USU men's basketball head coach Tim Duryea addressed the media on Friday and answered questions about the upcoming game against Life Pacific on Saturday, Dec. 16. The complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.
On Life Pacific:
“Life Pacific is a good program. Tim Cook has been there a while and he is a very good basketball coach. You can tell when they play. They play very hard and do a lot of things really well. They have some veteran guys and their top-two players are both seniors and have been around a while. Jonathan Cortez is really crafty. He can score from the 3-point line, he can score it off of the bounce and can post up and score. He does a lot of shot fakes, a lot of up-and-under fakes, just a crafty guy and does a good job scoring the ball. Mark Eden is 5-foot-8, just a water bug and is really good playing off of ball screens and can shoot the ball from deep. He is a really aggressive scorer. Those two guys really lead the way. They play man and will play some zone. They play hard, are very physical for their size and do a really good job.”
On Life Pacific’s schedule, playing in its 19th game:
“It is crazy to see how many games they’ve played. They started playing right around Nov. 1, and have just been playing a ton of games. That is life at that level. It is what you can do for one thing, and what you need to do financially on another level. Tim does a great job of providing his guys with a good experience. It is a good school. It’s got a great culture there. He is a first-class guy and you can watch their team play and see that his influence is all over the program.”
On LPC’s Jonathan Cortez:
“He is a big body, wide-bodied kid. He is 6-7, 230 or 240 and beside him they are all undersized and will look like guards on the floor. Most of them play like guards, even their starting four-man, James Noble, looks like a two-guard. Those are the situations you get when you play lower-level teams. You get teams with matchup issues and matchup problems. They are no different. They can spread you out and they’ll try to drive by you and create plays. They always have somebody in Cortez, who they can throw to on the block and he can score one-on-one against a lot of people on a lot of levels.”
On what the team has worked on this week:
“We’ve spent 95 percent of the week on ourselves. Early in the week, we tried to take a mental break. We shortened practices up. We went Tuesday morning, really short, and then gave them all day Tuesday and Wednesday off. We are in the middle of finals. What I was trying to do was to get to Thursday, where it feels like a normal game week. We had a couple of days of prep and then we’ll play on Saturday. I felt like our guys are a lot fresher mentally and have a bounce in their step and most of them are through with finals. We have a few with finals on Friday night, but they are feeling good about the weight of school being off of their shoulders. We’ve shortened up this week, we’ve gotten some lifts in and are just looking on getting some bounce back into our bodies.”
On the number of games on Utah State’s schedule:
“We’ve had a lot of travel and a lot of games. We had 11 games in 29 days. When you look around, many teams have only played seven or eight or nine games. We’ve got a lot of games under our belt. It was a hard schedule, tough travel and injuries have all been thrown at us in the first four weeks of the season. We’ve got continuing injury issues and will just need to work through them.”
On the injury status of the team:
“Klay (Stall) had to have an epideral injection on Thursday and will be out this weekend. Hopefully we’ll have him back on Wednesday, but that isn’t a certainty. Alex Dargenton just sprained his ankle at the end of practice and it looked pretty bad. He’s going to have an X-Ray, so I don’t think we’ll have him tomorrow either. We’ll be the undersized team now (talking about Saturday’s game). We’ll need to play Dwayne Brown Jr., at the five, who has never practiced there. We basically go into the game with three healthy post players in Quinn Taylor, Dwayne Brown Jr., and Daron Henson. That is probably it for tomorrow night.”
On the guards’ health:
“We are feeling as good on the guard line as we’ve had all year long. All the way from Koby (McEwen), Diogo (Brito), Sam (Merrill) has been feeling fresh with his body, for once. DeAngelo (Isby) all those guys, Crew (Ainge) and Abel (Porter) haven’t played much lately, but they have a lot of bounce. Those guys are coming along. Other than Brock Miller, we are back to full strength on our guard line, but our frontline has taken the hits.”
On if the week has been a refreshing week for the team:
“We needed a week to go back to fundamentals, where the total focus was on us individually and on ourselves collectively. On the defensive side of the ball, we’ve gone back and really started from scratch on the fundamentals. From closing out and guarding the ball in one-on-one defense, on shell defense that we work on early in the year. We go four-on-four to teach concepts and then go five-on-five the last day and a half as we get ready for Life Pacific. We haven’t been able to do that since the week before the Weber (State) game at the first of November. That has been really good for us to tighten things up. We’ve added some things offensively and taken things out that we weren’t happy with. I feel good about all of that, but to suffer the injuries to all of the frontline late in the week has really put us back to square one in terms of where to play guys and in combinations with other players that they haven’t played with and in positions they haven’t played. We are back to that again.”
On defense and rebounding and if the offense is struggling this season:
“We’ve held our own rebounding in every game. We haven’t been taken advantage of in rebounding, well, at Valpo on the offensive glass, other than that we’ve been a very solid rebounding team. We’ve blocked out well. We’ve rebounded collectively. Defensively, our guys feel like they are better than they were and feel like they can get better. There has been some defensive pride that has developed on our roster. Offensively, we have been disappointing to me, in that we haven’t been able to get multiple guys playing well on the same night. Both guards and bigs. Sam and Koby on the same night. Sam, Koby and Alex on the same night. Sam, Koby, Dwayne and Alex on the same night. It has just been a hodge-podge of who has stepped in a filled in. Diogo Brito has had some nights where he has done a good job. DeAngelo Isby has had some nights where he has really saved our bacon. He and Quinn during the Utah game totally saved us when our starting five had nothing going to start the game and nothing going throughout the game. It has been a mix and match, but we just haven’t put it together offensively and that is frustrating, but gives me hope that we can be better on that side of it.”
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