New Mexico vs. Wyoming: Postgame Quotes
March 14, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by New Mexico. Coach, some remarks on tonight's game.
COACH ALFORD: Well, we always break it into seasons. When you get to season three, you've got to win to advance. Season three can be quick or a three-game deal or two-game deal. To get to the semis, we feel very fortunate. Very pleased.
I thought our guys were terrific tonight. We really guarded the way we've been guarding all year. I think we made things hard on them. Became a very physical game, which our guys have proven they don't mind physicality as part of the game. I just thought we had a lot of good play.
I thought Kendall's performance on Gilmore was huge for us in the second half. Here is the Player of the Year that only gets one field goal. What he did defensively might have been the key to the game.
Tony and Cam, Cam had to play a lot of minutes because of foul trouble with Alex. It was a career high in minutes for him. He just did a lot of good things for us especially defensively. I've always felt that the key to beating Wyoming is Nance and Washington, 17 field goals last night. Those two and Cooke, tonight they combined for 7. I thought that was going to be a big key. These guys had a lot to do with it.
Tony continues to do the job defensively. Shut out Grabau, which hadn't been done a lot this year. I think you're seeing our team going to the next level because of the development of Tony defensively.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Tony, you played three back and forth tough games with Wyoming. They've had some ups and downs this season. What is your impression of them as a team? What is your take on their build as a team?
Tony Snell: We know they really cut hard. We got to try to like keep up with them, try to use our length to make them drive it. They pretty good of shooting the ball, but we rather let them drive it, have help defense on them.
Q. Cam, Leonard Washington, I know he was hurt some, for three games you guys took Leonard Washington out of the game. What is the game plan going in knowing Leonard Washington, when healthy, is probably their best weapon?
Cameron Bairstow: The scouting report is he wants to go left unless you shoot fakes.
I think in Game1 and this game, we did a great job of getting him in foul trouble early. I think that really affected him both of those games.
Q. How much did the fans play a part in how well you dominated this game?
Tony Snell: Well, the fans are definitely a big-time part of how we play because they bring us energy when we hearing them screaming, cheering for us. They give us energy to play better and pick each other up.
Cameron Bairstow: Yeah, I mean, obviously when you run out and you hear the cheers, it really does lift you up. You look out, it's a sea of red out there. That really influenced the game. It really felt like a bit of a home-court advantage which always helps. Every time we made a big basket, they were on their feet. I think it really helped in this game.
Q. The people who talk about defense, but you did go 11 minutes without a field goal. Do you now actually realize it's going to be defense that wins in tournament games? Is that where your emphasis is now?
Tony Snell: We've emphasized that since day one. The offense is always going to be there. If you can't never defend a team, you won't win games.
Q. Tony, coach praised your defense, how it's come from the beginning of the season till now. Your offense in this first game was pretty outstanding. Talk about your mindset from the offensive end.
Tony Snell: I figured I'd try to be aggressive, you know, from the start. Try to be a threat out there, you know, 'cause if they held me, I could drive and kick to find other players, they would be able to score.
Just try my best to do good both sides of the ends.
Q. Talk about the first 11 minutes in the second half. You were struggling offensively but you didn't press much. Talk about the character of this team.
Cameron Bairstow: I think we just have faith in each other. Guys are going to step up, which they have the whole year. Even when we're not playing well at a particular point, we keep pushing, try to get to the free-throw line, try to get the easy scores.
I think we did a good job of trying to be patient tonight, down the stretch. Holding them to 46 points, it was all on the defensive end even when we weren't scoring.
Q. The fact that UNLV opened up today with a dominating win, you come in tonight, was it important to make the same kind of statement?
Tony Snell: Our statement every game is anything we can do to get a win. Wins always count. I don't care if it's one point or two points, as long as we get wins, that's all that matters for us.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for Coach Alford.
Q. I want to ask about the crowd. Obviously they've done this before. Larry said he felt like it was the Pit. He was rather disappointed by it.
COACH ALFORD: Well, we know what kind of crowd we have. We know what kind of fans we have. I've said it so many times. It's a blessing and honor to be the head coach of New Mexico. There's a lot of reasons for that. The top of that list has always been our fan base. They're incredible. They're loud. Our guys come out. They're into the game.
Even being in a neutral setting here, they still do the things they do in the Pit. We're up 5, you got the ball, they know to get up because that's a big defensive stop. We get up 8, we have the ball, they get up because they know the difference in being up double figures, what that means. They're a very knowledgeable fan base.
We appreciate what they do more than you could possibly imagine. They're a big part of our program.
Q. Because this is a conference tournament, there's eyes around the country that haven't seen you guys. This isn't the first time you have had a rather ugly game where another team tried to slow things down.
COACH ALFORD: I guess it's in the eyes of the beholder of what's pretty and ugly.
In March when you win by 13 points, to me it's pretty. We may not have shot the ball well. We've had a lot of games this year we haven't shot the ball well.
The key and identity to this basketball team, I think things change year to year, but our identity has always been the defensive end.
We went on this last road trip, we shot the ball pretty well. But our identity really has been what you saw today. We hold a team to eight field goals both halves, where they score 22 in one half, 24 in the other. They shoot less than 35%. They get out-rebounded. We took care of the basketball. Only turned the ball over nine times. We make more free throws than our opponent attempted.
That has been who we have been all year long. I told the guys afterwards, You were just who you are, and that's been good enough throughout the non-league, good enough through our league. I told them going into this conference tournament, that's who you got to be. Don't try now that you're in post-season, the hoopla of March, don't all of a sudden try to change your identity.
When we have games when we shoot the ball well, we go to another level. This really has been who we've been through most of the 32-game schedule we've played.
Q. People were talking about the 11-minute stretch. It was over 12 minutes in the first half. That has to be a stretch that has to be concerning at some point.
