UNLV's NCAA Tournament Quotes|
March 19, 2008
THE MODERATOR: This session features the student athletes from UNLV.
Q. Wink, how are you feeling today?
Wink Adams: Feeling a lot better right now. I practiced, worked out this morning. Feeling really good. Got my stamina up and shots up. I'm sweating it off. I'm feeling a lot better right now.
Q. Wink, can you talk a little bit about last year you got a Sweet 16 trip. But this is pretty much a new team now. So, you know, there really isn't a whole lot for all these guys to play off of as far as memories of last year. Could you maybe talk about the mind set, is it like a fresh start?
Wink Adams: Yeah, I'd say it's a fresh start. Our whole season this year is based on the same thing, what we did last year. I think we're doing a great job, doing that and Curtis and Corey Bailey, our seniors, have been doing a great job leading us. We want to see how far we can go from this point.
Q. Wink, getting back to the health thing. Just how bad was it Sunday and Saturday night?
Wink Adams: Saturday, I mean, it was just real bad. My body was aching. I couldn't really eat. And I think I had my first meal probably from Saturday morning, my next meal after that was Monday. And just taking a meal after that long, it just wears on your body and takes a lot of your strength away. But right now I'm drinking a lot of water and eating a lot of food, so kind of getting my strength back and getting ready for the game.
Q. After matching up against Utah and Brigham Young, now you're playing a team that's more along your guys' size. What's that contribute to your mind set going into this game?
René Rougeau: I think, you know, that's a good thing for us. We're kind of glad we don't have to battle a big man down low and we'll be able to fly around a lot more and be able to pressure just as much as we're used to. And we're definitely looking forward to that.
Q. Curtis, can you give me a scouting report on Kent State and what do you think will make the difference in this game?
Curtis Terry: Let's see, from what we know so far about them, what the coaches have shared with us and watching film, their team is very similar to us in size. We feel that Quaintance inside is their big guy. He really makes them go. He's very active. And he even gets out and pressures on the wing on the big guys. Fisher is their lead guard, and he puts the ball in the hole for them and dishes the rock and also plays solid defense on the perimeter.
And they've got some guys that can shoot the ball fairly well. Woods and Scott. But they're very active and athletic, we think we match up very good with them.
We think it's going to be a very competitive game. It should be a fun game as far as teams running up and down the court and flying around on defense and offense. It should be something fun to watch and hopefully we can execute well enough on offense and defense to get the win.
Q. Wink, you grew up with Rashad Woods from Kent State. What do you remember from him and from growing up, what's it like now playing him in this setting?
Wink Adams: I got a chance to see him today before we went to practice. And just growing up with him, I mean, I know he can shoot. He's a strong player. Really athletic. He blocks shots. Rashad can do a lot of things play a lot of different positions very effective for Kent State. He's somebody very difficult to guard.
Q. What was he like as a kid? Who won when you played horse?
Wink Adams: We was young. I used to always beat him. We was young. But his shot wasn't that good like it was now. But I see he's working on it on film, he's knocking it down from five feet behind the 3 point line. Haven't seen him play in a while, but on film he's looking good. Looking strong and we're just going to have to guard him.
Q. Curtis, what have been the last couple of weeks been like for you and the emotions or thoughts you have coming down knowing that you're playing the last few games of your career?
Curtis Terry: Definitely has been very emotional. I've been trying to hold it back, not worry about it too much. But for me and Corey, this is our last time through it. And we're just ecstatic right now we're back in the NCAA tournament and we have a chance to win more games here and keep our careers going as long as we have. And we're having a great time playing with these guys. The season has been special for us so far.
But from now on every game could be our last game so we're going to leave it on the court as a team and do everything we can to move on and keep fighting another day. And I think our chances are good with the guys that we have and the coaches, they're going to have us prepared.
So we just can't wait until tomorrow.
Q. Wink, and for the rest of the players, how much have you guys connected with other guys that you've played with before that are in the tournament? That seems to be you mentioned earlier about Rashad. Anybody else, any other teams that, hey, congratulations, hey, saw you in the tournament, that you guys kind of either played with in high school or junior college or whatever?
