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March 13, 2014

Rick Ray

Craig Sword

Fred Thomas


Ole Miss テや 78
Mississippi State テや 66

THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll take an opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student‑athletes.
COACH RAY:テつ Obviously this loss hurts.テつ Any time you lose the last game of the season and you played so well, and obviously losing to your in‑state rival, as well, too, burns a little bit more.
But I thought that for about 60 minutes here in this SEC tournament that we showed how good that we can be and how bright our future is.テつ I think once we get some depth in our program and we get some guys with a little bit more of a maturation process, our freshmen becomes sophomores, sophomores becoming juniors, I think you can see that we got a lot of talent in this program.テつ We just need some stability as far as depth.
I thought a couple things in that game against Ole Miss‑‑ first of all, us shooting 17 percent in the second half...
I knew we would come down to earth a tad bit in the second half with our shooting performance, but I didn't think it would be that precipitous of a drop.
Then the last thing is, we just didn't guard the two best players.テつ Marshall Henderson got loose on us way too much at the three‑point line, and Jarvis Summers is just a really good player.テつ He never gets sped up.テつ He's got a poise to him and just knows how to attack the basket.
But really proud of the way our guys competed.テつ We just kind of ran out of steam there in the second half.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Take questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.テつ Fred, early in the second half you went out of the game.テつ Did you cramp up or did you have a leg problem or something like that earlier?
FRED THOMAS:テつ Yes, sir.テつ Like before we came here, I had sprained my ankle I think on one of the ball‑screen plays.テつ I got kind of tripped up and I slipped on somebody's shoe and twisted it again.テつ I had to get it re‑taped.

Q.テつ Fred, you had one of the most challenging things of the night having to guard Marshall and chase him all around the court.テつ Was fatigue really a factor for you in the second half having to do all that for the entire game?
FRED THOMAS:テつ No, sir, I really don't get tired.テつ It was my ankle.テつ It was really killing me.テつ I hurt it two times, but I was just trying to fight through it.

Q.テつ You've been the leading scorer the last couple years.テつ I guess probably will assume more of a leadership role next year being a third‑year guy.テつ What do you have to do in this offseason to motivate the guys to get them through the summer workouts?
CRAIG SWORD:テつ For myself, I got to cut down on my turnovers.テつ I came out today and didn't have a good passing game today.テつ Also in the offseason I got to work on my ball handling for my team.テつ We got to work on being together and finishing games.

Q.テつ For both you guys, just in the offseason just getting this win last night and then playing well in the first half, what does this do to motivate you guys going into the offseason getting ready for next year when you actually have more depth and more bodies to work with?
CRAIG SWORD:テつ Say it again.

Q.テつ Talk about what you got to do in the offseason to get ready for next year?
CRAIG SWORD:テつ We're going to come out in our individual workouts every day and just get better.テつ Every individual got to get better every day.
FRED THOMAS:テつ Unfortunately we just need to come together.テつ If we come together, y'all see what we can do.テつ But like when we like go apart, spread apart from each other, it's like we go down hill.テつ But if we come together, we can be one of the best teams in the SEC.

Q.テつ I guess to both players, what can you take from the SEC tournament?テつ Even though this is a loss, the first three halves really kind of played your best basketball of the season.
FRED THOMAS:テつ I really see what type of player I can be.テつ When I just bring it every night, I see what type of player I can be.テつ I'm just going to continue to do that and let it carry on to the next season.テつ I just got to stay aggressive, be a better rebounder, better ball handler, work on my shot a little more, and just let it carry over to the offseason.
CRAIG SWORD:テつ I see that if we all play together, ain't nobody can stop us really.テつ We hit a lot of shots.テつ We get the ball to the paint and nobody can stop us.テつ So going into next year, we need to work on that and try to take over the SEC next year.

Q.テつ Fred, what was different these last two games?テつ You just seemed like a different team.テつ Even yourself, what clicked these last two games?
FRED THOMAS:テつ I just really wanted it.テつ I wanted it real bad, and not only for myself, but for my teammates.テつ We talked before the game and I told them that I got their back, they got my back, and I felt like I had to step up for them and that's what I did.
THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll excuse the players back to the locker room.
Take questions for coach.

