|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
March 23, 2007
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
MODERATOR: We'll ask head coach Billy Donovan to start off with a statement on the game then go to questions for the two student athletes, Al Horford and Corey Brewer.
First, a statement from Coach Donovan.
BILLY DONOVAN: I think our team knew coming into this game that it was going to be difficult. And certainly there was a clear indication yesterday by all the games, just how close and the margin for error is so small.
As I said yesterday, our team had great respect for Butler. I thought their kids played really, really hard today. Today they gave everything they had. Our guys gave everything they had. They have a unique style and I think the one thing about their team that maybe really goes unnoticed is they're extremely physical and they're as good as anybody we've played against dislodging the post and banging you off the post and then all of a sudden you try to make a move, they do a great job drawing fouls, offensive fouls. And I thought our big guys kept their patience and they kind of guard you inside the three-point line, they body and they bang you quite a bit.
And they did a terrific job. Our guys got to the free throw line, which is what we tried to do. I thought it was important in the game. And, you know, with their movement and all their three-point shooting, I really felt like our front court with Joakim Noah and Chris Richard, they did a good job moving on the perimeter, taking away the three-point line and slowing Graves down a little bit. But Campbell and Crone, a couple of their guys hurt them from the line.
We did as good of a job as you can to guard them from the three-point line and forced them to drive -- I thought there were key plays at the end of the game. I thought Al had a couple of blocks that were key. I thought Corey getting fouled in the lane and making a couple free throws was effective. I thought Joakim's rebound with whatever it was, 10, 11 seconds, there were some key points in the game.
But I'm proud of our guys and I'm excited that we've got the opportunity to play again on Sunday.
Q. Al, could you take us through the play where you backed them down in the lane, it was a tie game and you tracked down the loose ball inside, what was going through your mind and how you executed that?
AL HORFORD: Initially we tried to get the ball close to the black, but he was able to deflect the ball.
So I just caught it and I was going to kick it back out and Corey was kind of signaling to me, go score, go score. So I just went ahead and I was just trying to play off what they gave me. They didn't bring the double, so I just went ahead and scored.
Q. Can you talk about that perimeter defense and being out there, all the switching you guys had to do, and I know it had to be taxing at times, probably?
COREY BREWER: We just knew we were going to switch. Basically 1 through 5 we switched because they had five really good shooters. And we just tried to stay in front. We just tried to make them drive. We thought we could make them drive, we could use our size and deflect shots.
At the end it worked out really well for us because Al made two huge blocks.
AL HORFORD: Yes, I think our whole team we did a good job on pressuring up on them and making sure we didn't give up easy 3s. And I felt we were just able to do the things we wanted to do in the game defensively.
Q. Corey, what did you see that made you tell Al to go score and not kick it out?
COREY BREWER: I looked and I saw the guy zoning him and he was 6-5. I thought what's the use of kicking out when I know he can go score anytime he wants to. So I was like, go ahead. We needed a big bucket it, and I think it was a tied game at the time. I was like, don't kick it out because it's tough getting it in there because they were playing tough defense and trying to get around. And I was like, just go. He went, and it was a huge bucket.
Q. This is for Al. You were down Sunday against Purdue. You were down again in the first half tonight. Are you getting a feeling now about how hard this repeating stuff really is?
AL HORFORD: Well, teams are going to play a lot different. Obviously we're the defending national champions, and we're aware of that. We just have to be able to come out with a lot of energy and make sure we stay focused on the right things.
We really can't control that kind of stuff. And we just gotta keep grinding the game and getting stops and we were able to do that late in the first half.
Q. Al, if we can go back to that play where you backed him in. There was a lot of contact it seems like as you were going toward the basket. Did you worry at any time that they might call the foul the other way?
AL HORFORD: I mean, there was contact all night long, I felt. They do a really good job of getting under you and pushing you off the block. But I wasn't really, you know, banging against them. I was kind of moving to the side. He was walling me as I was going.
So once I got low enough to make a move, then I just went ahead and scored.
Q. This was another game where free throw shooting was important. If you can touch on the free throws late and what was going through your mind?
COREY BREWER: Basically when you're in the line late in the game you know you gotta make your free throws, because you can lose. Like I always say, we don't want to go home yet.
So I think tonight we did a great job knocking 'em down. You gotta be confident when you step to the line.
AL HORFORD: Yes, I agree with Corey. I feel like our guys really -- we took our time and made our free throws that we know that's a big key to the game. And we just have to take care of those. We can't leave points out on the floor.
