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NCAA MEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: LOS ANGELES


March 28, 2013


Thad Matta

LaQuinton Ross

Deshaun Thomas


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Ohio State テや 73
Arizona テや 70


THE MODERATOR:テつ Coach, why don't you go ahead and make an opening statement, and then we'll turn it over to questions for the student‑athletes.
COACH MATTA:テつ I've been saying this for a while, it seems like with the schedule we played, but that was about as high‑powered college basketball game as I've been a part of.テつ You look at the plays that the Arizona players made, the players that the Buckeyes made, they're up 11, we get up 10.テつ Just a battle.
I think the biggest thing for us was in the second half we defended.テつ We got our defense back.テつ I told our guys at halftime that I thought it was probably the most selfish defensive effort we have played in a long time and we needed to be more active, more aware, helping.
Lot of times those guys are, as I said going into the game, an extremely talented team.テつ I thought once we got everybody involved defensively, that was huge for us.

Q.テつ When you stepped into that three, did you know it was going down?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ I like to credit my coaches for the play.テつ It was similar to the play we ran last game.テつ We like to get the big that's pick‑and‑roll.テつ It so happened they messed up on the switch right there, and I was able to knock down the shot.

Q.テつ LaQuinton, can you talk about how you made the mental transition from the foul to hitting that shot and just what it took to have the confidence there?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ When I got the foul, I was kind of upset, and my players grabbed me and told me calm down and worry about the next play.テつ I was able to go down, able to run the play and execute.

Q.テつ You come to Ohio State, obviously, as a top recruit, got a lot of potential, and then you go through a lot of struggles.テつ What's it feel like to be here, to hit the big shot at this moment for the team?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ It feels great, man.テつ This is what every player grows up looking at on TV and wants to hit that big shot, wants to win the game and hit the big shot in the NCAA Tournament or the NBA.テつ It just feels great to be here right now.

Q.テつ Deshaun, Thad talked about the start of the game and the defense not being where you guys wanted it.テつ A lot of us were wondering if you weren't quite able to get rid of all the jet lag before the game started, and if you finally got on Pacific time about ten minutes in?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Yeah, we felt like we started off slow.テつ Guys were being selfish, guys were hugged up on their man, not helping each other out, getting into gaps and tagging.テつ I don't know what it was.テつ It was probably just the heat of the moment.テつ Everybody was just too excited.
But we picked it up in the second half.テつ What we do, Ohio State basketball.テつ Coach said do what we do at halftime, and that's what we did.テつ We came out and were more aggressive on the defensive end.

Q.テつ I want to ask about a couple of the shots you made before the game winner.テつ Aaron drove the baseline and found you in the corner.テつ It was a key point in the game.テつ You hit the three from the corner.テつ Just what happened on that?テつ What you saw there?テつ It looked like you were pretty wide open.テつ Then with about 1:30 to go, you drove in, and the shot clock was running down and a tough shot into traffic.テつ Just those two plays, what they meant and what you saw in each and what they meant?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ The first shot with Craft driving the baseline, that's something we work on in practice every day.テつ Any time a player draws the baseline, we always teach the thing down, and that player is going to be open because the defense sags in on him.
The second play, I saw the shot clock going down, and my coaches were telling me to go.テつ So I was able to go in and get the lay‑up.

Q.テつ Do you know whose locker you changed in?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ I found out from one of the guys that works here it was Kobe Bryant's locker.テつ Before we got here, I called dibs on it anyway.テつ But I didn't know whose it was until he came in and told me.テつ I was excited about that though.

Q.テつ I'd like each player's take on this.テつ What is it about the Ohio State team that you guys keep making the big play?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Toughness.テつ We don't give up.テつ We show heart.テつ We stand together as a team, and we fight.テつ We fight together, and it's just all toughness with me.
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ I think it's a credit to everybody on this team.テつ Everything that happened to us this year, we use everything that everybody says to us as motivation.テつ People told us and counted us out early in the season.テつ I think we're using that right now in this tournament and proving people wrong.テつ Everybody's out there playing with a chip on their shoulder.テつ Even the coaches are coaching with a chip on their shoulder, so it's great when we're all playing together like that.

Q.テつ How tough was it for you to stay patient over the course of the year when you first got here until you started playing a bigger rollover the last month or two?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ I think it was very important.テつ Coming in my freshman year, I think I was kind of immature as far as my thinking, thinking why am I not playing, why am I not doing this?テつ I think everything paid off, all the hard work is paying off in this tournament.

Q.テつ You mentioned that you had the same locker as Kobe Bryant.テつ Did you kind of get a little added motivation knowing that you were sharing the locker with a legend?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ It felt great, especially when I found out it was his locker because I was in shock because I came into that locker, I knew I called dibs on it early.
But to find out I had the locker, it felt great.テつ That's one of my favorite players growing up and somebody I model my game after, so...

