Vanderbilt vs. Arkansas March 9, 2007 SEC Tournament Second Round Atlanta, Ga.
VANDERBILT POSTGAME QUOTES
THE MODERATOR: All right, we're ready to begin with Vanderbilt. We'll ask Coach Stallings for some opening comments on the game, and then we'll take questions just for the two student athletes. Coach, would you begin.
Kevin Stallings: Yeah, I thought it was a great college game. I thought both teams played just as hard as they could play. They made one more play than we did, but we would take that same look that we got there at the end. Derrick made a great play getting it to Shan. And we'd take that same look again if the game were on the line and be pretty sure that Shan would make it. We congratulate Arkansas. They played a good game.
Like I said, even in defeat, I thought it was a terrific game.
Q. Dan, for you or Derrick: You guys got down in the first half, were able to get back into it, and take control around the six minute mark, I guess. What happened through that stretch that allowed y'all to get some shots to go down? What did you feel like happened from there?
Dan Cage: Well, they played good defense. They pressured us away from the basket. When we were successful and we started making a little bit of a run, on the defensive end we were taking care of business and getting rebounds and things like that. But offensively we were making good screens and cutting to the basket and starting to have them compact a little more. Then we were able to step out and hit a couple jumpers which gave us some momentum. Unfortunately that momentum wasn't enough to propel us all the way through the game. You know, we didn't make the plays we needed to.
Q. Derrick, I was going to ask you kind of the same thing, where did you feel the game got away from you guys today?
Derrick Byars: We didn't start the game the way we wanted to, and we had to try to climb back from behind. We made a valiant effort there in the second half, you know, got some good stops on the defensive end. Made shots and as Coach said, they made one more play than we did.
Q. On Arkansas' last possession, what were y'all expecting of them coming from out of the timeout there?
Dan Cage: Well, Coach is probably better at answering that question than we are, but they were having some success driving to the basket, and their big guys were a handful for us. So we knew they were going to try to get at the rim. We just didn't execute maybe the way we should have. We'd have to go back and look at film to see exactly what went wrong. Coach and Derrick said it, they made a big play, and that's why they're on the winning end of this one.
Q. Both guys, could you talk about how you feel about yourselves going into the NCAA Tournament, based on maybe how you played today, how you feel about the way things are going headed into that?
Dan Cage: Well, we have a lot to prove. You know, we've lost two in a row here, which hasn't happened to us in a long, long time. There's going to be a lot of naysayers out there talking about how we're overrated or maybe we're not deserving of getting in, things like that. But we feel like we have a lot to do to improve and prepare for the NCAA, which is why you play college basketball, that's why we practice so long, that's why we work out in the summer and things like that.
So we've got a little chip on our shoulder now. Hopefully we'll be able to prepare well and perform when time comes.
Derrick Byars: Yeah, I agree. We have a lot to prove. We haven't lost two games in a long time. One thing though that's positive, we played a lot better on defense than we did Saturday against the Razorbacks. And we're going to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do going further into the postseason. But anytime you play in the postseason, one play can decide whether you win or lose. So we just have to tune up on those things.
THE MODERATOR: All right, fellas, you can return to the locker room. Thank you for coming.
Q. Kevin, you guys are obviously primarily man to man. Were you expecting to show them as much zone as you did today, and what went through the thought process of doing that?
Kevin Stallings: We anticipated playing more zone today than we customarily play, in part because of our disadvantage inside size wise, and also in part because we think they're a little bit more effective against man to man than they are zone. That was compounded by the fact that Dan and Ross got early fouls.
I wouldn't say that we played more than we intended to, because we thought we would play a lot of zone today.
Q. Kevin, can you comment on what your guys said about sort of having a chip on their shoulder and there being naysayers, do you feel anything has happened at the end of the season that would cause some question whether you're ready to play in the next tournament?
Kevin Stallings: I don't think there's anything that would cause us not to be ready to play in the next tournament. I think that these guys feel like people have doubted them all season long. Today's the first time that we've lost two SEC games in a row, and we're the only team in the league that didn't lose in the regular season two games in a row, even Florida did. And I believe if I counted right, Florida was the only other team in the league that only did it once. I think everybody else did it twice or more. I think that they generally feel like people don't respect us. They think that we kind of fell into that second seed, so I think that's what they mean.
Q. Coach, Derrick said you guys performed better than you did last time playing Arkansas, do you agree with that assessment?
