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What They Said: Nate Oats, UB players having fun in advance of Kentucky matchup

Here is what UB coach Nate Oats and players had to say during news conferences Friday in Boise in advance of Saturday's NCAA Tournament game against Kentucky.

Q. Have you heard back from former President Obama yet? Any apology for him picking against you?
CJ MASSINBURG: No, I haven't heard any response from Obama yet. We actually haven't had our phones, we got them back this morning. Coach took them last night, just so we could get some rest.

Q. You guys, I was really impressed with the confidence you had after last night's game against Arizona. What do you have to do to keep that going against Kentucky? And what do you expect from the Wildcats, the second Wildcats you're going to face in three days?
NICK PERKINS: I would just say it's really a focus thing. I think with some people they get a little success you start to get out of what you've been doing from the jump.

Really just staying focused. Kentucky is a little different team from Arizona. They've got more guards and more perimeter-based team. The scouting report is going to be a little different.

We've just got to come ready to play and stay focused.

Q. The crowd was pretty well behind you last night. I'm assuming it will be the same tomorrow night. Did you feed off that energy?
JEREMY HARRIS: I'd say we did feed off it a little bit. Like I said last night, I felt like we were in Alumni Arena in Buffalo. Shout-out to the fans out here in Boise that supported us, and the Buffalo fans that traveled out to see us.

CJ MASSINBURG: At the beginning of the game we got a couple of buckets, you could hear the UB fans cheering and stuff like that. When we went on a run at the end and everybody seeing what we was made of, we had the whole arena erupting, and it was a great feeling.

NICK PERKINS: That second half was something crazy. We started hitting all the shots. Things really started going our way, I could hear the crowd behind us. It made us feel good. It gave us a little bit of confidence to finish the game.

Q. Their players don't buy the idea, and your coach is definitely selling it, they're all freshmen and your veteran experience will benefit you. Do you think your veteran experience will be a factor in this game?
JEREMY HARRIS: I mean, Kentucky is a very good team, as we all know. But I think experience should give us just a little bit of an edge. I think the team that plays the hardest is going to come out with the win.

Q. From the film that you've seen so far of Kentucky, I don't know how much you've gotten to see yet or if you saw any of the game yesterday, where do you think you match up well against Kentucky and what areas are going to be the hardest to defend?
NICK PERKINS: I think we match up pretty well with their guards. They've got some guards who are pretty good on the ball screen and stuff like that. But I also think they're lacking on the inside with defending and stuff like that.

One strength I think they have is pretty much their size. They're a good rebounding team and stuff like that. But I don't think they can stay with us in transition and stuff like that. They've got a lot of big guys, they play a little bit too much, and I think that will play to our favor.

CJ MASSINBURG: I feel like this game is going to be a little different than last game. Last game we wanted to shoot all the 3s to like kind of expose their 7 footers. But this game I feel like my big guy, Nick Perkins, is going to get a lot inside and dominate and play his game how he's been playing the whole year.

JEREMY HARRIS: Could you repeat the question? I forgot it.

Q. From the film you've seen so far of Kentucky and if you got to see any of their game yesterday, what areas do you match up and what areas will be a struggle?
JEREMY HARRIS: I think we match up with them pretty good. I mean, they've got players on the boards, we know they can play. They're real good. But they put on their shorts just like we put on our shorts.

Like I said, I feel like the toughest team and the hardest-playing team is going to come out tomorrow night, or afternoon.

Q. How do you keep that energy going? Yesterday, especially the second half, you outscore Arizona by 18 points, you snagged the momentum and never gave it back. How do you keep that going on Saturday night against Kentucky and maybe getting into the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history?
CJ MASSINBURG: Just sticking to how we play. We came into yesterday's game not really changing too much of how we play. We're going to come into the game with Kentucky not changing anything. We want to stick to our base. We always want to be the hardest-playing team every time we step on the floor, no matter who we're playing against and stuff like that.

Q. From being around you guys the last couple of days, it seems that Nate has really created a culture where you guys are free to say what you want and be confident and speak your mind, and he clearly does the same thing. I was curious how that has helped you guys develop both the playing style you have and the confidence to come out and play last night and hopefully for your sake tomorrow?
NICK PERKINS: I feel like it's big. I feel like we have a good relationship with Coach and you know who he is as a person, he know who you are. I think you want to play harder for him. And he wants to go harder for you. It makes the program so much better. We're comfortable with each other and you get to be yourself.