Q.テつ Did you feel good that you lived up to it since you hit a big shot in the building, and he has hit plenty of big shots?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ Oh, definitely, man.テつ Playing here at the Staples Center, that's one of my dreams.テつ It was great, man.

Q.テつ What is it like to be able to come to Los Angeles and play on the court that Kobe Bryant has played on, Lob City has thrown it up on.テつ What's it like to be here in Los Angeles?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ I think it's great.テつ Especially the weather.テつ We're loving the weather right now.テつ Back in Columbus, I think it was snowing before we left.テつ So got a little sun.テつ Got to get out and look around a little bit.テつ But now it's time to take care of business.
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ It's fun.テつ Great weather.テつ It's the city of Angels.テつ I love it, and back at home, it's snowing, so I'm just trying to enjoy this time.テつ But we all know what we're here for, and we get one more game.

Q.テつ The word was yesterday, LaQuinton, that you challenged Reggie Miller to a three‑point contest there during open practice.テつ Did he accept?テつ Certainly he wouldn't accept it now, I wouldn't think?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ Yeah, I did.テつ Actually, I was talking to one of my fellow teammates and I was like, yeah, I was feel going yesterday.テつ So I was like we should call Reggie out here.テつ So after practice me and Craft went up to him, and Craft told him what I said.テつ I think I'm going to try to make him come out of retirement and shoot a little bit.

Q.テつ Sean Miller said a little while ago that they must have switched 400 ball screens during the game, and the one ball screen they didn't switch was at the end of the game.テつ Were you surprised when you found yourself that open for that shot?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ Yeah, I was definitely surprised coming down the stretch.テつ But that was something that we watched in film and that we saw that we could do.テつ Setting our pick‑and‑rolls when their players were switching, and we just had to execute.

Q.テつ Lenzelle said in the locker room that last year he probably goes and steals that ball from you so that way he can shoot it himself.テつ The fact that your teammates have so much confidence to believe that you're going to knock down a shot like that after what you've gone through here, how much does that mean to you?
LaQUINTON ROSS:テつ It's great, man.テつ Especially when you know all platers and coaches have trust in you.テつ I think that's what a player feeds on.テつ Those big moments when they know they can count on you, that is a great moment.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions for Coach Matta.

Q.テつ You said yesterday that the last time you traveled to a Game 3 time zones away, there is just something that is a little off when you try to play.テつ Did you have that as you were watching your guys the first ten minutes?テつ Did it seem like there was just something that was off, and did you think it might have been the jet lag like we talked about?
COACH MATTA:テつ I'll be honest with you, it never crossed my mind.テつ I'm all screwed up on time.テつ I'm where I am now, I guess.テつ But I thought we were playing hard to start the game.テつ We just weren't playing smart; give Arizona credit.テつ They came out and they were banging threes on us.
We just weren't guarding the ball the way we needed to guard the ball.テつ We weren't in position the way we needed to be in position.テつ A lot of time when's the team gets rolling like they were, you hug up on your man and say, look, I'm not going to get scored on.テつ He can get scored on, and we can't play that way.
That was a lot of what we talked about at halftime of don't be selfish on defense.テつ We can't win if we play selfish on defense.テつ I thought that was one of the big keys to the start of the second half was just our activity.

Q.テつ How has LaQuinton just evolved and matured from the time he was recruited until the guy we saw out there tonight hitting that big shot?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, LaQuinton has really grown in a lot of areas.テつ I've always said this about LaQuinton, he knows more information about stuff.テつ I always ask him, not how do you know this, but why do you know this?テつ And I'm talking from hockey.テつ He's looking at the banners, talking about hockey.テつ He's talking about the NFL; it's just amazing.テつ I think the biggest thing that he's done is he's, and I've used this word a lot, he's engaged himself in all of the little things, and that's made him a better basketball player in terms of practice, bringing an attitude to practice.
Bringing just an overall mindset that he's in.テつ He's really become prideful in the little things in his game and it's really propelled him to be a better basketball player.テつ I'm proud of him.

