THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, those of you joining us live here in the Lexington, Kentucky, rep arena, we have the Colorado State University Rams. Our student-athletes, Dorian Green, wears number 22, and number 4, Pierce Hornung.
Q. Pierce, selection showed you knew if you beat Missouri you’d have to play No. 1 seed. Really didn’t think about that at that time. Now that’s a reality, where are the emotions going through your guys right now in this preparation?
PIERCE HORNUNG: You know, I think we’re just preparing for it like we prepare for every game this season. You know, in this tournament there’s no gimme games no matter who you play, you know. So, you know, you got to beat the best in this tournament because the best teams in the country are here. We got a tough challenge tomorrow, and we’re just going to prepare like we prepared for every game.
Q. Dorian, I just kind of want to get your perspective. They got some good guards in Peyton Siva, Russ Smith. How do you feel you guys match up against them?
DORIAN GREEN: We’re confident in ourselves and our abilities. They’re two really good players. We’re up for the challenge, and, you know, this is what we came to do, this is what we love to do, and so it’s going to be fun to compete against those two, but they’re really talented, two really good guards. So us as a backcourt, we’re really looking forward to the challenge.
Q. Speaking of the guards, the pressure that they put on, how tough is it to simulate in practice, and then how you kind of get yourself through the immense pressure you guys are going to be under?
DORIAN GREEN: Well, I think we’re going to go through it today — I think for us just got to be disciplined in our press break and run to it perfection every single time and be are crisp with it. Knowing they’re going to get deflections and pressuring and coming up with steals. We can’t turn the ball over, I think, and give them easy opportunities. It comes down to just all five guys being sharp in our press breaking and run with it perfection and being really crisp every single time.
Q. Either of you guys, how much did you know about your Coach’s sort of back story when he came? Did you have any trepidation? What does it mean to you be part of what he called last it night, his personal comeback?
PIERCE HORNUNG: We knew a little bit. What we focused on when we heard that Coach was coming to coming to CSU was the success he’s had everywhere he’s been. You can’t argue with success, and that’s what we looked at. You know, he was very up-front and honest from the get-go about his past, but all we cared about is the fact that he’s a great coach and early on we bought into what he was telling us and knew that what he was telling us, what he was coaching us, was the right way to play basketball.
DORIAN GREEN: Yeah, just like Pierce said: Coach has won every single place he’s been at. The proof is in what he’s done. It was easy for us to buy into Coach and our coaching staff and, like I said it’s been a great fit for us. It’s just been perfect.
Q. Dorian, Coach Pitino said if you guys dominate the glass again like you did last night and Louisville doesn’t have its usual huge edge in turnovers that you guys will have a good chance to win. Is that the formula that you guys think will be able to pull off the upset?
DORIAN GREEN: Our formula is the same for us every single game. We’re not changing anything. I think what we need to do is we got to rebound. That’s what we’ve preached from day one. So I think that for us to do the same thing that we’ve done every single game and aim to do every single game. We definitely can’t turn the ball over and let them get easy buckets in transition. Hang the pressure and just being aggressive, attack, and going and getting the missed shots will be huge. For us, it’s the same game plan we’ve had for the majority of the year. We have to do it the best we’ve done so far.
Q. Is there a defense that you think compares anywhere close to this Louisville pressure that you guys have faced?
DORIAN GREEN: I think when Lon Kruger was at UNVL, kind of similar to the run and jump to Pressey for 40 minutes. That’s the closest that we’ve seen from a Louisville — it might be a little different. I don’t really know, but we’ve had some experience with that against Coach Kruger when he was at UNLV. Something similar to that.
Q. For each of you, if you guys win this game, will you consider it an upset or do you expect to win?
PIERCE HORNUNG: You know, we’re going into this game expecting to win. You know, you’re not going to be successful in this tournament any other way. So, we got a bunch of guys that are confident in ourselves and our abilities, and so that’s the mentality you have to go into any game if you expect to win.
DORIAN GREEN: Like Pierce said, we’re a confident team, but we also understand our opponent. We respect our opponent, but we feel like we’re one of the best teams in the country and we believe in ourselves. If we play well, we know that we can beat anybody in the country. We just have to go out there and do it. It’s a great challenge for us. We understand what kind team they are and what they bring to the table. So, like I said, we’re up for the challenge and it’s going to be a dogfight for 40 minutes.
Q. You won your first NCAA Tournament game in 24 years, first post season game for you guys. Do you feel like the season has been a success now, or do you guys still have to do more?
