March 16, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Opening statement by coach John Thompson III, and we'll open it up to the student athletes.
COACH THOMPSON III: Any win this time of year is a great win. And that's a great win against a very good team, against a coach that's one of the best that doesn't he's forgotten more than I'll ever know. I'm extremely happy to be able to get a win today, this afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Jason, having lost early in your past couple of NCAA Tournament appearances, was there a sense of urgency for you specifically early? I think you scored 10 of the team's first 14 points.
Jason Clark: I think it was definitely a sense of urgency, not just for me but the whole team. We've known what we've done in the past. So it was a big thing for us to get this win today. But we gotta keep pushing. We've got a lot more games to play.
Q. Henry, was there a moment in this game where you felt like all the talk about you guys not being able to get out of the first round was just over?
Henry Sims: Yeah, when the buzzer sounded. Felt good to get that game under your belt. But we didn't come here just for one game.
Q. Henry, can you talk about not getting frustrated when you first got the first two fouls?
Henry Sims: Can't get frustrated at all. There's a whole game. I got those two fouls early. It's hard to get down when you know you've got teammates who can pick up the slack. Jason today was Jason's day. So it was Otto's day. A lot of guys stepped up for us today. I fouled out early, it wasn't or I got fouls early, but it wasn't a big deal.
Q. Henry, I think you have five assists and a lot of the offense was running through you on those back down screens. Can you talk about how that's maybe developed this year through your career and your passing ability and how the offense has been able to sort of run through you at times?
Henry Sims: The center has a lot of responsibilities in the offense. Mainly making sure that the team gets good shots. The team is set up where we're running an offense. My passing ability is off my teammates, getting open and catching the ball and finishing.
Q. Is that something you learned when you got to Georgetown?
Henry Sims: I guess it kind of developed. I'm not really sure. It's a hard question to answer.
Q. Henry, you know you had the trouble in the first half a little bit and at one point you had a basket in the second half and looked like you had a big smile on your face. Like that. Can you talk about the emotion? Were you happy that you were getting into it from the scoring standpoint?
Henry Sims: There's a smile on my face a lot during the game, especially when we're winning. I think the play you may be talking about is when the team was clicking, we're getting stops on offense, and we were also converting on getting stops on defense and converting on offense. That smile was just relief. It felt good that it happened.
Q. Otto, can you talk about your guys' focus particularly in the zone, closing out their 3 point shooters?
Otto Porter: That's what we've been practicing on, focusing on. They have a lot of 3 point shooters. We just had to focus on closing out on them, making them drive, just good closeouts.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Coach Byrd, the Belmont coach, he said that you really threw him off by playing as much zone as you did. Was that a I don't know, was that the game plan from the beginning to get them out of sync, or can you talk about your defensive strategy?
COACH THOMPSON III: We went in expecting to play both man and zone. Once we settled into our zone, I thought it was very effective. So we stayed with it, probably a lot longer than I had planned, probably longer than the game plan. But I thought our zone was fairly effective against them.
Q. It didn't seem there was any evidence at all of a player on the team taking today's opponent lightly or playing with anything less than total commitment and intensity. Did you see it that way? Did you talk about the danger of this game, or is that just what you expect from this group all the time?
COACH THOMPSON III: Both. I mean, that is what this group has given us all the time. I think that we're experienced enough, smart enough to understand that this time of year you cannot take any opponent lightly. I've seen several times the last couple of days that once you get to this tournament, the number that's next to your name does not mean anything. That's an outstanding team that we beat today. And our guys knew that going in. And they know that even more now. So, no, there was no let up or looking past anyone. We're not going to do that.
Q. I asked Henry about the passing ability and how the offense sort of runs through him. I'm curious, when he was in high school, if you remember that ability did you see that in him? If not, how much did that have to develop and how much did you guys have to put in in terms of that passing ability? And the second part of the question is what is the key to making that work, that offense work and having a center who can do that?
