CLAUDE FELTON: Opening thoughts from Coach Stallings.
COACH STALLINGS: Well, we just were outplayed tonight. They were better on the boards. They were better on defense, they were better on offense. They beat us in every way. We're very disappointed. We thought we were playing well coming into the game, and we did not play well tonight. Had a lot to do with them.
So we really don't have anything to hang our head about. We wanted a better performance, we didn't get it. I thought these two guys played very well. But when it comes to tournament time, your veteran players are going to have to step up for you like Guy and Torrance did for their team. And A.J. and Jermaine did not have good nights tonight, and that's going to make it hard on our basketball team when both those guys have a bad night on the same night.
So, unfortunately, we just weren't good enough in any way.
CLAUDE FELTON: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Talk about their success inside. You guys had runs but it seemed that they would always come back with a rebound, a slam. They were scoring a lot of points in the paint?
JEFFREY TAYLOR: We tried to come back a couple of times. But every time, like you said, it seemed they would get a bucket, they'd get an offensive rebound. So they had a lot of sort of back breakers, you could say so.
But I think overall we tried to fight back, but it just wasn't our night.
CLAUDE FELTON: Brad, if we could get a couple of comments from you?
Brad Tinsley: Just to go along with Jeff, they're big, and strong and a very quick team. I thought that a lot of our guys, especially me, on the perimeter didn't get there quick enough to cut off their penetration. They got in the lane. As you can see, they got a lot of points in the paint.
CLAUDE FELTON: We'll excuse the student athletes. Questions for Coach Stallings.
Q. That run Alabama had early in the second half, they got a lot of baskets in the paint, a lot of dunks. Were they doing anything special or were they just beating you off the dribble with great penetration?
COACH STALLINGS: We just failed to get out properly on some of their ball screens and they were able to turn the corner. We went zone, and they beat us on penetration from the side a couple of times. So it really didn't matter what we did. We just didn't guard the ball very well.
Their penetration either led to offensive rebound if they missed the shot or it led to drop offs for dunks and lay ups. So we just weren't good enough on the defensive end to sustain anything and to get enough stops to really get us back in the game.
Q. Do you see much difference in this Alabama team now the way it's playing as to when you played them in Nashville during the regular season?
COACH STALLINGS: I think they're playing better. I said that coming into the game. I think they're playing much better than they were then because they're shooting the ball better. They were only 1 of 5 from the three point line tonight. But they didn't have to shoot three. They drove us and got to the bucket the whole time. So there was no sense for those guys to shoot a bunch of perimeter shots.
But, nevertheless, they're playing with more confidence. Playing with what seems like more purpose. But we played them a couple of games after they made the coaching change, and there was, you know, I think they were in a little bit of a state of disarray, maybe.
CLAUDE FELTON: Some general thoughts on the game from Coach Pearson.
COACH PEARSON: Well, obviously we're excited to get the win and have a chance to move on in the tournament. We talked in terms about this being our championship game with Vanderbilt and prepared for it. Certainly for us it's a one game season at this point. I was very impressed with the way our players came out to begin the game. Thought we got off to a good start.
And I thought we had a little bit of a lull there maybe midway through the half. We didn't transition. Defense became an issue. They got some easy baskets. Cut into our lead a little bit.
In the half we talked, we've been in that position a couple of times. Up 6 or 8 or 10. And I thought the key to the game was how we'd respond to the first three, four, five minutes of the second half. And I thought our guys did a great job there. Looked up, and we had gotten it to 10 and 14 one time. I thought that was a real key.
Looking at the stat sheet we did a great job at the foul line. I thought our rebounding was key all throughout the game. But it was a good win for us, and happy to have a chance to play Tennessee.
Q. It seemed particularly in the second half that you were really able to get the ball in the paint and get the ball inside. Did you sense something that you could take them on the dribble pretty much whenever you wanted to?
MIKHAIL TORRANCE: A little bit. Coach Pearson, he drew up a lot of plays for me. So I just found a lot of them I found a lot of instances in the paint. I found they were helping a lot so I was just trying to find my teammates.
Q. Can you just talk about how fun it was to be able to receive a lot of his stuff? Because he'd penetrate and get like three or four dunks in the second half, maybe more.
ALONZO GEE: It was great. I think his play was great tonight. He fouled me, and he got me some easy plays. I think he played real good.
Q. I don't know if you've thought about kind of the end of your career and everything. This could have been your last game. How nice is it to just get to play another game and did you think about any of that?
ALONZO GEE: Yeah, I thought about it. But it's a great feeling that we got the win, and we're just going to keep going, stay focused and keep playing hard.
Q. Why do you think your production has been so much better the last five or six games?
ALONZO GEE: I think I'm just getting more comfortable. You know.
