NCAA Thurs.: OU PC (w/audio)

ST. LOUIS -- Inside Carolina's Thursday press conference coverage includes quotes and audio from Ohio head coach John Groce, D.J. Cooper, Reggie Keely and Walter Offutt, who spoke to the media at the Edward Jones Arena.

John Groce
Listen to Audio (12:46)

Opening comments:
"Obviously we're excited to have a chance to compete in the regional semi-finals. We have had a great week of practice, really enjoy being around this team. These guys have practiced well all year. They have been a tough group. I think that's the thing that stands out the most about them, is their toughness.

"The fact that all five postseason games including the conference tournament have been eight points or less, so we have been in some tight ball games and had to find ways to make plays late in the game to finish those games off. Just really, really proud of them. The way that they have come together and the toughness that we have played with.

"So we're excited about the open-door opportunity tomorrow night, I've told our guys it's a great opportunity for Ohio University and Athens and our basketball program and we're looking forward to competing against North Carolina."

Obviously North Carolina started their season off on an aircraft carrier in front of the President of the UnitedStates, and Ohio really didn't get regional attention until late in the MAC championship. It's a stark contrast, but how much is that contrast different this weekend than it was last weekend against Michigan?
"Well, I don't know, again, not to disagree with you, obviously they started their season on aircraft carrier, but we were getting votes for the Top-25 in December. So that's a national poll. This team has won 29 games, we played a lot of games on national and regional television throughout the year. Our guys don't, as I said yesterday, see themselves necessarily as a 13-seed or a Cinderella story. I mean our basketball team's been pretty consistent.

"We had a couple of hiccups there during the year, maybe a stretch where we hadn't won in the west part of play where we didn't play as well, but for the most part, we have been fairly consistent. And we have approached it one game at a time, and our guys really believe in our system, they believe in one another, they believe in themselves, they believe in their ability to win basketball games and they believe in our staff's ability to prepare them to win basketball games.

"So for us, to be honest with you, it's been more of a business-as-usual approach this week as much as we can approaching the game tomorrow night."

What did you take from those first four years in Raleigh with Herb Sendek?
"That's where my wife and I met, first of all, so I feel very blessed to have been there for that. Obviously that's a big part of it. I really enjoyed my time there. I learned a lot there at a very young age. Herb's one of the brightest coaches I've ever been around, I wouldn't be sitting here without Herb, as well as a host of other coaches. You mentioned Thad as well. It was a phenomenal experience for me. Those four years battling and battling and coaching in the ACC and having a chance to learn under him has been invaluable to my career, to be honest. I owe him a big thanks."

D.J. Cooper, Reggie Keely & Walter Offutt
Listen to Audio (8:45)

For D.J. and Reg, you guys were here two years ago, you're in another new stage now. Is there any similarities between two years ago walking in Providence and kind of being the new guys and then walking into this place now and being on a new stage, practice, mindset, tone, anything like that.
Cooper: "Yeah, our mindset is different. Coach put in the 24-hour rule, we go out and compete and we try to win that game. And if we win, we get to celebrate and be happy for 24 hours and then we try to focus on to the next game."

Keely: "No, I don't see any similarities from Georgetown and Sweet 16. But like Coop said, we prepare for every game like we're trying to win, and that's the different mindset that we have going in from two years ago to now."

What do you think of all the attention that's been paid to him? It's a national news story. What do you think of that?
Cooper: "He deserves it. He leads his team, they're a Top-10 in the country every year. So when you're one of the better point guards in the country, you deserve that type of credibility."

For D.J., are you guys sort offended by the label of a Cinderella? Do you feel like your coach was just talking about the fact that you guys have been in the national spotlight, so to speak, for awhile now, are you guys kind of offended by that label?
Cooper: "No, we're not offended because we are the 13 seed or whatever. But nobody in our locker room feels like we're a Cinderella team. We feel like we can compete with anybody on the national stage."

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