Marquette-Utah State Quotes
March 19, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions now for the Marquette student athletes.
Q. Lazar, everyone's been making, rightfully so, about the focus on the guards. Do you feel sort of maybe lost out in all of the attention and what do you make of the matchups with you and Utah State?
LAZAR HAYWARD: No, I don't feel left out and I don't think Dwight does either. I think that there's always going to be certain focus on certain guys. That's just how things are.
I think Utah State has two great big men and it's going to be a great matchup for Dwight and myself.
Q. Wesley, give us just a read on how you feel like your team is different since Dominic has been out.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: We're different in a sense where we lose that dynamic athlete. Bringing the ball up the court.
He's played four years, he's been battle tested, he's played four years with the three of us, three years with Lazar. There's just plays and reads that he makes that we don't have to talk about. Just that chemistry on the court that he has and he brings and just what we know we can expect from him. But Maurice has made a lot of strides since Dominic went out.
He's been better every game, he had a his breakout game against Villanova in the Garden and we're adjusting to life without Dominic. And this team is ready, we're prepared, and we're, more importantly, we're excited to play again.
Q. You've seen a lot of good big men in the Big East and if you could compare where Wilkinson is as to others that we have seen in the Big East and what his skill set is.
DWIGHT BURKE: Well, Wilkinson, the coaching staff has kind of compared him to like a player like Luke Harangody, with the same build and height and weight. And he does a lot of the same things. He likes to score in a lot of the same ways on the block. And he's crafty and he can pass out of the post, so we're focused on trying to limit his touches and keep him out of his comfort zone and he's going to get out there tomorrow we're going to get out there tomorrow and try to make that happen.
Q. Jerel, you obviously probably learned a lot about Utah State in the last couple of days, how they run a lot of set plays and how precise they are in their offensive sets. How do you plan on disrupting that?
JEREL McNEAL: I think the situation just like you said, they're a team that does an unbelievable job of getting the great look every possession that they have with the ball.
Our main focus in coming into the game is just to put nonstop pressure on them, force them into tough shots if possible. And after we make them take those tough shots, that we got to get a defensive rebound right way. They're not the type of team that you can give second chances to or anything like that. So I think if we do a good job of pressuring them 94 feet and making things tough on them, giving them, making them have tougher looks and get first shot rebounds, that we'll be all right.
Q. Wesley, it wasn't that long ago, four years ago, that you were sitting up there and you guys were in San Diego, California and you thought, Hey we got three more years of this. Now that you're seniors do you feel the sense of urgency that this is our last go around, let's try to make this special?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I think so. It's definitely a sense of urgency coming from the three of us who are playing. But I think there's a sense of urgency throughout the whole team because it is our last go around, our last shot at this. But for everybody, we got something special as a team and I don't think any of us will get this again at any level, no matter what team we're on, how long we play this game. We're not going to get what we have here. So I think that's why we want to, why we're playing with the edge, playing with a chip on our shoulders, because we're not ready for this to end yet. And a lot of teams say it, everybody says it, but we mean it more than anything.
Q. You guys have been through this four times now, you've been up there, can you talk about how much the experience means when you're out there on the court, not being overwhelmed by the lights and pressure and everything like that, having been through this so many times before.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I think it's going to help us. We have been through a lot in these four years. Our freshmen, we had a chance to, we made a great comeback against Alabama and had a chance to tie it up. Missed it. So a heartbreak game there. Our sophomore year we went scoreless for the first nine minutes. Last year, we were able to win our first game and then we lost a heartbreak in the second round. So we have been through a lot in four years. So I think that just gets us mentally ready to overcome whatever happens. And we have been through a tough conference, we have had a tough stretch in our last six games and we have been we have battled a lot through that. So I think that as a team mentally our focus is ready.
Q. Coming from the Big East conference people out here in Boise don't get to see too many Big East teams. What can people expect from you guys talking about the style of play in the Big East?
JEREL McNEAL: I think it's a situation that as far as our conference goes, it's so many diverse teams in our conference and everybody in our conference plays a completely different way. And I think that's one of the things that makes our conference so unique and tough as well.
But one of the constant things that you get out of coming out of the Big East conference is just tough, hard nosed physical play on a night in, night out basis. And I think that over the next couple days the people out here are going to get a taste of that.
DWIGHT BURKE: Definitely as he said, you know, it's tough every night and every team is just competitive and you can lose on any night in the Big East. And that's been proven throughout the college season so far. We have been battle tested through all our wins and losses and in situations where we played every kind of style and every kind of player. And like he said, we're going to get a taste of it. We're going to work hard and be very competitive and show the world and America that we're still trying to be competitive and make things happen in this tournament.