Curtis Terry: Off the top of my head, I can't think of any right now. The assistant coach at Portland State, Curtis Allen, he's from where I'm from in Washington, and he played at the University of Washington. I saw him today when we left practice. They were going into practice. Got to share some thoughts with him and how their season is going and he wished me well also.
But it's always good to see people you know from back home or from when you were younger and seeing they're successful and they're experiencing the same thing you are and having fun and being able to play in the NCAA tournament.
Wink Adams: For me Rashad Woods and I have a friend from George Mason. Those are all two guys, I haven't talked to these guys in a while. Got Rashad couple of nights ago started talking to him. So just those two guys.
René Rougeau: Probably for me my teammate from high school, Darren Collison, plays for UCLA. Good friends. Went to junior high with Josh Shipp, who also plays for them. Haven't talked to them, but keep in touch and real proud of how they're doing right now.
Q. Anyone who wants to tackle this one: When you think about UNLV, a lot of people still conjure up the images of the '80s and '90s, some of those flashy teams. You like to hit the floor and get the floor burns and that kind of thing. How much distance is there between that aura of the old UNLV and modern day UNLV?
René Rougeau: Definitely trying to bring it back, definitely the glory days. People always talk to us about that and them hustling, getting on the ground and stuff. That's definitely something we try to do. And, you know, not as flashy as they were, but we definitely like to run and gun, definitely like how they did, just run the floor and outrun the opponent.
Q. Wink, obviously your focus is on Kent State and your team. But you were part of a team that beat Wisconsin last year and Wisconsin is here. How big was that win for you guys last year? How much did that mean to you, and do you have any advice for Fullerton or any of the teams that have to face them?
Wink Adams: When it comes to tournament time, anybody can be beat. I think last year we just came in with the attitude we just want to play our hardest game, leave everything on the court. And we went through two tough teams. Georgia Tech. That was a very athletic team and we got past them. Came across Wisconsin, who we've been watching all last year, you know, on ESPN. Some of the guys on the team, they was the favorite team.
But we ended up playing them we beat them. So that was a really big team and it was good for experience for the guys that was coming back this year. So we just kind of learned from it and tried taking it into this year.
Q. Curtis, after losing four of your starting seniors last year, what kind of advice are you giving the new guys about getting into the tournament and what kind of mentality they should have?
Curtis Terry: Well, for us right now we're fortunate that the eight guys eight of the ten guys on the team this year were on the team last year Kendall and Mareceo were the only ones that didn't experience the NCAA tournament. From that factor, everybody else has been here and knows what we're going through these past couple days in preparation. But for those guys we told them. It's going to hit you quick.
We're going to have a lot to do before we even get to the game. We gotta practice, the media stuff. Get to shoot around here for a little bit here today. But we've got to go in there focused. Another game of basketball. There's more people. Brighter lights. We're on the big stage now. And if you lose you go home. So everything is more important. There's more a sense of urgency right now. And they're doing a good job. They're coming along.
And we're going to definitely need them to step up tomorrow and this weekend if we're going to continue on playing this year.
Q. Following up on that, Curtis, so then the fact a lot of people are talking about four starters are gone, five seniors from last year. Is that overblown because, like you said, you have a lot of guys that have been here before?
Curtis Terry: I mean, from the standpoint of to where we've lost all our guys from last year, we obviously lost five seniors from last year, four of them started and Joel was the defensive player of the year for us in the conference. But we've been through 33 games so far this year, and we feel like that's not a factor for us anymore.
And the guys that are here, we're doing a great job of coming together as a team and playing together and leaving it on the court and doing what the coaches ask of us and helping us to be successful.
With the guys that were here last year and experienced the tournament and the bright lights and being on the big stage, it's just like another day for us. We're just here, we're ready to play. We're handling our business and being responsible with what we're doing.
And now it just comes down to tomorrow playing basketball and going out there and having fun.
Q. Following up on that, you mentioned the big stage and the bright lights several times. Is there a way to block any of that out at any point? Can you kind of reduce that a little bit?
Curtis Terry: Sometimes you can. Definitely right now I know the guys in the locker room it's the media session right now. That's obviously a thing you don't experience every day during the regular season, except for post game. And after practice every once in a while.
