Postgame quotes (NM)
March 16, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by UNLV. Coach, your remarks on today's game.
COACH RICE: Well, first, congratulations to New Mexico and their program. They've got a terrific team. They played extremely well today.
Our program, our team, is bitterly disappointed with the result. We felt like we put ourselves in a great position. Certainly last night was a terrific win for us.
We just didn't play as well as we've played in the tournament thus far. It wasn't for a lack of trying on the part of these two student athletes plus the other guys.
New Mexico is a tough, physical team, and they deserve a lot of credit.
Proud of the progress we've made. One thing about our team this year is we've had our share of setbacks without question. We've always bounced back and practiced and played extremely well in the next game after a loss. The great thing for us is that we have an opportunity to do that on Thursday or Friday, to bounce back and be part of something that's extremely special.
Disappointed for our whole program, for our three seniors. Fans were terrific. It was a great college environment. Lobo fans, Runnin' Rebel fans. We just didn't perform as well as we've been playing.
Again, many things that I'm proud of was on a day that we didn't play our best, even when we got down 9 with three plus to go, we cut it to 3 and got ourselves back in the mix. So we never quit playing. We'll never quit playing until the final buzzer sounds, whenever that is.
That's one thing about this team. As we grow, as we get better, that's a huge part for us. But, again, very disappointed. We look forward to the fact that we have an opportunity to keep playing.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. What is it that makes New Mexico so good defensively?
BRYCE DEJEAN JONES: We were just missing a lot of shots we usually make. Did a good job on defense. Like I say, shots we usually make just weren't falling tonight.
Q. Anthony, can you talk about your emotions as a senior getting to the championship, not getting it done tonight.
Anthony Marshall: Mixed emotions. Very disappointing in a loss, me knowing that this is the last time I'll have an opportunity like this.
At the same time you got to just kind of let it go and look forward to next week. We got another tournament we got to try to get wins in. Like I said, mixed emotions right now.
Q. Back to back physical games for you, how gassed were you at the end?
Anthony Marshall: In championships, you can't use being tired as an excuse. No matter how tired you are, you got to go out there and battle. Kind of seen that tonight, so...
Q. Anthony, Bennett got you going with the first 11 points, then they kind of shut him down a little bit from that. Was it just a struggle trying to find who was going to take over those reins?
Anthony Marshall: To beat a team like this, it's going to take a collective effort. Not one man is going to beat a team like that. Might be spurts where somebody has a high hand. Just try to figure out who has the high hand. It was Anthony first, then Katin, then Bryce. It takes a collective effort.
Shots we normally make just weren't going down. Katin had some open looks towards the end and they just didn't go down. We have a lot of faith in him, we know he can make those shots. Same with Bryce and the rest of the team.
Q. After what happened in the NCAA tournament last year, how important is it going to be for you to get that win and get out of the first round?
Anthony Marshall: Very important. That's the main goal, just to win games in the tournaments. These last three years haven't been too kind for us. For me and my fellow seniors, this is the last go around for us. After this, there's nothing else. We are going to go out and give our all.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for Coach Rice.
Q. Can you talk about how difficult it is to chase those guys.
COACH RICE: They're good at it. The thing is they're probably the best screening team in our league. They're very, very good at that. It's a group that's been doing it for a number of years now. It's a group that came in together, Snell and Kendall Williams and Kirk was a freshman that year, Bairstow. It's a group of core guys that have won a lot of games.
It's a credit to Coach Alford, a credit to how well they do things, how well they screen. I think the first thing that stands out when you look at New Mexico, just their toughness. I mean, it's just a tough minded group.
Q. Anthony Bennett got off to such a great start. Did they do something, made an adjustment to slow him down? Did you feel like you were really struggling offensively to get some rhythm in the second half?
COACH RICE: We were. The thing that was most disappointing was that our ball movement was not nearly as good as it's been during the period that we won eight out of nine games and won the first two games in this tournament.
Anthony did get us off to a terrific start. New Mexico did a good job of shading to him and gave other guys opportunities. We just for whatever reason were not able to take advantage of those opportunities.
But they're a good defensive team. We just didn't perform well on the offensive end. As much as Snell got away from us a little bit, it's hard to win a game against a team like New Mexico when we score 56 points. That's not a good formula of success for us. We're a higher scoring team than that obviously.
