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NCAA MEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: LOS ANGELES


March 29, 2013


Aaron Craft

Thad Matta

Lenzelle Smith, Jr.

Deshaun Thomas

Amir Williams


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR:テつ We have Amir Williams, Sam Thompson, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, and Coach Thad Matta.テつ Coach, if you could make an opening statement.
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, we're, as Wichita State, we're operating on a quick turnaround.テつ I think, obviously, it's a privilege.テつ It's an honor to be playing tomorrow.テつ This is what college basketball is all about.テつ I think these guys have done a tremendous job thus far.テつ We're not done yet in our preparation work, but we know we've got a heck of a battle tomorrow and look very forward to it.

Q.テつ Deshaun, you have an elite scoring ability.テつ Was there some point in your career where you just realized you had sort of the special ability to get to the basket and get buckets?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ It was always natural growing up.テつ Me in third grade, playing the Y‑ball, always scoring, playing against people, older, my size, scoring against them.テつ Always had a knack for the ball.テつ Got in high school, had the green light, played every position, took every shot, took every bad shot.テつ So I had a knack of scoring the ball all my life.

Q.テつ How much have you had to balance that with deferring to your teammates and allowing this to become more of a balanced attack?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ I had to balance it starting last year, playing with Jared and Will and playing under them, I had to take great shots, and just trying to take them within a great movement within the offense, and that's what I did.
Coach Matta always preaches, Deshaun, take good shots.テつ We need good ones.テつ And I learned, and I'm doing pretty good at it.

Q.テつ I just want to ask, this is for Amir and Lenzelle.テつ I know, Lenzelle, who is the biggest jokester on the team?
AMIR WILLIAMS:テつ I'll go with Lenzelle just because he stole my phone this week.テつ I'll go Lenzelle.
LENZELLE SMITH:テつ I'd probably go with either Shannon or Trey.テつ They somehow find a way to make a joke out of everything.テつ They're probably plotting on us right now.テつ When we get back into the locker room, we're going to be missing something.テつ I guarantee that.

Q.テつ Deshaun, you kind of had a breakout year last year.テつ You continued to improve.テつ What motivated you this year to continue to work on your game, and what areas specifically do you think you improved on the most?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Just me being ready.テつ Just working on my craft.テつ I'm a competitive person.テつ I love the hoop and just my craft.テつ It's what I love to do.テつ I work hard on creating off the dribble, trying to make easier shots for me and my teammates.テつ Also, I worked really hard on the defensive end trying to get extra effort plays for my teammates.テつ Just the little things to try to help us win.

Q.テつ Aaron, how much has Deshaun changed in terms of being that guy with the green light who loves to score, to the player we've seen especially the last couple of weeks who has been more willing to defer to you all and to other people on the team?
AARON CRAFT:テつ He's grown a lot.テつ We've been around each other ever since we came in, roomed next to each other, lived together, and roomed together on the roads and things like that.テつ So it's just great to see him grow as a player.テつ I think the thing that I get the most excited about is when he gets pumped up about getting a charge or being in the right position on defense or making the extra pass, stuff that he really wasn't doing when he first got here.テつ It really shows his hard work.テつ He's listening.テつ He wants to learn.テつ He's not doing it perfect, but he's trying his best, and that's all we can ask?

Q.テつ For anyone other than Deshaun, Coach Marshall, as a compliment, said that Deshaun is difficult to defend because he's a bad shot taker, but he makes those shots.テつ How do you guys see it with someone's shot selection?
AARON CRAFT:テつ I would love to start with that one.テつ Yeah, Deshaun has probably taken more of those shots that you're really hoping he doesn't take.テつ But he has a knack of putting the ball in the bucket.テつ Even if he misses those shots, he usually finds the way to get the ball again on an offensive rebound.
So it's tough to get angry at him.テつ There are times when you get him to relax and understand situations and things like that, but he's going to do what he does.テつ He does a phenomenal job of taking the ones that we need him to take and he puts the ball in the bucket.テつ So you can't complain too much.

