#AztecMBB Press Conference Quotes

Jan. 14, 2014

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Head coach Steve Fisher

Opening statement:
"Good win at Air Force. Hard win at Air Force. Tough win at Air Force. When you live in our world and go on the road and find a way to get a victory, you have to be pleased. Then when you look at the tape, you have to nitpick, and we've done both. The beauty about our team, they've been receptive when we say, `You won, but you have to do this better.' So 14-1, we're excited about. Two road victories in MW play, we're more excited about that. But nobody cares if you don't win the next game, and that's at home against Fresno State (on Wednesday). So that's the focus. Forget about (Sunday). I also told (players), `If you don't enjoy the journey and the process, you're cheating yourself. Don't look ahead to life after San Diego State. Enjoy where you are.' So we told them after the Air Force game, `Savor this victory. Don't think about anything other than the victory and be pleased about it. But when you wake up the next day, all eyes and ears should be on Fresno State.' It's easy to say, hard to do, and this team has done a pretty good job of it. So we'll have our hands full with Fresno State. They beat up on Air Force better than we did. Don't let the 8-9 record fool you, this is an explosive offensive team. They run, they guard you hard, and if they get hot, it's impossible to keep them from scoring."

On the challenge of being ranked No. 10 and being the hot story in the area:
"The challenge is to win the next game so we stay at No. 10. I've said this before, but I was pleased to see that when we beat Kansas (Jan. 5), they only dropped two spots in the poll. Part of that is the pedigree of Kansas, but part of that is people say, `(Kansas) lost to a good team. This was not some slouchy team that came in there in beat them.' So I like that and I'm anxious to see if and when we lose a game, whether we'll be in a free-fall or if we'll stay relatively close to where we're ranked now. We all love the fact that when they had the ticker on the AP Poll, we were the last one on there in the No. 10 spot. If we win, we'll stay there."

On what the team isn't doing lately defensively:
"Some of it is related to what teams do and do well, but some of it's just not being good enough doing what you should be good at. The first thing is defending the dribble-drive. We've given up too much on guys driving by us. That's what's happened with both Boise State and Air Force. That's the No. 1 problem that we've had. We harped on defensive rebounding, and statistically we were better against Air Force. But we did a bad job of defending the dribble-drive, and we must be better. We've been not so good with our half-court defense in the last two games."

On the uniqueness of their coaching staff being together for so long:
"If you look at it, we're probably in the top 10 of a staff and the number of years we've been together. (Associate head coach Brian Dutcher) and I have been together for 15 years. Mark Fisher came on board right after we came here. Matt Soria was a manager at the time, David Velasquez was a manager, then a walk-on, and Justin Hutson stayed five years and then came back. I know what I've got, and they know what they've got in me. Mark Fisher has never been afraid since he was four-years-old to tell me what he thought. The other guys have grown to say, `(Fisher) is not going to fire me if I disagree with him in a staff meeting.' And I've given them responsibility because I've seen what they can do. They're good. I've preached before, if you don't give good people some responsibility and some ownership, you're going to lose them or they'll lose interest. The longevity is a huge asset. Sometimes people will walk into our practices and ask, `Who's the head coach?' Different guys run different parts of practice. I don't think that's an indictment on me, I think that's the strength of the staff that we've got."

On if the stability of the staff helps recruiting:
"We're a staff where the better you get to know us, the more you like us. (Recruits' families) come to a game, walk in the locker room and they see us when we're not on our best behavior, not saying the things everybody says when they go into their home, and how we react to all that group dynamic. So yes, that's helpful. We tag-team every recruit. I'm involved, but sometimes I come in after somebody else already has a relationship going (with a player). We're all involved. It's not like they come here and say, `Who's this guy? I've never met him.' That's helpful to us too."

On the similarities between this team and the 2010-11 team that went 34-3:
"They're both talented, obviously, and they have a lot of ways to impact the game both offensively and defensively. We can change how we play, we can adapt to how (the opposition) plays. We're long and athletic, we're hard to guard and we guard hard. That was a good resume builder for that team. We've got a good mix of veterans and youth. It's hard to do what (the 2010-11) team did. They won 20 (games) in a row and lost to two teams all season. That's impossible to do, we won't do that (this season). But we've been pretty good so far. We want to do that, and I think like any place, when you get a team that has some success, (players) start to say, `Maybe we are as good as we talk about inside the locker room.' It's a precarious perch you get to. If you lose a game, the doubters will be out in full force, so you try not to lose a game. And we've been lucky, I've said that too. USD had a good look to beat us at their place. Boise State had the ball to beat us. And you could go back and look at some of the other games where there were two minutes to go and either team could win. We've found ways to be 14-1. You have to be a good team, you have to know what you want to do, and then sometimes you have to get lucky."

On if he's surprised by the team's success this season:
"Given the schedule we had, I'd say 14-1 would be a stretch (at the start of the season). Having played all those games, I would say we earned what we got. We haven't been given anything from the opponents. We earned that 14-1 record and we're hoping we can continue to be able to do that."

On the team being in the center of attention in the city after the Chargers' loss:
"When you live in a city that has pro sports, you should be a fan. And you shouldn't be a fake or forced fan. I'm a fan of the Padres and the Chargers. I'm a fan, but I'm also a guy that has been in a chair like they are, and I know how hard it is. There's enough spotlight to go around. If you start getting selfish and say, `I hope they lose so we can get all the attention,' you're not a good guy. We tell our players that too. I like the fact that guys that are in our world in a different sport like to come to our games. We're a fun team to watch, and we have been for a long time. I'm sure we'll get Padres and Chargers players to come to the game. We like that, I think that's good for all of us. It's a healthy pride in the city of San Diego and our athletic programs. When you win, everybody wants to be there."

