March 7, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Steve Fisher
"As much as I've looked at our schedule and said, `Why are we playing (New Mexico), and then playing them again two weeks later?' It's fitting the two best teams are playing where one will win the conference championship, and that's what we've got. We've got the two best teams in the league over an 18-game schedule, which is as taxing as it could be in all sorts of environments, home and away with injury and all sorts of things that factor into a long season. If you would have said the winner of the league is going to be 16-2, I would have said, `I don't think so.' I would have said four losses would have a good chance to tie for it. We're a good team and New Mexico is a good team. They got the best of us, and then some, in their building, and our goal is to find a way to get a win against them. They're good in a lot of things, and so are we. I think the atmosphere will be sensational as usual, and we're playing for the conference crown. So the incentive and motivation is we want to win a conference championship and we want to hang a banner. And this game is a game we have to win in order to do that."
On what they can do differently this time against New Mexico:
"We'll we've got to make sure we don't allow the ball to come in easily to low post. (New Mexico is) big, they're good and they throw the ball inside. So we've got to see how we make it harder for them to throw it in. But maybe the most important thing is we can't give them easy baskets, and they got way too many run-outs on us in the first game. We can't let that happen, and we've been for the most part this season pretty good at protecting the ball and not giving up a lot of points because of our own miscues. But we've got to get back when we miss because they run. And then compete. We've got to find a way to just dig in and stay with it."
On what seniors Josh Davis and Xavier Thames have meant to the program:
"Josh Davis is a different kind of a senior. He's a fifth-year senior who has played one year with us. No way are we where we are record-wise without Josh Davis. He came in and gave us the missing ingredient that we did not have - a big body that can guard a variety of spots, a dynamic rebounder and someone who can score the ball, probably in that order. Josh has done so many things for us that don't get shown in a stat line. He hasn't shot the ball as well the last couple of games, but he still brings a lot to this team. We're so appreciative and pleased he's going to be one of those seniors that will walk out (on Saturday) for us. He's been terrific for us. Xavier (Thames) has been here four years - three years and one year as a redshirt - and he epitomizes what you hope every player will do - he's gotten better, and better and better, and is the consummate team player. The recognition (Thames) has gotten this year is justified. We don't do what we've done without his presence on the floor. He can do more than score, but he's been a big-time scorer for us. He's our best on-ball defender, our best help defender. I'll have a tear in the eye for both of them when they come out. It will be a neat emotional moment that hopefully won't impact trying too hard during the game."
On Xavier Thames' quiet demeanor:
"You have to be who you are, and it's hard to change your personality. I wish (Thames) were more vocal at times, but he leads in his own way. You have to make him sit out a drill. He does have the ability to stay pretty level and not get too high. He's not afraid to speak his mind. He says things, and because he doesn't do a lot of talking, when he talks everybody listens. And I think with that style of personality, it helps others maintain that equilibrium and not go off the deep end if things go south a little bit."
On how Josh Davis is able to play so well inside despite not being that big:
"Josh is a tremendous rebounder, and I think a lot of that is will, where he wills himself to go get the ball. He pursues every ball like it has to be his. Every shot that goes up, he thinks is going to be missed and he has to go get it. But he has the knack to quickly gravitate to the right area. Sometimes guys run around, but they're never around the ball. They jump real high but the ball never finds them. (Davis) finds the ball and the ball finds him. I think his motor to really play hard sets him apart from most players of his size and athleticism."
On if anything has been different with Davis lately offensively:
"I think offensively, he's gotten a little anxious. He was in this morning watching film. He was saying, `I need to take one more dribble at times rather than shooting it with a little bit of a lunge, and not worry about getting my shot blocked.' I think that's part of it, and part of it is we've got other guys that are shooting the ball too, and I know he's not getting as many touches as he did at Tulane. We've got a lot of guys that can score the ball. I think it's a little bit of him just slowing down on offense when he has the ball."
On if the team talks about getting revenge going into Saturday's game:
"I don't' think anybody in our locker room has talked about revenge. We're playing for a conference championship. We know we got throttled in their building. We've got so many reasons why we'll be ready to play (Saturday). No. 1 is we're playing for the outright conference championship against another team doing the same thing. It's two really good teams playing one another, and we've had some great games against New Mexico and some crazy games against them. Crazy things happen in this game."
On if the team has played with a chip on its shoulder all season:
"It sounds good, but I think if you look at the projections in preseason going in, we were a close fourth (place). New Mexico was picked first because they had everybody back. They had four starters back from a team that won the league and the (MW) tournament last year. So everybody was going to predict them to be first. We thought we would be good. We're very excited that we're 26-3 good, and equally excited to be playing tomorrow in the most important game to win the conference championship."
