half, you know, it would appear that he didn't have a great day.テつ But, I mean, he opened up, hit his first two threes and really stretched 'em.
You're right, down the stretch we wanted to get the ball in his hands.テつ I'll be honest with you, we were running a couple things out of the post that proved to be pretty good for us, like the last four minutes of the game.テつ You know, the other thing is with his free‑throw shooting, I know he missed the front end, but he's pretty clutch down the stretch there and hit some big free throws for us, as well.
They were really trying to involve him late defensively.テつ We had to have a little bit of a conversation about his defense from about the five‑ to the two‑minute mark.
He had some tremendous plugs and hedges for us.テつ He's a winner.テつ We'll ride that down the stretch.

Q.テつ I was talking to Nick Cronin the other day.テつ He said the teams that are going to advance in this tournament are the teams that can get stops.テつ I know they missed a couple in‑and‑outs, foul shots.テつ But your defense today in that final stretch, as good as you've seen?
COACH MATTA:テつ I think the biggest thing we had down the stretch was activity with purpose.テつ You know, they run their offense so efficiently.テつ They're really, really good at it.テつ We had guys helping each other down the stretch.テつ I thought we did a great job challenging shots and coming up with the rebounds.
That's what this team has to do, that's when we play our best defense.テつ We always talk about our five guys connecting out there, and we had that for that stretch.

Q.テつ You got down early.テつ What turned the game to where you ended up with a two‑point lead going into the locker room and the momentum?
COACH MATTA:テつ You know, I think we started playing a little bit harder on the defensive end, and then the rebounding was a big ‑‑テつ I mean, they had nine offensive rebounds in the first half.テつ A lot of them were really in the first 10 minutes.
I think one of the biggest keys was getting back and not giving them the transition buckets that they wanted.テつ Like I said, I think when we talked about Lenzelle not laying out for the loose ball in a timeout, those are the ones we have to get to get back in the game.
You know, things started happening.テつ Guys started settling down a little bit.テつ We had a couple crazy‑type plays that were a little bit out of character.テつ I think we did a better job than game one here in Pittsburgh, not letting one mistake compound another mistake.テつ We fought through it a little bit better.

Q.テつ What grade do you give your team for this first weekend?
COACH MATTA:テつ At this point of the season, an A, because we're playing in Boston next weekend.テつ I think that's one of the big things.テつ What is hard right now at this juncture of the season, for our guys, you know, I don't know what it is, it's now six games in seven or eight days, whatever it is, with the Big Ten tournament ‑ or five games, I should say.
We haven't had a ton of time to sit down and say, Hey, here's the things we got to do better.テつ It's been like, Hey, here is what Gonzaga is going to do, and here is how we have to counter it.テつ I think we've done a decent job with that.

Q.テつ Aaron played 40 minutes tonight.テつ Obviously he's a pretty energetic kid.テつ Is that ideal moving forward?
COACH MATTA:テつ Uhm, probably not.テつ But he wants to play.テつ I was checking his pulse there throughout the course of the game, just saying, You okay?
He's smiling saying, I can go all day.
And he can do that.

Q.テつ Along with what Aaron said about attacking the zone, when they put it on you, coming into the game, how much did you work on zone offense versus man‑to‑man?テつ Did you get a little concerned when they slowed you down on offense the way you did?テつ What were you telling the guys in the timeouts?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, we didn't have a ton of time to work the zone.テつ The good thing for us is we knew Loyola was going to play zone.テつ We had a lot of segments in practice leading into here.
It's funny, because as we were preparing for Gonzaga, I think they had, by our calculation, played 6% zone all season.テつ The chances were that we weren't going to see it.テつ Then they do it up there.テつ I actually said to Chris, Do we need to put a clip for zone.
He said, No, they won't play zone.テつ Fortunately we talked about it.テつ We put it on the board before the game, this is what we're going to run when they go to it.テつ Our guys weren't in shock.
I thought we did a pretty decent job against the zone, like Aaron alluded to.テつ We missed a few really good shots.テつ One of the big things, we got a couple rebounds out of it.テつ I know Deshaun got a put back out of it.テつ I know Jared may have got fouled on one.テつ The clock was ticking.テつ We were probably going, I don't know, 24, 25 seconds off the shot clock each possession.

Q.テつ Can you talk about Aaron's play today.
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I thought Aaron was tremendous.テつ I think that, you know, his play, especially how he opened up the second half, got inside the defense, finished.テつ You know, defensively, he's the best defender in college.テつ There's nobody better than him in college basketball.テつ You know, that was something that we knew when they brought Stockton in, that they were going to take Pangos, run him off the staggers, run him off the baseline, that sort of thing.テつ He's always up for a challenge.
I know they got the three on him on the one.テつ Our big Rav held too long on the hedge, but Aaron was still there to challenge it.
Today he passes Mike Conley for all‑time steals in a season, which Michael was a heck of a defender, too.テつ He's special.

Q.テつ What do you look for first with Aaron, pressure on the ball, the way he can bother the bigs, getting guys into their sets?テつ What is most important to you?テつ He does so many things.
COACH MATTA:テつ All of the above, to be honest with you.テつ He's such a prideful young man, and he wants to do everything.テつ He covers so much ground.テつ I don't know if I can pinpoint one thing and say, This is where I check.テつ As long as he's out there, I'm in pretty good shape because I got great trust in him.

Q.テつ (No microphone.)
COACH MATTA:テつ No question about that.テつ He's very contagious, if you will.

Q.テつ With Jared today, you only had nine shot attempts, was in a little bit of foul trouble.テつ When you see him getting frustrated out there, it's obvious when he is, talking to the officials, what are you thinking?テつ Do you have your assistants set aside to talk to him?
COACH MATTA:テつ I'll be honest, I didn't see it today.テつ I thought he was really, really tuned in.テつ The reason I know that, like he was saying, when he was sitting out, he was into the game.テつ He was into the timeouts.テつ He was late down the stretch.テつ I mean, he was so pivotal for us.
If he was a little bit frustrated, I didn't notice it in terms of, you know, he's such a smart player, he knows when he makes a mistake and how to correct it.
But, you know, Jared's Jared.テつ Obviously we want him as positive and free‑flowing as he can possibly be.

Q.テつ When was the last time you had, maybe even in practice, Amir, Shannon, those three starters that you had there late in the first half?
COACH MATTA:テつ Tremendous job.テつ I think we had that lineup against Michigan State last Sunday to end the first half there.テつ You know, I thought Amir did a great job eating up space.テつ Shannon had great control and did a nice job of defending.テつ That gave us the ability to match point guard.テつ They had two point guards.テつ We had two point guards.テつ Just a great, great job.
Getting those guys this type of experience is huge for us and huge for them.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you, coach.
COACH MATTA:テつ Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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