New Mexico Basketball Postgame Quotes vs. UNLV
Jan. 9, 2013
UNM vs. UNLV
New Mexico head coach Steve Alford
"Obviously this is a huge win for us. That was about as difficult as conference openers can be other than maybe playing on the road at UNLV. This was two really good teams that fought each other. They were ready, our guys were ready and both teams made it hard on each other to score. The key was that they made runs when they got out in transition and when we got them into half court, that worked in our favor. I thought our guys battled. It's a game we shoot 38 percent (from the floor) and 51 percent (free throws) and we beat a nationally ranked team. That's who these guys are. They've got incredible fight. Tonight we did a much better job on offense of getting better shots, but this is what we've done all year. Sometimes your identity becomes different but this is who we've been all year. We outshoot them 29-5 at the free throw line, so that `s an indication that your defense is doing what it needs to do and your offense is being aggressive. We might not have made the shots that we wanted to make, but like I told them, we took really good shots, we got to the free throw line and we did what we had to do. When we did miss free throws, we made stops and that's not always easy."
On how effective Alex Kirk was and how well he ran the floor...
"Alex has been doing that. His weight is down; he's under 250 now and he's in great physical shape. He did the work. He was back late January last year and he did the work of getting his body right and his mind right. That's not easy for a 7-footer to be out a year and he's just having a tremendous season for us. He was outstanding tonight."
On the defensive effort against Anthony Bennett...
"Sometimes your defensive effort has to do with what you do offensively and we got him in foul trouble. We wanted to make him guard. He's a freshman and he's as talented as anyone we've played. He's extremely skilled so I think when you play guys like that, you really have to try and make them guard. I thought when we were able to go big-big with Cameron (Bairstow) and Alex (Kirk), those are two bigs who are hard to guard and we were able to do some good things to get him in foul trouble. I thought Chad Adams' effort was unbelievable. That's what you have to have from your seniors. Chad has been doing that for us ever since we put him in the starting lineup for the Connecticut game. He's been doing that all along, but this was a huge task to guard a guy like Bennett and I thought he did a really good job. And then to get hurt and come back; I'm just really pleased with his effort."
On Tony Snell's performance and going to the rim a few times...
"He's being aggressive. He's such an unselfish kid and we've said it before that sometimes he's too unselfish and we needed him to take it to the rim. Kendall (Williams) wasn't making a lot of shots and Hugh (Greenwood) wasn't making a lot of shots so we needed Tony and we weren't getting much offensive off the bench. I thought Jamal (Fenton) did a tremendous job off the bench with leadership in his minutes. I thought that was a big key. Tony was very active and I liked Tony's defense. I've said it all along, even in this stretch, when Tony hasn't made shots his defense has been improving. That's really the message I told them in the locker room. I'll never fault them for taking good shots and missing as long they keep the effort up at the other end and that's what we did tonight. We won it because of the effort that we gave. We got the 50/50 balls, we kept them off the glass and we got to the free throw line."
On being seventh in the Mountain West in winning margin and whether or not this will be a team that will win close games all year...
"I wouldn't have even been able to tell you that stat. Winning margin means very little to me. I don't go into any game thinking we need to win by X number. If we could win by half a point, I think our guys could figure that out. Just winning games - we're 14-2 and this is the third nationally-ranked team that we've beaten shooting about 40 percent. Not too many teams in the country are 14-2, shooting 40 percent. That tells me how hard our guys work and the fight that they have in them. From a coaching stand point, that is very, very pleasing."
On Kendall Williams' ability to step up in key moments, even after missing freethrows in a tight game...
"We could've iced the game earlier. He missed a couple and Hugh missed a couple, but each time we missed a couple, UNLV didn't score. And when you're ahead, even if you don't score on foul shots, if you get stops, they can't catch you. That's what our team has been. I don't know how else to tell you, but that's how our team has been this year. Now we're 16 games in and if you go back and look at our 14 wins, there's a lot of them that look like this tonight. I have no problem with that. It feels a lot better than being 2-14."
On what this team has that makes them good in close games...
"They're tough. They're tough. They fight, they're together, there's great chemistry in that locker room. They don't care who gets the shots, or the points or the praise. They are a unit defensively. Our bigs are playing much better than I think we anticipated for this time of the year. That development has helped us. Chad Adams has been terrific and our guard play has been really solid. It's a fun team. It's a grinding team because we don't always do things the easiest way, but it's a fun team to watch because they fight like crazy. That's why, inside a minute and we're missing free throws and at timeouts or when there's five fouls on somebody, I'm basically laughing at them - we're out there laughing because they're just fun. They're a fun group to watch because of how hard they fight. It's hard to get kids to do that on a consistent basis, and this team has done that."
On the Lobos' quick 4-0 lead...
"There's been a lot of time since our St. Louis game. We had nine days off. We were actually worried to go that long without a game, but our guys were hungry. The St. Louis game was really just about one half. We didn't play well that first half, the second half, we beat them. I thought we played really well in the second half. We just had a really bad 20 minutes and it's the only bad 20 minutes we've had all year and it was at a place that is a hard place to win. But I thought in the nine days, our guys really shook that off and really got back to trying to improve things and they really came out today."
On the importance of making big shots at the end...
