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March 19, 2014

Cuonzo Martin

Jordan McRae

Josh Richardson

Jarnell Stokes


Tennessee – 78
Iowa – 65

THE MODERATOR:  We'll be joined by Coach Martin, student‑athletes Jarnell Stokes, Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson.  We'll start with an opening statement and then questions for the student‑athletes only.
Coach Martin.
COACH MARTIN:  Tremendous effort by both teams.  Proud of the way our guys fought all season, the way they competed as a team.  They've grown as a team.
I'm just so happy for those guys, the way they played, battled.  We've been through a lot, and they've shown it.  And they've done a tremendous job as a unit, bonding, competing, playing together, having fun.  And it's just fun to watch.  I'm so proud of their growth as young men.
But, again, two teams that fought hard.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for the student‑athletes only at this time.

Q.  Jarnell and Jordan, certainly you guys wanted to win a tournament game for yourselves, but I would have to think you've been aware, some of the criticism that Cuonzo has faced this year.  Does it mean anything to get a win for your coach?
JARNELL STOKES:  Yeah, we tried to stay away from all the criticism that this team has been receiving throughout the year.  If that's our motivation, then we're in it for the wrong reason.  We're in it to win for Tennessee, keep things positive, and just looking forward to UMass right now.
JORDAN MCRAE:  Coach Martin does a great job keeping us as a family.  So like Jarnell said, we don't let outside influences affect anything like that we're doing.

Q.  Josh, talk a little bit about guarding Marble and took him out of his rhythm.  Did you feel you could pressure him as you did?
JOSH RICHARDSON:  Devyn Marble is a great player.  Watching film on him, I noticed that he likes to be real comfortable with the ball, and so I tried to just take him out full court, trying to get him uncomfortable and get him out of his rhythm.  He did a good job down the stretch, making his shots and getting points.  I was just trying to keep his points low.

Q.  What was it like after all that fighting going on in the game to finally get the lead there, and what did that do for you guys from an uplifting standpoint?
JORDAN MCRAE:  We were fighting the whole game.  We were just thinking of the lead.  We didn't want to get too comfortable.

Q.  When Cuonzo was hired, he talked so much about the defense and the toughness he wanted his program to play with.  Is tonight the best embodiment of that or the closest you guys have been to what he wants, do you think?
JORDAN MCRAE:  I think we did a tremendous job towards the end of fighting back.  Just like you said, we did a great job on defense.  This is a team that scores 82 points a game, and for us to hold them like we did, it was a great job.

Q.  Jordan, how big was that shot you had at the end of the first half to cap that 7‑0 run?
JORDAN MCRAE:  It was a big shot for us.  Like I said, we've been fighting to get back the whole time.  I think Jeronne and Jarnell, they hit it out.  I don't know which one of them, but just like I said, we've been fighting the whole game.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for Coach Martin.

Q.  Follow‑up what I asked Jordan, looking back, what the team did tonight, played a lot of games, but is this what you envisioned all along from your program?
COACH MARTIN:  Really the last seven games we played defense at a high level.  And I think in my previous two years you look at the numbers, the numbers were good.  I think we might have been second in the league each year as far as the defensive numbers, but it wasn't quite where I wanted it to be.
I think this year we were up and down with it.  And the guys just made a commitment down the stretch of things we need to do to be successful as a team.  We didn't change anything as a team.  Their approach changed a little bit.  They understand the importance, if you want to be successful, these are the things you have to do.
I think also playing against Florida at our place, the way they defend, guys, we can do these things.  And the guys understood, embraced it, accepted it.
But I think like I said the last seven games we've been really good, the last five we're holding our opponents to 47 points a game.  And tonight you're talking about a team that scores at a high level to hold them to 65 points in an overtime game.  Just a tremendous effort.

Q.  I know you were worried about Iowa's transition offense, and right away at the start get two to three baskets.  Did you change anything or did the kids finally believe that's how Iowa tries to score?
COACH MARTIN:  I think what happens in talking to the guys Josh, Jarnell, just the nerves of the game, NCAA Tournament game, one and done, so to speak.  Once those guys settled down at the end of the first and into the second half, they start to play basketball.
But they're a very talented team.  They get it out so quick and they get it up the court, not just the guards but the bigs do a great job of running.  So we need five guys to corral that ball.
This time you can't go over it as much because you want fresh legs.  Just talking about it, let's settle down, let's guard the ball.  And in the second half Josh did a tremendous job really pressuring the ball, slowing them down, making Marble use his legs, forcing him to make plays off the bounce.
And I think once we forced those guys to start making individual plays, we feel like we had an advantage.

Q.  You showed a little bit of emotion there in the last few minutes, kind of looked up at the administration, celebrating with the guys.  Not something I think you usually do.  What does this night mean, especially with maybe criticism you faced for the last few months?
COACH MARTIN:  I don't deal with criticism.  That's time and energy wasted.  What was said?  I don't know.  Because I don't have the time and energy.  Where I'm from, the way I was raised, I just can't waste time on it.  I'm consumed with our players to be successful on and off the basketball court.  All the seniors are graduating.  Our guys have done a great job in the classroom.  Winning ball games.
I don't have that kind of time or energy.  I'm consumed with success.

Q.  You have a chance to talk to Coach McCaffery dealing with his son?
COACH MARTIN:  Briefly before the game.  I guess I'm not sure‑‑ something was said in the paper.  He said I just want to thank you for the words you said.  It was just an emotional day for not only him but his players.  Because, again, as players you take on your coach's identity.  Coach going through something, it's a family, tough thing to deal.  And those guys came out, you saw the adrenaline and emotion that they played with in the first half.
I told the guys:  We've got to lock in, tighten the screws because they'll come out with energy and passion.
But, again, first and foremost you're a father, and this is what we do for a living.  So it's got to be very, very tough for him.  Like I said, I said prayers, I prayed for him last night and even before the game.

Q.  Coach, over the course of the season have had tough times when games came down to the wire.  You feel like you broke through a wall, feel like luck was finally on your side?  Or what made the difference than some of the other ones you played?
COACH MARTIN:  I think more than anything just going through it.  In order to get where you are trying to go, you have to go through some things, guys being in those games, in those situations.
But we're a better team than the last eight games that we've played.  Much better team.  The guys stepped up, made plays.  We defend the way we defend because it was one of those deals we felt we can get stops, get a couple of shots to go, because the way we were playing defense, the way we feel about our defense:  We're solid there, guys, let's just get a basket or get a shot to fall, loosen it up and make plays.

Q.  Can you comment on the play of Josh, specifically the points in the first half, also guarding Devyn?  What kind of game did he have?
COACH MARTIN:  Defensively, as I said, the last five or six games, probably the last seven, he turned into an elite defender.  Marble is going to be playing in the NBA no doubt with his size, his athleticism and skill level, handles the ball, 6'7", makes plays.
Josh just accepted the challenge.  Not only that, but he picked him up full court and tried to wear his legs down to take his legs out from under him to force him to make one‑on‑one plays and allow our big guys to give us help, because forcing him to make one‑and‑one plays, now the shooters are not running off screens, catching and shooting.  I thought they did a good job with that the first half.
Josh has really stepped up.  Even on offense, he just had his mind made up I'm going to score and I'm going to make plays.  When you have two of the better offensive rebounders in college basketball, it's hard to help up or to help off those guys.  If our guards, if you can turn the corner and get in the lane, we can make something happen.
THE MODERATOR:  Time for one more question.  Coach Martin, thank you.  Good luck against UMass.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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