THE MODERATOR: We’ve been joined by Derrick Walton, Jr., D.J. Wilson and Zak Irvin.
Q. Just general thoughts when you first think of Louisville or see them play, what comes to mind, what makes them unique in your mind’s eye for all three players, please?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: They’re a really good coached team. They’re really athletic, really long. They attack the glass on the defensive and offensive side. They pose a different threat just with their length and athleticism, so we’re doing some things to make sure we keep those guys off the glass.
D.J. WILSON: They have nice guards. Their starting guards can shoot the ball well. That’s nothing different than we’re used to in the Big Ten. But I think the biggest difference is how hard they attack the offensive glass. They have a lot of athletic fours and fives that can get after it.
ZAK IRVIN: Touching on what Derrick said, they’re just very long and athletic. Also too they try to disrupt our offense with pressing and try to take things away from us.
Q. This is a Louisville team with a lot of length. How important is D.J. and what kind of impact can he make in this game?
ZAK IRVIN: I think he’s very important for us. He’s able to change the game in a various amount of ways because of his versatility, being able to play multiple positions. He’s long and athletic like they are. It will be a key part in the game for us tomorrow.
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: Just like Zak said, he can guard, defend multiple positions. He’s agile. We got a lot of confidence in him being able to match up with those guys. Looking forward to see what he does against those guys.
Q. Derrick, yesterday Rick Pitino, who has been known to exaggerate, compared you guys to the Golden State Warriors. I wonder how you reacted to that and which one of you is Steph Curry.
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: I was going to ask who is who? I didn’t take it any type of way. If it is sarcasm, I think he’s saying we’re a good team. That’s all I think of it as.
Q. You guys are obviously really good at shooting the 3-pointer. Louisville is one of the best in the country defending the 3-pointer. What are some of the keys to success when you face good 3-point defense in terms of getting shots off or making shots?
ZAK IRVIN: I think we can’t get disrupted with our offense, get in the flow early. I think it took us a little while yesterday to get settled down into our offense. That will be key. How well Derrick has been playing, he’s getting everybody in their spots. That will be key.
D.J. WILSON: The first few minutes when we see the defensive game plan, what they try to take away, we’ll get adjusted to it well after like a media time-out or whatever, once we see what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to guard us.
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: Just like D.J. said, we just adapt to what the game gives us and pretty much just go from there, takes what the game gives us.
Q. Does Louisville look like anybody you guys have faced this year? Have you seen anything similar to what they present?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: I think you could think of SMU as far as how they attack the glass, having good length. That’s my best comparison.
D.J. WILSON: Same. SMU comes to mind just because how athletic they are and how they attack the offensive glass.
ZAK IRVIN: I’d agree with those two, SMU. They crash the glass hard. Oklahoma State yesterday crashed the glass hard. That will be key. We’ve got to get them off and out in transition.
Q. You guys started the season with a 19-11 record and then won your last six straight. Some of the elements of keys to success of why that’s happened and how much of an influence was what happened at the airport that day and how has that changed you guys?
D.J. WILSON: What happened at the airport, I don’t think that has a lot to do with how we’re performing on the court. I think we’re just clicking at the right time. Our defense is starting to click.
We’re starting to get a lot more stops. So once you combine the defense that we’ve been playing over the course of the second half of the year with our offense, then we’re dangerous.
ZAK IRVIN: Touching on what D.J. said, I think our offense has been there the whole year. It was our defense that was lacking, and we made those adjustments and want to be playing our best basketball in March and hopefully continue into April. We’re doing that right now.
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: I think to say the least, as a team, you want to get better as the year progresses. That’s pretty much what we do here, and we just get better each and every game and throughout the season and pays dividends. We’ve been able to put up some wins.
Q. You guys have talked about everything starting to click. What do you see out there that tells you it’s falling into place, it’s clicking?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: Just our communication with one another and making plays is the biggest difference at this point, having complete control over what we’re doing out there, pretty much.
D.J. WILSON: I think it’s on the other end, just defense, starting to click on that end. Like I said, the offense has always been there throughout the course of the year. It was just whether or not we were going to play defense. We have so far in the second half of the year, and hopefully we can carry that momentum on the defensive side into tomorrow.
ZAK IRVIN: At this point, player-driven teams be coach-driven teams, and we’ve done that the past two months, I’d say. Like D.J. said with our defense, the intensity has ramped up. It’s been a game changer for us.
Q. I’m just curious, not that it’s really relevant to tomorrow, but curious if you have any particular memories of the Louisville/Michigan National Championship a few years ago.
ZAK IRVIN: It was the year before Derrick and I got here. I just remember watching the game, how well Spike played. A lot of people didn’t see Spike before that point, 17 points the first half, it was incredible. Then the controversial call with Trey and I think it was Siva with the blocked call.
