NCAA Tournament First-Round: UNLV 71, Kent State 58
March 20, 2008
THE MODERATOR: The victorious Running Rebels of UNLV Mountain West conference are with us. Same procedures as the first game. We're going to ask head coach Lon Kruger to start with a statement. Then we'll have questions for just the three student athletes and then we'll dismiss them and stay with Lon. Coach. COACH KRUGER: Thank you. Really, really felt good about the way our guys opened the ball game. I thought defensively really sharp, talking well, making aggressive switches and getting a lot of the loose balls. I thought that was a big key in the first half. Loose balls we got on the floor after and converted some of those into transition points going the other way. Just a really good win over what I think is a really good Kent State club. Again, proud of the way our guys opened it and especially played in the first half.
Q. Wonder if you could talk about the defensive effort you guys had in the first half and if you could sense some frustration with what Kent was going through when they were out there? I know at one time they were like 3 for 20.
Joe Darger: I thought our guards and our entire team did a great job of talking and switching and making it easy for us guys on the inside to be able to stay in front, did a great job of just a whole team effort.
Wink Adams: I think all season, we've been kind of starting off slow. And tonight we just wanted to come out and kind of just start off pretty fast on the defensive end and let it dictate to the offense.
I think tonight everybody was talking to everybody, was just playing great defense. And we was all helping each other. That's why we was able to play good team defense.
René Rougeau: Like Wink said, everybody was rebounding, I seen guys in there that usually aren't in there. So it made me real proud to see guys come off the bench working hard on those rebounds and loose balls, you know, everyone diving and taking charges and I think everyone just gave a great effort tonight.
We definitely wanted it, you know, Coach has worked so hard with us and he's definitely stayed with us. And we definitely wanted to make a statement tonight to the whole tournament.
Q. Joe, can you talk a little bit about playing out of position and what it was like to be able to go and launch some 3 pointers this afternoon and get back into to your natural role?
Joe Darger: It's been like that all year. Ever since the beginning, the coaching staff and the team did a great job of putting together a game plan and my teammates did a great job of executing it and finding the open guy.
Curt and Wink and René getting to the middle, helping the big guys help out, leaves me open. So my hat's off to my teammates and my coaches for that.
Q. Do you have a preference where you're playing on the court do you have a preference on where you play on the floor, to follow up with that real quick?
Joe Darger: I like to play outside a little more. Whatever I gotta do to help the team win is what I'm there for.
Q. Wink, you had the flu all week. You looked pretty good out there, how did you feel today?
Wink Adams: (Smiling) I felt really good. At practice I kind of sweated it off, ran up and down the court. It felt good. Just drinking a lot of liquids a lot of water, drinking a lot of Gatorade and tonight I felt really good.
I wasn't fatigued like I used to be, and tonight I was just able to get up and down the court with no problem.
Q. René, today on CBS Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis both picked Kent State to win the game, all week the so called experts were picking Kent State. Did you see that and why do you think nobody they didn't expect UNLV to win?
René Rougeau: No, I actually didn't see that. Probably a good thing I was asleep. We try not to watch that too much, try not to get into that too much. We definitely watch other teams and you know follow up on other people. But we like being the underdog. We've been the underdog all year.
So going into the Kansas game we'll definitely be the underdog. I'm sure no one will think we'll win that game also. So we just have to come with it all week.
Q. René, Coach talked in the last few weeks the experience that even people like you didn't have a huge role in the NCAA tournament unless you're around it. These kids who are around it, can you talk about that? When they're going through their struggles in the first half, you have been at the NCAA tournament, did you feel you had the upper hand in terms of getting through any rough patches or anything like that?
René Rougeau: Without a doubt. I just really I was sitting on the bench last year I watched Wendell and Joel and Gaston. And I really looked up to those guys.
I knew this year I had to be someone we could look up. Whatever it is, I'm definitely the energy guy. I set that tone. I know if I'm bringing a lot of energy, I know a lot of guys are willing to play tonight.
Q. Can you answer that as well in terms of guys who this year obviously have bigger roles than last year, what did you see from guys like that this time?
