Thad Matta: Never Underestimate Tourney Experience

Xavier head coach <B>Thad Matta</B> and players <B>Lionel Chalmers<B>, <B>Romain Sato</B>, <B>Anthony Myles</B>, <B>Justin Doellman</B>, <B>Justin Cage</B> and <B>Dedrick Finn</B> faced the media Thursday afternoon in Atlanta heading into their Sweet Sixteen contest with No. 3 seed Texas.

Head Coach Thad Matta

Opening Statement ...

"I think obviously this is a great opportunity for Xavier University and to say that I'm proud of the kids and the job they have done thus far would be an understatement. I think this team has been through a lot and never dropped their heads, never felt sorry for themselves and continued to play. We went on a little bit of a terror with our schedule, four games in four days and then last weekend. One of the big things with these guys is trying to moderate their rest and try to get them ready for Texas. I think when you look at Texas' team, one thing in postseason play you never underestimate is experience and when you have four seniors who are in their third trip to the Sweet 16 and they have had a Final Four mixed in there, there is no question that our guys have a tremendous amount of respect for Texas and the job Coach Barnes has done. I'm looking forward to the challenge tomorrow night."

On Lionel Chalmers and is there a point he went from good to great ...

"I think with Lionel, one of the big things he had shown throughout his career in the three years we have been together is signs of being a really good player. I think the biggest thing that has happened for Lionel is make no mistake about it he is a tremendous athlete and has great quickness but I think his mind has slowed down. He still plays fast, but he thinks a little bit slower and I think that has allowed him to see the game in a different light I think the other thing he has done is he has taken a view of trying to make his teammates better. Make no mistake about it, that has been one of the biggest transformations of this team is his ability to make the guys around him better I think also his defense, he has more awareness on defense, he is learning to use his quickness better."

On Romain Sato's adapting to America ...

"It's funny, I think when I first got to Xavier, I knew that he did not know the English language really well and you know how it is as a coach, sometimes you can get real excited and maybe during a timeout or a practice situation I would find myself talking fast and loud and trying to get my point across and the great thing about Romain is he would smile and nod his head and have no idea what I was talking about. When you coach a young man like Romain Sato and you look in his eyes and think about a kid who has not seen his family in seven years and I think it was last year his country was in turmoil and we're getting ready to play Maryland and he has no idea what is going on with his family. I think so many times we take so much for granted and you look at a guy like Romain who is probably the most grateful young man I have ever coached and is appreciative of everything that he ever receives. You look for a student-athlete to be a poster child for what college athletics is all about and it is Romain Sato."

On Texas guard Royal Ivey ...

"I think the first thing you notice about him is he is a great competitor and the second thing is the length that he has and the ability to move his feet. And one thing I have noticed is he has a great understanding of the game of basketball and I think that so many times that helps a guys become a better defender and the people we have watched him guard and the job he is trying to do, there is no question he is a great defender."

On forward Brandon Cole ...

"The good thing about Brandon is he got to redshirt last year and he is a guy that got to go against David West and battle him and I think that made him better just because David was such a great player. I think in Brandon's case, the biggest challenge we had was to get him to focus and concentrate at all times and the ability he brings to this team as a back-up post player No. 1, Brandon is a great athlete and he has great athleticism. Throughout this season he has come up with big rebounds for us. I think as time has gone on this season, he has had a better understanding of our system and he has learned to trust the system a little bit better than at the beginning of the season and that has been a positive for him."

Senior guard Lionel Chalmers

On the defensive play of Royal Ivey (Texas guard) ...

"I think he's a great defender. He had All-Big XII two years straight. He's very long and athletic. He presents a great presence out there. Being an All-Big XII defender pretty much says it all."

On the team being a low seed in the tournament and the expectations for them ...

"At this point, seeds are not a factor. You have teams that have been playing well against higher seeds. I honestly think that the seeds are thrown out when it's game time. You have to go out there and play forty minutes no matter what seed you are and someone is going to win the game."