On New Mexico forward Cameron Bairstow's improvement this season:
"Bairstow is the most improved player in the country. I watched tape on him from last year, and he doesn't look like the same player. Physically, he doesn't look like the same player. He's changed his body significantly, and his game has come right along with that. He's a tremendous basketball player. He knows it and they know it. He gets a lot of touches and is a good player."
Senior guard Xavier Thames
On playing for the Mountain West championship on Saturday:
"It's going to be a good game. Winner takes all, like you said. It's going to be fun. I'm excited to play and can't wait to play."
On if playing at home is a bigger advantage than New Mexico having forward Cameron Bairstow:
"It's a little bit of both. Bairstow is a great player. He's good. We just have to limit him and his touches and things like that. I know our crowd is going to be great tomorrow. It's going to be sold out and it's going to be loud. I know it's going to be good."
On what the team would be like without Josh Davis:
"It would be a lot more difficult. He's a big factor for our team. He does all the little things that people really don't see but we see it in film and different things like that. Without him, we wouldn't be where we are right now. I'm glad he came here and I'm happy to have him."
On what the team can do differently to be more effective against New Mexico:
"Last game, we didn't get back in transition really well. That's one of the main things. We have to rebound as well. I think our transition defense and rebounding are the two main things. We have to guard better. We didn't play a good defensive game (in the first meeting)."
On playing his final game at Viejas Arena:
"It'll probably hit me once I step onto the court, with my family being there and everything. It will probably hit me when they call my name for Senior Night. I've enjoyed it here. There's no other place I'd rather be than at San Diego State. I just love all the fans and the whole community. I'm just blessed to be a part of this."
On if there is a revenge factor in this game against New Mexico:
"We lost the last game so we just want to come out and get a win, and also, like you said, it's for the championship. It can't get much better than that. We just have to come out and compete. Everybody is going to be ready. I know they're going to be ready, too. I think it's going to be a great game."
On if he thinks people care more about the NCAA Tournament than conference play:
"At the beginning of the year, coach talked about how we want to write a book. So this is the first book, and we're closing the book with the last game of the regular season. We'll write our next book about the conference tournament and NCAA tournament, but right now, we're still on that first book and we're trying to end it on a good note. That's what we've talked about from the beginning of the year."
On if he thinks fans put more focus on the NCAA Tournament and don't appreciate a conference championship:
"I think so, but we can't get into what the fans think. I do think that fans maybe care a little bit more about the NCAA Tournament than the conference tournament just because all the of the hype surrounding it. We did want to win a conference championship coming into the regular season. That's what we're going to try to do."
Senior forward Josh Davis
On playing for the conference championship on Saturday:
"We're excited to play, especially a rematch, and get back to it. We're going to go into this game with a lot of confidence and prepare to win."
On his stats the last few weeks of the season:
"First of all, I'm just happy to be part of this great team. That's the main thing. I do everything I can to contribute to the wins, no matter what the stats look like at the end of the day."
On if he gets frustrated when his shots don't fall like he wants them to:
"Yes everybody does, but I don't let it rattle me or anything. I just move onto the next game and, like you said, do whatever I can to help this team win."
On if he makes up for his shots not falling in by being a relentless rebounder:
"Like coach says, we can control our attitude and effort every day. Those are the main two things I can always control."
On his thoughts on the season:
"It went by quick. It's been great. Being a part of a top-10 team and playing against great teams...the wins we have are good wins. I'm just blessed to have this opportunity."
On the last game against New Mexico:
"They're a great team. They came in with a great strategy. We've been preparing and we just have to practice more today and be ready to go tomorrow."
On Xavier Thames:
"I knew from day one when I got here during the summer that he was a great point guard and a great player. I told everybody that he was going to have a great season. Compared to the ACC or any other conference, he's one of the best point guards in the nation. I've enjoyed playing with him. He's a great person."
On how he knew from the first day that Thames was a great player:
"I knew from a workout with maybe three or four players. There weren't that many people on the court but I could just tell by the way the workout went that he was going to have a successful season."
On what the wins at Fresno State and UNLV did for the team going into Saturday's game:
"They definitely gave us a lot of confidence, especially with our offense. We played well in those games so it definitely gave us confidence. The last game against UNLV was a tough game on the road, but we got the win. It's definitely helped us with our confidence."
On if being picked to finish fourth in the MW has motivated the team to play better:
"I know I've thought about it. At the beginning of the season, Winston Shepard made that a point that they picked us to finish fourth. We all took that to heart and decided to go out and play as hard as we could to prove them wrong."
On if he thinks people care more about the NCAA Tournament than the conference tournament:
"First, it's process to get to the tournament. You can't focus on the tournament too soon or the conference tournament too soon. You want to win game by game, every night and eventually get to the points you want to be at."
On putting pressure on New Mexico's players without getting into foul trouble:
"I'm still going to be aggressive. I'm not going to play any less. I just have to avoid some of the contact fouls that I received in the last game. Other than that, I'm not going to change. I'm still going to play aggressively."