CJ MASSINBURG: Coach is definitely a player's coach. He basically asks us what we want to do. Today we have a practice in a few. And he asked us, Hey, you want to go live or walk through and get a lot of jump shots up? And that's really big, when you have some coaches it's really a dictatorship in the program, they say, Their way or the highway. That's not like it here.

You always want to play for a coach that has the utmost confidence in you and listens to you as a player.

JEREMY HARRIS: Yeah, when the head man of the program is the hardest-working man in the program, it's easy to follow. So like they said, he's a players' coach. He gives us tons of confidence and that's why we play how we play.

Q. You're the Cinderella now officially, I think. I wonder, when you were growing up watching the NCAA Tournament did you have a favorite Cinderella team?
JEREMY HARRIS: No.

CJ MASSINBURG: No.

NICK PERKINS: I can't even think of one, to be honest.

Q. Jeremy, you didn't seem to like that I called you "Cinderella." Is that accurate, you don't like that label?
JEREMY HARRIS: Everybody thinks we should be here. And yesterday's game wasn't like a fluke or whatever you call it. But I think we have a very confident team. And I don't really like the term "Cinderella team."

Q. What do you think that you showed to the rest of the country that might not have heard of you before or watched you before?
JEREMY HARRIS: We're a team that plays very hard. We've got some tough guards, Dontay and Vonta, they started it last night. I told them after the game, Ya'll started the game very good on the defensive end. And CJ hit a couple of 3s early, and we just feed off of each other. We give each other confidence all the game.

CJ MASSINBURG: Can you repeat the question? I'm sorry.

Q. Just kind of saying after last night you guys are on a national stage now, you guys are getting so much national attention. What do you think that you have shown to the rest of the country that maybe has never heard of you guys, never even watched you play before?
CJ MASSINBURG: I feel like the way -- not only the game last night but the way we won, showed everybody that it wasn't a fluke. Sometimes teams can, like, stick around with a High Major and come down to the last shot and hit a lucky buzzer-beater, and go crazy. But I feel like our win wasn't like that yesterday. Our win showed that.

You heard Charles Barkley, you hear people saying that we dominated them. And that's not really a fluke, you know. And I feel like the best team isn't done, and we're going to show you tomorrow.

Q. I would put this to all of you: How did you end up at Buffalo? What was the recruiting process like? Were there other schools in the mix?
NICK PERKINS: Well, coming out of high school, I'm a native Michigan guy, so I've known of them for a while. Me being from Michigan, when Nate came to Buffalo -- I think I committed here when Bobby Hurley still had the head job. When Coach Hurley decided to leave, it was only right for me to stay with Nate. Me and his relationship was to strong and all that, that's how I got here.

CJ MASSINBURG: Our story is a little bit different. I was playing AAU basketball as an unsigned senior in the adidas Circuit. And I actually got referred to Buffalo by Dusty May, who was at Louisiana Tech, he's not there anymore, and they referred me to them.

Then one of our assistant coaches, Jim Whitesell, he came and saw me in Indiana and he liked my defensive game. They didn't know that I had the offensive game. They recruited me for defense. When I got here and they seen my offense, they were really shocked.

JEREMY HARRIS: I'll just say I was recruited right out of junior college, but Coach B and Coach Oats recruited me the hardest, I believe, and I trusted them the most. And I felt like I have made the right decision.

Q. I was just asking the players how they ended up at Buffalo and I was wondering how do you recruit to Buffalo?
NATE OATS: Who wouldn't want to come to Buffalo. Go look now, it's about 8 inches of snow. You get all the skiing in during basketball season.

Honestly, we try to just build relationships and sell our style of play and sell the program. When I first got to Buffalo as an assistant, they didn't have a name, nobody knew about them. I was selling Coach Hurley, Bobby had a name, he was the best point guard ever in college basketball, we got Lamonte Bearden then. So I recruited Bobby's name as an assistant.

We got the program in the NCAA Tournament the second year. And then you had a bit of a name and then we started recruiting, we go back to the NCAA Tournament, and now you've been there two years in a row. Kids want to play in the NCAA Tournament. Right now I think we're 5th in the country in length of possession on offense. Our tempo is fast, we play spread out, wide open. Our style of play is one that guys want to play.

And then I think really the biggest thing in recruiting comes down to relationships. There's certain places, if it was all about weather, everybody would go to Miami. But I think Kansas gets some pretty good players, Kentucky gets pretty good players; it's not on the beach.

