Athens, GA (Mar 27, 2009) - In Sweet Sixteen action from the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball tournament on Thursday, Missouri defeated Memphis 102-91. This is the transcript of the University of Missouri post-game press conference as provided by the NCAA and ASAP Sports.
THE MODERATOR: We will begin by asking Coach Anderson for a few general comments on the game. We will go to questions for the student-athletes and then come back to Coach for questions.
COACH ANDERSON: Wow, you wanted an up-tempo game, that was an up-tempo game there. I'm real proud of all these guys up here on this podium right now and our basketball team. I thought they came out and played with the heart and desire. They deserved to win that game. We came out and kind of took the fight to Memphis early on. Before you know it, our guys had a little confidence going about themselves.
We shot the ball well. We outrebounded them in the first half which I thought was going to be a key part of the game. When you look at getting to the free-throw line, we got to the free-throw line 45 times. We made 30 of them. We will work on that.
But I think the bottom line is our guys -- and tournament play is about surviving and advancing. That's what our guys did today. We survived against a very, very outstanding Memphis team coached by Coach Cal.
Q. Is there any way you can gain perspective this soon after that victory? Because some people are saying that's the biggest victory in the history of the school.
J.T. TILLER: Like Coach says, our next game is our biggest game. That was a big game for us, just at that moment. But, yeah, we can gain some perspective really quick. We have UConn on Saturday. We can't dwell on that win that much. We just got to enjoy it until 12 o'clock and get past it.
DEMARRE CARROLL: It was a good game, great Memphis team. Great Memphis team. But I don't think we are stopping there yet. We got Connecticut. We are going to enjoy until midnight like Coach said and get ready for UConn because that could be our next biggest victory.
LEO LYONS: Even though we won, there are still a lot of things we can learn. That's the only thing we can take from this win is things we need to improve on for the next game.
ZAIRE TAYLOR: What they said (smiling).
Q. Zaire and J.T., can you guys describe the impact of Marcus' 3-pointer at halftime and have you ever seen a shot quite that far away before?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: That was a big momentum play going into the half. I think it got us up 13, I think. And also it is funny because Coach had us practicing that the whole tournament. Every day at the end of practice we get two shots each. I like to believe it paid off.
J.T. TILLER: Yeah, it was just a very big play. It carried us in with a lot of energy and it brought us out in the second half with a lot of energy. It was a very big momentum play.
Q. You guys handled that really well on a perspective thing, but are you too exhausted to be excited or what?
LEO LYONS: Not at all. Just with the chance and opportunity to keep playing more games, I don't think exhaustion is, like, even in our minds right now. We are so excited about being this close to a championship, a sense urgency is about to kick in. These are the last few games we need to take care of, so I think we will have the most energy through the whole season that we have ever had.
Q. Memphis had a very, very good defensive record, especially field goal percentage-wise during the season. You guys scored over 100 on them and had your way offensively. What were the keys to attacking their defense?
ZAIRE TAYLOR: J.T. came out there just really -- I think J.T. set the tone as far as offensively with the way he was attacking the basket. I think he showed that you can get to the hole on them.
Once that happened, I think the whole team just followed his lead and we just attacked. I think we got a lot more shots inside than we usually get instead of the outside jumper. I think that will be key going into the next game.
Q. J.T., you hurt your wrist at the end of the last game and then you come back tonight with your career high. How were you feeling out there? And how did you have such a big game?
J.T. TILLER: I just came out and did what they allowed me to do. The court was spread and they allowed me to attack. That's what I did and that was my game.
Q. How was your wrist?
J.T. TILLER: My wrist is good. As you can see out there, I'm 100 percent.
Q. Can you describe if you found a moment where you felt like it was caving in a little bit on you and was there a time where it was stop and get everybody composed, and, if so, what that was?
LEO LYONS: When we first got up to -- was it 20? Or close to 20, that's normally the time in the past where we made mistakes and started playing safe. So we automatically kind of got a little tightened.
When they started to getting to the free-throw line and getting past our defense and getting to the basket, that's when we started coming together and trying to get these stops. After that, I think we pulled it out in the end. It was kind of similar to the Marquette game.
ZAIRE TAYLOR: Personally I feel like I really want to give my teammates a lot of credit, especially J.T. and even -- I really want to give Miguel a lot of credit because I felt like after getting two quick fouls I feel like I personally lost my composure for a quick second being on the bench in a big game. It was getting to me on the bench. Just seeing the intensity they were coming out there with and the effort and talking to me and telling me -- he said he was going to step up. He really stepped up today.
So I feel like -- I feel like they gave me composure. It just spread throughout the whole team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Anderson?
Q. Mike, have you done this with two teams now, making tournament runs with teams that eat McDonald's, beating teams that recruit McDonald's All-Americans. Can you put this in perspective how this system is able to accomplish that?
COACH ANDERSON: I think we got the right kids. I always say the recruiting, people put Stars on people. But you can't put a star on a guy's heart. When you look out there to J.T. Tiller, J.T. is a very good basketball player.
DeMarre Carroll, he is as good as any forward in the country, I think, Leo Lyons. That's what we did at Arkansas. That's what we did at UAB. You find those guys, they're hungry and humble. They will work extremely hard. They play to win.
I think you saw a team out there that was hungry. Our basketball team was very hungry tonight. Again, I can say the Stars and McDonald's All-American, those are somebody's opinion. But you can't put a star on a guy's heart, how big a guy's heart -- when I look at a guy like Zaire Taylor who transferred from Delaware and see the impact he is having on our basketball program, you know what? That's a Five-Star for me. I don't know what it is for everybody else. That's a Five-Star for me.
