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March 20, 2013

Will Cherry

Jordan Gregory

Kareem Jamar

Wayne Tinkle


THE MODERATOR:  We are joined now by student‑athletes Will Cherry, a senior guard, Jordan Gregory, a sophomore guard, and Kareem Jamar, a junior guard‑forward.

Q.  You know the odds, you're enough of a basketball junkie, the odds of a 13 beating a 4 are pretty long.  What kind of things would you need to do to pull the upset?
WILL CHERRY:  No. 1, just go in there with the mindset of it's us against the world.  We know people don't give us a chance beating a 4 seed.
We were in this position last year.  We can kind of draw back on last year and see some of the mistakes we had in that game, even though it was a different opponent.  Just the way we approached the game mentally and physically has to be different from last year.
We have to go in there and wear our heart on our sleeves like we've been doing every year, with the adversity we had to overcome to get here.
So I think all of those things, to try ‑‑ those are just the mental aspects, before we get into the game.
Getting into the game is just playing our basketball and upping the level of intensity.

Q.  Michael Carter‑Williams has struggled at times with ball pressure.  You're good defenders, have you focused on trying to get up in his face and making him feel uncomfortable?
WILL CHERRY:  I do that against every defender I go against.  Every point guard I face on the other end across from me has been a good point guard and I try to disrupt him and make it tough to get into the offense.
I know that the position we play, point guard is probably one of the hardest positions on the floor.  And being the orchestrator and being the general on the floor, if I can pressure them defensively and kind of get them out of the flow, I know it starts making it tough on the other players he's trying to get the ball to.
Michael Carter‑Williams is a tremendous point guard, even though he's struggled at times, you still have to respect him.  He's one of the biggest point guards I ever went up against, 6‑4, 6‑5, and his length, probably 6‑7.  I'll definitely do what I can and basically approach the game on the defensive end as I've been approaching it all year.

Q.  Greg, you're the young guy on the podium, talk about what it means for a younger player to come to the national stage and what additional pressure it might put on you?
JORDAN GREGORY:  It's something very special for me, coming from not playing too much last year.  Last year I was more of a spectator.  And this year getting to play a lot more it's a lot different.  I'd say it's a lot better playing than sitting on the bench.
There's no real pressure on me, I think the only pressure that comes on you is what you put on yourself.  I'm not going to put any pressure on myself, because at the end of the day basketball is just a game.

Q.  I know you guys watched film this morning.  What jumped out at you when you were watching Syracuse play?
KAREEM JAMAR:  How well coached they are.  They look very organized.  We watched the end of Louisville, that didn't sum up what type of team they are.  Because Louisville, they're Louisville.
They seemed well coached and organized.  They're trying to win the game every single game.  They want to come out and bring their best.  I know they're going to have a little chip on their shoulder and come out and make a statement against us.

Q.  Will, is there anything special about coming back to a place close to where you grew up and kind of cap your career here?
WILL CHERRY:  Definitely.  It's always a great feeling to come back home to the West Coast, whether it's a regular preseason game or whether we're playing our end season play at Sac State.
To cap it off in a NCAA tournament is very special.  I have family and friends that get to see me play.  It's basically a resurrection of my freshman year.  That year was really fun.  I felt we were really ‑‑ we really had a good game that game, except for a couple of mistakes down the stretch.  But that just plays into everything.  Knowing that you had a good game your freshman year, and it's ironic that you get to come back here to end your career.
It's very special for me to possibly try to get a couple of wins here in San Jose in front of my family.

Q.  For any of you guys, how much zone have you gotten a chance to face this year, do you think your team is a good fit against the zone defense?
JORDAN GREGORY:  We've seen our fair share of zone.  We have shooters on our team, we haven't been zoned too much.  We haven't seen the length that Syracuse brings with their 2‑3 zone.  But I think we match‑up pretty well against it.  We have players that can penetrate the zone and stretch the zone by shooting threes.  I'm excited for it.  We'll see what happens.

Q.  Kareem, we talked a lot about you guys going against the zone.  How do you defend Syracuse, on the other end?
KAREEM JAMAR:  I'm pretty sure we're going to start off with the zone.  We've seen the way we play the zone and that might play in our favor.  We're going to play them man to man, we're going to play them straight up.  We're going to make sure that we pressure the ball all the time.
We're going to try to win the game for sure, not go in there playing scared.  So I'm pretty excited about it.

Q.  Will, can you talk about going up against a team coached like this and Jim Boeheim, obviously a name you're familiar with, how much respect you have for him in the program and what it's like to go up against him?
WILL CHERRY:  It's definitely a tremendous honor.  I had one other tremendous honor of going up against UCLA, another powerhouse that's predicated on basketball, and has a lot of history.  So I kind of compare it to that.
Jim Boeheim is a terrific coach.  He has a lot of wins under his belt and he knows what he's doing.  He's been in this business for over ‑‑ since ‑‑ before I was born.  So it's definitely a tremendous honor.  It would be even a more tremendous honor to defeat them.  Just like we did UCLA.  All those kind of things are in the back of my head.
But at the same time, even though it's a tremendous honor, we're here to win.  And we're not going to step on the court and be overtooken by Jim Boeheim or star struck by any of the players on their team.
So it's definitely a tremendous honor, but even more so, like I said, it would be more of a tremendous honor and a pleasure to beat them in The Dance.

