USU men's basketball head coach Tim Duryea addressed the media on Friday and answered questions about the upcoming home finale against UNLV on Saturday, March 3. The complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.
"UNLV is, obviously, going through the same kind of stretch we're going through. Both teams have lost four in a row. Both teams have had stretches where they've played really well in conference and then both teams have had a few tough losses. We're a little bit in the same boat that way. Obviously, when you talk UNLV, the first thing that comes to your mind is those two big players, (Shakur) Juiston and (Brandon) McCoy. Both of them double-double guys, basically, and big, strong, probably two of the three or four biggest, strongest, most powerful post guys in the league. (They) Do a great job in scoring and rebounding the ball. Especially rebounding the ball. When you get two guys in your starting lineup in league play that are both averaging basically 10 rebounds a game, that's really impressive. They're a power team. I really like their guards, as well. Jovan Mooring has kind of had a little bit of an up-and-down year. The point guard has been a good addition for them as a grad transfer. He's given them competitiveness, toughness and has made some big shots for them. When they walk on the floor, you know what you're in for in terms of talent, size and athleticism. I'm expecting a very, very competitive game tomorrow."
On if there is motivation to beat UNLV for a better tournament position:
"I'm not sure how big of a thing that is. For both teams, obviously, when you take the floor you want to win. A byproduct of winning Saturday is the seventh seed in the tournament. It is a big deal, but I don't think that will be the thing that's uppermost on our minds or our guys' minds. The motivation for our guys, I can only speak for them, is to play better. We, obviously, did not play very well in terms of shooting the ball in San Jose, and didn't have a very good half at Air Force. We've had a game and a half here where we haven't played very well. We've had four games in a row where we haven't come out on top, and, really, just want to change the feeling of the group. That's, probably, the more motivating factor than playing for a seed."
On getting the attitude of the team back up following the loss at SJSU:
"It was a down group. That's for sure. Like I've said, we've had a tough stretch here. Not only the San José State game, but they were extremely down after the Air Force second half and we lost our last home game when we played really well and just ran into a team that was phenomenal that day. It's been a couple of weeks for us of really grinding and not having much success. That slowly but surely wears you down along with the fact that we're at the end of the season. To overcome all those things, I'm glad we have a home game. Senior night for a couple of guys in our program who are very well-liked by their teammates. Hopefully, just being back home and resting up yesterday and having those two guys to play for Saturday, hopefully, will give another bounce in our step. We're definitely going to need that. Like I said, this is one of the more talented groups in the league coming in on Saturday."
On putting senior guard Julion Pearre in the starting lineup against San José State:
"I knew I was going to start him Saturday because of senior night. We had lost two or three in a row, (and I) thought that Julion deserved a chance and thought Diogo (Brito) needed to play better in some areas that he had been playing well for us in. It gives me a little versatility with him coming off the bench. We can bring him off at the three or we can bring him off at the one as we had to do in San Jose because of foul trouble. Hopefully, that's not the reason we have to do that. I'd like to play him a little bit more at one as well as at three. It gives you a little flexibility there."
On if the seniors will start against UNLV:
"Yeah, Julion and Alex (Dargenton), and Sam (Merrill) and Koby (McEwen). Really haven't decided on the fifth guy to be honest."
On the seniors:
"Two guys that are really well-liked by their teammates and their coaches, too. Two guys that have tremendous character and two guys who have had a rough year in terms of injuries. Neither one of them has really been able to get on a consistent flow in terms of contributing more than anything because of injury. Both of those guys at the start of the year were set to have significant roles on our team. Both of them had worked really hard in the summer and had a good trip to Italy and started the year. But with the injury situation that both of them have had and the time they've missed, other people have sort of stepped into those roles in terms of on-court contribution. But, they have stayed steady in terms of their character and the way they represent the program. They're two guys who are going to be very successful in life."
On consistently getting high level production from Sam Merrill:
"Sam has been a stalwart this year. Among all the injuries and illness and stuff that we have dealt with, Sam has been a rock. He's been a guy that takes the floor every night, he's been a guy you can count on for heavy minutes. He's going to be smart. He's going to keep himself out of foul trouble, he's going to keep himself available. Production wise, you can just look at our stat sheet and the guy has had a phenomenal year. A first team all-conference player in every form or fashion you can think about. He is smart, he is tough, he is productive, he's a leader, he's our best defensive communicator. His shooting stats are off the charts in league games. I just don't think there's five better players in the league than Sam Merrill."
On if Merrill is unafraid of taking the big shots:
"Sam is not fazed by anything whether it's how big the game is, where the game is, who the opponent is, what the situation is. Sam is a guy that wants to be in the forefront, he wants to take the shot, he wants to make the play, wants to be involved. He is what it's all about in terms of what you look for as a coach, all the intangibles combined with the basketball talent that he has. He's a rare guy. You look across the board in terms of his offensive stats, and then combine that with the fact that we put him on one of the tougher defensive assignments every night, combined with the fact that the guy doesn't practice very much because of all of his nagging injuries and the things he's got going. He's one of the better players in the league and he's one of the toughest players in the league."
On how important it is to get a win against UNLV, especially with how they played in the last meeting:
"That's always a confident memory to draw on. It really doesn't mean anything for tomorrow. There's been enough time lapsed where we're both probably a little bit different, in terms of our team. Tomorrow, one of the big things in the game will be which team mentally takes the bit and feels like, 'Hey, we need to get back into the right frame of mind so we can go to Vegas and put our best foot forward.' That's probably one of the bigger components of how the game will go tomorrow. More than the physical is probably the mental state of each team."
On what went well in the last game against UNLV:
"Everybody has problems with McCoy. We're not alone in that boat. We had balance. We had contributions from Quinn Taylor. Our four-spot played really well with Daron Henson and Dwayne Brown Jr. Those guys were productive. We got a little bit of scoring off the bench. Obviously, Sam and Koby had good games. Diogo Brito made some plays, too. Basically, really roster-wide contribution was probably the biggest key to the win there. I don't think we can play them and expect one or two guys to carry the load. Obviously, we've got to play much better than we did Wednesday night. Watching the film Wednesday, it's not that we played bad offensively. We actually executed really, really well and probably had more open shots than we've had all year and just absolutely could not cash in."
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