Q. Coach, I'm sure you don't really care too much as long as you are winning, but you had been a second-half team and the last two games you have been stronger in the first half. What has been the difference?
COACH ANDERSON: The sense of urgency. In the tournament play, it is a different mind-set. It is about survive and advance. If you don't come out with the energy and match the intensity of the other team, you may dig a hole early and you may not dig out of that hole.
So in terms of coming out, I think it is a tribute to our guys. This team here, they respond positive to all the things that have taken place. There are some negative things, but any time they have an opportunity to learn, I think they respond in a positive way. That's been the story to this basketball season with our players. As you listen to them, they say some of the same things and that's because they are looking at it through my eyes.
They are seeing all this through my eyes. I have had an opportunity to be in many, many tournaments. When you have guys that will listen and are willing to go out and play the way they play, they play -- to me, they play exciting basketball. They are having fun. They are having fun.
Q. Mike, at what point -- you have coached a lot of big-time players going from Nolan and all that. At what point in your career did you decide that it wasn't about the big-time players but this was going to be your route, just guys who may not have names but who fit into the team concept? At what point did you decide that was going to be the way you were going to coach?
COACH ANDERSON: I think when I look back and I played for Coach Richardson, we were a team that you have Paul Pressey who was a JUCO All-American, was probably honorable mention, and as of 1980 we go and win NIT championship. He had a lot of sums -- parts that made up the sum. We were a dynamite team. And then you look at his Tulsa teams, Arkansas teams, until we got the great players, the third year we got Mayberry, Miller and Day. But we also have some other guys that were there, Robert Shepherd and those guys. They weren't highly sought out. I think you got to start somewhere and then eventually you are going to bring those guys in.
I think one of the keys is we develop players. Joe Johnson wasn't a household name. Jannero Pargo, Corey Beck. I think putting a team together to me is like putting a puzzle together. You get the right pieces and you got to have some NBA players in order to have an opportunity to win a national championship, and we experienced that at Arkansas.
But this is my third year at Missouri and there are some guys I inherited and the last two, Leo and Matt Lawrence, you can just see the development in those guys, the confidence they are playing with.
Of course DeMarre is a fifth-year senior, he is playing some of the best basketball of his career. So I think that's the key there. You get guys that will develop. Those guys, they are hungry and they will come and work. I like winners, I like guys that like to win.
Q. Can you just comment on the impact of Marcus' shot. And when something like that happens, do you feel like sort of inside it is your night or do you not even dare let yourself think that?
COACH ANDERSON: I think the first shot -- when he made that first shot, he banked it in. I thought, oh, man, wow, this might be the night for us. And then when he comes and makes a second one, I say we ought to call the game right then and there (smiling). But unfortunately we couldn't do that.
I thought we came out in the second half riding that momentum. We had some energy and played awful well. I thought our defense was good and people may look at the score and not think that. But I thought our defense was really good. It was disruptive. There is a lot of ways you can disrupt a team. It is not necessarily about taking the basketball. I think that's what this team is finding out. It is not feast or famine with our pressure defense.
Our pressure defense has an effect of wear and tearing on people, taking people out of what they want to do. You saw in the second half eventually Tyreke, he just took it upon himself. I got to make some plays. That's the defense that we try to play forces you to do. But by then, they had a big hole. Our guys were able to hang on and finish the game out.
Q. Was there the same sense of calm as you guys when Memphis was making the run to get back as you had on Sunday against Marquette?
COACH ANDERSON: I think there was. Even Leo alluded to it. Very similar to the Marquette game.
You had a big lead, a cushion against a great team like Memphis, they are going to make a run at you. You know that. I thought our guys got a little hesitant playing not to lose and made some little chippies. You go to the free-throw line and you don't make free throws, eventually that momentum is going to shift.
I saw a calmness with our basketball team that was very prevalent going down the stretch. We knocked free throws. We made stops when we had to. Different guys coming off the bench. Really played well for us.
We got Keith in there for defensive assignments, Matt making plays for us. Total team effort. Leo getting to the free-throw line. Finally started making some free throws. And ended up with Zaire.
We are the ultimate team. When you watch our basketball team, it is the ultimate team. How about Kimmie English? He doesn't make a shot but makes six free throws. All free throws were big for our basketball team this evening.
Q. Can you just talk about J.T.'s effort tonight coming out with a career high in points in a Sweet 16?
COACH ANDERSON: What a game to have it, your career high. His energy was just contagious. I thought he was like a pit bull in a china shop out there. He was going everywhere, just bowling down everybody. He was wherever the ball was.
I thought he set the tone, and some of those guys started following his lead. We had to have him to do that because Zaire, his partner in crime, he was on the bench. But the key about -- the thing about a basketball team is they trust one another. You saw a freshman, Miguel Paul, I thought he came out and gave us some great, great minutes, Denmon. It goes on and on.
Our strongest component is our bench. When our starters are playing well and our bench is playing well, we are a dynamite -- we are a fun team to watch. I thought we shot the ball well. We rebounded the ball well. We got to the free-throw line. All the things we talked about we continue to share the basketball, 17 assists.
Tonight I thought we did what we have been doing all year long. I think now a lot more people get a chance to see it now. That's the thing about it against an outstanding Memphis team.
Q. If I would have told you at the beginning of the season you would be playing for a chance to go to the Final Four, would you have believed me?
COACH ANDERSON: No, I would be asking what are you smoking and drinking, man? But you know what, in order to have something, you got to be able to see it. I have experienced that as an assistant head coach. I experienced that as a player, as a matter of fact, in a championship, NIT championship.
Every year I think most teams they prepare for that. And so this team here, hopefully it will continue with their dreams. They would be dreaming, but I'm hoping to keep them dreaming.
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