Honestly, the first thing I ask some of these kids is, Listen, we're up here in the north, it snows little bit. But winter is during basketball season. So let me ask you right up front: If you're one of those kids that's worried about the weather outside the gym during basketball season, let me know up front, because the weather inside the gym is the same in Miami as it is in Buffalo. And we have gym rats that live in the gym. If you're worried about the outside weather, let me know, you're not the type of kid we want. They all say, No, that's not me. We get that right out of the way right up front.

Q. I know you said that you made it. Has this win been everything you imagined it would be?
NATE OATS: I didn't imagine what it was like. I guess I was too busy trying to prep to get the win. I don't have a very good imagination anyway. It's been pretty crazy. They've had me on every radio show I've ever listened to, I think, when you're trying to kill time.

It's been great. Honestly I didn't want to turn too many of them down, because I want the program itself to get -- like I said, we never had a name. We've never been to the NCAA Tournament before Coach Hurley got hired and I came as an assistant.

Now we finally got a win. Let's build the program, and let people know what Buffalo basketball is about, let's keep the snowball going. It's been great. You get live on Scott Van Pelt, you get live on all these national television shows. You talk about the kids. The kids are great. I didn't get to listen to this. I'm assuming they gave you good answers. I love the group we've got.

Q. How do you move on behind the best winning program in history and get your team mentally ready against a hard test against Kentucky?
NATE OATS: It's not the easiest. We've got a mature group of kids. We've got a lot of juniors. Wes is a 5th-year senior. The maturity of the group, just knowing that we want to get to the second weekend. I told them, Look, nobody can ever take this win away from you, you beat Arizona. That's one of the best programs in the country over the last 30 years. Unbelievable job.

But listen, if you get to the second weekend of this tournament, you have no idea. Like, this is almost a life changer. As far as your basketball career it is.

So our SID told me we had something like 1800 articles written about us since last night. I told the guys, Those articles will be on the Internet for the next year, 10 years, let's concentrate on what we can do right now in the next 24 hours to get this next win. Then go Twitter search and Google search your name after the season, and you can spend all the time reading all the articles you want. Reading all those articles right now helps us zero getting the win against Kentucky. Forget it, let's move on, let's figure out how to beat Kentucky, and after the season go and do all that other stuff.

Q. What was the key in your opinion to the second half? You were locked in for 20 minutes. It was 40-30 at the half. You missed 3s, turned the ball over a little. You had 9 turnovers in the half. You come into that second half, seemed like everything was clicking for you guys. What was the biggest change from the way you played the first 20 and the last 20? And how does that transition to Saturday night playing another good team in Kentucky?
NATE OATS: I think part of it it's the first NCAA Tournament for most of these guys. There's a little bit of jitters. And I told all of them going in, if we take care of the ball and that our defense is where we need to be and rebound it, we'll win the game.

We had nine turnovers in the half. If you go to the second half the biggest difference was we only had one turnover. I think calming down, taking care of the ball. Our defense was a little suspect at the beginning of the second half, we gave those three layups up, I was ready to kill some guys in there. Ended up calling a time out, we were hitting 3s, and they were only hitting 2s. He was mad, called the timeout. We've got to get on them, and after that we just locked in. Our defense for the last 17 minutes of the second half is as good as it's been all year.

Q. How about a job where coaches and players never say anything? And here you are talking about Cal's whining about his freshmen, your players say it's an advantage to have experience. Do you care about the idea that they put it on their bulletin board and use it against you?
NATE OATS: It is what it is. If you look at the roster, Wes Clark, senior, their team, freshman, freshman. Their players are going to play in the NBA for a reason. There's a reason that three of these guys are in the first round and I'm going to show you. The talent level is absolutely there. And when they go win the lottery, I'm going to agree with NBA teams that took them, they're that good. They're still freshmen.

No disrespect to our two freshmen, they have lapses. We're experienced. They're inexperienced. It's no disrespect. It is what it is. It's facts. I'm going to tell them, they're not freshmen? You are freshmen. Just like Cal's been saying. Cal's been saying it.

I will say this, when you play freshmen as many minutes as they've had to play all year and you get to this point in the season, they're pretty seasoned freshmen. They're not the first ten games freshmen. So they're almost sophomores, but they are still freshmen, so it is what it is.

We've got a 5th-year senior running our team. I like the way Wes is playing right now. I think his experience and all that can be big. Now, he's 6-6, the point guard they have, it's probably a lottery pick, but Wes has played against some NBA guys and held his own. He's a pretty good player.

Q. The players almost grimaced at being called "Cinderella"? Is that something you instill in them to make them believe they deserve to be here?
NATE OATS: If you look at the games we played, from Cincinnati to Syracuse and Texas A&M, when we went to Syracuse and lost, the better team lost. We really felt like we screwed some stuff up in the last three minutes when we had a lead in the last three minutes of the game, it cost us.