On the team chemistry before the St. Joe's game during the Atlantic-10 Tournament ...

"At the point of the St. Joe's game, I think that we were clicking very well. I think we were playing great basketball. I think we were playing great team basketball. We understood what we were trying to accomplish and we were taking it one game at a time. I think we were ready to play whoever and we weren't worried about who we were playing, just what we needed to do to win. We've carried that on and we've gotten better everyday. That's one thing I can say about these guys is that we want to win and we are willing to do whatever it takes to win. When you have that, it's hard to beat a team."

On what it means to a program to have senior leadership on the team ...

"I think it means a lot. Experience pays dividends in the tournament and I think that's what it comes down to: senior leadership. You have guys who have been through the wars that can make those plays down the stretch. We have the benefit of having seniors, as well as they do, and I think it will be a long, hard-fought game because of that."

Senior guard Romain Sato

On the challenges that Brandon Mouton (Texas guard) presents ...

"It's a big challenge for us. He's such a good player. He can do a lot of different things, not just scoring, but he can rebound and pass when he comes off of the screen. So I think he's a big challenge for us. I'm not going to guard him by myself; my teammates are there to help."

On the difficulties adjusting to the English language and being able to understand Coach Matta ...

"It was tough for me the first year and second year, but each year things got easier for me. My teammates helped me a lot, especially with the Coach [Matta]. Whatever [Coach Matta] tells me, if I don't understand, they would take me and go into the office and show me. Now everything is easier for me. My teammates helped me a lot."

On whether he feels Americanized or if this country is still strange to him ...

"I think I'm getting to be very American now, especially with my legal guardian parents. They are American and I have been with them for five years, so they help me. I will never forget where I came from. I would say it's different."

Senior forward/center Anthony Myles

On the changing point in the season that turned the team around ...

"I would say the George Washington game. That was an embarrassment to Xavier, both the team and the university. We're not used to losing like that, especially to George Washington. I'm not trying to down them, but that was an embarrassment."

On what was said after the George Washington game ...

"I think we were feeding off of Lionel [Chalmers] that day. He was going off in the locker room. I'm a senior out there and I was having a really bad season. I wanted to make a change and take us as far as we could go."

On whether they will watch Wake Forest play tonight ...

"We're not thinking of other teams. Our main focus is tomorrow. Tomorrow is the game for us."

Freshman forward Justin Doellman

On the play of Xavier's seniors as of late ...

"This is their last go-around so we're trying to do it for the seniors. We'll just have to see how far we can go."

On Coach Matta being superstitious during Xavier's recent streak of success ...

"We're all pretty superstitious. We try to do the same things before games, and things like that."

On the keys to beating Texas on Friday ...

"Rebounding and stopping them in transition are the keys. They're a good transition team and get a lot of second shots. So, those are a couple things we'll have to stop."

Freshman forward Justin Cage

On facing a very strong Texas team on Friday ...

"We've been watching a lot of film of Texas and sticking to our game plan and everything. They've got a lot of good players, Mouton especially. Rebounding will be a key."

On Xavier turning things around after a 10-9 record ...

"I think coach challenged us to step it up and we really bought into what he was saying. We started competing harder in practice and the seniors really stepped up. They knew it was their last go-around and everything, and they really just stepped up."

Sophomore guard Dedrick Finn

On balancing academics and basketball this time of the year ...

"We try to keep up with it and our teachers are pretty understanding. They try to help us the best they can. We try to stay focused on the game but we need to take care of the academics first."

On continuing to play at a very high level ...

"It's pretty obvious that we can keep playing like this, as long as we keep playing hard and coming in here with a good state of mind and staying focused."

On being at the regional with traditional basketball powers Duke, Illinois and Texas ...

"This is where we want to be. I've been watching them at No. 1, at No. 2 year in and year out. We feel that we can play just as well as them."

On earning more national respect from the media ...

"We can't really worry about that. We just need to keep going out and playing hard."


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