"You have to. They're picked to win it. It's the best team we've played to date and I thought we were able to do some good things with them. Once Mike Moser gets back and is healthy and I think that turns them into an even more dangerous team. The last thing you could do is give the team that's picked to win the league here. That makes it pretty hard on the rest of us, so I'm sure the rest of the league is pretty pleased that they didn't get a road win here. We always want to be a place that is considered a difficult place to get a road win to get. In this league, home wins are going to be tough and road wins are going to be tough and we got a home win against a very good team and it's not like we made free throws down the stretch. We got to the line and we did a really good job defensively."
UNLV Head Coach Dave Rice
"First thing is to give credit to New Mexico and their game plan. They always compete and always play hard. We knew it would be a very hard-fought college basketball game and it was. It was a physical game and we didn't do a very good job of overcoming the foul trouble that we were in. There were some toughness plays that we needed to make down the stretch, and we just can't give up offensive rebounds like we did. New Mexico gave us a chance, they shot 29 free-throws and missed a lot of theirs down the stretch. In the second half there were times when I thought that we were terrific when we shared the ball. They double teamed Anthony Bennett all night long and I thought he was terrific. We got good shots that did not go in. All that we can do is go back practice and get ready for another league game, they come fast. We have 16 of them and what we have to worry about is watching film with our guys tomorrow from this game and learn what we did wrong. We need to get better and get ready for Air Force on Saturday."
On Alex Kirk...
"What he did tonight was not surprising at all. He is their second leading scorer and a terrific player. The thing that makes Alex so difficult is that he can score on the block and can also score from a distance. He is an improved player and their guards are so good that they make you pick your poison, especially on the home floor. They did a good job of finding Alex, he is a terrific player."
On defending Alex Kirk...
"The plan was to do a better job with our post defense. Part of our problem is was that we were in foul trouble and just didn't get it done. Having said that, it came down to not getting enough defensive rebounds down the stretch at the end of the game. We didn't execute and we have to do better that way."
On the game plan of shooting the shot (63-60) on the second to last possession....
"A ball screen was one of the options or the two presented to throw it in the post. They helped on that and then we skipped it across the floor and then Katin got the shot. There is always an option of throwing the ball down low where Anthony Marshall is. I made the decision to skip past the ball and find an option shot. Our first look is to always go for the two and if the two is taken away and we can get a wide open shot then we skip it and play. One thing all game long was their double-teaming of Anthony Bennett and when we moved the ball we got wide open shots and didn't make enough of them."
On Anthony Bennett...
"He did a good job all game long and it is difficult this time of the season. No other team has double-teamed him to the extent that this team did tonight. He did a good job with it and was unselfish like we always is and kicked it out. It is one of those times when the teams playing zone or man-to-man are playing in the post we always try to connect inside out, and we need to step up and make shots and I believe that next time we will do that."
On Anthony Bennett being in foul trouble...
"It was just something that happened tonight. We still believe in our depth. It was difficult to play without him for that extended period of time but I thought the guys stepped up and did a good job in his absence. He came back a little sooner than we would have liked him to with his four fouls but I thought it was important to get him back in the game and play the rest of it. Obviously, we need to learn how to play with fouls."
How did you feel out there on the court?
"I felt good, the first couple times was tough because Khem Birch is pretty fast, but after that I got my feet under me and got help getting back a couple times and I think I was in pretty good shape."
Where they challenging you at to settle for the outside shot and did you feel good getting looks from beyond the arc?
"It was open. It's one of those things were it helps relieve pressure off the guards if I set a screen for them and if I can pop it's really beneficial because it's an open look."
Do you spend much time working on the three point shot?
"I can't really say how much time I spend on it; it's just something I've always done. Even in high school so it comes naturally. It's part of my game and coach Neal and Alford know that, but they want me to get down low a little bit more."
What did you guys do to try and get Anthony Bennett in foul trouble?
"We didn't really do anything. We just kind of went at him. He's young and he's a great player but he's got to learn a little bit. We just went at him and got some calls."
Everyone talks about how quick UNLV is, do you think they should be talking about how big you are?
"They were quick and they were able to get to us a few times, but our help defense was able to stop them and make them make that extra pass and sometimes they hit the shot, and sometimes they didn't."
Was this a big win and how important is it for you to defend the house?
"It was huge; in this league you're definitely going to protect the house. I just hear Boise State barely beat Wyoming. It's going to be like that when you're on the road it's going to be a battle. It's huge and this is always a big win."
There were seven scouts here to see Anthony Bennett, do you think that some of them maybe left with an impression of you?
"I went out there and played hard and my teammates gave me the ball a lot and we played hard and got out with the win."
How valuable was it to have those nine days off?
"I think it was good, we had some time to relax and get our rest. We were able to get our offensive execution back, as you saw our numbers aren't quite there yet, but we came focused on defense and I think it showed."
You had an off night but again you showed your ability in the clutch, what is it about your game that gives you the confidence to take those shots?
"Just throughout the flow of the game I just take some tough shots. But when you have Alex Kirk and they were going to show him the attention he did, it's nothing selfish but I feel that the ball should be in my hands and they gave it to me and they went in."
All the talk coming in was about their big men, but Alex was the best player on the court tonight, talk about him?
"Anthony Bennett showed his ability and he showed that he's a good teammate and I'm sure he's good to play with, but at the end of the day Alex Kirk had the good game with 23 points and nine boards."
Was this nine days off an advantage?
"Definitely, they had two games last week and we had a chance to rest and get our legs underneath us and do what we needed to do. We still didn't shoot the ball great, but I think in terms of execution and the shots we did get it was a lot better and it's just something to build on."