Commodores discuss Saturday's game against Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament
March 16, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the Vanderbilt student-athletes.
Q. Jeffery, you guys have played Kentucky tough twice during the regular season. Could have probably won both games. I'm just curious, how much did you need, if at all, to beat them in the SEC final, whether it's to build some confidence or heading into this tournament what you could accomplish?
Jeffery Taylor: I think it served as a great confidence boost for us. We've been really confident throughout the year that we would start playing well and that things would come together. But to see everything work out the way it did last weekend, going through the tournament and actually beating those guys, they were rightfully the No. 1 team in the country. They had won 25, 26 game that's row.
So beating those guys was great momentum. Heading into here, I think it was one of the best things that could happen to us at that point in the season. I really feel like we're playing some great basketball right now.
Q. Brad, I heard some of you guys comment after the game last night that a monkey was off your back for winning that first round game. What do you think the net effect of that will be getting that first win in this tournament?
Brad Tinsley: Yeah, I think it just relieves a lot of whatever pressure there was on that game. We can kind of get past that aura of us losing in the first round and just kind of concentrate on Wisconsin and playing a tough game against them. There's a lot of excitement and a lot of joy out of our locker room. It was just great for our guys and our program.
Q. Jeffery, just in general what do you think the keys are going to be against Wisconsin tomorrow, both what you need to do offensively and what you need to defend them because they like to run the shot clock down?
Jeffery Taylor: We're going to have to be really patient on both ends. They take a lot of time when they have the ball on offense. We can't get impatient and start rushing stuff trying to get the game going too fast. They do a really good job of making shots and making plays at the end of the shot clock, and we just have to play solid defense. Then when we get the ball, we have to try to push it and get the pace going in the game.
Q. Lance and Brad, I wondered what you guys have felt about the altitude or if it was even something you guys noticed?
Lance Goulbourne: I noticed it in the first couple minutes of the game, to be honest. I was a little winded faster than normal. I'm not used to playing in altitude like this. Last year we played in Denver, but I feel like in Albuquerque for some reason it got to me a little more. But being here for three days now, it shouldn't be a problem going forward.
Brad Tinsley: Yeah, I definitely agree with Lance. The first couple minutes I think it got to us a little bit just trying to get your wind. Once we settled in the first couple minutes and kind of got used to it, it was fine from there.
Q. Brad, unless I was mistaken on the video after you guys beat Kentucky, it looked like Kevin was crying on the bench. Had his face buried in a towel. Was it that emotional of a victory that night for him?
Brad Tinsley: Yeah, I think so. It meant a lot to our program and him especially. He's had an unbelievable career at Vanderbilt. He told us after the game that was one of the happiest moments he's had as a coach at Vanderbilt. So it meant a lot to all of us. Just the excitement and joy caught up to a lot of us and it showed.
Q. Jeffery, there is a kid on the Badgers, Rob Wilson, who was kind of an unknown until the last few weeks and he had 30 against Indiana. He kind of came out of nowhere. He adds a lot of athleticism to their lineup. I'm wondering as you scout them and prepare for them, what do you think of his game?
Jeffery Taylor: He's kind of the X-factor in the game. He came out of nowhere and started making a lot of great plays for those guys. So we have to do a really good job of limiting his attempts, limiting the way he potentially can hurt us, which is shooting, making three point shots, making open shots for them. So he'll be the key to the game and we're looking forward to the challenge.
Q. How important has Ezeli been to what you can do on both ends of the court?
Lance Goulbourne: I think his presence is well documented on the defensive end of the court. He's a big, physical kid. He blocks shots for us. Even when he's not blocking shots, he also shots, and it's kind of intimidating for people coming in and driving into our lane because they know he's going to potentially block a shot.
On offense, he gives us a pressure release. We can throw the ball in there and he can go to work and dominate in the paint. He gets to the free-throw line a lot, and that helps us out because obviously games are won at the free-throw line a lot.
He's just been progressing very well this year. He obviously started very slow with his injuries, but he's been getting better. For us to win going forward, he's going to have to be very dominant and I think he will be.
Q. Your seeding was no more than posted and you became the trendy pick to make a little run here in the tournament. How have you guys dealt with that?
Lance Goulbourne: Just by keeping focus on the game ahead of us. Not looking at what people's expectations may be of us. We wanted to focus on Harvard. We did well with that challenge, and now today we prepare for a Wisconsin team tomorrow who is a very good team. We're just focused on the next game and not worried about what may come after that. Just staying focused and preparing for what's ahead of us.
Q. Brad, wondered if you guys had a chance to experience anything in Albuquerque yet and what your impression of it is?
Brad Tinsley: I had a really good friend play here a couple years back, Troy DeVries, and I came to watch a game when he played. He played with Danny Granger. It was an unbelievable experience. The fans here are really cool down in The Pit. I had no clue about this atmosphere here until I came to watch that game. It was really awesome to see their support for the team, and even the support we got yesterday. It's just an awesome atmosphere for college basketball.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Stallings.
Q. I'm doing a story about Rob Wilson, kind of the sixth guy on the Badgers that's kind of come on of late. I'm just wondering what his athleticism and what he adds to the Badgers in terms of scouting and preparation for playing them?
COACH STALLINGS: Well, Bo would first of all be the better guy to answer that question. But from what I can see on tape is he gives them another scorer, obviously experienced because of his age and some athleticism. He has the ability to drive the ball to the basket as well as break loose for a bunch of threes like he did on senior night.
So that's a great weapon to have coming off your bench when you have a guy that can come in and change the game a little bit athletically and also change it from a three-point perspective.
