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March 22, 2013

Aaron Craft

Thad Matta

Sam Thompson


Ohio State テや 95
Iona テや 70

THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll be joined by the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Thad Matta, as well as Ohio State student‑athletes Aaron Craft and Sam Thompson.
Start with an opening statement by Coach, and after that we'll open the floor for questions for the student‑athletes.
COACH MATTA:テつ Proud of our team.テつ I thought that, when you play a team like Iona, they're never out of the basketball game, and just from the standpoint we got off to a pretty good start, give them credit, they got back on us.
We lost our focus, our concentration a little bit.テつ I thought the start of the second half was the big key, I think a 9‑0 run, whatever that was.テつ That was huge for us because that was the thing we wanted to come out and try to make a difference to start the second half.
They play a unique style.テつ I thought our guys did a good job of handling the pressure and finishing the shots that we had.テつ Great thing is we're playing again on Sunday.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.テつ Aaron, I'm not sure if you were made aware yesterday what Momo Jones said outside the locker room, that he didn't think that they'd have much trouble with you and running their offense against you and Shannon and if that possibly made you want to show with your actions that they might have a little bit of trouble.
AARON CRAFT:テつ Didn't hear anything specific.テつ They were doing‑‑ you know, there's articles and things like that were coming out here, a couple quotes here and there.テつ We didn't want to make it a one‑on‑one type game.テつ This was about our team and how we needed to play defense together, and that's really how we did a good job of taking them out of their offense and kind of making them have to go one on one at times.
We did a good job of staying connected.テつ We also weren't doing it at times, like Coach alluded to, but this time of year is about finding a way to win and moving on.テつ So we get to play again.テつ That's what it's all about.

Q.テつ For Sam and then also Aaron, what does an alley‑oop like that do to you guys, to the other team, and how difficult is it?テつ Do you just have to throw it in the air or what?テつ It looked like it was headed for the pep band, the one from Scott.テつ Could you talk about that dunk.
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, when you get up there, you just have to find‑‑ I would go in.テつ You've got to get your feet set, and I always tell guys, just throw the ball in the air a lot like Sam there.
AARON CRAFT:テつ I don't think you ever called one in your life.
SAM THOMPSON:テつ An alley‑oop is a great team play.テつ It shows two guys on the same page offensively.テつ Shannon did such a great job getting into the teeth of the defense, having the defense collapse, and just letting me do the easy part and finishing it.
It really gives our team a boost offensively and defensively and definitely gives the other team something to think about.
AARON CRAFT:テつ It would be a little easier if Sam could jump a little higher.テつ Sometimes you've got to pinpoint passes for him, but, no, Sam is actually one of the better ones I've ever played with.テつ He's got a pretty wide radius from the center of his body you can throw the ball.テつ You can see that tonight.
If he's not going to be able to dunk it, he's going to go up and catch it regardless.テつ It's all about Sam and going up there and doing it.テつ That's what it's always about.テつ He's the man.

Q.テつ Just curious, you guys are now on a nine‑game winning streak.テつ A lot of the national media attention is on Indiana, then it was on Michigan, then Michigan State, then back to Indiana.テつ Do you guys feel you're still a little bit under the radar as far as what you're capable of?
AARON CRAFT:テつ If we're under the radar, I don't think we notice it too much.テつ Sometimes you have a little extra pressure if you're like that team always in the spotlight.テつ I think we've done a great job of really relying on one another and really kind of being there for each other.
That's what it takes to be a team.テつ Ever since the last time we lost, we kind of had our backs against the wall and didn't have anyone else to believe in ourselves but us, and that's really helped our mindset going into the last few games that we played.
Everyone's doing their job.テつ We're not playing perfect, but we're covering for each other, and that's what it's about.

Q.テつ Iona coach said that he didn't think that his team possibly was fully aware that you guys could run like that because there wasn't that much tape available of you guys running like that.テつ Do you think you surprised them with the way‑‑ they were the team known for getting up and down, and I think you guys outdid them on that today.
SAM THOMPSON:テつ I think we may have surprised them a little bit.テつ Defensively, we were able to get some stops to get out in the open court off of missed shots and turnovers.テつ We got some easy ones early on, and I don't know if they were expecting that or not.
We did a good job of converting when we had numbers early in the game, and we really set the tone.

Q.テつ Sam, you guys have got out to a 19‑point lead there and it quickly dropped to 4 there.テつ What happened?テつ Was it just a lack of focus there, as Coach said?テつ What was going on there?テつ What got you guys back?
SAM THOMPSON:テつ I definitely think it was a lack of focus.テつ We sort of got relaxed.テつ We started feeling ourselves.テつ We started patting ourselves on the back.
Give Iona credit.テつ They came out, and they kept fighting, and they fought all the way back down to 4 points.
It's just a lesson for us that any team in this tournament, we can't feel good.テつ We can't rest on our laurels.テつ We have to play for the 40 minutes.

Q.テつ Aaron, being from Ohio, how does it feel to win tonight with this being relatively close to home?
AARON CRAFT:テつ This is awesome. テつWherever we're going to play, we know Buckeye Nation travels well, and they're all over the country.テつ But being able to play an hour or so from Columbus is phenomenal.テつ They did a great job.テつ They came out and kind of packed the gym for us.
Fortunately enough, we get to play another game in it, and hopefully we can give them something to cheer about on Sunday.テつ Aaron and Sam, thank you.
Questions for Coach Matta.

