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March 21, 2014

Cuonzo Martin

Jordan McRae

Josh Richardson

Jarnell Stokes


Tennessee – 86
UMass – 67

MODERATOR:  We are now ready to begin the Tennessee portion of the press conference.
Coach Martin, could you please open with a statement?
COACH MARTIN:  Just happy with the way our guys performed today.  Thought we got out the gates and played well on both events end of the floor.  Played together.  Defended well.  We set our tone early, a physical tone with our fouling.  Tried to keep those guys out of the lane.
The first three or four minutes, we weren't as good as far as keeping the guys out of the lane but I think we did a better job and it carried us throughout the game.
They made a run in the second half, which we new they would.  We maintained a level of composure and found a way to get the win.
MODERATOR:  We'll open the floor for questions from the student‑athletes.

Q.  Jordan, let me start with you.  This time about a year ago, you guys were playing Mercer during a game probably nobody really wanted to play in the NIT.  A little different situation now, isn't it?
JORDAN McRAE:  Yeah.  We've got to be ready to go.  Mercer is a team that likes to run all their sets and things like that so we have to be ready to sit down on defense.

Q.  Jarnell, you guys have been through a lot the last few days.  How have you maintained your being ready to play, avoiding fatigue?  What's your physical state as a team?
JARNELL STOKES:  Well, we're still young.  I don't feel like my legs are tired.  Sort of reminds me of the AAU days.  We're just having fun out there.  We're defending at a high level and we're also scoring.  So idea rather play games than practice.  That's my mindset.

Q.  For any of the players, the Massachusetts players talked about having jitters early and maybe it had to do with them not playing.  Did it help to play the other day, that there wouldn't be any jitters now?
JOSH RICHARDSON:  I think playing against a good team like Iowa especially, before we get to the round of 64, is great for us.  I think it also gave us a chance to get our legs under us, get used to playing with the new balls on the new courts.  I think it definitely worked to our advantage.

Q.  Jarnell, your previous career high, I believe, was against UMass.  New one today.  Just what do you think about that and what was working for you today?
JARNELL STOKES:  Well, coming into this game, my mindset wasn't to score the ball.  I was somewhat worried about their point guard, Chaz Williams, getting into the lane.  I'm just looking at the stat sheet.  We held him under his career high, under his career averages the entire game.  So I wanted to play very good ball screen defense, but it made this a fast break game so I got a lot of points just off of fast breaks and getting to the foul line.

Q.  Josh, what do you remember about that Mercer game last year?  Did it surprise you to see them beat Duke?
JOSH RICHARDSON:  No.  A team so disciplined as Mercer and experienced didn't surprise me very much.  I mean, I remember last year, they definitely executed their plays against us very well and we didn't match their intensity.  We weren't very disciplined in the game and they came in our house and whooped us, so we can't let that happen again this year.

Q.  Jarnell, before you left Knoxville, you brought up the point that last year, when they brought out those NIT balls for your practice after you didn't make the bracket, everybody was not in a really good mood.  What's it mean to you to play Mercer again for very different stakes?
JARNELL STOKES:  Well, Mercer can be a very scary team if you don't play defense well.  If you're a bad defensive team, Mercer will pick you apart.
Tomorrow will be big for us.  It will be a big test.  That's how disciplined we are on the defensive end.  Yes, it was kind of‑‑ it was bad during those NIT practices.  I think that gave us a lot of motivation right now that we're in the tournament.
MODERATOR:  Any other questions for the student‑athletes?  Gentlemen, you're excused.  Congratulations and thank you very much.
At this time, we'll open the floor up for questions with Coach Martin.

