March 13, 2013
Nashville, Tenn. -
THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue on with Missouri. We ask coach for some opening comments on the Missouri team coming into the tournament, then we'll take your questions just for the two student athletes, and then we'll excuse them back to the locker room and finish up with coach.
Coach, if you'd begin.
COACH HAITH: Thank you, Claude. Obviously it's an exciting time of the year. I think the last half of the year we've been playing pretty good basketball. We're looking forward to post season and guys been working hard, getting ourselves ready.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take your questions just for the just student athletes.
Q. This is for Laurence. After your injury, you came back a little rusty but you've been playing really hot recently. What do you think has been the key to coming back from that?
Laurence Bowers: Well, definitely just putting in extra work in the gym and, you know, having guys around you that help build you up, you know, our coaching staff is very great at motivating and, you know, me and Coach Haith talked throughout the stretch and he gave me a lot of motivational words or whatnot and, you know, I focus on what he was saying and got lost in the game. I mean I've been playing well, but I just got to continue to work.
Q. Lawrence, Alex has been outstanding as an offensive rebounder this year. Just what makes him so tough in those situations from facing him in practice, do you think?
Laurence Bowers: Alex definitely he doesn't score -- he doesn't worry about scoring and that's -- he put all his emphasis on rebounding and playing defense and when that's your main goal, you know. I mean, it's hard to stop you, and Alex obviously he's very strong and wide body, so he use his body very well but he just cares about doing the small things. That's what makes him a great player.
Q. Are you doing anything unique in practice with rebounding drills, wearing football pads or pushing each other around or anything like that?
Laurence Bowers: Not football pads. We do do a lot of rebounding drills, you know, with Coach Leitao who works with the post players a lot. We do a lot of boxing out drills and offensive rebounding drills and it translates into the games. You know, when we go to the glass every time, good things happen. We just got to continue to work and practice each and every day.
Q. For Phil, kind of a two-part question. How frustrating was that final few minutes at Tennessee and take us through that last possession.
Phil Pressey: It was very frustrating. Whenever you lose a game we know we should have won we're always frustrated. I mean, last few possessions or last shot I could have got a better shot, could have took it to the hole. I didn't. We lost the game. We live and learn.
Q. This is for both guys. Is there something that in those close losses that you guys have been pointing to that you feel keep happening over and over again in those close losses in those situations that guys have been meaning to work on?
Phil Pressey: I mean, just overall getting stops when we need them, getting rebounds when we need them. We usually get stops but sometimes we don't finish the possession out, and I feel that's something you work on every day in practice, and I mean we harp on our guys about it and myself included and it's little things like that that kind of add up to the big things.
Laurence Bowers: Going along with what Phil said. Lot of people try to say, you know, it was the last play of the game or this and that and every game. It's not. You know, there are times in the games where we have to get key stops and, you know, due to small things and it just correlates throughout the game and it adds up towards the end when you have to make a home run play and you don't make it.
We got to just continue to get better and execute at the end and take care of the things during the game.
Q. Phil, you guys went on a run-in this setting, this kind of setting last year. What were the keys to doing that and how confident are you that your team can duplicate that this season?
Phil Pressey: I mean, living in the moment, I mean just have to take every game one at a time and I mean, if you find the right confidence throughout your team and guys get going, then you can run through the tournament and I just mean you just have to stay in the moment and take one game at a time.
Q. This is for both guys. You guys have been have 3-1 on a neutral floor this season. Do you guys feel more comfortable with neutral floor setting?
Laurence Bowers: I wouldn't necessarily say that. I feel we've been playing better on the road despite our record. However, on a neutral court you do have a lot of fans for your team and for the other, and obviously I think teams build off of their fans like all their crowd support. So, I think that fouling definitely, you know, go on a run here, and I mean had a little success on the road -- I mean on neutral court, but that's behind us. Like Phil said, we got to stay in the moment and take it game by game.
Q. Same for Phil.
Phil Pressey: I mean, to piggyback what Lawrence said. Right now everything is out the window. Those road loss, neutral court losses, home court wins, all that is out the window. Everybody has a new season right now. You're 0-0 and this is where you start at.
Q. This is for both guys again. How is your preparation changed now that it is elimination basketball and add in the fact that you don't know who your next opponent is going to be?