Q.テつ Deshaun, after the first half you had last night, you got three shots in the second half.テつ At some time that would have bothered you more than it appeared to last night.テつ How did you deal with that?テつ Q was really on fire.
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Yeah, I handled it pretty well.テつ Probably freshman year even last year if I didn't touch the ball, I probably would have flipped.テつ But it's me growing up as a person and knowing that we've got other guys who can at least put the ball in the hole.
Q came in, knocked down big shots.テつ I was just patiently waiting until my name was called, and Craft and Lenzelle and Sam are doing their thing.テつ So they were knocking down shots, so that was good.テつ It takes a lot of pressure off.

Q.テつ Amir, obviously, you're a big time recruit in high school, and you had a lot of options.テつ What did you like about Ohio State when you first saw the campus and just the facilities and resources they invest in basketball?
AMIR WILLIAMS:テつ It's just a winning atmosphere.テつ It's a pleasure to come here and get better.テつ Coach does a great job developing his athletes and trying to turn them into future pros whether they play professionally here or go overseas or something like that.
Like I said, it was just something that I fell in love with.テつ Coach was honest with me up front, telling me what to expect from him, how they play, and how they outfit their system and stuff like that.

Q.テつ Aaron and Lenzelle, you guys had a lot of point blank misses last night.テつ Was it there late?テつ It seemed kind of atypical.
AARON CRAFT:テつ I'll take responsibility for that.テつ We were able to get to the rim quite a bit last night, and the ball just wasn't falling.テつ That's on us.テつ Whether it's more focused, getting your eyes on the backboard, whatever it may be.テつ Hopefully, if we're able to get to the rim tomorrow, we can put the ball in the bucket.テつ Those are going to be big possessions for us.
LENZELLE SMITH:テつ I missed one.テつ I'm not perfect.テつ Definitely driving the lane you've got big guys in the paint.テつ It's a challenge trying to get the right angle of getting it over the defender and into the basket at the same time, so I've got to work on that a little bit more.

Q.テつ What is your take on Wichita State?テつ What have you learned about them?テつ Are they deserving?テつ Can a 9 seed beat a 2 seed?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ They're a good team.テつ They're physical.テつ They play hard.テつ They're scrappy.テつ We can't overlook these guys.テつ They're going to give their all out there, and we need to come out and match their intensity.テつ They've got nothing to lose.テつ So they're going to come out there and try to get every loose ball, every rebound, so we're going to have to match that.
SAM THOMPSON:テつ To answer your question, they're absolutely supposed to be here.テつ They're a great team.テつ They have a lot of talent.テつ They play hard.テつ They play scrappy just like Deshaun said.テつ And they're a team that's on a roll right now.テつ They're playing their best basketball of the season just like we're playing our best basketball of the season.
So we really have to take it upon ourselves to come out and play hard and execute on both sides of the ball for 40 minutes.テつ If we do that, we feel like we can win the game.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions for Coach Thad Matta.

Q.テつ Coach, you have access to a number of resources that have allowed you to build this program.テつ How much of a competitive advantage do you think that gives you over a team like Wichita State?
COACH MATTA:テつ It's not going to score us a point or get us a rebound tomorrow.テつ I think every program has certain things.テつ They've got pluses; they've got minuses.テつ I've said this, and I say it all the time recruiting, Ohio State is not for everybody, just in terms of the way that we do things.テつ The way that we operate.
I think from the standpoint of we're in a great league, being in the Big Ten, you look across the board at what schools in our league have, and it's pretty status quo amongst all of us.
I've been in this game before in Atlanta and started two freshmen that were not top 250 players coming out of high school.テつ So I think that the parity, you have to look at what Wichita State has in terms of seniors, fifth‑year, that sort of thing.
We have one senior on our team again this year.テつ The facilities don't give you experience, and I think that's something that in terms of‑‑ and I know what you're asking in recruiting and that sort of thing.
But I will say this:テつ I don't want to get a kid because we have a nice practice facility.テつ I want to get a kid because he wants to be at Ohio State for the right reasons in terms of earning a degree and an appreciation for the University.
Does it help?テつ Maybe it does.テつ But I'm not much of a glitz‑and‑glamour type of guy.テつ So I don't see that type of stuff quite like maybe some do.