COACH THOMPSON III: Well, in high school, you know, we saw glimpses of that. But he's 6'10", 6'11" in high school. They're not going to throw it into him. He's got a 6'5" guy against him, he's going to shoot. I think we asked him to do a lot more than he was used to doing. And you have seen the growth particularly this year, you've seen the growth in his overall production, his commitment, his understanding. So I think he's a senior. He's a senior. And whether this country, a lot of kids want to understand or not, a lot of times you do continue to get better. And by senior year you can go through three years of not doing that much, being quite honest, to all of a sudden where Henry's having a terrific senior year and a very good latter part of his senior year.
Q. What's the key to having someone like that facilitate that what's the key to making an offense like that work when you ask a big guy like that to facilitate that?
COACH THOMPSON III: If he can do it. We've had big guys that can do it. We had years where we haven't. We just adjust and tweak who you have doing what. He's very capable of making plays. His decision making tonight I thought was very good, his decision making on when it was open for him to go ahead and score and when his teammates were open. He handled their double teams, I thought, very well.
Q. John, you guys played NC State last year in Charleston. Obviously a lot of the same players, but a very different team. What's your read on them as an opponent?
COACH THOMPSON III: One, I haven't really looked at them yet. Give me a couple of hours. A couple of my assistants can probably answer that question a lot better than I can right now. But your lead in is appropriate. They have a new coach running different systems, much we sit here and talk about how Henry's growth and developed, a lot of their guys have progressed and are different players than they were last year. It's a totally different set of circumstances.
Q. I was kind of interested in Mark's question about when you see a center or a big guy in high school, do you look at his hands and feet and how do you understand whether the guy can pull off that position, because it's such a unique skill set, I would guess?
COACH THOMPSON III: I gotta be honest. I haven't looked at a cat's hands and feet.
COACH THOMPSON III: I think it varies from person to person. I know we demand a lot out of that position. We demand a lot out of that position, as Henry said. And we're going to ask you to do a lot of things that possibly you're not accustomed to doing. You're actually going to do a lot of things that a lot of programs, a lot of coaches won't want their centers to do. But I think what's important is that every position, whether it's center, forward or guard, they're skilled and they're well rounded. And so a lot of the attention that Henry's getting has nothing to do with him scoring. It has to do with his ability to help and make his teammates better. And so we want to see that in every position.
Q. Is dexterity either there or not, though? It would seem to be something you can't teach, either your hands are good or they're not?
COACH THOMPSON III: Correct (laughter).
Q. How much relief do you have just not having to get any more questions maybe after mine about not winning the first game of the tournament?
COACH THOMPSON III: There's no doubt and I will be misleading if I were to say it was not a relief. You know, we've had all ends of the spectrum from Final Four, Sweet 16 to the last couple of years where we've had early exits.
So because of that, naturally, leading up to today, there's a lot of questions. Our guys turn on TV and see seems like most of the world picking us to lose today. And so you plant that seed. You put that in the back of your head and then you move on.
So it's over. As Henry said or Jason, one of those guys said, we came here hoping to win, expecting to win, and now we're prepared going to start to prepare for Sunday. But this tournament is not about let's get that monkey off your back, it's not we're going to see if we can win another one Sunday.
Q. Is that old school Georgetown defense like the Thompsons like to see it played?
COACH THOMPSON III: Our defense has been there's a guy floating around here somewhere, you might need to ask him that question our defense has been old school Georgetown defense I think for large chunks of this season.
Q. On that point of that defense, could you just speak to what the large skilled bodies you have to work with enable you to do as a coach to make that defense so impenetrable?
COACH THOMPSON III: Let's not get carried away with it (laughter). We've been penetrable many nights this year. As Coach Byrd said, looking at the tapes, I think we can win this one.
But we're versatile. We're long. And a lot of times people just look at heights and associate that with being having length and being versatile. But we have several guys that are 6'8", 6'9" that can guard guards, guard little guys, guard medium guys, guard big guys. And they're willing to do it. It's not just the gifts that God has given them. It's a desire. It's attention to detail. It's a caring about getting stops.
So I think we're versatile. We're a lot more versatile and flexible at both ends of the court, but defensively we can do a lot more that we haven't been able to do the last couple of years.
Q. I know you don't want to talk about NC State yet, but can you talk about the turnover or the turnaround that you guys have to do with the fact that you're saying you don't know much about NC State yet and these tournament turnarounds?
