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March 22, 2013

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No. 8 Pitt vs. No. 9 Wichita State, NCAA Tournament Second Round, Salt Lake City, Utah, Thursday, March 21, 2013

No. 9 Wichita State 73, No. 8 Pitt 55

QUOTING PITT COACH Jamie Dixon AND PLAYERS Tray Woodall AND Dante Taylor

THE MODERATOR:  We are joined by Pittsburgh.  We have student-athletes Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor and Coach Jamie Dixon.  Coach, a brief statement?

COACH DIXON:  Well, first of all, congratulations to Wichita State.  I wish them luck in the tournament.  They played great and seemed to be far more aggressive than we were.  Hence, we lost the rebounding battle which we came in to win.  Extremely disappointed in the loss.  I know we're a better team than what we played today. I'm sorry for our seniors to go out this way.  They had great careers, Dante and Tray, and won a lot of games for us. But today was not our day.  We didn't play well in a facet, really, and sorry that it ended this way for those guys.  We will thank them again for all they have done for us over their career, but truly did not play the way we need to do play. That was probably from the beginning to the end, even though it was a pretty close game, tie game, we were up.  We just simply weren't playing the right way from start to finish.

Q.  You guys, when you succeeded, it's always been based on defense and physicality and basically outworking people.  Are you surprised at the way they were able to be more physical at times than you were?

Tray Woodall:  No, we weren't surprised at all.  Coach emphasized that they were going to be real physical.  Those guys are tough.  They came straight from the beginning of the game and they were physical until the end of the game.  We weren't surprised, but we thought our guys.  We fought back.  We tried to fight back.  They got most of the loose balls and that was the cause of a lot of our team.

Q.  Tray, after a great career at Pitt, how does it feel to end a career with a game like that?

Tray Woodall:  It's a bitter taste in my mouth to end my career with one of the worst games I've ever played in my history.  I'm sorry I let my team down.  One of the worst games I've ever played.

Q.  Dante, could you just address why they came out more aggressively and knocked you back on your heels early, I guess?

Dante Taylor:  That's just how they play every game.  They have a great program, have a great coach.  They were prepared for us and how we were going to come out.  They just got it done more than us, played harder than us, each possession, didn't give up.  Once they got the lead they knew what they needed to do to keep it, continue doing what they were doing.  We tried to fight back at the end, but it just wasn't enough.

THE MODERATOR:  Gentlemen, thank you.  Questions for Coach?

Q.  Jamie, given how this ended, a lot of people in Pittsburgh are going to be wondering, do you expect to be back at Pitt next year?

COACH DIXON:  Well, yes.  I just had my point guard break down here.  That's the farthest thing from my mind.

Q.  Did you have a hard time convincing your guys maybe to take Wichita State seriously?  Was that an issue in this?

COACH DIXON:  I don't think so.  They knew -- we played them.  They have been ranked all year.  We played them a couple of years ago in Kansas City.  So I think we knew.  I don't think that was a problem.  I think they were far more aggressive than us early.  I don't know why that was, but we seemed to be on the heels.  I can't explain it.  One of the things we fought through, when we didn't make shots sometimes we get impatient offensively and that's something we have battled all year; I think every team battles it.  Maybe that got to us. I think our guys were bothered by the flagrant foul call.  I tried to get them together on it.  It was obviously inadvertent, but it was a call and it changed something and it seemed like that play bothered us more than it should have. In the huddle I'm saying, get ready, get ready.  We're playin'.  We're playin'.  And it's going to be a possession.  It's one possession.  Nothing was meant by it.  Obviously it was a guy driving and the officials told us that, but it's the rule. I thought at that point -- and it was only about a one-possession game at that point.  I think it seemed like we didn't respond to that as well as we could have.  But they were more aggressive than us from the beginning.  There was no question.

Q.  Jamie, it seemed like?  Steven Adams really had a coming out game.  Didn't look like he was overwhelmed at all.  Do you think this could be a spring board to next year for him and the other guys?

COACH DIXON:  Well, it has to be.  That's what I told our returning guys, having our only it two seniors up here, they were our only two seniors. Our first thing was talking to those guys and thanking them for all they have done for our careers and disappoint to go end this way for them, I know.    But for our other guys returning it's something we've got to learn from and for Steve he kept battling and kept going and was active around the glass. We tried to get the ball inside to him more.  But it seems like he got touches, threw it back out and we didn't make good plays out of that.  But he's going to be a great player, there is no question.  I'm looking forward to watching these guys and coaching these guys and them being better next year.  I can't wait because I know we have a great group and I'm excited about it.

