SDSU Men's Basketball Press Conference Quotes

Jan. 15, 2013

SAN DIEGO -

San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher

Opening statement:
"We are very excited to be 2-0 in MW conference play. I've said it, and a lot of people have, how difficult this conference is every game. Who you play, no matter where you play, I don't think you can say any game is a major upset, and most games probably not even an upset. If you play well, you'll have a chance home or away. So we're feeling good we're 2-0. We know that we're fortunate to be 2-0. An overtime win and a three-point win. And I'm sure we'll have more of those - hopefully with the same outcome - as this league season moves on. It's filled with immensely talented coaches and players. I think this is a league that can stack up with any in the country and I'm glad to see it's getting the attention that it is, and I think this is going to be a big game nationally tomorrow with two rated teams and both with high aspirations and very good players. We are close to being at 100-percent health, which is good. I'm excited about the atmosphere in the building."

Have there been any setbacks with Xavier Thames and his back?
"Xavier is doing pretty good with his back. I say that cautiously with how backs can be, but he practiced yesterday and he practiced more than I wanted him to. I would pull him out, and he said, `I'm fine, let me go a little bit more.' So he didn't seem any worse because of the game against Colorado State (Saturday). He practiced with his usual intelligence and vigor yesterday, and I haven't heard anything from our trainer, so I'm assuming he will be fine."

What do you expect from UNLV?
"UNLV is a terrific team. They're one of those teams filled with expectations of others, and they have a long-standing history of success there. Expectations are always high, and even more so with the team they had coming in this year. I think (UNLV coach) Dave Rice's staff have done a terrific job of being able to put everything together and it's still going on. Obviously with (Khem) Birch becoming eligible mid-semester and (Mike) Mosher dislocating his elbow. All those things factor in. But the more film I watch, the more impressed I am with the job the coaches have done with this team and how hard they play. They're a hard team to score on. They're good, they're well coached and this will be a hard game."

How do you prepare for a team that hasn't been at full strength all year?
"You prepare basically yourself, and we spend most of the time worried about us opposed to our opponent. Then you go through what they like to do. You try to negate some things. You try to make them go to their second or third option, try to make it more difficult to get to the sweet spots (on the court). This is a good team and Mosher started and played terrific against Air Force, so I know that gave him a great deal of confidence now that he's back to form. He looks like he's good to go also, which is nice to see."

Why has this become such a big rivalry?
"I think, No. 1, the closeness allows both teams to get fans there. When our building was not sold out, there were more (UNLV) fans than Aztecs fans, and they let us know about it. Everybody likes to go to Las Vegas, and now they have another reason to go to Las Vegas when we play there. I think that's part of it, but part of it also are the great games we've had with them over a number of years. It hasn't mattered who was the favorite. We've had some terrific games with them, and I think everyone likes that. The players know one another. We recruit at least some of the same kids. I think that lends itself to that kind of rivalry from within. It's been nice. It's been a good, healthy environment between the two teams. There's mutual respect, they want to pound us, we want to pound them, but when the game's over we shake hands, hug and genuinely say, `Good game.'"

This could be the last game between you as conference foes. If so, would you want to play (UNLV) again?
"I have not talked to them about scheduling because we're still in the same league, but absolutely. I think this is a game that not only could, but should continue being played. I would have to think they feel the same way, but we have not talked about it. To me, it's a natural for both teams to want to play."

What kind of mismatch does (UNLV freshman) Anthony Bennett present?
"He leads them in every positive category he could lead them as a freshman, that's impressive. The one thing that jumped out to me, he's shot more free throws than Jamaal (Franklin) has. And (Franklin) gets to the free-throw line a lot. So that tells you he's attacking, he's not afraid to bang. He likes to step out on occasion and shoot the ball, but he's a man and he plays that way. He's immensely talented and in some ways he's the emotional leader of that team when he's going well. He's a handful, he's been that way for everybody. So we'll have our hands full."

With Winston (Shepard) being high school teammates with (Bennett), has he told you anything about him?
"I'm sure just like they talk about us with some of the players that know one another, we've talked to (Shepard) to get an inside scoop on some of the things that he does and doesn't do. I don't know if that will have much impact on what happens, but yes we have talked about it."