Q. Lazar, having to watch Utah State on tape and you guys have played a lot of different opponents this season, anybody you can compare them to that you look and say, Okay there's some similarities here?
LAZAR HAYWARD: I don't know. In our league I don't know if we can compare them to any team. I'm not sure. That's a really good question. I'm not sure if we seen a lot of teams that run their sets as well as they do. They get a good look at the basket every single possession.
I think what we have to do is just try and makes defenses and show them a different look every time they come down the floor. They're getting the ball in the post a very high percentage of the time on offense and they're always making the extra pass and they play very well together. So I don't know a lot of teams in the country that can do that.
Q. Jerel, you were talking about running their sets, Utah State, how important is it to remain patient with you guys on defense and not try to overwork, overforce things?
JEREL McNEAL: You talking about for us defensively?
JEREL McNEAL: I think for us it's the main thing is just having that mental toughness and being mature enough and poised enough to know that you're not, you're not going to, they're not a team that you're just going to take the ball away from them, you're not going to force them into a lot of quick, bad shots. But it's a situation where we got to be mentally tough enough to be prepared to guard some possessions for 30 seconds, 34 seconds, whatever it may be until it comes down to the end of the shot clock.
The real thing is that after they do take that shot and they ground up so much clock that we got to make sure that we get a rebound after that and we don't give them a second look. We can't let a 35 second possession turn into a whole minute possession for them.
Q. Wesley, did you have any familiarity with Utah State before the pairing was announced? Did you know anything about them? What have you learned about them since then?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: None before the pairing. But after we learned a lot. Like he said, they get a good shot every time. They don't shoot 49 percent from the field by taking bad shots. And they're going to get their shot, no matter what you're doing. So our focus has to be of playing sound defense.
We got to make sure we're disciplined. As soon as that shot goes up, we got to get the ball, because we don't want to play defense for another 35 seconds. They're a good team, they play inside out, they got a lot of players. They're a disciplined team. They're a mature team. It's going to be a good game. It's going to be a battle of two different styles.
Q. Playing them, their defense, what do you see of Utah State's defense? We talked a lot about you having to play against their offense. What do you see from their defense and what can you do to them defensively or with their defense?
JEREL McNEAL: I think it's going to be a situation where we are going to have to do the things that we always do, which is just playing, drive and kick basketball, playing off one another, trying to get to the rim, and forcing them to foul us early on in the game.
But just as far as the defense goes, they got a good mix of man to man, zone. Personally I think we'll see a lot more zone on Friday. So it's a situation though that we just got to do things that we always do. We got to get paint touches and play inside out and get everybody involved. If we do that, we'll be all right.
Q. It's been joked about that with the way things have been seeded that they should change the name from the NCAA Tournament to the Big East Invitational. Do you think that's deserved at this point and what do you think people should expect from the Big East in this tournament?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: I don't know. I can't really comment on that. I can't really speak on behalf of other Big East teams, but having played them for four years I know they're going to compete, fight, work and try to win just like we are. And it is deserving. We have been beating up on each other all year, and it feels good to get out of it and play against somebody else.
But I know that we're going to come ready to play, to win, to fight, and play for each other. I'm sure that the rest of them are going to do the same thing.
LAZAR HAYWARD: Like he said, we all beat each other up all year long and I think it's a good challenge for all of us when we get to match up with another team. I just think that's the thrill of basketball to have fun and see different guys and try and beat somebody else up for once in a while.
Q. You talked about defense being important here against Utah State. Late in the regular season in the Big East your defensive numbers in terms of other teams having success were up there. But then in the Big East tournament it seemed to turn around, especially St. Johns and then you held Villanova to 42 percent. Do you feel like you're back into that defensive mindset and maybe how Maurice Acker has been, you know, put into that system as well?
JEREL McNEAL: I wouldn't necessarily say that we're back in it. We had one good game, complete game, pretty good defense against St. Johns and that still could have been better because they did an unbelievable job in the first half. We let up a little bit in the second half. Villanova, we weren't very good in the first half and then we were really good in the second half. So I think we're right on the cusp of getting back in the rhythm of what we need to do defensively. And if we are able to come out and defend for 40 minutes at a high level, playing team defense and doing things that we need to do, I think we're a very tough team to beat.
And as far as Maurice goes, he's been doing an unbelievable job, just like Wes talked about earlier, we all feel like he's just improving each and every game. He's getting more and more confidence. We're getting more and more confidence in him as the games go on. And like the most important thing with him is that as long as he come out and he's defending, at a high level, and getting, helping the team run the offense, that he'll be fine.
