Ohio State moved on to the Big Ten Tournament final today against Purdue by beating the #1 seeded Michigan State in Indianapolis 82-70. The Buckeyes got help from every person on the team with great performances by Evan Turner, Jon Diebler, William Buford, and BJ Mullens. After the game Evan Turner discussed how they made adjustments after losing two regular season games to the Spartans and how he came back from not scoring in the first half to scoring 18 points in the second.
COACH MATTA: Tremendous win for our guys, very proud of them. I think in the first half our defense was active, it was good, but the key was the rebounding. We did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.
I thought we took good shots. We lost our minds there a little bit in transition on a couple of possessions, turned it over and we had numbers.
But I think at halftime the big key was telling them to keep rebounding. Obviously we gave up 16 in the second half, so they didn't listen to that as well as they should have. But for us today the key was getting the ball in the right guys' hands and making plays and shots.
The beauty of this team, Will kind of led us there in the first half and ended up with one point in the second half and ET was scoreless. Jon was as steady as he can be, and this was a great team win for us.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Evan or Jon.
Q. How can you describe the aggressiveness and toughness that the team has played with these first two games compared to the way maybe that you played down the stretch defensively especially? It looked like a bit of a different team.
EVAN TURNER: I just think we're really focused right now. We focused on what it takes to beat a great team like Michigan State. We know to win this game we had to play tough. Our focus was being tough. Coach said toughness and rebounding is going to win this game, and that's what we were trying to do.
We just came together. This was a good team win all around. We all keyed in for 40 minutes to play hard.
Q. You were scoreless at halftime, what did you do different in the second half to get your game going?
EVAN TURNER: I made baskets, obviously, but Coach called some pretty good numbers, pretty good calls for me to get me open and let me create, but also my teammates were hitting jump shots which opened stuff up.
And at the beginning of the game they were focused on me a lot, Michigan State was. And as my teammates made more shots, then we were an all-around offensive threat just as a team and it just made things way easier for me.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about how good of a shooter Jon is and some of the shots he makes? You guys can't be surprised to see that.
EVAN TURNER: I'm not surprised. When I first met Jon I was like a junior in high school. We were getting ready to play versus each other in AAU. And my coach said this is going to be by far the best 3-point shooter in your life.
Once I seen that, I think every shot he shoots is going to go up, it's going to go in. He's just such a good shooter. He works on it. That's what he's known for and he just has confidence, he has great confidence in his shot and looks the same every time he shoots it.
Q. Could both of you guys comment on the play of your big guys, both of them were really active. Looked like you were looking for them. They were playing some offense and getting a lot of rebounds and blocking shots?
JON DIEBLER: When they're a force inside, we're a totally different team. These last two games, I think B.J., Dallas, and even when Kyle has been in, and even when Evan has been in the post, when we establish the inside game, it's hard to defend us because we have a lot of weapons on the outside, guys who can shoot and Evan who can create for himself and other guys.
I think they take it upon themselves to be a source inside and that's really helped us a lot.
EVAN TURNER: Just the second thing, I think Dallas has done a great job setting the tone which gives B.J. energy as he comes off the bench. When we have a presence down low in the paint, it makes the game way different. And it helps out a lot and, once again, it's an all-around team game and makes us a better team.
Q. Jon, you talked a little bit about this the other day before you came here, part of getting those big guys involved is hitting them with the pass off the pick and roll. You guys seemed to be doing that a lot more and a lot better in this tournament than you did at times during the season, what's been the difference there?
JON DIEBLER: I think just how the teams are guarding us right now. Usually when we come off a curl, the teams are showing hard on the guy curling and the bigs are doing a nice job of opening to the ball, to the basket and we're finding them.
And, again, I think they've worked extremely hard on getting us open. When they do that, I think they're seeing the rewards, because we'll get it to them and they're finishing really well around the basket right now.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks guy. Questions for Coach.
Q. Same question I asked Evan about. They're too young to know this, but this isn't the first time your team has seemed to transform itself into something different at the start of the tournament season. How can you explain what happens or maybe is it something in the way you coach teams going into a tournament versus for a long season?
COACH MATTA: I really hold back throughout the course -- no. (Smiling) I think that you look -- and I said this yesterday. You look at all the Big Ten teams, I think we've all gotten better throughout the course of the season, without a doubt.
