Jan. 30, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Steve Fisher
"The beat goes on with what we do. I didn't get a chance to watch any of our Mountain West teams play, but I watched scores as they came across and this is a league that is unforgiving if you don't play well, home or away, and upsets are not upsets. This is a league where you'd better be ready to play, and we have a Colorado State team coming in who's lost two in a row, but they're a tough team to play. We opened (MW play) against them and it was down to the wire, and I expect nothing less with them coming into our place. The leading scorer in the conference is on their team (Daniel Bejarano). (J.J.) Avila is what they think, they're most important player. They're a hard team to guard and they're as a good of rebounding team as there is in the country. You throw in the fact they have such a disparity in free throws attempted to their opponent, they're a tough team to play. So we know it will be a good game. We'll need all of our fans here doing what they've done for us all season long."
On their advantage in points in the paint in the first meeting against Colorado State:
"I think those kinds of things can be somewhat deceiving. When they went into the paint, we fouled them. Free throws in that game were deceiving. At one point, they had attempted 18 free throws and we had attempted five. In the last minute were ahead by 7-8 points, and they fouled us as soon as we touched the ball. We shot 10 free throws in the last minute, to get the free throw attempts close to one another. We probably fouled them a lot when they drove and they didn't foul us as much. I know in that game JJ O'Brien was able to finish some shots going to the rim and we got a couple easy baskets off of turnovers. They're a hard team to score on in the paint."
On if there's a bigger target on the team being ranked No. 5:
"Well it's obvious when you haven't lost in league play, everybody hopes you lose, especially those teams just one game behind you like New Mexico. Nevada continues to be the team that everybody says, `Why are they playing so well?' And all you have to do is watch them in league play and see they're playing with great confidence. They have only two losses (in MW play). So yes, when you're ahead of the pack, everybody gets a little more excited when they see you play. When we went into Utah State, I know they have great crowds, but that had to be the most energetic crowd that they have had this season. It didn't appear they had the same energy when I watched them on T.V. the next game they played at home. I guess that just comes with the territory, but I'm happy that we've got people circling us twice (on their schedule). We have to be ready to play, and our guys have done a good job preparing and being ready to play. You can't play in fear of making a mistake or in fear of losing. You can't play not to lose, you have to play. And we've done a pretty good job of that. Human nature at times, when you're supposed to win and its real close, you keep glancing up at the scoreboard. You can't do that, but it happens. But you have to play. You can't worry about winning, you have to play basketball."
On being ranked in the top-5:
"When you win, and we keep winning, and the guys above you lose once or twice, you have a chance to move up. But the moment you lose, you're probably going to go down. Sometimes it's the nature of where you've been and where you're going. But now, we're like everybody else, we expect to be ranked. But we have to go back and realize it wasn't long ago when we had never been ranked. So we've tried to say, `Be proud of that fact, savor it, enjoy it, embrace it.' We talk about it. We also talk about if you want to stay (at No. 5), you have to practice like you want to stay here. And that's hard also. You have to play with gusto, confidence and together, like you have when you won games against teams they thought you weren't going to beat. And if you do that, you have a chance to stay up there. I'm smart enough to know the ripple effect from the win at Kansas is still there, because they haven't lost since. So that has allowed us to not only stay afloat, but ride the crest of that wave to move higher. But the moment you lose a game, you're going to have a hole in the boat and you'll have to patch it quickly. I hope we don't' lose another game, but that won't happen either probably."
On what he sees looking back at what he's built at San Diego State:
"I'm like everybody that follows San Diego State. You smile, you have great appreciation for those that have been involved and allowed this to happen. We're not a one-man band. Everyone has played roles and we're loyal to one another. I've hired former players that are part of the (coaching) staff and have been a part of our staff. So I think it's a sense of pride we all have. I've gotten texts, emails and phone calls from former players here, talking about what a great job we're doing now, and I say, `You helped set the foundation for what we are doing now. Be proud of that fact, and come back and see us.' And they do in no small sense because (the coaches) are all still here. It's not like the whole staff is new and we're winning. And that feels good also. It's a sense of pride not just with San Diego State grads, but within the community. Now when we go to the airport, you're going to have 100 people stop and tell you `congratulations.' We got on the plane to go to Utah (on Friday) to play Utah State and they made an announcement that we were on the plane. They all cheered. If we were 1-18, they wouldn't be cheering. We'd all be in middle seats if that were happening. We like getting aisle and exit-row seats."
On if he thinks he'll be around to get win No. 400:
"Well that's a good question. I know I'm here right now and enjoying the run that we're on and very happy to be a part of what we're doing. How long I'm here, I don't know, but I'm very confident that when I'm not here, we'll still be winning and I'll be here cheering. And second-guessing too probably."
On approaching his milestone 300th win at San Diego State:
"I think you reflect back on all the players you've had, and all the people who have been involved and allowed you to have a measure of success and win games. We've had good players here. We've recruited good kids who have gone on to graduate and do different things with their lives, that have allowed us to win. That's what I reflect back on and think about. I'm at a stage of my career where I'm not trying to do something to get my next job. I've never thought that, but when I came here, that was the talk. And I'm still here, going on 15 years. I think that's what I feel good about, that I have the privilege to live in San Diego, where most people pay a lot of money to vacation for a week, and be a part of the community, which is neat also. So I feel good about what we're doing and what I've done to play a role in what we're doing."