But when we get on the court, just gotta go out there play basketball. There's going to be a lot more people than there normally is at a game. The atmosphere is different because it's not just your game, it's not a home game, it's a neutral game. There's six other teams in the building and waiting to play and the atmosphere is different about the fans are for you or against you.
But I think the guys are understanding that we just gotta go out there and play together and do the same things we've been doing all year to help us be successful. We can't rely on trying to do something different and do something out of character that we haven't done all season because that's not going to help us continue to win games.
Q. Just talk a little bit Coach Kruger and what's his biggest asset as a head coach?
René Rougeau: Probably the most biggest asset is him just being positive and really sticking with us. I mean, he'll get on us from time to time. But he's just so positive. I think that really helps us. I'm sure these guys in high school, they had some tough coaches also. I know I did.
And so coming to a college, you are kind of thinking your college coach is going to be a lot more stricter than your high school coach. And when we make a mistake, if anything, he just picks us up more than anything. He always gives us a chance.
If anything, more than anything else, he has so much confidence in all of us. Especially the three of us up here and the guys in the locker room as well.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Best of luck.
Head coach of the Running Rebels, Lon Kruger. Opening statement.
COACH KRUGER: Delighted for this group that they're here. I think earlier in the year a lot was unknown, not maybe not knowing what to expect of this group with the graduation of five seniors last year, and this group from day one they've really worked hard. They've meshed together very well. They've been very unselfish and really genuinely not caring too much about who got the credit. Wink has been at the core of everything, but then Curtis steps up to the point, does a terrific job.
And René comes on and does a great job and Corey Bailey all year. And Joe Darger and others. To see them do it together as a team, I'm happy for them. It's resulted in an opportunity to play in the tournament.
Q. Lon, Wink says he's feeling better. Do you expect him to be full strength tomorrow and he looks okay to you?
COACH KRUGER: He does. He didn't feel real good on Saturday in the finals. And Sunday a little worse. Then yesterday, I guess Monday, a little better, and Tuesday better and then today he looked pretty normal even. I think he'll be full speed tomorrow.
Q. When you look at Kent State, a team that looks a lot like yours. Very strong defensively. They like to shoot the 3 and they don't have a predominant big man. How does that play into your matchup with them?
COACH KRUGER: We haven't seen much of that on the year because typically we've lined up against a really big post man. To look across the court see a team of similar size in general is unusual for us.
But doesn't change too much of what we're going to try to do. I think again like you say Kent does a great job of covering. They're very physical on their defensive end. They move the ball well. They execute things very well. They've got a lot of different guys that can shoot it. A lot of things to worry about. But, again, that's not unusual when you get to this point in the tournament.
Q. What are your thoughts on a couple of the individual players that you see from Kent State, if you could elaborate on Al Fisher and some of the other people that you've known and what you're telling your players specifically how to defend against them?
COACH KRUGER: Fisher, you see a guy that can do a lot of things. Very good player. He can beat you off the dribble. Can shoot the 3. Makes players around him better because he can drive and distribute. Just a really good all around player. So we've got our hands full there. And Singletary, a big strong guard that will get into the post and he does a very good job in there. They've got a lot of guys that shoot it very well. Rashad Woods, a lot of guys that can really stroke it from 3.
Quaintance is a big, strong, active guy on the interior, along with some other guys.
Again, they've got a lot of good players that play well together.
Q. One of the things that is kind of well known about your team is you start two walk ons, a lot of nontraditional players on your team. A lot of their players, obviously Al Fisher, this is his third college he's at. What do you feel about the stories that are almost similar to that, not to mention in the playing style?
COACH KRUGER: I think this time of year you get a lot of good stories, whether it be guys that have walked on and played well or guys that have bounced around a little bit and has landed in the spot where they can be successful. So it's good time of year to have a lot of good stories come out.
Q. Staying on that theme of Fisher, you had kids that maybe weren't recruited high and weren't offered by a lot of schools. But in the difference of how good they are compared to kids that were, what is the real difference between these kids at this level? Is it closer than people think, or when you get to very elite teams is it very far?
COACH KRUGER: I think in some ways it's closer, because say if you take a guy, the top 50 kid coming out of high school, and you take another guy that you know starts, wasn't highly recruited but starts and averages 14 points and seven boards, those top 50 guys, there aren't a lot of them doing a lot more than that. So statistically it's not as big a gap.
