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March 21, 2013

Rick Byrd

Ian Clark

Kerron Johnson


Arizona – 81
Belmont – 64

THE MODERATOR:  We welcome Belmont student‑athletes, Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark and Coach Rick Byrd.  Questions for our student‑athletes?
COACH BYRD:  I think this was pretty simple.  Arizona just outplayed us.  They played a better game than we did.  I can say that they made shots better than we did.  They got better shots than we did.  It was kind of two different halves.  We really struggled offensively; I thought their defensive game plan was very good.  We struggled to get shots in the first half, and they got 32.  We created maybe 10 turnovers against them.  The rebounding numbers were not good.  They missed 14 shots in the first half and they got half of those, gives them too many opportunities.  And I think that hurt us all night long.
Again, this is just cryin' over spilled milk, but we missed 5 layups in the first half.  We missed the same kind of threes that they made throughout the game, and if you're going to beat a team that is that good and that talented, you kinda have to make it go other way.
You've got to make big‑time plays and finish layups and we have to shoot it better than they shoot it, and we didn't do it.  It's to their credit, and I was more impressed with the team that I saw tonight than I was in scouting them.  I thought they were more engaged and more focused, and I think if they play that way they can beat a lot of people.

Q.  Do you have an explanation for the slow start?  Was it nerves or Arizona?
IAN CLARK:  I don't think it was nerves.  We've always talked about coming out and starting, being ready, being focused mentally.  Like Coach said, shots just weren't falling early, and I think when that happens early and they're making shots.  It's human nature to get down team‑wise.
So we tried to pick it back up early in the first half and late in the second half, but to their credit they were making shots and guys were making plays.

Q.  Ian, how important was their size and their length defensively against you guys?
IAN CLARK:  It was very important.  We kinda worked on offensively throughout the week what we were going to do with their size.  We ran a lot of flat ball screens for Kerron and Trevor and trying to get them to switch and play off that.  For of most part, I think we handled it well.  More in the second half, we got the shots we wanted and we made a few.  But like I said, when you get down that early in the first half to a good team, like Coach said in the huddle, almost got to play perfect to try to get back in the game and win it.

Q.  Kerron, you had a lot of luck and produced a lot driving the ball.  Was it the game plan?  What were you able to create there?
KERRON JOHNSON:  That's just kind of how I play and Coach puts me in positions to make plays like that.  I was trying to take advantage of their size and try and use their speed and quickness to our advantage.  But like you said, we just didn't make shots in the first half.
When you are fighting an uphill battle the whole time, even when you make those runs, one big three by them could stop your momentum, which to their credit, they made big shots all game.  That was part of our game plan.  I thought we executed it well down the stretch.  We didn't quite do it well enough in the first half to keep us in it.

Q.  Ian, you've probably seen every kind of imaginable defense against you all year.  Did you see anything different tonight?
IAN CLARK:  They weren't really face guarding me tonight, and I tried to use that to my advantage, be more aggressive, whether it was shooting the ball or putting it on the floor and trying to make plays.
Like you said earlier, their length was one thing that bothered us.  Defensively they got guys that‑‑ even if you beat your man they got guys that can come over and block shots and to their credit they made those plays.

Q.  Rick, you came back from the slow start and made the run and got close within 2 in the first half.  What happened at the end of that half?  Did that carry over into the second?
COACH BYRD:  Well, I'll answer that.  I would like to say that those two guys and our other three seniors should have said it on the front end, really elevated our basketball program significantly.  They came here on the heels of three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.
But they've made us a better basketball team for the last three years than the other three‑year run that we had.  They have put us in position where people‑‑ some people literally expect us to win this game against a great traditional power.  So those are two great guards, and I'm going to miss them.
I can't even remember exactly what happened, but their run at the end of the first half was, I thought, really crucial.  We got down, what, 14‑4, maybe.  We got down, and then we kinda outplayed them for the‑‑ whatever that would be, the middle portion of the half or a 10‑minute span.
In terms of the score, we outplayed them and got it back manageable, and then it went from 6 to 12 or something.  You just don't want to be that far down.  The thing that they did that made it tougher for us‑‑ we worked all week with the thought that Tarczewski, did I say that right?  No. 35 is what I call him, would guard Trevor Noack and we could get some threes out of Trevor who shot 40 to 40 plus this year.
Instead, he guarded Blake in our starting lineup and then we really couldn't get the offense that I thought we could get.  It took me too darn long to find something that would work, and I think the second half was a result of Kerron having a little bit more freedom and making things happen and that's more what we do better.  I didn't get that adjustment made during the first half very well.

Q.  Did anyone else defend you like that this year, guarding with‑‑
COACH BYRD:  No, we would get defended by people that were smaller and could guard.  In watching them play a lot of people, I could tell that Tarczewski would struggle to get back to go a 3‑point shooter after he helped on a ball screen, and we were looking to take advantage of that.
It was our first choice to get good shots and either Trevor would have a wide‑open shot or they would rotate and he would make a pass and another guy would have a wide‑open shot, much like you saw them do on us.  We had a hard time guarding the post and we started trying to double it.
First of all, we did it poorly, not the way we planned several times.  But they then rotated the ball and made their wide‑open threes and that's what a good team does.

Q.  How do you put it in perspective when you played so well so long this year, get to today and don't have your best game?
COACH BYRD:  It's hard, but I told those guys in there, I wouldn't have given them a chance‑‑ we lost three All‑Conference players off last year's team, and I thought we could be a pretty good basketball team.  But I wouldn't have given them a chance to win the season and the OVC Tournament and be seeded 11th and get votes over the past 6 or 8 weeks for the top‑25.
They overachieved, and it is hard.  We have been here really the last three years.  Thought we could beat Wisconsin.  Georgetown was a tougher match‑up.  But thought we could be more competitive than they were and the same here tonight.  It's just not any fun in that locker room after a game like that.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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