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UNLV vs. Air Force: Postgame Quotes

March 13, 2013

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UNLV Player and Coach Quotes:

THE MODERATOR: We're ready to begin with UNLV. Coach, some general comments on today's game.

COACH RICE: Absolutely. First of all, we were very concerned coming into this game. Tremendous respect for Coach Pilipovich and for Air Force. They got us pretty good when we played back in February. They run their offense so efficiently. They start four seniors, they have five seniors. We had a hard time getting them stopped.

Coming off our performance on Saturday, we came into that game winning five in a row, six out of seven. We didn't play the way we had been playing.

We were a determined group, practiced very well. A lot of that credit goes to the three guys sitting up here, their focus in practice the last couple days.

Felt like we guarded Air Force as well as we could. You look at the numbers, they shoot 42% from the floor, made 11 threes.

One of the keys for us down the stretch, why we played well other than the Fresno State game, is we valued the ball. That is the fourth game in a row we had between 9 and 10 turnovers, that is a huge deal. So for us to get 18 assists and nine turnovers, that's always the first number I look at.

We got low post touches. Anthony Bennett got us going. We challenged our guys defensively and we did a good job against the Falcons.

Credit goes to our coaching staff for a good game plan. We played their flares better than the first two times. Our guys picked that up. That was a huge key for us.

Terrific win for us. So much credit to the Air Force and the job they do. Certainly Michael Lyons is a fantastic player. Conference is better with Mike than without him. Yet that's part of the game.

We hope his health is okay. We have all the respect in the world for them. Great team victory for us, and these guys deserve all the credit for that staying together as a team. Now we get to move on and play on Friday, so we're excited about that.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.

Q. Anthony Bennett, do you feel like your shoulder injury might be a thing of the past?

Anthony Bennett: I wasn't really thinking about it. I was going out there doing the best I can. But it did feel pretty good.

Q. Anthony Marshall, how determined were you guys to wipe away what happened in the last regular season game?

Anthony Marshall: Very determined. You know, you could just see from the start of our game, our focus, our intensity. It all started with defense. Forcing them to have 15 turnovers, that allowed us to get out in transition, extra passes, stuff like that. That kind of keyed our offense by us playing great defense.

Q. Anthony Marshall, how much do you think it changed things or what were you thinking when Michael Lyons left the game?

Anthony Marshall: Of course, they're better with him. But they're still a tough team, no doubt.

We just tried to go out there and execute the game plan our coaching staff put together for us. They did a great job on the scout report. That allowed us to change up the way we wanted to guard him, and it was effective.

Q. Mike, the first time you and Anthony Bennett started together since January. How do you feel your chemistry was?

Mike Moser: Definitely more effective. Coach said we were starting together, we both had big smiles on our face. We love playing together. It's always easy because we have such a good chemistry. That's what I think helped get us going.

Q. Anthony, I wanted to ask you, a lot is made about you guys playing this at home. They change the court, put you in a different locker room. Is there still a comfort level to sleeping in your own bed, playing in Las Vegas with your own fans there?

Anthony Marshall: I don't really look at it like that. Fans from all over the conference come out. We have fans here. They have fans here. It's not an advantage. We have the luxury of being able to sleep in our own beds, that's about it.

Q. You mentioned that you changed up some defense, did some things differently. Can you be more specific defensively what you did to lock them down.

Anthony Marshall: Our coaching staff, they put together a terrific scouting report. They got us a couple times with back doors in the first couple games, they also did it tonight.

We just tried to get our body in between them and the goal so they couldn't get no easy shots, try to make them make tough shots over us. We guarded the flares different. We wanted to chase them over instead of letting them slip the screens and stuff like that.

The scouting report was a credit to our coaching staff.

Mike Moser: Yeah, no, definitely. Coach Hut kind of manned the scouting report this week. He made us be aggressive on defense. We were able to switch five, which put us in good positions to block shots. Easy to stand in front of guys and disrupt what they do.

Anthony Bennett: Just being physical on the back cuts, just hit 'em so they don't have the open lane. Hover in on defense.

Q. Anthony, what was your mindset in the second half?

Anthony Bennett: My teammates were giving me the ball in the first half. I was trying to look out for everybody, just kick it out in the post. So I think in the second half, they kind of laid back on me. So I just took advantage.

Q. Anthony, last year you were watching this thing on TV, now playing in this tournament. A few thoughts on that?

Anthony Bennett: It's crazy. It's a dream come true. All throughout my high school career, just watching the tournaments and stuff, it's a great feeling. Now that I'm here, just got to make the best of it.

Q. Anthony, talk about Anthony's performance. You've seen it all year. How fun is it when he's doing stuff like that to play alongside of him?

