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March 21, 2014

Jamie Dixon

Lamar Patterson

Cameron Wright

Talib Zanna


Q.  Last night Albany's coach, kind of previewing this game on Saturday, says it could be the most physical game of the entire tournament.  Talk about the match‑up with Patric Young.
TALIB ZANNA:  I mean, I'm just going to go out there and just play my game.  I'm not looking up to playing against.  I know he's a physical guy, he plays dirty, so that's how we play, so it's going to be a good battle down there.  And it's going to be fun.

Q.  Talib, you were a little vocal yesterday after the game in your opinions on Colorado's effort yesterday.  In watching Florida either just as a fan on TV or watching film, do you believe this is the type of team that you'll get 40 minutes of effort from them?
TALIB ZANNA:  Yeah, I mean, Florida is a good team.  They're No.1 in the country.  The chemistry is really strong.  I think we're playing good defense right now, and the energy and focus is right there, so it's going to be a good game tomorrow.  It's going to be fun.

Q.  This question is for all you guys.  How do you plan to take on Florida's pressure defense and handle it, and have you guys seen a team that had that kind of defense this season?
LAMAR PATTERSON:  We plan on just sticking to our basics, taking care of the ball, playing solid, and then at the same time attacking them.  We're a hard team to press because we've got so many guys who can handle the ball and make great decisions.  We're just going to use that to our advantage and try to attack and get easy lay‑ups and stuff.
CAMERON WRIGHT:  Yeah, exactly, just playing the way we normally play, not rushing anything, taking what the defense gives us.  There's a lot of open gaps when teams press, so it's just a matter of taking the right pass and finishing the play.
TALIB ZANNA:  Yeah, we're just going to stick to our principles, defensive principles.

Q.  Lamar, could you talk about this season and how you guys started strong, had a little bit of a slide there and have kind of finished strong?  Do you think you're playing your best basketball right now?
LAMAR PATTERSON:  We're playing good basketball right now.  We'll know if we're playing our best basketball on Saturday.  The season we started out strong, like you said, and every team has ups and downs.  That's just how college basketball is.  That's how basketball is in general.  But right now is the perfect time to be making strides toward the best you can possibly be, and I feel like that's what we're doing as a team right now.

Q.  How do you guys maybe embrace a little bit of the underdog role in the sense that you're the 9 seed coming in here, and it's kind of on Florida's home turf?
CAMERON WRIGHT:  Well, yeah, that's obvious.  We've been the underdog pretty much the entire year.  We don't look too much into that.  We don't feed into being an underdog, but we're definitely excited to play against the No.1 team in the country.

Q.  Talib, you mentioned Patric Young played dirty.  Could you expand on that?
TALIB ZANNA:  I don't mean like a dirty player, I just mean he's physical, get after it, and he's a hustle player.

Q.  Lamar and Talib, could you guys both describe what Pittsburgh basketball stands for, what style you play when you're most successful and just describe what it's like when you guys are clicking?
LAMAR PATTERSON:  Our most‑successful basketball is when we're just getting down and dirty and just playing tough, playing tough basketball, playing smart basketball, and just our defense and rebounding.  Coach emphasized that throughout the whole entire year.  When we're at our best, those two categories we're dominating.  We're holding teams under 40 percent shooting and we're out‑rebounding teams.  That's when we're at our best is when those two are good numbers.
TALIB ZANNA:  Just out‑rebound teams and out‑play teams and just try to play our game and just represent our name and represent just the way we play and the way we was coached.

Q.  Cam, when you guys have looked at video, you've had a chance to look at video of Florida, is there any kind of gosh, wow thing, where you go these guys just look incredible, there's no way we can compete with them?
CAMERON WRIGHT:  Next question, please?

