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March 20, 2013

Rick Byrd

Ian Clark

Kerron Johnson

Trevor Noack


THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by the student‑athletes from Belmont.

Q.  Trevor, Arizona has four guys they play that are 6'10" or bigger.  How in the world do you deal with, A, going up against bigger guys during the course of the season and, B, dealing with so many tomorrow?
TREVOR NOACK:  It's just going to be a battle.  You've got to push on as much as you can and not let 'em get position.  That's a big thing.  If they get position then there is not a whole lot you can do.
As far as the offensive end goes, we really try to spread the floor and that's one thing we do really well.

Q.  What have you seen from their big guys in the film that you have watched?
TREVOR NOACK:  They're good at scoring on the inside.  They're tall, obviously, 6'10" and above.  But I feel like if we don't let 'em get position we can have a successful game against them.

Q.  You guys have already beaten a Pac‑12 team this year in Stanford.  Do you see any similarities between that game and tomorrow?
IAN CLARK:  Sort of.  Their guard play, how they play‑‑ Stanford had two really good guards we went up against.  Arizona has Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson, two good guards in the Pac‑12 and they're athletic.  So it's kind of‑‑ some of the same similarities but at the same time we haven't changed our game plan.  We're going to come out and play Belmont basketball and go from there.
KERRON JOHNSON:  Like he said, the Pac‑12 is full of great guards and we're going to be facing two more tomorrow.  Of course, they're big.  We've already covered that.  They're going to be big.  We've never been the biggest team on the court.  We have learned how to prepare for that and get over that obstacle and we will be able to do that tomorrow.
TREVOR NOACK:  They've got good guards and their bigs are good as well and the Stanford game was a fight and I feel like this is going to be the same way.

Q.  Do you feel like Arizona has any advantage here being a little closer to home?  They play their conference games here, etcetera, or is it all the same?
IAN CLARK:  I think it's all the same.  I haven't thought about that, to be honest.  Being in the NCAA Tournament, it's also going to be a different atmosphere, playing at the EnergySolutions Arena is going to be a different atmosphere for both teams.  So we need to make sure we come out and play.
KERRON JOHNSON:  I think he covered it.  It's Marchnow, at this point, every game has the pressure of one and done.  So I think that they're going to be playing in the same type of atmosphere that we are.  I don't know about a home court‑advantage‑type thing.  There is going to be a lot of fans from a lot of different schools that just want to see a good game.  So that's the type of atmosphere you're going to see not really a home court advantage.

Q.  Guys, all of you have played in NCAA Tournament games, and that's the case for most of you guys on this team.  How does that serve you going into tomorrow?
TREVOR NOACK:  I think there is not as much of a shock factor as there is for the younger guys.  The first NCAA Tournament, I remember that awe factor.  This being my third year, there is not as much of that.  I'm kinda used to it.  I've played in front of these types of crowds before, and so now it's time to go out and play basketball.
KERRON JOHNSON:  I think the experience on this team has shown all year; I think it will show tomorrow too, especially with five guys that have been there, going out there and starting the game and kinda letting those younger guys get their feet wet and not having to come in and play such a huge role right off.  They will be able to get nerves out and relax and do what they're asked to do and play the role.
IAN CLARK:  Those guys said it.  I think the experience we have on the team has to come out and set the tone, kind of paved the way for those guys that haven't been here yet.  Once the blood gets flowing it will be like a regular game and guys can get used to playing in that type of atmosphere.

Q.  Kerron, you have been able to shoot an enormous amount of free‑throws over your career.  Is that something you have always been good at?  What's the key for you?  How do you get the calls as a point guard?
KERRON JOHNSON:  I think it's something I was born with.  It's just the way I play.  Ian has shot a lot of threes in his career and I'm good at getting to the free‑throw line, and helps the other team keep in foul trouble, set the pace where we want to set it and as far as how you do it.
You have to be willing to give up your body a little bit and go in there, not be afraid to take those hits.  These guys are not afraid to take those hits whether it's on the defensive or the offensive side, and that's my role is to take the hits and control the tempo and do whatever the coach needs me to do.

Q.  Ian, the arena here is a little bigger than the one you guys play in at home.  Is the shooting background any different?  Does it take a while to get used to it?  For a team that's reliant on jump shooting does that factor in?
IAN CLARK:  I think for some guys it will.  But that's the reason we had the shoot around today to get used to the rims and the court and the depth perception.
For me, I love playing in big arenas.  It's fun for me, great atmosphere.  I'm pretty sure guys like Trevor and J.J. and Kerron, too, when he shoots the 3, it will be fine once we get comfortable.

Q.  This is a lot bigger than where you play at home, though, right?
IAN CLARK:  Definitely.  But like I said, I like it.  It's a little different from being at home, being comfortable.  But like I said, once we get out here and get acquainted with the court and everything, it's still a two goals, 94 feet, play basketball!
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, gentlemen.  We are now joined by Belmont coach, Rick Byrd.  Questions for Coach?