Anthony Marshall: It's a luxury to have a great guy. He's so unselfish, great player. Any time you have a great player like that that's unselfish it makes the game easy on you and fun. I have the luxury of having guys like him, Khem and Mike to throw the ball to. It makes my job easy. I just have to manage the clock and the team, go out there and have fun.

Q. Mike, could you talk about Friday's matchup now. Fresno State or Colorado State, either one will be a tough one.

Mike Moser: Yeah, both are good teams. Both have given us a little bit of trouble during the regular season. I don't really have a preference either way with either team. I know either way it's going to be a tough game.

COACH RICE: That was the answer you were expecting, right? You didn't think we were going to bite on that one, right (laughter)?

THE MODERATOR: We'll now open it up for questions for Coach Rice.

Q. Could you talk about Anthony Bennett's performance in the second half.

COACH RICE: He was terrific. The place I'm proudest was his commitment to the defensive end in the second half. He scored points for us all year long. He's rebounded the ball. He's as unselfish a player as I've ever been around. He's all about team. He made a great commitment on the defensive end. You have to do that because the way we guard Air Force, we switch five, we've got to get out, certainly their shooters are able to take advantage of big guys.

I was very proud of his effort today. It's the most healthy he's been since the Wyoming game when we had the shoulder situation.

Q. Could you talk about the effort against Todd Fletcher?

COACH RICE: He's a terrific player. He's one of the guys that I look at in the league. You just think about the success that Air Force has had this year. They've got five seniors. It starts with Michael Lyons and Todd Fletcher.

We watched the film of the New Mexico game, the huge shot he hit in the right corner when they beat the Lobos.

This wasn't your question, but I thought one of the real keys, we talk about guarding back doors, three point shots from Air Force, but when we lost there, they put it on us, they scored 71 points. 33 of those points were second chance points, we gave up 11 offensive rebounds. That was a huge key.

I looked at the numbers today. They got 11 points off of second chance points and off of turnovers. That's 33 to 11, that's a huge difference in the game. Real key for us with our team.

Q. You've been waiting to see Bennett and Moser play together. Now that you've got them together on a bigger stage, how satisfied are you?

COACH RICE: It's terrific and it works because Khem Birch is so unselfish. He was the defensive Player of the Year in our league. You think about how good he's going to be next year.

Yesterday I went to him and said, Khem, you've been great, I'm going to take you off the bench. No problem, coach, whatever it takes.

When you have all conference players that are willing to come off the bench, it's very satisfying. We saw that the first part of the season. Mike Moser is able to get offensive rebounds. He had 10 defensive rebounds. Anthony Bennett gives us a scoring presence. It's nice that they're both now as healthy as they've been together in a long time. Khem Birch gets a lot of that credit, too.

Q. (Question regarding Katin.)

COACH RICE: Tell him to shoot the next open one. He's been so important to what we've done. Katin has improved defensively. Even when he's not making shots, just his mere presence out there opens up things for other guys. It's like having Anthony Bennett in the post. A lot of the things we get on the perimeter is because he draws a guy and a half or two guys. It's a huge deal for us.

I challenged our guys at halftime, we had a 13 point lead, stay together. Don't let the ball get sticky. At Fresno State we didn't move the ball the way we did in the five game winning streak.

Katin will be fine. We'll get him shots. He'll have confidence. He continues to get better. But he's a big part of what we do.

Q. Talk about the attitude of this team coming off Saturday's tough loss, the ability to put that behind them.

COACH RICE: Unfortunately it wasn't the first time we'd come off a tough loss this year. I just felt so bad for the seniors. I felt bad for 17,000 plus Rebel fans that came Senior Day. We didn't perform the way we'd been performing.

Gave them Sunday off, mandatory day off. We came back and practiced as hard as we've practiced on Monday and Tuesday. Knew what we were up against. Playing Air Force is not the matchup that anybody wants. Nobody looks at a board and says, I'll take Air Force. They run their offense efficiently. They're tough. Our service academies are in great hands with these kind of guys. Just terrific.

So we were determined. I mean, we want to keep playing. We've got this tournament this week and then hopefully the NCAA tournament next week. We get a chance to keep playing.

I've always said this Mountain West tournament, make it a commercial, Friday night, those semifinal games in the Mountain West Conference, that's as good as it gets. I've talked to colleagues across the country who have come and been a part of that. It's as good as it gets. Whatever teams are in the semifinals. Pick any of the nine teams in our league, any one of them could have won. For us to continue to keep playing, I've got three seniors and other guys that have decisions to make at the end of the year, I want to keep coaching these guys as long as I can this season.

Q. Is this a big stage, bright lights type of team?

COACH RICE: You know, it may be. It's interesting that we're 4 2 against Colorado State and San Diego State and New Mexico, and we're 6 4 against the other teams in our league. Fresno State swept us.

