Day Before UNLV-Illinois
March 17, 2011
TULSA, Okla. (UNLVRebels.com) - The UNLV men's basketball team held an afternoon practice session at the Mabee Center on the campus of Oral Roberts University before heading to the BOK Center for today's press conference and open practice session.
Q. Can you talk about what you saw about Illinois on film, and what impresses you about them?
Anthony Marshall: They have a tough ballclub, a good tradition. Their guards like to get out in transition and shoot the three, and they have some athletic, very long wing men. Like I said they like to execute their stuff. They take pride on defense. I think giving up like 39% field goal percentage on the year. They just like to get after you.
Q. Oscar, how about your answer?
Oscar Bellfield: They're a tall team that can really shoot the ball and knock down threes and get out there on defense.
Chace Stanback: They're a tough ballclub, and we know it's going to be a tough game for us. They've got a couple of player that's shoot the three pretty well. And they've got a guard in McCamey that is their leader that we have to focus on stopping early and not let him get his confidence up, but it's going to be a tough battle from beginning to end.
Q. What's it going to take to get this program over the hump? You've been close a little bit. What's it going to take to get it back to the glory days of UNLV?
Oscar Bellfield: It's going to take a lot. One thing is it's going to take team work. All of us to come together and believe in it and have confidence to go out there and get better each day.
Q. In the tournament, this is when everybody pays attention. The whole country pays attention. Is this when you need to do it? Is this when you need to win and get the eyes back to you?
Oscar Bellfield: Oh, yeah, definitely. That's what it starts with is wins. You've got to keep winning. This is a great way to start it. The tournament is an opportunity, and we have to take advantage of it.
Q. Can you just talk about Coach Kruger and how beneficial it is playing for a coach like him that's been around a lot of different college programs and the NBA and the influence he has?
Oscar Bellfield: Coach Kruger is a great guy. He knows his stuff real well. He's talented. He knows the ins and outs of the game and has a lot of experience. He tells us the thing that's we may think we know, but he adds a little twist to it and educates us more on the game.
Anthony Marshall: Yeah, Coach Kruger has been around in the basketball world for a long time. He knows a lot about it. As players we just take heed to what he says and try to get better every day. We come in one day and he'll throw something at us. The next day there could be a twist on it. So he's kind of a wizard when it comes to basketball. He knows the ins and outs like Oscar said.
Chace Stanback: Coach Kruger is a great coach. He demands a lot from his players and expects a lot from his players. He does a great job helping us get better and putting us in great positions to exploit our strengths on and off the court. He helps us become better people as well.
Q. How much did you follow UNLV when you were growing up in Nevada? What's it like playing for your hometown school?
Anthony Marshall: I followed them a lot. When I was growing up it was kind of like the Marcus Banks era when Marcus Banks played for them. To be a part of it now is a great feeling to see the community have a buzz on what's going on and the things that we're doing. To have them come out and support us each game and showing their pride and know they're fans and showing their support. It's a great feeling to be a part of it.
Q. There are a number of transfers on this team. What is it about Lon Kruger that he's able to get guys back the second time around, you being one of those?
Chace Stanback: Like I said, he demands the best from his players. He expects you to do great things, and he does a great job in helping us get better as a team no matter who it is.
Q. What about the year off?
Chace Stanback: Oh, well, he does a great job in helping us learn his system and just learning the way that he wants us to play, just the intensity level that he wants us all to bring.
Q. Can you talk about playing with a team that's got all these different transfers? How hard is it to mold everybody together? What's it like getting a couple of new guys every year?
Anthony Marshall: I don't believe it's hard at all. Coach Kruger's system fits for anyone. You can bring in a piece that can fit right away. I'll just say the chemistry we have we have to play together a couple of times to build the chemistry. But as far as it being hard, I don't think so at all.
Q. What do you think UNLV has to do to get over the hump and restore it back to the early days?
Anthony Marshall: I believe we just need to come out and compete for 40 minutes every ballgame, right from the beginning. You can't have any letdowns at this stage, because it's like a one game season. So I think right now is a big platform for us to try to make you a national statement. Just go out there and play good basketball.
Chace Stanback: Like he said, we've got to come out and play hard for 40 minutes every possession. We can't take any plays off, because right now it's a one game season. At any point you could be done. So you've got to give it your best game, your A game every game.
Q. Illinois is kind of a taller team and you guys are a little shorter. How do you combat their length and what do you do to attack that tomorrow?
