March 12, 2009 - 4:44 pm
The transcript of the San Diego State news conference, following the Aztecs’ 71-57 victory over UNLV in Thursday’s quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center:
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by San Diego State student-athletes Lorrenzo Wade, Kyle Spain and Richie Williams, and Coach Steve Fisher. We’ll start with an opening comment about the game from Coach Fisher.
COACH FISHER: I thought our three performances against UNLV were good, better and this was the best one. This was the best of the three. And it was keyed by our seniors. You see three of the five right here that were determined to play with poise when stress hit and make important plays, make plays you don’t draw up on clipboard. And they did that – to a man.
But I’m more proud of our group collectively, and in particular our seniors who have done so much for this program. I think it’s fitting for them to play on. So they led this team. They led this team to a victory against a really good team that is almost impossible to beat here, and we found a way to do it.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we’ll open it up for questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Lorrenzo, significance of beating this team in this building twice this season and twice in five days.
LORRENZO WADE: Uhm, it’s pretty big. We knew coming into the Mountain West Conference tournament this was gonna be a game that had a championship feel to it, especially playing Vegas on their home court.
We know that it says Mountain West Conference on the floor, but we know this is Rebel nation. We had to come in here and buckle down defensively and go from there.
Q. Everybody had made such a big deal out of beating this team three times. Did you think maybe you had them on their heels as much as you might have had concerns that you couldn’t do that?
LORRENZO WADE: Uhm, you never really know with a team like this, especially with a player like Wink Adams. You saw in the first half especially when he gets on a roll, they’re a totally different basketball team. So, no, I didn’t feel like we had them on their heels at all, especially because the records in this tournament were 0-0. So it really didn’t matter. You just had to come here and do what you had to do to get a win.
Q. Lorrenzo, I can’t help but think that your experience, I noticed this was a while back when you were with Louisville, playing in all these big games, had to serve you personally well at the start of this portion of your career. Can you talk about any correlation between the time you were at Louisville and the way you played today, way you were able to lead.
LORRENZO WADE: Playing with players like Francisco Garcia, Ellis Myles, Taquan Dean, you learn to carry yourself on the court. You learn to keep your composure and how to lead.
What you don’t want to do out there as a leader is lose your cool. You want to remain as confident and positive as possible with your teammates. Coach preaches that each and every day. Watch how you say things to your teammates. Have some compassion for them. That’s what we try to do as senior leaders. We know we might get the majority of the touches, but each and every person on our team is just as valuable.
Q. There were near 11,000 people in the stands. You could hear the Aztec fans. Talk about that. Did that affect you at all on the court?
RICHIE WILLIAMS: Uhm, it’s great to come out here and have some support. We didn’t think our fan base was going to be as big as it was. But we knew we were going to have to come here and take care of business. This is UNLV’s home court. We expected them to have the majority of the crowd. So we wanted to make sure they were sitting down the whole time and make stops defensively.
LORRENZO WADE: I was excited to have as many people here from San Diego as we did have.
I personally didn’t expect for there to be 11,000 people at the game. You know, I figure students would be in class and everyone else would be at work. But they managed to make it out. It was a great atmosphere out there. I definitely appreciated it.
Q. Kyle, could you have played a better first half? How important was it to survive that first eight or ten minutes, especially coming back into this building?
KYLE SPAIN: I believe this game, all of us came out with a lot more passion than we have in the previous games. Every minute of the game is important. But I believe the most important is in the second half. That’s when we really needed to buckle down. Some people get stiff. Some people get sore. That’s when the concentration level needs to increase.
Q. Lorrenzo, as a senior, this is the time of year where it might be very easy to play for yourself and be selfish. You were never more unselfish than you were today. Is there a maturity about you that has come over the last few months? If so, what brought it about?
LORRENZO WADE: You know what, I actually try to follow Coach Fisher’s lead. Coach Fisher is the head honcho at San Diego State. He doesn’t make anyone else feel they’re less of a person than he is. He’s a very unselfish guy with our assistant coaches or us as players. I basically go out there. I’m an extension of Coach Fisher out there on the court. It’s not about me, it’s about us winning as many games as we possibly can and achieving a goal as a team.
Q. Every year, going into the tournament, people talk about beating UNLV because it is such a tough thing to do on their home court. Now that you have done this, do you feel this is your tournament to win?
KYLE SPAIN: Every game is the most important. I mean, the next game will be just as important as was the first one. Although the first game is the most important in the tournament, every game is going to be extremely difficult to play.
Q. You’ve had your struggles with BYU this year. What’s the key to knocking them off this third chance?
LORRENZO WADE: You know what, we have to go out there and we have to play defense. We have to control the basketball, limit our turnovers. Again, it all just comes back to defense. If we can maintain or defensive intensity, I believe in the last two to four minutes of a game, we’re gonna be right in there with anyone in the country.
KYLE SPAIN: What Lorrenzo said (smiling).
RICHIE WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah. I mean, Lorrenzo pretty much touched on it. Play defense, take care of the ball, get back on defense. They’re such a well-disciplined team. They run well and get a lot of baskets on their transition offense. So as long as we slow down guys like Fredette and make Cummard take hard shots, I think we’ll be fine.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we’ll dismiss the student-athletes. Thank you, men. We’ll open it up now to questions for Coach Fisher.