Q. Corey, can you talk about the last two games, the last three or four minutes, you guys made all these clutch plays. You made a shot in each game right down the stretch, free throws, blocks. Can you just talk about what goes through your guys' heads then?
COREY BREWER: Basically, when your back's again the wall we know we have to make a play. And we feel like if we can get the ball in the right spot, the guy whoever has it is going to make that play. And I think it comes from playing with each other so much and we have that much confidence in each other. And we just go out and whatever Coach gives us, we just try to execute to the best of our ability.
Q. Last week against Purdue then again tonight you came out in the second half and started making several turnovers and missed shoots, and that used to be your staple coming out strong in the second half. Is that also what you're talking about, the way teams are playing here, or is that something else?
COREY BREWER: I think teams are playing tough, but we were careless with the ball tonight. We can't do that. And we gotta take care of the ball, because stuff like that can get you beat.
And hopefully we can fix it and come out the next game and come out with a lot more energy the second half and play our style of basketball.
Q. Billy, can you talk about your plan perimeter-wise defensively? And I guess I don't know if luxury is the right word of having five guys who can switch like that and you end up with Joe or Al covering Graves or one of their guards?
BILLY DONOVAN: You know, Todd does a great job. They're very, very creative offensively. They do a lot of different things. You know, when you get a chance as a coach to watch film over and over and over on them, you know they're very, very complicated in what they do. A lot of it all looks the same.
So when you're out there I think as a player playing against all that stuff, a lot of this stuff looks the same. It's misdirection, they get you on layups, get you on 3s. And to me they're very good because they can do both.
And I just wanted to -- I felt like the three-point line was the most important thing in the game. And we just talked to our guys about we gotta make them take 2s, and even if they drive our bigs to the basket, that's okay. But if they shoot a 3, let's make sure Graves or some of those guys -- and it's really hard in their pick and roll action just to, if you jump out, try to show with a big and have help. They always have a three-point shooter stepping back.
I thought they did a good job of remaining patient and ran us around a lot. It was definitely taxing on our bigs with the way they had to run around, the amount of ground they had to cover and the way they had to guard. There was a sense of urgency to get out there. And I thought we did a real good job on Graves. He hurt us in the second half with some plays.
But they're just a good, good team because of the three-point line and because of their system.
And, more importantly, I think people are going to talk about their offense, and they're very good offensively, but I think people underestimate how physical they are.
And people say you have a height advantage. There's no height advantage with the way they play, because really what it comes down to is they prevent the ball from coming inside.
What they do, they shorten the gap. If you have a wing player trying to throw the ball inside, they're behind you, smashing you, banging you, pushing you out. What happens is -- I thought Al had good patience backing his way down because they really do a great job getting you off the post. Then what they do, they disrupt you because you're banging against them, they're banging against you, then all of a sudden they fall down. And it puts the ref in a situation where they can call a charge.
So I don't know if they get enough credit for their defense. Offensively they're very good but we just thought the game plan, the mind set was just to try to get out above the three-point line and not give up 3s. And I thought we had a stretch there when they opened the game up in the first half. We gave up like three or four 3s in a row. They did a good job backscreening us and they got some pop back 3s.
And they're a hard guarded team. And the reason they're in the Sweet 16, they're a very good team. If you look at who they played of the major conferences, seven or eight teams, they beat them all. They're good.
Q. Coach, I know you want to talk about this team right now. So we'll just get this out of the way so you don't have to talk about it again. Your name is going to be out there for the Kentucky job. What do you think about that and how do you keep it from being a distraction as you go on here?
BILLY DONOVAN: All I'm going to say, that has nothing to do with me; it has everything to do with Kentucky. I'm not in control of any their decision-making process. The only thing I'm focused on right now is our basketball team and trying to coach them and enjoy every moment with them because it's been such a fun group.
I cannot control different things that are out there. And it's not my place to say anything or do anything, because that is someone else's decision. That's someone else's issue. That's someone else's decision they gotta make. It's got nothing to do with me at all.
So there's always going to be speculation out there about a lot of different things. But I'm not the decision maker in the process.
Q. Billy, while reaching the Elite 8 is a great thing and obviously a lot of teams struggle with close games, how well do you think your guys are playing now? Are you a tick off?
BILLY DONOVAN: I don't know that we're a tick off but I -- I just think it's important for our guys to keep their focus on the right things.
