1 March 28, 2013 Ohio State 73 Arizona 70 An interview with: THE MODERATOR: Coach, why don't you go ahead and make an opening statement, and then we'll turn it over to questions for the student-athletes. COACH MATTA: I've been saying this for a while, it seems like with the schedule we played, but that was about as high-powered college basketball game as I've been a part of. You look at the plays that the Arizona players made, the players that the Buckeyes made, they're up 11, we get up 10. Just a battle. I think the biggest thing for us was in the second half we defended. We got our defense back. I told our guys at halftime that I thought it was probably the most selfish defensive effort we have played in a long time and we needed to be more active, more aware, helping. Lot of times those guys are, as I said going into the game, an extremely talented team. I thought once we got everybody involved defensively, that was huge for us. Q. When you stepped into that three, did you know it was going down? LaQUINTON ROSS: I like to credit my coaches for the play. It was similar to the play we ran last game. We like to get the big that's pick-and-roll. It so happened they messed up on the switch right there, and I was able to knock down the shot. Q. LaQuinton, can you talk about how you made the mental transition from the foul to hitting that shot and just what it took to have the confidence there? LaQUINTON ROSS: When I got the foul, I was kind of upset, and my players grabbed me and told me calm down and worry about the next play. I was able to go down, able to run the play and execute. Q. You come to Ohio State, obviously, as a top recruit, got a lot of potential, and then you go through a lot of struggles. What's it feel like to be here, to hit the big shot at this moment for the team? LaQUINTON ROSS: It feels great, man. This is what every player grows up looking at on TV and wants to hit that big shot, wants to win the game and hit the big shot in the NCAA Tournament or the NBA. It just feels great to be here right now. Q. Deshaun, Thad talked about the start of the game and the defense not being where you guys wanted it. A lot of us were wondering if you weren't quite able to get rid of all the jet lag before the game started, and if you finally got on Pacific time about ten minutes in? DESHAUN THOMAS: Yeah, we felt like we started off slow. Guys were being selfish, guys were hugged up on their man, not helping each other out, getting into gaps and tagging. I don't know what it was. It was probably just the heat of the moment. Everybody was just too excited. But we picked it up in the second half. What we do, Ohio State basketball. Coach said do what we do at halftime, and that's what we did. We came out and were more aggressive on the defensive end. Q. I want to ask about a couple of the shots you made before the game winner. Aaron drove the baseline and found you in the corner. It was a key point in the game. You hit the three from the corner. Just what happened on that? What you saw there? It looked like Ohio State doc 1
2 you were pretty wide open. Then with about 1:30 to go, you drove in, and the shot clock was running down and a tough shot into traffic. Just those two plays, what they meant and what you saw in each and what they meant? LaQUINTON ROSS: The first shot with Craft driving the baseline, that's something we work on in practice every day. Any time a player draws the baseline, we always teach the thing down, and that player is going to be open because the defense sags in on him. The second play, I saw the shot clock going down, and my coaches were telling me to go. So I was able to go in and get the lay-up. Q. Do you know whose locker you changed in? LaQUINTON ROSS: I found out from one of the guys that works here it was Kobe Bryant's locker. Before we got here, I called dibs on it anyway. But I didn't know whose it was until he came in and told me. I was excited about that though. Q. I'd like each player's take on this. What is it about the Ohio State team that you guys keep making the big play? DESHAUN THOMAS: Toughness. We don't give up. We show heart. We stand together as a team, and we fight. We fight together, and it's just all toughness with me. LaQUINTON ROSS: I think it's a credit to everybody on this team. Everything that happened to us this year, we use everything that everybody says to us as motivation. People told us and counted us out early in the season. I think we're using that right now in this tournament and proving people wrong. Everybody's out there playing with a chip on their shoulder. Even the coaches are coaching with a chip on their shoulder, so it's great when we're all playing together like that. Q. How tough was it for you to stay patient over the course of the year when you first got here until you started playing a bigger rollover the last month or two? LaQUINTON ROSS: I think it was very important. Coming in my freshman year, I think I was kind of immature as far as my thinking, thinking why am I not playing, why am I not doing this? I think everything paid off, all the hard work is paying off in this tournament. Q. You mentioned that you had the same locker as Kobe Bryant. Did you kind of get a little added motivation knowing that you were sharing the locker with a legend? LaQUINTON ROSS: It felt great, especially when I found out it was his locker because I was in shock because I came into that locker, I knew I called dibs on it early. But to find out I had the locker, it felt great. That's one of my favorite players growing up and somebody I model my game after, so... Q. Did you feel good that you lived up to it since you hit a big shot in the building, and he has hit plenty of big shots? LaQUINTON ROSS: Oh, definitely, man. Playing here at the