I think it's just part of maturity. I think it's a team that's grown up. We were challenged today. We knew how good Air Force is. We rose to the challenge. Again, all the credit to the world to Air Force, what they've done, what they've meant to this league.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.

COACH RICE: Thank you.

Air Force Player and Coach Quotes:

THE MODERATOR: We're ready to begin with Air Force. Coach, just some general comments on today's game.

COACH PILIPOVICH: Yes. Couldn't be more proud of our group. You know, obviously it wasn't a game that we anticipated or prepped for. When you lose two key components of your starting group, Mike Lyons, in the first minute or two of the game, then Tyler Broekhuis, we had to make some adjustments on the fly.

Really feel bad for Mike because he's worked so hard to put our team in position to play today, to do what he's done, then not to be able to compete, that's a tough thing. Also with Taylor.

It took us a while. You guys probably wondered, we weren't going to score again. I think it was about a 10 minute drought.

To regroup, play without two key components on the floor and see where we're at. We had some looks. We got out of character a little bit. We didn't get some back cuts as we normally do. They were physical on the cuts and did an outstanding job. Let's give credit to UNLV, they were really good today.

But very proud of our young men. Hopefully this is not our last game, that we'll continue to play somewhere.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for the student athletes.

Q. Mike, can you express the frustration of getting into the tournament, then going through this with the injuries.

MIKE FITZGERALD: It really is frustrating. Like coach said, it's something you can't really expect when you come into a game.

We've been pretty fortunate all year without having many injuries. I remember my first three years here, we had injuries every year that really set us back. But this year we were strong, confident coming into this game.

So it was very disappointing.

Q. Can you explain what UNLV is doing defensively early.

MIKE FITZGERALD: They understood that we get a lot of our offense off back cuts and a lot of our energy. They did a lot of emphasis on being physical, stand us up while we're cutting back door. They did a great job.

Q. What is going through your head when you saw Mike on the floor? Did you expect he'd be out for the whole game?

KYLE GREEN: When he went down, we expected Mike to come back. He's a tough kid.

It hurts that he went down. Right now we're hoping he can come back. Number one priority is making sure he's okay.

It's frustrating to see him get hurt, but we know he'll be okay.

Q. Did either of you talk to him in the locker room afterwards?

MIKE FITZGERALD: Just briefly, saying, Sorry, man.

KYLE GREEN: He's okay. He's fine.


THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. Can you explain how it changes your offense.

COACH PILIPOVICH: Mike has been our leading scorer, leading scorer in the conference, overall games. As he goes, we go.

I think we were in a position for a few minutes, Where is he at? Our eyes were wide open, Where is he at? It took us a while to adjust. Their defensive pressure at that time, our inability to regroup quickly, get some scores, really hurt us, set us back.

Q. What happened to Taylor?

COACH PILIPOVICH: Taylor got hit in the head a few times. He was bleeding from the chin. He went out first to stop the bleeding. Came back in, got hit. He was a little woozy.

Q. You came out looking to hit some threes early. UNLV answered those. Were you expecting them to be able to counter that?

COACH PILIPOVICH: We expected them to play very well. They're a talented team, very well coached. We expected because of how things ended for them on Saturday they would be very good today and they were.

We wanted to be more aggressive. We wanted to push the ball down the floor, get out in transitions, get some early scores, make them defend.

The way things occurred, we had to patch some things instead of continue with our game plan.

Q. Do you feel like your school is cursed in this tournament?

COACH PILIPOVICH: No. I mean, everyone gets hurt. You expect things will happen. You've got to play through that.

Hopefully we'll continue to play. But we've had 17 wins, six best in the history of Air Force basketball. 8 8 in the conference, best in the conference of Air Force basketball. These young men have done some great things. I'm disappointed that they didn't get to finish with Mike Lyons, Taylor Broekhuis.

We had a great run and we want to continue to do some things.

Q. What exactly is the injury to Michael? Did you see it happen?

COACH PILIPOVICH: It's too early to tell. He was in with our training staff. But it's too early to tell.

It's a knee injury. Hopefully once some swelling goes down, they'll be able to diagnose it and we'll be able to move forward.

He was not in a position where he was able to come back out and play. As tough as he is, as much as he wants to play, you knew he was hurt.

Q. The one silver lining would be you played some guys you wouldn't normally play.

COACH PILIPOVICH: You guys were checking your scorebook. Who are these guys (laughter)?

Cameron Michael is a good shooter. He's a talented player. He can make shots. For him to play in this environment helped him. Tre Coggins with a few minutes, those are two freshmen. Marek Olesinski had a great game on Saturday, continued to play well today. Those are young guys we can build on and hopefully continue to develop those younger players.

Q. Which knee did Michael hurt?


THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.




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