Q. What seeding you get in the tournament is out of your control. How important is it now to get out of that first round after what happened last year?
COACH RICE: I think that's important anytime you play in any tournament. We're excited about the progress we've made. The only game that matters is our next game, that's the biggest game of the season. That is one that will be on Thursday or Friday. So certainly that's a goal for us.
I think it will certainly show tremendous progress. We can talk about tremendous progress we've made in this program, taking over a program that was in great shape from Coach Kruger. We're moving in the right direction. I feel very, very good about the future of our program.
Q. All season long Steve Alford has talked about his team being difficult to prepare for for other teams. Can you talk about how hard it is to game plan against a UNM team that can have five starters on any given night?
COACH RICE: It's another reason they've won 29 basketball games and they have an opportunity to get a great seed in the NCAA tournament and win a number of games in the NCAA tournament.
The guy who really got away from us today is an NBA player. There's no doubt that Tony Snell is going to play in that league for a long time with the things he's able to do.
I think the thing is we prepare and we watch New Mexico. It's a group that's been together, the chemistry they have on their team, a core of guys that have played together their freshmen year, went to the NIT, got to the NCAA last year. I think they're a team that will win a number of games or more. They've grown, matured and developed.
So they don't care who gets the shot. They don't care who gets the basket. That's just part of growing up and maturing as a program.
Q. We know that Mike Moser missed that time with the elbow injury. Is he back all the way 100%?
COACH RICE: No, his leadership has been good for us throughout the process. But I've said many times that he's still not 100%. There's still plays that he can't make, finishing around the basket, some rebounds that he typically gets that are out of his area that he can't quite get to.
But he's still a big part of our program and what we're able to do. He adds another dimension to get a defensive rebound and push the ball in transition and play.
It's remarkable how hard he's worked, when you think about the injury on December 9th, wasn't sure he was going to play again this year. To come back and contribute and help us win 25 games, help us get to the NCAA tournament, it's a big deal and he's been a big part of that.
Q. Looked like Snell had a rough first half, then got going in the second half. Did anything change on defense?
COACH RICE: Bottom line is that New Mexico's very good offensively. They have very, very good players. They're well coached. But the other side of the coin is that we made way too many defensive mistakes that we didn't make the first two times we played New Mexico. We had a game plan going in. It's short prep. But some of the mistakes we made led to their baskets.
Again, they still had to be able to make the baskets. They're terrific on the offensive end. The thing you know about New Mexico is that they're so good, if you make a mistake, if you go under a screen, try to go over the top of one of their down screens, if you make a mistake, they're going to make you pay. That's what good teams do.
Every time we made a mistake in the second half, they made us pay. That, quite frankly, was the difference in the game.
Q. Quintrell's effort off the bench was substantial. Could you talk about him and Khem Birch, maybe why he wasn't used as much?
COACH RICE: Quintrell has been terrific the last two nights, certainly with the size and strength of Colton Iverson last night, size and strength of Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. We got to get Khem going again. He's been an important part of what we've done this season. Defensive Player of the Year in the league.
There's no doubt he'll bounce back, have some great practice days, be ready for the games on either Thursday or Friday, whatever day we play. He's important to what we do.
Q. Seems like they buy in defensively. You probably didn't share the ball as well. Talk about how they seem to buy in. Even when they didn't win, they only gave up in the 50s. What makes them so good defensively?
COACH RICE: You're talking about New Mexico?
COACH RICE: I think, again, they're well coached. They've got mature players. They've got good players. They've been together as a core group for three years.
I think the scary thing for everyone in our league is most of them are back next year. They've added good recruits. They'll continue to be one of the best teams in our league.
It's part of developing a program, leadership and all those things. It's very, very impressive.
Q. You won rebounding by 12, have 14 offensive rebounds, but five second chance points. Is that tied into the ball movement thing?
COACH RICE: Again, our ball movement was not as good as it's been during this course of games when we've won eight out of nine and played our best basketball of the year. That will be something we'll watch a lot of film on Monday, meet tomorrow, figure out what the schedule is for this week, then come back and watch film on Monday and get back to playing more efficient, better offense.
Again, I'm extremely proud of the progress we've made. I'm extremely proud of the fact that on a day that we didn't play our best, even at the end, we got a stop and had a chance to tie the game late in the game. We kept playing till the end.
Q. The overall thoughts on the NCAA tournament, for New Mexico and this whole league, what are your thoughts on the seeding and how many teams get in?