COACH THOMPSON III: But the beauty of that is that I think everybody's going through it. I haven't sat down and studied NC State, but there's a whole lot of people on my staff that have studied NC State. That's the nature of tournament play, whether it be the Big East Tournament, whether it be your preseason tournament, your holiday tournament. Obviously the stakes are higher right now. And, quite honestly, in a couple of hours I'll have a pretty good feel for them. As soon as we get back to the hotel, we'll start working.
Q. I think Liz said something about the intensity, but I noticed a possession with only 90 seconds left, the game is over, and your guys were still really going at it. A lot of starters out there.
COACH THOMPSON III: We gave up a 3 on that possession, didn't we?
Q. But they were playing really hard, you know. Did you notice that and did you look for things like that and does it mean anything?
COACH THOMPSON III: It means a lot. The game is 40 minutes. And that's whether you're up, whether you're down, and so that's something that this group, I think, has embraced. But how much time is on the clock, particularly the defensive end, doesn't always dictate or it will not change our level of intensity. Let's back up a second. I mean, they hit 10 3s. We didn't want them they got off 27. We didn't want them to get that many off. Now, that's what they do. They're outstanding at it. They have good shooters and the coach does a great job of getting them shots.
So let's not act like our defense was impenetrable today. I mean, we had a good defensive effort but it's got to be a lot better if we want to have success on Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening comment by Coach Rick Byrd.
COACH BYRD: I felt like Georgetown was simply the better team pretty much from start to finish. We chipped away, and we didn't let them get out of striking range. We've got a team that can run option points pretty quick at times and kept hoping for that, and we'd cut into them and get into single digits and they'd make big plays at the right time.
So I think the better team won the game, and I'd like to say different. But they deserve a lot of credit. And well coached. They shot 61 percent from the floor and they made 12 turnovers. That's a scary good offensive efficiency performance, and therefore pretty bad defensive efficiency number for Belmont.
And although we certainly had problems with their zone, I think the big difference was on the defensive end.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the Belmont student athletes.
Q. Scott and Mick, the stat sheet shows they only blocked three more shots but how many more do you think they affected?
MICK HEDGEPETH: I mean, those guys are big and long. And obviously when we went in there they altered shots and had a big presence, and they did a great job scoring offensively and as well with their defensive presence.
Q. Drew, what was not happening against the zone that normally you guys are able to produce against?
DREW HANLEN: You know, I think we held the ball too much at the top of the key and got our offense started with too late in the shot clock, therefore they were able to extend out. I don't think we found the post or got it in the middle enough to kick out. And I also think ultimately I think we forced a couple of shots inside, like you were saying, with their post players. I think we forced a couple of shots instead of kicking it out to shooters like we're normally pretty good at. That's something that Coach has been stressing all week, just get it inside the paint and look for shooters' weak side. And I think that sometimes we try to make the hero play instead of just a smart play.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach Byrd.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the uniqueness, maybe the difficulty of playing against a team who gets all their assists from their big men?
COACH BYRD: Well, uniqueness is a great word. We really worked hard to defend their offense. And we tried like crazy not to give up any back cuts. We just tried to keep our man I mean, the whole emphasis was stay between your man and the goal. When they come at you, they're going to backcut you. If they come and take a handoff, we can help with his man and we can get away with that, but we can't get away with the backcuts.
Because the backcuts then create if they don't get their layup, that means they've got help from the bottom side and the guy stepping out is wide open. There's so many things that happen when you let them backcut you. But you can't replicate that in practice. You can't. And you can get pretty close to replicating a lot of offenses if you've got four or five days to prepare, like we did, but you can't do it with the speed. They practice it over an hour plus every day they practice that stuff.
And, you know, some of it was some of it was them making good plays. But we had breakdowns. We had guys making mistakes at critical times and letting their guy backcut them. We had a even real late we had a they curled a play. We're not going to switch their curls. And we switched it and left a guy over there on the left wing wide open. He made a 3. If there was a nail in the coffin, that was probably the end of it right there. And it was wide open. And we did the wrong thing. And we did the wrong thing on a couple of out of bounds plays.
