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March 21, 2012

Aaron Craft

Thad Matta

Jared Sullinger


THE MODERATOR:テつ We've got Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft with us.テつ Questions?

Q.テつ Jared, what's it like coming to Boston and playing in an arena that has so much history with the Boston Celtics and 17 world championships?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ I think it's tremendous.テつ We can't wait for the experience, and hopefully we can play two games instead of just one here in this valuable arena.

Q.テつ Can you reflect on your decision to come back for this season, and despite some saying your stock has fallen a little bit, is this a case where it's been worthwhile because of the position your team is in?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ I really don't care about my stock personally, but this decision I think was the best for me and my goals.テつ I want to leave, if I leave, just with winning.テつ I mean, that's the biggest thing for me.テつ As long as we're winning, I'm happy.テつ As far as the stock comment, I couldn't care less about that because it really doesn't matter to me.

Q.テつ You guys have real rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, teams you see all the time.テつ Does the rivalry that's in the fans' minds between Cincinnati and Ohio State have any emotional charge for you?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Last time these guys met was in, what, 1961.
AARON CRAFT:テつ 2007.
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Next one was 1961 and '62 in the National Championship, I believe.テつ So it still kind of has bad blood between the two schools, so this one is going to be remembered for whoever goes to the Elite 8, and it's going to be a battle of Ohio.

Q.テつ You're from Ohio, so you can answer this.テつ Ohio is probably better known as a fast break state, but the fact that you have three teams that are from Ohio that are in the Sweet 16, what does that say about Ohio basketball in general?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ We actually have four teams.テつ I think that's tremendous.テつ But Ohio, everybody knows them as a fast break state, but we have a little bit of basketball talent inside those borders.テつ It's just finally showing now.

Q.テつ Jared, is there anything cool about coming into the Garden where the Boston Celtics play?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Yeah, it's very cool.テつ I think what's best about this arena is just all the history that surrounds this arena and all the legends that played in this arena and all the hard‑fought games between LA and Boston in this arena, and Chicago.テつ I think it's going to be very fun to play in an arena like this.

Q.テつ Would you mind talking about the impending match‑up with Yancy (Gates) and what you're expecting out of that, what you're expecting to see from him?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ It's going to be a physical match‑up.テつ It's going to be similar to like Big Ten basketball.テつ I believe he can shoot the basketball, so I'm going to have to guard him a little bit on the perimeter, as well, and he can post‑up.テつ He has a nice little mixture of moves down there.テつ It's just going to be a physical basketball game.

Q.テつ Aaron, Cincinnati has had some great shooting nights from three‑point range.テつ They had one in the Big East Tournament, but they also have long dry spells from distance.テつ Do you feel like you guys can do anything defensively to kind of make it a rough shooting night for them?
AARON CRAFT:テつ Just try to do what we've done all year.テつ We can't go too far from what we've set our defense on at the beginning of the year, just contest shots and hope they're missing.テつ But I think one of the biggest things we have to do is we have to rebound the ball.テつ They're going to shoot some longer shots, and if they are missing they're going to be longer rebounds.テつ It would be very demoralizing if it would be double digit or even 20 second chance points or something like that would definitely hurt us and help them tremendously.テつ So it's something we need to focus on, and if they're making shots just hope we find a way to make them miss, and if they're missing, rebound the ball?

Q.テつ Aaron, Jared was saying how cool it was to play where the Celtics were playing at, but the banners were taken down, like the championship banners.テつ Did it take away from that wow factor coming into this arena?
AARON CRAFT:テつ A little bit.テつ You always like going to the gyms and looking up and seeing the history that's in the gym.テつ But I think if you take a step back, you still understand it's still the same arena.テつ It's still the same place where so many great games took place and great basketball teams have played.テつ So it takes away a little bit, but at the same time, you're still in the same arena and you're still around the same people that they were.

Q.テつ Can you just talk about dealing and handling the pressure that you've been faced in your first two seasons of college basketball?テつ What's been the key for you?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ The biggest key for me was just staying in the moment, just not looking ahead.テつ A lot of people look ahead and it kind of messes up their game plan.テつ I've just tried to stay in the moment, just focus on Ohio State basketball, and that's the biggest thing that I did these two years.

Q.テつ UConn made a run to the championship because they were the hottest team.テつ Who do you feel is the hottest team in this regional?
AARON CRAFT:テつ I think we're all great teams, and I think we've all proven that to get to this point, and I think it can go either way with any one of us.テつ All four teams here are really good basketball teams and have shown that they can win tight basketball games even as of late.テつ It's hard to say who would be the hottest team coming in.テつ We're trying to prepare ourselves as much as we can for Cincinnati tomorrow, and see where it goes from there.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you, guys, and good luck tomorrow.
Coach, welcome to Boston.テつ Why don't you begin by giving us a brief summary of what it's like to be here.
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, it's beautiful outside.テつ First time to Boston.テつ No, for our team, this is a great situation, one that we cherish being in.テつ We know that it's been a long road to get here, and each time you advance in this tournament it's like starting your season over again.テつ That's where we are as we go into tomorrow night's game.

