EVANSVILLE MEN'S PRESS CONFERENCE
March 7, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
EVANSVILLE – 69
DRAKE – 61
THE MODERATOR: Victorious Aces are here. They'll play Wichita State tomorrow, a noon game. As advertised, we will have an opening statement from the winning head coach, Marty Simmons, and then questions for just the three student?athletes, and then we'll dismiss them and go to questions for the coach.
COACH SIMMONS: Just excited to have the opportunity to play again. Give Drake a lot of credit. That was hard fought. They really battled. We had tough times keeping them in front, and they made shots, but really proud of our team and how they hung in there and made plays.
Just feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to play tomorrow.
Q. D.J., 30 points on the night. Just kind of talk to me about what was working for you, and you were kind of held scoreless for the first 45 minutes of the game. What really got rolling for you at that point?
D.J. BALENTINE: I think getting to the free?throw line. I think every scorer likes to see the ball go in easier, and getting to the free?throw line helps. Also, my teammates do a great job, and coaches always put me in a great position to score and get going early.
I think with that help, that helps me a lot confidence?wise and scoring.
Q. D.J., also, conversely, Richard Carter got off to a great start for them, nine points quick. What did you guys have to do defensively? Did that kind of raise your game a little bit? You had to kind of keep up in a sense?
D.J. BALENTINE: Richard is a great, phenomenal player. I thought we started with the zone and packed the defense in. So stop his penetration. That was the main key to that. And also, I see him scoring a lot when we get down early. That gets me going, obviously, got to compete and want our team to win.
Q. D.J., what was the key to your aggressiveness tonight?
D.J. BALENTINE: Same thing every game. Coach always tells me, be aggressive. Lead out there by example and keep attitude great. So I think every game I try to be aggressive. I didn't want to stop until the buzzer went off. I was trying to play hard the whole game because I know Drake's a great team and they try to fight back at the end. That's when I try to keep picking it up.
Q. D.J., aside from the quick turnaround tomorrow, what are some of the challenges you face against Wichita State as a team now the third time you've seen them?
D.J. BALENTINE: They are a team that doesn't beat themselves. They're very strong defensively and rebounding. We just can't beat ourselves. We've got to take care of the ball. We've got to rebound. We've got to play very, very good.
They're undefeated for a reason. We're just really excited to play them and looking forward to the challenge.
Q. This is for each one of you. You had them down by 15 at Wichita. Does that give you some confidence you can do some things?
D.J. BALENTINE: Yeah, it gives us confidence. You know, it lets us know that we can beat these guys. Obviously, it's going to take a whole lot of effort. A lot more effort than we did the first game even though we were up 15 at one point.
Like I said, they're a phenomenal team. It's just going to be?? take a whole team effort just to beat these guys.
Q. Egidijus and Jaylon also to answer that question about having Wichita down 15.
EGIDIJUS MOCKEVICIUS: I don't know. We got to play our game. I believe that miracle can happen.
JAYLON MOORE: Same for me. That gave us confidence being up 15. We just got to play our game and do what coach tells us and execute on offense and defense.
Q. Egidijus, you were two blocks shy from a triple double, 19 points and 10 boards to go along with that. What was the key to that? Did it really help to get VanDeest in foul trouble early?
EGIDIJUS MOCKEVICIUS: I'm just trying to do my job. Coach has always told me what I have to do. I try to do my best. I try to keep him out of post, keep him out of touch, and I've tried to help my teammates.
I don't care about my personal performance honestly.
Q. D.J., there was a lot of talk earlier today about how young this league kind of is, and I think I've ever seen you on the team, so you certainly qualify. What is this league going to be like in a year or two, and have you thought about what competition in this league could be like in the future?
D.J. BALENTINE: It shows a lot about the league with such young guys being so good right now. I think the league will be one of the top five leagues to come in the future. We've got great young players on every team.
I've thought about the future and what it holds with the conference. You see teams that have sophomores and juniors that are really good. It just makes you more excited, makes you more excited to compete against those guys and try to win.
Q. Coach, mine's a followup for Ryan's question. You guys played them nine days ago and catch them out of the paint defensively. You did the same thing tonight. Obviously, it's fresh in your mind, but what was the mindset in going in and holding them out of the paint tonight?