Q. Since Logan is driving distance from Boise, we anticipate it's going to be a pro Utah State crowd here. Do you guys anticipate it being like a true road game for you?
DWIGHT BURKE: Definitely. It's a long way from home for us. It's like a three and a half, four hour flight and it's like right down the street for Utah State.
So definitely. Their fans are probably going to show up and maybe pack the place out. But we'll have our fans and it will be kind of a road environment for us, but we played on the road all year, so we're not intimidated by that.
Q. A lot has been made about the age of some of Utah State's players, some of these guys have taken two year missions and Wilkinson is 26. Does that matter to you guys?
WESLEY MATTHEWS: Not at all. Not at all. I mean, hopefully we got a lot more years of basketball after college and I'm pretty sure we're going to play against men there too, so there's no difference. I said it before, they're mature, they're veterans, but I mean it's still the same game.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thanks, guys. We'll have Coach Williams in just a moment. Let's go ahead and take some questions for Coach.
Q. First off, you and Stew Morrill must be really of the same kind of mind that smartness. He hired Tony Benford for one day, you've hired him. Has Coach Benford said anything about the one day experience of being a Utah State assistant?
COACH WILLIAMS: I actually saw Coach Benford the day he was employed at Utah State. I don't think he ever made it to Logan, but I think that Coach Morrill or Coach Duryea probably sent him a Utah State T shirt to wear on the road that day. The day that I saw Tony he was wearing a UTEP shirt. And I said, Tony, what happened? And he said, Well, it just happened so quick.
So I'm not near as smart as Coach Morrill, you can look at his record and look at my record and understand that I pale in comparison to him. But Tony is one of the most talented assistant coaches that I've been around and I think he'll be a head coach sooner rather than later.
Q. If you could just talk about the transformation of your team of getting used to playing without Dominic.
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, I think the best word in the question is "transformation." I think it's been an ongoing process. Dominic got hurt in 10 days before the season was over and injury is a part of basketball and a part of sport, but I think that any time in our particular situation he had started 127 games. And there were built in decisions he gave us, that's not just on offense, that's on defense.
And so from the time that he's gotten hurt we have played six games, we have only won one of those six and we have practiced 12 times. And I think that every day has been critical for us in regards to the transformation. And I think that in the six games that we played we haven't been beat from start to finish. But there have been segments in those games where we haven't been near as efficient as we have to be on both ends of the floor and you could possibly justify that it was because of Dominic's absence, or you could say that whether Dominic played or not we weren't assured of winning any of those games.
We miss him, but I think that with each passing day we have continued to get better and learn to be more efficient within what we have to do on both ends of the floor in order for us to have a chance for success.
Q. Certainly you talk about defensive efficiency, and late in the regular season, now obviously caliber of opponent went up as well, but their field goal percentages were high, it went down in the Big East tournament. Do you guys think you've turned the corner in terms of better on ball and off ball?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think it's a combination of what you said. I think it's playing without Dominic, obviously with Dominic we scored many more points in transition. When you score more points in transition that obviously aids in an increased field goal percentage.
It's partly who we played. It's partly where we played. I think initially maybe the first two and a half games it was guys trying to do more than they typically had to do to try to overcome the absence of Dominic.
Which may at that time they may have thought that that was the best thing for our team and then as time has transpired I think they have better understood from watching tape from practice, from playing, I think it's a combination of all of the things that you said.
You're right, when Dominic got hurt we were third in the Big East and ninth in the country in field goal percentage. We were shooting from the field about what Utah State has shot from the field in their 34 games and then since that time we haven't.
We never want to say that it was all on us, we always want to say it was part of what our opponent did to us. But I think that it's a combination of both, yes.
Q. Talk about Utah State and all the set plays that they run, if you have seen anything close to that either in your league play or even non conference play throughout the season.
COACH WILLIAMS: Completely unequivocally no, we haven't seen anything like it. I think Utah State, one of the reasons why they're the fifth winningest program since 2000 is because of their style of play. A lot of that has to do with Coach Morrill's talent as a coach, but it also has to do with their ability to recruit players that can fit completely into what they do. Because he hasn't changed. I don't think that in the time that I've known Coach that's changed in what he does.
They're very efficient, obviously they have won 30 games, that's second in the country, and they make 50 percent of their shots. So to an extent it's a little bit of a math problem, in that the 86 games that Coach Morrill has lost in the last ten years, 70 of those 86 games he hasn't scored 72 points. In the games that he has scored 72 points or more, this year, they have won 30. In the games that they haven't scored 72, they have lost four. And so from a mathematical point of view, they want to be on offense two times per game minute and if they can do that, they're going to win.
