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March 20, 2013
AUBURN HILLS, MICHIGAN
MODERATOR:Â Coach Pastner, opening statement.
COACH PASTNER:Â Yeah, a few things.
No. 1, just we're very grateful to be here.Â Obviously it's not a birthright to be in the NCAA tournament.Â So for us it's our third straight year.Â You don't take it for granted.Â It's a very, very special, special opportunity to do so.Â We're very grateful for that.
Secondly, I want to give a lot of credit that I think it's just terrific that if you saw the Journal of Higher Education, we actually should have a banner hanging up in Memphis due to the Final Four that we achieved based on our academics because the Journal of Higher Education did a thing based on APR scores and graduation rates on of all the 68 teams in the tournament who would advance, and the four teams that advanced to the Final Four were Memphis, Belmont, and Kansas Butler.Â So Memphis to the Final Four academically.
We have a perfect APR score.Â One of the top 10 percent in all sports, men's and women's.Â We have a possibility of nine guys graduating this spring and summer, four seniors, five juniors graduating early.Â So not only have had great success on the court; we've got tremendous success academically, and that's because we have fine young men.
So really proud of our guys academically on top of the athletic accomplishments.
So with that being said, we're again, like I said, we're very privileged to be here.Â We're playing a very, very good St. Mary's team, a well coached team.Â They've got very good basketball players, and we know that, you know, we're going to play great, but I know our guys will be ready to go.
We're in a great mindset right now.Â Of all the great teams in Tiger history, we're the first Tiger team ever to have three guys with 100 or more assists in one season, and we really do a good job of making the extra pass.Â Our whole motto is the open man's a go-to man.Â We do a good job not only making the extra pass but making the hocket assist.Â That's important to us.Â And over like the last 15, 16, 17 games, about 70 percent of our made field goals had been assisted, about 70 percent.Â That's ridiculous when you think about that number.Â That's so high.Â That's unselfish basketball.Â And we've done a really good job being a 50/50 ball team.Â That's why we're fortunate to -- that's why we're at 30 wins, because a lot of those games in all 30 wins we've won the 50/50 battle.Â That's very, very important for us, the identity of our team as a 50/50 ball team.
So any way, that's that.Â I'll leave it up to questions for the players and we have a great, great -- not a good, but a great group of young men on this team academically, character-wise, and athletically.
MODERATOR:Â Thanks, Coach.
Questions for the student-athletes.
Q.Â All three of you guys, this is your third time.Â What do learn from the first two that you think helps you in this game tomorrow?
D.J. STEPHENS:Â Just we got to get past the first one, of course.Â Everybody's looking for us to get this first tournament win.
But pretty much going into this tournament, we'll have a lot more experience going into the tournament.Â We have a lot of veteran guys on the team.
We've been in a lot of tough situations all year long and we weathered the storm.Â We've overcame many odds and done a lot of great things this year.Â So we just got to play our style of basketball.Â We can't let the team try to dictate the tempo.Â We have to take control of the game and just be aggressive from the tip.
Q.Â Do you worry at all about tightness?Â You guys have said it yourselves, do you worry at all about coming out tight tomorrow?
ADONIS THOMAS:Â I don't think so.Â I think everybody's excited and ready to play.
We got a nice group of guys here.Â We prepared very hard.Â We watched films.Â So I mean we know the type of team we going up against.Â So it's going to be -- this first win will be a great win for us even though we haven't won the previous two years.Â So this first win will be something good for this program.
Q.Â Is there any pressure of trying to complete another great season of being undefeated in the conference and getting a major win outside of the conference?
JOE JACKSON:Â Well, it's a good opportunity for our team to come in this tournament and do well.Â We got another opportunity.Â A lot of teams around the country don't get this opportunity.Â So we just got to go out there and play, play hard, and play aggressive.Â And, you know, every game is a big game from here on out.Â So just leave it out on the floor.
