#AztecMBB Press Conference Quotes

Dec. 30, 2013

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Head coach Steve Fisher

Opening Statement:
"We are moving into phase two of the season. We used to talk about three different entities - preseason, conference play and postseason - so we're moving into phase No. 2, conference season. Everything is ratcheted up another level whether you know it or not, rather you like it or not, especially early when everyone feels they're going to win the league. So we're moving into Colorado State at their place, (MW) opener on New Year's night. They are very well coached with a lot of new pieces just like we have, but they're good. What they're good at is the same thing they've been good at under (head coach) Larry Eustachy. They're a good rebounding team, they attack off the dribble and they don't show you a lot of set plays so they're hard to guard. So we'll face similar type of issues we have against them in the past, especially last year. So it's exciting, we look forward to it and we will come prepared, and if we play well, we will have an opportunity to be successful."

On how much pride he takes in his team's defense this season:
"If you're going to win in any team sport, you better be able to defend. That's in any sport. If you can defend and not give up a lot of easy plays to your opponent, you've got a chance to be successful, and we've put a premium on that. We haven't just talked about it, we practice what we preach, and our players know that. We're pretty good at team defense, but it starts with how individuals defend. You've got to guard the ball, not give up dribble penetration and bring closure to it with rebounding. So we're good. Do we have room for improvement? Absolutely. We've got a lot of things we can grow from. We're not a very good defensive rebounding team for what we have athletically, we have to be better with that. But we're a good defensive team."

On the upcoming game at Kansas:
"Hopefully our fans will not be dismissing Colorado State and looking ahead to Kansas. Everybody knows we play Kansas on Sunday, Jan. 5. But we have a more important game, because it's a league game, against Colorado State. I'm not worried about our energy and effort. We'll play hard and hopefully we'll play well. (Kansas) is a hard place to play. I've never taken a team there, but I've heard how good they are, especially at home, and how good they are period. So we're excited to play (Kansas). We have them returning here not next year, but the following year, and that will be great for all of us. That will be a good test for us, but the most important game is Colorado State, and the MW games that we've got."

On what makes it hard to defend teams that don't run many set plays:
"We take great pride in scouting our opponents, and I don't think there's anybody in American better than (associate head coach) Brian Dutcher. But when they do things you can figure out like, `A passes to B and screens for C,' you can stop that, and we're good at stopping teams that run set plays. We take pride in not letting you score on set plays. With Colorado State, I know they work on their motion offense, but it's hard to get a pattern on what they do. They set a lot of quick, random ball screens that anybody can set for anybody else, they get you chasing and when they drive, you don't have the same vision you would in a normal setting. So I think you roll that all together, and when you get good players that have discipline, which they do, it makes them hard to guard. Colorado State is a lot like us from the standpoint of they find their way to the free-throw line a lot. They've made close to 30 more free throws than their opponents have attempted, and that's where we are too. That's a winning formula. (CSU) is a very good free-throw shooting team. They're shooting over 70 percent as a team from the line, so you can't foul them. And they draw a lot of fouls by how they play."

Senior guard Xavier Thames

On if he's ready for MW play:
"Yes, conference play is always tough, especially on the road at Colorado State. It's going to be a tough game. They're a good team, so we've just got to come out ready to play."

On what he sees from Colorado State this season:
"The same as recent years. They're a hard-working team, they're going to crash the boards and are going to defend hard. So we just have to come out and match their intensity, and we'll see what happens from there."

On if it's difficult to focus on Colorado State knowing the Kansas game is on the horizon:
"No, not really. We know Colorado State is a very good team and they're dangerous, especially at home. So we're not even worried about Kansas right now. Our main focus is on Colorado State and getting this first MW win on the road against a very good team."

On what he remembers from the game at Colorado State last season:
"Just that it was a hard-fought game, like it always is when we go there or they come here. I know I missed a few shots toward the end of the game that could have helped us out. So it was just a hard-fought game and I'm expecting the same on Wednesday."

On how much pride he's taking on the identity of this team being defensive team:
"The whole coaching staff finds ways to help us get better, so I think it's more on the coaches, but also us (players) as well. We want to get better each and every day when we come out to practice, so it's a credit to the coaches and to us as well."

On what it takes to win in conference play:
"Just focusing and the mental aspect. There's going to be a lot of close games, almost every game is going to be a close game, and you just have to fight all the way down to the wire. Just focus mentally and not get down when you're losing because teams are going to come back and different things like that. So I'd just say focusing and going out there and giving it your all."

On what it takes physically and mentally to get through conference play:
"We all put in a lot of hard work over the summer getting our bodies right, and I think everybody right now is pretty healthy going into conference play. So that's a pretty good thing. But just focusing in on each and every game. You can't take games off because every game is going to be a big game."

Sophomore forward Winston Shepard

On how they prepared for conference play during their recent break:
"We've been doing what we've done all season. We took a couple days off but we've been right back at it preparing for Colorado State. It's the most important game because it's the next game. So we've just been getting ready for that."

On if it's important to get to a MW road victory:
"Absolutely. In the Mountain West, there's no easy games regardless of what a team's record is. Everybody steps their play up in conference, so going on the road, we've got to bring our A-game and be prepared."

On if losing the past two games at Colorado State helps them get motivated this time around:
"It's definitely in the back of our minds. I wouldn't say it's our main motivation. Our main motivation is coming out and winning every game, but it's definitely in the back of our minds to help us out a little bit extra."

On what he remembers from the game at Colorado State last season:
"I remember just not playing that well up there, losing the game and that (CSU) had those orange uniforms on (laughs). But we just want to go up there and take care of business and get our conference season started on the right foot."

On how much pride he's taking on the identity of this team being defensive team:
"I think everybody takes pride in it, and I have to give all the credit to (assistant coach Justin Hutson). No matter how good we played last game or how good we thought we were on defense, (Hutson) always finds things for us to get better at and things he felt we didn't do that well."

On what lessons he learned going through MW play for the first time last season:
"The first time you go through conference (play), you don't really know what to expect. (Last season) was a great experience for me and it was very fun. But during the summer I put in a lot of work, not only on my game, but on my body as well, to take some of the punishment of conference. It gets tough flying on private planes, they're a little small and tight. So you definitely have to be prepared for those types of things."

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