Temple players Lavoy Allen, Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, and coach Fran Dunphy met the media in Tucson in advance of tomorrow's game against Penn State.
They talk about the Owls' NCAA losing streak, defending Talor Battle and the status of Scootie Randall.
Q. Lavoy, you had a big spike in stats the last seven games. It seemed concurrent for when Scootie went down and Micheal Eric went down. Is that a coincidence or not?
LAVOY ALLEN: Yeah. Once those two guys went down, you know, they needed bigger production from the other guys on the court. So, you know, I just had to step my game up.
Q. Do you expect it to be the kind of defensive game it looks to be just from watching these two teams? It's going to be all about in-your-face defense and maybe another 36-33 games they had.
JUAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, we're definitely going to base our game on trying to stop them. Starting with the battle who's the guy that makes them go. Trying to stop them from scoring too many points, and making the other guys grow.
So we're going to try to base our game on our defense like we've done in the past few years in this season.
It's going to be a team effort trying to stop them, then we're going to go from there.
RAMONE MOORE: I basically just agree with what Juan said. I'm not sure it will be that 36-33 game like they played against Wisconsin. But, I mean, it will be a total team effort in stopping Battle. Like Juan said, it makes their team go.
But I think offensively these three guys up here, me, myself and Juan and Lavoy, you know, it has to start with us on the offensive end and trying to get, you know, the offense going and things like that.
Q. We talked in their press conference a little bit about a scrimmage that you had before the season began with them in which, I believe, you were pretty dominant in that scrimmage. I was wondering if you've completely forgot about that, or if you still have that on your mind, if that means anything to you at this point?
RAMONE MOORE: I think that was early in the year. Both teams were, you know, starting to start their season off. It's kind of different now. I think Penn State won the last seven out of their last ten games and they've been playing pretty well. So I don't think we can look back on the scrimmage. I think we played pretty well. But I don't think we can look back and say since we did a good job that we'll do a good job now. We're playing good basketball so we just got to, like I said, stop Battle and go from there.
Q. There's a lot of talk about Battle. But it looks like in all his games he typically scores over 20 points. But when they're successful is when his teammates step up. Is there anyone who you guys feel like you have to shut down to make sure that you win this game, Ramon?
RAMONE MOORE: I think a guy that shows up as well as Battle is Jeff Brooks. I think he does a great job defensively, you know, blocking shots and doing little things that those guys need. But, I mean, they have a good team overall. You got a lot of roll players that fill in with Battle and the things that he does.
So, I mean, like I said, Jeff Brooks is one of the guy that's stands out as well as Battle.
Q. Juan, when you look at this team and the defense they've been playing last couple weeks, of course you know about the 36-33 game they played. What's the key in your estimation to getting the offense playing early in this game and getting off to a good start?
JUAN FERNANDEZ: I think we're definitely going to do what we've been doing. Starting inside out. I think the key is going to be to get Lavoy involved, especially at the beginning of the game as much as possible. And then look further out. Ramon has been having pretty good practices lately, so hopefully he'll keep that shooting spree going and we're going to lead from the bench and take what they give us.
I think it will be an interesting game.
Q. Juan, what are your impressions of Tim Frazier, Penn State's point guard?
JUAN FERNANDEZ: Well, we watch a lot of film on him. We're basically talking too much about Battle because he's their leading scorer. But I think he's the one that gets them into their offense. He can also score.
What I know about him, he is not the greatest shooter, but, you know, we got to respect him. Probably going to be my job to try to stop him. And, you know, maybe deny the ball to him, to not allow him to get them into their offense and stuff.
But it's going be a team defense like we've been doing the whole year. And that's the way we're going to approach this game.
Q. Lavoy, Penn State does not get many players out of Philadelphia. I was wondering, did they recruit you? And when you talked to other Philadelphia kids do you ever hear them talk about Penn State as a possible destination?
LAVOY ALLEN: Yeah, Penn State was one of the first couple schools to recruit me. No, I haven't really heard much about them from other Philadelphia guys.
Q. Lavoy, this is your fourth straight year in the tournament, but the past three years you guys have gone out in the first round. What's different about this team?
LAVOY ALLEN: All four years the teams have been different. So, I mean, just preparation for the game. You know, we all have different ways of going about preparing for it. Personally I just like to, you know, relax my mind. Just, you know, not get too tense before the game. I'm not sure how it's going to be different. Just try to go out there and play well.
