Coach Neal Opening Statement
Hard fought game, which I knew it was going to be. I got great respect for Billy. He had a lot of great years with Gonzaga and he knows what he’s doing. It was one of those games that I scheduled because I knew they were going to be really good. And it definitely was a test. I thought we came out really lethargic. I don’t know if it was the week off, or what it was, but we didn’t come out with that pop we usually have.
But I’m really thankful for my team. They’re fun to coach and sometimes they’re very tough. But I have a lot of fun with them. I got great kids. And very thankful for the opportunity to coach them. Very thankful for the challenge that we got today, because I think we learned a lot today. I’ll address some things:
We only had four turnovers in the second half, which is really good -- kept us tied with the number we seek, 12. Kendall was phenomenal, 16-for-16 at the free-throw line for a school record. It was probably the best we’ve shot free throws in a couple-game span, 26-for-29. We really need help with our perimeter shooting. I think I played guys about the minutes they’re going to play with Nick, Deshawn, Cullen, Obij and Arthur. There’s just not a lot of minutes. The only thing we didn’t do, we didn’t get any scoring from our bench. But they did take seven or eight shots. They had opportunities to score. And we got to start shooting the ball better, because we we’re 5-for-20 today [from beyond the arc]. But really proud of how they got down and fought back. I thought they were better defensively in the second half. And they’re a good team. I think they’re a good team.
We’ll keep working. I saw some things that we improved on, I saw some things that we didn’t improve on. Alex and Cam are playing at a high level and Kendall was phenomenal today. Cam got hurt today with foul trouble and hopefully he’ll figure that out. And all in all, just happy for the win.
On finding another scorer to complement Alex Kirk, Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams...
Well, to be honest, I really don’t want anybody else to shoot those shots. But I do have to get somebody else to score. Somebody’s got to give us some bench points. Cullen didn’t score a basket, Arthur didn’t score. We didn’t get any scoring from our bench so some of those guys have got to score. Hugh had six good-looking shots. Hugh’s a major competitor, he’s very fierce. He’s got the freedom to make plays. The problem that Hugh has, and I think a lot of guys, they miss a couple shots -- it’s like the quote that Pancake said to [you] -- he tells Kendall he’s going to stop shooting. You can’t play that way. Hugh misses a couple shots and he stops looking for his shot. He did pull trigger on a couple of them. Those guys are great players and we’re going to play through them. And we’ll see what happens, but we do have to get some more scoring.
On the ball reversal...
I maybe say too much about play together and share the ball. And we worked on it, because I thought in the UMass game, even though we had a bad run and we got a little bit tired, our ball movement really suffered. And we spent a lot of time this week really trying to reverse sides of the ball quicker and get some things on the other side. And I think the trap hurt us a little bit today, other than it did the last time we played, and I just think we need to keep working on that and improving. But I think our guys were in good spots and they did a nice job coming hard to trap us.
· Kendall Williams:
Thoughts on free throws (16/16) and getting to the line:
“You know it’s an area that we talked about earlier in the year with the new rules. It’s the shape up of this team with the two big men. They’re getting doubled and I’m getting lane and open shots. It’s just being aggressive. We’re trying to still finish some plays but if I can continue to get the line it is just as productive.”
Thoughts on the team going 2/17 other than Williams, Bairstow, and Kirk and the importance of getting someone to step up scoring wise:
“Hugh isn’t going to go 1/6 all the time. He’s a great shooter, a great team leader, and has been for three years. That right there could answer your question. We have a lot of talent. We’re six games in and it’s tough. We have two big guys who dominate the ball a lot, play so well together, and they dominate a lot of attention. Obviously I am going to continue to play aggressive. It’s just a matter of some of the other guys finding their roles and still being aggressive.”
Are you passing too much and not going for shots when they are available?
“Yeah, probably. That might start with me honestly. I’m a two guard and sometimes I pass up shots, but it is what it is. I think we just need to start shooting the ball more. We need to start shooting the ball more in practice, shooting the ball more in games, and start being a little more selfish.”
Is the defense starting to come along a little bit?
“Yeah it is. They had one guy that could really shoot the ball and then a little guy that was really penetrating well with twelve assists. Those two were really good players and their big guys were solid. We played a really good team out there and were still able to contain them. They gave us a game down until the end, but were a tough team and were a veteran team. I’m really proud of the guys that we were able to pull that off.”
Thoughts on New Mexico State game:
“I love rivalry games, it should be fun.”
Thoughts on it being your last trip down to Las Cruces:
“Well we usually leave right after the game so I don’t know much about Las Cruces.”
· Alex Kirk:
Cameron Bairstow getting into early foul trouble, did you start to think about the UMASS game?
“No, I didn’t really think about it but I guess it was a similar situation. This team was a little different. They didn’t really pressure us like UMASS. They had a nice little run, but we went back and tied it up. They tried to come back at us, but we had a nice little spurt at the end and were able to get the lead back at half.”
Do you need someone else to step up scoring wise?
“That’s definitely important and I think that is definitely something we’re going to continue to work on. The guys are there on the bench, but it just didn’t happen tonight. In this situation we were able to compensate, but we definitely need them to hit shots and they’re going to.”
Teams are doubling you and Cam more often. Do you think teams are starting with you guys and working their way back out?
“Yeah, we’ve hurt teams early by getting the ball inside the lane and scoring. Honestly, we didn’t hit a lot of threes tonight. Kendall, Hugh, and the rest of the shooters will, but yes I think it’s going to happen. When we have to pass out I think it throws us out of our flow, but if they do that our guards are going to punish them.”
“It’s a big game. Early in my career I didn’t really make a relationship with any of those guys, but Mullens and I ate together in the cafeteria in Russia a few times. He’s having a big season. We’re just going to see what we can do about getting around Sim Bhullar.”