DORIAN GREEN: It’s hard the say right now. We want to keep playing, so right now we’re in the moment. We’ll look back on that in five, ten years or whatever, but we still feel like we’ve got a lot of basketball to play, and to do that, we’ve got to come out and beat Louisville tomorrow.
Yeah, we’ve done something that we’ve never done, but now we need to build on it. We can’t be happy or complacent that we’ve won one game. We expected to win against Missouri. Now it’s just to continue that and not get complacent with where we’re at right now.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else to add, Pierce, on that?
PIERCE HORNUNG: No.
Q. For either of you, you guys talk about the magnitude of this game for the program and where it is for you guys in your personal careers.
PIERCE HORNUNG: It would be a huge win. Any win in the NCAA Tournament is huge. Like I said, every one’s a great team. Great teams — you got to be a great team to be in this tournament — so, you know, to get any win. But Louisville is a great team and we know that and, yeah, it would be a tremendous win. But like Dorian said, we got a lot — we think we’ve got a lot of basketball left to play.
Q. Dorian, last night you were saying that this coach brought just the ingredient that you needed. Can you just elaborate on that, what was that ingredient, what did he bring in?
DORIAN GREEN: Coach brings, you know, a big sense of toughness, both physically and mentally. So they push us from day one to be tougher, to win games on the road. We were pretty poor on the road last year, and so we’ve made strides to turn that around this year, and I think just defensively we’re way better than we were last year.
Obviously rebounding the ball, you know, we’re one of the best in the country at doing that and Coach brings out defense and rebounding and just the sense of toughness. It’s made us way better than we were last year.
Q. Could you guys just talk about the evolution of Jon Octeus over the course of the season and how much better is he now than at the start?
DORIAN GREEN: Jon has been huge for us. We don’t win a lot of games that we’ve won without him. That could be said about him, Gerson, DB, Joe, everybody on our team has a role. And so our guys off the bench have been great with their energy and their support and just their attitudes. And so Jon has gotten better every single game. I think it’s just come with the experience, and he provides us with a lot of, you know, energy, great lift, and defensively he’s been great rebounding. So you can’t say enough about him and those guys off the bench. They don’t get as much credit as they deserve because we don’t win a lot of our games without them and what they brought to the table and just the way they play. Starting with him and everybody else, they’re huge to the success of our team.
THE MODERATOR: Pierce, any thoughts?
PIERCE HORNUNG: Yeah. Their attitude on the bench has been great this year. It’s a tough role not knowing how much you’re going to play game in and game out, but to have the attitude to when your name is called to go in there and provide great minutes off the bench, I can’t say enough about them.
Jon, he’s just done a great job when Dorian was hurt, stepping in and playing huge. He’s a great defender. A lot of games this year, he shut down the other guy’s better perimeter player. Especially with Jesse Carr not being able to play this year and Jon stepping into that role, he’s just done a tremendous job.
Q. Everybody wants to rebound. You guys obviously do it better than most. Is it a mentality, do you do drills, how did this come to be?
DORIAN GREEN: Coach has talked about rebounding since he has been here, since he got the job and how he’s going to make us one of the best rebounding teams in the country. Coach always says you get what you put into it. You know, we take a lot of pride in rebounding. We do drills every single day about rebounding and blocking out and just being more physical.
It comes with — now it’s just natural to us, I think to the point where we’re done it so much in practice, we’re used to it. We can always do better. It’s a mentality and just our approach to it and just putting a lot of thought into what we’re doing. You got to ask Pierce because he’s the one doing most of the rebounding.
PIERCE HORNUNG: Yeah. I’d say — I imagine we practice it as much, if not more, than everyone in the country. It’s what Coach emphasizes, what we spend the majority of our practice on, and I think what you emphasize in practice what you get in the games. And so I think just as a team, the drills we do and the way we practice, is really conducive to getting that on the floor.
Q. For you Pierce, is offensive rebounding a different skill altogether from defensive rebounding?
PIERCE HORNUNG: I’d say so. Defense is blocking out and keeping your guy off the glass. Offense is just getting your shoulder by and being relentless and having that mentality to just go after it every single time. The discipline when that shot goes up get your shoulder by and put yourself in a good position to get the rebound, I think it is a different skill.
Q. Do y’all question what the NCAA Tournament selection committee has against you? Last year they send you to Louisville, you’re playing against Murray and you had all those Kentucky fans in there, pulling against you. Now you’re in Lexington playing against Louisville. Do you kind of embrace the environment you’re going to be walking into tomorrow?