Q.  Coach, I'm curious what you guys have done over the course of the year to combat your lack of size in the post?  And when you look at Arizona having four players over 6'10" that play‑‑
COACH BYRD:  Noticed that.

Q.  What can you do to make that not so hard?
COACH BYRD:  You know, this team has found a way even when we have played big people, and there are different ways to do that.  You can front more, which requires good after‑side help.  You can let 'em throw it in there and dig on the post and make a guy wonder whether you're going to double him.  You can double him immediately.  We'll probably mix up a lot of that kind of stuff.
I don't know for sure what Arizona is going to do and of course they're playing against bigger people than our team most of this year, most every game.  They may choose to try to go inside more than they have.
But those guys haven't used as primary scorers, very often, their perimeter players are great scorers.  I think they concerned me as much on the boards, the second‑shot opportunities those guys can get because of their length and size, and I really think they teach that very well and coach that very well.

Q.  When is the last time you played somebody this big in terms of size?
COACH BYRD:  I don't remember much past the last game or two.  Tennessee State has a lineup of, oh, 6‑‑ they had three guides 6'8" or bigger, and that was an issue for us.  More of an issue‑‑ and not too differently than Arizona, they can field a big lineup, and they have a big three‑man.  We're undersized and concerned about that.  Kansas, Withey is a petty big guy and they squeaked by us by about 29 points.  I hope that's not a big indicator (Laughter).

Q.  Rick, what got you on the road to shooting the 3s as a way to win games and as you built your program that way?
COACH BYRD:  I had same question today in a radio interview and my first year at Belmont was the first year we had the 3‑point line.  I was against it.  I was kind of conservative on rules, and I thought why are we starting to get points on longer shots.  I think it takes more skill to get it closer to the basket.  Maybe we should invert that and give them more points if you didn't have to get the ball close and score it, and I'm not much a mathematics.  But I do know that you only have to make one out of every three from beyond that arc to equal one of two inside of it.
Plus, particularly as we made the move to Division I, the best basketball player we could recruit were the skilled guys that could really shoot it.  We couldn't go to the tournament even if we were good enough for the first four or five years in Division I. So we were only able to recruit marginal Division I players.  You don't win a whole lot of Division I games with marginal players.
But I thought the most under recruited guy was a guy that could shoot it and maybe didn't reach the athletic line that a lot of coaches in Division I want as a player.  We continued to recruit along those lines because we were having success and now we have a team of much better athletes.
But we've never lost the sort of primary skill that you need to be able to make shots if you're going to play that style of offense.

Q.  Coach, wondering if you feel like Arizona has any kind of advantage being their conference games are here and they're at the same hotel when they played BYU here a few years ago or does that stuff not matter?
COACH BYRD:  I think there are so many intangible, immeasurable‑type things that I would suspect that it helps.  Does it help that we've got guys playing their third year in the NCAA Tournament?  I think it probably does, but I have no idea how you put a point value on those kinds of things.
I would much rather we play great and they play bad (Laughter).  I think it comes down to that more than anything.  What kind of day does your team have?  What kind of day do their best players have, and what kind of shooting day does Ian Clark have for us, so on and so forth.
But I'm sure there's some‑‑ anytime you're more comfortable, I think you got a better chance to play well.

Q.  Did you really not like the 3‑point line that much?
COACH BYRD:  I didn't agree‑‑ nobody asked me, I didn't get a chance to agree or disagree, I just thought, you know, it had been a good game for a long time, believe it or not, 27 years ago, it had still been around a while.
I thought a basket was worth 2 points and a free‑throw worth 1.  And I didn't, and still don't, think we need to copy the NBA every time they come up with a new approach to something.
So, no, I really would have voted against it if it had mattered at that point.  But I think, you know, I think it's made the game more interesting and exciting and it's probably spread the game out a little bit which is one of the reasons to do so.

Q.  There was an ah‑ha moment where you went, "Maybe there is an advantage to exploit this"?
COACH BYRD:  Well, I definitely wanted to use it once it became‑‑ when I was an assistant at Tennessee Tech we went through a year in the OVC at that time of experimental and the line was actually inside the top of the circle that year, and our head coach didn't want to utilize it.
In fact, he told our guys to ignore it.  I don't like it when our guys shoot it anywhere near the 3‑point line if they need to be behind it, they need to know where it is.  So, I definitely wanted to use it once it‑‑ again, Ian Clark is shooting, I don't know, what, 45ish, higher than that?
So if he's shootin' 50 it's 1.5 every time he puts it up and you would have to shoot 75 and nobody does that, except, maybe Arizona tomorrow (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR:  Okay, thank you, Coach. 

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