Q.  Coach, do you think playing the other night helped your team get those jitters out?  All the guys talked after that Iowa win that they were nervous and never played in the NCAA tournament before.  Do you think that helped today?  They looked poised and calm from the start?
COACH MARTIN:  I think it really helped us.  Just getting on the floor of the game, get your feet wet, so to speak, to play basketball.  Because the first time outside of a lot of different cities where it's a different court, you don't know how many fans you'll have at the game, everybody's fans there.  Just not familiar with the arena, not a lot of shootaround time.
Most ball players are a creature of habit.  They want to shoot around at the same time.  They want to do things at the same time every day.  It wasn't the same for these guys.  I thought in the Iowa game the first ten minutes we were slow, not quick to react to situations.  Then we settled down late in the first half, and in the second half started to play basketball.  I do think it helped us, getting a game under our belts.

Q.  Coach, can you just talk about the defensive job that your guys did on Chaz Williams in particular?  It looks like you maybe showed them a little bit of zone and put different guys on him.  What all went into holding him down today?
Coach Martin:  He's so fast.  I think that's been one of the biggest improvements in Jarnell's game with his ball screen defense.  With a guy fast like that, Crafty with a basketball, but can score it.  You have to stay in a stance and make him shoot.
He mate one tough move over Jeronne.  A jumper.  He's a good ballplayer.  We want to corral him and oppose him making pass.  () They had to make long threes and we would challenge the three‑point shot.  He's not easy to defend because he's so fast.  I thought we WROEK down a little bit in the middle of the second half.  He got the ball, got his head up and made plays.

Q.  Coach, Darius Thompson gave you a lot of good minutes today.  For whatever reason, Antonio didn't have it going.  With the pressure that, particularly with the pressure UMass was putting on you, you just talk about Darius and how he helped you today?
Coach Martin:  I thought he did a good job.  He just didn't make shots.  He did a good job handling the team.  Darius did a good job with the 1‑3‑1.  He's more suited for that.  He does a great job being crafty, getting steals, shooting length.  Then again, he does a great job on probing the defense, making good decisions with the basketball.  I thought it was a good game for him, especially with a team that speeds you up and smaller guys defending.  I thought he grew up a little bit.

Q.  Your guys, I think, have won seven out of eight now and two pretty good defensive performances.  What do you sense about your guys as confidence, where they're at right now?
COACH MARTIN:  I think the confidence is good.  Also, it's a time of year you win, you move forward.  You lose, you go home.  So it is what it is at this point.  But they understand and I guess they realize when you defend at the level we're capable of defending at, these are the results behind it.
They really bought into it and embraced the fact we can defend the way we defend.  You can still score the ball.  Scoring is a lot better when you can defend.  Playing with confidence, everybody plays their role and you want to win as a family.

Q.  Cuonzo, before the game, what went through your mind when you found out Mercer beat Duke and if you won today, that would mean you would not be playing Duke at a home game for them?  What do you think about it now?
COACH MARTIN:  Again, for us, it's winning the ball game.  That's the hardest thing for our guys.  I was concerned as a coach.  But the good thing about it, we played Mercer last year.  They played in the NIT game and played well.  Our guys are familiar with them.  It wasn't a case of we'd rather play Duke.  It wasn't like that.  We don't take anybody for granted.  Two talented teams, two evenly matched teams.  Mercer won the ball game.  For our guys, it's playing against a very talented Mercer team.  For me as a coach, I've been around too long to understand or to take for granted a team's win.  But I just want to make sure my guys understood that we have to play a ball game right now.
We didn't come into this tournament saying okay, if we beat UMass, we can play Duke.  Not at all.  Our guys understand that it's one game at a time.  Anything happens this time of year.

Q.  Coach, you guys were really able to get out and do some damage in transition and actually beat them sort of at their own game.  Did you see coming in that you'd have opportunities there and ask your guys to look for them?
COACH MARTIN:  The key is we wanted to get it off the glass and attack quickly.  We wanted to press, get it across and attack the rim.  Probably one of the areas that we've had the most trouble offensively is our transition offense.
We had a lot of opportunities, don't capitalize on them or we turn the ball over in situations.  So in the past couple weeks, we've spent a lot of time with the transition offense to be able to capitalize on those areas.  We did it today.  But we've got to be opportunistic when you have opportunities to score.  You can't turn it over and force up bad shots.
MODERATOR:  Any other questions?  Coach, thank you very much and congratulations. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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