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NCAA Tournament Second Round: New Mexico vs. Harvard
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/22/2013

March 22, 2013

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THE MODERATOR: We are joined by New Mexico student athletes, Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk and Coach Steve Alford. We will have an opening statement from Coach Alford.

COACH ALFORD: I thought Harvard did a great job, and I want to commend Tommy and his staff and their players. They played extremely hard and they made shots. We've dodged this bullet a lot this year by having bad shooting nights and still able to get wins. We weren't able to dodge that bullet tonight.

I think it was the first time this group has probably been patted on the back and as a staff and as a group of players, we went under the radar. People were picking us to do this and that and I thought our focus was a little off and I thought Harvard did a lot of things to take advantage of that. We had a tough shooting night and they didn't, and I think that's what resulted in the loss.

Q. Alex, Coach alluded to it all year, we've asked after a lot of the games about the poor shooting and the defense was able to overcome the poor shooting. Tonight the defense wasn't able to do that. What happened tonight that made it different than when nine times during the season you guys won shooting less than 40%?

Alex Kirk: We didn't step up to, in the last stretch, to stop them totally. The last 6, 7 minutes of the game we talked about it and didn't step up and make the stops like we usually do and didn't come down and hit the big shots like we normally do.

Q. Cam, can you talk about the defensive match up with Laurent Rivard and the defensive match up?

Cameron Bairstow: I wasn't able to. I messed up on a couple of occasions and that gave him open shoots.

Q. Alex, on the offensive end you did have a double/double. You were finding success on that inside. Was that an emphasis on the start? Was that at any point you guys wanted to go away from?

Alex Kirk: We have been talking all season that it's easy to work the ball inside and then go outside. We found a little bit of success in there, and they did a good job of doing what they could to stop us. We didn't hit the shots to get the flow going inside and out.

Q. Alex, at the outset it seemed like your team had the obvious physical advantage inside specifically. Were you at all surprised how they came at you inside especially in the early going?

Alex Kirk: Not really. You kind of come out to play, I expected them to come at us. They made some really good moves. They made a lot of interior shots which helped open the outside, too.

Q. Alex, Cam, were you guys focused tonight?

Alex Kirk: I think that our focus was there somewhat. But like Coach said, they came out. They punched us first. They played harder than us. They wanted it obviously more than us tonight, and it hurts. But congrats to them.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. Questions to Coach Alford.

Q. Coach, I know you mentioned the shooting performances and you guys had done that quite a bit this year. Was it something that at any point tonight you told them in the huddle anything different? Did you try and do anything different to get them out of the shooting funk?

COACH ALFORD: No, we can't shoot for 'em. It's all part of the game. We have had games like that. Several games where we haven't shot the ball well. That's an obviously glaring weakness on this basketball team, and we've got to do a lot of work in the off season with our shooting because I think they did a lot of good things with their effort.

Defensively we have been really strong all year, but I thought from about 6 minutes to go in the half throughout the second half we weren't very good defensively. We had some breakdowns. It was hard.

Cam is guarding four guards. This was a four guard lineup, that's not easy. I thought our bigs did some good things offensively and we got some baskets in the second half but then we couldn't get stops.

Q. Steve, just wanted to ask you, what was your remarks to Tommy at the end there? When I asked you, I believe, on Wednesday about your relationship with him, you said at that point if things didn't go your way you would walk up to them and shake their hands and congratulate them

COACH ALFORD: I got all the respect in the world for Tommy. He does it the right way. He's a great guy. He's a great coach. He and his staff were prepared; they had a great game plan. His kids went out and executed it well. Always going to shake hands at the end of the game and show my respect to my opponent, win, lose, or draw. But I thought they did a really good job of executing their game plan tonight.

Q. Coach, talk about the pacing, the tempo, was it what you guys wanted?

COACH ALFORD: Yeah, we're not really a team that dictates much tempo, because we play big big and it's not like we're going to be able to full court press and go with an 8 man lineup the last eight, nine games here. So we're not a pressing team. Try doing that against a four guard lineup, I don't think that's going to work very well.

I thought that they made shots, you know, they just did. I don't know how else to say it, one team shoot 52%, one team shot 37 and you can only dodge that bullet so many times and we didn't do it tonight.

Q. Steve, were you surprised by the way they came at you inside, especially in the early going, trying to establish the outside?

COACH ALFORD: I'm sure they were trying to get bigs in foul trouble and I thought our bigs did some good things defensively. I thought we got a little complacent, where we gave up some play, especially Smith. And I think we gave up some things inside.

But I think you have to do that to give up the pressure of shooting the basketball on the perimeter, and that was part on their smart. We were going to play them one on one regardless, and I thought our bigs did a good job of fighting down there. We have had good guard play all year long and we had some guys that had some tough games tonight and that hurt us.

Q. Coach, there isn't a lot of NCAA Tournament success for you at New Mexico. You talked about the team being distracted. This week I think the fan base thought the Sweet 16 was going to happen. Was that part of the distraction?

COACH ALFORD: Not from fans. That's there every year and we want that. Again, we didn't talk about Sweet 16. We just talked about this was season four and trying to advance and do the things we needed to do to play well. It's obviously not normal road trips.

It's not the way we travel during the year. It's not the way we travel for conference tournament, so this was different and maybe guys didn't handle that very well, with everybody around and those type of things. But that's all part of the NCAA Tournament.

We were here last year. We had to deal with that last year and we had a lot of guys in the locker room here last year. For whatever reason, we just didn't play particularly well. I do, I give Harvard a lot of credit because I thought they did play well.

They had a lot of energy, a lot of focus and they made tough shots, good shots. We just never could get in rhythm offensively where we made enough shots in concession to really get a run and get a lead and let our defense take over. We were just never able to do that.

Q. Coach, you talked on Wednesday about finally getting recognition this year, more so than in previous years, having won the mount taken west championship twice in a row and getting back to the tournament. Can you talk about how much of a setback this is if it is a setback?

COACH ALFORD: It's always a set back. You never like ending your season. I've got a group of guys in the locker room that played extremely hard and well all year long. We have had a tremendous year.

We lost here in the second round. It doesn't taste well; it doesn't sit well. We got the whole starting five back, so we got to learn from it and we've got to turn some of these weaknesses into strengths, whether that's jump shooting, spot shooting, shots off the bounce. We got a lot of work to do here in the off season.

But I'm proud of them. It wasn't a lack of effort. They did everything they could to get it done; you felt for them because they just couldn't didn't seem like we made two or three jump shots at all in a row all night long. When that happens it affects you.

We've got to continue to work on those things, but it was a tremendous year. We fell short of our goal here in the fourth season of trying to advance and do some things and that's unfortunate and it is a set back, but it doesn't take away from what these young men did for six months. Their body of work was tremendous and I appreciate those efforts.

Q. Coach, can you talk about Kendall Williams? He was being guarded by Chambers who is considerably smaller than him, what were the Crimson able to do that limited Kendall?

COACH ALFORD: It was a tough job. Kendall got to the free throw line. Hugh didn't. We just had some tough play there. Guys will have to watch tape and learn from it and see what's happening. But I thought their guards did a good job with their pressure.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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