Q.Â You guys watched the game together last night, and if you did, what do you think of Dellavedova?
JOE JACKSON:Â He's a very smart guard.Â It seems like he's been playing the game for awhile.Â He's the master of a hockey assist.Â He know how to draw two people on the ball and he just do a great job and get his teammates involved and people don't talk about it but he really can shoot the ball too so you really got to play them honest.Â He's not the fastest guy, but he's one of the smarter guys in the country.
Q.Â What do you guys think about St. Mary's coming in here battle tested, fighting for their lives going against Gonzaga in the first round?Â You guys haven't really seemed like you've been tested much since UTEP.
COACH PASTNER:Â Can I answer that?
To say that we haven't been battle tested is ridiculous.
Do you recognize that every single time we step on the floor that we get everyone's best shot?Â We've won 26 straight conference USA games.
Every time we step on the floor, we get everyone's best shot.Â That means if we're playing East Carolina, they have a gold out.Â If we're playing Marshall they have a green out.Â If we're playing Southern Miss, they have their biggest miss and get a blackout.Â If we play our B game during conference game, we take an L.Â We have no option but to play an A game every night.
So for anyone to say we're not battle tested, think to go -- to be able to get to 30 wins before the NCAA tournament and to go undefeated and have a 26 streak, conference winning streak knowing that every single night if you bring your B game you take an L.Â So for anyone to say that we're not battle tested is absolutely ridiculous.
Q.Â Do you guys want to add to that?
D.J. STEPHENS:Â I mean, just to add on to what Coach said, we play many tough teams.Â We went in a lot of hostile environments all season long.Â We've been tested.Â We've been in many tough situations, close games with teams on their home court and we've come out with wins.Â So I wouldn't say we haven't been battle tested.
You might say we haven't been battle tested because we haven't played big name schools or whatever, but night in and night out, you can tell by the way the season's been going, how team's have been going up and down the Top 25, it's a great year of basketball.Â All teams are good.Â So any team could lose on any given night.Â So like Coach was saying, if you come in, you're not ready to play, you can lose to whoever on whatever night.
So I just feel that going into tomorrow's game, they're a great basketball team, we have to stay focused and stay poised.
Q.Â You guys take offense to the battle test.Â Are you going to try to prove the naysayers wrong in this thing?
JOE JACKSON:Â I think our biggest test come in practice, because we play against each other and I think we got the best first and second string in the country.Â I mean, we got a guy like Chris Crawford coming off the bench and got Antonio Barton and you got Geron Johnson, you got Adonis, you know, just playing against each other in practice, that's what makes us better.Â We've been battle tested from practice.Â It's not necessarily the teams out there.Â It's just sometimes we may get in a situation, we may lay an egg and lose, but I feel like we really got a good team and we going to do well.
Q.Â Talk about the support, to the folks that are traveling up, what it means to you guys.
COACH PASTNER:Â I'll answer that.
Let me just tell you this:Â I think our fan base is the best fan base in the entire country, hands down, and that's just not a coach's speak.Â Our fan base is as emotionally invested and as passionate, as intense for their program, because it's their program, as anywhere in the country.Â There's nothing like it.
And we travel great, whether it's away or obviously at home.Â I mean, year in year out, we're top ten in attendance.Â You know, I'm here -- we've got our associate athletic directer Wren Baker right there.Â So if you want to ask him, obviously our boss man Tom Bowen and his son as well too, you can interview him if you want, he'll tell you.Â He'll tell you how passionate the fan base is.
So we've got great fans, and Bob Winn, our associate AD back there as well too.Â We've got great fans, and we're very fortunate to have the support that we get.
That is another thing we don't take for granted.Â We do not take our media coverage, nor our fan support for granted.
Q.Â Speaking to that issue a little bit, you're going to need the fans maybe because of the dynamic with the home team here.Â Do you expect the state fans to be rooting against you?