For our guys, the motivational tactics and all that stuff, there really isn't a whole lot of that for them. And like I said, we go into film last night, they were attentive to exactly what we were going to do. We didn't have a practice this morning. We didn't walk through in the hotel; it was more of a pause, you should be here, pause.
And I think those guys are starting to come together. I think the other thing is these guys are growing together as a team, which I've been very pleased from dating back to June 16th when they all got there and kind of the commitment they've made. But when you're this young and really a lot of the teams we've had here with the exception of the first two years have been really young.
So I think you're going to see that -- hopefully we'll see that improve as we keep moving forward. But I don't think there's anything magical that we've done in that regard. And a lot of luck. Michigan State didn't shoot the ball particularly well for us.
Q. Just wondering now with you guys beating Michigan State, the league champions in five of the six Big leagues have been beaten before they made it to the finals in the tournament. What's that say about this season and maybe what's to come in the NCAA Tournament?
COACH MATTA: I think it speaks of the parity across the board in every league. I think I've always said this in conference tournaments. It takes a team to kind of get on a roll and get going. If somebody's capable of doing that, they can become hard to beat. It takes an eight-minute stretch to open up a game, and legs and depth and all that stuff, foul trouble, becomes very crucial in that regard.
I think as you move forward, I've always said this, you get in the NCAA Tournament, the cream will always rise. You'll have a guy or a team make a run here or there, but you get a little more prep time in between and guys get a little bit more rest. So usually your best four out of six teams will be where they're supposed to be.
Q. Have you emphasized getting the ball down low more or is that -- is that just happening because of the way they're playing you?
COACH MATTA: A little bit of both. We have been screaming to get it in there. But those guys have -- it's a two-fold situation. We can look in there. We can pass in there. But they've got to be in a position of where they can do something when they get it. And it's one thing, going back to Bob's question, that this team's gotten better out of understanding, hey, don't throw this guy the ball when he's posting here. Don't give it to him. And we tell him not to.
And before there's a lot of times where we're feeding it and they're posting it at 16 feet. We don't want that situation because I know what the result is going to be, and we actual saw it a time or two today.
But then hopefully we're getting better, I think, and now 30 whatever games that the execution and the timing's a little bit better as well.
Q. How has your defense changed here at the end of the season and how is it different today compared with the last time you played Michigan State?
COACH MATTA: I think we have a little bit better understanding of roles and actions that are coming at us and I think we're just a little bit more used to it. When our defense was at its prime this year, we had Evan up top and Dave was down low and that gave us a 6-9 wingspan up top and a guy that had a motor along the bottom that helped us.
A guy like William Buford, you look at the progress he's made defensively throughout the course of the season. At times it appears he's made none. But, believe me, he's made tremendous strides defensively, and I think Jeremie and P.J. up there have really kind of developed an understanding of what they're supposed to do.
Q. Evan talked about the calls you made in the second half to try to free him up there. At times before that happened, it looked like they had three guys guarding him at the foul line. I don't think you'll be playing Michigan State again this season, but what did you do, if you can talk about it?
COACH MATTA: They do a great job of putting three on the ball off the passer, off the screener, and really tried to move him a little bit higher. And to their credit, and Evan even said it, we made some shots because they were helping off of Jon in the first half, getting the ball moving I think helped us. Once we got Evan to understand, if they're going to put three up there, just get it swung and good things, which then opened up the post for us a little bit as well.
Q. Talk about the difference that B.J. yesterday obviously kind of struggled a little bit with fouls and so forth, how much more he contributed today?
COACH MATTA: He did a better job finishing around the basket. Both he and Dallas. The thing I liked is he went up and he's got a tendency to play volleyball every now and then on defensive rebounding and he goes with one hand and tries to hit it and got on him on a timeout and got a big rebound with two hands.
I thought both he and Dallas did a better job of challenging -- when those guys were driving in, they were more of a force of challenging shots. And you see he got out, ran the floor, was just a little bit more active. He gave us everything he had there in that stretch from the 15 to 10 or whatever, and we got him a blow, and I think that always helps him and sometimes I don't recognize it. I'm glad I saw it today and we were able to get those guys in and out of there.