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2009 NCAA Sweet 16 Post Game Transcript: Oklahoma (March 27, 2009)

Friday, March 27, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 10:52 PM, under , , ,

Athens, GA (Mar 27, 2009) - In Sweet Sixteen action from the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball tournament on Friday, Oklahoma won the battle of orange with a 84-71 victory over Syracuse. This is the transcript of the University of Oklahoma post-game press conference as provided by the NCAA and ASAP Sports.

THE MODERATOR: As you can see, we've been joined by Oklahoma
contingent head coach Jeff Capel along with student athletes Tony
Crocker, Blake Griffin, Taylor Griffin. We'd like to get things
started, have coach Capel make a few opening remarks. Then we'll open
the floor first for questions from the student athletes. Then we'll
follow with Coach Capel.

COACH JEFF CAPEL: First of all, I'm really, really proud of my team.
They were tremendous today, and we beat a really good basketball team,
a team that was very hot.

I thought the way we came out, we attacked right from the beginning.
That's one of the things we've been talking about all week.

We moved the ball against the zone. We hit shots. Tony was
tremendous. I had a feeling coming into this game that he was going to
play well and he was going to shoot the basketball well. Taylor led
us, and Blake was again, incredible, like he's been all year.

Really proud of our guys. Quick, quick recovery because whoever we
play on Sunday is going to be really good. Both teams play really
fast. We need to get off our feet and get some rest and get ready to
see who we'll play.


Q. For both Blake and Taylor, when Tony goes off like that, or you
get that kind of scoring support from the perimeter, what does it do
for you guys' overall game?

TAYLOR GRIFFIN: I mean, that opens up so many things. You know, for
Blake especially, seeing the double teams and triple teams all the
time, you know, it forces people to have to step out and guard guys
like Tony and Willie and Austin.

It just makes us that much better.

BLAKE GRIFFIN: The same as what he said. It makes our job so much
easier when he's playing like he did today.

You know, they can't sink down in the zone, and they had to respect
him all game long because he was hitting shots all game long.

I think it takes our team to another level when he plays like he did

Q. Tony, you made your first shot. You were rocking and rolling from
that point. Talk about your game today, and how much did it mean for
you to make that first shot and get going?

TONY CROCKER: It meant a lot. When you're struggling, after a while,
making that first shot always makes it better.

The zone gave us a lot of spots to have open shots, so we just tried
to take advantage of that.

Q. Tony, I asked you yesterday, I said, how do you feel? And your
response was my jumper is wet. Did you have a feeling you were going
to have a night like this? Were you shooting well the entire time
you've been here in practice?

TONY CROCKER: Yeah. I did a lot of extra shooting before and after
practice. I was just hoping it all paid off.

I felt good shooting around and everything. So I just had a feeling
they were all going to go in.

Q. Blake and Taylor, it seems like this team is getting its swagger
back. It just seems like playing so much better than you were early.
Just a lot of little things?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: Everybody's competing the whole time. Everybody's
playing hard, and everybody's doing the little things.

Against Michigan, caught taking three charges. Guys getting on the
floor after loose balls and stuff like that. That makes us play even
better. We have guys that can score points. That's always going to
happen. It might not be as much every game, but I think the biggest
key for us is getting down and getting stops on the defensive end and
can bring that into offense.

Q. Tony, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about Coach
Capel and his approach with you over the past month because a lot of
people have talked about your struggles shooting the ball. Seemed like
last week when you had the big defensive effort, he was you know, he
mentioned that a lot in the post game, and it just seemed to kind of
have your back a lot.

TONY CROCKER: He stuck with me, you know, never took me out during
that last game after struggling shooting and everything.

Because he has faith in that I can, you know, make shots whenever I
get open ones. They just didn't fall last time.

He's been there encouraging me and asking what he can do to help
throughout the whole season really.

Q. Was there anything in particular that he mentioned to you over
and over again?

TONY CROCKER: Just take your open shots when you're open. You know,
step up with confidence and knock it down.

Q. Guys, so much is made of Syracuse's two-three zone. What was the
plan? How did you attack it from the outside and the inside? Starting
with Tony, from the outside for the guards.

TONY CROCKER: We just shot open shots that we had. You know, we were
going to keep going inside out first and see how that goes.

When they kick out, when Blake gets all the attention or Taylor
cutting and getting attention, that gives us open shots. So we just
try to attack inside out.

BLAKE GRIFFIN: Same thing he said. Just attack and hit open shots
and be ready to shoot open shots and move the ball well and pick our
spots well.

TAYLOR GRIFFIN: I think we prepared really well. I think our coaches
prepared us really well. Going into that game, we knew exactly where
the open spots were going to be, and, you know, we knew what kind of
shots to look for.

I think our game plan was right on.

Q. Blake, looked like they came out intent on pounding the ball
maybe to try to get you in foul trouble. Did you feel that?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: Yes, I feel like that was kind of their plan from the
beginning. You know, we did such a good job collectively on defense
that it kind of got them out of that.