DORIAN GREEN: It is what it is. It’s out of our control. We can’t pick where we’re going to be seeded. We can have our own opinions about it. That was over with Sunday when we were the second team that was — the second game that was showed.
For us, I think it’s a great atmosphere. You know, that’s what you want in college basketball is a packed house and everybody rooting against you. So it’s going to be a great environment and a great atmosphere, something we have to kind of relish and want to be successful in. That’s what college basketball is all about, and it’s a great opportunity and a great challenge for us to play Louisville in Kentucky.
THE MODERATOR: Pierce, any thoughts from you?
PIERCE HORNUNG: Yeah. I mean, I think our schedule this season playing in the Mountain West, there was a lot of big venues, big packed venues and we’re used to it. We’re used to seeing a sea of red. You go to the Pitt in Albuquerque, you go to Thomas Mack, that’s all it is, just a sea of red. We watched the game last night before. It was a sea of red, that’s for sure. What a great opportunity to come back to Kentucky and get another chance to prove ourselves in this tournament. We love being out here.
THE MODERATOR: Have time for one or two more questions for the student-athletes. Anyone else?
Q. Having a veteran like Coach Eustachy, how does that help prepare you guys for facing a Number 1 team? He’s been against a lot top five programs himself?
DORIAN GREEN: Coach has been here and done it. His experience and his knowledge is key, and, you know, having somebody that’s leading you, that’s been through it is great for us. For us, we just have to listen to what he says and follow his lead and then apply it to our game.
And so Coach’s experience has been great. He’s been in this situation a lot, and he’s done this before. So for us to feed off him and take what he has to say and to apply it into our game and just be ready to play Louisville.
THE MODERATOR: One back here. One more after this one.
Q. Pierce, the couple days off that Coach gave you guys after the Mountain West tournament really seemed to rejuvenate you guys. Now you have to turn around pretty quickly and play tomorrow. How are you guys feeling physically entering tomorrow’s game?
PIERCE HORNUNG: We feel great. We get a day off in between, use this day to heal up a little bit, Dorian is more healthy, and you can see he was limping little bit during the game yesterday, but, we’ll take the opportunity today and rehash some things and we’ll be fresh tomorrow. We’ll be ready to go, you know. It’s tough not to have the adrenaline to get up and go on for the NCAA Tournament. We’ll be ready as a team.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Time for one more question. All right. Thank you, Pierce, thank you, Dorian. Thank you ladies and gentlemen.
Ladies and gentlemen, those of you joining us here live in Lexington, Kentucky, at Rupp Arena, thank you. And those joining us via satellite, this is our final media session of the afternoon Head Coach Larry Eustachy, Colorado State University Rams.
Q. Larry, because of the number of bids your conference got and its previous post season history, there was going to be a lot of attention to how Mountain West teams did this year. After yesterday you were the only team that had a good day, so to speak, in your league. Is it fair to measure a league based on what individual members do in this tournament?
COACH EUSTACHY: I don’t think it’s fair, but I think it’s reality. I just think that’s what it is, you know. You’re judged by — I mean, look at New Mexico, they won the league, won the tournament, and now in a lot of fans’ eyes, they had a bad year. And it’s not fair, but it’s again reality. That’s what it is.
Q. Given your relationship with Tom Jurich and the fact that seems like there was at least some chance you could have ended up being Louisville’s coach at one point, what is this, as you called it last night, the fact that you’re on this step of your personal comeback and this is where you are and who you’re playing, what does that mean to you and does it mean something extra?
COACH EUSTACHY: I saw Tom and I saw Mark, his son, who now works in the department and — Tom and I went to high school together. So to say it isn’t special or different, it’s unique and it’s fun, you know. No added pressure or less pressure, it’s just — it’s fun. I have a lot of respect for Rick. Nobody is playing better in the country than Louisville and we welcome it. We welcome it.
So, it’s got a little twist to it, yeah, it does. That’s kind of neat.
Q. Larry, just what’s Colton Iverson meant to your team this year and how would you judge the development he’s made during the course of this season?
COACH EUSTACHY: Well, he’s as improved a player that we’ve had and one of the most improved that I’ve had in my career. If we were in December, we’d start working on him facing up and shooting the 12, 15 footer, which he can really make right now, but he just — he’s just not real confident with it.
If you see him get in that position 12 feet from the basket, he immediately turns his back and starts to work a guy down. I think that’s what NBA player, coaches are going to be surprised. They mess around, you been there in practice, he shoots 3s in practice and makes them.