COACH SIMMONS: It's hard to do. I thought at times he did a good job?? was that to me?
THE MODERATOR: It shouldn't be. It's just the student?athletes right now.
COACH SIMMONS: I feel like a little kid, just got my hand slapped.
THE MODERATOR: I'm reading a note here that the eight blocks by Egidijus was a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament record, and so I lost my concentration. If there's any questions for the student?athletes, especially on that subject, we could take another question.
Okay. Gentlemen, we'll dismiss you.
Questions for the coach?
Q. Coach, they started off really hot. What did you tell them in the huddle after taking the time?out to get them going and get them to start making shots?
COACH SIMMONS: We weren't executing very well. They were getting a lot of penetration in transition. We weren't getting back. More than anything, it was that. We weren't containing.
Whether it was in transition or half?court, or our ball screen coverage wasn't what it needed to be. That's when we decided to go to zone, and that seemed to slow the pace down just a little bit. They came out in the second half and really tore our zone up. So give them credit, but I think from our standpoint just changing defense really helped us.
Q. Want to just answer my question, Coach?
COACH SIMMONS: Yeah. Keeping them out of the paint. I mean, Richard Carter is as good as any guard that we've played against all year as far as getting the ball to the rim. When he's making shots like he did tonight and passing the ball, he's a very, very difficult matchup. You can't stop him with just one guy.
Again, that's why I thought changing defense. I thought our guys for the most part did a good job of containing him. Obviously, having Egidijus back in there to challenge his shots at the rim, whether he's blocking them or altering them, I think that really helped us as well.
Q. Coach, does the fact you guys got them down 15 points early, played pretty well in the first half, does that give them some confidence they can do some things with Wichita State?
COACH SIMMONS: I think as young as we are, it does, there's no doubt. We'll play both sides of that. I mean, you get up 15 the first ten, and then we got outscored probably 30 the last 30. That's the reality of it.
There's a reason they're undefeated, No. 2. Those three guards play as hard as any three guards I think I've ever played against or coached against. They're that good. And it's going to be our ability to raise our intensity level. As our players said, you got to take care?? there's a lot of things you have to do well to win. They're an outstanding team. They're well coached.
But I certainly believe?? we've had two really tough games with them. You've got to take the positives from that and build on it. Then you take the areas that aren't good and try to improve from there. That will be our attack as we move forward.
Q. What areas specifically?
COACH SIMMONS: We've got to take care of the basketball. They score a ton of points off their defense. We weren't strong with the basketball. The glass?? you know, it's?? I mean, I can go on all night with you.
Q. Going off of that, you guys were 2 of 11 from beyond the arc tonight. What do you need to do in order to make some more three?pointers in?
COACH SIMMONS: I think just be better prepared. We seemed a little upright. We seemed just a little tight.
The reality on that is we won. Tournament time, I'm really thrilled. Our team got to the line 32 times. That's what you're looking for at tournament time. It just doesn't seem?? now, Drake shot the ball well from three. You just don't normally see a lot of teams over here shoot the basketball well. So getting to the line has always been a real important thing.
I think just preparation, and hopefully?? got a lot of young guys. First time they've played in a conference tournament. Hopefully, they'll be?? they probably won't?? but a little bit more relaxed tomorrow.
Q. Just a little more about the Shockers. You know their three guards that you talked about earlier, but to stop them tomorrow, what do you think is the biggest key if you have to pick one key?
COACH SIMMONS: That's a tough question. I don't think I could point at one thing. That's how good they are. There's not just one thing.
I think more than anything, it's just our guys believing that we can do it. If we execute and do the things we have set up, then we're going to give ourselves a chance. They just?? like D.J. said, they don't beat themselves. They can beat you on the glass alone. They can shoot the ball. VanVleet is a tremendous leader. Early is a difficult matchup for anybody. Their bench has given them energy all year.
They can throw a lot of defenses at you with their presses. I mean, they're just a very versatile?? and then the biggest thing is just how hard they play. I mean, they play?? a team that talented to play that hard, Gregg's done an outstanding job, obviously.
Q. You think they deserve a No. 1 seed if they win or lose this tournament this weekend?
COACH SIMMONS: Yeah, absolutely. Are you kidding me? I'm their biggest fan.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for Marty Simmons?
Thank you. See you tomorrow.