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No. 10/11 #AztecMBB-Fresno State Postgame Quotes


Jan. 15, 2014

Recap |  Final Stats |  Notes |  Photo Gallery  |  Photo Gallery 

SAN DIEGO -

Fresno State-San Diego State Postgame QuotesGet Acrobat Reader

San Diego State Head Coach Steve Fisher

On the game:
"This was a hard one. I've said this with conviction and I mean it, I don't think anybody in America plays harder than (Fresno State) does. They compete and they make almost eight threes a game. They had six in the first half and they were energized. I thought we got a little bit frustrated when we looked up at the scoreboard and we were behind, and you can't do that. Offensively, when we drove in the first half, I think we drove too fast. We got better as the game went on, but you have to be able to put yourself in slow motion. Xavier Thames, sometimes your worth to a team doesn't show up in the box score. It does with Xavier Thames. All you have to do is look at his stat line, and it's that good. He has been playing at such a level, that we expect him to do what he's doing. A stat sheet that doesn't really give you his true value is JJ O'Brien. We told him not to let their four-man catch the ball at the elbow, and he did a magnificent job of making it hard on them. He does so many things you don't see in a box score, and that wins."

On the players using the phrase "grinding" to describe how they play:
"When we started the season, that's what (Thames) wanted to be our theme. At times you have to be that. I'm glad he said that. I don't know if we made it a point of emphasis, but we made it a point of emphasis to play harder than (the opposition). We have a group that really does care if we win. It's hard to sit on the bench and get a chance to play, and we have a couple guys that didn't play, but they were as happy in the locker room as the guys that played most of the minutes. We've got that better than most teams in the country, and better than most teams we've had at San Diego State."

On Skylar Spencer not scoring for second-straight game:
"(Spencer's) MO has been not scoring a lot of points, and he had a career game at Kansas. Tonight and at Air Force (on Wednesday) we were playing against four-guard (lineups) on the other team. So you look up and ask, `Can we play with (Spencer) and (Josh Davis) in the game together?' We would like for him to get a couple baskets, but he only had three shots. You can't worry about (scoring). I'm not overly concerned about that to be honest with you."

On defending against guard penetration:
"I thought we did better. The bullet points were to defend the three and defend the dribble-drive without fouling. (Fresno State) shot 15 free throws and we shot 41. So we did a pretty good job of taking it away."

On maintaining consistent success using transfers:
"We've been selective with transfers we've taken, many of whom we recruited and didn't get (coming out of high school). So we knew their character and felt like we knew them as players. They've been good kids that want to play and win. Next year's class, we have four high school players. So I think you do what you have to do to be successful. The better you get, the more opportunities you have to get the better players coming out of high school. We signed four players that everybody in America wanted, and a local kid, Angelo Chol, who transferred from Arizona. It used to be the Blue Bloods didn't take transfers. Not anymore."

On what is different about this year's team compared to the last couple of seasons:
"Last year there were great expectations for our team. That's the good news and the bad news if you're a coach that's worried. We won 23 games last year, and won 25 or more games the four years before that and people said, `What happened.' We won our third game ever in the NCAA Tournament with last year's team. So you have to get a little bit lucky in the NCAA Tournament if you're going to go where everybody wants to go. Our league has not won as many games in the NCAA Tournament as we have talent. So hopefully that will happen and we'll be one of the teams winning. To grow the prestige of our league, we'll need somebody to get to the Final Four. When we got beat as a 34-3 team, we were good enough to win the national championship, and Connecticut beat us in the Sweet 16. I thought we were better than them, and (UConn) won the national championship. So I'm hoping we can get in the tournament, get a decent seed and find a way to win. Lots of crazy things happen when you get in the tournament."

On why Mountain West teams haven't had much success in the NCAA Tournament:
"The league has been in existence for 15 years, and I'm the only (coach) still here. The first eight or nine years, we were praying to get two teams in. Nobody got a single-digit seed, or very rarely. The last few years, (the MW) has been much better, and we've had some single-digit seeds, and we just haven't won as many as we like. We had a good team, but not a tremendous team, and got beat in the third round. We had a record five teams in the tournament. So you have to find a way to win, and until we do with a little more regularity, people will say it's only an OK league. But I think it's the hardest league to win in on the road. Nobody goes unscathed, and you have to keep working and getting better."

