Men's Basketball

Wednesday's NIT Championship Game Press Conference

Travis Ford at the NIT Press Conference.

Travis Ford at the NIT Press Conference.

April 2, 2008

NEW YORK - On Wednesday morning, head coach Travis Ford along with New Yorkers Gary Forbes, Chris Lowe and Dante Milligan met with the media. Here's what they had to say heading into the NIT Championship game.

UMass Head Coach Travis Ford
On Ohio State:
"They are a team that is a big, physical team at every spot. Even (Jamar) Butler their point guard is a physical basketball player. Their twos and threes are big, tall, athletic, physical, aggressive. They are a team that really relies on their physical makeup and they play really hard. It should be an exciting game. Obviously Ohio State has a lot of tradition, a great basketball program and obviously Coach (Thad) Matta is a great coach."

On the team coming back:
"That is not something that you want to keep relying on. These guys know that if that happens they know they can come back. It is not a guarantee you are going to come back. That is not a situation you want to put yourself into. I think it is important we get off to a better start because of Ohio State's aggressive nature. It is not something you can dictate. The only thing you can control is how hard you play."

On only having one day off:
"Both teams have the same disadvantage because I like preparing. It is different in that our players have a lot to absorb mentally. We will practice but it will not be as much physical as much mentally. This team has done a good job of scouting reports. They have done a very good job of absorbing as far as what we need to do game-wise. This team has done a good job of understanding what we want to accomplish when it comes to game time."

On comparing Ohio State to other collegiate teams:
"Xavier to an extent. Xavier can have a big lineup at times even though their point guard is small. That was a long time ago for us and our guys probably don't know remember that game that much. Even Syracuse (reminds us of Ohio State) because they start Paul Harris at two guard and everyone after that is bigger than him. I wouldn't say that Syracuse plays as aggressive zone as Ohio State. Ohio State is trying to force turnovers, force shots and make you uncomfortable in their zone."



On playing against a zone:
"We like to get the ball up and down the court. We like to have fun playing basketball. That is what we like to do. Anytime you prepare against the zone, most coaches talk about getting the ball up before they set your zone up but for us we are going to do that anyway no matter what someone plays (against) us. They are going to press you almost every possession. They are not just going to fall back into a zone. When you talk about zone, they are not a typical zone team. They are very aggressive."

On coaching vs. being a player:
"As a player on the court, I probably don't fall back to much (on that), as much as I do as what I learned from Coach (Rick) Pitino preparing and trying to get your team ready. As a player they just play. As a player we show up, listen to the coach and scouting report, but it comes down to playing the game. I pay attention to those things. Players just play. Once the ball goes up, they are going to do instinctively what has been taught to them in practice and instinctively what they have inside."

Chris Lowe
On Ohio State being physical:
"We know they are going to be an aggressive team but we just play our style. We have played a lot of aggressive teams. It is going to come down to who has the will to come out and get the victory. The first few minutes we will have to get a feel for it (the zone). We have played Syracuse so after awhile we will get used to it."

Dante Milligan
On foul trouble:
"I just go out there and try to give it my all no matter what. They give us five fouls for a reason. I think we just have to play their team as physical as we can. It will come down to who wants it more."

Gary Forbes
On leaving a legacy at UMass:
"I feel like Dante and I want to leave this school in better shape than we found. This school as never played for a championship. It means a lot to us especially winning it at Madison Square Garden."

On the team still playing in April:
"We talked about it when we were on the bus yesterday that we are playing in April. To be one of the last six teams still be playing in college basketball is gratifying. All of the hard work obviously paid off because we are playing on April 3rd."

Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta
On the physical play of the Big Ten:
"I would say in the Big Ten we would probably be in the lower echelon which we like. We want to be the team that you can't grab and hold what you can't catch. I do feel like we played much more physical through the latter part of the season. We have been more aggressive defensively more consistently. I like the way we are playing right now. I think there is a good blend of physical play and finesse play which has helped our team. I do believe we have played more aggressive now than throughout the course of the season."

On only having a day in between games:
"These guys do a good job of zone attack. It makes it a more personnel based scout than it does actions and concepts."

On UMass:
"Obviously (they are) a very aggressive, talented basketball team. You can look at their stat sheet and they have five guys that can get 30 points in a game. They have a great blend of drivers, shooters and they finish around the basket. They are going to get up and really try to force your hand. They use their speed and quickness to their advantage with their full court defensive stuff."

On comparing UMass to other collegiate teams:
"We have seen it. I think North Carolina would probably be one of the most aggressive defensive teams in the country. I think Tennessee would be right there with those lines. Michigan State is the same way. We have seen quite a bit of it I would venture to say."

More on UMass:
"Not only do they get to the rim but they drive and kick for threes and they have guys that can make shots. They are a little bit like us. I haven't seen them earlier in the year but I would venture to say they are playing their best basketball."

On the long season:
"You are on to the next thing. I thought about the irony. We have a chance for two years in a row to end our season on a winning note. The fact that we are playing in April is astonishing. When you think about that and the longevity of the season and as the season wears on you find yourself where (you are thinking) what do we have to do to get better and play our best basketball. You don't have time to think."

On the team's youth:
"We were a team that had four players, when we started the season, that played college basketball before. Unfortunately I took much longer than we would like to play our best basketball. You know me, I want to play our best basketball in February and March and I believe we are doing that. Tomorrow night one of us will come out a winner and a runner up and hopefully that is a motivating factor for us."

On the importance of playing postseason games:
"We have seen guys throughout the course of practice and in the four (postseason) games we have played, we have seen guys get better. Without a doubt in my mind this has been advantageous for us. This is our 118th practice of the season. All of these guys, Kosta (Koufos) continues to grow, Evan (Turner) last night (was good) and David (Lighty) and has grown on a consistent basis. This has been great for our program. The energy, the atmosphere (of the games at home), I hope it carries over."

On the seniors:
If you look at what the seniors have accomplished, they were banned their first year, they were a 2 seed the second year, a 1 seed and played for the National Championship and now they are playing for the NIT Championship. Those guys have had a great run."

"It took me awhile but as the games and practices progressed helped me. Having physical contact everyday and just beating up on each other has helped me with my mindset to have a more aggressive nature."


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