USU men's basketball head coach Tim Duryea addressed the media on Tuesday and answered questions about the upcoming Mountain West contest against San Diego State on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.
On San Diego State:
“San Diego State obviously had a slow start to the league, but they’ve been playing better. They’ve won three of their last four games. Sunday against Nevada they played extremely well and played extremely hard defensively. They’re not much different than all the other San Diego State teams. They’re long, they’re athletic, they’re very versatile defensively and they can switch a lot of things to give you a lot of problems. They pressure you and try to force you into turnovers. They’re not quite as dominant on the boards as they have been in the past. But overall, when you hold your opponents in league to less than 40 percent field goal percent defense, you’re a very, very solid defensive team. I’m very impressed with them on that side of the ball. Offensively, they’re a pretty balanced team. They can score in a lot of different ways. Offensively, they’re a little bit like they are defensively: they’re versatile. They have a couple bigs that can shoot it and they have a couple guards that can post. They’re extremely challenging to guard because of their versatility.”
On if it is a surprise that SDSU is in the middle of the pack:
“Yes. Because since we’ve been in the league, the league has basically run through San Diego State. I think it’s kind of a snap shot, or it represents the way our league race is going, to where they’re in the pack along with everyone else, as opposed to above the fray, so to speak. I think when you’re a program like them that has as much tradition as they do, I’m sure they think they’re still going to win the league. I’m sure they think they’re still going to win the conference tournament, and they’re playing that way. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. They’re playing with a lot of swagger. They’re talented enough to win the league, and they’re definitely talented enough to win the tournament.”
On what it will take to beat SDSU:
“We have not beaten them on neutral court, their court or our court. We’ve come close a few times, and I’ve been telling our guys, eventually we’re going to beat them. When that is, is kind of up to them. The two biggest keys we have when we play them are transition defense, their guards have really hurt is in transition, and turnovers. They have given us problems in terms of, not only turning us over, but converting our turnovers into points. We have to get back and get our defense set, number one. Their guards will try to attack our guards. I think (Trey) Kell and (Jeremy) Hemsely regard themselves as the best backcourt in the league. They see the fact that we start two freshmen guards, and I think they’ll pressure us and attack us in the backcourt.
On the matchup in the backcourt:
“I think our guys learned a lot from playing them the first time because right from the get-go, they attacked us hard. They attacked Sam (Merrill) and Koby (McEwen) really hard, and Kell and Hemsley both played well. I think our two guys have gotten better since then. They’ve learned a lot and they’re a little more battle-tested. I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle that tomorrow night.”
On the play of Malik Pope:
“I thought he played very well against Nevada. He’s been getting into the rhythm and getting healthy. His minutes are somewhere around 24 or 25 a night. He’s a guy that always gives you problems because he looks like a big, but he has the skillset of a guard. They’re even playing him some at the five this year, which they have not done in the past. When he’s a five, he gives you a lot of problems because he’s a pick-and-pop big man that can also take you on the dribble, and he can obviously score in the post. We were his first game back, and he played a big part in the first half against us down there. I think he ended up with 10 points, and that’s 10 points they hadn’t been getting because he had been out and been injured. I think he’s their third-leading scorer in league, and he’s doing a really good job. He’s a guy you have to guard from the front of the rim all the way out to the 3-point line.”
On the status of Shane Rector:
“We’re just waiting on the results of one test. Shane did a lot more in practice yesterday than he had the previous few days he’d been out. Hopefully, there are no setbacks today after doing more yesterday. If there aren’t any setbacks, I anticipate him being available tomorrow night. He was actually available against Wyoming for emergency duty, but that was my decision not to put him in. We’re progressing towards where he will actually be available for play on Wednesday night.”
On the one more test for Shane Rector:
“We just want to make double-sure that there’s not something in there that hasn’t shown up, so that when we do go full-speed ahead that we know exactly what we’re dealing with and we will have no setbacks. With five games left, we can’t afford to go down that road and then find there was something else wrong and now we have a setback that may cost him the whole year.”
On avoiding lulls at the end of the half:
“Down there, we got the game back to where we were within six or seven points after a really rough start. It felt like we were competing in a tough environment. Then we started the second half very poorly defensively and very poorly in terms of handling the ball offensively. I don’t think it’s so much as starting or ending a half as much as it is avoiding those periods against San Diego State. It’s really hard because they put so much pressure on you defensively, that you have to handle, pass and catch the ball against pressure for 40 minutes, and if you have a lull, if you lose your concentration, they have the ability to go on an 8- or a 10-0 run on you in a very quick fashion. The other guy that hurt us down there that’s been playing well is Matt Shrigley. He played well against Nevada on Sunday. He’s a guy that’s played well against us in the past. I think we just have to have 40 minutes of concentration against pressure and make sure they earn everything they get.”
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