Q.テつ It seemed like early in the season there was a question about this team.テつ Where would the scoring come outside of Deshaun?テつ How important has it been to develop scoring balance?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I think that's something that we knew going into the season was going to be a process.テつ As a coach, you're walking off the floor at the Superdome last year, in your mind saying what do we have to do to get ready for next year?テつ Recruiting and you're driving and you're thinking, okay, boy, if I could get 14 from this guy and 12 from this guy, but it's a lot simpler said than done.
The thing that I've always felt comfortable about this basketball team is guys have had good stretches, taking the consistency along throughout the season.テつ All of these guys have worked extremely hard.
Like I said three days ago, March 26, we had one of the best practices of the year, and usually that doesn't happen just in terms of your six months into the season.テつ But I think it's a credit to those guys in terms that they've continued to work on their game.
You go back and put film in from November, and guys are doing a lot more than they could do then, which is a tribute to the assistant coaches and the job they've done with them.

Q.テつ Thad, can you describe what is a bad shot for Deshaun and what is a good shot?テつ I mean, he takes some of the bad shots and he does make those.テつ That's why I'm wondering, when you talk to him specifically about, don't take, this don't take that?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, a lot of it, I'm like all of you.テつ If it goes in, it's a great shot.テつ If it doesn't, it's a bad shot.テつ I think a lot of it is just have we put pressure on the defense in terms of moving the defense.
You always have to give credit where credit is due.テつ We're playing against some great defensive teams.テつ It's amazing.テつ For the last probably three months now, some of the defenses we've gone, and they don't give you anything easy.
He has a way to find angles.テつ It's more‑‑ we went through that stretch in the Big Ten tournament where he was taking some bad ones.テつ You look at his shooting percentage then to his shooting percentage now in the NCAA Tournament, and it's incredible.テつ I think that's a tribute to him recognizing that I don't have to get it off and try to shoot myself out of it.テつ Just let it flow and good things will happen.
But we want him to shoot.テつ But the better shot, the better he is.

Q.テつ Sometimes he takes quick threes.テつ Are they worse shots than some of those shots in the paint that he looks like he couldn't possibly make them and he makes them?
COACH MATTA:テつ It depends.テつ I go to the Iowa State game, and he pulled a three when he had a clear lane to the basket, and Monday night we took a look at it, or Sunday, whenever it was, and said, this is definitely an opportunity where you must continue running the lane and finish at the rim as opposed to shooting the three.テつ But if he can get space and he gets his feet set, I'm usually pretty comfortable with it.

Q.テつ You mentioned practice facilities and you're not into glitz and glam.テつ Why do you think so many people build them?テつ There is a huge growth boom across the country of BCS schools.テつ Why do you think that is?
COACH MATTA:テつ It kind of became contagious, I think.テつ All I can really say is for us, because we've got one that will be done in June, July, I think.テつ We need it in terms of class schedules for practice.テつ We've been on an odd schedule this year because with our women's team; they had girls that were graduating, and they had to take certain classes.
So they had to have the practices times when they needed it.テつ This is going to enable us to whenever we want to practice, we're going to be able to practice.テつ I think that's one of the big things.
We also have a facility that's used by multi‑events, so there are times when we need to be able to makeshift whatever we need and go when we want to go.テつ I'm kind of spur of the moment just in terms of changing practice times and that sort of thing. テつJust trying to keep the guys‑‑ I don't want to say guessing, but we play at some of the oddest times in college basketball.テつ So I try to change practice time on them just to get them used to it.

