Jan. 15, 2013
LOGAN, Utah -
Preview of road trip, New Mexico State and Denver:
"Well, obviously this will be a very challenging road trip, two teams that are very impressive watching them on tape from last weekend. Both teams went on the road and swept against two teams that we had our hands full trying to beat. Obviously, Seattle and Idaho both gave us really good games, and New Mexico State and Denver went on the road and beat them both. They both looked impressive doing it. We are going to have to elevate our game a little bit to have a chance to compete with these teams; I really believe that. I that the road trips in this league are going to be challenging, all of them. I think that there is a lot of parity in the league, I think a lot of different teams could finish at the top or finish in the top-three however you want to look at it."
"Every time you go into New Mexico State, which is our first challenge, you know you are going to face a very athletic team, a very good rebounding team, there guards are extremely impressive. Their big guy inside that is 7'5" (Sim Bhullar) creates lots of issues trying to figure out how to deal with him. He is not just big, he has a real nice touch and obviously he takes up a ton of room. They have an experienced veteran in (Tyrone) Watson who plays the three and the four. As usual they are a talented team."
"You quickly turn around and go to Denver, who just manhandled us last year in the Spectrum. They have got a lot of those players back, they play a system that is really hard to guard. The Princeton system that they play is unique, it is very secretive; all of the guys who run it on the things they do in it and they are just the masters of getting layups and wide open three-point shots. Then you go down on the other end and it is a challenge to score against a match-up switching man-to-man sort of defense. So with both games, it is time for us to get on the road and see what we can do but both games are extremely challenging."
On if it surprising to look back at the season this far and realize that you have won 13-games in a row:
"I think that our record is great. We are certainly glad to be sitting where we are at, but I think that it is a little bit deceiving because there have been a whole lot of close games that we have managed to squeak out. We have had more than our fair share of home games this year, which is something you will never turn down as a coach, we had a lot of schools that owed us games and we are going to take those games. We started out league with three of our first five at home and a road trip where two teams right now that we played on the road that are struggling and we picked up a couple of road wins. We are a long way from proving that we are a legitimate contender in this league. I think that it is so early that it is to hard to tell. We will know more after the next four games, certainly this road trip and then the two we play at home after that. Then you get to the halfway mark and you have a little better feel for where you are at and what you need to try and do."
On the contrast of styles with this week's opponents:
"Yes, it is. New Mexico State plays to their strengths, I think that (NMSU head coach) Marvin (Menzies) has done a fantastic job there in getting talented guys and figuring what they do best and turning them loose so to speak. I think that is a credit to him and on the other hand you have Denver who is very precise and their system is all about their system. So it is contrasting games, the athleticism and freedom that New Mexico State has is what makes them so hard to deal with and then the preciseness and the things that come with the Princeton system make it a challenge against Denver. You look at it and it is one of those year where you say, `boy if we could get one,' and for years we have talked about that where you don't want to say `we are going to go out on the road and just try to get one' and I have always responded `that's not too bad!' If you get the first one you would love to get a sweep, but we all know how tough it is to win in college basketball on the road. We have got tons of tough road games coming up."
On New Mexico State's Mullings impressive defensive abilities and NMSU's versatile players:
"Yes and I am sure that he will guard Preston Medlin and he was impressive last year. He is even more impressive watching him this year. Last year he really had a hard time shooting the ball from three and now he is shooting a very high percentage. As I said earlier, their wings with Bandja Sy at 6'8" and is a load when he posts up, he is active on the break, driving it and we will have guy who is 6'2" on him. I have a lot of respect for (Tyrone) Watson being the veteran that he is and doing the things that he does. The big guy, that we already mentioned, and all the problems that he creates and their point guard play, I know that one kid had 16 over the weekend and their point guard play just keeps improving. That is a good team."
Can you reflect on this possibly being the last time you go to Lac Cruces, has it been a good rivalry over the years?
