Jamaal Franklin and the Aztecs face Boise State in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament on Wednesday.
March 11, 2013
COACH FISHER, FRANKLIN, STEPHENS QUOTES
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Steve Fisher
"We are entering the last phase of everybody's season and the one deemed most important. It starts with the conference tournament and ends with the big (NCAA) tournament. So our goal is to be in the big tournament. Before we can get in, we need to be successful in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. So that's our goal. Obviously we're playing Boise State again. We're coming off a tough loss at their place, so we'll have a rematch on Wednesday. I think it will be another good, close, hard-fought game, and we need to change the final result. We are excited about it. If we're going to win, we need production from everybody."
On how to approach a quick rematch:
"You just prepare. You say, `What little wrinkle did they do that affected us in a not so good way? What did we do that we feel we could do better to attack them?' This is the way it is in most leagues. We've had this in the past. It will be the same way we always prepare. We'll tweak a couple things, but I'm sure (Boise State) is saying the same thing. They're a good team that is able to create issues with their ability to shoot the three. They play small and they play effectively that way."
On what the team needs to improve on:
"I could say everything. It's not one thing. You've got to grind away, and then players make plays. And sometimes you make a play when the opposition doesn't think a play is there to be made. You have to do that, and we've done it in the past. We've just got to keep believing. It's important that we know that we're good."
On the team's confidence right now:
"You have to be rock solid from the neck up, and it starts with the demeanor that the coach presents. It ripples right through everybody on this team. You've got to have a confident swagger that isn't false bravado. I know that I know we can win, and that will be the message that I give. Each person is a little different as far as being fragile or tough. Can you deal with adversity and frustration and bounce right back up? Every team this year has lost really, really heart-wrenching games. But you come back and compete. We have a lot of grit and character on this team, so I don't think believing we can win, or doubt, is a factor at all."
On bad shooting on the road in the first half of games:
"I don't think it's just been the first half. I think there have been stretches like (at Boise State) where we didn't shoot well and had to come from behind. I think that's a testament of toughness being down 16 points and coming back. Part of getting off to a good start (offensively) is getting stops."
On if they should win the Mountain West Tournament:
"I don't know if we should or not, but I have fond memories of playing in Las Vegas for the conference championship. I believe we've been in the championship game the last four years and our goal is to make it five-for-five. You have to play. It's well-documented that this is as good as the league's ever been No. 1 through No. 9. Surprises happen, but I don't think you can call them big upsets. You have to play with heart and know you're going to win. I would say it will be a tournament that's very compelling to the audience. If you just go to watch, you're going to get your money's worth."
On if Wednesday's game against Boise State is like a (NCAA Tournament) play-in game:
"We're playing to win the conference tournament. I look like everybody to see where teams are projected (for the tournament) and those types of things. There needs to be self-imposed pressure just enough to keep you on edge, but not enough to have you so tense and tight that you don't perform."
On the importance of momentum going into the NCAA Tournament:
"I can make a case on both sides. There are teams that have limped in and made it to the Final Four. There are teams that flew in on a 10-game winning streak and were knocked out in the first round of the tournament. If you want to make a case for either, you find facts for either. But you need to feel good about yourself, and winning helps you feel good about yourself. I think you want to win every game you play."
On Xavier Thames being healthy:
"We need all our guys ready to roll, and (Thames) is a big piece to the success that we've had last year and this year. So we need him playing, and more importantly, we need him playing well. He's getting better. It's nice to have the comfort of having him and not worrying about his back anymore."
On if this is the healthiest the team has been since the beginning of the season:
"We are all hands on deck, so I think we are in pretty good shape. I think every team in America has bumps and bruises, but you don't have any time to worry about that. You have to play."
Junior Jamaal Franklin
On losing close games:
"Some games I kick myself at night, but it's basketball. The best thing about this sport is you get to play right away. You don't have to wait a whole other week to play again. You have to move on and get ready for the next opponent. Thankfully, we get to see Boise State again and get a rematch right away."
On if they can win the Mountain West Tournament:
"Yes, we definitely could. We've been there before and I've been (in the final game) every year since I've been here. So I don't look forward to not being there this year."
On if they should win the MW Tournament:
"If we capitalize on what we need to do and go hard in practice, then we should win. There are a lot of tough opponents out there, but we've got to take it one game at a time and try to get there."
On if they're a different team with Xavier Thames:
"Yes, we're definitely a different team. I would say we lose maturity when he's out. He's the leader of our defense and our offense, so it makes a big difference when he's in there."
On playing with pressure:
"I'm a person that likes pressure, so if it's a game we need to win, I like playing like that. I like playing on edge. It makes our team play on edge and with way more passion."
On if winning the MW Tournament will make up for other losses this season:
"It would make up for everything that happened. We didn't have the success in conference play that we wanted to, but I feel if we get this task done ahead of us, we'll be happy."
Senior Deshawn Stephens
On if they can win the MW Tournament:
"Definitely. If we go out and do what we're supposed to do, follow the coaches' lead, go out and do it together, we can definitely win the MW conference."
On if they should win the MW Tournament:
"If we execute right and analyze our opponents one by one, we should be alright."