Wink Adams: I think tonight just guys just came out and wanted to win came out and played with a lot of confidence. I think everybody knew what we had to do to win games. And me, Kurt, Michael Umeh last year, we stressed it. We talked about it, how intense it would be. Anybody can lose. You just leave it on the floor.
I think tonight everybody took it in and did a great job while we were on the floor.
Q. Wink and Joe, can you both talk about how many times you had seen Kansas play this year and what type of game do you expect on Saturday?
Joe Darger: I've seen them play a couple times. I know they like to get out and run. They're a bigger team. We just gotta try to get up and take things away and play the way we've been playing all year.
Wink Adams: I've been watching Kansas play all season. Every time you turn on the TV, they're on playing. But as a team, I enjoy watching them play. They're a team that plays together. That's what makes them so effective.
And they've got great athleticism, they can shoot it. They have a great in style presence, a great all around team. We'll go out tomorrow and play our game and hopefully we can come out with a win.
Q. Joe, can you talk about the 3 pointers you hit in the second half and the one you banked in?
Joe Darger: My teammates did a great job of looking for me and finding me when I was open. I was able to knock those down, and the bank shot, I felt it slipping out of my hand a little bit, so I shot it a little harder, it went in for me. I was happy it went in.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time. Congratulations.
Q. Back late November and December, could you have envisioned this team preparing for not just the tournament, for a second round game in the tournament, having won a game in the tournament, getting ready to play a No. 1 seed?
COACH KRUGER: Back in October, November, there were a ton of questions about this team, about who was going to step forward, who was going to play what role, especially given the loss of the five seniors from last year.
Yet, this group, from day one, just lined up like they expected good things to happen. They worked awfully hard. They very definitely they're a close group. They are very unselfish on the court. Everyone knew Wink was going to be at the core of everything that was happening out there. They were very comfortable with that.
Then just different guys rallied around him and stepped up at different times and the confidence grew with each week of good play and good results, and they've consistently made progress from start to today.
So, again, their attitude is such that they expected good things to happen and no one ever kept them from it.
Q. What did you want to do right out of the gate against them defensively? Looked like you really went after Fisher early in particular. Was that the case? Or just kind of break it down for us.
COACH KRUGER: Fisher is such a good player. They've got a lot of good players. But I think it starts with Fisher. And we recognized that he was kind of their key guy. And didn't do anything really differently on him. We always tried to pressure the ball on the perimeter and tried to keep them from getting into their activity on the offensive end.
And the perimeter guys do a good job, hopefully keep him from looking inside comfortably, and that helps out our inside guys who are working hard to overcome some lack of size.
But generally, like the guys mentioned, a lot of good communication, a lot of good, aggressive switching, kept them from getting into their offense in the first half.
Q. You touched on it as far as your lack of size goes. What is it about Joe that makes him so special as being able to switch from being a natural guard to what he's been able to do this year?
COACH KRUGER: Joe's great. His attitude about whatever he has to do about the team. He's lined up against big guys all year and taken some blows. He's lost some battles, but he's won the majority of them. Really, Joe's he's a smart guy that knows how to play and knows how to kind of subtly get people doing things they don't normally do and maybe just a little stride farther out on the floor than normal.
He's got a real good feel for how to subtly make a difference in there defensively. And loves to compete.
Q. When you see a team struggling the way they were in the first half, what do you tell your guys to try to keep that going? Obviously they looked like they just couldn't get comfortable at all.
COACH KRUGER: Exactly that, because you know Kent's a good ball club. When they just don't quite have it going it's important to widen the lead as much as you possibly can during that time. Because once they turned it around obviously showed in the second half that the two clubs were pretty even. I think we played 10 times, it probably would be five five, as eight, nines normally are, but the ability to widen the lead in the first half was obviously the difference in the ball game.
Q. Lon, have you coached against Kansas since leaving Kansas State?
COACH KRUGER: Yeah, when we were in Florida, came back up. Had a home and home with KU during our time down there, but I don't think any other time. It wasn't a good experience either time.
Q. Really seemed like in the first half on both offense and defense you tried to keep them out of the paint and forced them to be around the perimeter. Do you think that was the key to the reason why you guys got the big lead?