COACH ALFORD: We're the No.1 league in the country. We're now 14-3 in it. It's not easy winning three games against someone. We've won two of those games by double-digits. We've held them the last two times, Wyoming hadn't got to 50.
You're not going to lose very many games when you hold people to 46 points and 32% shooting. When you do that, you're going to give yourself a chance to win.
What doesn't show on the stat sheet is toughness. Look at Kendall Williams, Player of the Year in this league, deservedly so. He has one field goal. I thought he had a very good game.
We made the switch right before halftime. Gilmore had 11 quick points. He gets one field goal the rest of the way out, shoots 4 for 17. I think he's a very good player. That switch was Kendall. Kendall did a great job on him.
You look at Nance, Washington and Cooke, combined for 17 field goals. Last night they score in the 80s. Tonight they score in the 40s and those three combined for 7 field goals.
There's a reason why this team is 27-5. They don't just execute at the offensive end, they probably do a better job of executing the game plan and what's set up at the defensive end. There's a lot to be said about that.
Q. Coach Shyatt said the way Wyoming played tonight was synonymous with their season. You played them three times now. You end up getting the better of the situation. I wanted your take on them as a team. As an opponent, how would you describe playing them?
COACH ALFORD: Larry does a great job. Like all the other coaches in our league, that's what makes this league so special. We got great coaches, great players. Larry and his staff do a great job. They had a quick turnaround.
It's not easy. That's why we play the league. That's why I was proud of our guys to be the No.1 seed. It's not easy playing the 8, 9 game, turning around and playing what I think is a really good basketball team. I think we're really good. I think our starting five, I'd put them up against anybody.
I think we've proven that in who we've played. So that's not easy. For them to come in and battle, we had them down double figures in the first half, they came back, built it back up in the second half.
The thing about Larry's players, they play extremely hard. They have great pace, both the offensive end, and they really guard you. That's why I'm not really worried about shooting. We shot 40%. We've done that a lot this year. That doesn't concern me a whole lot because we had a good defensive team we were playing against. I always thought Wyoming does a very good job at the defensive end.
Q. You've done a lot in your career. This league this year, the diversity of the teams, have you seen in your career a league where you're playing so many different styles?
COACH ALFORD: Well, I hope it does. The last three games are just what you're talking about. Nevada, one style. Air Force, totally different style. Now Wyoming, an even more different style.
Most of our league is man-to-man, so we have not seen a lot of zone. That's something you get to the national tournament, you get matched up with somebody that's a zone team might be the only thing we haven't seen a lot of.
But we've played well against zones. Like Air Force is a matchup zone team, we've scored big both of the games we played against them.
We do think we're well-prepared. I thought this was a big game for us because we will go into the national tournament now regardless of what our record is, regardless what happens in the weekend, we go in not losing back-to-back games. That's a big deal when you get this momentum. We lost at Air Force in a tough game, last-second shot.
To rebound like this and win in double figures, get back in the winning ways, our 27th win, there's a lot of good things about this team. They're a tight group. We're healthy right now. Hugh got banged up a little bit on his neck with a screen. Got to get him some treatment. We're pretty healthy. Hopefully we can get through this weekend.
Q. Everybody that we're talking to, they're excited about this tournament. They keep saying, Sweet 16. You're probably a 'one step first' kind of guy. You have to be thinking about the tournament. How do you think this game bodes for you looking forward?
COACH ALFORD: I think obviously we knew we were in. Staying away from that first-round loss, the quarterfinal loss, I think that just solidifies what you're going to do with your seeding.
We do get to the semifinals now, we're in the No.1 league in the country by RPI standards. So now if you would happen to slip on the weekend, it's not as big hurting your seed as I think maybe as it would be in a quarterfinal loss.
That's just another hurdle you do. We understand the Sweet 16 feel. I've been in Albuquerque now six years. I know how bad fans want to get to the Sweet 16. Our program wants to do that. We've talked about getting as far as we possibly can. We feel it's a tournament we can do some damage in.
We have to be fortunate. I've been in this business a long time as a coach. I was in it as a player. My senior year, when we won the national championship, we won on the last day of the year, and Purdue lost, which gave us the No.1 seed in the tournament, which kept us in Indy, and in Cincinnati. That's a lot different being in Indiana and being shipped out west.
You've got to get lucky. When you get those breaks, you have to take advantage of them. This team, because of the two championships they won a year ago, this league, winning the way they won it, it's a confident group. Doesn't mean we're going to get to that level, but I hope we do. But it's not going to take away from our year if we don't. I don't want it to be that kind of deal.
We understand the fans. We want to do it probably more for them than we do anything else because we have such a great fan base.
Q. Rewinding to earlier in the year, you knew this was going to be a good team, the league was going to be tough. You had a tough non-conference schedule. You didn't shy away from a tough schedule. How much did that help you coming into the Mountain West having played that tough non-league schedule?
COACH ALFORD: We got fortunate. Scheduling's hard. We did get fortunate. Teams that we've played have played well and had good years. South Dakota State is in, Valpo is in the tournament. UConn would have been in the tournament if eligible. We played them. Cincinnati, they're trying to work their way in through the Big East tournament.
We played a very demanding schedule and it worked out well for us that we stayed healthy and we were able to schedule up and win. I think our league did that. I think that's why we're the No.1 league RPI-wise in the country. It wasn't just us. Other teams in our league scheduled up and they won. That's why our league has been very good top to bottom.
So I hope that prepares us. We literally thought it was a year away, when you lose Drew Gordon, A.J. Hardeman, Phillip McDonald. We didn't see this coming. We returned our entire starting five. The future is bright and exciting. We have to live in the moment knowing this is a very special team and we want to play as long as we can.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH ALFORD: Thank you. Appreciate it.