Q.  The 15 turnovers, seemed out of character.

COACH DIXON:  The ones early were unforced.  We threw one out of bounds.  We fumbled a couple.  We had guys -- one of our strengths is low turnovers, and for people who haven't seen us play, this wasn't our team tonight that played. At the same time, you have to give credit to Wichita State.  But we had five or six turnovers early that were not typical of how we play and that put us in a hole.  Seemed like -- kept thinking we would get out of it and get out of it and we didn't.  Even though the score was close we were up most of the time early, we just didn't seem to get -- ever get in rhythm. Then down the stretch we started, I thought, doing a better job offensively; and our defense, we kept putting them at the free-throw line, 41 free-throws, 15 turnovers and we got outrebounded.

Q.  Tekele Cotton's defense on Tray Woodall seemed to be important tonight.  Can you talk about that?

COACH DIXON:  You give him credit.  Tray missed three layups there in a row at one point.  It's just one of those days for us.  But Cotton is a good defender.  We talked about him being their best defender and probably the guy that would be guarding Tray.  We've got a lot of guys that can do things.  Our balance has been our key, but really when you have not anybody shoot it well and you go 1 for 17 from the three there are not a lot of things you can point to.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.


THE MODERATOR:  We are joined by Wichita State, Carl Hall, Cleanthony Early and Malcolm Armstead along with Coach Gregg Marshall.

Opening statement from Coach Marshall?

COACH MARSHALL:  Well, I thought our defense was a story for tonight.  We jokingly talked about the first team to 55 would win the game and the way our guys defended and rebounded against a team that defends and rebounds extraordinarily well over Jamie's entire tenure I thought was the story. We win by shooting 39% but to hold them to 35% and outrebound them by 5 and to hold them to 6% at the 3-point line speaks to the rebounding ability and the defensive intensity and passion.  So very pleased to be moving on to the third round.

Q.  We talked to you guys yesterday about the size disadvantage that you had.  What was it like, Carl, guys getting elbows to the face?  And how were you able to get the advantage back?

CARL HALL:  It was tough going against a 7-footer.  I was trying to help and when I would get back he would try to seal me under and if the rebound goes long, he's so tall he would get 'em.  It was difficult because they're such a big team, but I think we did pretty good as far as checking out and the guards helped us out a lot.  So that made it easy for the post player.

Q.  Cleanthony, if you could describe for me the moment in the game when you thought -- because it was touch and go, physical, a lot of missed shots and a lot of missed threes, where you thought we got this in hand.  Was it toward the end, middle part of the second half, was there a moment or a play?

CLEANTHONY EARLY:  Toward the end, until the buzzer sounded that's when I knew we had it.  But until then I was trying to stay within the game and play and keep my composure like the rest of the guys and play solid to get the win.

Q.  Malcolm, what is it that makes Tekele such an outstanding defender, and when you go against him in practice talk about how difficult that might be.

MALCOLM ARMSTEAD:  He got a big heart.  He's strong, athletic, stronger than he looks, maybe like a free safety.  He can guard positions 1 through 4.  And he has a big heart and his desire and will to defend is crazy.

Q.  Malcolm, where other players in the first NCAA Tournament might have the nerves you approached this game like it was any other.  What allowed you to rise above any nerves or apprehension?

MALCOLM ARMSTEAD:  At the end of the day it's basketball.  So, yes, it's a good feeling to play in the NCAA Tournament.  But you got to go out and perform every game and play to the best of your ability, just a regular game.

Q.  Malcolm, Wichita State scored 21 points off 15 turnovers, that's uncharacteristic for Pitt.  What do you do to turn them over?

MALCOLM ARMSTEAD:  Pressure.  Our motto is defensive rebounding.  Tekele did real good starting the tempo, setting it for us.  We just built off that and got some easy baskets.

Q.  When were you able to do to get on track against Pitt because it seemed like you got into your offensive early today.

CLEANTHONY EARLY:  I had my teammates there, feed me confidence and saying it's a new day.  It's a new game, and everything in that tournament that happened is over with and you got to do what you do, play basketball.

Q.  Coach, you had a possession where you got a rebound off a missed 3-pointer, it was a 70-second possession when all was said done, up in press row that's when I thought we got this.  Talk about that 70-second possession.