Q.テつ Wichita State has had some really nice stretches on offense in the NCAA Tournament.テつ Even better than during the regular season at some points.テつ Is it their sets, their motion?テつ What is making them go on offense?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, first the players.テつ They're extremely talented.テつ They're extremely deep.テつ They've got guys that can do a lot of things from shooting the ball to driving the ball.テつ They're sound in terms of‑‑ very sound in terms of their execution.テつ They've got a good mix of they'll hit you in transition, but then they can also pull it out and run the sets that they run.

Q.テつ Is it better to have kind of a go‑to guy?テつ I guess I'm thinking about LeBron in the 1‑4, pounding the ball and working off the ball screen.テつ Or the diversity that's developing on this team?テつ What is your thought on that?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, it's great to have both, if you can.テつ I think that's what honestly separates the winning and losing.テつ You look across the board and sometimes we've always talked about the leading scorer in the country nine out of ten years is usually not a great team.
But I think when you've had that situation and I felt that up here when they were talking about Deshaun, as long as there is an element of appreciation and understanding of who the guy is, I think that goes a long, long way in terms of the camaraderie of your basketball team.
At this juncture of the season, that's one of the biggest components, I think, is getting a group of guys to play together.

Q.テつ The way some of your sophomores have developed throughout the season, like LaQuinton and Shannon and coming off the bench, you've got a style that you really let them play through their mistakes and you don't yank them like some coaches do for one mistake.テつ How did you combine that approach?テつ Do you think that is maybe the reason that they're giving you what they are now?
COACH MATTA:テつ I came with that philosophy because I made a lot of mistakes as a player (laughing).テつ No, I think that‑‑ I know I've always said this:テつ As long as I know in my mind that the young man cares about winning.テつ I've never coached a guy that wanted to miss a shot or make a turnover.
If they don't make the same mistake twice, I'm usually okay with it.テつ I think a lot of basketball is confidence; it's knowing that the coaching staff has trust in you, your teammates have trust in you.
Like I said, I'm okay.テつ If one mistake leads to two, then there is an issue.テつ But as long as we can correct the mistake or, hey, I turn it over down here, but I come down and still play defense, I'm okay with that.テつ It's when a guy hangs on to something that's usually when we'll make a substitution.

Q.テつ The evolution of your small lineup since you started using it against Northwestern.テつ Last night and even the past couple games, it's looked like you've been able to dictate more to the opponent with it rather than let the opponent dictate to you.テつ And I know that was probably a big concern of yours last night how Arizona's size might affect it.テつ How have you been able to go with a smaller lineup and dictate, especially against a larger opponent?
COACH MATTA:テつ It's funny because that group has really gained a lot of confidence in terms of what they can do.テつ I go back to the Wisconsin game, the championship game in the Big Ten tournament, and Wisconsin had made a substitution and went back big, and we said, hey, let's give it a couple possessions and see what happens.
That's when Aaron was guarding Berggren in the post, and they threw the ball and we scored it in transition the other way.テつ It was like, hey, this could be problematic on both ends.テつ The one thing I'll say about that lineup, it's long and it's very, very athletic.テつ There is a lot of quickness out there defensively to cover a lot of ground.

Q.テつ Wichita State has a bunch of guys that a lot of people have never heard of, Malcolm Armstead, Cleanthony Early, couple other guys like that.テつ Does that give them a certain chip on their shoulder or swagger?テつ Is there something about the attitude they play with because of that?
COACH MATTA:テつ I'm sure there is, because in today's society with all of the notoriety that players get ‑‑ I've always said this:テつ I've had the privilege of coaching two national players of the year, and neither one of them were top 75 high school players out of high school.
So what does that really mean in the grand scheme of things?テつ As I go out recruiting every year, I can't tell the difference between the 20th player and the 120th player in the country.テつ You know what I'm saying?
So the parity across the board and just the experience that players get.テつ They've obviously chosen a great system to play in.テつ Coach Marshall has done a tremendous job in terms of putting those guys in position to be successful.テつ I think so much of it is probably more of what it is than what you were tabbed as coming out of high school.テつ That doesn't mean a whole lot to me in terms of your ranking of the recruiting class and all that stuff.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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