Q. Coach, because you beat this team three times this year, twice in this building, two times in five days now, is it a little more difficult because you and Lon know each other so well?
COACH FISHER: It’s impossible to beat them once. Lon is a terrific coach. Everybody knows that. He’s done a phenomenal job with this program. He’s as classy a guy as there is in the country. And I have great respect and love for him.
We know Barb and his family. He coaches and he’s got good players. And that makes it hard.
You know, we’re playing against his players, and he’s kind of moving ’em around.
To come in here and win twice in the same season is significant. I mean, look at what they’ve done in the course of two-and-a-half years or whatever it is. They were 30-1, I think, coming in against Mountain West Conference teams, and we were the only team to beat them. Now they’re 30-2. That’s hard to do.
They play. They are good. They’re good anywhere, but they’re phenomenal at home. And we found a way to do it.
Again, you got to have good players to do that. We’ve got good players, also. We’ve got a veteran crew of good players that stepped up. Lorrenzo had no turnovers today. He had the ball in some tough situations. Richie did a great job with the ball. We had 20 turnovers against them at our place, and that was the number one key. We said, We can’t turn the ball over 20 times against them. We had two first-half turnovers, seven for the game, and it was huge. Easier to guard when you can run back either from them taking it out of the net or having to get a hard defensive rebound.
Q. You heard me ask Lorrenzo about the maturity that seems to have evolved over the last few months. Could you speak to it. Maybe, could you pinpoint if there was a certain juncture where you saw this maturity.
COACH FISHER: I wouldn’t know it in terms of from a playing standpoint. But when you’re really good – and Lorrenzo is really good – at times you try to do a little bit too much. And that doesn’t mean that you’re selfish, but at times it looks selfish.
We came in here Game 1. Lorrenzo was sick as a dog. He was 0-7 from three-point range, took some ugly-looking three-point shots. I didn’t like some of the shots he took. I think it boils down to some degree of trust – not only trusting yourself but trusting the four other guys that are out on that floor with you. Boy, he was good today, as was our team.
I think if you start moving the ball and share the ball, it becomes infectious. If it sticks in one guy’s hand, and it doesn’t matter who it is, then it all of a sudden sticks in the next guy’s hand.
But today, and it was everybody, but Lorrenzo epitomized it. We moved the ball. When people were open, we found them. We got good shots as a result of that.
Lorrenzo is a good player and he’s a good, young man.
Q. You realize by beating them here today in this setting you probably have the contract to remain here extended by another four years. Can you talk about that. Is that okay to keep coming back here, now that it’s proven it can be done?
COACH FISHER: You know what, I’d just as soon not talk about that right now. I’d as soon talk about the game. It was a great atmosphere. There’s no question about that. Talk about our team, getting ready for the next game.
That’s for wiser men to talk about later on. I’ll probably have a little input on it, but not right now.
Q. Talking about the next game, what were the challenges certainly not unique to this year, but with BYU this year, you’ll have to overcome next time around?
COACH FISHER: Well, I’m hoping that we can do a little bit better job at guarding, a little bit better job at taking care of the ball, make some shots, when they put a zone against us, do a little better job of handling that.
They’re a good team. Three straight years they’ve won or tied for the conference championship. They’re also very well-coached, and they can hurt you in a lot of positions. It’s not just Cummard or Tavernari or Fredette. It’s all of them. They’re good. It’s a good team.
We’re going to have to play hard. If we do, we’ll have a chance. We had a chance in the first two. Late in the game, at their place, we make a steal that if we could have got it completed would have made it a two-point game with under a minute and a half to go. Game 2, everybody says we gave it away. If I’m BYU, I would be insulted on that. They came back and took it. Ebbs and flows occur no matter who you are. They made plays and made shots more and better than we did.
Hopefully we’ll make a few more tomorrow.
Q. What didn’t you like about this game today? Can you think of anything?
COACH FISHER: I thought that we played very good basketball. And somebody asked the question of the first half. It was important for us to get off to a good start. We talked about playing with controlled desperation because we knew that’s how Vegas would play. And I thought we did that.
We made some shots. A couple of ’em, it kind of hung on the rim and went in. We maybe got some good fortune that gave us a boost. But we played really, really good basketball almost for 40 minutes. When you don’t turn the ball over, and Vegas makes you turn the ball over, and they put you in really tough positions. They turn you over for layups, they turn you over for open threes, and we did not let that happen today. That was so critical to our success.
We were good. We were good in an environment where if you crack for a moment, they would pour right through. We did not do that. Yeah, I liked pretty much everything we did.
Q. You were able to get out to a really fast start, keyed by Amoroso. How important was it to get out to a fast start and not allow UNLV to get into the game?
COACH FISHER: It’s always easier playing with the lead. It’s hard when you’re double-digit down and you come back and cut it to seven, eight, nine, then all of a sudden the other team hits a shot. It’s always easier when that happens.
We were able to do that. We fought ’em off. When we got that first-half lead, they came over with six minutes to go. Lorrenzo, as we were talking as coaches, I came in, he says, Carry it into the half, carry it into halftime, carry the effort, carry the lead into halftime. And I think that was very important.
In our first game, I think we had an eight-, nine-point lead. All of a sudden two baskets and a turnover, it’s a tied game. We didn’t let that happen today.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.