Feb. 4, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Steve Fisher
"We are off to Boise (Idaho), and I know and you know how difficult road trips are. Boise State is a very good team that is smarting off a game they let get away from them at UNLV when they led by 11 (points) with 3:21 to go (on Saturday). And I anticipate we'll have another (close game) we've had with them in five out of the last six games we've played against them, right down to the wire with either team having a chance to win. We are cautiously optimistic on Josh Davis. He still hasn't done any contact stuff. We're hoping he will practice for us (on Tuesday) in preparation to be able to play on Wednesday. But I would say he's `iffy.' He wants to play so hopefully we will be able to have him play. He's our best rebounder and Boise State is the best rebounding team in (the Mountain West) if you look at the statistics. Ryan Watkins, statistically, is the best rebounder in the league, averaging 14 rebounds a game and almost seven offensive rebounds per game. So we need our best rebounder in the game. I'm proud of how we're playing. We look forward to continuing to find ways to win, which is what you have to be able to do. And every game is a little bit different. This will be different than our one-point victory at home when we played (Boise State) the first time. We've got great respect for coach Leon Rice and what he's done. They've got five starters back on their team from a year ago when they went to the (NCAA) tournament. They beat us at their place last year. So we know it's a slippery slope, but we're ready to keep climbing."
On if Josh Davis will play if he practices on Tuesday:
"On Monday, Josh said he ran and was still concerned when he ran and stopped (quickly). He went over last night and worked on a machine, and (his knee) felt good (on Tuesday). The most encouraging thing for me is Josh said, `I'm going to be ready to play.' Leading into our game with Colorado State, he said he didn't think he was going to be able to play. So we'll see. Even if he doesn't practice the day before and he says he's ready to play on Wednesday, we'll play him. So I'm hoping one way or another he'll get some (playing) time."
On possibly having to play without Josh Davis:
"We'll go with what we had against Colorado State. Aqeel Quinn would start. It takes away your bench strength now. You've got a guy that has done well coming off the bench and gives you a spark, moving into the starting lineup. Dwayne Polee II, who we've not talked about and came up sick right at game time (against Colorado State), appears to be better. So I think we'll be for sure healthy with the possible exception of (Davis). But what we would have to do if we don't have (Davis) for as many minutes as we would like, is be a little harder to guard for (the opposition). We've got a perimeter guy to stretch the floor. We've got to say, `How can we turn it into an advantage for us when we have a little smaller lineup out there?'"
On the team's current 18-game winning streak:
"We have a good team, and we have a team that has won close games. When you win games, you feel good about yourself. When you win close games, it breeds confidence so when you're in that next close game, you say, `We've been here before, we've done it before and we're going to find a way to do it again.' You can't get complacent and say you're going to win just because. But it makes you feel good about yourself when you look up and there are four or five minutes to go and it's a two or three-point game that you're going to find a way to win. We're led right now, as everybody knows, by Xavier Thames, who is playing at such a high level that he makes everyone else better because he will be No. 1 on every opponent's white board. So you've got three sets of eyes on (Thames) and it helps someone else get open for a clean look. But we've got good play and important play from a lot of different people both on offense and defense. The stat that no one really talks about is huge. We are taking more free throws than anybody in the country compared to how many we are giving up. And we did that again against Colorado State, who is a lot like us. They make more (free throws) than their opponent's shoot, and we did a blitzkrieg on them at the free-throw line during that game on Saturday. We have to continue to do that. Obviously, we want to shoot better from the line, but we're getting there a lot and as long as we're getting (Thames) there enough, I think the percentage will be OK. That's a big, big piece of what we do - find ways to get to the free-throw line."
On if their shooting is a concern:
"Yes, we want to shoot better. We need to make more open shots. A lot of teams in the country say the same thing. We're pretty good offensively and we're one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country, and that sometimes negates missing three shots, because sometimes we get three shots a possession. And that wins for you too. But yes, we want and need to be better at making catch-and-shoot, open shots. And hopefully that would happen. It was good to see Matt Shrigley, even though he was a step inside the three-point line, make a perimeter jump shot. (Quinn) has been able to deliver, (Thames) has been able to deliver. So we just need to find ways to make more open shots, but we're not the lone ranger in that affair. When it's really good teams that play other good teams, defense sometimes wins the arm-wrestling match. They take away your strengths, we all do. That's what happens in league play in particular. So I'm hoping we shoot 80 percent against Boise State at their place."