COACH PASTNER:Â Well, our only focus is Thursday because we're playing a really good basketball team in St. Mary's.Â Very well-coached team, and Randy Bennett, who's done a great job there, won a lot of games.Â They've got very good players.Â So that's a good basketball team.Â So that's our focus.
But for us, you know, one time this year we had the longest true road win streak dating back to last year of any team in the country.Â So, you know, we've been a pretty good road team even through my four years.Â Not only this year but through my four years here, we've been a pretty darn good road team.Â And one of the reasons, as you know, with the selection committee, it's one of their key criteria this year, was what you did on the road.
You know, whether it's neutral road, we know we got to play.Â Our only focus obviously is Thursday, focused on St. Mary's, and we can't look past that.Â That's our only focus.Â We know they're really good and we're going to have to play a great game.
Q.Â Adonis and Joe, why do you guys think you guys are so good on the road?
ADONIS THOMAS:Â I think when we're on the road we become more a family, more of brothers.Â It's all about us.Â It's one unit, and I think everybody become more leaders.Â Our leaders like our seniors pull us together and the guys who have been here, the veteran guys, the experienced guys, they know what it takes to win on the road.Â So we all usually come together on the road.Â You know, it's more of us as a family, us against the fans that's there supporting the opposite team.
JOE JACKSON:Â I think just playing on the road with a team like us, it just give us an edge because we know we going against the fans and we going against, you know, everybody that's in the stands.Â So it just makes us play harder and I guess we don't have room for mistakes on the road.Â That makes us just make the right decisions and be more precise just playing the game.
MODERATOR:Â Thanks, student-athletes.
COACH PASTNER:Â D.J. Stephens is going to graduate in the spring.Â Joe Jackson's going to graduate in the summer.Â He's a junior.Â Adonis Thomas is a sophomore and tried to graduate as a junior.
We're really in tremendous shape academically.
MODERATOR:Â Questions for the coach.
Q.Â Just following up on the battle tested since you seemed a little animated about that?
COACH PASTNER:Â Not animated.Â I was just speaking from the heart.
Q.Â But it doesn't seem any different than the last two years.Â You've had great success over the seasons and fallen flat.Â What's the difference this year?
COACH PASTNER:Â Well, let me say this:Â Two years ago we played Arizona.Â They were a five seed.Â We were a twelve seed.Â I mean, we missed a shot at the buzzer to win the game, and then they ended up being a shot away from winning the Final Four.Â You know, I don't know as much on that.
And last year we played a very, very good St. Louis team, and we didn't get the job done.Â So, look, I recognize people are going to be on me if we don't, you know, advance in the tournament.Â I recognize that, but I'm okay with that.Â Because I know if you ask anyone in our business, in our profession -- in fact, Tom Izzo said it on CBS when they were playing Ohio State, they said a true measure of a team is what you do during your conference play.Â That's a tremendous measure if you've had a successful season or not because it's over a two-and-a-half, three-month period.
So when you look at what we've done in these past years, we've had tremendous success over the long haul, over the body of work.Â So I'm not going to let one game just diminish, you know, a season of 35 games, 34 games of tremendous success.Â Whether it's this year, last year, year before, doesn't matter.
But I also recognize that you and anyone here, fans, they're going to -- individually we're going to be judged on what we do in March, because that's where the most premium is put on it.Â So you got to accept that.Â Can't hide from it.Â You just deal with it, and the best thing we can do is to try to win games.
Q.Â Talk about the way your team's handled adversity this year.
COACH PASTNER:Â Another quote from Tom Izzo, he said it when they were playing on ESPN verses Indiana.Â He said for a team to have really good success, you have to go through some adversity, whether it's internally or externally.Â And I say that because Coach Izzo, I'm sure he'll be in the hall of fame probably.Â The guy should already be in there.