I think what you have is maybe the depth of those quality players on those top 10 teams is probably greater. And I think that's probably where the difference comes in and just how many of them can go out and score on given nights.
Q. Lon, I realize you wear red now, but as a K State alum, can you share your thoughts when you saw that K State is part of the NCAA tournament field again?
COACH KRUGER: Very happy for them. Coach Martin has done just a terrific job. They've had a good year. I think Beasley, I marvel at how efficient and how effective he is every time I watch him play. He just seems to get so much done without any wasted motion, any wasted energy and just a delight to watch a kid like that play and get the results he gets.
So very happy. Not only for the team, but also for the fans. They love getting back to the tournament, I know. Happy for them as well.
Q. Obviously your focus is on this year, but your win over Wisconsin last year in Chicago was awfully big and Wisconsin is here now. When you look at the way the Badgers play and their style, what are some of the challenges and what are the keys to beating them other than maybe having your son play extremely well?
COACH KRUGER: Well, Wisconsin is great at doing the little things very well. Coach Ryan does a terrific job of getting the most out of his players. I think they get good shots every time down the floor. They're very sound defensively. You just have to battle like crazy because you know Wisconsin is going to.
And just can't give away possessions. You have to be very efficient on your end because, again, you know Wisconsin is going to be. And they're just hard to beat. They've had a terrific run and Coach Ryan has done a great job.
Q. Can you talk about the mental preparation for the NCAA tournament? You've been to a lot of these and some of the guys we're talking about the bright lights and some distractions. Is it possible to normalize that, pretend it's not such a big stage? Can you make a little bit of a smaller stage?
COACH KRUGER: I think a lot of our players having been here last year helps to some degree, but still it's an exciting time for them. It should be. I think it's a little different stage for everyone that played in the tournament. It's the only time of the year that you're playing lose go home type mentality. So that enters in as well. And the players know that.
So you get a little nervousness, perhaps, early in the ball game, but you hope to get through that quickly and get on to doing the things you've done to get here.
How long that takes varies from time to time, but hopefully we'll move through that early stage quickly and get on into playing good basketball.
Q. How different is this team? A lot's been made of losing the four starters and five seniors. How much different is this team from the Sweet 16 team?
COACH KRUGER: In some ways personnel wise it's a lot different, of course, because just different people playing the big roles this year.
A lot of the guys playing those big roles now were here last year. But in much different capacity. I think from an attitude standpoint, from an effort standpoint, all the intangibles, a lot of similarities.
But, again, different people, different size. Last year we had a couple of big guys on the inside. We blocked a lot of shots. This year we don't block many shots. But our big guys move to the perimeter and shoot jumpers. So different styles. Different way of going about it. But similar in terms of again focus and attitude and being able to play well together.
Q. Coach, wanted to ask you about being a rookie coach, first signed with K State and what Martin has to go through, talk about the importance of that, whether it means anything with the NCAA tournament when you do that for the first time as a rookie?
COACH KRUGER: Surely it does. It's a great time. It was a long time ago. We did that for the first time. But it's exciting I think for coaches. Even now it's not just exciting for the players. The coaches are here. It's exciting. You see other people that you've watched all year.
You're at the same venue, able to watch the teams. It's a great time. Especially for first time appearance, I think it adds to that even a little bit more.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
KENT STATE QUOTES
THE MODERATOR: Kent State is next up. Student athletes, Al Fisher and Mike Scott. And we'll go right for questions in the 15 minute session.
Q. What you guys been doing since you've been here?
MIKE SCOTT: Shoot, we just got to the hotel yesterday, and so we went out to dinner at a little restaurant, had a good time there. Then this morning we had a little practice session over at Creighton. We had breakfast right before that, and here we are.
Q. Al and Mike, if you can just talk about what you know about UNLV? Probably don't know much about them, haven't seen them much, maybe on tape getting ready for these guys. But what do you know and what do you look forward?
AL FISHER: We know UNLV is a great team. They're 8 seed; they definitely deserve their way here. So we know they're a team with like big men, there's guards and they're a driving team, great shooting team, and we have to come out and guard them.