Q. Lavoy, coach got this fabulous winning record, but he's got this NCAA record losing streak in the tournament. Are you guys motivated at all for him to put that thing to an end?
LAVOY ALLEN: Definitely. The coaching staff, they do a great job all year long getting us prepared for games. And, I mean, they're the main reason we win a lot of games. So I mean, just getting a win in the tournament would be huge for us and for the coaching staff.
Q. Ramone, you guys don't have any quote/unquote "bad losses" this year. They're all to teams with records, good teams, teams in the tournament. Do you kind of feel like you are a team that doesn't beat yourself and that a team has to actually come out and beat you guys if they're going to beat you?
RAMONE MOORE: Yes. I think all year we've been a good team. You know, we've played together and, you know, make the extra pass and things like that. That's always the way Coach Dunphy approaches it. Always playing team basketball and things like that.
I think having Lavoy out there on defense, which he rarely makes mistakes, you got to, you know, say, you know, we got to do the same.
So I think defensively and offensively we don't do too much to hurt ourselves which allows, you know, us to win a lot of games and not be beat too much.
Q. Lavoy, last three years you guys have gone in this tournament after winning the A10 championship. This year you guys are going in after a loss. Do you think that will help or hurt you?
LAVOY ALLEN: I don't think that will really make a difference. Either way we just come into the game the same way and having prepared for it. I don't think that's that big of a difference.
Q. This question is for Juan. Kind of a follow-up on the question about you guys not really having any bad losses. You also played a lot of out-of-conference games. You played ACC teams, Big East, that kind of thing where a lot of their games and their wins were within the Big Ten. So you think that makes you a stronger team, that you played quite a few teams from a lot of different conferences, a stronger team coming into the tournament?
JUAN FERNANDEZ: Definitely. It can't hurt us. One thing that coach always says is that you try to get the toughest schedule you can possibly get for your student-athletes to improve and get better. And I think playing against better teams is the only way your own team can improve.
So we definitely have got a lot of experience from especially going to tough places, like playing at Duke or games like that. So hopefully we'll be relaxed and kind of know before the game tomorrow that we went through it before and we won't be as nervous or won't be as much pressure.
Q. Lavoy, about the losing streak in the NCAA tournament. No one talks about the 25 victories, the upset that's you guys had early on. Does that kind of frustrate you all or motivate you all to like let's hurry up and get this win and get the talk over with?
LAVOY ALLEN: Yeah, it's definitely motivation. I mean, that's how people, you know, grade you nowadays how you do in the post-season. So, you know, although we had a good year, it doesn't -- we got to put that behind us and focus on one game at a time in the tournament.
Q. Ramone, what are the complications of playing at 11:00 a.m. in the morning? Is it hard?
RAMONE MOORE: I mean, it's 2:00 p.m. Eastern. So, I mean, I think kind of our bodies will be used to it. But, I mean, early games are something we're not accustomed to as normal. You know, playing 7:00 games and things like that.
But I think there's a lot at stake, so we got to be ready. I think whatever it takes for us to be prepared, we have to do. There's not going to be any excuses.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.
COACH DUNPHY: We're excited to be here in Tucson, Arizona, to play Penn State, and to be back in the NCAA tournament. I think that's really what you point for. It's a goal of yours each and every year. And we've been fortunate enough to the last few to be representing Temple University in the NCAA tournament. And happy for our guys.
Q. Given the make-up of this team, does this look like a team that's going to give you that victory you've been wanting for so long?
COACH DUNPHY: I certainly hope so. That would be great. We've had a good year. And we've had a resilient year. Guys have stepped up and did some things that you would hope your bench players would do. People are coming in, making shots, and doing a good job on the defensive end.
I hope that we're going to be as good as we can be tomorrow morning.
Q. What's the latest on Scootie and I heard that he said he was ready to play before the A10 tournament and you obviously had a decision to make there, whether to give him a little work or just hold him out and give him more rest. How did that develop?
COACH DUNPHY: Well, he had not practiced at all before the Atlantic 10 tournament. So I'm not sure if that was Scootie's scouting report you were listening to. If you had asked Scootie he was ready February 18th. But he's done -- last couple days, he looked good. He was pain free on Monday and Tuesday. So we're hopeful that he can give us some minutes tomorrow.
I think then the question becomes: How soon will he help us and then how long will he help us? That would be, to be determined.
Q. Coach, a lot of people talk about what Battle does. But it seems like when they win games, the other teammates step up. What is the key to shut those guys down?