COACH RICE: I think the first thing is there's no doubt that Boise State deserves to be in the NCAA tournament. We should have five teams in the NCAA tournament.
You take a look at a league that's been number 1, number 2 all season long in conference RPI, the success a number of our programs have had in out of conference games. Great coaches in this league, tremendous talent, seniors that are important to what all the teams do.
As a league, coaches, we understand we need to have post season success. We should have good seeds and have an opportunity to go on and have good success in the tournament. It's a wide open NCAA tournament this year. You look at conference tournaments the last few years, so many teams as 1, 2, 3 seeds going down. This is a tournament more than ever that's wide open for success.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH RICE: Thanks.
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New Mexico Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by New Mexico. Coach, your comments on tonight's game.
COACH ALFORD: I'm just explaining to my Aussie what All Tournament means (laughter).
It's just been a really special team. It's been a team that's been together. We talked about it again in the locker room just minutes ago about how you start a season down 16, that doesn't happen very often. We're not down 16 very often in the Pit in the second half and come back and win. They have just been battling their tails off all year long.
To go 13 2 with the toughest non league schedule in school history, to go through arguably the toughest conference that our school has ever been a part of, whether it's been the WAC or the Mountain West or whatever conference we've been in in the past, arguably this has been the toughest league ever.
To win that by two games, then come here and win three games against three really good opponents, no upsets, we're playing the best of the best in this tournament three days and four days. To win this is just a very special feeling.
This group of young men, they understand it. They get it. They're very coachable. I really appreciate their efforts and they're very deserving of this.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now take questions for the student athletes.
Q. Tony, last March you stepped up in the Mountain West tournament. Last four games you've hit 24 out of your last 43 points. What is it about this time of year that has you playing better than at any point in the rest of the season?
TONY SNELL: I just have more confidence now. My teammates always encourage me to keep shooting the ball whenever I miss it. My confidence definitely went up.
Q. Cam, you and Alex were kind of battling really hard down low. It seemed to open up the guard play a lot. Talk a little bit about just that battle inside.
CAMERON BAIRSTOW: I just think UNLV did a great job defensively, especially Thomas. He did a great job bodying us up.
While we didn't have a great night, it was just one of those nights even when we're not playing well the guards managed to pick it up just like they have all season.
Q. NCAA tournament is the next step here. Where do you think this team deserves to be seeded? Where do you think this team needs to go for this season to still be a success?
TONY SNELL: I think we deserve a 2 seed or higher 'cause we definitely proved ourselves all year. That's what I think.
CAMERON BAIRSTOW: Yeah, I think definitely a top 2 seed with the schedule we've played, how we've performed, especially down the stretch. I think we need to be up there.
As I said, as Coach already said to us, the first three seasons have already been successful, so it's just up to us to continue it into season four.
Q. Tony, does it say a lot for the balance on this team when you have the conference Player of the Year who is not sitting up here, but you have the player of the tournament and first team player?
TONY SNELL: It definitely shows how unselfish we are because the Player of the Year, just try to move the ball around. We definitely unselfish for each other. We like to see each other get going and make buckets.
Q. You came in, the odds makers didn't have you as the favorite. What does it say about this team that you are able to take all that negativity, the naysayers, that you're able to take that and turn it into the positive?
TONY SNELL: We knew we've always been the underdog. That's what I love about this team. We underdogs, but we still like to go out and prove people wrong, that we're good enough to win championships.
CAMERON BAIRSTOW: As Tony said, we've always played with that chip on our shoulder. We don't get a lot of national recognition. That's fine with us. We just try to go out every game and try to prove ourselves.
Q. Tony, Coach Rice said UNLV made a number of mistakes defensively. What did you see out of their defense in the second half?
TONY SNELL: They kept trying to stay close on me. I tried to stop and give a little bump to give me some space to run off the screens. I tried to cut hard and tried to get open.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for Coach Rice.
Q. I know you've talked about this all season, but now that you've done it in the tournament, Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk, neither one of them make all tournament team, Hugh gets off for a little while, Tony does what he does in the tournament, the balance of this team, have you ever had anything quite like what you have in this starting five?
COACH ALFORD: It's a special team. I've said it. I thought Vegas did a really good job of banging and battling our inside guys. All that effort then freed up some things for our guards. I think that's why we're hard to guard. We got a great backcourt and front court.
