Dec. 5, 2000
The following are quotes from Utah State head basketball coach Stew Morrill at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2000.
Looking at the Utah-Southern California game, with USC have good success from three-point range, is that something you and your players will try to exploit?
"I don't think so. It's always interesting to me that everyone is always looking for a story line and I know that is the nature of everyone's job. I was talking to a media guy a minute ago and his story line wanted to be last year's game with us getting beat by 35, and I said I don't think last year has anything to do with this year. And then he said what about two years ago when you won in Logan, and I said I don't think that game has anything to do with this year either. I think it is real easy to look for themes or whatever you want to call it, when really it is a meat and potatoes situation. They (Utah) are huge, and they are very, very good defensively. Can we rebound and defend with Utah is going to be the meat and potatoes of the situation. If we can't, then we are in for a long night. You can do a whole lot of game prep, but it really boils down to that you have to be able to, Number 1... Rebound with a team that is a whole lot bigger than you are and, Number 2... You have got to defend, because they are going to defend you, they always do, every game, every year, that is what Utah does. If we want to be in the basketball game we have to do those two things.
Talking to Dick Hunsaker, I asked him if he could exploit Utah's size advantage and he said it's not the size its the heart that matters. Would you agree with that?
"They have had a lot of both through the years, Utah has size and heart. I have great respect for what Rick (Majerus) has done down there and for there program, and I think everybody in college basketball does. That has been one of there things, big, strong, physical guys. Sometimes that is mistaken by a lot of people as being slow. No they aren't. Those guys are athletic. You starting looking at the Johnsen's, Britten and Jeff, I mean those guys can move. (Chris) Burgess was the number one recruit in the country out of high school when Duke got him. So these are obviously very talented kids."
Utah made a big deal at the start of the year that they have all these talented kids but it is going to take a while to mesh. Do you see them getting closer to where they want to be?
"I definitely buy what they are saying. We are very inconsistent in some areas right now. We have shown signs of being a good, solid Big West team, but then we have shown signs of not being a good team. I totally understand what they are saying there. I think we all hope to move towards our style of play and what is expected, and what I think they are talking about there is everybody understanding how hard they are going to defend, how hard they are going to rebound, the shots they are going to take, those kinds of things. Each game going along, it looks to me like they are getting closer. USC is obviously 15th in the country and very very talented, and picked to be a NCAA team and all that, and that was a great game. Utah certainly could have won that game. It was not a neutral floor. It was not on USC's home court, but it was not neutral. So that is an indication I think that Utah is making alot of progress playing that good of a team and having a chance to win."
Where do you have to start to try to beat Utah?
"Rebounding. If you get out rebounded by 20, school is over. I think a big part of it is just going out and playing and not being so uptight that we don't just go out and play basketball. We've got to have some fun. I looked at our tape today from two year's ago, watched some of that game, and I was actually laughing out loud, because our kids were having so much fun. They weren't suppose to win. Utah had won five times in a row, Utah was ninth in the country, Utah went undefeated in league that year, 28-5, and our guys just went out and played hard and let the chips fall were they may and that is what we need to do. If we are going to have a chance to win we can't be all uptight, we have to just go play. Get your game ready and get your game prep ready, but then go play."
So what do you see in your team now? Do you feel like you are prepared and ready for this game?
"I don't know yet. We have played in more big games then certainly a year ago at this time, so I am hoping that helps us. But I don't know that you can ever predict for sure how you are going to be on the mental side of it. That is something I am going to preach about the next couple of days. The nature sometimes of sporting events to me becomes kinda ridiculous, its like it becomes bigger than life. Come on, its a basketball game, lets go play. Whatever happens, we are going to keep playing, they are going to keep playing, we are going to try to have a good year, so are they. Yeah we would love to win. Yeah they are mad because they lost one and they usually don't lose two in a row. Let's go see what happens and do the best we can. That's really got to be our approach to this season. If all the expectations bind us up we won't be nearly as effective as we want to be."