You know, we've had some adversity.Â Nothing serious.Â Just little team stuff.Â I mean, we're with each other -- I'm with those guys more than I'm with my own family, my own immediate family, and they're with us more than they're with anybody else.Â So that's going to happen.Â You're with each other, but we're talking very, very minor stuff, adversity.Â We're talking a little thing here, a little thing here.Â Let's keep it in perspective.
There's been zero off-the-court issue with the law, anything academically, anything that would embarrass -- we're just talking the little things that are just little things that have happened within a family, nothing more than that.
Q.Â Coach, what do you say to Tiger nation and the fans that want the win?
COACH PASTNER:Â Well, I assure you they don't want to win as much as I do.Â Nobody wants to win more than the head coach, I can assure you that.Â Nobody.
I want to go 40 and 0.Â We've lost four times.Â I was sick after all four losses.Â I can't stand losing, and so I want us -- you know, I want us to go undefeated every single year, never lose a game, but I also recognize that the other team we play is good, they want to win too.Â So, you know, a lot of times it comes down if you make some shots you're probably going to win; if you don't make some shots, probably going to take an L.
I recognize, look, at this level of a program, we want to advance.Â We are expected to advance, and we got no problem with that.Â And it's our job to advance and it's our job to win games, but in order to do that, we've got to beat a very, very good St. Mary's team on Thursday and tomorrow.
Q.Â It sounds like what you're saying is that you place more importance on the conference body of work throughout the season than you do on one game in the NCAA tournament?
COACH PASTNER:Â Well, it's not that -- I mean, look, we have goals as a team, and one of our goals is to win a regular season conference championship.Â That's a goal.
One of your goals is to win the conference tournament championship.Â I mean, that's a goal that you set as a team.Â And we've done that.Â We've done that in these last couple years.
And your goal is to advance -- you know, you want to compete and try to win a national championship.Â Again, remember there's only one champion.Â There's only four teams that are getting into the Final Four.Â Eight in the Elite 8, 16, so on, so on.Â I think people in the profession, coaches in the profession, people that understand, they see the whole body of work, they recognize -- like I've had so many people text message and call me, head coaches in the profession, I mean, high, high-level head coaches say, What you did to go undefeated in league play in this day and age and to win on the road is an amazing accomplishment.
And when you look all throughout college basketball, the gap is closed, everyone's good.Â So look, we put a lot of emphasis and importance on the NCAA tournament.Â There's no question we do, but you can't, one, get there unless you do your job during the five months prior, and secondly, I mean, being in a conference, I mean, whether it's a 16, 18, 20-game season, you're battling the teams that know you better than anyone, your true road games, but what I'm saying, though, is also that I recognize, totally recognize from media, fans that what the most thing they look at is what you do in March.Â So I'm okay with that, but I'm not ever going to allow it to shorten or take away from the great stuff we've done in the five months prior to that.
Q.Â Your thoughts on Dellavedova and the matchups with St. Mary's?
COACH PASTNER:Â I think Dellavedova is a really good player.Â He's a pro.Â I mean, look, the guy was a starting guard for the Australian Olympic team.Â In fact, the Dream Team had to change their pick-and-roll coverage against him because he was hurting them.
He's good.Â He's really, really good.Â He's a pro.Â I mean, he's a pro.Â He's 24 years old.Â He's a pro.Â He's a pro basketball player that's playing college.Â When I say that pro, you know, not in a lack of amateur status, just of a pro basketball player playing college.Â So, you know, we've got to do a great job on him.
But here's my other thing:Â He's not the only good player they have on their team.Â The Holt kid, he's really good too.Â Waldow can play.Â I mean, they've got multiple guys that can play.Â They've got guys coming off the bench second play.Â You don't win -- what do they win?Â 26, 27 games.Â You don't do that -- 28 games, however many they won without being really good.Â And I've known Randy for a long time back in my days at Arizona.Â He's a very, very good basketball coach.Â They run a great system and they're good.Â They're flat out good.
MODERATOR:Â Thanks very much, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports