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March 21, 2013

Q&A: Temple's Fran Dunphy, players talk Pack



DAYTON, Ohio — Temple coach Fran Dunphy and the Owls take on NC State at 1:40 p.m. Friday on TBS.

Dunphy took part in a press conference Thursday and below is a transcript of what he said, followed by his players:

Opening statement:

Dunphy: How's everybody doing? Happy to be here in Dayton, Ohio. Happy to be in the NCAA Tournament. It's always exciting and always wonderful for your student-athletes and happy for all of them, including those three guys that you just had a chance to fire some questions at.

Q: Coach, what's the status right now of Anthony Lee? Has he been cleared to play? If not, what's your contingency plan?

Dunphy: He looks pretty good right now. He practiced a little bit yesterday. We'll do a little bit more today, and doctors are hopeful.

Q: Khalif just said a couple of different times that he feels like he and the team have something to prove because the last couple Marches haven't gone maybe the way you guys expected. Do you feel that way too?

Dunphy: Two Marches ago, we had a good win against Penn State, and I thought we played very well against San Diego State. Had our chances to win that game, and we lost it in double overtime.

Last year we played well defensively in the first half and just couldn't score in the second half. I thought South Florida was a very, very good basketball team at that point.

Are we disappointed that we didn't do better? Yeah, certainly. I think that's always the case. We're thrilled that we're here, but we have to do better.

Q. You won seven of your last eight games. Do you feel like this team is playing its best basketball right now? What phase of the game are you real happy with?

Dunphy: I think that we've been a resilient group. We've been a little bit inconsistent over the year, but we've been a resilient team. And that sometimes, not only from game to game but from possession to possession, we've made some mistakes on one end of the floor and gotten back and taken care of business on the other end.

So I think we're a resilient group. Offensively, we've been a little bit better as the year wore on. I think defensively, we still have some room to move here. We need to be better defensively.

The concern I have is how good the balance not only from top to bottom of their lineup is but also the inside and outside piece to their game, NC State.

Q. I was wondering, in preparing for NC State, if there was anybody who kind of jumped out at you?

Dunphy: I wish there was one person that we could concentrate our efforts on, but as we talked about as a team, Brown has an extraordinary number of assists and very few turnovers to go with that. That's really some good basketball playing. So that's great leadership from that position.

Wood is just ridiculous when it comes to making 3s. I've watched any number of tapes, and he just makes every open look that he gets. So now you're trying to make sure you don't leave him open. And if you do that, you're probably compromising your defense a little bit, and somebody else like Howell can be open inside.

All that aside, their leading scorer, C.J. Leslie, has a ton of ways to score. The kid Warren is playing well. The guys off the bench are doing a good job.

There's no one specific area that we can concentrate on, and that's what makes them so dangerous.

Q: Last year you saw seniors like Juan (Fernandez) and Ramone (Moore) struggle. What are you seeing from the seniors this year that might lend them to perform tomorrow?

Dunphy: I think we have some really good veteran players. Khalif Wyatt is as unique an offensive player as there is in the country maybe. Jake O'Brien is starting to really make his impact on our game. He's making shots.

Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson against the University of Massachusetts was as good a player as he was on the floor. He's a forward having seven assists and no turnovers. Scootie, we need Scootie to make shots.

We're an interesting group, to say the least. We have point guards that can really help us with Will Cummings and T.J. DiLeo. We need Anthony Lee to be healthy tomorrow as well.

What do I see? I'm not sure what I'm going to see. I think that's the big question. We need to play well, and we need to play well from the start tomorrow against a really good basketball team.

Q: Fran, is anybody in your league comparable to NC State?

Dunphy: I didn't think about it too much, to be honest with you. Out of the 15 other teams in our league, there's got to be somebody out there who we played against that is very similar to NC State.

And the best teams in our league are in this tournament, so you know you're going to get a similar attack from these guys, and they're going to be relentless in the way they approach our game tomorrow.

You might look at a St. Louis who is - you might say that C.J. Leslie and the kid Evans at St. Louis are similar. They're just warriors out there. They're good. They know how to score, and they know how to get points. They just compete on every possession. So there's some of those similarities.

The kid Wood is really unique in how he needs no time and no space. There's a couple of guys on St. Louis who are like that as well. So there's probably some similarities, although I haven't sat there and documented those, to be honest with you.

Q: Fran, Khalif over the last couple of years has had really big games in really big moments and then had not such big games in not such big moments. Do you think he's one of those guys that either rises to the occasion or focuses better or whatever?

Dunphy: I hope not, to be honest with you, because I think he's been a pretty consistent performer over the course of his career. Now, you could look at his line last week against UMass and say he didn't shoot it very well but still found a way to put almost 20 points on the board for us. He's a unique talent who knows how - if his shot is not going, he knows how to get to the line.

Yeah, it wasn't his best performance, but I absolutely believe that he's going to be ready to go tomorrow and show that he loves the spotlight. There's been some unbelievable games that he's had over the years. He's a great basketball player.

Q: Fran, just to follow up on that, when he's going through a game like he had at UMass, do you let him go and shoot his way out of it? Do you say something to him?

Dunphy: Seldom do I say something during the course of the game. He's just an extraordinary guy.

I will tell you that over the course of his career there's probably been hundreds of times where I've said, What are you doing? No. And all of a sudden the shot goes in the basket because that's the kind of player he is. And there's been many other times when I'm ready to call a time-out, and he's got the ball in his hands and he's ready to make a great play for us.

You do kind of live with what Khalif gives you. Most of it is good, and there's some that will drive you a little bit crazy. But most of it is good. He's a very creative guy. I don't want to take that creativity away.

Q: Fran, what's your reaction last night to La Salle winning?

Dunphy: I thought they played great. They obviously shot it extremely well. I thought Sam Mills really got them off to a great start. He made those three 3s early in the game and gave them a little bit of a cushion and gave some comfort to Garland and Galloway.

I watched every play of it. I thought it was tremendous basketball. I thought Boise State is really a good team too. It was a really good win for La Salle, really good win for the Atlantic 10, and really good win for Philadelphia. So I was really proud of my alma mater last night.

Q: Coach, State wants to play really fast. How much success have you had this season against similar type teams and trying to get them to play your way, and is that a huge concern tomorrow?

Dunphy: I'm not sure if we have a way. I think we try to manage the game, but sometimes we're fast as well. We want to push it and try to get some easy baskets as well.

But I've seen where NC State can play either way. I don't think they're limited to great effectiveness just by playing fast. I think they can do it on a half-court basis as well.

And each game, again, you just can't predict what's going to happen. Each game is different. Every game takes on a different personality. If shots are falling early, then the kids are feeling a little bit more comfortable. If they're not, then you get a little bit tighter, and the game gets like getting blood from a stone. You're just trying to manage every possession and really grind it out.

So it will be interesting to see the style of play that the game presents itself with tomorrow.

Q. Fran, personally and professionally, you're a La Salle alum, but you also recruit against La Salle to a degree, and you face them at least once, twice a year. What were your emotions like last night knowing how big this is for John and his program and the place that you come from versus knowing that they might be a little bit harder to beat next year? Got a lot of guys coming back and a little bit harder to recruit against.

Dunphy: I don't think you concern yourself about that too much. Again, I went to La Salle. I can't tell you what La Salle did for me and my career. If it's not for La Salle, I'm not sitting up here today.

They gave me a chance as a student-athlete. They gave me a chance as an assistant coach many years ago to join the college ranks. So I can't be more grateful for what they gave to me.

We're all in - we're Philadelphia, is really what we are. That was demonstrated when we had our Coaches Versus Cancer breakfast Monday morning. We had 700 people on the floor of the Palestra. We're galvanized in that way. Do we want to beat each other to death when we play each other? Yeah, we do.

But we have tremendous respect, and that respect goes back 60 years, in that somebody else set all this up, by the way. The coaches that were playing and competing and taking care of business back in the '50s are what we - when you join the Philadelphia group, you don't have a choice of whether or not you're going to like or respect or whatever. You do that, and that's what you're supposed to do, and that's how you handle the situation.

I think it's become even more galvanized because of the Coaches Versus Cancer program, and we all try to do something for a greater good. I'm rooting for La Salle. I'm rooting for Villanova.

I'm rooting for St. Joe's the other night when they played St. John's. That's what we do.