There were some disappointing parts of it. And I did a really poor job of I didn't expect as much zone defense, and it would be interesting to know if John just felt like that was a good thing to play us or whether he was worried about how we were doing against their man to man defense and switched it and tried it and it worked and he stayed in it. But we didn't spend much time they play at less than a third zone defense. And we've got good shooters, and I just didn't predict that we'd face zone or that we'd do as poorly as we did. But it's a great one. They're well taught, and they've got great athletes. If Syracuse is better than that, I'm glad we didn't play Syracuse.
Q. Do you feel like your guys have made progress to get back to the tournament? Do you feel like there's something you could take way from last year? COACH BYRD: I'm really disappointed in this game. Not because I think we should have won or that we are the better team or that we should have been favored and there were people picking us. I don't think that was right. Georgetown Georgetown is a better team than we are, and I think they're kind of supposed to be a better team than we are. But it should have been it should have been a better game from start to finish. And they established a six , seven , eight point lead. We couldn't we just it ends up being probably mostly double figures in the second half. And I just would like for us to have been more competitive. I think Wisconsin ended up 14 last year. But I felt like we were in that game better than I felt like we were in this game. But, I mean, I thought Clark making those three 3s in the first half, and they weren't real easy ones, were really big for them.
They made some big, tough shots late in the shot clocks, and if we're going to beat a team at this level, we've probably got to catch them on a day when those don't go in, at least we've got a better chance.
I'm proud of our team. I'm proud of our year. Those seniors just won three straight regular season championships and two straight tournament championships and 57 games in two years. And when I get a little perspective, I'll feel a little bit better than I do right now.
Q. I surely understand that your concern is not Georgetown's future opponents, but having played them just now, do you see a vulnerability in their defense that upcoming opponents can exploit? What is the best way to score against this Georgetown team?
COACH BYRD: You're apparently asking the wrong guy (laughter). Their defensive numbers are exceptional. Their defensive numbers this year are exceptional. And I was looking at holes in their man to man defense and preparing for their 2 3. But I will say this: I think they're a better team than I thought they were. Now, I saw them play some really good games. If you can go to Syracuse and lose in overtime against the one or two best teams in the country and you can have some of the wins they had, they're obviously good.
But I had some days where I thought we might have won those games on those days. But I think if they play with consistency, if they play I mean, 30 for 49 and only 12 turnovers, that doesn't leave many empty possessions. And they're going to play bigger, stronger, better people as they go along, if they go along. But I do think they have a better chance to advance further than I would have before we played them. I don't know if that answers your question or not.
Q. Could you comment more specifically about Blake Jenkins' performance not only today but these past few weeks?
COACH BYRD: Blake makes some big plays for us tonight, 17 points and 25 minutes is pretty darn good. He gives us things that nobody else does, and I think a real and we won 14 out of 15 games with him in the starting lineup. Blake needs to commit to all parts of being a good basketball player.
And a couple of the mistakes I mentioned were focused defensive mistakes that he made and gave up baseline out of bounds layup and an open 3. That's not the kind of thing that the casual fan notices, and if he can get better than that, if he'll make more of a commitment, he's an All Conference player in whatever league we play in. And he's getting way better at it. He's much closer.
Q. You mentioned whatever league you play in. You guys are changing leagues next year. What do you think moving forward, how tough will it be to get back here?
COACH BYRD: Well, obviously Murray State's got a great tradition, and they've had a phenomenal season. And so it would be easy to say that there is a stumbling block in the way bigger, wider than any we've had in the Atlantic Sun.
Now, East Tennessee State moved into our league and had a great tradition. Once Florida State and Georgia State and Troy State moved out of the Atlantic Sun, we haven't had a team like Murray State. But we lose three important people, there may be a lot of guys between us in the top next year. We've got plenty to prove, and Morehead State won a year ago, and it could be somebody next go around. But the tradition at Murray State program, it's kind of where it's in the water. They're going to win. They have a lot going for them. Great tradition. And they expected to win.
So I think it's fair to say, and Tennessee State is getting much better. But, you know what, Upstate is getting better and Florida Gulf Coast and Mercer is getting better and you never know what any conference might hold.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.