And everybody was kind of swarming all over the place. Crock came
down and helped. Taylor came across and helped. Which takes pressure
off me down low. Or any one on one situation.

Q. Tony and Taylor, you guys had like an 11 2 run to end the first
half and then 17 3 to start the second half. Can you just talk about
that eight minutes or whatever of basketball that really blew this
game open.

TAYLOR GRIFFIN: I think, you know, it comes down to us getting our
swagger back and knowing, you know, what everybody knowing their role
and doing what it takes to win.

You know, we executed really well. I don't think we turn the ball
over that much. And that makes a huge difference.

Coach is always saying, when we don't turn the ball over, we get a
good shot. And that's true, and I think that was very true today.

TONY CROCKER: Can you repeat the question?

Q. There was an 11-2 run to end the half and then 17 3 to start the
second half. Can you just talk about how important that was for you?

TONY CROCKER: Jumping out and getting a big lead in the first half,
you know, we talked about when we come out, you know, stay on top of
them. Don't let up. So we just tried to stay attacking and stay in
attack mode to start the beginning of the second half.

Q. Blake, this is a conditional question. If Carolina would win the
second game, honest answer, please, how much more would it juice you
to have an individual matchup against Tyler Hansbrough?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: You know, it's another team. I'm not going to get
into a personal battle with Tyler Hansbrough. I have no beef with him.
They're a good team. This game, if we do play them, it's not going to
be me against him. It's going to be Oklahoma versus North Carolina,
and that's how we plan to attack them.

Q. Blake, it looked like you hit your head on the backboard on the
dunk. Can you talk about that one? Is that what happened? Does that
happen often?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: No, that's actually one of the first times that's
happened in a game, so it kind of took me by surprise.

I just got too close.

Q. For Blake, when Flynn got there in your path as you were going to
the basket there near the end of the first half, 6 footer in your
path. What were your thoughts as you kind of mowed through them on
your way?

BLAKE GRIFFIN: I wanted to dunk it, but he stepped out a little too
far. When I went up and took the contact, I was just kind of thinking
put it up. I was hoping it went in our favor.

Q. Tony, even during your shooting slump, you didn't seem hesitant
to shoot. Can you talk about your mindset of not really letting the
slump get to you and get you out of your offense and always putting it
up no matter even if it wasn't going in.

TONY CROCKER: I guess, when you're marked as like a shooter, you
have to keep shooting. If you're missing, you've just got to think it
off and just go to the next shot and keep going because you can't just
not shoot when you're wide open.

THE MODERATOR: Tony, Blake, Taylor, you're welcome to head back to
your dressing room. We'll continue with Oklahoma news conference with
Coach Capel.

Q. Coach, you said in your opening statements that you could kind of
sense Crocker was going to have a good game tonight. What was it you
had seen in him in practices or the days leading up just to make you
confident in his ability to play well tonight?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: First of all, I believe in Tony. You know, Tony
went through a stretch early in the season when we first started where
he didn't shoot the basketball well.

And then we went, and we played in a pro arena, played at the ford
center, played VCU, and he had 26 points. I think he hit five threes.
When we got here and we practiced here yesterday first of all, all
week long in practice he's been making shots, and he has been doing
some extra stuff.

When we got here yesterday, he really shot the ball well, and it's
just something maybe about being in a pro arena again.

And then the guys have been really, really encouraging to him, and
he's a good player. And sometimes it's tough to keep guys for a guy to
stay down that long when you're as good as Tony Crocker and he's
played so well for us this year.

Q. Jeff, in the first half, Syracuse 0 for 10 from the three. You
hold them to 40% shooting. Talk about your defense tonight. I know the
offense always gets the accolades, but defensively, wouldn't you say
this was a good game for Oklahoma?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: I thought our first half defense was great. We
contested shots. We swarmed. We mixed our defenses up. We got
fortunate on a couple of those threes. They had wide open looks, and
they just missed them.

The majority of them, I thought, were pretty contested in the first
half. And we went to a two three zone, played one three one, gave them
some different looks.

One of the things coming into the game that I kind of noticed
watching on tape was Jonny Flynn is so good that you can't give him a
steady diet of the same thing because eventually he's going to pick it

We switched how we did ball screens against him throughout the game.
Every time out we tried to give him a different look on the ball
screen so he wouldn't just get comfortable out there.

I thought the main thing was our guys really played hard
defensively. They got out. They understood the game plan. They
understood the tendencies. And that's one of the things we talked
about all week in preparation for Syracuse, understanding each guy's
tendency, and I thought our guys did a good job with that.

Q. Jeff, what's the biggest concern with your team when you have
such a big lead going into the last ten minutes? And at what point, if
any, in this game did you get uneasy?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: Well, the biggest concern for our team we've had
leads. As we were in conference play, just about every game we played
except for maybe two or three, we had double figure leads. And we let
teams back in.