I've said it, we'll put our starting five up against anybody. I think we have an outstanding starting five that is experienced, they're talented. They understand winning. They understand the ebb and flow of a game, the importance of D stops, coming out of timeouts, getting to the free throw line. Whatever it may be, they have a really good understanding of that.
To win four in a row, this is four in a row, and arguably the last two years have been the most difficult this league has been. We've either got a piece of the championship or in three of them outright championships. To get four in a row in this league with a lot of the same guys in this locker room, that's a lot of fun.
Then to think about that entire starting five's back, pretty excited about the future.
Q. Your players have already said where they think you should be seeded. Are you going to do a little lobbying now?
COACH ALFORD: I hope our league gets the respect it needs to have. Our league has been building momentum over the last three or four years. I think you're seeing our seedings get better, getting more teams in the national tournament.
Now our league is an RPI either 1 or 2, it varies. We've been either the best or second best league in the country really from January on. You need to be rewarded that way. That's why I think we deserve five teams.
I don't think Boise should be a bubble team. Boise should be in the NCAA tournament. Their body of work is good enough. What they did out of conference was good enough. Then in conference, if you look at what they did when they were healthy versus when they had some injuries, they were definitely the fifth best team in our league. Our league deserves that.
Then you look at seeding, and our league should be deserving of seeding. You start right with us. Win 29 games. Our schedule of strength, our season is over, is going to be probably 3 or 4 now that we've played Wyoming, San Diego State and this really is a road game when it goes to looking at the schedule, it ends up being another road win for us. We get a road win, play UNLV again. Our schedule of strength has to be 2 or 3 when we leave here tomorrow morning. Our RPI is 1 or 2.
Duke lost, we won three in a row. Our RPI, if it does change, it's going to change from 2 to 1.
These guys have been extremely consistent and now we will finish the year regardless of what happens of being a team that never lost two games in a row. That's phenomenal. To go through our schedule, to go through this league, never lose two games in a row, have a losing streak, what these young men have done is amazing.
We don't know what our seed is going to be, but we know we're deserving of a very good seed.
Q. Does that include a No. 1 seed?
COACH ALFORD: I think you got to be in the talks. I have no idea what is going to happen tonight or tomorrow. I know there's been some upsets. There's talks of teams being No. 1 seeds that haven't won the league and the league tournament.
We haven't won the 10th best league, the 10th best tournament, we've won the No. 1 or No. 2 league in the country by two games. We've won the conference tournament as well. That's deserving of at least being in a lot of discussions for those seeds.
Q. Back to the early portion of this game. Bennett came out on fire. He scored their first 11 and I believe 13 of their first 15 point, then at the end of the game he ends up two more points the rest of the way. What did you do differently?
COACH ALFORD: There was no adjustment. That wasn't coaching. That's who our team is. That's a great credit to our players. One of the reasons why I think Cam was up here as an all tournament selection isn't just what he did offensively. O'Brien last night gets no points, no rebounds, that was Cam.
Tonight, you're right, Bennett is extremely talented, he scored 13 of their first 14 points, and he finishes with 15. The last 32 minutes of the game, he gets one basket. That's Cam.
Chad had a lot to do with it as well. I thought Chad had a good tournament for us off the bench. He worked hard, did a lot of good things for us coming off the bench. With that said, Cam had a lot of that on him. He had a great defensive tournament.
Q. Got to ask you about the net. I don't think I've ever seen a coach wear a net before. I think you've started a fashion trend among your fans.
COACH ALFORD: Fans like it. It's like my red blazer. I haven't worn a red blazer before either. It's not like they're a fashion statement. I know our fans like it. I try to do a lot of the things that our fans like because we have the best fans in the country. I've said that. I've been very fortunate and blessed to be the coach here for six years now.
I say it every year: we have the best fans, not just because they come out in volume, but then they have volume when they're here. They travel well. Whether we're at home or we come to this tournament. You introduced UNLV, this is their home, you introduced UNM tonight, I'd have to give a serious nod to the UNM fans. That's pretty impressive.
When you look around the country, I don't care if you're talking about the Big 12 or the PAC 12 down the street, the SEC, these fans will rival any fans in the country.
Our team and our staff really appreciates what our fans do because they have a tremendous amount to do with our success.
Q. You've talked all year about intangible stuff. Tonight it seemed like that was really the key. Talk about your team's effort off the stat sheet.