Q.テつ Has the dunk been‑‑ people think it's a SportsCenter kind of thing, and it's certainly a crowd igniter.テつ The dunk contest has lost a lot of its pizazz.テつ What's the place of it in the game now?
COACH MATTA:テつ I don't know.テつ I mean, it's something kids thoroughly enjoy doing, probably to a fault.テつ I think guys growing up would probably rather be able to dunk than run a clean pick and roll.
I said this to this team a lot early.テつ The problem that we had early on was our guys watch like SportsCenter, and they show 30 seconds of highlights from a game, but our guys never saw the other 47:30 of like great NBA basketball.テつ So we've had to try to scale them down in terms of that.
The dunk shot is obviously, it's a crowd igniter.テつ It does all those things, but I just‑‑ honestly, I want the two points, and let's run back and play defense.

Q. テつSometimes they go awry.
COACH MATTA:テつ I will say this.テつ I think it's a very good play in basketball, to be honest with you, because you can freeze a defense.テつ We don't have a ton of actions to get them, but I do think it's‑‑ I think it was Dr. Tom Davis that used to shoot the alley‑oop pass that looked like a shot.
But we tell our guys, hey, if you can dunk it, dunk it.テつ But if you have to come down with it, I'm fine with that.テつ Just make sure we get two points.

Q.テつ Thad, you talk every year about how refreshing it is to get out of the Big Ten.テつ Did you think that you could possibly transition these guys the way you did tonight?
COACH MATTA:テつ I felt like from the standpoint of going into this game and looking at Iona, we thought that they wanted to play fast, and our biggest thing was, if we could strike them early, let's do it.
We had a couple possessions there in that run they made on us where we kind of shot an in‑between shot.テつ It wasn't the shot that we wanted, and I think that helped ignite them to get them back.
But guys play‑‑ we practice fast.テつ So I think that probably helped us in terms of coming into a game like this.

Q.テつ Not that you needed a confidence booster after winning eight straight games and the Big Ten Championship, but was this a confidence booster for these guys?テつ Especially a lot of these guys had career nights tonight.テつ To get that in the first round of the NCAA, does that kind of ground them a little bit?
COACH MATTA:テつ I hope so.テつ The biggest thing we had was, when we got back together Monday night, we showed them tape, as I think I told you guys, of 2 seeds going down last year and saying like, hey, this is a reality.テつ It happened last year.テつ We have to get ourselves ready to go.
I think getting in here and getting a fast pace‑‑ we didn't get up and down in here as much because we had a very difficult practice yesterday in Columbus, but I was excited to see us moving and flowing and that sort of thing.

Q.テつ Coach, what was your thoughts on Aaron's performance tonight?
COACH MATTA:テつ I thought he was tremendous.テつ He just had a great way about him, really on both ends of the floor.テつ It was like there was a couple of him out there at times.
Aaron is Aaron.テつ That's what he does.

Q.テつ What were your thoughts‑‑ last question.テつ What were your thoughts on your players saying like they're playing like they're under the radar?
COACH MATTA:テつ I don't think they said that.テつ I think he said that on the question.テつ The question was the other teams are up here and they kind of shuffle, but he just asked we were under the radar, he thought, yeah.

Q.テつ Do you feel like your team's got the hot hand right now?
COACH MATTA:テつ You know, I don't know in this tournament if you could say anybody has a hot hand.テつ I think, if you're in a conference race and you got common opponents, you know going in the game that what the other team is‑‑ we're sitting here right now, and I don't know who we're going to play next.
I like the way our team's playing.テつ I like the fact that we're winning games right now.テつ We just‑‑ as I told him, we've got to be better tomorrow than we were today and same thing on Sunday.テつ That's kind of who this basketball team is in terms of how we operate.
Keeping those guys' minds in that mode is very important to us.

Q.テつ Coach, to follow up on your previous comments, a lot of teams in the MEAC tried to slow Iona down.テつ Was it your game plan tonight to beat them at their own game, or did it just sort of play out that way?
COACH MATTA:テつ We said going in, if they want to run, let's run.テつ Our biggest concern, though, with that said is we weren't going to trade baskets with them.テつ I think that's what happens a lot of time when we said we're going to run with them.テつ We don't care if we score.テつ We're going to run it back this way.テつ That was not going to happen tonight.
They got us in the first half on two transition baskets, and that was a huge topic of discussion at halftime.
But I've always liked to play kind of up tempo, and I thought, quite honestly, 25‑10 assists to turnovers, we may really good decisions in terms of that tonight.

Q.テつ Thad, we talked the last couple of days about Deshaun's shot selection and being more efficient with his game.テつ He had 24 points on 12 shots, two assists, no turnovers.テつ I would imagine that's the kind of game you're looking for from him going forward.
COACH MATTA:テつ Bingo.テつ I thought Deshaun appeared much more relaxed.テつ He was much more relaxed, much more engaged to time‑outs.テつ He got some open looks.テつ Guys found him.テつ There was a couple of quick passes, that sort of thing, and he spaced himself.
He looked like he was gathering‑‑ last week he didn't have the leg drive he had tonight, but he shot a lot of shots since Chicago in preparation for this, which is a credit to him.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thad, thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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