On if he's changed the way the rest of the country views the program:
"When I was hired, several people turned the job down before I was hired. And one took a different job in the Mountain West because it was quote, a better job. Now, I would say when you ask, `What's the best job in the Mountain West?' We're going to be mentioned first off the lips of a lot of people. This is a good job, and it should be a good job. It's a terrific university, and our administration has done a wonderful job to grow the reputation academically as well as athletically. We've grown it athletically, which has helped it grow academically. We have people that I've seen on campus say they came here because they saw the team play. They're not athletes, but they're good students who will be good representatives of San Diego State when they leave here. So yes, this is a job where if we didn't have Brian Dutcher as head coach in waiting, you'd have a high stack of applications from good, quality people, who would die to get an opportunity to come here. We're proud of that fact."
On if he still adapts as a head coach:
"You better be able to adapt. That's life. When I first started, I was a micro-manager and I was not a good listener. I tried to be too structured and too regimented, and I learned and I've grown. We have a terrific staff, I'm a good listener. I listen to our players, and I think that's critical to what we do. And I think our players not only hear that coming out of our lips, but they know that's what we feel and they trust us. I think that's very important. They know (the coaches) are in charge, but (the players) know they have a say in our program."
On if his expectations for this season have changed at all:
"I don't think so. Obviously our record is better than what most people though it would be, maybe even myself at this point given the schedule we've played. But we come into every year, and have for quite some time, saying we want to win the conference. And that's still our goal to do that. We want to get to the NCAA Tournament, and if you make the tournament, you've got a chance. If you make the tournament with a high seed, you've got a better chance. But you get in the tournament if you win the conference, and then you go from there with it. Yes, we want to go to the Final Four, for sure. We were good enough in 2010-11 to win the national championship. We didn't do it, but we got beat by the team that did. So we would say, `Let's win a national championship.' You've got to get in the tournament to make that happen."
Senior guard Xavier Thames
On coach Fisher potentially getting his 300th win on Saturday:
"Hopefully we go out there and get him his 300th victory on Saturday, that would be great."
On the discussions in practice about their ranking:
"We just want to keep getting better. Coach tells us it's a good thing to be No. 5 in the country, but there's always room to get better. So that's what we try to do each and every day, and we just have to keep working at it."
On if they feel satisfaction because they were picked to finish fourth in the MW:
"A little bit, but we knew we would have a great team from the get go in the summer time. It's a little bit of satisfaction proving people wrong, but you don't play the game for that."
On the key to beating Colorado State the first time around:
"I think our press hurt them a little bit the last game. I think we pressed them the whole, entire time. They kind of got worn down, but it's going to be another hard-fought game against a good Colorado State team. We've just got to come out and be ready to play."
On his recent tweet saying he loves San Diego State:
"I do love San Diego, and it was a beautiful day that day. It was like 75 degrees and we were all walking around campus. It was a great feeling, so that's why I tweeted that."
On if it's hard to stay in the moment with the target on their backs:
"We don't have to worry about that. We're just focused and trying to get better each and every day. All of us watch film and analyze our game. Just play good defense. Last game against Utah State we didn't have a very good defensive game, so we want to come out on Saturday and try to lock up Colorado State."
On if they hear a lot of talk from family and friends about being ranked No. 5:
"A little bit, but we all manage to stay focused. We can't let our heads get too big, we've just got to keep focus. But people do bring it up. So it's a great feeling, but we just need to keep getting better."
Sophomore forward Winston Shepard
On the level of excitement around the team being ranked No. 5:
"It's been great and it's been even better since school has started back up. It feels good, but like I said, this isn't our ultimate goal. We didn't strive to be the fifth-best team in the country, we strive to be the best team in the country. So we just want to keep it going."
On what the team has learned about itself since the last time they played Colorado State:
"We've had some tough games, and we've shown ourselves we can win in different kind of situations. I think last time (against CSU) we had a tough game there and we learned a lot about ourselves. We played through adversity on the road in a hostile environment. Like we all say, we just try to continue learning and getting better. We're just fortunate and blessed that we've been able to learn while we've been winning."
On if there's pressure knowing that one loss could drop them in the rankings:
"I don't (feel any pressure). It doesn't really matter. We're the same team people projected to be fourth-best in the conference. We have the same players, so I don't think we really pay attention to it. The rankings are fine, they're good and they get us notoriety, but we just continue to watch film and analyze our game to get better. So I don't think there's any pressure about it."
On the excitement they've experienced around town:
"A lot of people start to recognize us more. For example, we were on a flight (to Utah) and the captain gave us a shout-out over the PA. We play in a great city and I think we're fortunate that there's no NBA team here, so it's kind of like we're the only basketball show in town. That endears us to a lot of the fans, and we're just very fortunate for that."
On if they check up on the other top-5 teams to see how they do:
"Well I try to watch basketball whether we're No. 5 or unranked. I love college basketball and I'm fortunate to be playing in it for a top-5 team. But even while we were No. 23, I always checked to see how the teams ahead of us were doing, or the teams a couple of my friends play for and things like that. That's just human nature, I just love the game and I'm sure my teammates are the same way."
On if they hear a lot of talk from family and friends about being ranked No. 5:
"The higher you go in the rankings, the more trains you get on the track. So a lot of people want to jump on our bandwagon and things like that. They're telling us to keep it going and that we'll have a good chance in the tournament and things like that, but I just try to keep those things in perspective. It feels good, but I know we have a lot of work to do to get where we want to go."
On what's been different about Colorado State during their recent two-game losing streak:
"We haven't got a chance to watch film on them yet, I'm sure we'll probably watch it (Thursday). But I personally don't know. It's conference (play). It doesn't matter what your record is. When you're playing on teams' home court and playing away, it's tough. You can look around the country and see that, so I'd probably chalk it up to that."