So he’s got — there’s just another level that he can take it at. But, you don’t — it’s all because of him. His improvement has been as good as anybody on this team, and it’s because you do not find a guy that big that is playing because he likes to play. It’s rare. They usually play because they’re that tall. He would play if he was 5-11. So he likes working at it and likes to compete.
That’s what bothers me so much is when he’s eliminated with these touch fouls and — whether they’re fouls or not, he’s not been able to enjoy a full performance in a long time because he’s always seems to be hindered by fouls.
Q. Coach, how difficult is it to prepare for the pressure that Louisville is going show you guys and what has made them so full in getting the deflections doing everything that they do to such a high level?
COACH EUSTACHY: Obviously you’re at best at what you practice. So, if they practice that way, probably more than anybody in the country, I would imagine, this is an educated guess, you know, they — not a lot of teams chart deflections, and they — that’s important to them. I think it’s a different way to play.
You know, we can’t be on our heels or we’ll have no chance. There’s just so many turnovers we can’t have and then we eliminate ourselves because the turnover, they keep it in play and they convert almost 40 percent of them. So, we have to be strong with the ball and, you know, from an officiating standpoint, you know, they grab, they reach and it becomes so common, you know, and I have no problem with it, but we just have to be men and be strong with it and not let them jar loose from us because we’re going to get it for 40 minutes. And I think we’re prepared for it, but we’ll see.
Q. One of your guys in the locker room said that this is a team of castoffs and misfits and that he said it’s written in the stars that a guy who had sort of been through what you have and scratched his way back would come to them and be — become their leader.
Is that how you feel? Is this a team of kindred spirits?
COACH EUSTACHY: Well, you know, like I said, I think, yesterday, my dad sold cars and I wasn’t — I got cut from a Division II team in college. So, I’ve played about every role on a team, and I think that’s helped me in coaching. I haven’t had a golden path, you know, I had to wait tables to be a GA starting at Mississippi State. So I get these guys, I get — and they get me. I haven’t had just, like I say, a yellow brick road to success, even if I’ve had any success, I have to be judged by others.
But, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I said it yesterday, at difficult jobs. I’ve never been at the best job in a certain league. So, we’ve got a bunch of guys that have faced adversity and kind of all come together, and it would be disappointing if we don’t leave our best on the court, whether it’s a win or a loss. But we expect to win.
Q. Coach, is there any message you can give your guys to get them ready and prepared for a Number 1 team?
COACH EUSTACHY: Well, yeah, I think it’s opportunity. When are you ever going to get this opportunity again. You couldn’t ask for anything better. You know, everybody was all upset when we were at the Sunday for the announcements of the brackets, and I thought it was perfect, you know, because we’re playing a great Missouri team. And if we could get through that, we get to play the best team in the country. If you’re competitive, that’s what you want to do, you want to go against the best and see where you stack up.
So, it was a great draw. As it turned out, we won and now we’ll have no excuses. We get to go toe to toe with the best team in the country. And I don’t think we’ll back down. I just hope we don’t get caught up in — we’re not a great play-making team. We’re not a great passing team. So, it’s not a good matchup for us that way. We’re going to have to play above ourselves in that area as far as taking care of the ball and play making to get it done.
Q. It’s obvious, Coach, why Louisville would get your attention when the brackets came out. Coach Pitino was just out here a few minutes ago. He said Colorado State got his attention when the brackets came out and that he considered you one of about eight teams that he thought was very dangerous in the tournament this year. Do you believe that?
COACH EUSTACHY: Well, I think we’re a team that the way we play, you know, I’ve said this from day one, that we’re built for this type of play, this tournament play, you know. If we’re playing right, which we didn’t a lot last night, we’re getting back, we’re protecting the basket, we’re limiting teams to one shot, we’re not giving up easy shots, we’re coming down, we’re not taking bad shots, we’re not turning it over, hopefully.
So I think we’re hard to play against, you know, in my opinion, and that’s why we play that way. It’s the hardest way to play. Louisville plays the whole floor and so do we. We play — that’s how big the court is, let’s play the whole thing, whether it’s a loose ball going to the corner or whether they’re trying to trap us.
So, I think both teams play differently but at the same level of effort, and that’s a compliment to our guys.
Q. Larry, as a follow-up to that, do you have a list of dangerous teams and would Louisville qualify for it?
COACH EUSTACHY: You know, I don’t. I’m not like Seth Greenberg. I thought it was an omen for us when it was NCIS marathon yesterday, because I don’t watch college basketball and I really don’t know — I couldn’t tell you who started for Louisville until this morning or who the players were.