On why every game against Boise State comes down to the end:
"I said to Leon Rice after last game, `Well, should we expect anything different than what happened?' We're 13 (points) ahead with four or five minutes to go, and (Boise State) would not go away. We've had games like that. It's just two teams that compete hard. I like their team, and they're hard to guard also. I believe they're the leading scoring team in our league, and they can score from inside or outside. Watkins is the guy who has played at such a high level this year and getting better in league play. He's really elevated the offensive success of this team with his scoring and rebounding. We've just had close games with them and sometimes that happens. It makes for excitement for the fans and it's un-nerving for the coaches. But it's fun basketball to watch."
On if James Johnson is capable of playing key minutes like against Colorado State:
"I forget to mention James Johnson. James has had limited minutes, especially if you look at league play. He came in and played 15 minutes and did a good job (against Colorado State). He's big and he's strong, he runs and he defends well. But he got three points for us and more than held his own when he came in. So that gives me confidence and (Johnson) confidence. So I would say yes, especially if (Davis') minutes are limited, that would mean we would have to use (Johnson) and he's going to need to play well."
On approaching another 20-win season:
"20 (wins) used to be the magic number. I don't know if any of us (coaches) really use that as the standard-bearer. Everybody says this is will be our ninth 20-win season in a row. I think what it does is validates the fact that we have a program. It validates the fact that we continue to get good players. It doesn't matter if we've got them all returning or none of them returning, this is a group of guys that are prepared to play and are capable of playing in the league we're in against the schedule we have. And that attracts the next group of players. When you win, everybody wants to take a look at you, and when you win in the environment we're winning in, very few can say, `We're winning all these games, but also come look at what we have as a crowd that are here for you.' I look at games all over the country, and I see teams that have really good programs playing huge games, but you see the building three-quarters filled. So it's neat to see, and winning obviously helps create that. So we're hoping we can get 20 (wins) and move on beyond that for sure. 30 (wins) would be nice, yes I would say that. Not many people in America get 30 wins, and we've had it one time in my tenure here. It would be nice to have it again, but that's a long way off, getting 30."
Senior guard Xavier Thames
On how much of a difference it would make if Josh Davis can't play:
"Everybody would have to step up in the rebounding category and other areas as well. Hopefully (Davis) gets to play, but if not, we've just all got to step it up."
On being the target by the opposition every game and what he expects from Boise State defensively:
"They'll probably double-team me off pick-and-rolls and do different things like that, but I'm not worried about it. We have a good team, it's not just me. I rely on my teammates a lot so I'll be ready."
On if they enjoy the challenge of having a tough game on Wednesday:
"Yes, you always want to play games like this. You grow up wishing for games like this. So we're excited for the challenge and I'm sure it's going to be another good game."
On how much the momentum of winning so many close games helps them at this point:
"It's good, especially in conference play, it's always good to get a win whether at home or on the road. So we've just got to keep it going. It's going to be a tough environment out there in Boise, I think the game is sold out. So we've just got to come ready to play."
Sophomore forward Winston Shepard
On how much of a challenge Boise State presents:
"Well Boise State plays us tough every game. For the past two years I've been here, each game has come down to the wire. Sometimes we're able to stretch out on them, but they always seem to come back. They're a good offensive team. They pride themselves on being able to make shots, and they have guys that can create for themselves. So we're going to have to be able to guard."
On being on the cusp of 20 wins this season:
"It feels good. There's still a lot of the season to go, so to be approaching the 20-win mark is big for us. A lot of people in the preseason didn't expect us to be that good, so to be approaching 20 (wins) already feels good to us."
On why their games against Boise State are always so close:
"We get up for every game, but I think it's just Boise State. They circle us (on the schedule) and they always bring their A-game, so we have to bring our A-game or we're going to lose. I don't think it's any different than any other game. My teammates and I try to be prepared for every game."