COACH KRUGER: I think our perimeter guys did a good job of not letting them start their offense where they would typically want to. I thought we had them out a little farther on the floor, made passes a little longer changes the timing a little bit of what they want to do. Again helps our inside guys overcome the lack of size with their positioning inside.
Guys did a pretty good job of helping each other that way all year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Kent State Postgame Quotes
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement, then questions for the student athletes.
COACH CHRISTIAN: The first half of basketball was just so unlike how we played all year. We just came out, played with no confidence, just made silly mistake after silly mistake.
UNLV is a great team, took advantage of it. But that was about as bad as we can play, but they obviously did a great job taking advantage of it.
It's disappointing because we were looking so forward to this opportunity and we really wanted to play well. We just couldn't get anything going in the first half. But then I was proud of our kids in the second half because we battled. We could easily quit and they don't, they just continue to play hard and fight and play the entire game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes?
Q. How surprised were you with the way that you guys started? Did you see anything before the game that? Was there any fear or uncomfortable feeling going through the team at the start?
HAMINN QUAINTANCE: No, I don't think nobody was scared I don't think anybody was scared or had any fear. It's just we didn't do what we didn't do what we have done all year to get here, you know?
Looking at the stats, everybody shot under 35 percent except for Chris. Turnovers, I think we had 17 turnovers at halftime. Couldn't finish on top of the rim. We just, like coach said, we played not to take anything away from UNLV, they did a good job, but we felt there's things that we could have done to change the outcome that we didn't do.
Q. Wonder if you could just describe your emotions as you were having to go through a first half like that; just what it was like out on the court to have to play through something like that?
AL FISHER: Well, you know, we didn't come out the way we wanted to come out. And we was making silly turnovers and it seemed like it just kept happening. We was getting a couple shots we wanted right on top of the rim but it wasn't falling. It happens like that sometimes. We just gotta keep fighting through it and hopefully things will start going our way we never wanted to stop battling and just keep doing the things we always do.
Q. Can you tell us how it was battling through the first half, your emotions at the time?
HAMINN QUAINTANCE: I mean, we knew that there was no possible way that we could have played worse. So we felt that we just keep fighting and try and make it a game. Unfortunately, we never quite did make it a game.
Q. Q, speaking of emotions, what was going through your head as time was winding down your last college game of your career?
HAMINN QUAINTANCE: I don't know. That's a tough question. A thousand things, I don't know. I don't really have no good answer for you for that one.
Q. Al, can you talk about the frustration you had, so much of the offense starts with you; they were right on top of you. I am sure you knew that was coming, but was there a different style in what they did than nobody else did? Can you talk about the frustration fighting through that and being able to get the ball away?
AL FISHER: I kind of knew it was coming but I did some dumb things, holding onto the ball too long, driving too deep, I should have been kicking it, you know? But sometimes things just happen, we just have to keep battling through these things.
I could have did a lot of things different. The team could have did a lot of things different. But that's just how it came out.
Q. What was the message from the coaches and then to each other at halftime?
HAMINN QUAINTANCE: Coaches let us Coach is not going to lie to us. He let us know that we wasn't playing with any heart, which we really wasn't. And we wasn't playing the way that we played the whole season to get here; that we had to step it up. And if we were going to come back we had to battle, which was the truth.
AL FISHER: He told me we wasn't playing with no heart, no confidence. It was like what we did the first half we couldn't play any worse than that. We have been down before in different games, we fall back and we won. We had to come out and do things we did up until this game and keep fighting and hopefully that would happen.
Q. This team accomplished a lot of things that past Kent State teams haven't. How much of what happened today, does it take away from that at all for you, how difficult is it to have that as the cap of such a really successful season?
AL FISHER: I don't necessarily think it takes away from anything because we fought hard the whole season. We deserved to be here. It's kind of sad that things didn't turn out the way we wanted them to.
But things happen that way sometimes, you know? But we had a great team and everyone loved playing with each other. So that was just the outcome that happened.
HAMINN QUAINTANCE: No, I don't think it felt like it took away from any of the past accomplishments. The regular season is the regular season, tournament is a tournament. It's like a new season. We wanted to do something, make some noise in the tournament. We didn't. But at the same time I don't feel like that took away from anything that we had done before this previously.
