Q. You know, considering that the first half one thing this team is known for, not being out toughed, and particularly in the first half, you were out toughed, talk about that.
COACH THAD MATTA: Well, that was the gist of what we talked about at halftime, because you know, they came at us to start the first half, and they stuck it right to us and we took the time out there with 17 minutes to go, and calmly talked to them about a couple things that we needed to do better, and all of a sudden we’re up by one at the first media time out.

You know, I give UMASS credit. They were coming at us, which is the way they play. You know, the big thing for us that we talked about at halftime was, number one, we had to be tougher. We had to get back, set our defense. We had 11 turnovers at halftime and we were shooting 48 percent. I felt good with the shots we were getting but a lot of it was just taking care of it.

That last seven minutes, that was some of the fastest basketball I had ever seen. I was having the time of my life as a coach watching that, and our guys did a great job of finishing strong. I think our conditioning and strength training that they do, really 365 days a year, paid off for us.

Q. Kosta, was it a matter of playing more around the basket to get yourself going?
KOSTA KOUFOS: I just had to play patient. The first half I played within myself and you know, we just talked during halftime and we just had to be more patient with the ball.

Q. After getting to the title game in the NCAA, did that experience translate tonight?
JAMAR BUTLER: Just happy to come out on top with a win, my last game of my career at the Garden where it started this year. Proud of my teammates, coaches, and just happy right now.

Q. After Milligan got his third foul early in the second half, I think you started that half 11 2, did you make it a point to maybe attack a little more either passing it in or driving it in?
COACH THAD MATTA: That was the thing, in the first half, we were very timid inside. I would think they were fourth in the country in blocked shots coming in. You know, we talked to these guys about, you know, being stronger and going through them and being more ready down there when you caught the ball.

We wanted to get on the attack mode. When you play a team like this and they take a lot of chances, the one thing we felt was we had to drive, and I thought Jamar had a couple great penetrations and all of the sudden he started finding these guys and they were finishing down around the basket and it really opened things up for us.

Q. Do you feel like you absorbed their best punches in the first half, and talk about Evan hitting three 3s; he had not hit one in a month?
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, since Indiana, we had talked about that as a staff.

Q. You knew the court was going to be a little open tonight.
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, we talked at halftime, as coaches, we said, “wow, if they can play better than this” because we were fortunate to knock those three 3s down, because we could have been down big.

The biggest thing was regaining our composure and our concentration and coming out in the 11 2 run, you know, I thought that was big to come out and try to win that first four minute war there.

Q. It had mentioned how frenetic those last seven minutes were; what were those like for the finest seven minutes of your career?
JAMAR BUTLER: It was tough, it seemed like they had six guards out there. They had their press coming at us and once we broke out, I think we were fine on the open floor and I think we made great plays.

Q. Is that the best tasting Coke you’ve had all year?
COACH THAD MATTA: You know, it is, believe it or not. For this win tonight and for these guys, you think about Jamar, Matt, Othello and David and Danny and Mark, they have had an opportunity and I think you go back to what this program lost, I think Jamar was our leading scorer, and he was the fifth or sixth leading scorer coming back from last year’s team.

You know, we knew there were going to be some growing pains as we went through the season, especially with the schedule we were going to play. To watch them come together and gel and play team basketball, very, very proud of them and very gratifying.

I think we talked after the game, you know, we’ve got to really sit down and evaluate the season and look at all the things that we can get better at as coaches, as players, all the way across the board, and continue to go.

But I think it says a lot about our program and the job that these kids have done.

Q. What made it possible to score the way you guys did in this tournament?
COACH THAD MATTA: I guess the selection committee did a heck of a job getting us against teams that played that way. To me, that’s how we would like to play all the time, up and down like that. You know, it’s just there’s a lot of possessions in those games, and even going back to the other night, I think the other night may have been the highest possession, we had 92 possessions against Ole Miss. I don’t know what we were at tonight yet, but that was and then give UMASS credit from the standpoint, that’s how they like to play.

I mean, my gosh, were they they are a great basketball team.

Q. Did you ever get the feeling in the first half when you were trying to play with them that they got you going you want to play fast but it looks like they got you going too fast.
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, we talked about that at halftime. Let’s play fast but under control.

You know, the turnovers we had in the first half, I felt like were in the 3 on 2s, the 4 on 3s and converting those was going to be one of the major things we needed to do.

Like I said, I felt like in our offense, if we could get up I felt like we could get not just about anything we wanted but the 48 percent, we felt good about that. The other thing was rebounding; we tried to employ a new technique tonight, not let them get an offensive rebound and guard them again and we started seeing more and more teams do that across college basketball. That may be a Madison Square Garden record, 30 offensive rebounds and you guys were all patting me on the back for 20 the other night.

Q. Not a point of emphasis like it was for Mississippi.
COACH THAD MATTA: Yeah, so many things that I’ve got to emphasize. (Laughter).

Q. Would you have watched the Final Four this weekend anyway?
COACH THAD MATTA: Kind of a sore loser. I think I’ll watch just because I think you’ve got four great teams in there.