So, you know, when I’m done coaching, I try to channel my energy into different things. I really mean that. NCIS is my favorite show. It’s changed from Law and Order. When that was on, I told my wife, this is an omen.
Now, Seth Greenberg, who is a great friend, married a girl from my high school, he loves it. He could tell you — he could talk about it forever, like eight teams, he would go to 16. He would know all about it. I’m just different. I’m just not — not different, it’s not my way. I don’t know. I do know that this is capped as the best team in the country and we love challenges and we’ve been underrated all year as far as picked 5th in a lot of magazines and could have won the league. We welcome it.
Q. Larry, I just wanted to ask you a follow-up with Iverson. Given that he was limited to 25 minutes because of the foul issues, what can you say about the fact that he still pulled down 13 rebounds in that limited time?
COACH EUSTACHY: That’s who he is. Like I say — he will play in the NBA for as long as wants to. What I loved about it, he didn’t get frustrated. He was getting to the point. He’s got a temper and he couldn’t — he can lose it, but that’s what you love about him. You don’t want to wind him up. You want to wind him down. You got to wind down Colton every now and then.
I thought he handled the adversity of the fouling really well and in that limited — I didn’t think he played that many minutes, but 13 rebounds. If he plays the whole game, in theory, he gets 20-plus, so very impressive.
Q. Going back to the turnovers, Coach, you guys have been one of the best teams in the country at not giving it away. Has that just been a result of having experienced guys like Dorian and Wes have the ball in their hands?
COACH EUSTACHY: See, I didn’t know that, I really — I don’t even know my own team in some areas stat wise. I know we emphasize it and we ran — we get in shape through turnovers. Early in the year, every time we turn it over, we run a 30-second line drill. So that’s the way we get in shape. We make an emphasis of it.
Possessions, that’s why we’re so big into rebounding, those are possessions. So, that’s great to hear, but I think we’re going to get tested beyond our — beyond what we’ve ever seen all year long, and we have to get our game on to this court and try to take them out of their game. So, it’s pretty simple.
Q. Last night were you telling us about some high profile people that you’ve had the benefit of being around, like Jerry Sloan and Merlon Olsen. When did you cross paths with them and what qualities do you see in them that help you?
COACH EUSTACHY: Well, Merlin Olsen played at Utah State and I coached at Utah State, so I had the absolutely honor and pleasure of getting to know him a little bit. He would talk about, you know, the Fearsome Foursome and how — and I grew up in L.A. and the smog — and how they would go through the preseason and three-a-days and how he’d go down to one knee and close his eyes and think about Logan, Utah, and fly fishing and that was the only way he got through the grueling practices. That’s when you couldn’t have water. You weren’t allowed to have water during — can you imagine that?
He only missed three games from junior high to his final career.
Jerry Sloan, you know, I got to know him again in Utah when he was an assistant for Frank Layden. I’ll never forget. He said, the body can take a lot of pain, it’s just how much can you take, you know, how much can you really give it, how much can you handle. And he was the ultimate, wasn’t he, of it?
So, you know, I study guys like that. They’re special and their stories. I told the guys you know, do you know who Merlin Olsen is? Our guys looked at each other like, so?
I told Pierce Hornung, your dad played football. See if he’s ever heard of Merlin Olsen. He got an earful from his dad. His dad was quite upset he didn’t know who Merlin was. We’re getting a little old. I’ve been around great people like that. It’s been kind of neat.
THE MODERATOR: On or two more, anybody else?
Q. Could you just talk about what Jon Octeus and his evolution over the course of season, how much better he is now.
COACH EUSTACHY: We’re not sitting here if it’s not for Jon. The best play we’ve had all year was when he stayed down and just — and put his long arms up and actually took the ball from Pressey last night. Jesse car goes down and we’re in a lot of trouble if we don’t have Jon. So, Jon — Jon snatched the opportunity with Jesse going down. And I think we have — like Joe would be the same way had Wes gone down. I think Joe is in the same category. Gerson would be the same way if Colt had gone down. They’re all in the same category.
Jon just has had the opportunity. Without opportunity, you couldn’t have the situation that he’s been in, but he’s priceless. He’s just a sophomore. He’s going to be special for us. Like I say, everybody thinks we’re going to fall off the map next year. I don’t think so. I think we’re going to be pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: One more.
Q. Will you watch the NCAA Tournament tonight or the NCIS marathon?
COACH EUSTACHY: Is it on? (Laughter). I’ll watch the NCIS marathon. Honestly, I will. I’m not — on my mother’s grave, I will watch it. I just — that’s just who I am. So, Gibbs is my guy, Gibbs, okay?
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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