So we felt like -- when we played Cincinnati we didn't have Wes. And he makes a difference. Now, Davonta was great, but Wes is experienced, 5th year. So we got Wes just in time for the Syracuse and then the Texas A&M. Those were his first two games. We didn't have Caruthers.

I told them, this is the first time we have a full roster available to us. We're going to get a High Major on a neutral floor. So this is what we've been waiting for. Because we only got one High Major on a neutral floor in Cincinnati.

Now, I think we just instill in them from day 1: This is where we belong, this is what we're going to do and this is what we're going to get. When we get the next High Major on neutral floor in a NCAA major, we're going to take care of business.

Q. How is this different than preparing for Arizona?
NATE OATS: They're similar in some regards, but much different. They both don't get a lot of their points from three. Kentucky is 312 in the country in percentage of points from 3 -- or Arizona was. Kentucky is 344th. They really don't get -- they went 0 for 6 yesterday. The first time in years that Kentucky hasn't had a three.

The difference is Arizona pounds it into two 7 footers and gets their paint touches. Kentucky takes you off the dribble and runs off of ball screens and really plays off their athleticism. Their spacing is a little different. You want to keep the ball out of the lane with both teams, but you have to do it different ways. And then rebounding, Kentucky is 8th in the country in offensive rebounding percentages. If you look at the defensive numbers, too, Kentucky's defensive numbers are much, much better than Arizona's were.

We're going to struggle to score a little bit more against Kentucky than we did against Arizona, I think.

Q. You're up here talking about Calipari whining, talking about the weather, you've got Bulls fans going through tables. Your guys are talking about how handsome they are. How are you able to be so loose right now and have that --
NATE OATS: Let me clarify, when I said Calipari whining about freshmen, I was maybe -- it was a misuse of the word. He's a pretty dang good coach. He's made known the fact that he's young all year. It's a fact. It is what it is.

We both want to win. We both won nine of our last 10 games. They lost four in a row before they went on a run. So I think he finally broke through and got through to his freshmen and maybe he'll say that -- I don't know what -- I tell our guys, I'm not going to lie to you, I don't go into scouting reports and blow some team up that's not very good to tell them that they're great. But I also don't go the other way, either.

So let's say it like it is, let's be real. I'm not going to try to disrespect anybody. But our players -- you can talk to them, too, they're a little older, they're good guys. Wes has two kids. He's trying to catch up to me. I've got three. We can trade parenting stories.

Q. You guys are up there talking about this stuff, how are you able to have this mindset? You seem pretty loose right now.
NATE OATS: Here's the other thing, like I've been through a little bit here in the last few years just on a personal level; my wife's cancer and everything. The game of basketball is big and it is my job and I need to win games to keep my job, but it's not -- I tell our guys all the time, if all I do is teach you to play basketball, I've failed miserably.

We have a training -- we bring a guy in at least once a week. We talk life a lot of times, too. We don't just talk basketball. Basketball is big and we're going to play as hard as we can, and if you don't give max effort you're letting the whole program down. But it's not the end-all. We're all going to be fathers and husbands and let's be better men than we are when we started. So I think it gives you a little perspective of life, too.

Q. There has been some joking around about the fans of Buffalo and tables and whatever. But what is it about the sports community of Buffalo that makes them so passionate about not just Bulls, but it seems every sport there's so much passion for their sports teams?
NATE OATS: It's a great question. Had I lived there my whole life I could probably give you a much better answer. He could probably give you a better answer, he should come up and answer the question instead of ask the questions.

Look, from my five years in Buffalo, my experience -- everybody wants to talk about the Super Bowls that almost were. Was it wide right or wide left? Wide right, my bad. But it's almost like they've had some really good teams that have almost got there and they -- shoot, I live in a neighborhood, like they literally shut down -- you don't do anything during a Bills game. They've got the tailgates going. Everybody locks into every single Bills game all the time. They're good. Like the playoffs, that was great.

I don't know, it's a blue collar town. I grew up in the midwest. I tell everybody, Buffalo is way more midwest than it is east coast. We're four hours from Detroit, and six hours from New York City. It's blue collar, hard working, really good people that get behind their sports team that like to have a good time and support them.

Did you see the kid breaking the table and running through a foot of snow? That's one more motivation for us to win last night, so we could stay in Boise. It was like 70 the second day we're here. And it's snowing 8 inches. Let's work on our tan in Boise while we're here.

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