I think last year because we went through the tournament with such a large margin of disparity of scores, everybody thinks that that's supposed to happen again. If it doesn't happen again we're not playing well.
I think the thing you've got to look at is teams have had over a year to prepare for us. A lot of teams have played us. There's preparation. Teams do a good job.
It's like Tennessee gets to the Sweet 16, Vanderbilt gets to the Sweet 16 and they had a heart-breaking game as I was walking in.
But we lose to those two teams to close out the year and, you know, our team is sinking. And I said this before, after we lost to Tennessee and after we lost to Vanderbilt on the road, we lost two in a row. There's not enough credit given to those teams for the way they played.
And I don't know if enough credit has been given to Purdue and/or Butler for the way they've played.
I mean, we're not going to be a thing of beauty. I don't think anything is a thing of beauty. I'm sure Todd felt like maybe us switching and the things we were doing, he maybe felt like this team could have taken advantage of those situations a little better.
I'm sure there's things I looked at at the film and say we could have done a better job. I think the whole thing this time of year is to move forward and figure out where you can get better. I don't think anybody is going to play flawless and perfect basketball, and at times it's going to look ugly. It just is. You make sure you guys compete and play hard play together. And Butler guys tried to do that today and I thought our guys tried to do that today.
Q. Taurean Green had a great two games. Today he comes in, maybe no turnovers, 15, 16 points. Can you talk about how important he was to you all tonight?
BILLY DONOVAN: These guys, there's going to be good games and there's going to be bad games. And what we try to rely on is our team. If we could have all of our team every single game play the very, very best of their ability, you know, I like whoever we play against.
But there's going to be games where teams do a good job. I'm sure that A.J. Graves today felt like maybe he was a little bit off. But, you know what, maybe we had a little something to do with that too.
Maybe Taurean's game against Jackson State and Purdue maybe he was a little bit off. But maybe Purdue had something to do with it. I think it's a combination. Teams are not going to let Taurean come off pick and rolls and shoot threes. Teams will take things away from you. I think what we have to do as a team is recognize what's open and take advantage of it. I thought today Taurean made some big shots, gave us a little bit of a cushion coming up in the half, up six. And Butler started really well in the second half. I think any time your point guard plays well it's going to help any team.
Q. Can you talk about the clutchness of this team the last four minutes of the last two games? I mean, hit every big shot. Made every big free throw. Made every big stop they've had to make.
BILLY DONOVAN: I think a lot of times plays can go either way. We've been fortunate that maybe some plays have gone our way a little bit. I think our guys try to play the right way. I think they try to execute. They work very hard on those things.
You know, free throw shooting is important. Corey's made some big plays. I get a little bit leery because there was -- I don't like when people label people as this is a clutch player and this is a clutch performer, he always makes big shots and he always makes big plays, because, you know what, you don't always do that.
We happen to have two games in a row that we made some really good plays down the stretch and we need to understand why we did.
And I don't know if labeling either way would be fair, because as quickly as maybe you think you're a clutch player or clutch performer, as quickly as it can fall away from you.
But we happened to have made some plays.
Q. Billy, can you talk about your team's defense? A lot of people that characterize different teams in the tournament as defensive teams. Your team has risen up the last two years in the tournament and played great defense, can you talk about that commitment?
BILLY DONOVAN: I think our guys understand that there's going to be some games and some nights where maybe you don't shoot the ball particularly well in this tournament. And you've got to have something to constantly fall back on to give yourself a chance to win.
And I can honestly say I think this is one of the best teams, Butler, that we've played this year, SEC, out of the SEC.
And to defend them was going to really be a hard challenge. And we had some breakdowns and there were some things they did really well and took advantage of us. But I thought our guys tried hard.
I think as long as our guys understand the only thing you've really got control over is really the focus you have defensively and the way you try to rebound the ball.
And we lost a little bit there. I thought in about five or six minutes to go in the game I thought the Butler kids did a terrific job coming up with loose balls, knocking balls out of our hands, giving us some second shots. We had a large rebounding margin into them going into the half. If you look at the final rebounding margin, we only outrebounded them by two.
So you have to do that because a guy like Lee Humphrey didn't have a great offensive night tonight. Corey goes 3 for 10. But again I think you have to give credit to your opponent and how well they played.
But we gotta have that good focus defensively to put ourselves in the position to at least offset a bad shooting night.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts