DENNIS KRAUSE: Joining us now UC Santa Barbara student-athletes James Powell and Orlando Johnson.
Q. James, this is your swan song in basketball until obviously whatever the next level holds, but in college basketball, just your thoughts about entering this arena and having it end here, or who knows, maybe St. Louis, I'm not going to stop you here, but what are your emotions and feelings about coming in here?
JAMES POWELL: I'll say my emotions are a lot different than after we won the Big West tournament. After we won our tournament, we were excited and happy to be moving on. But now we still have games to win. Even though we're 15 and the underdog, we're not going in intimidated like we just came here just to play a game. We're happy to be here and now let's play a game and go home. We're going to try to compete and play hard and come out with a victory. Now, it's more like game-like mentality than excited mentality.
Q. Orlando, do you hope that Ohio State is looking past the Gauchos?
ORLANDO JOHNSON: Definitely. That means we're coming up for the upset, just stepping out on the court and showing a lot of people around the country around the country Santa Barbara basketball is back. And me and James were, and the rest of the team, we just are proud to be a part of this and taking the right steps to get them back to that path where we're always known as a basketball powerhouse. So we're looking forward to tomorrow night.
Q. Where does that belief come from? I mean, everybody outside the team would probably pick you to probably not pull it off. What makes you believe you can do it?
JAMES POWELL: I mean, there are 64 teams left in this tournament, or started off with 64 teams, we wouldn't be here if we didn't deserve to be here. We didn't get here by losing, we got here by winning, so we're not coming here to lose. Like I said, obviously we have respect for them. We watched them on TV and we know how good they are. We know what they're capable of. But we come in scared or intimidated, then we pretty much lost the game before we even started. Like I said we want to compete and play hard, and I feel we should all think we have a chance to win the game. If you think you're going to lose, you don't even have a chance to win.
Q. Orlando, I know you guys watched them on TV a lot this year. But in the scouting video that you watched, is there anything that told you maybe even a little more specifically about what it's going to take to beat the Buckeyes?
ORLANDO JOHNSON: You really just see how talented and multi-talented they are. Their point guard is the second biggest player on their team. They've got everybody on their team is capable of shooting the ball very well from the 3 and getting to the basket.
So you look at them. You respect their game even more, just for not being one of the bigger teams but still being one of the top rebounding teams in the Big Ten and getting wins. I like the way they play.
Q. James, you guys had very good defense this year, suffocating at times. They are a perimeter-oriented team. Do you feel as though that plays into the strength of what you do defensively?
JAMES POWELL: I mean, I'm not going to say it necessarily plays to our strength. We're just going to play our game doing what we've been doing the whole year. Our defense is kind of confusing. So I mean, they'll have to try to figure out our defense like we'll have to try to figure out their defense.
Like Orlando said, they have really good guard play, that's no secret to anybody. We've seen them on national TV. We know how good their guards are, but hopefully our defense can cause turnovers and cause them to hurry up a little bit, especially since they haven't seen a defense like ours. Hopefully it can confuse them a little bit.
Q. Have you been watching any of the games today? I know you're busy and some of you guys even have finals. Have you watched any of the games and have you taken any motivation from some lower seeds getting pushed to the brink or even losing?
ORLANDO JOHNSON: Definitely. Me and James were sitting in the hotel room, we're watching the Murray State and Vanderbilt game. He looked at the clock, 4.2 seconds, that's 42 right there. That's his number right there. So he's like they're going to make this shot. They're going to make this shot. And the next thing you know, the guy comes off and gets a good look. It was contested. He made it, he was like, "I told you. I told you."
JAMES POWELL: You called it.
ORLANDO JOHNSON: Yeah, I called it. I didn't want to take all the credit. But he gave it to me. But it was pretty cool. Like I said, anything is possible.
Q. James, in some parts of the country Evan Turner is the big picture on Sports Illustrated and they do have a jinx with that magazine. Actually, you, however, you have a little picture in there. Where-is-Waldo type picture. What do you take from that? Do you think that's going to jinx them more than you?