Kevin Stallings: I think we're significantly better than we were a week ago. If we hadn't, I would have resigned. I couldn't have taken one more performance like that. Since I'm responsible for it, that was my fault last weekend. Anyway, we worked hard defensively this week. We played better defensively. And I thought Jermaine did a very good job this afternoon. Ervin spun around him, got by him and got to the goal on that last play, which is a shame. But I thought Jermaine played a very good game for us, as did a number of other guys.
Q. Coach, would you just talk about the improvement Arkansas has made in these last few weeks. You've seen them twice here, what is your thought about them going through this tournament?
Kevin Stallings: I didn't see them much early, so my opinion would be a little bit skewed. After playing them twice, I don't know how they lost nine games, but we all go through stretches where we play well and don't play well. Maybe we just happened to play them when they were playing well. But that doesn't make any sense to me, because they're right now a very, very good basketball team, I think.
Q. Kevin, just to follow up on what you said, why do you feel people feel you backed into the two seed?
Kevin Stallings: There are a number of things that were written, number of things that were said, so these guys aren't immune. They see that we beat Florida, and all anybody talks about for the next week is the fact that we got fined for rushing the court. Nobody says anything about how they played. We see Michigan State rushed the court a few nights later when they beat Wisconsin, and did you guys even know that they rushed the court?
Q. You talked about the defensive effort, but you guys also shot it better than you did Saturday, what was different there?
Kevin Stallings: We couldn't have played any worse than we played last Saturday, so that just goes under the category of a very poorly coached, very poorly played performance game by our team, by our coaches and by me. We just had more life to us. We played harder, we played smarter, we took care of the ball better, and we just played a better game. It's a shame that we didn't win. We did enough things to win the game. Arkansas just did a little bit more than we did.
Q. Coach, talk about the inbounds play at the end, Ross' lay up, is that exactly how you drew it up?
Kevin Stallings: Well, I didn't draw it up, it's just something we had in our system and have had all year long. We thought that if they went man, that they would be expecting us to throw it over the top, because we had gotten the lay up in the first half. The one time that they went man, we got a lay up then in a different way. So that's just kind of a counter to the play that we ran in the first half. I said if they go man, just run that, and Red made a great pass, and we kind of got the shot we wanted.
Q. Dan said that you guys would go into your next game with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, do you feel this team should have a chip on its shoulder at this point?
Kevin Stallings: I don't know that we should have a chip on their shoulder. If they want to have one, that's fine. Like they said, we're kind of proud of the fact that this is the first time we've lost two games in a row since league play started. As a matter of fact, it's the first time we've lost two games in a row since the first two games of the season.
These guys have been remarkably consistent, and remarkably competitive. I just don't think that they feel like people respect who they are, and how they play. I think that's just how they feel. And it's not something we talk about. I've probably talked about it too much already here. You asked why they think they've got a chip on their shoulder, I think that's why. Thank you.
ARKANSAS POSTGAME QUOTES
THE MODERATOR: We'll ask Coach Heath for opening comments. Coach, if you would begin.
STAN HEATH: Amazing game for us, to be down eight and things not looking very good. I knew I had to rest a guy here or two, and be able to come back and fight and scratch and play with some heart and toughness. That showed a lot of character from our basketball team. Sometimes you're just blessed. I think tonight we got a nice blessing that things went our way.
When Foster was wide open, it looked like a shot that was going to go down. So we feel very fortunate, and hopefully we'll have some gas in the tank for tomorrow.
Q. Gary, you're obviously familiar with your opponent tomorrow; this will be your third time this season. Just what goes through your mind after such a big game you had today, and now you're having another emotional game tomorrow?
GARY ERVIN: The only thing I can say is Mississippi State's a very good basketball club. They're going to come out and fight tomorrow, and we need to go to our hotel rooms and get ready to prepare for their team. And they have Jamont Gordon, and Charles Rhodes that we have to prepare for.
Q. Gary, this year you've had a lot of times where the ball was in your hand at the end of the game, to finally have one where you pull off the winning basket there, how does that feel for you? Can you just talk about that point.
GARY ERVIN: It's just good for our team, you know. We finally got a chance to get a last second shot. Things didn't go our way at the beginning of the season, but we never put our head down. We just kept fighting and fighting to get a win. It was a great win for us this afternoon.
Q. Gary, could you just kind of take us through that play? Was that the primary goal on that, for you to get to the basket? Or were you surprised you got there as quickly as you did?
