March 12, 2001
OXFORD, Miss. -
Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes:
"It is important that we play very well. We are playing a very good basketball team in Iona. After watching them on tape this morning, it is obvious they are very athletic. They can really score and they do a good job overall. We are going to have our hands full. The kids are excited and are really looking forward to going to Kansas City. We have been there before, so we are familiar with the site as far as the coaches and a couple of players. We look forward to getting back to Kansas City. It was a very disappointing time last time we were there, but this is a new year, a new season, a new team, and a new coaching staff. We are thankful to be in the tournament."
(On scouting Iona)
"First of all, the big kid in the middle is a very good basketball player. He is very athletic, not as big as guys that play in our post. He can pose some problems because he can move out on the floor a little bit and he is very quick around the basket. Their point guard, who used to play at Rutgers, is a very good player. We have met similar guys in Brett Nelson (Florida) and Tony Harris (Tennessee), that are very quick and can really shoot the basketball. We are going to have to do a great job defending their wing people. They are very athletic, they are slashers. They really try to get to the basket. Whether we score or not, they are going to really push the ball up the court. It is going to be a very good match-up. They are team that is very strong offensively and our team is more of a defensive minded team, so it should be a really good game."
(On Iona' bench)
"They actually go four guys deep. They have a point guard that comes off the bench that is really quick. They have another guard that is smaller that comes in and plays the two guard spot. They have good depth. They have two kids that come in on the inside. They are 6-8 and 6-9 on the front line. I would imagine they try to play nine guys. Basically they have been running more of an eight man rotation. That is similar to us with Jason Harrison, Aaron Harper, Emmanuel Wade and then whatever post player we decide to go with either Richard Kirklin or John Gunn. We may have a little bit more depth on the perimeter, but they may have a slight edge in the post area."
(On what is like to be the `hunted', now that you are a #3 seed)
"I am hunting, we are hunting. We are hunting for a win. We are not taking our seed and having that make us a favorite. Everyone in this tournament is good. Even though we are in the SEC and have been ranked, we have not had a whole lot of success in the tournament. Our kids are going to be as hungry as anyone. We want to advance to the next game. We are not looking at this as we are the team to beat in this game. We are looking at it as two evenly matched teams. That how we are going to handle it all week. Forget that No. 3 seed. It is kind of like everyone picked us last and we finished first. You do not have time to feel good about what we did this season, we are one game away from elimination. That makes me hungry enough."
(On his knowledge of Iona before the selection show)
"Yes I have. From the first time Coach Ruland got the job. When you follow the NBA the way I have, you keep track of former players. He was a very tough and rugged player. You follow the teams that former players go on to coach. You want to see what kind of a job they do, see what kind of new stuff they bring to the game. I have not watched them on a regular basis, but I have watched enough to know he has been doing a great job. He came in the same time I came in. We were both new guys on the block. He has done a great job with their program."
(On Iona's similarity to any teams Ole Miss has played this year)
"Probably a little bit like Iowa State. They have perimeter guys that can really slash to the basket. They have a great point guard. I thought Iowa State had guys that were great `blue collar' players around the basket and Iona's post player is a great player. They are similar to Iowa State in that they spread out the floor and they try to drive around you and make plays for each other. They are very unselfish and very well coached."
(On the key to not playing tight on Friday)
"I think we have to try to prepare our kids. But you never know how they will feel until they hit that floor. We can try everything possible, but once they hit the floor it is up to them. I think more importantly you have to reflect on things you have done in the past. Everything that we have run into this season this young team has handled. Whether it was going on the road to get victories in Hawaii, starting off with two wins in the SEC or playing well in the SEC Tournament. Everything we have been challenged with, the kids have handled in the right way and that is what we will tell them. Play how we have been playing. There will be some nervousness and butterflies, but we have played through that before. Our kids have performed well in those games."
(On what happened in the SEC Championship game, and nerves being a factor)
"We got whooped. That is the first thing. We lost to a very good Kentucky team. I felt like the first two games we played against Tennessee and Florida took a lot out of us. We depend on our defense and playing extremely hard, playing with a high level of intensity. We could not get there against Kentucky. When Kentucky came to our place, we were very aggressive and attacked them. They did that to us yesterday. As a result of their good defense and hard play and us not playing as well and having fatigue, they were able to play well and we did not. We lost to a very good basketball team. I do not think we were nervous at all. I think our kids went into the game very confident that we could win. Again, I think Kentucky came out and was very aggressive from the beginning. We missed some easy shots and when you are playing a team like that you cannot come back. We made several runs, but we did not have enough gas to get back on a team that had jumped out that far on us in a big basketball game like that."
(On the Rebel defense)
"We have built our team around defense. We demand our kids to play extremely hard on defense. We have got a bunch of kids that are committed to playing defense. When they do that, it's easier as a coach as far as strategy and getting ready for each game. Our kids are the ones that are playing hard. Our kids have done a great job of pressuring the ball and forcing teams to just one shot without giving them the easy basket. As a result, we feel that we are one of the best defensive teams in the country. The reason we are where we are is because of our defense."