JAMES POWELL: Who knows. I mean, the only curse I know of is the Madden curse. I don't know if you know about John Madden and the video game, I don't know about the Sports Illustrated curse. Like he said, there was an upset earlier today, Old Dominion or some team almost beat Villanova. When it's March, anything is possible. I'm not looking at the Sports Illustrated or anything like that. There's a hundred other players on that cover. If everybody was cursed then there would be no winner.
Q. Of the teams in the Big West Conference, certain teams present match-up problems for other teams. But you look at an Irvine or a Davis or somebody like that, maybe they're not as athletic. Maybe no one is as athletic as Long Beach State. Kasper was a great guard. Do you feel there's a benefit with you guys playing Long Beach State with their stable of athletes and beating them and having that almost be a kind of an idea of what you're going to get times whatever from Ohio State?
JAMES POWELL: Definitely, because, I mean, we know the caliber of athletes that Long Beach State has. A lot of people might not because their Big West is not on the national stage. But we know if we saw Long Beach State in a tournament -- I was telling him this today, if we saw Long Beach State in a tournament, we would feel confident that they might get a win. The fact we beat Long Beach makes me look like we have a chance also, because we know how good of athletes they have top to bottom. So the fact that we could compete with a team like that makes me feel pretty confident.
Q. Orlando, I know it's a long year in basketball. And some teams get burned out by February. You guys have been on a roll like 9 of 10 and 10 of 12 or something like that, or 11 of 13. Do you feel like you guys still have some of your best basketball ahead? Is there a wariness factor of winning the Big West and having to push to win the regular season title, too, or do you feel pretty rejuvenated by this?
ORLANDO JOHNSON: We definitely feel rejuvenated especially since when we did have the Big West tournament we had such a long stretch off, and we came back really fresh. But we've seen some of our early struggles, and the Davis game we weren't really efficient on offense and very crisp.
But I think now we're glad that we're here. So now we come out loose, ready to give it everything we've got against Ohio State and not to hold anything back. So I think this is a good moment for us to really just show what we're capable of. And I think the score would tell itself.
DENNIS KRAUSE: Thank you. Questions for UC Santa Barbara Head Coach Bob Williams, please.
Q. In 2002, Bob, you had a veteran team that almost upset Arizona. This year you've got a young team comprised mostly of sophomores. Tell us the difference between that team and this team in terms of like a confidence or an experience factor that they had that this one doesn't?
BOB WILLIAMS: I don't think there is that much difference. We had a junior in Mark Hull who was a huge game-player and made big plays against that game against Arizona. But we started three sophomores on that team and four sophomores on this team.
And I think this group is less precise than that team. That team was a very technical team in terms of how it executed offensively, and it fit that personnel really well. This group is not as technical but makes plays at a higher level and are more versatile in the type of variety of guys that can make plays. And we have two great players, much like that team with Mark Hull and Brandon Fuller, of this team with James Nunnally and Orlando Johnson has two great players. This team probably has more guys that shoot the 3 at a higher level than that team. James Powell has the ability to get hot, Orlando and Nunnally, Nunnally being the best 3-point shooter in the league. There's enough weapons on this team in a certain game in any arena at any time if those guys are all hot at the same time, it could be an interesting experience.
Q. One thing I've noticed is that comparing teams, especially maybe your team from two years ago, this team seems a lot more quiet and understated than maybe the team of Alex Harris, Ivan Elliott and those guys, Chris Devine. Does that make them maybe a better -- give them a better opportunity not to be intimidated by a team like Ohio State, less emotional? How do you look at it?
BOB WILLIAMS: Every team has a little different personality. And I think you're pretty right, that team was fairly outgoing. You know, this group's pretty outgoing, but only amongst themselves.
And this team seems a little unfazed. The question mark is, we didn't play very well against Cal or against Arizona State. But it was also during a time in the year when we weren't playing well. Their confidence level is much better. They've grown together. They've gotten more confident. I think anytime you come off a tournament championship, you're playing with a little more confidence.
