NCAA: Cornell Post-Game Quotes

Exorcising their demons from a bad first-round loss of a year ago, Stanford hammered Cornell in the Cardinal's NCAA opener on Thursday in Anaheim. Following an impressive 77-53 win that was not as close as the margin might indicate, head coach Trent Johnson was joined by standouts Robin Lopez and Kenny Brown in the post-game media room.

Head Coach Trent Johnson

Opening statement:

"I thought we got off to a very, very good start defensively. We knew going into this game, they shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter, and there were a couple kids on their team we knew we had to be able to help.

"So it helps to get off to a good start defensively. Cornell, as we all know, had one heck of a year - undefeated in league - which is really hard to do in this day and age. And they hadn't lost in 16 games. So it was nice to see our guys come out and be very aggressive, ready to play, and relaxed."

What was the plan on dealing with Wittman? I think Fred was on him in the beginning and you ran a lot of different people at him.

"Basically, we had to guard him. We use the term 'a lot of help.' Normal defensive principals are not going to help on penetration. I don't want to say it's like how you're going to back to how you defend in junior high: you face guard a guy all over the floor. He is a very good player. We're bigger and stronger.

"But the thing that impressed me the most about Cornell is they're basketball players. They understand how to play. They have a high basketball IQ. But that was the plan, to make sure we made him work for everything regardless of who was on him during the course of the game."

You were talking about being relaxed. Were you worried they weren't going be relaxed in this situation?

"No. You know, it's interesting, for the most part, we've had probably as good of days coming into this tournament in terms of preparation. This is a group, like I said earlier in the year, that you can trust. You pretty much get a good feel on what they're thinking, and their preparation has been very good all year long.

"For me, I go back to, I want to say middle of December, when Brook became eligible. I thought if anybody beat us from that point on, it was going be because they were a better team that given afternoon, that given night. So for the most part, I thought they were ready to play and very relaxed, yes."

Robin mentioned the last year was a thought process for them. It was on their minds. Was last year a big deal, you think, leading into this game?

"Well, you know, again, as much as I try to not deal with the past and put it behind us, I think regardless of what you as a coach or as a staff talk about, it bothers them. I mean, they read the papers, they listen to the news, and they wanted to come out and be extremely aggressive. But also they're smart enough to understand that Cornell's not Louisville, with all respect to Cornell. Cornell's not Mississippi State. So this is a different team. This is a different team we played. It's a more experienced team than we have, and we understand that."

Trent, was there anything you were unhappy with today, and how valuable is the rest some of your players got?

"Well, I think rest sometimes is overrated, quite frankly. I thought we played our best basketball in the Pac-10 tournament three games in three days. Yes, I was very unhappy. I thought the guys that hadn't been playing a lot had a lot of unforced turnovers and we got away from what we do from the standpoint of execution offensively and defensively, but that's what you would expect when kids haven't played that much. From that standpoint, still it's one-possession game.

"We're trying to get better. We're trying to improve individually and collectively. So, you know, it's a nice win, but still there are some things that we could improve on."

Can you talk a little bit about Fred and Kenny's play at the point, especially with Anthony and Mitch in early foul trouble?

"Well, one of the things that we identified as a staff, and I as a head coach going back into last year a little bit, we didn't do enough job of putting these guys in position where they could handle the ball and not be in a turnover situation. We operated a lot out of a one-guard front. Now we're in a two-guard set a lot of the time.

"So it takes a little of the pressure off when Mitch is not on the floor. Even when he is on the floor that Fred can handle it, Anthony can handle it. Kenny can handle ill. Although Kenny was out front, still he was a two-guard set. And we've been able to manage. When I say manage I mean we've been able to at crucial points in games get the ball to the right people at the right time."

Coach, I wanted to ask about the rebounding. You know, you won by a big margin, 47-25 on the boards. How did you feel that the effort -- how hard did you feel people were getting after it today?

"Our effort was really good. Our effort has been really good probably the last month. And again this is a group where they're going to compete, they're going to play hard. Sometimes, because we have size and we're not rebounding well, it's because we're getting outquicked to the ball and other teams may have better athletes. For the most part today we were very aggressive, but we got a quickness advantage to the ball at times."

You are just done with this one, but do you got any sense on what the Marquette match-up is like there? They've got three small guards; they spread out I guess a little bit. Any thoughts on Marquette?

"Yeah. Everything's at the rim. We're going to have to limit transition baskets. We've got our work cut out for us. They want to play fast. They want to pull out of pressure. It's going to be interesting. It's going to be very interesting. Dominic James is special, O'Neal is special, Matthews is special. But it's pretty much what we've seen all year. I liken them a lot to USC's explosiveness. Of course, UCLA, they're explosive in their own right. So we got a day and a half to try to inject some speed in some of our guys."

Senior guard Kenny Brown

Kenny, can you just talk about the defensive pressure, particularly on the perimeter in the first half?

"It was very important for us to come out and defend. That's what we try to identify with; that's what Stanford tries to identify with. We know in order to go far in this tournament, to go anywhere in this tournament, we have to play defense first." 

Sophomore center Robin Lopez

Trent just mentioned the word relaxed, Robin. You guys definitely looked relaxed yesterday going into today. Was there definite a sense of calmness about this team?

"Yeah. There was definitely a sense of calmness. What really helped was the experience last year. I mean, nobody likes to mention it but that was in the back of our minds. We knew we had to be mentally prepared for this game. As coach said, they were undefeated in league, and they're mentally tough, so we're going to have to be mentally tougher out there.

Robin, curious to get your thoughts on what it does to a team psychologically when you take away open looks as frequently as you guys did today?

"I suppose they're just going to have to react on the defensive end. They did for a little bit. They were playing with a lot of energy on defense. And I believe that's the result of taking away open looks."

Robin, you definitely seem to come out aggressively, physically, to block every shot. Was that your intent, just to show you guys obviously have more talent than they have, just to show how aggressive you could be?

"I believe that was our team's intent. We knew we needed to come out there and impose our will, or else there would have been a good chance for an upset. Cornell's a very good ball club."


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