GARY ERVIN: I just came out of the huddle and listened to what my head coach had to say, what the coaching staff told us. To try to get the ball down low, and get an easy basket or try to get to the free throw line. Things didn't go our way. We couldn't get the ball down low, and then I tried to look for Sonny, and things didn't go as planned. I just tried to penetrate and see if they'll double. If not get to the basket and try to finish.
Q. For any of you, do you think that tomorrow's game against Mississippi State is a play in game for the NCAA Tournament?
SONNY WEEMS: We're not thinking towards that. It's going to be a rugged game, you know. They're a great team. Just we have to go back to the hotel and prepare for it, you know.
THE MODERATOR: Any other player want to respond to that?
PATRICK BEVERLEY: We faced Mississippi State twice, at their house and at our house, we're kind of tired. So we know they're going to come out with a lot of intensity on the defensive and offensive side. They're a great team. But for us to continue to do the things we've been doing that's been helping us win basketball games. Just go back to the scoring board and continue doing the things that we have been doing.
Q. You guys got down by eight and just the comeback, talk about that, Sonny, and Patrick, about how that came about when you could have wilted, y'all just stepped up strong.
SONNY WEEMS: We were down by eight, you know, and we came in the huddle and stuck together as a team. We didn't fold for nobody. And we just put our heads together. We came out, we wanted to win. We wanted to win. You know, and I think all our hearts were in it. We came out with the victory.
PATRICK BEVERLEY: I can add to that, I really think our freshman guard, Stefan Welsh, him coming in and just giving a great boost of energy for us to continue going.
And like I said to a reporter earlier, that Sonny Weems was our emotional leader today. For him to just in the huddle, for him to just keep telling us, "Keep fighting, the game's not over." It got us pumped up. And I think those two things really changed the momentum of the game.
Q. You talked a little bit in the locker room about how you think this team deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. Just talk about why you feel that way, in your case, to get to the NCAA Tournament.
STAN HEATH: Well, we still have some basketball to play. We definitely don't want to leave anything to chance. And winning is the only way that guarantees you the spot. We won some good games against some quality opponents. Sometimes when you just look at teams and you say to yourself, does that look like a team that should be in there? I would think without a doubt we would be one of those teams if you watched us over the last week, and even if you watched us early in the year, if you watched us as different times, because we are capable of beating people. But the thing is right now, not to be premature and jump ahead, is we have to win. We have to continue to win because you never know. There are probably other teams that have those same sort of cases.
Q. Stan, after such a heated game and such an emotional high, 19 hours later you have to play another heated game. How do you get the guys to kind of come back down to earth, and really dig in for another battle?
STAN HEATH: Well, I think they're emotionally pretty charged right now. They probably will be for the next few hours. The key is tonight when we get together tonight, we'll watch film and we'll talk, and we'll go over game plans, and preparation things for Mississippi State. I think at that particular time they'll come back to reality of what we've got, another task at hand.
Q. Coach, from where you were, what did you see differently out of Vanderbilt from Saturday that created the different outcome?
STAN HEATH: Well, they were much more aggressive in this particular game. I thought defensively, they were really trying to get into us, and pressure us harder. They did so at Vanderbilt, but I thought for 40 minutes, they were really getting against us. We were never able to maybe get a good rhythm into the game of a flow offensively. It just seemed like we'd sputter and get some things going, and they'd switch the defense. It would take us a while to get going again. So it wasn't a fluent game for us, but I thought we battled, we fought, we competed defensively, we were trying to just every single time make it a challenge for them. Fortunately, we were able to come out on top. We could easily, if that shot goes in, be on the other side of that coin.
Q. Stan, when y'all had a couple of games early in the SEC where Gary had the ball in his hands and it didn't work out for him. Did you counsel him any in the wake of that? How did you handle him in that situation? Because at the time you did talk about trying to get Patrick more involved in those situations and kind of taking it out of Gary's hands.
STAN HEATH: Well, I wouldn't say we necessarily didn't want Gary to take a shot or didn't want him to have the ball in his hands. We just wanted him to make sure that our priority options were the first looks, and if they weren't there, then obviously as a point guard you have to make some plays. We weren't able to get the ball to D, we weren't able to get the ball to Pat, but the floor was spaced well enough where this scenario was different from the other ones; the others were he just went. This one was he probed the floor, didn't see one option, two option, and with time winding down, had no other choice but to try to make something happen. He made a great choice, great decision, and was rewarded. Our team was rewarded.
Q. I've just got to understand something, you already talked about Patrick, but I know Gary in the game when he shot with Patrick, there were a lot of big shots down the stretch, just talk about his game. And he was talking about how tough it was in the first half. Just talk about his first half and second half, and the way he played.