Staples Center, that's one of my dreams. It was great, man. Q. What is it like to be able to come to Los Angeles and play on the court that Kobe Bryant has played on, Lob City has thrown it up on. What's it like to be here in Los Angeles? LaQUINTON ROSS: I think it's great. Especially the weather. We're loving the weather right now. Back in Columbus, I think it was snowing before we left. So got a little sun. Got to get out and look around a little bit. But now it's time to take care of business. DESHAUN THOMAS: It's fun. Great weather. It's the city of Angels. I love it, and back at home, it's snowing, so I'm just trying to enjoy this time. But we all know what we're here for, and we get one more game. Q. The word was yesterday, LaQuinton, that you challenged Reggie Miller to a three-point contest there during open practice. Did he accept? Certainly he wouldn't accept it now, I wouldn't think? LaQUINTON ROSS: Yeah, I did. Actually, I was talking to one of my fellow teammates and I was like, yeah, I was feel going yesterday. So I was like we should call Reggie out here. So after practice me and Craft went up to him, and Craft told him what I said. I think I'm going to try to make him come out of retirement and shoot a little bit. Q. Sean Miller said a little while ago that they must have switched 400 ball screens during the game, and the one ball screen they Ohio State doc 2
3 didn't switch was at the end of the game. Were you surprised when you found yourself that open for that shot? LaQUINTON ROSS: Yeah, I was definitely surprised coming down the stretch. But that was something that we watched in film and that we saw that we could do. Setting our pick-and-rolls when their players were switching, and we just had to execute. Q. Lenzelle said in the locker room that last year he probably goes and steals that ball from you so that way he can shoot it himself. The fact that your teammates have so much confidence to believe that you're going to knock down a shot like that after what you've gone through here, how much does that mean to you? LaQUINTON ROSS: It's great, man. Especially when you know all platers and coaches have trust in you. I think that's what a player feeds on. Those big moments when they know they can count on you, that is a great moment. THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Matta. Q. You said yesterday that the last time you traveled to a Game 3 time zones away, there is just something that is a little off when you try to play. Did you have that as you were watching your guys the first ten minutes? Did it seem like there was just something that was off, and did you think it might have been the jet lag like we talked about? COACH MATTA: I'll be honest with you, it never crossed my mind. I'm all screwed up on time. I'm where I am now, I guess. But I thought we were playing hard to start the game. We just weren't playing smart; give Arizona credit. They came out and they were banging threes on us. We just weren't guarding the ball the way we needed to guard the ball. We weren't in position the way we needed to be in position. A lot of time when's the team gets rolling like they were, you hug up on your man and say, look, I'm not going to get scored on. He can get scored on, and we can't play that way. That was a lot of what we talked about at halftime of don't be selfish on defense. We can't win if we play selfish on defense. I thought that was one of the big keys to the start of the second half was just our activity. Q. How has LaQuinton just evolved and matured from the time he was recruited until the guy we saw out there tonight hitting that big shot? COACH MATTA: Well, LaQuinton has really grown in a lot of areas. I've always said this about LaQuinton, he knows more information about stuff. I always ask him, not how do you know this, but why do you know this? And I'm talking from hockey. He's looking at the banners, talking about hockey. He's talking about the NFL; it's just amazing. I think the biggest thing that he's done is he's, and I've used this word a lot, he's engaged himself in all of the little things, and that's made him a better basketball player in terms of practice, bringing an attitude to practice. Bringing just an overall mindset that he's in. He's really become prideful in the little things in his game and it's really propelled him to be a better basketball player. I'm proud of him. Q. LaQuinton called himself immature last year. His teammates just told me that he rebelled last year quite often. Was there ever a point where you wondered if he was going to be able to last in your program? COACH MATTA: No, no, because he's such a good kid. He's got a heart of gold character-wise. We recruit great kids, and LaQuinton is definitely a great kid. What happened last year is he didn't join us until mid-december. He missed grade school, junior high, high school, because those first two months of the season are the most important months in terms of fundamentals, that sort of thing. So when he got here, he was a little behind. I told him at one point, look, I can't hold tryouts during the Big Ten. The league is too good. To his credit, he kept working. He got better. Had a great offseason. Like I said, I'm just very, very proud of him. A lot of times there is a defining moment for a young kid, and he's had not only today, but he's had some big baskets. His defense is getting -- Ashley went by him there, forced Deshaun's help. The one kid hit the three in the corner, and I told him, you're either going to defender I'm not putting you back in the basketball game, and to his credit, he did a really good job. Q. Is there a lesson there? We see so many transfers and so many kids in a time Ohio State doc 3