MIKE SCOTT: Like he said, they're a team full of guards. I think their tallest player is the four man, shoots really, really well and guards Wink, he's the leading scorer, never have to contest all those 3s. He shoots like unconscious. And just really have to guard them. They get up in transition. They're a defensive team just like us also. We know that so we want to execute on offense.
Q. Mike, can you talk about how many of you guys have been here before? I know you have. How many of the other?
MIKE SCOTT: I want to say about six or seven, not all of us play, but like Q was here, but he didn't play. Mike McKee, Brandon Parks. Myself, Julian. Isaac. That's about seven, I think. It's about half, a little more than half, something like that. Coach actually recognized this fact a couple of days ago and he said more than half our team. That's why I'm saying about six or seven. About seven.
Q. Tournament is obviously a stage for a player like you sometimes to break on nationally, but it seems like at the Saint Mary's game a lot of people obviously knew more of you. Can you talk about the difference after that in terms of attention and things you noticed after you had that kind of game in terms of people knowing you and your game?
AL FISHER: Well, the attention stepped up a little bit. But with the team, with the great teammates I got and all definitely made it a lot easier because the team, we can't just focus on one player. We've got a lot of people that start and come off the bench that can do the same thing. Like we had I say we've got about three or four people who could have got player of the year. So being on this team is definitely good because it's not just one person that you can focus on.
Q. Since UNLV is pretty much a team you guys said made up of guards and played mostly guard set with a lot of short forwards, would you say this is almost like playing a team a lot like yourself?
MIKE SCOTT: Most definitely. I feel like it's going to be a game to grind out. Because like I said before, like you said, they're a lot like us simply because we're not very tall. We're fast, and they're not very tall as well. And they play defense. That's the type of their program, is playing defense. And also for us, we thrive on defense, they get on the ground and we get on the ground. Yes, most definitely.
AL FISHER: You know, here they are a lot like, we just they're fast, they play very hard and they just get up and down the court. We're going to have come out and follow the game plan and doing what we've been doing thus far.
Q. Is there any doubt who is going to take the shot at the end of the game, if it's close?
MIKE SCOTT: Oh, the ball's going in his hands (smiling). Definitely going in his hands. He saved us a few times this year. I mean, actually maybe he's put us in this position here. I mean, we won the league outright and things like that. So, yeah, the ball's going in his hands.
Q. Where is your confidence right now after hitting a couple there in recent times to win games and do you absolutely want the ball at the end of the game if it's close?
AL FISHER: My confidence is definitely high, but I give my confidence all to my teammates and my coaches. Players like Mike Scott and Jordan Mincy, they all just they take the pressure off me a lot by knowing that it's going to happen. Mike Scott came up to me like one time when the ball was handed at the end of the game, I already know it's good. I'm not worried about it. That definitely take the pressure off the last shot.
Q. What should UNLV be worried about, concerned about, scared about?
AL FISHER: You know, just we're just coming to play. We're going to play hard and do what we've been doing, we'll be doing what we've been doing so far, follow the game plan and play defensive rebound. Just worry about us coming to play, I guess.
MIKE SCOTT: Yeah, I think most definitely we're not backing down from no one. I remember my sophomore year we came to a tournament a little hesitant, a little scary somewhat. This year we're not coming with the same mentality. We have confidence to win and do damage in the tournament, come to win.
Q. Mike, how are your thumbs doing? And I know how you got hurt. I read about that. But how does it affect your shot and just your overall game to have those things?
MIKE SCOTT: Probably should have my thumb wrapped the first three years of college because I'm feeling pretty confident from the field. Percentage wise, shooting it well. You know, they're fine. I ran into a problem a few games ago catching the ball, but quickly got on that, corrected that in practice. Had Chris Singletary, strong as ever, having him throw me the ball and practiced catching the ball so corrected it.
Q. Al, can you talk about kids who aren't recruited heavily after high school they get to this level and you get in situations like this, how easy is it to differentiate the very closeness of players no matter what seed or team it is at this level, and can you talk about your own journey and experience of how you have been able to become this player maybe not recruited as well but have now made a name for yourself at this level?