Q.  You guys only had three turnovers against Colorado.  What can you do to kind of repeat that performance and take care of the ball?
LAMAR PATTERSON:  Just be patient, don't rush anything.  The game against Colorado we really didn't rush anything.  We took what they gave us.  Just have to repeat the same thing.  Obviously Florida is going to apply more pressure because they pick up most of the game, but that gives us a better opportunity to get out and go.  Once we make that good outlet pass, they're playing catch‑up sort of.  We have to just be strong with the ball and play smart with it, also.
CAMERON WRIGHT:  Well, yeah, just going off what LP said, just sticking to our principles and playing Pittsburgh basketball and defending and rebounding, doing what we do best.
TALIB ZANNA:  It's just going to come down to transition and taking care of the ball and just less turnovers and rebounds.

Q.  Cameron, could you talk about the outside shooting of Michael Frazier from Florida, just what kind of dimension he gives them when he's shooting and how you defend a guy like that?
CAMERON WRIGHT:  Well, yeah, he's a really good player.  They have shooters on the perimeter with him, Scottie Wilbekin and a couple other guys off the bench.  But those guys you just want to try to stay attached and definitely throw screens, try not to get screened.  But we're pretty familiar with our defensive principles, so I'm sure we'll be fine.

Q.  Cameron, how have you handled the pressure throughout the course of the season?
CAMERON WRIGHT:  I mean, we've played against press defense before, so every team doesn't press, but Florida happens to be a team that does press.  I'm sure breaking down film tonight and later on today we'll be prepared for Saturday.

Q.  Jamie, Albany went into the game trying to take Michael Frazier out of it.  What kind of attention will you guys give him and what kind of player do you think he is?
JAMIE DIXON:  Well, he's a big part of their offense, obviously, because of his shooting ability.  He's their best shooter, best perimeter threat and shoots a high percentage from three.  We know that, and we're well aware of that.  You can't stop everything, but you don't want to allow him to get going, and he can make a lot of‑‑ if he makes shots, makes a couple of them it can break a game open.  We'll be aware of him.  We know every team has a shooter, at least one, and he's their guy and he's very good at it.  We've got to be aware.  We'll have different guys guarding him at different times.  I think transition often times is a place where guys get going and get shots, and that's where we can't allow him to get.  I think we can guard him well in the half court but penetration, kick outs, we've got to keep those things under control and I think that will help in limiting his looks.

Q.  Three years ago you were a No.1 seed in the region and you lost in the Round of 32.  Is there any inherent pressure that comes with being a 1 seed, and how do you relish maybe the role of being an underdog this time?
JAMIE DIXON:  Well, I mean, as far as us now, we're in an interesting position.  I think we feel like we're playing really good basketball.  We think we're playing our best.  We played well in the ACC Tournament.  We didn't win it, but we thought we were playing better and we played good the other day.  I think all that matters is not so much the seed but how you feel like you're playing and how you are playing.  With that we feel good about ourselves at this point.
As far as them, they've been high seeds all‑‑ the four seniors have been high seeds all their careers.  They're used to being in these situations, and I think they're about as well prepared as anybody for that situation.

Q.  Could you just speak about your perception of seeds, the competition in this tournament and the public perception of seeds in this tournament, like a 1‑9 game, what it really means and what it means to you guys when you get to this point in the tournament?  Is there a fallacy in thinking, oh, the No.1 seed is heavily favored and maybe that's not so in this tournament?
JAMIE DIXON:  I think it's different with every situation.  I think teams get labeled a seed.  As we know you can move up and down and teams are playing better, other teams are playing not as well.  You're seeded based on what you did often times in November and December, and teams can change as we all know.  Obviously we changed a little bit.  We lost a player, but I think we've gotten better.  It's taken us some time to improve and figure out our rotation and improve our freshmen.  The seed has got to be done, but at the same time I don't think anybody thinks it's a perfect system, a perfect number, and obviously we've seen upsets, if you can call them that, every day, and we'll see some today.  We know there's some seeds that are pretty obvious, Florida being one because of the way they've played and how their whole season went.
You know, at the end of the day we've still got to play the games, and that's fortunate for us since we're the seed that's the lower seed.  Obviously we're the 9, not the 1.