Phil Pressey: We didn't change any of our preparation. You just have to go into the game knowing that -- this is every team's last shot. Lot of teams, this is their last shot to get into the tournament so they're going to give it all they can give, and I mean going into these games, you have to do the same thing, lay it all on the line and that's what you got to do.
Laurence Bowers: The exact same as Phil, to be honest. Like he said, you know, every team is fighting for something at this time of the year and there has to be a greater sense of urgency on the court, because like you said, if you lose, you go home, and if you're a great basketball team or a good basketball team, you don't want to cut your season here in the conference tournament. You want to win a championship and then carry that momentum into the NCAA.
So, we got to go out there and fight like we never fought before.
Q. I think you guys won five of your first six games that were in single digits. Now you've last five of the last six. Can you discuss what you think that difference is, and obviously you're conscious of it, what you guys are doing to get there.
COACH HAITH: You know, close games they are what they are. You win your share of them and then there's some things -- you don't want to get to the point where you're dissecting your team where you get too worried about it. I don't want our guys to get worried about it. We've had some late game situations throughout the year where we played well, Illinois game, Bucknell, and we had great execution on both ends of the court. Then we've had some games where we haven't. You hear these guys talk about a lot of it, it's been -- everybody points to the last play or the play before the last play, but there's plays leading up to that. I think that's been the situation we've been focusing on with our team.
Q. Frank, building on what Lawrence said before, what has Coach Leitao done that's been so instrumental with your post players and in terms of offensive rebounding?
COACH HAITH: That's something we emphasize. It's the whole staff. We want our guards to rebound, too. We want Keion Bell and Earnest Ross, those guys to rebound. So, you know, teams have things that they're good at and what our identity is and rebounding is one of the things I thought we would really be good at. We focus on that with our team, not just -- we haven't done as good a job blocking out. That showed in our last game in Knoxville. They exposed us and we've got to get back to blocking out, but we've done a really good job all year of going to the offensive glass.
Q. With how challenging your non-conference schedule is, do you think you're solidly in the tournament or will you be sweating Sunday?
I'm not worried about that. That's not for me. We're just going to do the best we can tomorrow.
Q. Frank, you talked on Monday about the schedule tomorrow as you get ready for tomorrow night's game. What do you think you'll be doing with your team in terms of prep work, not knowing your opponent until tonight?
COACH HAITH: We've done some things throughout the week they don't know getting us ready for both teams as far as our shell work and guarding different actions and in terms of what we did when we played both those guys.
Today, we'll just continue to worry about us and, you know, we'll get prepared tonight, watching whoever we play, and tomorrow we'll -- we have all day, so we'll focus a little bit on that tomorrow.
Q. Coach, Keion Bell has stepped up a lot and been really consistent in SEC play. Why do you think that is as opposed to his non-conference play?
COACH HAITH: I think it's a matter of him -- Keion is in his last year and we got him and it's a matter of him being comfortable and getting used to playing with a different group of guys in his last year of college and that takes time. I don't think you're going to be able to -- his role has changed, what it was at Pepperdine. We've asked him to do some different things. I think it took him some time to find out his niche and his role and how he's going to be able to have the impact he needed to have for us to be successful.
Q. Are there things in particular that you've been working with with Phil Pressey when it comes to being a facilitator, getting the ball inside, or is it more just overall, you know, just emphasizing the positive parts of his game as a scorer and as a facilitator?
COACH HAITH: I think Phil is capable -- he's a great point guard. He's capable of scoring, but where his strength is and where -- when he plays with the mindset "I'm going make my guys around me better," that's when we are really good and, you know, not necessarily not force the issue too much in terms of just attacking and take what the defense gives you.
When he forces things we're not as good. But I think Phil has been the other. He leads the league in assists. He's all-time leading assist maker at Missouri. You know, I think Phil is ready to prime to have a nice stretch run here his junior year.
Q. You had to adjust to being in a new conference now two years in a row. How would you say the SEC and your impression of the SEC compared to that of the Big 12 when you were first introduced to that conference?
COACH HAITH: I think the SEC is way more physical than I thought it was going to be in terms of just the way that the play was. You know, both good leagues. I thought the Big 12 was outstanding, great coaches, and I think there are really good coaches in this league, too. This league this year is a young league. I think you saw that this league gets better as the year progression on because it was so young, teams like Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, they played their best basketball later in the year because they were so young.
Last year in the Big 12 we had a veteran league, lot of older groups in that league and -- but they're both equally good.