HEAD COACH THAD MATTA
Q. Jamar, how satisfying is it to win in this building?
JAMAR BUTLER: Very satisfying, just of all, to have an opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden, blessed for that. But to get a win in here and move on to the championship game, I’m very happy.
Q. Jamar, you guys seemed to crank it up defensively tonight. Was that a point of emphasis for you guys coming into this game?
JAMAR BUTLER: That’s our thing every game, come out and play great defense. Great defense leads to the easy offense. I think we did pretty good defensively tonight, but we still have errors we can correct.
Q. Could you talk about Othello’s defense specifically?
JAMAR BUTLER: Othello played great. You know how long and athletic he is. He’s a shot blocker and went and changed a lot of shots for us tonight.
Q. What was the key after the first ten minutes of the game; it seemed that you made it a lot tougher for them inside your zone, you got a lot scrappier with your hands and things like that?
JAMAR BUTLER: Just played hard. As the game went on we got tougher and played harder, and we’re just happy to win.
Q. Both you guys were able to move the ball pretty well against their zone and it looked like you got some open shots from that movement. What was the idea there?
KOSTA KOUFOS: Every day in practice we practiced our offense. We tried to move the ball and shift it and we’ve got great players that can shoot the ball, such as Jamar. Fortunately we have great teammates that could get us open and our shots were hitting today.
Q. You and Othello seemed to have some action tonight; is that something you worked on?
KOSTA KOUFOS: Yes, Othello has been a great teammate to me. He tells me things I need to work on, as well as Matt Terwilliger. We worked on easy buckets and that’s what we accomplished today.
Q. What do you think of coming in here and playing on this big stage?
KOSTA KOUFOS: Well, God has blessed me to play at Ohio State first. I’m fortunate enough to play in Madison Square Garden. Not many people have an opportunity to play on this court. I just wanted to come here and get the victory and we did.
Q. They seemed a little flummoxed by your 2 3. What was the deal with that defense?
JAMAR BUTLER: We were trying to be really scrappy and keep things packed in and make them take tough shots. We made them take tough shots and made it hard for them to score.
Q. What do you think the key was inside, shutting them off inside after the first ten minutes of the game? They were getting a lot of penetration on you early in the game.
KOSTA KOUFOS: We practiced that. We had to make sure our man didn’t get past by us. They did a great job penetrating, and we had to stay inside our the people on offense.
Q. Jamar, what’s been the toughest transition back to the point guard so far?
JAMAR BUTLER: You know, it was really not a tough transition. I played some point last year, too, and that’s really my natural position since I picked up the ball. It hasn’t been tough at all, just kind of fall into it and it’s there.
Q. Jamar, another thing that we saw tonight we hadn’t seen yet was Diebler taking the ball to the basket. He played against a zone tonight and he was doing a pretty good job of gapping it. Just what’s happened with I guess what have you worked on with him going into this game to face this defense?
JAMAR BUTLER: Really just worked as a team in practice. Syracuse played a tough two three zone and we had to get in them gaps and get in the paint to create things because if you don’t get in the paint you’re not going to create opportunities. I think Jon Diebler did a good job there tonight.
THAD MATTA: I’m very proud of our guys tonight and the effort. I thought it was a great team win for us. You know, we, probably the same as Syracuse, had a lot of unanswered questions coming into this game tonight, quite honestly, how we were going to respond, how we were going to play. I give our guys a lot of credit. I thought they stuck with the game plan and did a nice job of stopping Syracuse’s runs when they came after us.
You know, a pretty good job of taking care of the ball and sharing the ball and getting everybody involved. We had a lot of time, as I told them, to prepare for this game, and I thought our guys did a nice job of executing what we wanted them to do.
Q. What would be your explanation of the way your zone seemed to be more effective the last 30 minutes than it was the first 10?
THAD MATTA: You know, there was a couple adjustments we made. One thing I think that helped us was Green, and they started missing. When he banked that 3 in the first half right in front of our bench, I thought, “My gosh, are we in for a long night tonight.”
Q. Is that why you put Othello on the wing there?
THAD MATTA: Yes, quite honestly, because he’s such a great player, a great scorer. We made just a couple of adjustments throughout the course there, and quite honestly they had some pretty good looks against us, and the big area of concern was the rebounding. They got us pretty good on the boards. But I thought we did a nice job of bouncing back and challenging shots and Kosta and Othello did a very nice job on the glass for us.
Q. You seemed to have two or three guys penetrating the zone off the dribble. Was that part of the game plan?
THAD MATTA: For us? Yes, absolutely. I think that as Syracuse did to us early on, they got inside, and we wanted to get in and told our guys we’re going to have to make plays, make extra passes and really keep them off guard, keep them moving.
Q. Have you ever seen Othello play better defensively than he did tonight?
THAD MATTA: I thought he was pretty good, I really did. I think just his activity and he seemed to be a little bit of everywhere, and he and Kosta did a good job of connecting inside there, high lows, that sort of thing. He has to do that for us for us to have a chance.
Q. How important is it this year to have a balanced attack from the starters? You had four starters in double digits tonight. Kosta did great from the field and even Diebler who struggled in the field did great from the foul line. How important is it to have a balance?