"It's been a really good rivalry, and for a long time before I ever got here. I've told the story before when I was getting recruited by Utah State, I was a junior in high school and New Mexico State came and played in Logan. I remember sitting behind the old cage in the old Nelson Fieldhouse and they were playing New Mexico State, who went to the Final Four that year and Utah State was extremely talented. Craig Drury and I were both up to the game. Craig Drury is now the Provo High coach, and has been forever. I turned to him about halfway through that game and said `I don't think you and I can play in this game,' and he said `I think you are right,' just unbelievable talent. So the rivalry goes back a long, long time. It's a challenge every time we go to Las Cruces, in a lot of ways. Getting there is a challenge tomorrow. It's about an 11-hour trip, it shouldn't be but is. It's the various things you deal with, with their crowd and so forth. Then they probably feel the same way when they come here. So it's been a good rivalry. I don't think either school will be sprinting to schedule each other for a few years. I think there will be a period where you kind of let it slide for a few years but at some point I think they will get back together."
On the bench production sliding off in the last couple of games:
"Yes, we need to them to step up and be a little more aggressive. We need some guys to step up and score. We need some guys to be rebounders. Yeah, it would help our team a lot if we could get a little more bench production. They are practicing very well, so that is the main thing they need to do, is to carry practice over to the games. TeNale (Roland) does a lot of really good things in practice. Ben (Clifford) makes some shots. Marvin (Jean) shoots lights out a lot of days. So, that would help our team considerably if we could have those guys step up. We need to, I wouldn't necessarily call it a challenge, but talk to our team about that we are going to have to elevate our game. They all know we have been living on the edge and we are going to have to elevate our game if we want to have a chance to be successful on this road trip."
On if it is all elevation on the defense, for the most part:
"I don't feel it's just defense. I feel it's consistency. Some games we will rebound and some games we don't. Some games we take care of the ball, some games we don't. Our defense wasn't really bad the other night, we held San Jose to a low percentage. If it's not one thing it's another, be it turnovers, shot selection or whatever it is. The way that you get better throughout the year is eliminate some of the errors, have less errors. For example, we had nine first half turnovers the other night - about six of them were just silly. You can't have those kind of turnovers and win on the road. So that is something we need to do better. We got pounded by New Mexico State last year on the boards. So if we don't elevate our game and rebound the ball, it could be a long night in Las Cruces. That was a huge stat last year when we played them. So there is just different areas of the game that we've got to get more consistent in."
On feeling if favorable schedule has helped and if Utah State is deserving of some of these top 25 votes that they are getting:
"We'll take them. We're never going to give them back. We are never going to give the wins back that we had. This team, we have a lot of new people. I mean, you sit in that room sometimes and there is only nine guys staring at me because the other guys are out doing the scout squad. We have got a real small practice group right now, as small as we've had in my 15 years here. Half of those nine guys are new. So it was nice to have a chance for them to build some confidence with some home games and we also went on the road and got a few wins. The Santa Clara win looks like a really good win at this point. Now we've got some more chances, so we will see."
On building some confidence with the close games and living on the edge but still winning:
"I hope so. You can never look inside a guy's mind. It's a fine line between confidence and awareness of what you are facing on the weekend. We are an interesting group sometimes practice wise. I still haven't quite figured this group out. We have to decide whether we want to concentrate and do what it takes to be good. We got a chance to be good, but that is where we are right now - we've got a chance to be good."
On opponents taking the approach of being physical against USU:
"You know, that is why they have those three guys in stripes out there. They have to dictate how they are going to call the game. What we have always been able to do in the past is if they want to be physical, that is fine - let's be physical. We are not as physical a group as we maybe should be, but we are more athletic at times than we have been in the past. You have to respond to how the game is being called. I do think that is probably part of what people's strategy is against us, with all our sets and our system and all that, is to get into us and physical us and pressure us. I'll be shocked if that isn't what New Mexico State does. That is how they have played us the last few years and given us some problems is just pressure man to man defense."
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