COACH ALFORD: Hugh is one of those guys that doesn't get the respect he deserves. He can beat you in so many ways. They did a really good job of trying to jump hard to the ball to our cutters, mainly Tony and Kendall, and leave Hugh. Hugh bangs down three threes tonight. He hasn't had too many games all year where he's made three threes.
I've said this for two years. If you look at his record as our starting point guard, it's phenomenal. He can beat you by making shots, board play. Seven rebounds tonight, I think 9 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists. He doesn't turn the ball over. We ask him to guard the best guard every night. We ask him to do a lot every night. He finds a way to do it.
As he said on the stage, Coach, we find ways to win. That's right. That's who Hugh is. He's a very unselfish kid and he's extremely tough. He's as tough as anybody in our team and we feed off that toughness.
Q. In the beginning of the season you talked about Tony Snell stepping up to a leadership role. That's not who he is, to be more vocal. I don't know that that necessarily happened. Have you given up on trying to get him be a vocal leader and let him do his thing?
COACH ALFORD: We may say we want him to talk more. I've never been about changing kids' personalities. We want our young men to be who they are. But he's doing a good job in leadership. I'll tell you why. He's developed defensively.
So now all these guys, whether they're the starters or the bench guys or guys that are playing a lesser role, they get to watch Tony Snell. Everybody sees him shoot, everybody wants him to shoot more and score more, but now they see a guy that is really committed to the defensive end. The defensive end is the unselfish end.
I think seeing his development there has given Tony confidence. Now he's doing more offensively because I think where he's built his confidence at the defensive end.
All these guys lead in their different ways. Kendall is more vocal than Tony. Tony leads a little bit different, but still has done a very good job for us in leadership.
Q. You've done this NCAA tournament a lot as a player and a coach. The prep time, differences between this time of year and the regular season when you might have a break?
COACH ALFORD: We got to do a good job. It's fun being an afternoon game. We celebrate tonight. We have a lot of family members here. We don't let them see them much because it is a business trip for us until it's over.
So tonight we'll get to celebrate this. Season three is over for us. We've had an incredible run. It's been an unbelievably successful season.
We've got high hopes. Dreams of season four. Hopefully things will go well. If it doesn't, it's not going to tarnish our season any. It's just the next step, trying to get the program to that next step.
So we'll have a lot of fun tomorrow. Tomorrow is Selection Sunday. CBS is in our building. We'll have CBS, a big part of the Pit. We'll have a large crowd at the Pit. A large contingent waiting for us at the airport, follow us to the Pit, we'll have fun with Selection Sunday.
Coaches will work through the night of getting tape and preparing scouting report, then we'll meet on Monday. Probably won't do a whole lot on Monday. Then it depends on whether we're a Thursday Saturday, Friday Sunday type of thing in the NCAA tournament. I think our guys will have enough prep time, enough time to get rest.
We look at it as we played at Air Force on Saturday, flew here Monday. This has been a long week of travel. It's never easy being somewhere for six days.
But when you win a championship, it makes it all worth it. I think we'll have enough time to get ready for the NCAA tournament.
We're healthy. We came out of this tournament healthy. We came into it healthy and we're going to leave healthy. That's a big deal.
Q. Second half it didn't seem like UNLV had two or three attempts inside the paint. Talk about how you accomplished that?
COACH ALFORD: I hope so. The NCAA tournament is about matchups. It's about seeds and it's about matchups. I've been on both ends of it.
You got to get fortunate. That's why we hope we get a good seed. We hope the matchups are good. I think Coach Fisher was talking about matchups last night. They're not a team that I think matches up right now well big big. It's why we present some problems.
But if all of a sudden we're matched up with a quick four guard lineup, how does that affect us? We played a lot of styles, but there are matchups that are better than others.
This league has prepared us for that. We've seen everything out of this league, maybe other than a lot of zone. That's maybe the one thing we haven't seen that. This league is a tenacious man to man league. If we get matched up with Syracuse or something.
We're prepared, healthy, confident, playing our best basketball of the year. I don't know what that is. It's 9 out of 10, 10 out of 11. With the only loss being a last second shot on the road.
We're undefeated. Neutral site, 5 0. We've got a great road record. So this team is prepared. Now we just have to hope we can continue to play well.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
COACH ALFORD: Thank you very much.
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