Feb. 20, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
Associate head coach Brian Dutcher
"Well everybody knows we had a nice two-game comeback after the loss at Wyoming. The Air Force win was hard-fought. Our team was prepared, they did a great job. To follow that up against a good Utah State team that took us to overtime at their place, and to battle and win that game the fashion that we did, we feel good about ourselves heading into the New Mexico game this weekend. We're healthy, we'll do our first real preparation day on the court for New Mexico today. We've obviously got some things to work on. New Mexico is an excellent basketball team that is playing really well right now. They present many problems. They have the defending Mountain West Player of the Year back, Kendall Williams, who played outstanding last night against UNLV. They have Cameron Bairstow, who is in the conversation along with Xavier Thames for possible player of the year this year in the conference. They return four starters from last year's tournament championship team. They present great problems, and we look forward to figuring out the answers. We've won five of our last eight games at The Pit, so we've had success in the building, but we've also had good teams that have gone in there. So hopefully this team will be up to that task and be ready to battle the Lobos on Saturday night."
On what is so hard about playing at New Mexico:
"Their fans are incredible, a lot like ours here. They're loud and very supportive of their team without being too hard on the opposition. They're good basketball fans. They know good basketball and appreciate good basketball. They're loud, they're proud and they make it hard on the opposition. Everybody talks about the altitude, but we think we've done a good job of performing in altitude over the years. We have a deeper bench than we've ever had, so if we get a guy that's tired early in the game, we're not afraid to go to our bench. We've had multiple players contribute at different levels during games all season long. So maybe we go to the bench a little quicker than normal, but we've done that and have been successful with that over the past."
On what this year's bench brings that they didn't have in previous seasons:
"I think we've always had good benches, but as coaches, this year more than ever, we've trusted in our bench. We've thrown them in tough situations early in the year, so now that we're at this point of the season, we know what to expect from them. I think a lot of times, benches are developed in times of trouble. When a guy is hurt, then another guy gets an opportunity. But I think as coaches, we've thrown them into the fire early to see how they respond. Because we did that, we know they're capable of performing at a high level, and we're not as fearful to go to them in a big game."
On why they've used their bench more this season:
"I think a lot of it is a direct result of our recruiting efforts. I think as we continue to recruit better players, our bench gets deeper. Everybody on our roster is capable of competing. As our trust in our players has grown, we've become more open to playing more players early in the game. With the nature of the way we play, we're pressing more than we've ever pressed (in years past), it's beneficial to play more players, because we get guys tired. You can't press all game with six or seven guys. So we'll use 9 or 10 guys because of the way we play. Nobody else in the (MW) plays like we do in terms of full-court pressure. Everybody presses to a degree, but our staff has done a great job of saying, `This is a staple of our team. We're going to pick up full court.' And because we do, we need to play more players, and I think we've done a good job of managing that over the course of the year."
On if the players are looking forward to this game:
"I think both teams have great respect for each other. So when you're a player, and you come to San Diego State or New Mexico, this is the kind of game you wait to play. You want your challenge at the highest level. We have great respect for New Mexico. I remember sitting on the bench with Skylar (Spencer) at the end of the game in the MW Tournament against New Mexico, and I said, `This is a standard you need to meet if we're going to be as good as we need to be. He was just a freshman talking about, `I need to get stronger, I need to get more experienced.' I thought it was great he said, `I know I have to get better in order for us to be as good as we can be.' So I think he is excited to go in there and have a shot to prove to himself and to us that he's growing as a great player."
On playing against New Mexico's big men:
"New Mexico's big men are elite players. A lot of times, teams will have a 7-footer or a 6-9 guy, but they're as thin as a rail. These guys are grown men, they're enormous human beings. So when they carve out space in the paint, they're hard to move. So we've got to find a way to move them off their sweet spot, or else get around in front of them to keep them from catching the ball. They present a challenge that we haven't see size-wise since we played at Kansas. A lot of teams have one really good big man, (New Mexico) has two that they start, so it's a challenge as a coaching staff to come up with a game plan that limits what they do against us, while at the same time having to stop good guards. And it's not in just this game. We meet again in two or three weeks, so it's going to be two games that come in rapid succession. It's an interesting scenario for us."
On if the two late meetings against New Mexico makes things different:
"I think when you play early in the season, both teams are trying to find their way a little bit. By playing them twice late in the season, both teams pretty much know what they are. They know what their strengths are and what weaknesses they still may have. So it's going to be two teams who are pretty confident, pretty happy to be where they are right now and ready to be tested. This is going to be real challenge for us playing at their place."
Senior guard Xavier Thames
On why The Pit is such a tough place to play:
"Well first, they have a great team. That's what it starts with. They have unbelievable fans that come out and support them each and every game, so that's why it makes it tough to play there. It's a great environment and we loving playing there."
On if this year's bench is deeper than it has been in past seasons:
"Yes I think so, we talked about that at the beginning of the year. All of those guys have helped us out. I'm just happy they're on the team. It does help having the depth, especially later in the season. Guys get tired and things like that, so it has helped. It's different than last year when we only played seven or eight guys. We're much deeper this year, so I think it's been helping us this year a lot."
On if he got to watch any of the New Mexico-UNLV game on Wednesday night:
"I saw a little bit of it, I watched most of the second half. UNLV kind of came back and New Mexico put it away. Kendall (Williams) and (Cameron) Bairstow had great games."
On if he saw any surprises watching the New Mexico-UNLV game on Wednesday night:
"No, I wasn't surprised at anything. We've been playing (New Mexico) for the last three or four years, so it was no surprise. We just have to come out and be ready for Saturday."
On if he views this game as a gage to see where they're at heading into the MW Tournament:
"A little bit, but our league is tough. Every team is a good team. New Mexico is right behind us in second place. It's just going to be a great game in fun atmosphere, but it is a challenge. (New Mexico) is our rival team. I'm sure they don't like us and it's always been like that, but we have a lot of respect for them and I'm sure they have respect for us. So it's going to be fun."
Junior forward Dwayne Polee II
On the team using its bench early in the season and how it has helped them:
"I think it's been very helpful because now that we're in the later part of the season, people get tired and they get hurt. So we just come off the bench and bring a lot of energy. Also it's harder to scout when you have multiple people that can come off the bench and still come in and contribute."
On having to play New Mexico twice this late in the season:
"Yes, I think we've had some pretty tough, challenging games. This will be a good test for us, playing (New Mexico) twice."
On what he likes about his role coming off the bench:
"It just gives me a chance to see the flow of the game, how the game is going, who is rolling for the other team and who's not. I just try to come off the bench and bring as much energy as I can. I take pride in that role. People think coming off the bench is something that is frowned upon, but I take great pride in that role of bringing a lot of energy coming off the bench."
Sophomore center Skylar Spencer
On if he puts a little extra emphasis on this game:
"Yes sort of. Our last two games (against New Mexico), we've lost to them, so it's a game I'm looking forward to. I'm not going to pump it up too much or I'll lose focus. I'll treat it like every other game, but I know it's going to be a good one."
On the biggest challenge New Mexico presents:
"They're a really good team and I think they matchup well with us. They have some good big men and some good guards, so I think it's a pretty good matchup all-around."