4 where particularly a kid who was rated as the No. 1 eighth grader in the country at some point. It's supposed to be fast track to the NBA. Is there a lesson here with him that maybe if you fight through it, things can work out? You don't always have to run from everything? COACH MATTA: No question about that. I think the guy sitting next to him was a very similar product. The one thing that we talk about, and I think this in recruiting, you're going to be a product of the environment that you choose. One of the things that I'm most proud of is the environment we have in our program. What you're asking is kind of the stick-to-itiveness to see the big picture. It's not as easy as people think it is, and that's what excites me. I'm sitting up here, and I'm listening to them talk. I'm thinking about when Deshaun came to Ohio State, it was a process. There's only a small group of those guys that just, boom, go. It happens so quick for them. To LaQuinton's credit, he stayed the court. Hey, I've told him all along, you're a starter on this basketball team. They don't call your name at the beginning, but you're going to play starter minutes, and he just smiles and does his job. Q. The start of the second half you guys drove the baseline a lot. It seemed like for the rest of the half, none of their big men were at all comfortable no matter where you guys were. Was that by design or the flow of the game? COACH MATTA: It was kind of the flow of the game just in terms of we were getting stops and we were able to get out and push in transition. That was kind of where open area was. I thought guys showed great patience in terms of letting it develop and making great reads. We had it in the first half. We missed like five lay-ups in the first half down there along the baseline, and that was -- we were able to finish there in the second half. Q. You have a short turn around until Saturday. What are you happy with now? What do you feel like you need to improve on in the next day and a half? And do you have a preference on who wins tonight? COACH MATTA: I'm happy to be playing on Saturday, number one, first and foremost. In terms of a preference, I really don't. I'm one of these guys I don't follow. In another hour and a half, we've got both teams broken down. We'll sit down, guys will be watching film tonight of either opponent. I know this going into the game, there is a reason we're playing in the Elite Eight against whoever it is, and it's going to be as we've had so far in this tournament, another hard-fought battle. Q. What are you happy with? COACH MATTA: I tell you what, I'm happy with the guys' perseverance in terms of being down 11 in the first half. I thought they kept their composure. There were a couple times when we could have crumbled, and they stuck with it, cutting it to four. We talked about, hey, we were just here against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament. We were just here against Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament. Let's get back to what we're doing. So with that said, I told the guys before the game, here's the beauty of this game against Arizona. We have to be who we are to win this game. If we're not who we are, we're not going to win the game. And that would probably be, I thought in the second half we were who we were. Q. What do you feel like you need to improve on still? COACH MATTA: We need to check and make sure that our defense is where it is. And I say that catering to whoever we're going to play and taking away what their main things are. I still love how unselfish we're playing offensively right now. One of the biggest things we talked about going into this game was rebounding. We outrebounded Arizona by two, and that was an issue for our guys in terms of we knew we had to rebound the ball. So very, very pleased with how we rebounded the ball today. Q. Deshaun had talked earlier about how he started to foul up three in the final seconds after that Ohio State 25-footer or whatever. Was there any thought there at the end to foul if they would have inbounded it short or anything like that? COACH MATTA: Yeah, we talked about it. The problem -- I had a timeout left. We were looking at the alignment and we felt pretty comfortable that we could make them catch it Ohio State doc 4
5 where we wanted. Lenzelle, he stretched out, got his hand on that ball, just a tremendous effort. Q was on the ball, did a great job. If they would have been dribbling four or five, maybe would have. But I liked the alignment we had. I liked where our guys were. They seemed to have a feel for what we were attempting to do and what we told them to do. FastScripts by ASAP Sports Ohio State doc 5
6 March 28, 2013 Ohio State 73 Arizona 70 An interview with: THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could make an opening statement and then questions for the student-athletes. COACH MILLER: Well, first of all, I would like to congratulate Ohio State. They have an excellent team. It's always difficult to get bounced from the NCAA Tournament. There is such a difference in feeling between advancing and having the finality of it all ending. From my perspective, just in terms of the game, the one thing that I really had my eye on was LaQuinton Ross. I really believe if you look at Ohio State's winning streak, when he enters the game, it changes things in a very positive way for their team. We had a game plan in place to switch, and it's easier said than done. He's out there with some other really skilled and good players. But his 17 points and the 22-5 run after halftime really, in my mind, stand out in the difference of a great game, a really hard-fought game. I couldn't be prouder of our team. This is my ninth team I've coached as a head coach. I leave this season with no regrets. These guys as a