Q. Obviously you started the season with Ezeli with the suspension, but I'm curious now with the way you guys played in the SEC Tournament and the way you're playing now, is this the team that you thought you might have at the beginning of the year?
COACH STALLINGS: Well, honestly, no, because Festus has not ever gotten back to a hundred percent, aside from that, on a regular basis, yes. Now we have -- we started the same team, I think, every game in conference play. So these were the guys that I thought we'd have, but he has not been quite as healthy as we would have thought prior to the start of the season.
Q. These guys seemed elated after winning yesterday to get past the first round. How much was that hanging over the head of this program, and how do you think it will affect you going forward?
COACH STALLINGS: Well, I think that it was a bigger weight than we would have liked for it to have been. But nonetheless, it was something that was discussed frequently and talked about a lot nationally, talked about a lot locally. So it did feel like a weight off our back, for sure. There was probably more relief yesterday for us than excitement, and that's kind of a shame, because you really deserve to enjoy this and be excited about any success that you have. But be that as it may, I think going forward, now we've kind of ridded ourselves of that and we can be the loose and free confident team that we aspire to be. That's certainly who we need to be tomorrow.
Q. Can you talk a little about the changes you've seen in Jenkins' game on the court and his leadership off the court?
COACH STALLINGS: Well, the changes in his game have been terrific. His shooting skills speak for themselves. You don't have to discuss those too much and haven't had to discuss them much since he arrived on campus.
But his defense has just gotten so much better. He's now a quality defender that we can rely on and actually really depend on, and that's a big change from his first two years. His ball handling, his passing, he made a couple of really nice passes yesterday off ball screens. So his ball handling and passing have gotten better also, as has his ability to take the ball to the rim and get to the foul line.
He's had several games this year where he shot 10-plus free throws. So as good a shooter as he is, that's obviously a valuable thing as well. So I would say those are the areas that he has shown the most improvement in, and he's a tremendous worker. He spends as much time in the gym trying to get better as anybody I've ever coached. He deserves to get better. Those are the guys that improve.
Q. How much better are you defensively than you were when last season ended? You kind of alluded of Jenkins improving in that area. Is that the biggest factor for that improvement?
COACH STALLINGS: We're a lot better. Although it didn't seem like it yesterday in the second half, but we're a lot better defensively than we were a year ago. Our numbers attest to that. As a matter of fact, going into the last week of conference play, I think that we were .01 of a percentage point behind Kentucky for the best defensive field goal percentage in the league. We slipped a little bit the last week of the league.
But nevertheless, I would say that John's improvement has been a significant factor. But I think collectively we've gotten better, our age, our experience. Tinsley's gotten better. Festus has gotten better. Festus was a real presence around the basket, which you could see yesterday in the game. So we have guys that are close to being elite defenders or elite defenders, we think, and we can cover a lot of the places on the court with pretty good defensive players.
That and I think that we've bought into defense. I think this team has bought into defense a little bit more than last year's team did.
Q. You look at the scouting report for Harvard, the discipline and defense they had. How similar or different is the scouting report with Wisconsin, and do you like the contrast of styles there?
COACH STALLINGS: Well, there are some similarities between Harvard and Wisconsin in that they, I believe, one, Wisconsin has allowed the fewest points per game in the country, and maybe Harvard was third or fourth. So there was a similarity.
Both of them are very willing to get late on the shot clock to get what they want to get offensively. So I think there are two very striking similarities. But Wisconsin has a unique style of play. They're unique on both ends in some respects. Without going into any detail, it's one of the reasons that they've been very successful is because they're really in tune with what their coach wants and how they have to play in order to be successful. That's why they win is because they buy into what their coaches are asking for, and they execute it very well.
Q. You mentioned there was a sense of relief beating Harvard. I'm curious what the feelings were beating Kentucky in the SEC Tournament after coming close those first two times in a regular season?
COACH STALLINGS: I would have described that emotion more as more jubilation, more excited. A tremendous sense of accomplishment to have won a championship and beaten perhaps a team that's been the best team in college basketball all season long.
We had two very competitive games with them in the regular season, both of those games they out-executed us in the last three or four minutes of the game. The last one we out-executed them, and that's why we were able to win.
It was a very gratifying, jubilant moment for us.
Q. I saw a stat where your starters have 451 starts. What are the benefits of running on a four-year program in this day and age? Is Wisconsin even kind of similar to that?
COACH STALLINGS: Well, the benefit of it is you have guys that are experienced and you have guys that are around for a longer period of time and they can learn what it is that you want and need and all of those things as long as they buy in, which our group certainly has.
I think that experience is a great equalizer, but talent a lot of times will trump experience. We would take guys that were one or two and done. If we got one, we'd be just fine with that, but we haven't gotten any of those yet. The ones -- the guy that's we have in our program right now have done a great job for us for four years.
These seniors have really done a terrific job for our university and our basketball program and it's been a real pleasure to coach them and to watch them grow.
Q. The fact that Wisconsin even though they lost some players from last year, they were in the Sweet 16, second round for this particular bunch is uncharted waters. Is there any advantage or disadvantage to that going into tomorrow?
COACH STALLINGS: I don't think so. I think now it's just about playing really good teams. We played a really good team yesterday, but now that we've kind of gotten past that hurdle, which quite honestly wasn't a hurdle so much for the coaching staff as it was for this senior class. Now it's about going out and playing. The team that executes the best, the team that makes the plays at the end of the game, the team that plays the hardest -- it's like any other game where two teams were very evenly matched. I think that's the kind of game I expect the least. The team that can do those things will probably be the team that comes out with a victory.