Q.  Will, what are your thoughts on the 2‑3 zone, what are you seeing, and what's your job against that defense?
WILL CHERRY:  Like Jordan said, their 2‑3 zone, that's a lot of length right there.  We've faced 2‑3 zones, and their front line and back guard, those lines haven't been as long as we're going to face tomorrow.
I think my job will be to knock down open shots when they present themselves and penetrate that zone and kick it out to open shooters or sometimes get it to the bigs who are trying to sneak behind their bigs for easy buckets.
My job as a point guard going up against the 2‑3 zone is pretty much make it easier on my teammates to put them in positions where they're succeeding and not to put them in positions where they're failing.  When the opportunity presents itself and I'm thinking about dishing off to my teammates, I have to hit those open shots and keep them honest.  If I'm not knocking down shots at the point guard position, they'll go to my other four players.

Q.  Did you have any favorites growing up?
WILL CHERRY:  Growing up, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton were my favorite two.  Gary Payton because his nickname was "the glove."  He was all about defense.  He was able to take players out of the game.  And that's kind of how I modeled my defensive game out of.
Jason Kidd was with the Nets.  He did it all, he was Mr. Triple‑double assist, whether scoring, rebounding, whatever the Nets needed that year, to get them to the Finals he did.  And I always just loved his all‑around game.  That's kind of how I try to approach the game on the offensive end.  I don't want to be known as a driver or shooter or scorer, I want to be known for all of the above.
But Damian Lillard has to be one of the favorite players in the league.  I played against him in high school, and to see what he's doing on stage, like he's been there for ten‑plus years is something to watch.
THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by head coach of Montana, Wayne Tinkle.

Q.  How do you want your team to go about attacking Syracuse's zone?
COACH TINKLE:  Well, you want me to give the game plan now?  Well, that's a key point.  We do have to attack it.  We can't just settle for perimeter jump shots, especially early in the game.  We've got to do what we've done all year, and that's penetrate, we know it's going to be zone tomorrow.
Our drop‑off game and our draw and kick game is very important to us.  And we do have a few ideas to try to do it.  The things we've done all year against zone, screen on the ball, overloads, that sort of thing.

Q.  How much have the guys through this last year that have been through this before, not being new to them and this big experience?
COACH TINKLE:  I think that's a big key.  We did lose four very mature seniors, but the bulk of this team was in this situation a year ago.  And they're not real happy with their performance.  And that's really been the fire behind all their efforts since last March.  And now they're glad to be here, and I'm very confident they're going to take advantage of this time around.

Q.  Which Syracuse players concern you most?
COACH TINKLE:  All of them.  I mean, that's the easy answer.  Obviously the big three are Fair and Triche and ‑‑ I'm blanking up here, who is the shooter ‑‑ Southerland, made like 20 threes in the Big East tournament.  They're so long and so athletic and they have so much talent, it's great.  You try to limit those guys and they've got any number of others that can jump up and get you.

Q.  Coleman seems to come on for you.  Can you talk about his contributions, is it a gradual process?
COACH TINKLE:  Yeah, a little too gradual.  He was a junior college transfer, a great kid.  And the saying that you hope for your junior college kids to really start to produce after ‑‑ right after Christmas.  And that's about when he started getting things going.  He's played a couple of different positions, the small forward spot, he started games.
And when Mathias Ward went down we moved him to the four spot.  His ability to stretch the defense with shooting the ball, he can drive it, he can post, and he's become a better defender and really done a nice job on the glass for us, which was a big key.
It's nice having a guy out there that has perimeter skills when you're playing him in the post.

Q.  Kareem gave away the defensive game plan.  I want to know how you think you want to defend against Syracuse?
COACH TINKLE:  Tell me what he said.

Q.  He said zone.
COACH TINKLE:  We're going to do what we do, we mix it up.  We'll play man.  We'll play a couple of different kinds of zone, extend it into three‑quarter court.
I think a team as talented as Syracuse, we're going to have to try, and that's a tough word or tough challenge, try to keep them from getting into a rhythm offensively.  So we'll do what we've done all year long.  We'll play several different defenses and not go with what works, just keep that imbalance going on what we're trying to accomplish.

Q.  How much of a focus against the zone for you guys is offensive rebounding?  It's been an issue sometimes this year.  But obviously you expect to shoot a lot from the outside.  Are you focused on crashing the boards really hard against this team?
COACH TINKLE:  You know what, I've gone back and forth, but I've been convinced by assistants that I have now and have had in the past, we really put the focus on not allowing our opponent to get anything in transition.  So if we're going to give up a few chance ‑‑ second‑chance opportunities on the glass by doing that, so be it.
If we felt like we had the athletes and the size to go get 8, 10 put‑backs and give up two or three, then obviously we would do that and be ahead on the ledger.  But with the team that we have, we feel it's much more important to get back and build our D.  But we do have some guys that have the green light to try to go get some second‑chance opportunities, like we mentioned.

Q.  With Will Cherry being the only senior playing for you tomorrow, how key is his play and his leadership to you guys being successful?
COACH TINKLE:  Obviously it's very, very important.  He's our most experienced player.  It will be his third NCAA tournament game.  He wants to have a good performance.  He was down on himself after last year's loss to Wisconsin.  And you know he's one of the main straws that stirs our drink.  So it's crucial to have a good game on both ends, to keep himself on the floor.
He's a guy that can pin his ears back and get after it defensively.  Sometimes gets a little too aggressive.  We'd rather have him pull the reins than have to kick him in the rear to get him going, that's for sure.

Q.  Your first college coach is coaching in the game right before you.  And I asked the same question of him, hypothetically speaking, how would you feel about a third round match‑up with Cal?
COACH TINKLE:  Well, we are in a dream world, aren't we, trying to answer this.  It would be cool.
I shared this story, Jud Heathcote called the other day, I've got you beating Cal or UNLV, the problem is you have to find a way to get by Syracuse.
It would be really neat.  It would be special.  But might have to shake the fairy dust off my shoulders for that to happen.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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