Nobody plays more than about 25 minutes a game for them right now. Do you think they are starting to get a feel for there team and there lineup? Are they better when they start bigger or there two smaller guards?
"I don' know. I think they are like a lot of us, searching for combinations. You look at their lineup on paper and holy smokes, that is a pretty good lineup talent wise and size wise. You try to matchup with a 6'9" three-man, and a 6'11" four-man, and a 7'0" five-man, and a 6'4" two-guard, and it certainly presents challenges. I think their just searching as you do during the preseason and trying to figure out minutes and starters as you go."
In preparation for this game, will you talk much about last year's game or the year before as far as motivation goes?
"Not a lot. I don't think that has a lot to do with anything. I might make an off-handed comment that we just played and had fun when we won here two year's ago."
Looking back at last year's game, how did they get so many three-pointers? Did you not defend well or where they just shooting out of their minds."
"They shoot some from really deep where you might tell a guy to go ahead. They got on a roll. I didn't think we defended very well. But I thought they also were making tough shots, and the combination of us not defending well and them making deep shots, that will get you 11-of-15 our whatever they were. It was one of those nights were everything was going down and nothing went real well for us. We had to let that one go, flush it down, that one stunk. That was the best thing to do with that game, still is. We talk about that sometimes, let it go, its done, and that is certainly what we need to do. Not dwell on that game."
What are some of the things you can do to offset their height advantage?
"Fight like hell. It's all you can do. There is no magical formula to offset their kind of size and strength. You just have to compete at full speed on every possession. And you try to be fundamental in terms of blockoff, and that is certainly something you try to do from a tactical point of view. If you have got a 6'6" guard and you've got a 6'1" guy guarding him, what are you going to? You are going to go and post up that 6'6" guard. You are going to get him down on the block because you have an advantage. Well they are that way at about every position. Now we have our 6'6" power forward on their 6'11' guy, what are they going to do? They are going to post him. Then they got there 6'9" guy at the three position against our 6'5" guy, so obviously there are opportunities for them to try and exploit that. We have got to do everything and work hard. You have to realize that they have size advantage but you can't accept it, you have to go out and compete."
This seems to be the type of game that Brennan Ray would excel in. Would you agree with that?
"Yeah. I think he is a good example of what we need to do is play hard, but not to the point to where you go overboard and can't perform. We have to play hard but not to the point to where we are trying so hard we can't perform, and I am concerned about that. We need to go play. Sounds simple, Yeah we need to go play, but it's not always that simple."
As far as the preseason goes, is this game any more important than any of the other preseason games?
"All in-state games carry a lot of weight. BYU and Utah have definitely had the upper hand on Utah State and Weber through the years, but we like to show that we can compete and that is what we hope to do."
Do you have an advantage at any position?
"That's really not been our deal, when you look at us statistically. It's not like we have ever been able to say that this guy is better than that guy and we are going to take advantage of that. We have to play really good team basketball. When we have had some success in the past we have been able to use some penetration at times, but they are so good at stopping penetration that that becomes difficult. We have got to run our stuff, and set screens, and execute, and run our stuff hard, and take good shots. I don't think it comes down to exploiting this our that. We've got to do what we do and hope it is good enough. We think we can compete. It helps being in the Spectrum and we are excited about trying to going out and compete, but we know we will have to play. We can't play average and expect to win, we have to play well."
Talk about the new guys. Do you have any concern about how they will respond in their first high-profile game?
"I don't think you ever know how guys are going to respond to a packed house. One of the things that is in our scouting report is we played in a lot of big games last year, playing at Long Beach, trying to go undefeated against Boise in the last game, every game in the conference tournament cause who knew if we would get in. But the new guys have not played in those situations, they learn as they go along. But some kids flourish in those situations and that is the way they should approach it, by having fun and enjoying it. I always tell them when we are on the road or playing in front of big crowds that we are their entertainment tonight, lets enjoy it. If we hadn't shown up there wouldn't be a game, there is no reason to get all uptight, lets go have fun."
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