Feb. 7, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Steve Fisher
"We are halfway through the Mountain West season as everybody knows. We've found different ways in different games to continue to win. Good teams do that and we're hopeful that we can continue that trend. We're all smart enough to know every game is challenging, it doesn't matter where you play. And when you win a lot, people get excited when you come to town. Now it's happening with us. When we go on the road it's a big game and a big draw. People who haven't seen us play get excited to come in and boo us and cheer for their team. So you have to be able to respond to those kinds of challenges. What we need on Saturday is what we've had for every game - a full house cheering like crazy for the Aztecs. It helps. And we're playing (Nevada) who started out 4-0 (in MW play). They're 7-3, they had an overtime loss, but they're a good team. They're led by Deonte Burton who is one of the premier guards in the country, not just in our league. Nevada leads the league in field goal defense and three-point defense. It's not us, it's Nevada. They make it hard for you to score and they've got the ability to score in bunches. So we are well aware that this will be a tough game. (Nevada) is coming off a tough loss at Utah State, so they will be smarting a little bit wanted to get back on the winning track. This is our one game with them this year, we don't go back to their place. So it should be a very, very good game tomorrow and we're very much looking forward to it."
On if he's surprised by how well Nevada is doing this season:
"A coach shouldn't be surprised by anything, but yes. They came in from the WAC, last year was their first year. And for whatever reason struggled, and they dominated in the WAC before they came here. They were not highly regarded coming into the season. They have played exceptionally well. They got a transfer right before the conference season started become eligible; he's a big post player. The players they have that we saw last year are much improved, and none more so than Cole Huff, who can score in bunches. He had 31 in a game and had 22 at Utah State. Deonte Burton is what he is - a really good player. They've done a really good job of playing as a team. They appear to like on another, and they play that way."
On Winston Shepard's injury:
"Winston Shepard fell six minutes into the Boise State game. I didn't realize at the time that he had hurt his wrist. But it bothered him and after the game it really bothered him. It was swollen and hurt to the touch, his left wrist. They X-rayed it and gave him an MRI and I got good news back that it's nothing from the standpoint to worry about long term. He's still pretty sore. So he will be a game-time decision depending on if he can move the wrist and if he's capable of using that left hand. But the good news is it should not be anything long term."
On if Shepard can't play on Saturday:
"We're hopeful that Winston will play, but if he's out, that takes away a big piece of your team. He's our second-leading scorer, he has a knack of going to the free-throw line, he's a big guard who is hard to guard and he's made significant strides from where he was to where he is. So we'll miss him, but the good news is we have a lot of players who have stepped in and are able to play. Josh (Davis), we didn't know if he would be able to play in the Boise State game, and I think as the game went on, he forgot about his knee a little bit. He looked a little more free flowing and ran, but it was sore after the game."
On what the win over Boise State does for his team's confidence:
"When you win, you grow your confidence. We have not had those types of (big) deficits to make up. When you've got a 14-point deficit, if you're not careful, you'll just say, `Maybe this is just their night.' But the nice thing about our team is we've stayed with it and we've had different ways to create opportunities and runs. That's what our sport is about."
On if he's happy they're winning close games, or concerned their games are so close:
"If we could shutout every opponent, I'd be the happiest guy in America. It doesn't happen. Would I like for us to make more perimeter shots? Absolutely. It doesn't always happen. It's always easier to hit hard on what you're not doing when you've won. (Players) are more receptive. So you come back and show them how (the other team) got an early lead. So you watch it, see it and then go out and practice it. You can't live on the edge every game, I'm smart enough to know that. Most good teams have a handful of games where with two or three minutes to go, could have gone either way."
On if it was encouraging that his team shot so well from the field against Boise State:
"I talked about it before the game, if you watch us in practice, we look like we can shoot it with anyone in the country. I'm positive by nature, and I said before the game that we are going to go out tonight and shoot the ball, and we're going to shoot it in. We had stretches when we did. If you don't trust yourself and believe every shot you take is going to go in, then don't take it. We also talked about us being too good to settle. We've got to eliminate the 7-8 shots a game that aren't great shots, especially early in the shot clock. But I think at times teams will settle for the quick, OK shot, rather than seeing if they can get a great shot. The most important thing with our team is knowing what is your shot. What are you best at? If you have that early, then take it. But if get something you know you're not good at, pass it up the first time. But if you've got a wide-open shot, and you're a three-point shooter, then shoot it. You can't be afraid to miss a shot."
On Dwayne Polee II:
"Dwayne has gotten an opportunity to play, and that's what players crave for. If you don't have a chance to play, then you don't have a chance to make a shot. You get a chance to play by creating a perception everyday at practice that you're reliable, dependable and you can perform, because you perform in practice. Then when you get your chance in games, there's added stress that you have to perform to have that run go longer and get that second and third run. So you try to take that stress away. You tell them, `Don't worry if you make or miss (a shot). Do what you do.' I think (Polee) has grown in confidence. Obviously, he's getting a chance now. He had a couple games where he didn't even play, where now he's the first guy we think about to get off the bench in our early rotation. And he's performed, which gives him and me confidence that he'll be in early again (next game) and he'll perform again."
On if confidence was an issue with Polee II:
"Anytime you don't get to play, you worry why. You've got to play and be on the floor to really feel good about yourself. Dwayne Polee knows he's a good player. The nice thing about Dwayne is he's such a wonderful young guy. He's had a couple games where he didn't get to play and you would not know it by his demeanor in the locker room after the game. When we win, he's happy. If you're that way, when your time comes, you're going to play. I'm proud of what he's done. I'm happy for him as well as for us."