COACH MARSHALL:  Did we score at the end?  Yeah, I think Malcolm scored.  At some point you have to start looking at time and score.  You don't have to be a math major to see that our biggest ally at that point was the clock.  We need to do make sure the clock kept running. We didn't do a great job on the defensive end.  They scored a few times too quickly.  But our goal was to utilize clock, looking to score a layup or dunk with motion offense.  But if we can score at the end with these guys ability to make a play at the end of a short clock we were going to go with that, and that's what we were able to do.  Our offensive rebounding has always been a big key for finishing a possession.

Q.  What does it mean to you guys to play "angry "?  And, Carl, did cutting your hair seem to work?

MALCOLM ARMSTEAD:  Playing angry, you know, toughness, going out and give it your all, not leaving anything on the floor, you gotta leave it all on the floor at the end of the day and play for your teammates and brothers at the end of the day.

CLEANTHONY EARLY:  Play like you want it.  Play with passion and heart and things like that and emotion and stuff like that.  That's what we tried to do.

CARL HALL:  You pretty much summed it up.  I was trying to keep the team positive and keep Clea positive during the game because I told him they were going to get a few offensive rebounds on us because they were so big.  We were trying to stay positive throughout the game and don't stop playing until the end.

Q.  Carl, Cleanthony, you seemed top knock 'em on their heels right from the start.  Do you think you took the aggressiveness to them and they never recovered?  Maybe you took them off guard with your physical ability?

CLEANTHONY EARLY:  Going into the game, Coach makes the statement, "Knock 'em in the face first."  So that's what we tried to do.  So I sat back and started the ball rolling from there.

CARL HALL:  I think the guards played a big part in this game rebounding down while we was checking out.

Q.  You talked about staying positive.  Neither team shot very well in the first half.  How difficult was it to stay positive and keep taking those shots?

MALCOLM ARMSTEAD:  You know, basketball game is forty minutes.  You've got to continue to stay focused and you can't get down on missing shots because you know you're going to get opportunities throughout the game and you've got to have confidence and be ready to burn your next shot.  So it's a matter of staying focused and doing what it is you do.

Q.  Malcolm, with 6 minutes to go you had a 5-0 run.  Driving to the basket, did you see anything in particular that opened up for you in those plays?

MALCOLM ARMSTEAD:  Carl and Cleanthony and Ehimen Orukpe was sealing their man, and they were given giving me driving angles.  Without them I wouldn't be able to do that.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, gentlemen.  Questions for Coach?

Q.  Late in the first half, Pitt hit a couple of jump shots back-to-back to take a 2-point lead.  You took a timeout.  It seemed like after that timeout things started to go your way.  Can you talk about that?

COACH MARSHALL:  I think they got those off an offensive rebound, if I'm not mistaken.  But I'm not big on timeouts, but that was a good one.  I don't remember exactly what was said but I think one of them was a 3-pointer -- right, okay, 4 points is a lot of points in that half the way the game was going and I didn't want them to build on that momentum.  We had enough timeouts to burn. I don't know if that was my use it or lose it or additional timeout, but I thought let's calm 'em down.  Did I sub -- usually if I see guys are tired we may need a sub for that possession.  That could have been the case as well. With the altitude, I think our guys adjusted well coming out two days earlier and practicing.  I just thought let's not let 'em get a big, big run here because that could be fatal in this type of game.

Q.  Look like Tekele took his assignment on Tray Woodall today and took him out of the game.  Can you talk about Cotton and how tough he's been all season long?

COACH MARSHALL:  He's just -- Malcolm called him a free safety.  I think he's more of a strong safety.  I think he's going to come up and help in run support.  He's a tremendous athlete, wonderful, wonderful young man with a great family. Tough as nails.  Not the greatest skill guy.  He does hit a huge three in the left corner in the second half, but he holds their leading scorer and best player a guy who had 19 points against us assist a freshman in Kansas City to 2 points.  He scores 6 -- at least a couple of them in transition off dunks. So he was very vital and it shows because he leads us in minutes, which he normally doesn't do but 33 minutes he logs tonight.

Q.  Coach, you said yesterday that Cleanthony is an "X-factor" for this team.  Was there any message to him before the game when everyone else was struggling to hit shots.  He scores 21 points for the team.

COACH MARSHALL:  And goes 0-3.  He didn't hit anything, but the bottom of the net in practice yesterday.  I could tell he was focused.  I said to him, I encountered him on happenstance, just he and I earlier in the elevator -- I guess last night.  I told him, "We need you to play well.  You're a very good player, and it's hard for us to win when you don't play well." And he goes, "I know.  I got you."  I think he felt bad the way he played in Saint Louis and this is a big stage and he showed what he's capable of.  I'm so proud of him.