Oscar Bellfield: I feel that we've just got to get out there and compete, pressure them, and have a fast pace of the game. Just up and down running and pressuring them full court.
Anthony Marshall: Yeah, what Oscar said. You have to try to make a taller team like that get out in transition and try to make a run. Also, we've just got to be a lot more physical, pressure them. I don't think they're used to seeing a defense that we're accustomed to playing in our conference. So we have to throw some new things at them and try to make them uncomfortable and doing things they're not used to seeing done.
Chace Stanback: Like they said, just keep them on their toes, make them play our pace of basketball, and be physical with them.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Lon Kruger in his 7th season as head coach at UNLV. Coach, some opening comments about Illinois?
COACH KRUGER: Well, Illinois is a terrific team. Coach Weber's teams are always going to be fundamentally sound, very, very good on the defensive end. It looks like their players, they've got a group that really gets out in transition very well. They're effective going to the glass on either end. It's a tough match up, and our guys have a lot of respect for Illinois and their tradition. All coaches in the country know the job that Coach Weber does. We're excited to be playing, and look forward to tomorrow night.
Q. You mentioned Illinois is a terrific team, but they've really by their own admission, they haven't been as consistent as they would have liked this year. But with a team that's senior laden like that, does that give you even more worry going into the game?
COACH KRUGER: You worry about any opponent. When you look at Illinois, and again, like you say, if they maybe haven't felt as good as they wanted to about some of the games they've played, then you look at others and they were terrific. Any team that has the ability to play as they did on occasion throughout the year, there is a lot of reason for concern, no doubt. They have a lot of different weapons and a lot of guys that can make plays. Again, McCamey's such a versatile guy at the point that can do so many different things for their team, so lot of reason for worry.
Q. Can you talk about the path your team has taken this year? Seemed like you started very strong up and down the middle, but you finished the season strong too.
COACH KRUGER: Exactly. We started out really well, especially shooting the ball well early. We went through a stretch, little nicked up injury wise. Had a couple of knees and couple of wrist injuries. There wasn't a lot made of it, but during that stretch we didn't make shots. Got in our heads a little bit from a confidence standpoint and then finished the last month really strong. I think that coincided with getting healthier there in the last four weeks or so. But this group worked hard all year especially on the defensive end, and been a little bit up and down in terms of shooting the basketball as well as we'd like. Rebounded the ball a little we have in the past little better than we have in the past. But they've practiced well and they're anxious to play.
Q. When you string out the defense and you go pressure full court, what are your concerns about getting beaten on the other end? How do you combat that part?
COACH KRUGER: That's a concern. We'll throw it out there and see if it works or may or may not. We always pick up the ball in a full court. We'll trap occasionally, sometimes more than others. But like you say, if we trap in the back court, Illinois's got so many guys that can shoot it really well and attack if they break the press. We'll go into games at times and pick up but not trap very much, so we always play that by ear. See if something's working, we'll try it. If it's not, we'll not mess with it too long.
Q. Mike Shepherd is not only someone who has an association with Illinois, he has an association with Tulsa. What makes Mike a guy that you wanted to go back and have a continued association with him?
COACH KRUGER: Well, the list is pretty long. Mike's terrific in everything that he does. He's a guy that has no ego. He's concerned about the student athletes, doing everything he can to help them have a good experience. He takes care of everything with great detail and attention. Very much a good people person. Relates well to everyone. Everyone likes Coach Shepherd. He gets a ton of work done, so he's a guy you love having around regardless what it is you're doing.
Q. Illinois kind of has a taller lineup, and yours is a little smaller than theirs. How do you counteract their height advantage on the floor to recall?
COACH KRUGER: That is an area of concern. They're much bigger than we are. We've got to do a good job of trying to block them out early and keep them away from their offensive boards, try to get up into them a little bit and keep them from using that length to an advantage. That is a big area of concern for us.
Q. You've won in a lot of places. Is it different when you win in Las Vegas?
COACH KRUGER: I don't know that it's different. The satisfaction is pretty much the same in terms of you want the players to have a great experience, and winning helps that. When they come together and they make progress and they win the games that are needed to win to go to the tournament, for instance, there is a real satisfaction there. You know that's an experience they'll talk about for a lifetime. It's good memory stuff. That's regardless of where you're at, when you go to the tournament, I think that is the thing that's most pleasing and most satisfying.
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