On having a relationship with his young players:
"I think I do. I had my 50th high school reunion in October, and I didn't go. And I remember when my mom had her 50th reunion and I thought to myself, `50 years, you're old.' I don't feel old, until I look in the mirror and see that I am old. But I'm a good listener, and the kids know that. We have a great staff and we have guys I've been with a long time. I allow the staff to be teachers and coaches. With our players we preach two things - trust and respect. You give to get. The trust grows both ways. (Players) know (the coaches) care. So I don't think it's much different than when I came here 15 years ago and we weren't very good. We had nice kids, but we just weren't good enough. And I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I'm still having a good time. Winning allows you to have fun, and I'm having fun."

On Xavier Thames' improvement this season:
"Xavier Thames is exponentially better than he was when he walked in the door as a transfer from Washington State. He has made himself better. When (Thames) was a sophomore, he had a knee injury that impacted his conference season. Last year on New Year's Eve, he hurt his back and it affected everything he did the rest of the season. He was never healthy, and this year he's healthy. His success has grown his confidence. He's doing things now with confidence that he was unsure he could do even when he was healthy. So his physical health has had a lot to do with it. But playing well in games against good teams has made him think he could do that against anybody, and he has. He's the guy you want to have the ball when you need something good to happen."

On Mark Fisher's involvement with the team:
"Mark is at every practice and has been at every home game. This year he hasn't traveled with us on the flights, but hopefully come tournament time, he'll travel. We haven't done a lot of talking about it in public. Our players, administration and community have been so supportive. We're dealing with that too."

San Diego State Junior Forward JJ O'Brien

On how Fresno State's zone affected the team:
"I don't know if their zone affected us. We just kind of had trouble finishing at the basket tonight. They're a good team. They're a scrappy team. They did a good job when we got in there by not trying to jump with us and by getting their hands up and swiping at the ball. I think we just have to do a better job at finishing."

On Winston Shepard's free throw followed by an offensive rebound:
"It looked good to me. We always know that if we do miss, that when we `x' hard, there's always a chance to get the rebound, no matter who is in there. Winston did a good job getting to the other side of the basket and making that shot. The finish was huge for us. That was a good momentum-shift for us."

On how the team is better this year than last year:
"That's hard to tell. It's two completely different teams. We work really hard this year. I think our defense is a lot better this year. It's hard to tell but we just have a hard-working group that really locks down on defense and takes pride in that, shares the ball a lot and plays for each other."

On what the team has in common with Coach Fisher:
"What amazes people about Fisher is that he still has his mind in the game and is so energetic. I think that trickles down into the team. We are really energetic and we take pride in how we play. Fisher takes pride in how he coaches. How he is still so able to stay so alert and, energetic and enthusiastic in basketball, it trickles down to us."

On playing with Xavier Thames:
"He's got ice in his veins. Every game we've come down to the wire in, he has been there in the end. He's a calm figure out there on the court, someone we can go to and we know that he will be there, playing both defense and offense. Like Winston said, hes one of the top point guards in the country and he does open up the game for us. (Other teams) are so scared to leave him on pick and rolls, they are doubling him and scared to let him get a shot off. It opens up the game for our team so much."

On having to "grind it out" in conference play:
"I think that this is how every league is. There are top 10 teams getting beat, top 25 teams getting beat, because in conference play your rankings go out the window. In league it is game by game of how tough its going to be. Every game is going to be a battle."

San Diego State Sophomore Guard Winston Shepard

On the defense against Fresno State's three-point attempts:
"We always have to continue to get better. Nobody is perfect and I'm sure we'll use it as a great teaching point. We just want to keep learning while winning. Every game we're going to try to clean everything up, if we can and just keep getting better."

On his free throw followed by the offensive rebound:
"Coach always tells us, `If you're going to be in there at the free throw line, you have to `x.'" we're so much bigger and more athletic than a lot of the teams we play so we just want to crash the glass. I think it was a momentum play. It was nothing more than that. Coach told me to go a crash hard and I did that and that's why I pointed at him."

On playing with Xavier Thames:
"I love being able to play with X. I've said it before, I think he is the best point guard in our conference, for sure. I think you have to put him up there with anyone else in the country. Particularly for me, I think he opens up the game so much. I just love being able to play with him."

On what makes this team "grinders":
"Coach Fisher. I think he titled the season `grind' from the jump. You look at some of the guys that have come through the program, that is just the type of program that we are. Anytime you play championship basketball, its not going to be pretty. We are going to have some games that are pretty and we are going to have games where you just have to get the W. I that that is all that matters. As long as we keep winning, that is all everyone is concerned about in our locker room."

San Diego State Senior Guard Xavier Thames

On free throws:
"We were getting to the basket in the win. Everybody was getting to the basket. Shooting 41 free throws is a lot. That's a good thing for us."

On the difference between playing Fresno State this year and last year:
"I did a lot of hard work these past few years. Mainly I've just been taking better shots this year. Last year I kind of rushed a few things. I was a little bit anxious. I'm just letting the game come to me and taking good shots. I also put in a lot of hard work over the summer."

On the team's offense:
"Guys were just moving around. There was good ball movement. Guys were attacking. They were attacking JJ O'Brien. Matt stepped up good off the bench tonight. I think we were just attacking all night. We only had four turnovers in the game. That's a pretty good step for us."

On the eight-minute stretch with no basket:
"We're not really worried about that. We're just worried about getting stops on the defensive end. Then the offense will flow and come to us. Our main thing is getting stops on the defensive end and coming together as a team."

On the difference about this team that may be able to advance further in the NCAA Tournament:
"I think we have a lot of depth this year. We have guys coming off the bench giving a huge production. I also think our press gives a lot of teams fits. With the Louisville, how they pressed, they're a good defensive team and they won a national championship last year. I think we just have to keep getting better and go from there."

On being doubled towards the end of regulation:
"I have confidence in all of my teammates to be able to step up and make free throws. If they were doubling me, I knew that JJ (O'Brien), Winston (Shepard), Matt (Shrigley) or someone else would be able to get open and be able to knock down free throws. (Being doubled) wasn't a huge concern for me."

On if he felt he had to be more aggressive on offense tonight:
"Not really. Last year I feel like I kind of rushed a few shots so (this year) I'm just trying to let the game come to me. This is a team game and without my teammates, none of this is possible. I wouldn't say I was trying to be more aggressive but just letting the game come to me and take what I can."

On having to "grind it out" in conference play:
"All of the league games are going to be tough, especially now that we are among the top 10 in the country. Everyone is going to want to come in and beat us. Every game is going to be a grind. We are just going to have to find a way to win, like tonight."

Fresno State Head Coach Rodney Terry

On the game:
"Well, we knew coming into this game that this team has been playing the best in our league all season long. You have got to be able to handle their pressure and take care of the basketball. I thought we did that in the first half. I think we had five turnovers, 11 for the game. Second order of business is that they're probably one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. We knew coming in that we were going to have to match their physicality on the glass. I thought we challenged them with tough shots and we did a good job of keeping them off the (offensive) glass. I thought we did that for the better part of the game. At the end of the day, you've got to make plays and finish possessions and that's what (San Diego State) was able to do today."

On coaching points to take away:
"I thought our guys really responded to the challenge of being physical. I was pleased with the effort and now we've got to bottle that up and do it every night."

On turnovers:
"We knew early on that if you held off the first thrust of (San Diego State's) pressure that you are going to get a chance to run your offense."

On atmosphere of Viejas Arena:
"It's one of the best venues in college basketball period. Forget our league, this is one of the hardest places to play in the country. I've been blessed enough to be at a number of very difficult (basketball) environments and this is one of the top 10 in the country."

Fresno State senior guard Tyler Johnson

On San Diego State:
"They're a physical team. Xavier Thames is a great player. I've seen him play all over when he was in high school being a Bay Area kid. Winston Shepard, he's a physical kid. They brought it tonight. I thought our guys battled, but unfortunately we didn't make the plays down the stretch to win."

On being a visiting player in Viejas Arena:
"When you think of big-time college basketball, you think of this arena here. When you come out 50 minutes before game time and you have people booing you walking on the court. It's all in good fun. That's why you come to college, to play in an atmosphere like this where you can barely hear yourself think sometimes. A simple steal and everybody is up on their feet."