AL FISHER: You know, it's not that big of a difference to players. I mean, because in this league and everywhere everyone always comes to play hard. So they come ready to play and they play their game and bring intensity with it. And for me, this is my third school. I came from Siena, went over to Redlands, Oklahoma, Ju Co, and came here. It was hard getting here first, but the players, they like took me under their wing and showed me this is a family, just opened up and we're going to be here for you through thick and thin.
And they just made the transition from ju co and the other schools to come here a lot easier.
Q. Mike, you talked to Marcus or Scott yet?
MIKE SCOTT: Actually, Marcus Crenshaw, he messes me on face book and tells us congratulations and we'll see you out there. But I haven't talked to Scott Cutler.
Q. The sports books in Las Vegas had Kent State as one and a half point favorites going in, a lot of respect. Talk about the respect you guys have built up over the year?
AL FISHER: Well, you know, we don't really look at that. We're just going to come and play our game and do what we've been doing. We definitely we play and we be opponents, and I think we deserve the respect we've gained thus far. It should be good. Going to be a good matchup.
MIKE SCOTT: I feel it's a well deserved thing. Kent State has been a strong program for quite a while now and I think it's really starting to come to a head and starting to show the country that Kent State is a great program. We're going to probably start getting better players here. And I think this is definitely a great thing.
Q. Want to ask you guys what you know of UNLV as a school. Probably as kids, six year old or seven year old kids you probably heard of UNLV. What comes to mind when you think of UNLV, tradition and stuff?
MIKE SCOTT: Pros, NBA players. Great program all the way around and just athletic players always.
AL FISHER: I have to agree with him. Pros, and just a great squad. They've been a good squad for years and they're probably going to be a good squad for years to come, too.
Q. I know you guys set goals during the year to run the MAC regular season, MAC championship, what guys are you doing if anything to make sure that you reset your goals to come here, not just now that you're here, take a deep breath and enjoy it, but to do something and try to come up with a win and push forward into the next round?
MIKE SCOTT: The first goal is to win the first half of this next game and then going to to win the second half. Breaking it down, it might even be more than that, breaking down to win the first four minutes then the next four minutes, that's the goals we have right now. We just want to continue to add to that, just break it down.
Because you look at it as a whole it can really look intimidating. So we're going to break it down, take it one step at a time.
AL FISHER: We just want to focus on this game. We don't want to look behind us or who we might play next. We just want to focus on what we've got to do and what we got to do for UNLV and get ready and get prepared for them.
Q. Al, I asked you this once before, but maybe I'll try it general. Did you ever see yourself being the double figure scorer in college? You won it Siena and Redlands, what is it that transitioned from there to here in terms of not just being a double figure scorer but a game winning scorer?
AL FISHER: I never really looked at it like that. I just came in and said I'm going to help this team in whatever way they need me to help. If they just needed me to cheer that's what I was going to do come do, come cheer. But being in the position they put me in, you know, being a double figure scorer is good, and being that they trust me enough to do it and put the ball in my hands in game winning situations is definitely lovely to have that support behind me.
Q. Mike, aeronautical systems engineering?
MIKE SCOTT: Aeronautical studies.
Q. How does that translate to basketball, and how did you come up with wanting to do that?
MIKE SCOTT: Well, you see I don't know if you have seen any games or not doing my airplane thing after I dunk, that is representative of my major. I don't know, I've always been in love with airplanes since I was a child. I don't know, just really stayed with me. It wasn't just a little stage. I just love I used to drive past the airport. It's not like a little kid story but I used to drive past the airport see them taking off and landing. It's stayed with me. I love airplanes.
Q. What do you want to do then after you are done playing basketball?
MIKE SCOTT: I want to eventually open up my own business as far as small planes, maintenance company. Scott Mechanics or something like that and just work on airplanes. I just want to be around airplanes.
Q. Representing the MAC, when you take the court, do you feel like you have something to prove against larger schools or larger conferences?
AL FISHER: No. We don't feel like we have anything to prove. We just feel as though we represent the MAC and we want to represent the world, we're just going to come out and do what we've been doing up until this game. And come out and do things that we're supposed to do and follow the game plan and all.
MIKE SCOTT: Yeah, like he said, I don't think it's necessarily anything to prove. I just feel like we need to go out here and win the game. It's that simple. I think you get caught up into thinking about things like that you start to lose focus.