Q. Does this make it easier to watch?
COACH THAD MATTA: It does. It does, yeah. But I don’t know what I’m going to do. I know I’m going to rest.


COACH TRAVIS FORD: Very proud of these guys. It’s been a very fun year, and a great year, and you know, tonight’s game, we played well. I thought Ohio State played great. To be honest with you, it’s one of the best games I’ve seen them play. They are a great basketball team, great players, great coach. I thought it took one of their best efforts to beat us. They shot the ball tremendously from the 3 point line, they made plays, they withstood some of the pressure that we caused on both ends of the court which a lot of the teams have been able to do so that’s a credit to Ohio State.

I’m just disappointed that there’s no practice tomorrow. I’m just disappointed I can’t coach these guys tomorrow. That’s the thing that’s hit me right now because I have just really, really enjoyed coaching this team, and it’s been a lot of fun. You know, it’s no coincidence, when you have fun and you have good kids, that success follows. And that is what’s happened to this UMASS basketball team this year. We have great kids who love each other, who work hard every day, who have embraced each other, embraced the system and they have had fun playing the game.

You know, I don’t think there’s any question, I don’t think anybody would say they probably achieved a lot more than anybody thought when we started back in October, no question.

I can’t be as proud of a team as I am of these guys.

Q. Gary, you said you wanted to leave UMASS better than you found it; do you feel like; have you accomplished that?
GARY FORBES: Yeah, I think so. Definitely would have liked it to be better, to be the first team to win a championship. But you can see by the fan support that came out, we made a difference since I’ve been here. A lot of fans have came out, supported us, and this has been a great roll.

Q. What was the feeling at 68-68 and what did they do to counteract that?
ETIENNE BROWER: A lot of times the score was pretty close, there’s so many times that we don’t even look at the clocks, Coach will bring us into the huddle. Doesn’t matter how much time is left or what the score is, we call it “blacking out” where you just go in there and try to play as hard as you can for as long as you can sustain it and sometimes we don’t remember what’s going on. We just played as hard as we can, you’ll be just breathing heavy, you don’t know what score it is.

We didn’t even know if we were up or down, we were just giving it all we had I think. At that point it was just they scored a couple baskets and a couple plays where we mistimed it or whatever it was, but they are a solid team.

Q. Were you impressed with the way they were able to not wear down and continue scoring?
COACH TRAVIS FORD: Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got to give Ohio State credit. I thought a couple times we had them. I thought a couple times our press, our style of play was going to kick in. But I thought we gave up a few too many easy layups here and there that really allowed them to probably rest for a second to score easily; whereas, we’ve been doing a good job when we’ve come back to making teams take tough shots.

Obviously when you take jumpshots late in the game against us, usually other teams legs are very tired and causes them to miss but they were getting a lot of layups and things like that that allowed them to stay in the when we were making our run.

They played well. I thought tournament was going to go 3 for 3 from the 3 point line, that was not something I had planned before we played the game. Give them credit. That’s how you win championships. They played well. We played well. Both teams played hard, and you know, you do have to give them credit. They had a little bit left in their tank.

Q. Dante, you’ve been here longer than the other two seniors; as disappointing as this is, has the UMASS experience been what you hoped it would be?
DANTE MILLIGAN: The UMASS experience has been great. I can’t say enough about what Coach Ford has done for me personally and also everybody else here at the program.

I definitely believe that we are leaving the program in better shape than it was, and we can only just hope the best for the future.

Q. You talked a lot about it, but it doesn’t matter if shots aren’t falling and things, but in the second half, they were falling so well for you guys for a while; did it feel like a couple stretches where if only one of the 3 pointers would fall?
COACH TRAVIS FORD: You feel that way when we’ve been missing before; you hope they go in. But I never thought for once it was going to determine the game or not. You know, we made enough 3s to win the basketball game. We just gave up too many 3s. We just gave up way too many 3s and that’s something that we have been doing a good job of is making 3s, but not allowing our opponents to make 3s.

And again, we just gave up too many layups late to really allow our style, our fatigue — usually fatigue sets into play but we gave up too many layups, their size. Their size I thought bothered us in the last ten minutes of the game.

But our guys played hard. Again, Ohio State is a great program, and I thought they played one heck of a game, they did. I’ve watched in 24 hours, I’ve probably watched 10, 12 games that they have played. I’ve not seen them shoot the ball quite like that, and that’s giving them credit, because you know, where we have been usually the team to score 56 points in the second half or 50 or 60 points in the second half; they are the team that came out and, you know, I don’t think there’s question that they probably talked about UMASS usually fatigues other teams and don’t let it fatigue us and let’s get the ball down the court. They did a good job of it, very good.

Q. Did Dante’s foul trouble hurt?
COACH TRAVIS FORD: I don’t know how much. Dante was playing good basketball, I know that. It really could have helped having Dante in there the way he was playing but I thought our other guys did a terrific job. I thought Gaffney with the circumstances of his injury, he gave us some good minutes and Bonner played well.

I don’t think it was the reason why they came back. You know, I do think it would have helped if Dante could have played a few more minutes.