Q.  Can you just talk about this season in terms of‑‑ you got off to a good start and you kind of had that lull in the middle.  People were even saying we don't know if they're in the tournament, and then to go and play well here down the stretch?
JAMIE DIXON:  Yeah, I mean, we lost to good teams.  If you look at the teams we lost to, they were very good teams in close games.  We won, we were 7‑2 on the road in conference play, best record in conference.  We lost some home games that we usually don't lose to good teams in close games, lost obviously a couple buzzer beaters.  We didn't panic, and I think people that really knew us and watched us play, obviously people talk, and as we get closer to it, I think that as people want to promote games and talk about games, the bubble gets bigger and bigger.  You're either a 1 seed or you're on the bubble pretty much is how it works.  But that's all about promotion and talking, and that's what you've got to do.
But we feel very good about our team and where we're at.  Yes, we wish we won a couple of those close games, but we did some good things, going 7‑2 on the road in the ACC in our first year in that conference, so I think that spoke volumes about what we were and what we could do once we got into neutral court games in the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

Q.  Jamie, you guys have obviously faced some presses before the season.  Is there anyone that looks familiar that you've faced this year that you can equate to Florida?
JAMIE DIXON:  Well, I mean, we haven't faced a lot of‑‑ this year we've been pretty good against it.  We're a low‑turnover team, good‑passing team.  I think teams will recognize that.  We have the North Carolina game where we were up big and they pressed at the end.  I don't know if it was so much missing free throws, but I feel like this is somewhat similar to some we may have seen earlier.  Obviously in the past we played against Louisville, their press in the Big East over the years, and a number of other teams that press.  Syracuse presses at times, Seton Hall presses.  I don't know if we saw a lot of it in the ACC except when we had leads, but this is something that we prepared for today, and we've prepared for all year long, and maybe haven't seen it as much in game situations.  But I feel like we're well prepared for it.

Q.  You mentioned yesterday there were a couple of things that you put in defensively specifically for your opponent in Colorado.  Do you see yourself, whether it's tomorrow or at any point in the tournament, adjusting dramatically, or is your defense basically your foundation, the way you play it consistently?
JAMIE DIXON:  Well, I mean, there's adjustments, and you go with your strengths.  We'd like to be a man‑to‑man team, and foul trouble has caused us to play some two‑three in some games and I don't think it was effective for us.  But we adjust according to personnel and what we're going to do, bigs and smalls, and playing to their strengths.  Yeah, there's always adjustments.  Hopefully what you do put out there to start with works the entire 40 minutes, but that's not often the case, so we've got to recognize that, and they're going to do different things, as well.
You know, we feel like we're getting better at what we want to be, and it's been a long time coming, but it's with some young guys, six new guys, four returning guys.  You had to understand that it was going to take some time and get there.  We're getting there.  I don't think we're there right yet, but hopefully it's tomorrow.

Q.  Could you speak about‑‑ if somebody asked you what is Pittsburgh basketball about, what are your core principles, what's the most important thing you want your program to be known for, how would you describe that?
JAMIE DIXON:  I would guess unselfish is a word that sticks to us.  I think toughness is something that we kind of embrace.  I think initially I thought it was kind of something that‑‑ I thought teams used it as a‑‑ they would talk about it before the game to let the officials know that we were tough and physical, but now 15 years later, I think we embrace it and it's part of our culture, part of our city, so I think it's a good thing, and now I think we're proud of it.  But unselfish I think is the other word if you really look at it.  Offensively we've been good year after year.  People talk about our defense, but offensive efficiency, we've been amongst the best in the country year after year, again this year we are.  Our defense is actually lower than our offense.
So I think assists, we're always high in assists, especially high in assist‑to‑turnover ratio.  I think those two words, if I had to sum it up.  I haven't given it too much thought, but maybe we'll put it on some tee shirts here.