Like I said, we need to win the first four minutes of this game. And we'll let the country and the media decide what needs to be proven and whatnot, things like that. We're just going to try to win this game.
Q. What was your reaction when you found out you were coming to Omaha, Nebraska?
AL FISHER: It was just, okay, we got another game to worry about. Let's dress up and get ready for the game that we have on Thursday.
MIKE SCOTT: It was like Nebraska. Nebraska? But you know I'm grateful to be here (smiling). Never been to Nebraska. I can tell my kids I've been to Nebraska. But Courtney Lee is one of my high school rivals. He's in Tampa. I talked to him the other day. I was jealous about that. But I'm grateful to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Best of luck.
Head coach of the MAC champions is with us, Jim Christian. We'll ask him for an opening statement on his team being here in Omaha then questions.
COACH CHRISTIAN: Our team is very excited to be here. It's part of being a part of March Madness is special for these guys. The whole experience has just been wonderful and just now we're excited to get started and play.
Q. Coach, what can you tell us about what you've seen from UNLV on tape and how you guys are going to match up with them tomorrow?
COACH CHRISTIAN: You know, in watching their film, I think the teams are very similar. Both are very defensive oriented teams. They get tremendous guard play. They shoot the 3 extremely well, and you know they play so hard.
And I think our team kind of mirrors them in the way we approach the game. So I just think it's going to be a great game.
And we understand they're going to be very, very well prepared. You can watch the games they played on tape and you can see the little things they do to try to take teams out of what they feel comfortable doing. And that's a credit to Coach Kruger and his staff.
Q. I know both teams like to play defense. In your gut, who do you think plays the bet defense, Kent State or UNLV?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I think defense is the pride of both programs. And if the score is 1 0 tomorrow, then you'll know who plays better defense. It's just again, I respect how hard they play and the way they play because I think it is very similar to how we play.
Q. This tournament first the Saint Mary's game, now this tournament obviously allows a kid like Al to come on more of a national stage. Can you talk about his development, what you saw in him and apparently he didn't average double figures before he got here. He's more of a scorer for you. What about him that you like?
COACH CHRISTIAN: The thing I like about him, he's just constantly trying to learn and get better. From the first day he was here he really wanted to learn our system, to pick things up. He's a really fun guy to coach because he's so confident.
And regardless of whether he plays bad the first half or previous game, he comes to work and get better the next day. That's what good players do. It's been fun watching him get better and better because he's always the first guy to evaluate himself, come back and watch the tape, wants to constantly you know learn from what he did the previous game, and that's what's making him a very good player.
Q. You're facing a team that starts two walk ons, what's your reaction to that?
COACH CHRISTIAN: If they're starting two walk ons they don't play like it. This game is funny. I mean, you know, we are starting a guy we never saw play live. We saw a guy that we never saw pick up a basketball live. So this time of year, there's no walk ons, there's nothing but good players and good teams on the floor.
So, you know, we know what we're up against in UNLV. We know how good they are. You have to be an excellent basketball team to win 26 games, to hold teams down the way they hold them down in a great league. So we know exactly what we're getting into.
Q. Your big man doesn't necessarily put a lot of offensive numbers up on the board, but because of UNLV's lack of size, do you anticipate maybe using him a little bit more on that end of the floor tomorrow?
COACH CHRISTIAN: He's a key player for us. He has had big games this year. So we play it's too late in the year to change what you do. This is who we are and this is how we play.
But he's been a very, very good player for us all year. He's had a lot of big games for us. He's such a unique player and we use him a lot in the type of things we do offensively and defensively. He's a huge part of every game plan. So it's not going to change for us.
Q. Can you talk about UNLV without really mentioning Wink Adams, is he kind of where you start?
COACH CHRISTIAN: It's hard not to mention him because he's such a good player. He's a lot like Al Fisher and our team in terms of how much confidence they play with. One of those guys, every time he gets a ball, he's a threat to score. They have a couple of guys like that. He's one that stands out. He's a great basketball player and we'll have to do everything we can to try to you never stop a guy like that but try to make him work for what he gets.
