Post Game Quotes: (25/RV) New Mexico 67, Utah State 58
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/25/2014

Head Coach Craig Neal

Post Game Quotes vs. Utah State

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Opening Statement: 

"That was a grind. I knew it was going to be a tough game, didn't do much with my guys yesterday. Just talked to them about it, but I knew Utah State was going to come in and do very well. They're well coached, I've got a lot of respect for him. He does a good job and they've got some veteran kids. I think the key to our game was our defense in the second half. To keep Medlin, he hit some crucial baskets. I think Cam and Alex were 14 and 13, double-double were terrific. We just had a lull, I think all of us had a lull, I was in a little lull, I think our fans were in a lull, I think team was in a lull after a big week. But our fans came to life, our team came to life. I think Cullen came in and gave us some big spark and it was a good win for us. It's the game you have to win to be a champion and last I checked, we're still champions until somebody beats us and that's what I told our guys. So I'm going to give them two days off this week. We played three games in seven days, and three very, very emotional games. We came through unscathed and that's the most important thing.”

On Kendall's shooting: 

"I can't shoot for him. He's never been told not to shoot, it was addressed at half time and he came out and played a pretty good second half. Set him down for awhile, but I think he was drained a little bit, a little tired but he played a very good second half. But those veteran guys, I've never told them not to shoot. So it's just one of those things where he didn't feel like he had some shots, we were trying to go inside and they did a heck of a job guarding our inside tonight. They did a good job, had a good game plan. Got to give them credit for that."

On defense energy: 

"I think that's a reaction of fear. When you have fear you're going to lose, and lose something you've worked the whole season for. I think it comes from them having a sense of urgency. We started icing ball screens a little bit and getting a little higher. But I thought we did an unbelievable job pushing them off the line and really getting onto them on the catch. And I think our big guys did a great job contesting shots late in the game. And that really helps us. So I just think the sense of urgency and they don't like to lose. And they're a competitive bunch and they dug pretty deep tonight."

On energy and spark from Cullen: 

"Well I didn't play him much the first half, and I kind of know I've been around him most of his life. So I know how to push his buttons, and I know how good he can be and that's why we recruit him and that's why he's here. I think he's going to be a really, really good player for us and he gave us a spark that we needed. We needed somebody to come in and score some baskets and make some plays and make something happen, and he did that. And I know how to push his buttons, and he's a terrific kid that played very hard tonight. I'm very proud of him and he lifted our team tonight."

On biggest challenge: "I think the biggest challenge was getting them going, getting the energy going and after that big win on Saturday and beating UNLV on the road. Like I said you’re playing three games in seven days it's a tough task and we were forcing to get through it. You can only whip a horse so much, I don't like yelling at them, I don't like getting on them, I like to coach them and I just told them, "Guys you're going to let something slip away that's very special to you" and that was uninspired basketball in the first half. Very uninspired. I told them you guys have to go out there and do it and they did it. And we've got great play from Pancake, he didn't make many shots but he was terrific; he came in and guarded. Cullen gave us a good boost, and Merv played well. He did some little things for us, gave us some energy. And Cam and Alex finally got going and we didn't shoot the free throw real well, but that could be fatigue that's why I'm going to give them a couple days off. So it's been an interesting stretch for us."

Junior C Alex Kirk: 

On a sense of fear or frustration during the second half.... 

"I don't know. Maybe to certain people but I'm not really scared of anything. We've been in that spot before, they're a tough team and they were hitting shots and we weren't. We were a little lackadaisical but then we put ourselves in a position and we were able to make a run when they got a little tired and we were able to capitalize on it pretty well."

On playing with fire in terms of "turning it on" whenever...

"You don't want to play like that at all, I'm not sure if that's what it is. That's a talented team right there. They're 5-10 in the conference, but those kids can shoot the ball. They have bigs and they're a talented team and we battled until we were able to get on the run."

On having a "hangover" after playing the top team in the conference...

"You can say that, we played three games in seven days and none of those games were gimme wins and I think they were all big wins. We have three more to go and I think that will put us in a good spot in the future."

On Cullen Neal's play tonight....

"It was the best I think I've seen him play a game of basketball and I've seen him play a lot of games from AAU to high school. I honestly don't think he'll realize how big tonight was for him and the team until after the season. That was some of the best basketball I've seen and he was really smart tonight and made a lot of the right plays. I'm really proud of him. He was the one that kept us in there. A lot of people are hard on him and people are hard on different players all the time, but for him that was definitely his best game."

On the connection with Cameron Bairstow... 

"We just know where we are. I knew where he was going to be on the court at the time. I just saw his eyes cut the baseline and then he had it to lay it in. It's just one of those things. Honestly, it's so easy to pass to him because he works really hard to get post position. I'll take the assist because I give it to him and he finishes and goes to work. That's what I'm going to continue to do." 

Freshman G Cullen Neal

On his momentum shifting shots....

"I was just trying to make a shot. I was wide open so luckily enough I was able to hit it and it got the crowd going."

On the feeling after hitting the big shots....

"It feels good. It's always nice to hit a shot." 

On the interactions with Coach Neal...

"He knows what to say to get me fired up so that's all that it was on that." 

On the second half lull, on what changed prior to the run... 

"I think the bench got energized and brought energy going and once that happened it brought a lot of great things to the court." 

On his state of health... 

​"I'm feeling great. I'm at about 185 lbs. right now which was 35 more lbs. that I weighed before so that's good. I feel like I'm 100% healthy again."