Q.  Albany's coach said the key to this game is going to be how well you guys handle their pressure.  Do you agree with him?  Do you think that's an important part of this game, or are there other keys to this game?
JAMIE DIXON:  Well, you know he's a friend of mine, so I guess I have to agree with him.  But yeah, I think so.  There's going to be a lot of big parts.  We've got to out‑rebound them.  We've got to take care of the ball against the press.  We've got to guard their perimeter shooting, Frazier, as we mentioned.  There's a lot of parts to it.  I would point to the rebounding, but we certainly don't want to turn it over.  We feel like after coming off a three‑turnover game, you feel like you're pretty good at taking care of the ball.  But you can't expect to have three turnovers every game, one in a half to start.  We've got to take care of the ball.  We've also got to hurt them on the back end.  If they are going to press, we want to get baskets at the back end of it and Albany did that a little bit early.

Q.  You talked about being a physical team.  How do you feel like you match up with Florida's physicality, in particular guys like Young, Yeguete, Finney‑Smith coming off the bench?
JAMIE DIXON:  Well, they're old, they're experienced, they're physical, they've got big bodies.  It's pretty obvious once you look out there and see them, though Young, I think, was that big when he was a freshman in high school when I was watching him.
But they're just a very physical team.  They're old.  But we're used to playing against those kind of teams.  We'll be ready for it.  We've got to be smart.  We've got to play with our feet and move, and our bodies, and again, not get into foul trouble, but we've been good at that.  We're well aware of how good they are and their size and their seeding and their ranking and all those things, but we've played‑‑ we just played a No.1 seed the other day in Virginia, and we feel that we should have won that game.  So we're going to go in confident and ready to play.

Q.  What have been some of the keys to your team defensively?  You seemed to have managed to hold teams down throughout the course of the season.
JAMIE DIXON:  I think we've had a good‑‑ we started out with good perimeter guards.  I think our freshmen had to get better defensively as every coach goes through, so Josh Newkirk getting better allowed us to play him more minutes, and in recent games we've been allowed to play Lamar, Cameron and James less minutes, and I think that's helped our defense.  I think Jamel and Mike Young have gotten better, and I think Mike Young's post defense has helped us, allowed us to move Talib to other spots, as well, guard different people.  Really our improvement has come from those freshmen.  Derrick has gotten better defensively.  Again, we have four returning players on a team, and at no point did we speak about being young and inexperienced.  But it took them some time to get better defensively, and they're getting there, but we've still got‑‑ hopefully we can have our best performance tomorrow defensively.

Q.  James talked about the benefit that he got out of playing for two summers with Billy Donovan in USA Basketball or whatever.  Do you think that those experiences are good to supplement these guys' development?  Did you see tangible evidence that it helped him?  And will he be your sort of inside spy guy or whatever you want to call it in terms of getting scouting stuff on Donovan and the Gators?
JAMIE DIXON:  Well, I know those games that they played there‑‑ I don't know how much you can gain out of their 72‑point wins and 90 percent of those games that they had overseas, especially in the Americas, and then not so much in the world championship one.
You know, I think they're a great experience.  First and foremost, I don't know how much you get‑‑ everybody talks about how much improvement you make.  I've been on the trips.  I coached the under‑19s, and so I mean, it's a lot of hotels.  It's a lot of sitting around.  First and foremost you get to play for your country.  It's a great honor.  It's a great privilege.  We're always appreciative when one of our guys get to play in it, so I think it's terrific in that regard.
There's a lot of ways you can improve and get better, and being in the gym and playing every day and getting a lot of shots up.  I always concern myself with guys, when they go on those trips, is how much time they are actually playing rather than traveling, flying around and sitting in hotels.  But it is a great experience, and that's, first and foremost, you get to play for your country against other countries, and playing against the best people in the world.
That's a great thing.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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