Are we going to compete against each other for players? Yeah, we do, but it's all going to work out. We try to play the best basketball we can, but the respect factor is always going to be there.

Q. If Lee can't play, how are you planning to defend Howell and Leslie? Are you planning for him to play or not play when you do your game preparation?

Dunphy: We're planning on Anthony playing. How much, I don't know. He hasn't played. He hasn't run that much over the last week. So there's a question there.

But we'll play small if we have to and just compete and battle as best we can. But Jake will give us the requisite minutes we need. If we need Devontae Watson, we'll use him as well. It's hard to predict how long Anthony is going to go and how much he'll give to you.

***


Q: Khalif, you guys have been here so many times, and you've struggled in the first round except for one game. What's going to be different about this time? Have you guys even talked about the difference maybe in this year compared to years past?

Khalif Wyatt: No, we really haven't talked about the past. We try to keep that behind us. We've got a different group of guys. We've got some real experienced guys and some guys who are real hungry to prove themselves on the national level.

We've got a little chip on our shoulder this year. We want to prove that we can belong here and that we can make a run at this thing.

Q: Khalif, earlier in the week, you were quoted as saying that you weren't surprised that some people were picking NC State because you guys haven't done much at large. Do you still feel that way; that you're not surprised and you do have something to prove?

Khalif Wyatt: Yeah. We've been here six straight years, and we only won one first round game. So the fact that people pick NC State is not a surprise, but that's just added motivation for us and a chance for us to go out there and prove some people wrong.

Q: Jake, what do you see in NC State? What concerns you about them?

Jake O'Brien: They're a really talented group. They've got a lot of weapons on the team. They can score the ball, and they can really score it with high efficiency.

We are really going to have to defend. I think, if we limit them to under 70 points, we'll be all right, but they definitely have a lot of options on that team.

Q: Khalif, you played very, very well in some of your bigger games this season and last season, and then sometimes in games that maybe aren't as high profile, you don't have the kind of production that you have in those other games. Can you explain the disparity and why big games seem to bring out the best in you?

Khalif Wyatt: Really can't explain it. Just really want to go out there and just seize the opportunity. You're on a national stage, and a lot of people are watching, and you get a chance to show the world what you can do.

You don't get chances like that very often. So just want to go out there and make the most of it.

Q: Obviously, this is probably — considering you're a senior, this is your last chance to have a big stage. How do you regard this game in particular in the light of your career now and maybe what you're doing next year?

Khalif Wyatt: Friday could very well be our last game — well, my last game, two of our last games. We want to go out there and make sure you don't have any regrets at the end of the day.

Whether you score a lot of points or you don't, you just want to make sure that you left it all out there and that you did the most that you could to try to get your team a win.

Q: Scootie, what do you think this game is going to come down to? One thing.

Scootie Randall: I think we've just got to be the tougher team. Those guys are real tough. We've just got to out tough those guys, and they tend to battle the whole 40 minutes.

So I think we're just going to have to be tougher than NC State.

Q: Scootie, can you just talk about the matchup and what Coach Dunphy has told you leading up to this after you guys have watched film and everything, about what the biggest concerns are for NC State.

Scootie Randall: They really don't have a position with their 3, 4, and 5, and they all can do the same thing. We're going to have to limit the isolations they do for Leslie and keep everybody up front.

They've all got like size, so we're just going to have to be tougher than them and prevent the isolation plays.

Q: Jake, there's five seniors on this team; you're the only one that's kind of a little bit — experience is a little bit new. What does it do for you guys, and what does it do for you?

Jake O'Brien: It's a good feeling to be here. These guys have been here the last few years. This is my first experience with this.

I'm grateful to be here, but I really want to make the most of this. Just like the other four seniors, this is our last go-round. I really want to make the most of this opportunity.

It's a challenge for us Friday, and I think we're all ready for it. These seniors have all come together the last month and a half. So I think we're all looking forward to this opportunity.

Q: Khalif, the UMass game obviously didn't go the way that you guys wanted. It was one of your better shooting performances. When you're going through a game like that, do you feel like you can still shoot your way out of it? Is there any doubt as the game goes on?

Khalif Wyatt: There's really no doubt. I know my teammates trust me, and I know my coaches trust me. So they're always encouraging me when I'm missing shots, when I'm not shooting the ball good, to just keep shooting.

