THE MODERATOR: At Coach Matta’s request, we’ll go straight to questions for the student athletes.
Q. Evan, could you talk about the eight minute stretch? You guys made 12 straight baskets and it seemed like everybody was hitting. That seemed to be the key to the game. You went from four points to about 20 something points.
EVAN TURNER: I think as a unit we got hot, we made our run, and once we got a couple points ahead, we didn’t want to let them back, just kept trying to hit shots and trying to get defensive stops.
Q. After two tight games, how does it feel to come off a second half like that and really take care of a team going into the NCAA Tournament now?
DAVID LIGHTY: I think it was real good for us. Like coach said, when our minds are right, our game is right, and I think we came out with the right mentality to go out and get the job done. You know, they kept fighting, but we withheld and kept fighting, as well, then things started falling for us when we picked up the defense.
Q. David or Evan or William, could you expand on what you just said about picking up your defense and how that affected the second half? I think you out-scored them by I’m not sure what it was, but it was a whole lot in the second half.
WILLIAM BUFORD: I think we feed off our defense a lot. When we play hard on defense, our offense always falls for us, so I think that’s what happened.
Q. You guys played three games in three days, and now you draw Friday Sunday in the tournament. Does that extra day of rest, will that be something that is welcome?
EVAN TURNER: Yeah, most definitely. You know, we played a hard 130 minutes this weekend, and we definitely would like a couple days off a little bit. But when it it’s time to go, it’s time to go. We’ll get back into it and get clicking on all cylinders. A day off will be nice.
Q. David, back to that run again in the second half, Evan hit the three pointer, but you were like a man possessed. Lay up, lay up, lay up, three pointer, three pointer. Talk about maybe being a little unconscious there for about eight minutes.
DAVID LIGHTY: Kind of, pretty much. All year coach would say get the ball from the rebound and push it. I think we struggled with our transition, so that’s all I really tried to do, and then they had Sampson checking me, so it was kind of a mismatch. I just tried to get to the basket as much as possible.
Q. Evan, could you comment on the bracket that you guys drew in the NCAA? It looks if you get past the first round game I should say, it looks pretty loaded with a lot of high level teams.
EVAN TURNER: You know, it’s a good draw. We’re close to home in Milwaukee. We’ve just got to go out there and take care of business. Try and handle what we can control. We can’t really worry about the games afterwards. We have to worry about the first game, which is UC Santa Barbara. They’re there for a reason, and then take it step by step.
Q. Maybe for Evan or William, since it’s about David. Sports Illustrated a week or a couple weeks ago named David the captain of the all glue team and that, and I wondered, when you see him, it holds everything together, when Evan or William, when you see him take off the way he did during that stretch, how good does that make your team? Is that the big step you take at that point?
WILLIAM BUFORD: Yeah, you know, he’s been here before. I’ve never been here before, so I just feed off of David. What he tells me to do, I do. He’s a good team player and he’s a good leader.
EVAN TURNER: Yeah, definitely. Seeing him go through a good stretch, really lead us, is a great thing. He holds all the players on the team. We have a lot of respect and a lot of trust for him. When he’s going, he’s going, and it’s a better benefit for the team when he’s leading and attack.
Q. Evan, for you, as hard as it is to believe, you seem to have elevated your game this weekend. Can you talk about that? Were you highly motivated or
EVAN TURNER: You know, I just did when the time called for it, I just tried to step up and make plays. Coach Matta really told me, take over when I could, and stuff like that. Like I said, this is tournament ball; it’s all about play makers. It’s not too much about half court offense or anything. You just try and make plays, and the team who’s in attack mode and the team that’s trying to win is going to win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Matta?
Q. I was just wondering about your reaction when you saw your seed, and also just the look of the bracket at large. Did you think with what you guys accomplished this year, Big Ten, regular season and tournament champions that maybe the road might be a little easier than that half bracket looks?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think when you take 65, it’s going to be tough regardless. You go back a couple years ago, we were a 2 seed and had Georgetown in the second round as a 10 seed. You know, it’s one of those situations where you look at the 8 9 games, if you’re a 1 seed, who do you want to play in those games. You know, us, you’ve got to shift your mind to, okay, we’ve got Santa Barbara. Where do we go from there? I don’t think there’s any easy way, I just hope we’re playing our best basketball right now as we move forward.
Q. As I asked the players, are you happy that you got a Friday Sunday for either an extra day of rest or preparation for going into the tournament or would you rather kind of strike while the iron is hot?
COACH MATTA: No, we’ll take the rest, because I think one thing that probably nobody knows, our guys have got finals tomorrow morning, and we’re in finals this week. To have the extra day to let them knock that out will be huge for us, it really will.
The one thing that I want to do is starting Wednesday and Thursday, we’re going to practice these guys so hard like a game, because it seems like on the third day we finally show up to play.
