USU men's basketball head coach Tim Duryea addressed the media on Tuesday and answered questions about the Mountain West Championships and the Aggies’ first-round matchup against Colorado State on Wednesday, March 7. The complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.
On the Mountain West Tournament:
“It’s obviously an exciting time of year for your guys. I think if your team is in the right mental state, they look at it as another opportunity, a new opportunity, a fresh opportunity. Our guys, yesterday, were excited to get back. We had a good day of prep. We need another one today, then we’re headed off. You like to avoid the first day if possible. We were not able to do that. You kind of look at the path you’ve been given, and with our league this year, it all depends on matchups. We have such an even league, such a deep league, that I think, depending on who you end up playing is more important matchup-wise than what the number of your seed is, not only in our path, but I think in most people’s paths. If you go back and look at the scores during the season, there’s not much rhyme or reason a lot of times, other than we’re a good matchup with them or we’re a bad matchup against another team.”
On Colorado State:
“Leading in to Colorado State, obviously the last three games they have really had our number. They have defended us extremely well. They have played with a lot of purpose, offensively. They’ve made a lot of tough 3-point shots, shot a very high percentage from three and really just stymied us on the offensive end. We have not been good at all against them in the last three games. The game before that, we went up to Fort Collins and put 94 or 96 or whatever it was on the board, and since then, we have just not played well on the offensive end and really given ourselves no chance to have any success.”
On the turnovers against CSU in the first game this season:
“This year, in the game in Logan, we turned it over 17 times, and I think there was 22 points off those turnovers, and obviously that’s not going to beat anybody. Offensively, I just thought they played with tremendous purpose. Prentiss Nixon seems to really play well against us. He got hurt early in the game and then came back and made four or five tough threes after his early-game injury. That’s kind of the common denominator the last two or three games that they’ve played really well. He’s hit a lot of tough, contested 3-point shots against us. Obviously, we have to do the job on him. We don’t really know J.D. Paige’s availability. He played against Boise (State) with a wrap on his hand, and the next two games he did not play, so we’re trying to find out anything we can on his availability, but we’re going to assume he’ll be available to play. I think Anthony Bonner is a guy that has quietly had a really good year. He’s made the most threes on their team in league, his shooting percentages are tremendous, he has deep range and he’s really turning into a very, very solid guard. Nixon and Paige get a lot of the attention when those guys are playing well, but I think Anthony Bonner’s had a tremendous year.”
On Utah State’s success at the Thomas & Mack Center:
“I think our guys enjoy going to Vegas, and I think they enjoy playing there. Obviously, Thomas & Mack is a great venue. For the most part, since we’ve been in the league, we have played well there and been very competitive. I think it’s a neat venue and a neat place to play. The whole Vegas scene this time of year, this week, just really reeks of basketball. I think it’s really hard to go there and not get those juices flowing when you have tournaments all over town, fans from a lot of schools, and you kind of get that fever when you get into town. Our guys have really responded well to that. Hopefully, we’ll do the same thing. We’ve had these afternoon games in the tournament to lead off with. It would sure be nice to get to Thursday or Friday night and have a night game as well.”
On Colorado State’s coaching turmoils down the stretch:
“Having never been involved with anything like that, I can’t imagine, as a player, what that turmoil would do to you and how hard it would be to keep your group together and keep your group going forward. They’re basically on their third head coach of the season, and I can’t imagine how tough that would be. I don’t think it’s real surprising that they’ve had some uneven results here toward the end of the year. They’ve had some injuries, Nixon’s missed some games, obviously Paige has missed some games. When you combine the uneven health, that’s something we’ve dealt with, and the turmoil that has gone on around with the administration’s dealing with the coaching situation, I don’t think it’s too unexpected. The one thing is they are a talented group when they are together. Nico Carvacho is probably the best rebounder in the league, and they have some really good players that can do a lot of things in a one-on-one situation. For a short time period, that’s a group that is talented enough to come together for a week and kind of put all the chaos aside and really play well.”
On Colorado State’s success on the road:
“I think getting out of town probably helps them as a group because they’re away from all that chaos, all the uncertainty and all the talk and everything that’s going on in Fort Collins regarding the program. I think they were 1-8 at home in the conference, which is almost impossible to believe, but when there’s that much turmoil going on around you on your campus and in your city, I would imagine it’s a break for them to leave town and a bonding experience.”
On Utah State’s health:
“We’re battling. Koby (McEwen) strained his groin in the last game. Will not practice until Wednesday just as a precaution. It’s a strained groin, and anytime you have a muscle strain, any movement, one wrong step can aggravate it. So, we’re trying to be really cautious, hoping we have multiple games on back-to-back days with him, so we’re taking a cautious approach. Sam Merrill is still battling his nagging leg injuries. Other than that, that’s just our starting back court, but other than that, we’re actually healthier in the other spots than maybe we’ve been most of the year. Most of the year, those guys have carried the load and the injuries have been in other spots, but right now we’re kind of walking on egg shells with those two.”
On Colorado State interim head coach Jase Herl:
“Jase is a friend of mine, a guy that I’ve known for a while and have recruited his program when he was a junior college coach. I think he has a good personality for that situation. He has a good relationship with the players. He’s a personality guy. He’s a guy that’s going to stay pretty level-headed and put the relationship part of it probably before the X’s and O’s part of it. Since he’s taken over, I can see some changes he’s trying to make on the offensive side of the ball. They play with a little more structure than they did before, not that it’s good or bad. I’m not saying that. It’s just you can kind of see a couple of things that he’s put in there, and, probably in his estimation might make them a little bit better with where they are. It’s a tough spot for him. I feel bad for him. He’s a good, young coach. He came there a couple of years ago to recruit and to learn from Larry (Eustachy), and had no idea it was going to be so topsy-turvy. I have a lot of empathy for him.”
On Utah State’s athletic trainer Brandon Wells:
“Brandon has been not only a great trainer for our program this year, but he’s been a great confidant for me. On the road, at home, he is in constant communication. He is concerned about our players to the utmost. He has been through a season like no other, in his words, with us this year. But through all of that, he has always been very concerned for my mental well-being and where I’m at, mentally. He’s just been a real confidant for me, and a great resource for our players. I can’t say enough about the job he’s done and all the situations that he’s dealt with. Ninety-nine percent of the time, he has gotten those kids back out there and ready to play as soon as they were able to, and been very proactive in their treatment, whether it’s been MRIs or x-rays or whatever we’ve had to deal with. Home, road, neutral site. We had the major road trip at the beginning of the year where we were gone for 13 days, and he was dealing with all kinds of situations. We are lucky to have him. He is a tremendous asset. An old trainer once told me trainers are kind of like car insurance: you want them around, but you don’t want to have to use them. Thank goodness that Brandon has been a grade-A insurance for us this year.”
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