They need me to score. They need me to take big shots. As long as I know I've got my teammates' trust and my coach's trust, it's really up to me to just go out there and just play.

Q: Khalif, it wasn't just UMass, there have been shooting struggles for you the last three or four games. Do you feel like you're being defended differently? Do you feel like there's something wrong with your shot?

Khalif Wyatt: No. Teams are definitely trying to stop me from scoring the ball, but it's just about going out there and just letting the game come to me.

Don't get out of character. Don't try to force too many shots, and just let the game come to me. Just go out there and try to let the game come to me. That's the main thing.

Q: Khalif, it just seems like this trip seems a whole lot different for you all. I know the last couple of years, you guys were up here smiling, joking. It just seems like right now you guys have your game face on like you're ready to play today. Can you just talk about how different this trip is compared to years past.

Khalif Wyatt: Yeah, other times we've been here, it seems like we might be happy just to be here. I don't think that's the feeling this time around. I think guys are focused, and the main goal is to try to get a win, get some wins.

Just to keep this run alive. We've got five seniors on this team who don't want their season to end yet. So it's just going to be about going out there Friday, handling our business, having fun, and seizing the opportunity.

Q: Scootie, did you watch much of La Salle last night? I'm sure you have some friends on that team. Did that do anything for you watching La Salle?

Scootie Randall: We didn't get a chance to watch it too much, but we're hearing about it. Our coaches tell us about it.

I mean, I just know those guys are the same way as us right now. They got a chance to come here and seize the opportunity, and they made the best of it. Even their bench player stepped up and made shots.

That's the same thing we've got to do. We've got to come together. As these guys said, we've got five seniors, so we all want to win, and we all want to come out here and do our best. So we've just got to leave it all out there.

Q: Talking to Ramon Galloway, he said there's something to be said for having a feel for the court. You guys have obviously played here before, like your opponent. What difference can it make in the game just being comfortable and familiar with the setting?

Khalif Wyatt: I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal. We played here before, but NC State, they'll have a shootaround here, and they'll have the same feel for the gym that we do. I don't think that will be a big difference.

I think it's just going to come down to who gets more stops and who gets more rebounds and who executes better.

Q: Scootie, the question for Khalif earlier, same to you. Does this feel different for you, this trip? Does — the finality of it and the fact that you guys haven't been as successful certainly as you expected four years ago, five years ago?

Scootie Randall: Yeah. As Khalif said, we've all got a chip on our shoulder. We have something to prove. A lot of people doubted us, and we found a way to get the job done in certain games.

I think this trip is a business trip. Each and every trip was the same way, but I think this feeling we don't want to go home too soon. So we know we've got a chance to change that, and that's just our mindset right now.

Q: Scootie, in terms of the familiarity that Khalif was talking about, do you think this will be a pro-Temple crowd just because people in Dayton know you guys and have seen you guys play before?

Scootie Randall: I hope so. I hope so. But we're really grateful to have the fans that we have. In all reality, when we go to other gyms, us as players, we're the only people there. We've got people against us the whole 40 minutes.

Regardless of what the atmosphere look like, as of right now, we all came together. We've got a job to do. So we know the fans is not really going to make a big issue for us.

Q: Khalif, I don't know what the matchups are going to be, but I would think at least sometime during the game Lorenzo Brown will be guarding you, and during the ACC Tournament he shut down the nation's leading scorer, Erick Green of Virginia Tech, held him to something like 15 points. What have you seen on tape from Lorenzo Brown that's impressive and how much anticipation is there on your part about the matchup?

Khalif Wyatt: He's athletic. He's tall. He has good size for his position. He's a pretty good defender. He gets a lot of steals and stuff like that. I mean, he's a really good defender. Just going to have to take on the challenger and just be ready for whatever NC State has in order for us.

Q: Scootie, is that UMass game out of sight, out of mind, or are you guys still looking at that film trying to dissect what went wrong?

Scootie Randall: I think once our name got called, it was out of sight, out of mind. We got a chance to redeem ourselves, and we know we let a lot of people down.

We were happy that our name got called and we got a chance to play again. So we're just going to take full advantage of it.


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