(On the freshman and their impact on the team)
"Justin Reed won freshman of the year in our league. Our seniors have taken him under their wing and have really helped him to grow. Aaron Harper is a guy that has had an up and down year. He's a great shooter. If he keeps the same attitude and works at it, he can be a big time scorer in this league. Kids play so many games when they are coming up in AAU and such. They play so many games against good competition. There are kids that play on more than one summer league team, so they may play 80 games in the summer. That's an NBA schedule. So when they get to this level, they are ready both physically and mentally."
(On the importance of point guard play in the NCAA Tournament)
"Being a point guard in college, I think I'm bias when comes to that position. I think that is where the game starts. If you have good point guard play, you have a good chance of winning. I like Jason Flanigan and Jason Harrison. I told people before the season that we felt we would have a good team because we had good guard play and players we could count on in the middle. If you have those two things, you have the chance to be a good team. This gives you the ability to control what goes on in the middle and control the outside. I felt we had the best guard combination and post player in the league. The reason we are where we are is because of our point guard play. Iona has a good point guard. He's quick and shoots the ball very well. It should be a great match up at the point guard position.
(On leadership and team chemistry)
"There's no question that those two things are important. That is one of the reasons that we are where we are. When you have great leadership, your team is usually successful. We have great "locker room lawyers", so if anything goes wrong, they are there to smooth things over and make sure things improve. It helps the coaching staff out a bunch with the leadership we have. Our underclassmen have been great followers and listen to what the upperclassmen have to say. If you don't have seniors that take the accolades, as well as the criticism, you will not have good team chemistry.
"They have been to the tournament before and they have a very good basketball team. It will be a challenge for us. We have been challenged all year and our kids have responded. Hopefully come next Friday, our kids will be ready to go."
(On the match up between Iona center Nakiea Miller and Rahim Lockhart)
"You are talking about a great inside guy in Rahim Lockhart and a very athletic big man in Miller. They are both great under the basket. This should be a great match up. It's speed and quickeness versus strength and size.
(On the point guard match up)
"We have two great point guards and they will be ready to play. They have played well in the last few games. This is a game that we are hungry for and we know that we need to win this game to extend this wonderful season we are having.
(On the freshman)
"These guys have matured and grown as players. They are not freshman anymore. They have the experience to handle many situations. I know they will be nervous, but I know they will be ready to play. We have great senior leadership and they will make sure that everyone is ready to play on Friday. They are excited to be playing in something special, such as the NCAA Tournament. We are looking forward to getting to Kansas City and playing Iona.
(On Iona coach Jeff Ruland)
"We broke in as head coaches in the same year. I have followed his career somewhat, not as much his teams. You want to compare your job to what other people have done around the country. He has done a great job and he has a good team. His teams play hard. Both teams are well coached.
Ole Miss senior guard Jason Flanigan
(On being back in the NCAA Tournament and going back to Kansas City)
"It's great for this program and this team. We believed all along that we could achieve this goal. We want to make some noise in the tournament."
(On talking to the underclassmen about playing in the NCAA Tournament)
"We just have to tell the underclassmen to be ready. No matter who we play, we have to be ready. Everyone in the tournament is a good team. We can't overlook anyone. We have to worry about ourselves and take care of our business.
(On going farther in the tournament than you have in the past)
"Without a doubt, we want to go to the Final Four. That is our main goal. We have to believe in ourselves and our coaches. If we do that, we have a chance to reach that goal."
(On respect for Ole Miss in the SEC)
"The SEC is a great conference. That is why I chose the to play in the SEC. This league is good from top to bottom. We just have to be ready Friday and go out and try to make history again."
(On Iona point guard Earl Johnson)
"I have heard that he's a great player and he's a fifth-year senior. I know that he can lead his team. As far as the point guard position, I know that Jason Harrison and myself have to be ready.
(On the play of himself and Jason Harrison)
"We give the team whatever we can, whether it's scoring or playing defense. Our main job is to get the other players the ball. So far we have done that all season long. Aaron Harper, Justin Reed, David Sanders, Rahim Lockhart, and on down the line have been an important part of what we have done here."
(On team goals)
"Now our team goal is to go to the Final Four. We achieved one of our team goals in winning the SEC Western Division. We now need to be ready and focused on getting the Final Four."
Ole Miss senior forward Rahim Lockhart
(On getting back to the NCAA Tournament)
"We are very thankful for the opportunity to be back in the NCAA tournament. Last year it was kind of a struggle for us to accept that we were not going to be in it. This year it was a relief to not be worried about making it. We were just anxious to see where we would be going and who we would be playing. We have Iona next on our schedule and now we need to just focus mentally and physically on what we need to do to win the ball game."
(On talking to the underclassmen about playing in the NCAA Tournament)
"Playing in the NCAA Tournament is a special privilege. They need to know that you must do the same things that got them here. They have to know that you have to leave everything out on the floor when you play in this tournament. You don't want to walk off the floor knowing that you could have given more. Every night is senior night to us from now on out. We need to take advantage of the time we have together as a team. Be thankful and take advantage of the opportunity that we have."
"We are thankful for the opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament. We achieved our goal of making the tournament, now it's time to make some noise in the tournament. In order to make that noise, we need to go out and take care of our business. I know that they are coached by Jeff Ruland, who played in the NBA. I have heard that he is hard nosed and I know that his team will play like that. They have a good big guy that averages around 15 points and eight rebounds a game. We know that they will be tournament tested and ready to play