Jan. 17, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Steve Fisher
"We feel good about the fact we're 4-0 in the (Mountain West). But if you're thinking about being 4-0 in the league, you're in trouble in your next game. So we're well aware of the size of this game on Saturday. Were playing a very, very good UNLV team that is coming in on a very huge high after a great win at (New Mexico). So this will be a much-anticipated game. I think it will be a full house with great energy from both sides, and will be a great college basketball game on Saturday afternoon."
On UNLV playing better on the road than at home this season:
"I know we went through a stretch where people said, `San Diego State has UNLV's number.' We went through a stretch where we won eight out of nine games against them. And now you could say UNLV has San Diego State's number, because they've won the last three (meetings). Sometimes things happen. But I know one thing, if you look at UNLV, they've probably have played the most difficult non-conference schedule in the country. They've lost some close games. I watched the whole game when they went to Arizona, and played Arizona better than anybody has played them, including ourselves. They could have won the game. I know right now they feel good about themselves. They got a road victory (at New Mexico) where it's almost impossible to get a road victory. They have created problems for us in recent history with how they play."
On what UNLV does that gives them so many problems:
"UNLV plays a little bit like how we play. They want to score in transition, they've got good athletes and they can hurt you in multiple spots. What they have now with this year's team is the best front line in protecting-the-rim defense in the country. (Khem) Birch had 10 blocked shots against us last year, five in each game, and he turned another 10 (shots) away that looked like they would be easy drives. So they're a hard team to score on. When it looks like you have angles to score, they make it difficult to score. They can hurt you in a number of ways. They can shoot the three, they can attack off the dribble and they can score inside. A lot of the same things we try to do, they attempt to do. We've had close games with them. We've had many games that have gone right down to the last 30 seconds with either team having a chance to win."
On if it's hard for the players not to think about getting revenge from last season:
"I don't think we'll be thinking revenge and anger and hatred because (UNLV) beat us last time. I think we're going to be thinking, `We're 4-0 in league, we want to be 5-0.' We have a home game, it doesn't matter who we play. We need to play well and find a way to win. Several of our guys that will play key roles were not on the floor last year when we played them. Several of UNLV's guys were not on the floor (last year). So it makes good rhetoric, but I don't think it makes much sense to say that. This has turned into a nice rivalry, but I will say it is a respectful rivalry, where when you go out for those 40 minutes, you desperately want to do anything you can to make your opponent look bad. After that, you shake hands and wish each other good luck. These kids know each other. They played against each other in high school and AAU ball. A lot of them grew up in L.A. where they knew one another as kids. So I think it's overblown a little bit. I do know it's really intense competition between two really good programs that have been very successful, which is healthy."
On if he was surprised UNLV won at New Mexico:
"I think at times when you go on the road, you can rally the troops from the standpoint of, `It's us against 15,000 (fans).' You can almost sense that with the way they played with the focus, determination and togetherness, coupled with the fact that they made shots. They consistently stayed with it and played hard. They neutralized a front line that's hard to neutralize that has two seven-footers for New Mexico. (UNLV) has the size, strength and talent to do that, and not many teams do. Bryce Dejean-Jones has been playing at an elite level. We talk about us getting the free-throw line, (Dejean-Jones) shot 14 free throw against (New Mexico) and he's averaged 11 or 12 in our four league games. He's a hard guard and they have multiple ways to hurt you, and they did that against New Mexico."
On what points of emphasis the team needs to improve in:
"I don't want it to be a mirage when people say San Diego State has the best defense in the country. I want that to be reality, and we haven't been lately. We've preached that our defense has to get better, and it gets better with individuals saying, `I'm going to guard my man.' We've not done a good enough job guarding our people. There's been too much dribble-drive, which leads to all sorts of breakdowns when that starts to happen. I think our defensive rebounding has gotten a little bit better, but that's something we've been conscious of that needs to get better. Taking care of the ball and doing things that win have been good. Four turnovers last game is tremendous and ties the best mark we've ever had here. So I'm like everybody. If you defend better than your opponent and rebound better than your opponent, you're probably going to win. So we need to back up saying we do that by doing it, and doing it every single possession, and we haven't done it well enough lately."
On if he's concerned about not being able to score inside on Saturday:
"UNLV guards hard, so they won't give us wide open shots. We're going to have to do things to get shots. We need our big guys to score a little bit, and we'll need Josh Davis maybe to score more than a little bit. That will be a factor, but when we drive it, we need to be able to get some points off our dribble-drive also. So that's the issue. They've made it difficult for us, and we need to do a better job of that. It's easy to say, but hard to do."
Senior guard Xavier Thames
On what he remembers about losing at home to UNLV last season:
"They're always going to be close games, and I know we lost the last three times to (UNLV). So I'm not expecting anything but a close game. We know UNLV is a great team, and we just have to come out and be ready to match their intensity."
On what stands out about UNLV:
"They get out in transition really well. They're one of the best transition teams in the country. I think the way Birch and Roscoe Smith run the floor, and (Dejean-Jones) runs the floor, we've got to watch out for that. And also they're rebounding. Roscoe Smith I think is leading the nation in rebounding, and Birch is a good rebounder also. Those are things we really have to focus on."
On UNLV having a lot of transfers, and if that's why they started off slow this season:
"Their guys that have transferred are doing well right now, so I think their starting to click at the right time. That's a good thing for them, but we've just got to worry about ourselves and the game tomorrow."
On if San Diego State's staff does a good job of getting new transfers to fit into the team:
"Yes, I think our coaching staff does a good job at that. You have to give all the credit to the coaching staff. They've done a good job of that over the years with our transfers."
On how the rivalry with UNLV has grown on him since he's been at SDSU:
"It's a big game, just like every other game is a big game. UNLV is a rival, I've been going at it with them for the past three years now, so I'm just looking forward to the challenge. They've beat us the last three times, so we just need to come out and try to get this win."
Sophomore forward Winston Shepard
On what he remembers about losing to UNLV last season:
"I know as a school we've lost the last three (to UNLV) and I was a part of the last two. It doesn't sit well with me. But we're going to approach it like every other game, get ourselves prepared, get ourselves in the right mindset and just come out and try to get a win (Saturday)."
On Khem Birch signaling for the crowd to be quiet after winning at Viejas Arena last season:
"Yes, I remember it. Like anything else, I just try to take those things and add it to fuel to my fire. But I'm not going to focus on that. That's what happened last year and this is a new year, a new day and a new game. So we're just going to make sure those type of things don't happen (Saturday)."
On if they're impressed by UNLV's recent road victory over New Mexico:
"To me, it's not surprising at all. If you look at UNLV's roster, they have two McDonalds All-Americans, they have a lot of good players, some great coaches. So I'm not surprised at all. They're starting to put it together, so we're definitely going to take them serious and try to come out and play as hard as we can."
On if assistant coach Justin Hutson has a special game plan since he coached at UNLV last season:
"Not more than any other team. We're not trying to get into any peripheral battles or anything like that, we just want to come out and play, and get the job done. I'm sure coach Hutson and the rest of our coaching staff will have a great game plan, just like every other game. I know it's UNLV and it's a rivalry game, but we're trying not to get too much into that. We just want to come out, win, and then play the next game."