Q. Guys, Coach was talking about your second half effort, how proud he was that you guys didn't give up. Can you just talk about the second half there, just trying to get back into the game when things did look kind of bleak there?
AL FISHER: Well, we just wanted to come out and play Kent State ball, just come out and do what we've been doing. And we picked it up more on offense a little bit. They continued to hit their shots, UNLV, and they just are a great team. When you're hitting turnaround jump shots and 3s from everywhere, it's hard to get to a squat.
HAMINN QUAINTANCE: We picked it up offensively. I think we only had 10 points or something like that in the first half. But when we picked up offensively we kind of let down defensively a little bit and started trading buckets with them, you can't afford to trade buckets when you're down 20 some points.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time. We'll stay here a little longer with the head coach.
Q. Coach, UNLV was talking about how much they were trying to put pressure on you guys out there on the perimeter. Al talked about some silly mistakes. How much of that was due to the pressure? How much of that was
COACH CHRISTIAN: I think a lot of it was a combination of both. They did put some pressure on us. But so have a lot of teams during the year. We were doing everything else to help it. We turned them over in the backcourt four or five times, which I don't think we've done that all year. It wasn't pressure. We were just making bad decisions with the basketball.
And what happens is it just snowballs and we were making poor decision after poor decision, kind of snowballed. Not taking anything away from them; they're a great defensive team. We knew that coming in. When you're turning the ball over and then you're missing shots, it's a bad combination.
It just starts to spread. Kind of took the wind out of our sails.
Q. How surprised were you with the lack of poise? And was there anything today that clued you in that something like this might happen?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I don't think you could ever see it coming. I was very surprised. That's not how we've played all year. I mean, we've played very well in the bigger games all year. And I really thought our team was prepared and ready to play.
I think we were. We just got off to a really bad start. And, you know, we had our usual our leaders were playing very poorly. This whole season we haven't had all three of those guys play poorly at the same time. And that hurt. So there was nobody to go to that could keep our team composed.
Q. During the first half you called timeout a couple of times. What were you trying to say to just get them to snap out of it?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I was just trying to get them to relax and not worry about the last play, just finish it out. Even in one stretch in the first half, I think we had four or five turnovers before the first media timeout. We were down eight. We were just trying to get some kind of rhythm, just make a play.
And then, you know, when this happened, and you finally do get a couple of layups and those don't go, it gets deflating. But all in all I thought we guarded well. They shot 39 percent, had 31 points. Had we just made a couple of plays even with the turnovers we would have been in the game. But it was not meant to be today for us.
Q. This has kind of happened before after the MAC tournament where the team struggled either in the NIT or in the NCAA, is there a common theme where you expend so much energy to complete that first goal that they just can't get it back, or is there just any kind of common theme?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I don't think there's any common theme. Things just happen. You play 35 games, you go play horribly we picked a bad time to play horribly. No common theme. If it was the same guys then, there could be a common theme. It's not the same guys.
It's different guys. We just played poorly. Nothing we can do about it. We can discuss this all day long. It's just we played poorly in every facet of the game in the first 20 minutes.
In the second half we played much better.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about this team and what it has meant to the tradition of Kent State and the two seniors as well?
COACH CHRISTIAN: It would be hard to talk about those two guys. They're so special to me. They're so special to this program. They're probably two of the most unselfish guys I've ever coached.
I just hope that people really appreciate the year that they've had, all they've accomplished and not dwell on this one game.
Those kids anybody who does that should go into that locker room and take a look at their face and see how they feel. Because these kids have had an unbelievable year.
That was my message to them after the game: You've had an unbelievable year. There's going to be critics every time you step out for the rest of your life. Don't let anybody take away from what you've accomplished this year. Because I thought those guys had led us as well as anybody I've had, and I thought this year was phenomenal from start to finish.
Unfortunately, we just played poorly in the last game we played. And I'm not going to let anybody take anything away from that, because I think these guys should be proud of what they've accomplished this year.
Anybody that thinks anything else wouldn't get athletics.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.