UNM vs Air Force
March 5, 2014
Coach Craig Neal
“I thought we had the jitters to start us off. I thought Kendall and Cam, emotionally, it’s a tough deal, going down that ramp the last time and doing some things that they’ve done here. So we didn't get off to the greatest of starts, even though we were up 14 at half. I thought our guys played an excellent second half and got a little bit of momentum going, a little better fluid offensively. So, all in all, I’m pleased. I just knew it was going to be a tough, tough opponent because we hadn’t played them. It’s a tough style to play against. But I thought our guys did a good job. I tried to rest those guys as much as I could, and it worked out pretty well and I got to play everybody. Really happy with our performance and now we got to get ready for our next one. But, I like where we are and I think we’re improving and I think we’ve got a little bit more to work on. So, other than that, it was a good all-around game and you always like to win senior games, so it was good.”
On changing things due to the emotional nature of the game…
“Not really. I just tried not to talk about it. It’s hard to go in there and say, ‘hey, let’s go down and get fired up, it’s your last time to go down the ramp.’ I just try to act as normal game and try to talk to them about what we’re trying to achieve and one step in a journey like I’ve said all the time with games. It’s just hard. It’s hard for them, playing in this great facility, great fans. Those guys have been a part of a lot -- all three have been a part of a lot: a lot of winning, a lot of great times. It’s hard going down there the last time. But I thought they overcame it, I thought their teammates picked them up. I thought we did some good things in the second half. And again, we kept somebody under 60 [points]. We’re doing some good things defensively. I thought we did a lot of good things offensively in the second half.”
On when he decided to start senior guard Chris Perez on Senior Night…
“I’d known all along, I just had to battle inside myself. I made the right decision, because I learned from two guys -- my father, who was my coach, and my college coach, who had a big impact on my life (my dad had a big impact on my life) -- and they both did that. They both started seniors. And it’s always been in the back of my mind. And I told the team last night at film that I was going to start him. It was probably the loudest applause I’ve gotten from the team in a long time.”
On the defensive end…
“I thought defensively we were still pretty good the whole game throughout. I think our guys have got a pretty good mindset where I think what the biggest things is with adding the newcomers and the guys is that our guys are really getting locked in on the scouting reports and really locked in on what we’re trying to take away and what we don’t want to give up. And they did everything we wanted them to do in the first half and the second half. And our defense has really improved and we got some ways to go, but I like where we are defensively.”
Senior F Cameron Bairstow
How long have you had "I'm going to shoot a three pointer on senior night" on your mind?
"Quite a while. Hugh and I had a bet to see who would get the first dunk (Hugh) or who would get the first three from me. I've been telling him that senior night is coming up and he better get his dunk soon. But, it was nice to get one up and have it go in."
Did tonight go how you anticipated it to go?
"It's never going to be a dream thing like how you imagine senior night being. It wasn't a great game for me, but in terms of how things went overall, we were able to win and the whole experience was part of the dream. That's as good as it's going to get."
Reaction to hearing Chris was starting:
"We were all really happy for him. We all wanted him to start and we felt like he deserved it. He's been through just as much as we've been through and it wouldn't at all impact how the game went in our eyes."
What was it like being in front of all of those Lobos fans as a senior and watching the game come to an end?
"It was unbelievable. To get that kind of fan support is really rare and our fans are the best I've ever come across and they've shown so much support over the last four years. It was pretty emotional to walk down the Pit for the last time and walk down the ramp in front of the crowd. But, I don't think it has fully hit me yet. We still have some games to play."
Staying focused on SDSU:
"I think we understand that it is a lot different playing them there compared to playing them here. We realize how good of a team we are and I think we realize we need to move on quickly."
Senior G Kendall Williams
Going through senior day stuff, throwing the shoes into the crowd, etc.:
"It kind of just hit me yesterday. I've always had a laid back approach to things and I didn't think about my speech too much. The shoe thing just kind of came to me. It seemed to get the crowd pretty riled up."
Passing along the MVP award to Cameron Bairstow?
"I think it's a clear cut that Cam will get it. I'll concede any award to a teammate that deserves it. There's no doubt that he's been the best player consistently in the conference."
Focusing on SDSU:
"I think tonight's game was good for us. We really had to grind it out after the SDSU game. I think some people might have underestimated how tough of a schedule we had left, but conference is underrated and it’s tough."
Avoiding a letdown:
"I mean it’s easy to avoid a letdown because it's the last game of conference, at their place, for the championship. We're going into a hostile environment and that will keep us going the whole time. I don't know how we're going to play, but I know we're going to play Lobo basketball."