But no, I think the rest will be good. You know how it is; from this stage on, just the excitement, the atmosphere of college basketball elevates, and sitting in there Thursday watching games and watching upsets and great wins and all that stuff, your guys are very tuned into what’s going on.
Q. Kind of what I asked Evan, it’s hard to believe that he could have been playing better this weekend than he had been playing, but what do you he hit the big shot the first day; yesterday it was a pretty incredible playing, and he did the same thing today. I know you’ve been talking about him all year, but what do you say at this point?
COACH MATTA: Well, it’s hard, because I think that as you watch him throughout the course and I thought today, he started the game and was really trying to get a feel for what was going to happen, how the game was going to be called, what Minnesota was going to try to do to him defensively. You know, at what point I literally said, hey, take the game over, and that’s when he hit the three off the pull up. But when you say that to a guy like Evan, he’s so cerebral basketball wise, he can do it with the pass, you can do it with the defensive stop. But his play-making ability is really good. And just with his size, they had smaller guys on him, they tried Johnson on him there for a while, but it was when you look at the body of work over the weekend, I mean, this has to go down as probably I know I’ve been in this league for six years. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Q. Minnesota gets back into it, 42 40, and then your guys go on that big run. Can you talk about what you saw from your guys, and also the number of guys that were able to score for you there?
COACH MATTA: Yeah. Well, the thing that I felt in the game from the jump street was both teams were pretty exhausted. They had played three games, and this was their fourth game in four days. This was two hard fought battles for us. And at halftime, we I never even touched the board. It was more about mind and heart and knowing that we had 20 minutes of basketball to play, and we got off to a great start because we made some shots, and we had a couple defensive miscues there, and they got back in it. And then all of a sudden we got it back up to 11, Coach Smith took the time out, and I said, fellows, we were just here a second ago; where are we going from here? They did a lot of talking in the time out, and we were able to keep it going.
Q. One of the questions going into this game was how the match draw up was going to be at Dave’s position, whether they were going to try to go big and post him up or whether they were going to have to deal with his quickness. He mentioned when he helped break open the game that he had the mismatch with Sampson in there. From your what did that chess game between you and Tubby come down to as far as who was going to get the upper hand?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think that the thing that helped us is when they went with the bigs and we were prepared for it. Dave knew exactly what he had to do, was using our length on the perimeter to pressure and buy Dave time.
Truth be told, I go back to the Michigan game. I think the thing that helped us most in the Michigan game was when they played Sims and Gibson together and that allowed Dave to guard Sims in the post. I love Dave Lighty guarding a post player. He’s a lot more active and covered more ground with the help. I looked up one time, he had Sampson who was at the top and Iverson was posting low and Dave Lighty was touching Iverson low, and he threw at Sampson and he was there. That was fine with it; we didn’t mind that.
Q. You might have answered this already this week, but what are your thoughts about the possibility of expanding this tournament to 96 teams?
COACH MATTA: I am all for it. I think that it would be a tremendous thing. I think everybody is always afraid to change, and nobody remembers when there is change, and from the standpoint of 16 to 24 to 32, how they built this thing up, and for me, I’ve always said this: I think that everybody loses sight of the college basketball season. And to me, that’s the greatest time of playing going through a Big Ten race, nine home games, nine on the road, but people, they start talking about bubble teams and all this stuff in January, and it’s like, my God, we’ve got so much basketball still to play. So to alleviate some of that and keep the focus on the old fashioned when you look at college basketball this year, attendance was down, and people were all saying, well, let’s get to the tournament. I just think it helps so much more of the overall feeling of college basketball. So I vote yes.
Q. You talked a little bit about David defensively, which has never really been an issue from the start. But offensively, can you talk about how he’s just he’s taken himself to a little different level. Evan gets in foul trouble last night and the next two baskets, boom, boom; same thing earlier in the season. Do you see him in that glue position?
COACH MATTA: Absolutely. I think this with David Lighty. Number one, he’s worn so many different hats in his time at Ohio State and throughout the course of what he’s been asked to do for our team. From his freshman year, it was you’re a lock down defender. The job he did on Jeff Green in the semifinal, Final Four game was incredible, just across the board.
You know, there’s been times where we’ve asked him to score the ball as we did in this tournament, and he did that. I told David before the season started, I said, if you can shoot 40 percent from behind the line this year, we’re going to have a heck of a basketball team, and he did it. And I think we’ve got a heck of a basketball team.
You know, that stretch he had there for about two minutes today, I’ve never seen anything like that before in my life. The one time he got knocked down and it was a four on five to the other end and he comes back and gets a piece of the ball, and his motor just that’s what we used to say when we recruited David; he’s got a motor that just won’t stop, and he’s got a great mind of how to play, and we love the kid to death. What he’s seen in his time, and I’ve said this, everybody forgets, he broke his foot last year. We were 7-0 last year and he didn’t play another game for us. You know, that was torture not having him out there on the floor, but I’m glad, because we get him next year.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck.