No. 13/11 #AztecMBB-NMSU Postgame Quotes

March 21, 2014

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COACH Steve Fisher: This is our fourth ever win in the NCAA tournament. And I told our players after the game that it doesn't matter how, it just matters, did you win? And I haven't told them this yet, but I'm so excited that we are playing on Saturday, that we're going to check into whitewater rafting on the Spokane River tomorrow. So, we're going to see if we can have all kind of experiences here.

We're thrilled that we won that game. And I can talk about all the things that we didn't do, but one thing we did is have more points at the end.

That's what matters now. I thought we were resilient coming out of the regulation when they hit the three to put it into overtime. We talked about it. Who are we? Who do we want to be? Are we going to put our head between our tail and say what happened and go home? Or are we going to bow our back and deliver the first punch.

And we found a way to win. And the three who are up here were immensely responsible for what happened for the success of our team tonight. So we're playing on Saturday. Very proud of that fact.

Q. This is really for any of you guys. In the first half you seemed sort of discombobulate them, just contesting everything. They came out in the second half, they were like a different team and so, take us through that experience of the game flipping like that.
Xavier Thames: First half we came out strong, we played good defense and then in the second half they came out and hit us in the mouth a few times. So, you've got to give them credit as well. They came out real strong, they played a great game, but we just can't come out like that in the next game in the second half and relax like that. But, you've got to give them a lot of credit, they're a great team. So, all that matters is we got the win.

Q. What happened in that, on that turnover with 15 seconds left? It looked like Josh (Davis) threw it quickly, were you shielded by Winston (Shepard) or not expecting the pass or what happened there?
Xavier Thames: That was my fault. That was completely my fault. I took my eye off it. I thought somebody was behind me going to foul me, but nobody was near me, so that's my fault on that one. I take the blame on that.

Q. Xavier, you and Daniel Mullings on the other team were both your conference Player of the Year, you guys were guarding each other a lot tonight. Talk about him as a player and what that matchup was like?
Xavier Thames: Well, it was fun. He's a great player, we knew that coming in. We watched a lot of film on him, so it was fun going against him, but it wasn't just me and him, it was a team effort, so, but, yeah, he's a great player. He's going to do a lot of damage next year in the league and I just wish him the best.

Q. For Skylar, you got you had three fouls at the half and you went a pretty long time before you got your fourth, you didn't foul out. What did you do to how did you change your game not to foul out and did you understand how important it was in this particular game for you to be on the floor?
Skylar Spencer: I played in big games before with foul trouble, so I just know I have to play smart. Coach Fisher told me play hard, play smart, and if I had to foul, then foul. So, I think I did a pretty good job surviving throughout the whole game.

Q. Dwayne, you guys were able to fight off being another team to be sort of quote unquote an upset. You saw these results throughout the day, I'm assuming, and what did you think going into this game? I know you were taking them seriously and everything but how did that reiterate?
DWAYNE POLEE: It's the tournament, so everybody is going to bring their best punch. So, they punched us in the mouth in the second half, but we fought back and we took it to OT and fought back even harder. The result is getting the win.

Q. This is the first time all season you did not post double. Can you take us through what the thinking was? Did you want it at first, did you not, and how do you think it worked out?
COACH Steve Fisher: And I know you guys have things to do when you leave here, but you're probably already past your deadline for tomorrow's paper, so I'm going to do something I never do, I'm going to complain about the NCAA process. And I hope somebody writes it.

We were told that we would go home tomorrow if we lost. That was what we requested. We don't want to go home tonight. It's 10 minutes after 11. By the time you get back to the hotel, did they want us to tell our kids pack your bags and if we win we'll go back? It's 10 after 11. But by the time and New Mexico State has to do this. They didn't want to go home either. But they have to go home tonight. It's disgraceful. For the billions of dollars that we have here, for them not to find a way to accommodate these kids, the student athletes. You can't tell me they couldn't find charter planes. And that's what they told me. I shouldn't have to call the NCAA and I did today, to say, why?

And then I said, we have made two charter trips on small charter planes, 14, 15, passengers. How many of those did you contact? It's disgraceful. So, we can say we want to do all these things for the benefit of the student athletes, but you play a game like we did tonight and you get to the airport at 1 in the morning? Come on. Come on. I would like to have every, every go from the top up administratively, have them at a site and allow and say you're going to ride home with that losing team. You're going to ride home with the losing team. And see what it's like to get home at five in the morning. It shouldn't happen. It shouldn't happen.

I got all the rhetoric, we tried, we tried, money's not the issue, we tried. And I never do this, I never do this, this is not me. I am not a guy that looks for things to complain about. But this is not right. This should not happen. This should not happen. This should not happen. I would hope you would write it, I would hope you would investigate it and say, why did it happen? It can't happen. But it happened. Marvin Menzies and his team? They're going home tonight. They didn't want to go home tonight. Is that right? Is that fair? Come on.

And we didn't post double because of the fact that I watched them in the post double and Bhullar is so big and he passes that ball so well out of it. I wish in hindsight that we would have on Tshilidzi, I wish that after awhile we would have said, okay, we're going to go on the bounce on him or done something a little different, because he was more aggressive. He got inside and created some problems for us.

But, we initially thought that they really are good, they catch it and look and they make it if you double them and they're good at getting out of it. And that was our worry and we thought we would give Aronis an open three and he is going to make those. So that's why.

And again, going back, I think if I could do it, if I did it again, I would have at one stretch, I would have said okay let's try the double on the bounce and see what that looks like. I didn't do a good enough job tonight either. I got caught up and I was going to get Skylar (Spencer) out and then I turned around and he picked up his third foul. I should have gotten him out before he got that third foul in the first half. So, there's a lot of things that if I could do over again I would.

Q. This is the first time there's been four OT games in one day in the tournament and you've seen a lot of tournament games. Is it surprising it's taken this long for that to happen and what does that say about the quality of the teams that are matching up now?
COACH Steve Fisher: If you just had us come and play and you would say, how close are these two teams to be pretty equal? A lot of these games. We're four seed, (New Mexico State) was a 13. I mean the talent is pretty good every where.

Then you get a little roll going and the crowd, the neutrals all cheer for the team from behind and all of a sudden they're playing a semi home game. So, we're pleased that we were able to get into overtime and win. We didn't want to get into overtime, but we're pleased once we got there that we found a way to get a win.

Q. Did you feel the need at all to point out to your team, or were you compelled in any way to point out about the results from earlier in the day or you felt that they knew how good this team was going in anyway?
COACH Steve Fisher: We really didn't talk a lot about it. We said, when you get to this stage of the season, don't worry about anything other than competing as hard as you can. And don't say that because, because I'm in a white jersey, I'm the better team. You've got to come out and play harder than your opposition and try to play smarter. (There are) too many good teams, the 3 point shot, and those kinds of things can get you back in the game quickly and we have all seen it. It looked like we an insurmountable lead a couple of times. The next thing you know a 13-point lead is a four-point lead. A 10-point lead is a tie game. And it happens. Sometimes you say how can it happen? Just look at all these games and you'll see it happening in all of them.

Q. Did you consider with 15 seconds left in regulation fouling or, I know you're kind of threshold I think is 10 seconds, and could you take us through the timeout when you decided to foul in overtime. Up three.
COACH Steve Fisher: Yes, we talked about fouling under eight seconds. And obviously, we didn't do it and I don't know what it was it was under eight seconds when they made the three, I know. But I think, and again it's a blur a little bit. They missed a shot, right? Missed the shot, a little above eight seconds, kicked it out and before we could get to him he was open and he made a long three to put it in over time.

But we wanted to, we talked to them before, we're going to, when, if it gets under eight seconds, it's a little dicey when you're bringing it up and there's 17 seconds and we should have gotten the rebound and we didn't. To their credit they fought and got it and found the open guy who made a very big important shot at the time.

Q. I want to make sure Steve, it's late, you're joking about tomorrow.
COACH Steve Fisher: I'm sorry?

Q. You're joking about tomorrow (the whitewater rafting).
COACH Steve Fisher: Yes.

Q. But your joke was, I mean, that couldn't possibly be more exciting than what or more exhausting than what happened tonight? Is that, that was your point there?
COACH Steve Fisher: I don't know what my point was, it was probably a stupid thing to say. If we tried that, we would lose about three or four of them, probably a couple of coaches if they had to go too. I saw those whitewater rapids, those falls. And I said, look at this? I told all our team we stopped the bus and looked at it coming over to practice. Big time impressive. (Laughter.)

Q. What do you know about North Dakota State and comment on playing the Bison on Saturday.
COACH Steve Fisher: I know when they came to in that tunnel as I was finishing up talking to the team, you could hear them from the court to their locker room. They were as excited as a team could be and they should have been.

I've watched half of a game on them, but we have got two coaches that have watched three or four games, that's my job description tonight, go back and they will tell me which tape they want me to watch and without telling you that I don't know anything about them I'll know a whole lot about them tomorrow morning when the kids get up and have breakfast and we meet. I know they're a very good, a very good, very well coached basketball team that competed like crazy tonight and won a tremendous game for themselves and their program and their school.

Q. Your players have talked in the last week about what happened last year against Florida Gulf Coast and the Cinderella and wanting another shot at it. And here they're going to get it. North Dakota State by the way they won today is becoming a little bit of that Cinderella. Do you think they're really embracing that chance and maybe they will have learned something from last year?
COACH Steve Fisher: I would hope that obviously we'll remember what happened last year and it will be written. Florida Gulf Coast got on a run last year where they were as good as just about anybody in the country. They played phenomenal. And they were a 15 seed.

We're playing a 12 seed tomorrow. We played a 13 seed tonight and hung on to win.

Had we played Oklahoma, we would have known we're going to have to play and play really good basketball to be in Anaheim. And we're going to have to do that against this team. I don't think they care that they're a 12 seed and that we're a four seed. They are going to come out guns a blazing and we need to make sure that we do the same thing.

Without knowing anything about them, I know they will play hard and I know we'll play hard, so it should be a really, really, really good basketball game on Saturday afternoon.

COACH Steve Fisher: Thank you

COACH MARVIN MENZIES: Just want to thank the Lord for this opportunity to coach these guys. Great group of players. Great staff. Also, want to take a minute to just also make note that we were we played tonight for Sam Lacey who passed away at 66. You guys may know he was probably if he's not the greatest, one of the greatest of all time to play at New Mexico State in that Final Four team of 1970. And left behind three daughters and a host of other family members. They had a memorial service for him today, so. We can go ahead and start with questions.

Q. Sim, talk about the way this team responded on this kind of stage today?
SIM BHULLAR: I think tonight we showed a lot of heart. The same situation in the WAC tournament. We were down nine at the half and guys were in the locker room and everybody's heads were up. We all talked about it, the fight's never over until the clock hits zero, so we just came out in the second half and played our hearts out and we took it into overtime. It showed the team has resilience. This is a big thing for us to come back from down 12 at halftime. Especially at this time of year, I think it's a big thing for us.

Q. Talk about what this says about New Mexico State. Sim, you're coming back, Kevin, you're a Senior.
SIM BHULLAR: Definitely shows that we got a deep team. Guys are ready to contribute. We got all five starters coming back. Really going to miss Kevin and Renaldo. Kevin was our guy, man. He knocked down a shot whenever we needed him, and Ben was the big guy in the middle. Whenever I went down with an injury, he really stepped up. Really going to miss those guys and it's going to be tough to replace them next year, but hopefully we can.

KEVIN ARONIS: I think with the other guys that are coming back, they're pretty young, and definitely with a good summer off season hard work, I think that they can definitely make some noise next year.

Q. Kevin, you guys are used to having a pretty dominant player in Daniel and what he can do on the court. But, today you had to face Xavier Thames, another dominant guard. Can you talk about what he did that was dangerous and what it's like to play against him?
KEVIN ARONIS: Well, he's a complete player, so he can beat you in multiple ways. I thought we did a pretty good job for the most part, him making pretty tough 2 point jumpers. I think he definitely earned it and had a good game.

Q. Kevin, talk about the three at the end of regulation. It seemed like you got two really open looks for off of the inbound play and then just off of a loose ball there?
KEVIN ARONIS: Well, the inbounds play was, I don't remember if I made it, but I think it was a yeah, I think Daniel got the rebound and he had great court awareness to know that we needed a three down in the end seconds. So, I know, I think we made a little eye contact and I just was spotting up and he found me and I think I dribbled to the left and made the shot.

Q. Were you surprised how I mean you were, you hit some open shots like were you surprise that were you were able to get those open shots tonight? And did you feel like you needed to make some 3's to kind of open things up?
KEVIN ARONIS: Yeah, I think the three ball kind of would have gave us a little extra offense against their very good defense. I think, if we hit a few 3's, I think it would kind of help us out a little bit. So, I was really hunting for my shot. I got a few open looks and a few tough ones, but I think we did a pretty good job of getting me some good looks.

Q. Sim, it looked like early in the game the post guys were getting the ball knocked away from you like was that just did you guys have to kind of get used to the way the game was called or just being stronger with the ball early on in the game?
SIM BHULLAR: I'm not sure how to answer that. I guess it was kind of both. The referees were trying to let us play a little bit and it was us holding the ball strong and going up too and finishing strong. I think we had a tough time with that, but we really picked it you know in the second half and it just showed the way we were finishing in the post.

Q. This is the second time you played here and you almost got the upset. I'm sure there's no moral victories for you, but two tough games. I thought it looked like at times you were going to get this one too, tonight.
COACH MARVIN MENZIES: Yeah, it's depressing is what it is. To be able to fight that hard in the second half and get right there and then not get over the hump in over time. I just thought we drew up some really good stuff and unfortunately, we just missed some right at the basket. We had a lot of little chippers that guys normally make and like you said, this is a big stage and it's a different dynamic out there with the experience and having guys that can really step up when they need to, like Daniel did in the second half.

So it's disappointing, but I'm really, really proud of my guys. I just told them how much I love them and what every coach says, I guess, the last game of the year. But, our Seniors and Kevin and Benzo we call Renaldo Dixon, Benzo, they're going to be great kids and great contributors to society and I think my job is done with them and now just be their friend the rest of the way.

Q. Can you talk about from that first five win season with Steve to here you're coaching against him in the NCAA tournament, just was that satisfying what that journey was like?
COACH MARVIN MENZIES: I enjoy every win that the Aztecs have, except tonight. I really feel a part of that whole journey and whew it's pretty obvious, I guess, huh?

So you know, the losing, I really wanted to bring this home for Las Cruces, you know. We have got a dynamic support system and great fans and the administration, everybody, is all on the same page. And it really helps to grow a program when you have leadership like we have and support like we have.

So, it's just amazing how much you put into something when you find a career and not a job. So when you talk about and that's why it hit me, because I'm thinking when I was at excuse me one second.


I didn't think I would do this. When I was at San Diego State, I used to sleep in the office. My wife hadn't moved down yet and our heart and soul went into the dream that they're now living. So, obviously, to go from getting our butts kicked every game to turning it to going 20 plus wins and making the NIT and the NCAA, and just watching the recruits that I brought in flourish. That was just so rewarding, you know. When you go from program to program you leave, you don't disassociate, obviously.

So, it's just tough, man, it's tough. I knew it would be a bitter sweet loss, but I just didn't think it would be this emotional, so.

But, heck, we had a great season, man, we won, we're champions, God, this is going to be national, huh?


Q. Everybody's asleep.
COACH MARVIN MENZIES: Yeah, thank God. They got that You Tube thing going now days, don't they? So I kind of screwed up. But, hey, I love my job, man, I love being the head coach at New Mexico State, I really do. And I loved every minute I spent at San Diego, you know? So long answer to a short question.

COACH MARVIN MENZIES: See, now you know how to get out of an interview, just cry.

(Laughter.) Thanks, you guys.

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