Q.  Gregg, players talked about hitting them first was that particularly important in a game in which you were undersized a little bit?  How were they able to do that so well?

COACH MARSHALL:  If you allow the bigger guy to make hard, initial contact first, then he's going to be pushing you under the basket and that certainly happened a couple of times.  You have to be the aggressor and get low and get a nice center of gravity and be able to wedge them out because they're huge!  Adams is so big; and Zanna is big.  They keep bringing big guys off the bench, but I think our quickness was a big key.  I thought we were quicker than them and that's something no one talked a lot about.

Q.  The Big East got eight teams into this tournament.  What does it mean to do what you did against a bona fide opponent like that?

COACH MARSHALL:  Well, you know, we lost a team in our league to the new Big East just yesterday, so maybe we should be the ones going to the Big East.  I'm not advocating any of that.  I just thought our guys were very focused and were ready to play against a great team. Jamie has done an unbelievable job.  He's one of the winningest coaches in his tenure there in the country not just the Big East.  For us to win and handle it like this, I don't know what to say other than our guys played very, very well, and took the fight to them.  That's hitting first.  We're not talking about literally hitting, but getting your body on them and being quicker to the ball and the steals that we had in transition. Cotton and some others, were big, big baskets to help give us the lead that became a comfortable lead as the game wore on.

Q.  Gregg, near the end of the first half there was a flagrant one foul, controversial call on television.  Can you take us through what you saw happen?

COACH MARSHALL:  I didn't see anything happen.  The rule that we have in place is a rule that I think we're going to need to clean up.  I'm not a referee by any stretch of the imagination, but what I've told my players this year is if you get a legit elbow to the head, then you need to tell me. If I don't see it, I need to know about it if someone does that because the intent is to not to have people hitting others in the head with an elbow or whatever so you can get a concussions or your teeth knocked out or your eye orbit damaged. So, Ron Baker says to me, "I just took a massive elbow to the mouth."  And I said, "Are you sure?"  And he said, "Absolutely."  I said, "Check on it."  I've said this to the guys since the 10th or 12th game, if you get elbowed, let me know. This is the first time they've said anything and we're barking because Carl missed a box out and someone laid it in and he said I got elbowed in the head and I said check it again, and they said well, that will cost you a timeout and why I said I didn't care, we'll go 1 for 2.

Q.  You put Cleanthony back in the game with 2 fouls.  Is that a no-brainer for you?

COACH MARSHALL:  It wasn't a no-brainer.  You're exactly right.  That's acute there, Bob.  I don't like to do that because then they can get a third foul and I was going offense/defense with him at that latter part of the half, and trying to say, "Don't get that third foul." It was key that he didn't pick up a third foul because then you start the second half and you foul once you've got 4.  You're right, I don't normally do that, but he and Carl are both over there with two fouls from the 10 minute mark on. So I didn't want the game to get away from us, and we were able to go into the half with a 5-point lead.  I thought it worked out.

Q.  Coach, did you ever imagine giving a message to your guys saying, we want one more game in Salt Lake City of all places?  Most teams want to go to the big towns.  But was there anything that you told your guys, like we don't want to go home?  You said you don't like approaching it with the finality of it.

COACH MARSHALL:  I really didn't.  They understand.  This group thinks they can beat anyone in the country, and they're not intimidated.  They're not afraid.  They're not going to lose their confidence.  They've shown that all year long with the adversity they've dealt with and at one point playing with seven guys. So I just think they feel that they can go out tomorrow against an unbelievable Gonzaga team, a 1 seed, and give 'em a good battle.  We're going to scout the game, get some rest tonight, practice tomorrow and it should be a great ballgame.

Q.  Gregg, you get any inkling beforehand, any clues that they're going to come out physically ready to go against a physical team like this?

COACH MARSHALL:  Not really.  We did our normal game-prep routine.  Chris Jans did an unbelievable job of breaking Pitt down.  He told me going into the game he had an inner calm.  They were bigger, but he felt we were quicker and he thought we could guard them. Even though they score 21 points in the first half I was saying, Chris what are we going to do?  We're not defending the ball screens well.  So I'm trying to basically shut 'em out.  But it's not going to happen.  He kept going, Coach, they have 12 points in 14 minutes, whatever. So we were defending the ball screens, but I hate giving the screen and rolls to the big guys.  It's a nice win.  We're looking forward to sticking around and love your city, and we will see where we can go on Saturday.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach. 

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