You're seeing some teams that almost get upset or do get upset. Some of the bigger schools they come in didn't win their tournament championship. They've lost their last game. They've had four, five, six days to sit on that loss and trying to straighten things out or whatever. And they maybe come in and don't play with that same confidence in the first ten minutes and it snowballs. This group is coming off playing its best basketball, I think, this last month, and because of that I like this group's personality going into the game.
Q. What's it been like watching tape of Evan Turner the last four days?
BOB WILLIAMS: A little bit like going to watch a horror movie.
[Laughter] you know, I've told anybody that's listened, we've had the good fortune, we played North Carolina last year when they were the national champions. We played Kansas when they were like No. 3 in the country. We played Stanford when they were 4 in the country. We haven't played against anybody that was like Evan Turner. I mean, he actually, to me, I'm watching him play. I'm just so impressed with how under control he is at all times, how he changes speed, how he creates opportunities for people around him, how he shoots the ball, how he posts, how he drives, how he defends, how he rebounds.
There's really not a weakness in his game. He's probably the most complete player, then, in my college tenure of being able to coach that I've had the opportunity to coach against.
Q. How about the rest of the team with Ohio State, the other things they can do that cause you concern also?
BOB WILLIAMS: Well, they have a team that reminds you a little bit, because of the guard play, shows you how old I am, to the triplets at Arkansas, except this is the quads, they have four guards they play all the time. They are as good a perimeter shooting team as there is in the country. They've got a big guy inside that's not afraid to do the dirty work.
That's such a luxury at this game at this level because everybody is trying to prove they belong at the next level. These kids seem to play really within themselves and really well together. And Coach Matta deserves a lot of credit with that. And how versatile those four guards are in terms of their ability to rebound and defend, but they all handle it, they all pass it and they all shoot it. And I gotta think it's a coach's dream to coach.
I mean, I have to think that has to be about as fun as any team in this country to coach because of how versatile the kids are.
Q. That being said, is there a formula to beat them? What would you have to do? I know defensively you talked about the perimeter shooting and your match-up zone has done a pretty good job against preventing 3-pointers. Does that give you any hope entering this game?
BOB WILLIAMS: Well, yeah, we have hope entering the game. We realize we're going to have to shoot the ball. Nunnally, Orlando, James, Jordan, Weiner, they get open looks, they'll have to knock down shots. We have to do that. We have to hope we can be physical enough to rebound with them, that they just don't kill us on the glass. We've had trouble with that. What gives us a little hope is during the tournament we played much better on the glass.
And so that's a positive sign. And then if our match-up can keep them on the perimeter a little bit, we keep them in front and they've got to hit 3s -- anybody can have a cold night from the 3-point line. Anybody. And so we just have to hope that they are not going to get in and track meat up and down the floor. We don't want to track meat against them. We can't get murdered on the glass. We have to control that. And we'll have to shoot the ball really well against them.
Q. Are they nervous at all, the Gauchos?
BOB WILLIAMS: I think Ohio State is really nervous. They've been watching us on film. [Laughter].
Our guys? I think they're excited. I mean, the nerves, quite frankly, going into the locker room before we played Long Beach in the championship, the Big West tournament, you could cut them with a knife. I had to leave the locker room and change my mindset to go back in, because I had to loosen them up. They were uptight and they were nervous.
This will not be as nervous. We will be looser going into this. And we should be. We have nothing to lose. We are David. They are Goliath. And we're not going to go out there and be hesitant about whether or not to let it fly. We're not going to go out there and be hesitant whether or not we need to take a shot.
We have to go out and play aggressive and play our style, but I think our kids will be looser than we were in the Big West tournament. And I want them intense enough and tight enough to compete defensively and be physical on the glass. But offensively we've got to be relaxed enough to make some plays.
DENNIS KRAUSE: Coach, thank you.