On how the players have handled receiving more attention in the community:
"Players are like coaches and fans, they love people talking about them in a good way. And when you win, they usually talk good about you. So we've embraced it. We think we're good and we're hungry to get better. So we like the fact we're ranked in the top five in the country. If we keep winning, who knows what could happen. But we're also wise enough to know that if we don't keep winning, the opposite will happen. You can't make that pressure, you have to thrive on that. I think anyone who does something successfully, there's pressure that comes from the outside world and also themselves to become as good as they can be. That's what we've tried to do."
Junior forward Dwayne Polee II
On the game-winning shot against Boise State:
"Well, walking out of the huddle, I told (Xavier Thames) it's time for big-time players to make big-time plays. I saw (Thames) coming off the pick-and roll, my man sunk in so I just kind of lifted right out of his vision and (Thames) found me. Something in my head said, `Shoot it.' So I shot it and it went right in."
On what it's like making a game-winning shot:
"That's a moment as a kid you dream about. All your life you wait for that final buzzer-beating shot to win the game or send the game into overtime. It's just the best feeling ever. It felt like I was in a dream."
On how long he allowed himself to enjoy it:
"Just the night. At the end of the day, it's a long season and we've got another game to prepare for. Nevada is a real good team. So it was a good moment, but now we have to move on to the future and move on to this next game."
On Xavier Thames trusting him to take the last shot:
"That's just a testament to the type of player (Thames) is and the type of season we've been having. We've got a lot of unselfish players and a lot of players that can do a lot of things. That just shows the type of non-selfish player (Thames) really is."
On how big his shot was for the team:
"That just shows the fight that we have. Going on a 14-0 run and to cap off the game like that, that's huge for our team's momentum we'll be carrying for the rest of the season."
On what it was like being on campus the next day:
"It was pretty cool. People were coming up to me and congratulating me. My professor congratulated me, so it made me feel good."
On his approach to his role on the team this year:
"Just to be there for whatever. If my teammates need me for emotional support, I'm there to talk to them. If they need me on the bench clapping or in the game to get a stop, a rebound or a bucket. Whatever they need me to do, I feel like I'm that versatile guy that can do whatever. I'm not the type to just pout when I don't get into the game. I just try to be there for my teammates and my team and do whatever I need to do."
On being rewarded for his patience:
"(Coach Fisher) has been instilling confidence in me since the first game. I've just been trying to work hard and show him that I belong on the court."
Senior guard Xavier Thames
On if they should be happy they're winning close games or concerned the games are so close:
"All the games are going to be close in MW play, it's a good league. We just can't allow ourselves to get down by that margin. We talked about it and we have some things to work on, but all of the games are going to be close in conference so we just have to take it game by game and be prepared."
On if they expected Nevada to be this good in conference play:
"I did. They've got great players. They're playing better defense than they did last year. We knew they would have a good team this year."
On his role on the team:
"Whatever coach needs me to do, I'm going to do it. Everybody knows I'm a team player. It's not about me. Without my team, I wouldn't be getting this recognition and things like that. So my role is just whatever coach wants me to do, I'll do it. I'm a team guy."
On why they haven't been shooting the ball as well lately:
"I think over the last few games or so, nobody has been taking bad shots, we've just been missing easy shots. Last game, we just made the shots we've normally been missing, and I think that's why we've shot a good field goal percentage. The last few games, everybody has been getting good looks. We just haven't been able to knock them in."
Junior forward JJ O'Brien
On what the come-back win does for the team's confidence:
"I think it just allows us to be more confident in all games if we get in a situation like that again. We're pretty battle-tested now so if we're ever in that situation again, we know we have the ability to come back. So our confidence is pretty high."
On getting the opposing team's best shot:
"When we go to places to play, the arenas are sold out and there's a lot of fans there. Yes, we're getting everybody's best shot. We're a team where if somebody beats us, it could be their ticket to the (NCAA) tournament. But that's what you want. You don't want teams to just lay down for you, you want a good game and you want to compete. So we're just going to keep getting prepared for that, but each and every night, we're getting everybody's best shot."
On Xavier Thames trusting his teammates:
"I think it puts a lot of confidence in us that he trusts us with game-winning plays, or with any play. We put the ball in his hands a lot and he always comes through for us. He's not afraid to share the ball, and I think that goes to show he has character, knows how to play the game the right way and also that he has confidence in us to make plays. So I think it just makes us all better and more confident that our leader has confidence in us."
Junior guard Aqeel Quinn
On what it's been like since the win at Boise State:
"I think the celebration happened right after the game. Everybody was excited, we couldn't believe (Polee) hit the shot. It was a surreal feeling, definitely. It was one of the best games I've been a part of. It was great."
On why they started so slow against Boise State and what they can do to prevent that:
"Just come in more focused on the defensive end. And our energy was kind of low, so we've just got to pick up our energy and intensity on defense and I think we'll be fine at the start of the game."
"We think Nevada is a very good team. We know they're a very good team, actually. We've just got to have more focus on (Burton) and when he's coming in transition, build a wall (of defenders) and try to stop him."
On Polee making the game-winning shot:
"Well for me, I've known (Polee) since he was little, so when I saw him make the shot, I was ecstatic for him. I was so happy for him."
On if there's been any difference in people's reaction to them on campus and around town:
"Yes. Just yesterday I was walking on campus taking a stroll and a guy asked if I could take a picture. The community has embraced us, and I think we all love it. We love the fans here, we love the community and it's just great right now."