Q. You already talked about how you feel that your team's play mirrors of that UNLV's, talking about how you have a lot of journeymen and UNLV makes a lot of walk ons. Do you think the stories are similar of how the players got to the universities?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I'm not sure what a journeyman is, but some guys they have to find the right place for them. And I think that's what this whole thing is about. That's the beautiful part of college basketball, is that you may go to a situation that just doesn't you may be a good player but the situation just doesn't fit you properly you have to find a place that does.
Both UNLV and ourselves are fortunate to have guys who kind of fit what they try to do very well. And I think that's why both of our teams are here.
Q. Do you know much about the Mountain West, the league?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I know a lot about it. We see a lot of their games. I watch I watched a lot about it the last few days. And it's always been a multiple bid league and a great conference. And you know whoever represents it does very well in this tournament. You had a Sweet 16 team last year.
So I think it's a great league. And obviously they're sending great teams into this tournament.
Q. You have a ton of last second shots that win games over the course, Fisher has made a few for you. One, is it easier to draw something up for him now in that sense? But, two, what about him, I guess, did you see when he first got here or did he have to develop this kind of confidence to make that kind of shot?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I think he had the confidence when he got here. And the thing about it is the game winning shots he's hit those have not been his particularly better games. He's played poorly in some of those games made a shot to win it. That's probably the greatest compliment you can give a player, he wants the ball in those key pivotal situations, irregardless how he's played up to that point.
I think that's what made him a pretty good player. It's easy to draw plays up for a guy at the end of the game who wants the ball.
Q. You talk about players who have to find a place to fit in. The couple of your former players ended up at the same regional here with Cal State Fullerton. Scott, when you recruited Scott Cutley, did you think he had the skills to become the player that he became in the big west?
COACH CHRISTIAN: No question. He was an impact player for us from day one. He's a guy I'm so happy for. He deserves it. He's been a winner his whole life. I knew he was going to be a great player.
We were disappointed when he wanted to go closer to home but we understood it. And I'm just happy that he had a chance to play in this tournament, because he's a winner, and he deserves to play in the NCAA tournament.
Q. Do you remember watching that Westchester team with all the talent and were there a lot of coaches around?
COACH CHRISTIAN: You know, we signed Scott during the early signing period. So I saw him play more in the summer than when they played later on in the year. But I saw a lot of their players play. Such a talented team. That's what stood out about Scott. He was the guy on the team and still is when he came to Kent State and still is now, that just took a lot of pride in doing all the little things that make you win basketball games.
Those kind of things are something special to a coach and something that's very rare and hard to find.
Q. One thing seems to stand out in both teams, Kruger's and just watching yours, is that kids accept roles they defend. Can you talk about in 2008 the difficulty to get kids to embrace what you want them to do defensively and embrace roles where maybe they're not as highlighted as maybe they thought they were when they came to this school?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I think it's just a constant, constant talking about it. And talking to them one on one, and then you've got to share events like this, because everybody does do that. You get a chance to play in this tournament and be a special team.
The funny part about it is it's amazing how guys who have accepted those roles over the course of the season now all of a sudden they're starting to get their name in the paper, people are writing articles about Jordan Mincy's defensive ability or Al Fisher's ability to create his own shot or Mike Scott being the glue to our team.
Those roles were embraced a long time ago. But because you embrace it now you get a chance to show it in this stage. If you asked every single one of those guys was it worth it they would all tell you it was worth it.
Q. Have you ever had a chance to cross paths with Lon Krueger or is this the first time?
COACH CHRISTIAN: This is the first time I've crossed paths with him. I've obviously seen his teams play forever and always respected how hard and how much success he's had and taken teams to the Final Four and Sweet 16 and won wherever he's been. Admired how they played.
Q. Jim, you're a Rhode Island graduate. Do you have any reaction to the NIT game here last night?
COACH CHRISTIAN: My reaction would be sad. They had a great year. I followed them very closely as a former player. It's funny, you know, I played 20 years ago there, yet the guys on my team we still talk to all the time. It's a special place.
And happy for Creighton, but as an alumnus of Rhode Island, sad they got beat in the last second shot in post season. You hate to see any season end.
Q. Were you here last night for that?
COACH CHRISTIAN: No, I was not. I was not. We didn't even get ESPNU at the hotel which was disappointed I had to hear about it this morning. Dana Altman looked pretty happy when I saw him at practice, though.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.