THAD MATTA: That is us. If I could describe our system, we’ve had four, sometimes five in a season average double figures. We want to play that team style. This was a great example tonight because I think guys from John, like you said, hitting his free throws, to Kosta finishing around the basket, even stepping out, Matt Terwilliger coming in, that’s our only chance if we get everybody involved. That’s what we sell to our players every day.
Q. They’re known as a man team but they’ve used a lot of zone this year. Although they played mostly zone they did jump to man at times. Considering how young you guys are and a new guy getting reacquainted, how good a job do you think your guys did?
THAD MATTA: It’s funny, I think we did a pretty good job. I think that was one thing, we had seen them play more man to man we don’t get a lot of Big East basketball out there, but you just know that Syracuse is going to play a two three zone and putting the tape in of Fordham, they played 37 straight minutes of man to man.
I think the great thing for us was we thought they were going to play both, and for the six days or seven days we had to prepare, we got better, and I think our zone offense and our man to man offense which was really huge for us because had they shown all zone, that’s probably all we would have practiced again, so it helped us.
Q. Can you say one thing about Texas A & M? Do you know anything about them?
THAD MATTA: I don’t. I’ve seen a little bit of them. I know they’re big. They’re huge. As you’ve been telling me all along with this schedule, I mean, why not?
Q. In preparation for the second game, how different what do you tell the players after basically playing the equivalent of a home crowd tonight and an away game, the difference to play Texas A & M here without that same level of crowd support? What do you do for preparation?
THAD MATTA: Really we don’t change with the preparation. We’re still so young that I’m trying not to scare them by talking, I knew Syracuse would have a big following down here tonight. This team, our focus is just so much on us and our execution, it’s just vitally important that if I’m telling you, I know these guys well. If they think about something other than what we’re trying to do, it’s chaotic. So I’m not even going to talk about crowds or anything like that. I do know that I’m glad that we didn’t play Texas A & M in San Antonio last year, I do know that.
Q. You know, at this time of year all coaches say it’s a process. At this time where roles are being defined, Syracuse is probably the toughest team you’ve played so far. Do you see roles changing?
THAD MATTA: I think that we’re in the process of finding our roles. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot with this team. I think that that’s something that’s going to continue to evolve for us as guys continue to go through the process. I mean, it’ll be a completely different game plan on Friday night, and we’ve just got to have our guys understanding. That’s one of the things we talk about, know your role. And I think we’re getting better at it.
Q. What were you hoping the three two zone would do for you tonight? What did you want it to do for you?
THAD MATTA: Challenge shots. I thought we’d rebound the ball a little bit better because once we got going through the course of the game we had a pretty good feel for where they were going to be, and we didn’t do that that well.
The other thing was trying to contain their penetration a little bit more. You know, we just saw so much on tape, so they just operated inside other people’s defense, and that was a big thing for us.
Q. Can you talk about Kosta’s game; a freshman, he’s so polished, he doesn’t really play like he’s a freshman. How good is he?
THAD MATTA: I think time is going to tell. You know, you spend 15 minutes with him you realize he’s 19 years old, or 18, whatever he is (laughter). I really, really honestly believe this: I think that we do kids such an injustice by he plays a good game and we blow him up and all this stuff. My thing and Kosta has got such a level head, that’s the thing I love about him he’s just going to go out and play basketball. I know people have to have things to talk about and project and all this stuff, but we just keep talking to Kosta about getting better. He did some things tonight that he’s got to get better at. He made a few mistakes. We’re not going to be able to win basketball games if he doesn’t get them corrected.
As good as he was, there was so much room for him to improve, and I think he’d be the first to tell you that.
Q. With that in mind, could you talk about Evan Turner’s offense tonight?
THAD MATTA: I thought Evan came in and did a great job for us. He had a great feel, he got in the paint. His length on defense really helps us. Evan is just growing every day, and it’s really he’s taken to coaching, and if he can give us a little spark, he and John combined there, that helps our team a lot.
Q. You guys had a lot of cross three pointers in the second half. Were you getting good looks or were they just falling?
THAD MATTA: I think a little bit of both. We had some good looks there in transition. We got their defense shifting a little bit. Matt’s in the corner, Jamar hit one in transition, those were pretty clean looks for us.
Q. You guys had a very special team last year, and you lose three first round draft picks and a couple of seniors, arguably five of your first six. These guys played pretty well. Do you think that being a part of that team, even though they may not have logged the minutes, is showing up in games like today?
THAD MATTA: I think it is. I think that when you go into a season and in essence you’ve got four guys that have played college basketball, I think that those guys saw last year, it’s like I told them halfway through, I’ve never coached a team where you’re expected to win every time you step on the floor. And I think that that preparation and having a mix of guys has helped them because in a lot of the same ways when we started the season we were in the exact same boat, one starter back, a slew of new guys, and for the four guys that were in the program, and even Danny and Mark that were in it all last year, those guys have done a great job of bringing the new guys along.
Like I always say, we’re not where we want to be, we just don’t want to be where we were yesterday.