group, especially these three, they led their team. Not that we're perfect, but we practiced hard. We tried really hard. This process started a long, long time ago, and for us to win 27 games and lose in the Sweet Sixteen to Ohio State, we leave here with our head held high. Me as the coach, I leave here with my head held high because of these guys right here. They did everything we wanted them to do. Q. Mark, after you had that hot start, I think you had ten points in the first nine minutes, they limited you pretty well for the rest of the first half and well into the second half without hardly any shots. What did they change as far as guarding you? MARK LYONS: Honestly, you know, the other guys on my team got going. It wasn't nothing they really actually. It's just my teammates started going after the first half. Nick and Solomon had big-time shots; and in the second half I force the issue a little bit to get back on a hot start. It didn't work in the beginning. Q. Because of the way that Ohio State's last game ended, also a tie game, shot at the end. Did you guys expect Craft to be taking the shot? How did you guys want to defend things? SOLOMON HILL: Oh, we played the same way that we tried to throughout the game. We wanted to switch any ball screens, and he was a little wider out than we anticipated. He set the screen, and LaQuinton Ross was kind of deep off of the three. It was a great shot by him. But I did anticipate Craft driving to the hole, and he faked the drive and kicked it out for a good shot. He's always making plays at the end of the game for his team. Q. Solomon, what makes Ross such a tough cover? SOLOMON HILL: It's the same thing with Deshaun Thomas. He's a mismatch nightmare. He's playing against our four, our 6'10" forward that's not used to guarding guys on the wing. Deshaun Thomas takes up space on the post and on the outside, and those guys feed off of their defender. I think early on, especially in the second half, LaQuinton got to the free-throw line by driving Arizona doc 1
7 past our 6'10" bigs and our seven-footers and got to the line. When you start knocking down free throws, you get yourself going; and that's why he was in rhythm for the three. When you play a guy like that, two guys like that at the 4 and 5, it's really hard to match up with their size. Q. Do you share Sean's sentiment that you leave the season with no regrets? MARK LYONS: Yeah, the only thing I regret is not getting past the Sweet Sixteen, because I've been here so many times and I just feel like I can't get over that hump. But like he said, I've got no regrets. I played a with a great bunch of guys this whole year who had a lot of faith in me, and I'm just happy they accepted me to come into their program and try to help them win. So no regrets either. Q. After Craft came back in the game, I think there were about 6 minutes left in the first half with two fouls, the rest of the first half into the second half there was a 19-point turnaround in the game. From your vantage point, what was the reason for that? NICK JOHNSON: I mean, just in the second half they went on a run a little bit. We really didn't get or we didn't hit our shots that we were hitting in the first half, and I mean, he just came out creating for his team, and they really got going in transition. Q. Mark, the handshake at the end, it looked like you might have said something to Ross and he smiled. If you don't mind me asking what you guys said? MARK LYONS: Honestly, I knew him from camp this summer. So he's like a friend of mine. At the end of the game I just told him I can't stand you and just laughed at him. He's a good guy. He's a great player, and that's one of my friends. So it was just a little joke that we had. Q. Solomon, I know it's very close to the moment, but can you just sum up what's going through your mind right now as your career comes to an end at Arizona? SOLOMON HILL: I don't know. It really hasn't hit me yet that the season is over and I'm done at the University of Arizona. But I'm just thinking back on the season we had, playing with the group of guys that I'm playing with. You know, starting off in the summer when we got Mark on campus, and we were taking the trips to the Bahamas. It was a close knit group. Just for it to end like this, it's a little weird. But I think we competed well. I think we did better than some people thought we were supposed to. We had some lapses in the year, but we picked it up when we were supposed to. We played a great Ohio State team. I give them all the credit. They knocked down the free throws when they were supposed to. I think Amir Williams was a much needed force for them. He got some offensive rebounds and got them going; and everybody keyed in for them. Deshaun Thomas really got going early on, got me into foul trouble. But I think our team competed. We gave up the run in the second half, but we put ourself in a situation to tie it up. Mark had to lay-up the and one and made the free throw, and we put ourselves in position to possibly try to win the game. They just made more plays than we did. THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Miller. Q. Coming out of the first half, you guys gave up a run at the end that was kind of surprising to see them come back with another run at the start of the second half. What did they do differently in the second half that led to that 10-0 run? COACH MILLER: Yeah, the end of the first half, first of all, we're not that much better than them, maybe vice versa. So there are going to be runs and there are going to be a run by us and a run by them. I felt we played a good first half, a lot of good things. That's why we went into halftime as the leader. We really were on our heels through, I would guess, maybe the first ten minutes of the second half, maybe the first eight minutes. The fact that I called as many timeouts as I did, I felt like our team was reeling. But to our team's credit, if you followed us, we've had a way of doing it. We hung in there, fought back, and at the end of the game it's on the last possession. How you get there in this tournament, it can happen a number of ways. Once in a while one team makes a huge comeback, sometimes it's a single possession game all the way to the end. But the bottom line is we were on defense 70-all, and they did a great job. Like I said, LaQuinton Ross is a big part of Ohio State's Arizona doc 2
