March 12, 2013
LOGAN, Utah -
Previewing the WAC Tournament:
"We're looking forward to the tournament. I think our guys will be excited to play. We've got to play a lot better than we did the last time we played UT Arlington. Certainly when we played them here it was a good game, but obviously they won going down the stretch. As you watch the UT Arlington film, we can play a lot better. I'm impressed with UT Arlington, with how together they are, how hard they play, how great they are defensively. With that being said, we didn't do what we needed to do to have a chance to win. That's a game I was very upset afterward and watching the film this week, rightfully so. We just didn't compete as we needed to compete. Hopefully we will have a couple good days of practice, get our energy level up and be ready to go. It's a late game and I don't know what that means. It's the last game of the day so we'll wait around a long time to play. It shouldn't change anything for our first game of the tournament and being excited to play. We're going to have to play well. We can't play average and win this game. We have to play well to have a chance to win."
On preparing to play UT Arlington after two losses and feeling positive knowing of the situations of previous two meetings:
"I hope that's the feeling. We're going to watch pretty much every possession in that game. We're also going to watch some breakdown tape that we've made. Arlington really has done a great job in transition. They're scoring a lot of points on the fast break. Against us they did and they did it against New Mexico State the other night. It's hard to run on New Mexico State, especially in Las Cruces, with how athletic they are. They just ran them to death in the second half. There's that phase of the game. There's the offensive phase of the game where we took bad shots, didn't execute very well at all. There's a lot of improvement to be made, that is definitely the case. To their credit, they make it hard for you because they are so good defensively. They help each other, they pressure the heck out of the ball, they press you. They've even started playing a little bit of 2-3 zone. As I said last night on the radio show, the sum of their parts is impressive. You just take each of their little parts and some people might look at them as not having as much talent as some teams, but the sum of all their parts is very good. I like what he's (UTA head coach Scott Cross) has done with them, I'm impressed with their team."
On the team's increased confidence with having Spencer Butterfield back:
"I think there's some validity to that. You still have to go play and play well, but I think it may add a little bit of confidence to us to have Spencer in that game, assuming he gets through the week ok and is able to go. That's almost a day-to-day concern. You kind of breathe a sigh of relief each day when practice is over and he's upright. We'll see if we can get him through a few practices."
On playing a team for a third time and being the underdog with the saying of having a hard time beating a team three times in the same year:
"That statement is made a lot, but I've never made it. I don't believe in that. If you beat them twice, you might be better than them, so the third time why should it be so hard? There's a lot of those sayings that are kind of fun to talk about, but I'm not sure how much validity they have. In this case I hope that one's more right than I believe. The shoe's been on the other foot many times, but we've always tried to take the positive approach. `Why not? Why can't we beat them three times if we've beat them twice?' I'm sure that's what they're saying. On paper it should be one of the best games of the first day, if not the best game. You've got two teams that have finished right together in league, where that's not the case with the others. It should be a real good basketball game. The game last year in this situation (at the WAC Tournament) was a really good basketball game, 72-70, and unfortunately we got beat. I expect it will be a good game."
On UT Arlington's improved offensive play and fast break:
"I think that's for sure. The way they've done it mostly is pushing the ball. They were not a team that was running the ball mades and misses. They are now. They're flying. You better get matched up, you better get back, you better know what defense you're in or they're going to hurt you. They got down big at New Mexico State, but in the second half their break just really hurt New Mexico State. Their little point guard (Shaquille White-Miller) who was out for awhile kind of makes the engine go for them on their break. He's really pushing it hard and getting into the teeth of your defense, really making them play. The emergence of Karol Gruszecki, he's really playing well. He's playing the 3 or 4, sometimes it's hard to keep track. If you lose him, he just shoots it in. He's hurt us twice and has started playing really consistently with whomever they play. I think you're right, I think they are playing better offensively."
On Ben Clifford's improvement:
"He's getting a lot of experience. Before Kyisean's injury, there were games he wasn't getting to play a lot. That hasn't been the case. He's played a lot of basketball. He's gotten a lot more comfortable out there, I really believe that. He's gotten more comfortable, he's gotten more aggressive. Ben's in his third year and it's kind of what I've been expecting him to do. I've told Ben many times `I hope you start thinking you're as good as I think you are.' Sometimes a player gains confidence by knowing they're going to be out there. He knows he's going to be out there a lot. We don't have another 4-man. We have Jordan (Stone) who tries to play the 4, but it's not really his position. When Ben doesn't get in foul trouble, he knows he's going to play 34-35 minutes. He knows that and I think that's helped him too. He is playing better. Knock on wood that he can take that to the tournament. We need a lot of people to step up and play well."
On potentially playing so many games in so few days with so little depth:
"That's not an easy challenge, but before you worry about it, you worry about the one on Thursday. There's really no point in worrying about that right now. As much of a worrier as I am, what I've learned to do is try and worry about things that matter right now. That doesn't matter right now. I guarantee you if we get to the second or third night, I will worry adequately about it. I'm not going to right now. When you play three straight nights, the more depth you have and the better off you are. It doesn't mean teams haven't done it before. When we won our first championship when I was at Montana in my last year there (1991), I had seven guys. We were at home so that helped. It can be done, it's just a little harder."
On the neutral site of the tournament and the lack of the neutral site in the Mountain West:
"It's funny. I read some stuff going on in the Mountain West where several coaches were real outspoken about leaving the tournament in Vegas, but getting it off UNLV's home court. Then I read my former assistant, Dave Rice's logic for keeping it at their place, saying it puts some pressure on the home team and all that. Nice try, Coach Rice. Not buying that. I think if you're going to have a tournament it needs to be on a neutral floor. We just got stuck many times playing the home team. That's a road game, I don't care how you slice it. Neutral floor is the way it should be and certainly the way I favor. I'm sure I'll have some complaints when we get to the Mountain West next year when tournament time comes around, but I guess that's a ways away."
On if it matters about being a multiple-bid conference to the NCAA Tournament:
"When you only have one bid, the regular-season winner getting to host makes a lot of sense. We were pre-determining the site and it had nothing to do with the regular-season winner hosting, that happened at Nevada. When they won, they did host and they deserved to. I don't like when they pre-determine the site. But sometimes you run into what's happened at Montana, but the Big Sky is doing it. Both the men and the women are hosting at Montana, but they didn't know that until the last week. I'm sure that's a problem with air fair and everyone's travel arrangements, but to me that's secondary. If it puts people out and costs a little more, so what? Do what's right in that situation. If you're getting multiple bids, and the Mountain West is talking about four of five bids, then it's maybe less of a deal. Maybe you only get two in a given year and your third-place team has a chance to win it a little bit better on a neutral floor, then you might get three. There's always scenarios. The fairest thing is to play it on an equal basis for everybody and that's a neutral court. It's more pertinent if it is a one-bid league."
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