USU men's basketball head coach Tim Duryea addressed the media on Friday and answered questions about the upcoming game against San Diego State on Saturday, Dec. 30. The complete transcript of the press conference can be found below.
On San Diego State:
“San Diego State, what’s new? They’re long, they’re big, they’re athletic. They’re very good defensively, they’re a dominant rebounding team and they’re hard to game-plan against because they’re so balanced offensively. Four guys, almost five guys, averaging in double-figures. They play together really well. They can hurt you in so many different ways, whether you guard them in man-to-man or whether you play them zone. They’ve seen a lot of zone this year and are adjusting to that and getting better at attacking the zone. They’re just so darn athletic and long that you feel like you have to change things up defensively and give them different looks to have a chance. Yet, all that being said, you know going in there, two things are musts. You have to compete on the backboard, which we’ve done, for the most part, this year. And the other thing is you cannot have live-ball turnovers against their defense, which is always formidable, and give them free points on the other end. So, taking care of the ball, being solid defensively and make them score over you, and limiting them to one shot is all much easier said than done when you play at Viejas Arena.”
On San Diego State’s balance offensively:
“That’s kind of been their MO really for a long time now. They haven’t really had, except for a couple years there, maybe, a dominant scorer. They do it as a group. They’re very unselfish. They haven’t been a high-flying, high-scoring team in the past. They’ve been so dominant defensively, that they’ve kind of scored enough to win. I think they’re a little more versatile offensively. I think they have a little more speed with Devin Watson, the transfer that has come in and really played well for them. They push the ball a little harder in the break, maybe, than they have in the past.”
On SDSU’s Malik Pope:
“He’s obviously a really talented guy and has overcome his injury issues and has been able to stay out on the floor more consistently. He’s maybe the most unusual player in the league in terms of the combination of his size with his skill set. He’s a very proficient three-point shooter, they can post him up, they can put him in an isolation situation, he can put the ball on the floor and go by you. Then, in the middle of the zone, he gives you problems because they throw it to him in the high post and he’s able to shoot it, he’s a really good passer and like I said, he can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. He’s probably one of the two or three most unusual players in the league with size and skill.”
On who will guard Pope:
“He’ll start out being guarded by Dwayne Brown, Jr. He starts out playing the four for them. If they start like they usually do, they’ll start (Kameron) Rooks at the five. They didn’t start that way at Wyoming, but Wyoming makes you play small because of their lineup. I expect to see Rooks at the five and Pope at the four, so Dwayne Brown will start out on him. He’s playing much more four and five this year than he is four and three that he has in the past.”
On USU’s struggles at Viejas Arena:
“It’s been a house of horrors for us, it really has. We’re not the only one. I think in the past 12 to 15 years, they’ve won about 88 percent of their games in that arena. They’ve just been so athletic and so dominant on the defensive side of the ball. You combine those things, their size, their athleticism and their ability defensively with the environment you have to play in. I don’t think we’ve played there yet where there’s been almost less than a capacity crowd. We’re obviously playing when their students aren’t there, so we may get a little break that way. It’s just a really, really good environment to play in, a tough environment to play in. As we know, their talent and their size is really the capper to all that. You can have that environment, but if you have bad players, people are going to go in there and beat you on a consistent basis. Great coaching, great talent and a good home court equals 88 percent winning percentage, and that’s been them.”
On where the team is at this point of the season:
“They’re feeling good about themselves. I think part of that is we’re inching our way toward being healthier, which puts guys back in the positions they’re comfortable in, playing with combinations they’re comfortable with, which gives us more confidence. We came out and had a really good start against San José on our home court. They know the history of our battles with San Diego State. We have not beaten them since we’ve been in the league. Like we keep saying, eventually, at some point, somewhere, that’s going to happen. I think this is the second year that we’ve been in the league that they have not had to come to Logan, which is kind of a tough deal for us. We’re getting better in terms of knowing how to play them. That, combined with the momentum we have winning a few games, getting healthier and our guards playing a little bit better, I think we feel good going in there. I feel like this group will go in there and compete and give themselves a chance. We had a lead in the second half of the game last year. It’s not like the barn door just flew open and it was not a game. We were ahead in the second half. I hope we’ll go in there and look at it that way, and give ourselves, with six or eight minutes to go, we have a chance to win. I hope that’s the case.”
On how competing at Gonzaga will help with the game at SDSU:
“This, I think, is a similar game to that. That’s a good analogy. Playing the game at Gonzaga helps you prepare for the environment like this, the size and the athleticism we’re going to face tomorrow night. Hopefully we’ll draw on that a little bit. We’re healthier now than we were then, hopefully that’ll make a bit of a difference.”
On DeAngelo Isby:
“He had been a little more consistent scoring. He’s really done a good job for us in two or three games in terms of saving us as far as getting us going offensively and providing some of that spark off the bench offensively. He has to go in and play better on the defensive end. When he does that, his minutes are going to be more consistent, and obviously that leads to more production, the more consistent minutes you get. Even though we kind of use him for offense off the bench, I think the key to him and his performance is how he plays defensively. I know that sounds kind of strange, but I think that’s true.”
On what worked against San José State for the strong assist-to-turnover ratio:
“I think improved guard play, in a nutshell. Our bigs are pretty good passers. When Quinn Taylor’s on the floor, when Dwayne Brown’s on the floor and Alex Dargenton’s on the floor, those guys are pretty good passers. Our guards, the way we play, get a chance to make a lot of plays because we put them in a lot of situations off ball screens or in a spread floor situation, and our success is determined on those guys making good decisions with the ball. Wednesday night, from top to bottom. From Sam, Koby and really everybody that stepped in there and played, I thought did a really good job of seeing the floor clearly, making good decisions with the ball and making the right play. A lot of times, that’s the simplest play. We always talk about the simplest play, if you put five or six of those together, usually you get a really, really good shot. We’ve struggled with that at times this year, trying to make plays that are too hard, trying to press a little bit, and I didn’t see any of that Wednesday night. Hopefully we can get some carry-over on Saturday. The pressure will be amped up a little bit there, Saturday night. A little more length, a little more quickness and hopefully we can manage that.”
On Klay Stall’s health status:
“Klay Stall is still out, and he will see the back doctor here, I think it’s next week. He still has not had further recovery from his last injection. We’re kind of in a holding pattern. He can’t take another injection, and without any improvement, he can’t really do anything till he sees the doctor. I’m really pessimistic at this point, to be honest with you. I’m not sure we’re going to have him the rest of the year, which really sucks, to be quite honest.”
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