8 success. When you start watching games when they insert him in with Deshaun Thomas and him as the front court, it's really difficult. They negated our size. I look at the stat sheet, they outrebounded us 32-30, 11 offensive rebounds to 9. One of the reasons is that we had to play smaller. It's so difficult to deal with them, and big guys in particular, someone like Kaleb, for example, especially as a freshman. It was a difficult game for us to utilize him. When you go smaller, shots around the basket and rebounding starts to go in another direction. That is the thing that Ohio State does. They put you in that predicament. You try to match-up with them, and as you do it, they end up sometimes getting the advantage. The last shot of the game, we switched probably 400 handoffs and ball screens in the game. We didn't switch the last one. That's the other part. Players make big plays. Teams make big plays. The pressure of the moment, the Sweet Sixteen, going to the Elite Eight, two guys go on one. Whether he made the shot or not, I think we all live with it when it's challenged and we do what we're supposed to do. But part of the reason he had such a great look at the end there was two guys went with the ball, when, in reality, we've switched every single handoff and ball screen from the opening tip to that one right there. Q. I was just going to piggyback off his question. When you called all those timeouts to start the second half, what was your message to the team? Were you upset that they were taking quick shots, or what were you telling them? COACH MILLER: No, sometimes in a game like, for example, the first six minutes, one of the reasons we built the lead is we knocked down some perimeter threes. One of the reasons that they made the run on us at the beginning of the second half is we missed similar threes. We had a couple of open looks at the beginning of the second half that didn't go in, and all of a sudden, you miss your first four shots of the second half, it gives you an eerie feeling. But the game changed dramatically for us on defense. We had a hard time guarding dribble drives. We went small; and as we went smaller, they got some pivotal second shots. They're a good team. I mean, they're difficult to deal with, and there is a reason they've now won 11 games in a row. I felt we played well enough to win the game. It would have been interesting to see if it would have gone into overtime. But the last time I coached against Ohio State, very similar. A three that went in at the end, and this time it won the game. The last time it went into overtime. But I'm proud of our guys' effort. We tried hard. Losing in this tournament, when you play all the way to the end, hurts more at the beginning. But I think you leave with a lot of pride knowing that you played your heart out, and we really did that. Q. The question I asked Mark about scoring all those points in the first ten minutes and after that he found it hard to get a look. Anything you saw that they did to limit his ability to get to the basket and get open? COACH MILLER: No, I mean, Mark had 23. That's a lot of points. He may have gotten them in bunches, but you're not going to score 40 on Ohio State or Aaron Craft. To me, one of the reasons that it was tied up at 70-all is he hit 23 of our 70. Q. Your program's obviously very well established. But you also know that this league has been fighting to get back respect again this year. How well do you think the league has acquitted itself through this tournament? COACH MILLER: My complete and 100% focus is on Arizona. We have the greatest fans in the world. We have a tradition that's spectacular. Every day that I think we walk into practice or play a game, it's about representing who we are. Getting to the Sweet Sixteen and winning 27 games, I wish we had a Pac-12 regular season championship. We missed it by one game. And I wish we had a conference tournament championship; we fought hard, lost a great battle. Very similar to this, to UCLA. I wish we were moving to the Elite Eight, but we lost in the Sweet Sixteen. But we won 27 games, and to me, our team did a lot of remarkable things. My focus is on being back here next year and trying to breakthrough. Sometimes you have to knock at that door a few times to break it in, and I like the group that we have coming in. I like some of the Arizona doc 3
9 opportunities that we have to add to the guys that we have. Hopefully we'll be a main stay in this tournament like Arizona has been for 25 years. FastScripts by ASAP Sports Arizona doc 4
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MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. Good morning. Happy new year. Happy New Year's Eve to everybody. We've had a long week here at the. It is almost kickoff time. We have one more event with our two esteemed
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MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. And welcome to the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. This is the Notre Dame arrival press conference. And, at this time, we will
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