D.J. WILSON: Those two come to mind automatically, Spike and the call, the foul. Then, also, the Tim Hardaway, when he had that dunk in the fast break.
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: Pretty much the same. And just want to see our team succeed, though we weren’t here. I wanted to see them succeed so bad. That’s pretty much it.
Q. It’s often been said that it’s difficult to face a Pitino-coached team on very short notice because his defense is just so complex. What are some of the challenges for you guys on short notice in wheeling back around and facing a new team? Is it adjusting on the fly? What are some of the challenges?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: I think we did a great job last week. We had to play four games in four days, so adjusting will be pretty much what we do at this point. Adapting is another part of our identity. We just adapt to what the game gives us and go from there.
D.J. WILSON: Like Derrick said, playing four games in four days, that’s something that you have to kind of just adapt to as far as learning their offenses and whatnot. But at the same time, I also think that we’re hard to scout for with just a day between the games just because we’re so complex on the offensive end, and we have so many weapons.
ZAK IRVIN: Just really what they touched on. It’s not going to be easy by any means, but I think we’ll be ready for it. Everybody knows Coach B has us prepared for several things coming at us. Once the game gets going, it will be fun.
Q. Derrick, what is the key to you guys having such a low turnover rate all year? What makes that happen?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: Well, first and foremost, if we turn the ball over in practice, there’s a consequence. So our coach really values not turning the ball over and making sure we get the best possible shot each and every possession. I think as a team, our identity, that’s something we’ve came to means with it and making sure we get a shot every time down the floor and make sure we pass the ball to the guys on our team.
Q. What is the consequence of turning the ball over in practice?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: It varies, running to the top of our gym or just being taken out of the drill. It’s just one of the things that we still know we don’t want to turn the ball over.
Q. For Derrick, I don’t know if you’ve seen UCLA play, but if someone hadn’t been watching college basketball this season and said who’s the best offensive team in the country, what would be your answer?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: We played Oklahoma State yesterday, and we played UCLA, so it will be one of my top two. But I wouldn’t short change us either. I think we’ve got five or six guys on our team that’s already reached the 20-point plateau. I think you can make an argument for Michigan being one of the most offensive teams.
Q. Yesterday, you guys set a school record in the tournament for three points made in the tournament game. What was the key to your success, especially in the second half, with the 3-point shot?
ZAK IRVIN: One of the things for our team is we’re so unselfish, especially how well Derrick is leading our team on the offensive end is something special. One of us gets it going like Derrick did in the second half, it’s contagious for all of us, and we’re able to score in various ways.
D.J. WILSON: I think everybody around the court has utmost confidence in themselves and each other. When we get the ball and shoot it, we plan for it to go in. We don’t second guess ourselves.
At the same time, I think that we’re just taking what the defense was giving us. With our offense, you have to pick your poison. So they were leaving us open for three, and we were making them pay.
Q. Zak, at this stage of the tournament, how important is executing whatever the plan is, or can teams get away with sort of freelancing or relying on talent?
ZAK IRVIN: At this point in the season, I think execution is key. I think we showed that yesterday against Oklahoma State, especially those last five minutes, the game kept going back and forth. For us to be able to get stops, especially on the defensive end was huge. We had big-time players, made big-time plays.
Q. Zak, a few years ago, there was a lot of criticism in the college game, especially shooting. Obviously, you guys are a great example of how far it’s come. In your career at Michigan and watching college basketball, what do you think has changed to where there’s been a better value on shooting the basketball?
ZAK IRVIN: Like I said, I think there has been a change in shooting. I think also too, you just give credit to teams have started playing smaller basketball. With fours, especially like D.J., how he’s able to change the style of the game for us, even Mo, a five-man, being able to shoot the ball the way he does. We work on practice all time. Coach B has done a great job on working with people and their shooting forms. I think that’s been one of the reasons why we have been so successful.
Q. Speaking of the 3s, how much are you instructed in — you talked about penalties for turnovers in practice. Is there a penalty for taking a 15-footer? Are you guys told to specifically avoid that?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: No. The main thing Coach B preaches is take the shot when you’re open. That’s all we do here. We take what the defense gives us, and there’s no penalty for shooting 15-footers.
Q. I’ll stay on the topic of shooting. Pitino’s comment, Golden State Warriors, how much are you influenced by what happens at the next level because it seems like there’s a trickle-down effect with the small ball.
D.J. WILSON: I’m not too sure how much it influences us. I just think we have a lot of pieces, and Coach B does as best as he can to kind of just control us in a way to let us have freedom while at the same time just letting us play our game.
So I don’t know if it really has much of an influence of how we play. We’re just utilizing all the tools that we have.
ZAK IRVIN: Coach B does a great job with the Xs and Os. But he says from time to time, it’s the players. It’s not the plays. Like I said, just to harp on Derrick, Derrick’s doing a great job with that and for us to be able to score the ball in various ways.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you
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