MIKHAIL TORRANCE: I think I'm getting more comfortable. Coach Pearson is making me more confidence, I'm watching a lot of film with him, and watching myself, critiquing myself. And, like I said, we're not ready to go home yet. So we're going to do whatever it takes and play hard.
Q. What have you been doing well lately? You had the big win against Tennessee. What has been, you know, between this game and the last game, what are you doing well that maybe you weren't doing well earlier?
ALONZO GEE: Just as a team, executing the offense and rebounding and doing a lot better than we did in the past. Just doing that and getting wins.
MIKHAIL TORRANCE: I think he's doing a good job of rebounding. That is the key. Just coming out and hustling.
Q. How tough is it to try to beat a team a couple of times in a row when you played them so recently?
ALONZO GEE: They know our offense and my teammates. So it's going to be really tough for us. But I think we're going to be mentally and physically ready to play.
Q. Y'all seem to be having fun and seem to be having fun in here. Just talk about how much more enjoyable is it now than a month ago when you were going through all the transition, and just talk about the attitude right now with Coach Pearson.
ALONZO GEE: I think we're more relaxed out there. But we're stepping it up on both ends of the court. Our defense picked up a lot. But we're just out there having fun, playing basketball. It's something we love to do. We've got to have fun doing it, and that's what we're doing.
CLAUDE FELTON: We'll continue on with questions for Coach Pearson.
Q. You mentioned about a month ago kind of looked at Georgia and their run last year in the tournament at what point did you now and I guess about a month ago did you feel like you finally got this team. Stallings pointed to you being in disarray after the coaching change, but when did you feel like you finally got them?
COACH PEARSON: I would say we had an emotional overtime with Mississippi State. We looked like in that particular game we were going to win it in regulation. Didn't get it done. And quite frankly looked like we were about to lose it in the first overtime. We hung in there. Alonzo Gee stepped up, made a couple of great plays, great shots in that game.
I've talked a bunch about it, and I mean this. We've got a bunch of really good basketball players on our team. I Think we've got a bunch of really good guys on our team. When the coaching transition occurred, I'm not making excuses but this is the truth, we had three out of four games we were on the road. And we're all trying to sort of regroup and reorganize.
And you've got a road trip to Fayetteville, and you've got a road trip to Nashville, and you get a home game with Georgia. Then you've got a road game at LSU, those aren't the best places in the world to get well. But our guys have hung in there and just continued every day to come in with good attitudes.
They've been receptive to what we've tried to do defensively, offensively, and any changes that we've tried to make along the way. Subtle changes here and there they've been receptive.
Q. You made one three point shot, didn't even try one in the second half. Was that by design or was it working?
COACH PEARSON: Yeah, we've talked a bunch. As you well know, Cecil, I've talked a bunch about scoring at the basket. Scoring around the rim. And getting the ball in the paint, whether it's bypass or by dribble. And tonight I thought we had a lot of success dribble, getting the ball in and around the basket.
I did notice, we were 1 for 5, and then I got a stat sheet midway through the second half, and I realized 1 for 5. Realized we hadn't taken a three shot in the second half. Nothing to complain about. We were a great three of point shooting team. We've cut down on our three point attempts and shooting a higher percentage, which certainly I'm happy about that.
Q. In the game against Tennessee, Gee did not have a good game shooting. Do you credit Tennessee's defense with that or was it just kind of an off day? What might you do differently again?
COACH PEARSON: I think it's a little bit of both. Tennessee's very athletic. Obviously Alonzo's done a great job for us. He's a player that is a focal point of someone else's preparation and did a good job defending him. Just wasn't his day type of thing as well.
So, you know, obviously had a great night tonight. Hopefully, we'll continue on with it tomorrow.
Q. From the way y'all played down the stretch, have you been told by your administration that you won't be considered for the permanent head coaching job?
COACH PEARSON: There really hasn't been any discussion about it. When the change occurred back in late January, they just came and asked me to take over the basketball team. Do the very best I could with it. And I told them I would.
And, you know, obviously this basketball program is very important to me. Something I've been a part of for a long time, and I've just kind of left it at that.
You know, we're doing the best we can. Just preparing, practice to practice, and game to game. We'll worry about all that other stuff some other time.
Q. You obviously have the luxury of just playing Tennessee, but are you worried about just the quick turnaround with your guys and are they going to be okay tomorrow, do you think?
COACH PEARSON: Yeah, I hope so. Obviously with Tennessee I may have said it here, easy to scout, hard to beat. You know them and that's the good thing. The harder part from a mental standpoint of things is that you've got to get your guys now back and ready to play.
Tennessee, I can assure you, they're going to be ready. After having a lucky shot like that at the end of the game, I can assure you they're going to be ready. We'll have to answer the bell as well.