Senior guard Xavier Thames

On the significance of being ranked in the Top 10:
"It feels good. We put in a lot of hard work so it's a blessing and an honor, but we just have to keep working hard, keep winning games and keep our focus."

On if they feel more confident this season about handling the target on their back:
"It's hard to say. We were good last year but we have a group of veteran guys. We're going to have a target on our back every game. Everybody is going to want to beat us. We just have to come out and stay focused and ready to play."

On being at the heart of their conference play with Fresno State and UNLV as their next opponents:
"Right now we're not worried about UNLV. We're just focused on tomorrow's game against Fresno State. That's all we're worried about right now. We're going to watch more film on them and get prepared to play Fresno State."

On Fresno State:
"I know they played a pretty tough schedule earlier this year. They're going to come out and play really hard and aggressive so we just have to match their intensity, and I'm sure we will."

On if being picked to finish fourth in the MW motivated the team:
"We definitely heard about it. Coach told us that we were picked to finish fourth but I think we all know that we have a pretty good team, not to brag or anything. Over the summer we worked really hard. I'm not trying to get into who picked us fourth or who has us where. We're going to come out and try to win each and every game and stay focused."

On if he noticed the continuity of the relationship between the coaches when he was being recruited:
"I could kind of tell from my visit that all of the coaching staff was really close. Chase Tapely told me about it. Malcom Thomas and Kawhi Leonard told me about it, too. I kind of had a feeling before I got here but as soon as I stepped on campus, I could really see how close the coaching staff was. Not just the coaching staff, but all the players as well. We're all a family here. That's the good thing about San Diego State."

On if he remembers what Jamaal Franklin and Kawhi Leonard told him when he first got to SDSU:
"They just told me, `The coaches are going to be hard on you but it's all out of love. They're going to get you better each and every day and get the best out of you.' I've been seeing that since I stepped on campus. It's a blessing to be here with a great coaching staff."

On if the team needs to make improvements from the last two games:
"We just need to be more focused. Air Force had a different style than we've seen all year and Boise State had a good run on us. We just need to be more focused and lock down on defense and I'm sure we'll do that."

On if the team feels like the spotlight is on Aztec men's basketball:
"We know the spotlight is on us but we don't really try to think about that. We just want to go out and play hard each and every game and stay focused. Now that the Chargers are done, we kind of know that people are going to be looking at us so we just need to stay focused and stay ready."

On if the team pays attention to the win streaks:
"Not really. We see it on social media but we don't really focus on it. We just want to go out and take each game one at a time and go out there and play hard."

Junior forward JJ O'Brien

On the significance of being ranked in the Top 10:
"It's great to be in the Top 10 but we can't let it stop there. We have to keep getting better and try to win the conference now."

On if being ranked No. 10 in the country puts a larger target on the team's back:
"I think it was already there but it definitely does put a larger target on our back. We're a team now, that if somebody beats us, it might be their ticket into the (NCAA) tournament. Every team is going to give us their best shot so we have to be prepared."

On if a conference loss is devastating to their ranking:
"I think our main thing is just winning every game and not trying to worry about rankings. We've built up a pretty good resume as far as wins. Losing and dropping from rankings isn't really our concern. Losing and not being able to win a conference championship is our concern. I think that's the main thing."

On if being picked to finish fourth in the MW motivated the team:
"I think that's kind of the trend here. Even after the program went 34-3, nobody expected our team to be any good. We know that we're always going to have a good team so we don't really buy into it too much, but it definitely adds a little extra incentive to work harder and try to prove something. We're all confident that we can all play and have a Top-25 team every year."

On if the team reaps the benefits of having a coaching staff with a strong relationship:
"I think the number one thing that comes from it is that they all don't have a problem saying `No' to each other or `That's not going to work,' or finding a plan that will work and that benefits us when we translate it to the court as far as our game plans and our scouting reports. We're definitely prepared each and every game as well as anybody in the country because of them. They do a good job at finding a game plan that's going to work for us."

On if the team needs to make improvements from the last two games:
"I think Air Force's style of offense really messed us up. As far as watching the tape, we just need to be more focused. The coaches can give us all the game plans they want and all the defensive schemes that they want, but when it comes down to it, we just have to go out there and play and do our jobs. I think with the last five minutes of the Boise State and Air Force games, it's about more of us being focused and doing our job."

On if the team notices the opposing team's offensive stats in the box score:
"We definitely do. After the game, we all looked at that and we were shocked that they shot such a high percentage. Our defense is something we definitely take pride in and that's been instilled in us that we want to hold teams to low shooting percentages. When we saw that, we definitely knew that we needed to get back to practice and work on that a little more. We do take pride in our defense and our defensive shooting percentage."

On if the team feels like it is still progressing:
"I think that's the great thing about our team is that we just cracked the Top 10, but we can get so much better. We didn't play that well against Air Force defensively and during the last five minutes against Boise State we didn't either. We have so much room for improvement but we've already done so well, so as long as we keep getting better, I think we're going to get better each game."

On if the team is conscious of their current statistical streaks:
"It doesn't register during the game. We just want to win each game. Even with the California streak, we think about it before the games and we say that it would be nice to keep that streak alive, but it's more important just to win the game because we need to win the next game."

On the biggest challenge of facing Fresno State:
"They play extremely hard. We have to match their intensity. We have to match their effort because everybody knows in this conference, on any given night, you can lose, especially with a team that's going to give you 110 percent. We have to match their effort."

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