Q.テつ You guys were the first Ohio team to make the Sweet 16, and since then there's been three more.テつ With your background in the state and everything, what's it say about basketball in the state and just your feelings on the whole phenomenon?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I think I've been fortunate two years at Miami (Ohio), three years at Xavier and now eight years at Ohio State, so I think I've spent like 13 years in the state.テつ Obviously what I've felt all along is it's just a tremendous state for basketball.テつ I think a lot of times in the high school ranks it gets tabbed as a fast break state, just all the great players that they've put out.
But just in the time that I've been there, you look at the high school programs, the coaches, you look at the AAU programs and the jobs that those guys do, it's obviously a tribute to the state and for the fans.テつ I've had the pleasure of being in Cincinnati, Ohio, and seeing the Xavier‑Cincinnati as well as now being at Ohio State, so I've got a pretty good understanding of how passionate the fans are.テつ It takes a lot of luck for four teams to get here obviously, but by the same token, I think it speaks volumes to the level of basketball in the state.

Q.テつ Rivalries drive passions in sports, obviously.テつ I take it that Cincinnati has been frustrated about not being able to schedule you in the past.テつ Is it that you won't schedule them or that you won't play them in Cincinnati?
COACH MATTA:テつ You know, I'm not exactly sure what the answer is to that.テつ But I think the one thing in today's day and age of college athletics, and I know this from our standpoint of being at Ohio State for eight years, every game we play is like a rivalry.テつ I mean, you go through 21 straight Big Ten contests, and they've all got that feel.テつ We go on the road, and a school is averaging 4,000, and we show up and there's 15,000 in the stands that night.テつ Well, guess what, that's a rivalry.
In terms of why we haven't‑‑ we played them a few years ago in Indianapolis, which was a CBS type game that they'd asked us to play.テつ I don't know if I can give you a great answer exactly why we don't play, but like I said, I know as we put together our schedule every year and now with the Big Ten ACC Challenge, they're talking about playing a PAC‑10, Big 10 Challenge, we've got a ton of them, and it's one of those things that it is what it is.

Q.テつ Cincinnati starts four guards, seems like they really like to play pressure defense.テつ What challenges does that pose to your squad?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, you've got to do a great job taking care of the basketball.テつ They're a team, as all great teams do, they convert off their turnovers.テつ I think it's a game where it's high communication.テつ They can also‑‑ they cannot only shoot the ball, but they go off the bounce and do a great job of spacing you out.テつ We've got to use our length, we've got to use our athleticism and try to make them take as tough a shots as possible.

Q.テつ You were at Xavier for a while.テつ Mick Cronin said they're in their own little world inside of 275, the Beltway.テつ Would you address that whole thing of kind of being in Ohio but it's not a Big Ten city, it's more of an SEC city and all of that stuff?
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah, he's exactly right.テつ I think that the one thing I've found in the three years I was in Cincinnati is it is one of the most prideful cities I've ever seen.テつ Those people have tremendous pride for their city.テつ And I think the fact that it touches into northern Kentucky, and then you've got the east side/west side match‑up, and then with Xavier being three miles down the road, with those two schools down there, and both are college basketball powerhouses, and Cincinnati's fast break is doing well, they do kind of live‑‑ and you've got your professional team or teams with the Reds and the Bengals, they are very passionate about those people.

Q.テつ With the Ohio State fast break situation, when all that came down, it was huge news in Cleveland and in Toledo, and I think they kind of said, isn't that too bad, in Cincinnati.テつ It's very different.
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah, you know, it's funny, because the time I was there, you didn't see a ton of Ohio State people, and I know they had their‑‑ somebody would tell me during the fast break games, everybody in the restaurant was singing "hang on sloopy" and "O‑h‑i‑o" but there's probably not as many down there because the people in Cincinnati love their city and they seem to stay home as much as they can.

Q.テつ Could you talk a little bit about Jared Sullinger, what he's meant to this program the past two years and how important he is to this team?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, Jared has meant‑‑ it's probably hard to put words in terms of exactly what he's meant to this program for two seasons.テつ You know, even probably deeper than that, when he committed to us back at a really, really young age, you knew you were getting a great player.テつ You knew that you were going to be able to build around him.テつ The thing with Jared, and I've said this all along, is Jared is a winner, and he's won at everything that he's ever done.テつ You know, the fact that he's got great passion and loves the Ohio State University, and that's one thing we always try to find in recruiting is guys that appreciate the University and what it stands for, and he definitely does that and carries himself in such a way, not even to get into the basketball side of it, of all the things he's done for us because he's been great.

Q.テつ Being a former XU (Xavier) coach, you know all about that rivalry with Cincinnati.テつ What was your reaction to the incident this year and maybe from a head coach's standpoint, the things that each team had to overcome to have the kind of season that they wanted to still be playing.
COACH MATTA:テつ Right.テつ Well, it's hard for me to say because you're not there.テつ And in terms of what happened, I think the great thing you see is both programs were able to rebound from it in a positive light, as you said, to still be playing here today, which is probably a great tribute to Mick and Chris and the administration for everything that they had to go through for that stretch to get it turned in the right direction.
And both programs did it with class, so I think that was probably the silver lining of it.テつ For Cincinnati, they really took off there after that happened.

Q.テつ Both conferences, Big Ten, Big East, known for the toughness of their basketball.テつ How do you regard Cincy in terms of the physical match‑up?
COACH MATTA:テつ You know, I think very similar to a lot of the Big Ten teams that we've gone against, just with the active hands, hands checking‑‑ going to the glass, the athleticism, the banging down low, those types of things, and that's something that I think they've done throughout the course of the Big East.テつ You're right, both are very, very physical type conferences.テつ In that regard, I think we'll both have a pretty good understanding of what it's going to be like.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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