Q.テつ LaQuinton called himself immature last year.テつ His teammates just told me that he rebelled last year quite often.テつ Was there ever a point where you wondered if he was going to be able to last in your program?
COACH MATTA:テつ No, no, because he's such a good kid.テつ He's got a heart of gold character‑wise.テつ We recruit great kids, and LaQuinton is definitely a great kid.
What happened last year is he didn't join us until mid‑December.テつ He missed grade school, junior high, high school, because those first two months of the season are the most important months in terms of fundamentals, that sort of thing.テつ So when he got here, he was a little behind.テつ I told him at one point, look, I can't hold tryouts during the Big Ten.テつ The league is too good.テつ To his credit, he kept working.テつ He got better.テつ Had a great offseason.テつ Like I said, I'm just very, very proud of him.
A lot of times there is a defining moment for a young kid, and he's had not only today, but he's had some big baskets.テつ His defense is getting‑‑ Ashley went by him there, forced Deshaun's help.テつ The one kid hit the three in the corner, and I told him, you're either going to defender I'm not putting you back in the basketball game, and to his credit, he did a really good job.

Q.テつ Is there a lesson there?テつ We see so many transfers and so many kids in a time where particularly a kid who was rated as the No. 1 eighth grader in the country at some point.テつ It's supposed to be fast track to the NBA.テつ Is there a lesson here with him that maybe if you fight through it, things can work out?テつ You don't always have to run from everything?
COACH MATTA:テつ No question about that.テつ I think the guy sitting next to him was a very similar product.
The one thing that we talk about, and I think this in recruiting, you're going to be a product of the environment that you choose.テつ One of the things that I'm most proud of is the environment we have in our program.テつ What you're asking is kind of the stick‑to‑itiveness to see the big picture.テつ It's not as easy as people think it is, and that's what excites me.テつ I'm sitting up here, and I'm listening to them talk.テつ I'm thinking about when Deshaun came to Ohio State, it was a process.
There's only a small group of those guys that just, boom, go.テつ It happens so quick for them.テつ To LaQuinton's credit, he stayed the court.テつ Hey, I've told him all along, you're a starter on this basketball team.テつ They don't call your name at the beginning, but you're going to play starter minutes, and he just smiles and does his job.

Q.テつ The start of the second half you guys drove the baseline a lot.テつ It seemed like for the rest of the half, none of their big men were at all comfortable no matter where you guys were.テつ Was that by design or the flow of the game?
COACH MATTA:テつ It was kind of the flow of the game just in terms of we were getting stops and we were able to get out and push in transition.テつ That was kind of where open area was.テつ I thought guys showed great patience in terms of letting it develop and making great reads.
We had it in the first half.テつ We missed like five lay‑ups in the first half down there along the baseline, and that was‑‑ we were able to finish there in the second half.

Q.テつ You have a short turn around until Saturday.テつ What are you happy with now?テつ What do you feel like you need to improve on in the next day and a half?テつ And do you have a preference on who wins tonight?
COACH MATTA:テつ I'm happy to be playing on Saturday, number one, first and foremost.テつ In terms of a preference, I really don't.テつ I'm one of these guys I don't follow.テつ In another hour and a half, we've got both teams broken down.テつ We'll sit down, guys will be watching film tonight of either opponent.
I know this going into the game, there is a reason we're playing in the Elite Eight against whoever it is, and it's going to be as we've had so far in this tournament, another hard‑fought battle.

Q.テつ What are you happy with?
COACH MATTA:テつ I tell you what, I'm happy with the guys' perseverance in terms of being down 11 in the first half.テつ I thought they kept their composure.テつ There were a couple times when we could have crumbled, and they stuck with it, cutting it to four.
We talked about, hey, we were just here against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament.テつ We were just here against Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament.テつ Let's get back to what we're doing.
So with that said, I told the guys before the game, here's the beauty of this game against Arizona.テつ We have to be who we are to win this game.テつ If we're not who we are, we're not going to win the game.テつ And that would probably be, I thought in the second half we were who we were.

Q.テつ What do you feel like you need to improve on still?
COACH MATTA:テつ We need to check and make sure that our defense is where it is.テつ And I say that catering to whoever we're going to play and taking away what their main things are.テつ I still love how unselfish we're playing offensively right now.
One of the biggest things we talked about going into this game was rebounding.テつ We outrebounded Arizona by two, and that was an issue for our guys in terms of we knew we had to rebound the ball.テつ So very, very pleased with how we rebounded the ball today.

Q.テつ Deshaun had talked earlier about how he started to foul up three in the final seconds after that Ohio State 25‑footer or whatever.テつ Was there any thought there at the end to foul if they would have inbounded it short or anything like that?
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah, we talked about it.テつ The problem‑‑ I had a timeout left.テつ We were looking at the alignment and we felt pretty comfortable that we could make them catch it where we wanted.テつ Lenzelle, he stretched out, got his hand on that ball, just a tremendous effort.テつ Q was on the ball, did a great job.テつ If they would have been dribbling four or five, maybe would have.
But I liked the alignment we had.テつ I liked where our guys were.テつ They seemed to have a feel for what we were attempting to do and what we told them to do.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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