STAN HEATH: It was obvious he was struggling the first half. An 85% shooter clinks two free throws, that should tell you a little bit. Patrick's had to loosen up. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. As a freshman, he's trying to carry a load on his shoulders, and he doesn't need to do that. Nobody's asked him to do that, but that's just him.
To see a freshman respond, not going to the tank or saying hey, this isn't my day, it's just not going to work. But to come out of that and perform at a high level and make plays at key times, and he was the one guy that I don't think I'm not sure if I took him out of the second half, maybe I did for a brief minute, but he was out there, and I'm sure he was gassed. At the same time, he stepped up big. He's a special young man.
Q. How much of the Kentucky Mississippi State game did you get to see? Some of your impressions of that game?
STAN HEATH: I really didn't see I walked in and saw maybe the first three, four minutes of the second half. Then I watched before regulation and the last minute. That's really all I saw. I watched the film, my assistants scouted the game. I'll know a little bit more.
But we played them twice, so I have a good feeling of what they're doing. I know about Jamont Gordon, I know about Charles Rhodes and I know they have some other guys that are really good, too.
Q. Coach, talk about Sonny, and the leadership he did show out there today.
STAN HEATH: You know, Sonny's kind of been coming out of a little bit of a shell. I think as a newcomer, sometimes you're feeling your way around of, do I say anything, do I step on anybody's toes. And he was very reluctant until about maybe a week and a half, maybe right after that Tennessee game, I'm not sure, but right around then, he decided in practice to talk a little bit more, be a little bit more of a leader. And I encouraged him to do that because he's a guy that's won a lot. He's a guy that I think, he and Steven Hill, guys like that, people really respect them, because they play in a way that's about winning. That's, I think, permeating around our team. But those are two of the guys, and there are some other guys, too, that really set a tone about winning, and not individual play.
Q. You know, we kind of have talked about it a bunch with the tournament in Orlando, and back to back to back days and what it's like to do that. Do you kind of remember what it was like for you guys coming into that championship game that third day? Were you gassed? Were you tired? I know it was earlier in the season. And also, are you going to kind of relate back to that at all as you prepare for tomorrow? Or is there going to be any real talk about that?
STAN HEATH: We've used some of the same things that we did in Orlando in terms of preparing our time schedules, our meals, our walkthroughs, things like that. However, the difference is we had a day break between the championship game. Wish we could have one right now.
Q. You beat Vanderbilt by 17 points on their home court a week ago, how were they different today than they were in that game?
STAN HEATH: It was 15.
STAN HEATH: Believe it or not, that score wasn't indicative of that game. It was actually a five point game with about five minutes to go. And I think Derrick Byars was at the free throw line, and couldn't cut it to three. Then from there we scored, we were able to get stops and just kind of expanded.
But they were Senior Day is always, I think for every team, a unique day, and some teams respond well, and some teams get a little bit out of rhythm. I think, and I'm just speaking from my point of view, and I haven't talked to Coach Stallings, I don't know his point of view, I think they were a little bit out of rhythm. They started a different lineup, guys were emotionally excited about their last game, maybe even a little tight, I don't know.
But today was a little bit different of a Vanderbilt team that we saw. I saw the team that won ten games in the conference, that's going to go to the NCAA Tournament, that has had an outstanding season.
Q. Stan, I think a team from the West is assured of going to the finals for the first time since '03. What do you think that says about the decision considering a lot of people before were talking about a lot of the 7 9's and 8 8's, and the quality of the league.
STAN HEATH: The coaches all know this league is off the charts. It's so talented. Very well coached, good players, different styles and systems you have to play against. And we have no bottom feeders. That's the difference in our league. There just aren't the bottom feeders where you get six wins just because you go out and play and win. That's why in our conference, it would just be a travesty if six teams, and maybe even more, don't get a shot to go to the NCAA Tournament, because we beat each other up. And that doesn't necessarily happen in some of the other conferences as much as it happens to us.
I know the other leagues are good, but I just can't believe there is another league from top to bottom, from 1 through 12, that has the quality of teams that we have.
Q. This is an emotional time in the last week or so, getting here. How much more do your guys have in the tank as far as for playing and with the momentum that you have?
STAN HEATH: We better have a full tank. If we don't have a full tank against Mississippi State, we'll have problems. That's just the way it is. We've got to play games, and guys like to play. We practice, we try to practice as hard as we play, and we practice consecutive days. So we just have to go out there and perform.