What's it like with every game being so tough in conference play?
"In years gone by, even when we were good and had three or four teams at the top, there were 2-4 teams at the bottom where you say, `If the plane gets us there, we should win.' That is no more. We used to be that team in the inaugural few years of the league, but there have been teams where you say, `You can play less than your best basketball and probably win.' If anybody says that now, they're going to get beat, because that doesn't happen. This league is very solid from the best team to the team that's going to finish ninth."

It was reported in Los Angeles you would be on USC's short list. Would you even field a call from USC?
"That's maliciously false reporting I might add. You hate to see any coach get let go period, especially in midseason. We are becoming more and more like the NBA. I know there are reasons why people do things. I've known Kevin (O'Neill) since we were both young assistant coaches. You feel bad when anybody loses a job. Again, I've got enough on my plate here to worry about with the Aztecs."

San Diego State junior Jamaal Franklin

What makes the rivalry against UNLV so special?
"We're both just two competitive teams. We play similar styles, we both know each other, so I think that's what makes it so competitive and a real rivalry. Everybody just wants to win. Now even our student section is into it and so is their student section. So it's The Show's rivalry and it's our rivalry. It's real big."

Can you compare this year's UNLV team to last year?
"They have the addition of Anthony Bennett and Bryce Jones from Los Angeles, one of my friends. They're making UNLV a lot better, and Anthony Bennett makes their inside game a lot stronger. (Bennett) is able to run the floor too and Bryce Jones is able to contribute by scoring. That makes it big for them, but at the same time we've made additions too with Skylar (Spencer), James Johnson and I feel like Winston (Shepard) has been doing a really good job too."

What's it like with every conference game being so tough?
"It's real tough. I think it's going to be like the Big East and ACC from now on. A lot of people expected us to beat Fresno State by 20, but I was just letting them know it's the Mountain West, nothing is light anymore. You can't take anybody lightly. Any game you play now is going to be tough. Every team is playing at a high level and every program expects their team to be at a high level."

Do you see yourself in Anthony Bennett at all, or vice versa?
"I wouldn't say I see myself in him. At the end of the day, he's way bigger. I feel he has a motor, he's real competitive and he likes to win. So I can see that in myself and him. But at the same time, I feel aspects of my game are a little different than his. He's a real competitor, I'm a competitor, so we'll see when we play tomorrow."

How different is UNLV now compared to the start of the season?
"They just bring more depth. They're real big and they're able to have more depth on the back end of the court. They can rebound really well. I feel we had a real good challenge against Colorado State to get prepared for this game knowing Colorado State is one of the best rebounding teams."

Did the loss to UNLV sting more than any other last year?
"Every loss stings to me because I don't like to lose. I like to win every game, so any loss hurts. If you ask anybody on my team, I don't care if we lose to the best team in the country or to the Los Angeles Lakers, I'm still going to be mad and feel we should have won."

San Diego State senior Chase Tapley

How are you feeling?
"I'm doing better. (The flu) is going away slowly, but it's going away."

Is this the game you get most excited to play?
"I would say I do. You're always hearing about it being a rivalry. We just know we're going to get their best basketball and they're going to get our best basketball. Like I always say, it makes it a rich rivalry because one of our former assistant coaches Justin Hutson is on the opposite team, so it just makes it more exciting and fun to play."

How much is last year's loss to UNLV in your memory?
"It's up there. It was a tough game in a tough environment. We still had that game in hand, but we just came up short. We just want to reverse it and get a victory against them tomorrow, and just stay on top in this rivalry. Or end the rivalry right if they change the leagues."

Do you feel an added edge when you play UNLV?
"Of course. Every year before the season they talk about two or three teams (in conference). It's always New Mexico, us and UNLV, and they always try to compare us and UNLV being kind of the same team - really good on defense and really attacking on offense. Both teams are just competitive. We just want to give it our all and come out with a victory. So every time we play UNLV we know it's going to be a dogfight."