One of the things that concerns me when we get leads like this is,
we get a little bit complacent; we get satisfied instead of staying
hungry. When we get up 24, I thought we got that way a little bit.

I got uneasy. I think they cut it to I can't remember, but I got
uneasy when they started making threes and getting to the basket.

We called a quick time out and getting back to our defense. We were
able to do that. We were able to get stops finally down the stretch,
and we were able to execute offensively and get some scores to extend
the lead back.

Q. The run at the end of the half and then just putting it away in
the second half, how key was that?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: It was huge. One of the things we talk about when
we try to practice is end of half situations and then the first five
minutes of the second half.

I call it silent runs. And we did that. We executed out of the time
out, got a three by Crock to end the half, and then we opened the half
up. We knew we had the ball, and we opened the half up with a three.

But the main thing was at the start of that second half we got
stops, which enabled us to continue to extend our lead and felt really
good about that.

Again, it was all our guys. These guys played their behinds off.
They worked. They played with a sense of urgency. They attacked right
from the beginning.

Q. You being ex guard, do you think you handled Tony's slump maybe
differently than other college coaches would because you played the
position in college?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: Not only played the position, but had slumps. So I
know what it's like.

I know what Tony was going through, and it wasn't because of lack of
effort or he didn't want to. Crock's a kid he wants to play really
well. He wants to be good.

I just think sometimes, you know, if I would have sat him or benched
him, that could have destroyed him where you don't get him back. So we
stuck with him because I believe in him.

And he's been really good, and he's done good things. The other
thing that he was doing and it's one of the things that makes him a
little different from a lot of guys is that the Michigan game was a
perfect example.

In that game, although he was not playing well offensively and he
didn't make shots, he still impacted the game as much as anyone. I
mean, he had six assists, one turnover. He rebounded the basketball,
and he did a really good job on their best player.

And so he's grown so much as a player where he understands now as a
junior that his game is not defined solely by offense.

And that's what made it easier for me to stick with him. If he would
have, you know, not reacted that way and pouted and things like that,
then I probably would have had no choice. But because of struggling at
times as a player, and because he was still trying, I mean, it was a
little bit it was easier to stick with him.

Q. Coach, do you ever worry about Blake sometimes? I mean, you've
got guys setting themselves in their path like Flynn did trying to
take a charge, and then he gets up so high and knocks his head against
the basket. Do you worry about the physical toll that he sometimes

COACH JEFF CAPEL: Not really. Not things like that. I mean, he's
going to play. He's going to be him, and he's going to attack.

If you've seen us this year, you've seen all those things happen.
Kid comes back from a concussion and dives over a table. That's who he

He's a really, really physical player. With that, there are going to
be some confrontations. There are going to be some exchanges, some
physical exchanges.

I'm not that concerned about it anymore because we've seen it for
two years now.

Q. Jeff, if your guards shoot like they did tonight, your three
starters, 9 of 18 from three point range, how difficult are you to

COACH JEFF CAPEL: Well, our guards shot like that for a good part of
the conference. We were number two in the league in three point field
goal percentage in conference games only.

We're very efficient offensively when we shoot the ball. We were
also near the top of our league, if not number one, in conference play
only in field goal percentage. So we've been a pretty efficient
offensive team.

Down the stretch, we couldn't make shots. So when we shoot the ball
well, that makes us tougher to guard because then you have to make a
decision on how you're going to play Blake. And if you play him one on
one, we feel very confident there, that he's going to score and get
fouled and get teams in foul trouble.

Before making shots like that, then if you leave guys, Tony, A.J.,
Crock, Cade, Omar Leary, those guys are all very capable of shooting
the basketball, which they've done all year. We've been a pretty tough
team to guard all year, I think.

Q. Jeff, I'm just curious your thoughts after a win like this.
You've fielded so many questions about what's wrong with this team
since the Texas game. Is it a sense of relief, satisfaction? How does
this strike you as the coach of this team?

COACH JEFF CAPEL: We have one more game to play here. We came here
to play two games.

I don't worry about that stuff. I never really did. That's for
people to talk about. I know my team. I'm in that locker room. I'm
with them every day.

So I don't pay attention to those things. I heard some of them. You
know, again, you guys from back home heard me say your sources have
been wrong. The sources that have been saying stuff about our team,
they've been wrong.

We never panicked. We just got back, and we worked. You know, teams
hit a tough stretch from time to time. We lost two games without
Blake, and we lost to a Missouri team that you guys have to say,
they're pretty good now.

You know, the game against Oklahoma State, they're pretty good. It's
tough to beat a team three times in the season, and they play with
more of a sense of urgency than us.

But we never panicked. We just got back to work, and we've been
pretty good in this tournament. Hopefully, we can be good one more
time here in Memphis.

And if we are pretty good, then we get a chance to be pretty good
next weekend too.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

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