Feb. 17, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Steve Fisher
"We're glad we're on a one-game winning streak. When you go back and watch the game (against Air Force), we defended them light years better than we did in the first meeting, which is a positive. (Air Force) shot 52 percent against us at their place, and shot 37 percent here. We gave them 18 layups last game, they had eight (on Saturday). Significantly better. We minimized back-cuts. I was pleased with what we did defensively. I thought we had a chance at home, when we got that 13-point lead, to maintain some distance. To their credit, and a little bit of what we didn't do, it didn't happen. We turned it over twice in a row and they went on a 7-0 run, and it was a tight game down the stretch. We are who we are. We shot 30 free throws and they made seven. We've been really good against everybody we've played of getting to the free-throw line. We need to maintain that. It's one of our huge strengths offensively. So now we have Utah State for the second time, and we had a whale of a game at their place. Utah State is playing in the upper-echelon of (the MW) right now. They've won three out of four, three in a row before UNLV, and they will come in ready to go. We need to make sure we are also."
On why Utah State is playing better in the MW this season compared to last year:
"Utah State is playing as well as any of the top four or five teams (in the MW). They struggled early to win games. They struggled out of the gate, but right now they're playing really good basketball. I know (head coach Stew Morrill) would like to start league play over right now. They're not going to win the league, but they could have a say in who wins the league. (Morrill) is a terrific coach. He's been successful everywhere he's been. They have more set plays that they execute than anybody in the country. They're like a football team. They'll have an assistant coach holding up a card, and another coach right next to him holding up a different card. One of them is the play they want to run. They run set play, after set play, after set play, and they're really good at it. Their two wing players, Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield, are two of the best 3-point shooting wing players in the league. So they're a hard team to guard."
On what he expects to be different against Utah State this time around:
"We've got 12,414 strong Aztecs. I think that will make a difference, our fans make a difference. The home court is a value. We can't say, `The fans will win it for us.' We need to come out and compete like crazy. So I think the secret to any game is how hard will you play, and how long will you play that way. How smart will you play, and how long will you play that way. If you can combine the two for an extended stretch, then you've got a good chance. But we're going to have to play 40 minutes because they're a good team. I know coaches always say that, but they are."
On only dropping one place in this week's AP Poll:
"I didn't give it a lot of thought. We were helped by teams that were right there who lost. Some of the teams that could have crept up ahead of us lost. So we held serve a little bit, for a lot of reasons. We are now regarded as a team with a program. It's not unusual to have San Diego State ranked, and I like that. It was about what you hope would happen if you're a San Diego State fan. You would have to say that's pretty fair where we got ranked this week."
On junior forward Dwayne Polee II:
"Dwayne has scored in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time since he's been here. It's happened for a lot of reasons - No. 1 he's playing well and No. 2 he's getting to play, or the other way around depending on who you ask. He's the first guy off the bench, and the ball finds Dwayne Polee. Dwayne Polee finds the ball at both ends of the floor. He gets more deflections than anybody else on our team. He gets opportunities because he's athletic and he's a hard guard. He has a knack when we're pressing to get his hand on the ball - get deflections, get steals, get layups and get dunks going the other way. He's a big reason why we've continued to be successful. I like how he's playing, we need to keep him that way. We need to keep him in the moment and concentrating on both ends of the floor. I'm really proud of what he's done. I've said this before: the best thing about Dwayne Polee is what we see every day and nobody else sees - how he is on the practice floor and how he is in the locker room. When he's played limited minutes, he's been smiling and happy, and that's not fake. He's a wonderful young guy, and that adds to the reasons why you feel good when he gets a chance and he performs."
On if Dwayne Polee is suited well for the sixth man role:
"I think most college kids, when they're close, are saying, `Boy, I wish I was a starter.' And yet, you control what you control. If you're that sixth man, you have to have the attitude of, `I'm the best sixth man to ever hit the planet, and I'm going to play that way every game.' And then that little voice in the back of your head says, `And then I'm going to be a starter.' I'm sure that's what he wants, and to be honest, if it keeps going that way, that will happen whether it's now, a month from now or next year."
On what would have to happen for Polee to start:
"To be quite honest, at this stage with six regular season games to go, it would have to be an injury or something drastic would have to happen. If you look at our MO over the years, I don't bounce around and play different combinations if you play bad one day. It's not who I am. You have to play and have some consistency, but I don't overreact when you have a game or two that's out of this world, or when you don't play well. So long answer to the question, (Polee) probably won't start (this season)."
On the role the team's walk-ons have had this season:
"Our walk-ons have been sensational. I don't refer to them as walk-ons, I say, `This is part of our team, let me have my scout team out here.' And they do a terrific job. They work very, very hard and they know their job description. They're probably not going to get to play unless it's a real, real big lead or a real, real big deficit. But they've been great. Whoever is our lead scout gets them together beforehand and they really work at it. You throw in Angelo Chol, who's also on the scout team, and they're pretty good. They give us a closer feel to what we'll see on game day as maybe any team we've had, and I think that has helped us."
Junior forward JJ O'Brien
On only dropping one spot in this week's AP Poll:
"Hopefully, it's respect. We know a couple other top-10 teams did lose though, so I know that plays a big part of it. But I think we've built up our resume enough where that one loss didn't hurt us too bad. So who knows?"
On what Winston Shepard brings to the team:
"Winston is a matchup nightmare on offense. A guy that is 6-foot-9 and can handle the ball and play anywhere (on the court) at any time. He's another ball-handler on the floor, he's our best passer. He can create plays for anybody, he can create plays for himself. He knows how to use his size. So he's someone on offense who is great for us. Defensively, he can guard anybody on the floor so he helps us a lot in those areas."
On the biggest challenge in keeping up their high level of play in the MW:
"I think staying alert and focused is the main thing. A lot of teams who get to this time and have put in so much energy to be in the top 25 get tired and maybe get complacent. That's why you see teams lose three, four, five games in a row. So I think the biggest challenge is staying focused, hungry and alert - wanting more, wanting to keep winning to keep achieving our goals."
Sophomore forward Winston Shepard
On how much he expects the home crowd to help the team on Tuesday:
"A lot. Hopefully it's a packed house for us, which I know it will be. And we expect not to go into overtime again (vs. Utah State), and hopefully beat them soundly this time. But they're a great team and they play very hard."
On how he interacts with the walk-ons and if he makes them feel like part of the team:
"Well they are part of the team. They push us every day and they have fun. Every game and every week, they get to pretend to be somebody different to get us prepared. They get to run other team's plays for us. They are a part of the team in my eyes and I wouldn't trade them."
Junior guard Aqeel Quinn
On the biggest key against Utah State this time around:
"Come out with more focus to start the game. On (Utah State's) floppy action (on offense), we've just got to be a little more focused and attentive to them running the baseline. So I think we'll be ready."
On if he wants the walk-ons to test them in practice:
"Yes, we definitely need the competitiveness to bring a game-like feel to practice so we know what it's going to be like during a game. For myself, I was there last year, so I definitely know how it feels to be in their position. They're an integral part of the team. We hang out outside of practice and when it comes to the court, they bring a lot to the table for us."