COACH DUNPHY: Well, I think any good team, and I think Penn State right now is playing very good basketball, it's not just going to be one guy and everybody is going to have to contribute. I think that's where they are as a group right now. But that doesn't mean we're going to have to -- that we're going to say, okay, Talor, Battle can do whatever he wants, then we'll try to control the other four. That's probably not a good idea as well.
We're just going to have to play really good team defense. We're going to have to concentrate a lot of our efforts on Talor because he is such a good player and he wants the ball so much and he is such a great competitor. But I wish he were the only threat that Penn State had.
So we've got our hands full tomorrow. But really looking forward to the opportunity.
Q. Coach, is there any added pressure on you and your guys because of what's happened the past three years to win this game?
COACH DUNPHY: To be honest with you, we're trying to win every game that we play. There was pressure on us to beat La Salle last Friday, pressure on us to beat Richmond Saturday. There will be pressure on us to win the game against Penn State. We're just hoping to play our best basketball and hope there's pressure in our profession and what we do as a living for coaches and players, there's pressure every time that you play a game. But there's a famous person out there and I can't tell you who it was, but said, pressure is a privilege. So we're so privileged to be doing what it is that we do. And hopefully we can play well.
Q. I don't know if you heard Lavoy was talking about how, you know, a lot of the questions are about the losing streak in the NCAA tournament, not about what was a very good season. San Diego State sort of in a similar situation at 32-2 and never been ranked in school history. They're number 5 and 6 in two polls. At what point in college basketball did the focus become on the tournament and not on the larger body of work? And does that bother you at all?
COACH DUNPHY: You know, I don't think it bothers you because that's the life that we lead. There's nothing you can do about that. I used an example the other day of, you know, Dan Marino, all those years of fabulous quarterbacking and never made it to the Super Bowl. For me, as a competitive person, I just look at Dan Marino's body of work.
So it's what we live with. And that's okay. And we need to find a way to win a game. And that's what we're focused on.
And, again, we were trying to win the game against Richmond on Saturday. We didn't get it done. So we are acutely aware of now our next opportunity, grateful for our chance to be back to the NCAA tournament, but certainly aware that we're playing a very good basketball team tomorrow and we'd like to win the game.
Q. Coach, both your team and Penn State are coming in pretty hot. I mean, they've gotten on a roll in their conference tournament and you guys have had a lot of wins down the stretch. Do you have any thoughts on that? I don't know, just the fact they're coming in so hot I guess.
COACH DUNPHY: Well, I think they were just -- they were ready to make this run at some point. They won seven out of the last ten games. And to beat Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State back-to-back-to-back is pretty extraordinary and pretty terrific, and they did it in different ways as well. But I think their defense is really what I'm concerned about as well. How are we going to score? Just watching some of those films they did a terrific job. I think they're really playing great team defense at this point.
But I think at this time of the year, everybody that you are going to have an opportunity to play is probably playing pretty well.
Q. Is it accurate to say that T. J. DiLeo is your best defender against a particularly small, really quick guard, and will he play a little more in this game maybe because Tim Frazier's the opposite number or not?
COACH DUNPHY: Well, yeah. I think T. J.'s probably our quickest and strongest guard who you would stick on either one of Battle or Frazier. But how much he is going to play, I think is depending on the game. You know, we don't have a set rotation. Although I'd like to get him in there and see what he can do, certainly at the defensive end. And he does a good job of taking care of the ball and those kinds of things.
But your initial question is correct, he is -- or your initial observation, he is our best perimeter defender. Sometimes if Scootie were healthy, we might use him as well, if he were totally healthy.
Q. Looking at the teams just from a distance, the defense stands out on both teams. How would you contrast the two defensive styles and is it right to think that this has made that kind of game a 60, 50-point game, something like that?
COACH DUNPHY: Well, last year the '09/'10 season we played each other I think it was a 45-42 slug fest at our place. So I think we both are similar defensively. Both make our money on man-to-man defense. I think we both do a good job of helping one another. And I think we pay attention to that detail.
And we're probably not the fastest offensive teams as well in terms of shooting quickly. You know, but I think that's -- all that being said, this thing could be a high scoring affair.
Q. With that said, with the similarities in defense, is it harder to prepare for a team like that or easier?
COACH DUNPHY: I don't think it's either one. But it's -- at this point Penn State played on Sunday, we played on Saturday. We've been watching film over the last number of days as has Penn State. We scrimmaged each other October 30th. We're totally different as a team. They are totally different as a team. But at least we have some similarities to go off of and we have some familiarities to go off of.