Q.テつ Obviously this has been a rough season, and you being a young team, but what do you take positive out of this season?
COACH RAY:テつ I think so.テつ I think first and foremost you can see that you come into a situation in the SEC tournament when you're on that losing streak, and our guys having the ability to look past than a get ready for the game ahead.テつ I think a lot of teams would have just folded the tent and not came in here to the SEC tournament and competed.
I think a lot of teams would have just packed it up and, Hey, let's get ready for spring break.テつ That's the one thing that you look at as a positive for this team is, like, what we can do and what we're capable of.
So just our guys' fortitude.テつ I know you don't see this every day in practice and a lot of times everybody wants to see results and just wins and losses, but I did see it every day in our practice.テつ Our team's never quitting.テつ Our team's not not playing hard and that's when you concern yourself with what's going on.
If your team is not playing hard in practice and you don't feel like you're competing in practice, then you know you're not going to do it in the game and you don't have the chance.
So just the fact that our guys had a fortitude to stick with it and continue to compete, I think it bodes well for our future.

Q.テつ You said a couple times this season that you guys aren't a good shooting team, that offense isn't your strength.テつ But in the first three halves, you shot about 58 percent from the field.テつ What was going well for you?
COACH RAY:テつ You think first and foremost, our guys shared the basketball.テつ I think that sometimes we're such a good ball handling team as far as penetrating and kicking and making plays happen, that we get caught up in and kind of get sucked into the paint.テつ I think what our guys did more so than anything, I thought they passed the ball before they attacked.テつ And once we passed the ball before we attacked, I think we got a lot better open looks for our guys.
I think the other thing that we talked about is like Fred Thomas just maturing into the fact that these past four or five ball games, that's who Fred really is and who he can really be.テつ But I think sometimes what happens is guys lose their confidence.テつ You got to keep in mind, these guys are still young basketball players.テつ So we're relying on freshmen and sophomores this past year to really be the cowbell for our guys.テつ What we got to make sure that we do now is we understand that we have jurors and seniors in our program, those guys are going to be really good players and they're really going to be guys that we can rely on in the future.

Q.テつ You said earlier this week that this tournament could be an indication of how the offseason program goes.テつ One win, one loss, played well, like Mike said.テつ For three halves in this tournament.テつ How do you think the offseason is going to go now?
COACH RAY:テつ I think our guys took that to heart and I shared that with them individually and as a team, too.テつ I said, this tournament can be an indication of like what you're going to be next season.テつ I think our guys really did a good job of going out and showing what they can do and what they're capable of.
Now what we have to do, though, is we got to make sure that we move forward from here and take this positive experience that we had in the SEC tournament and turn it into a positive experience the next season.テつ I think we're fully capable of doing that.

Q.テつ The sophomores, Chicken, Fred and Gavin, is this the best they have been playing the entire season?
COACH RAY:テつ I think so.テつ I think that Chicken at some point in time has played well.テつ He had that huge game at LSU.テつ But the consistency that he played with here in this tournament, I think that's the best he's played.
There's no question that Fred Thomas is playing the best basketball that he's played here in these past four to five games.テつ And I tell you what, I give Fred Thomas a ton of credit, because I didn't play him at all one game, and Fred could have dropped his head and just really went south from there.テつ But he took that as motivation and shows what type of person he is.テつ He moved forward from there.
That's I think the one thing that we didn't have is we didn't have the experience and we didn't have the depth.テつ So now you didn't have your best teacher and your best teacher sometimes is just simply the bench.テつ Now you can use that as a situation where, hey, you can sit a guy out and now he motivates from there and moves forward.
You think Gavin Ware, to his credit, he's never had any help inside.テつ Gavin has been a long warrior inside for us and you're asking a freshman and sophomore who has moved into college basketball, just matriculating into college basketball, to be the guy that gets all the rebounds as the only inside presence.テつ So I think Gavin is going to learn from this experience and he's going to have help next year and that's really going to make him a better basketball player.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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