Their set plays, I don't know that any team and I've watched every WAC opponent that they have played, I don't know that any team can completely absorb what they do and all of their sets. And because none of it, none of their calls are verbal, they're all coming from either the placebo card or either Tim's holding the real card or the placebo card, I think the only person that knows which one is the real card is the players and the trainer who is monitoring the efficiency of it. I haven't been able to figure that out.
But you can't worry about or try to absorb completely all of their sets, particularly in a short preparation time, I think that the things that you have to prepare for are their actions. Cross screen, down screen, back screen, UCLA screen, things like that. Because those are core to what they do, no matter what the set is. I think where they're really efficient is not only in their sets, but the counters to those sets. They run one play that is a core thing that they do and they have five counters to that one play. So as a coach, do you call that one play or do you call that six plays? Because as a player you call it six plays because it's six different things that you have to remember.
So we played 18 opponents, obviously in the Big East 15 of them were different. So there were 15 scouts, none of those scouts are unique or comparatively like Utah State. It's unlike any other scout and I think that that's, when you're playing games two games a week in league play, that's really, really hard to prepare your team for Utah State. And it's been difficult to prepare our team for them. Our guys have done a great job of absorbing it, but it's a unique scout for sure.
Q. Since NCAA tournament crowds tend to pull for the underdog anyway, Logan Utah is so close to Boise, are you anticipating a hostile treatment out there tomorrow?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think everybody this time of the year is excited just because it's March Madness. I think that it goes without saying that they have played here, they have comfort level here, obviously it's a lot closer to Logan, Utah than it is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I think that they will have more fans, even the nonpartisan fans that come here, I think that they will probably be rooting for Utah State just because of the familiarity within this region.
With all of that having been said, they want to win and we want to win, despite whoever the crowd's pulling for. And I don't mean that in a condescending way. We're grateful to be here, we're hungry to be here, so we'll compete and try to do our absolute best regardless of how many fans, Aggie fans are here.
Q. You did complete that comeback against Villanova, but you were down by 17, you took a lead with less than two minutes to go in the game. Even though you weren't quite able to complete that, do you feel that you guys gained some momentum heading into the tournament and if so how much?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think that the four halves that we played in New York, three of those four halves were the best defensive halves that we have played throughout the year. Distinctly the best that we had played without Dominic. Obviously Dominic was a really good offender for us, not just because of his athleticism, but more so because he was at the top of what we were doing, man or zone.
But I think that from our experience in New York I do think that we gained confidence. The problem with the first half against Villanova, I think they're one of the best teams in the country, only time will tell, over the next few week if that statement is true. But you can't spot any team, Utah State, California State Northridge, I think Memphis probably learned that today, you can't spot any team 16 points and then think that you're going to have a chance to win the game.
We overcame a lot of different things in the second half to give ourselves a chance to win. And probably in a lot of different respects should have won the game. That was more my fault than it was our players' fault. But I think that, I think the lessons that we learned in New York in addition to the momentum that we gained defensively were both positives as it related to heading into the NCAA tournament.
Q. Would you discuss the importance of guard play, specifically point guard play when it comes to playing ball in this tournament?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think that you would probably have to do a study for it to be factual evidence, but if you were to look at all the best teams across the country over the last ten years, very rarely do teams advance and have success at an elite level in a tournament type situation unless they have a really, really good point guard that can run things offensively, and also keep things cohesive defensively whether they're in man or zone.
So I think it's critical, I think when Illinois was really good, when they went to so many Elite 8s and Final Fours, it was because they had three point guards that started on the perimeter. Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther, all three of those kids were point guards coming out of high school and they were all recruited to Illinois, two in the same year and one in the next year. So I think the way you win is with guards. You can definitely argue that. From a statistical standpoint in tournament playing you win with guards for sure.
Q. How important is conference affiliation this time of year? Are you rooting for other Big East teams, hoping they get knocked out early?
COACH WILLIAMS: I'm probably the worst coach in the country in the NCAA to ask that question for. It's partly probably due to my shortsightedness. I'm really just consumed with our team. And I hope that you're team gives our best effort tomorrow. And I think that in practice today we gave our best effort. I will say this, and I probably don't have built up enough equity, I haven't built up enough for it to be believable, but I think that the Big East is the best league in the country. But I don't like to get into a barbing situation with other coaches in the league. Because they have all won more games than I have.
So really what I try to do is just be consumed with Marquette and the players that represent Marquette and do what we can on the court to help them get better and add value to their life off the court. But for sure I root for Big East teams because I think that success in the tournament, success from a seeding standpoint, all of those things continue to add to the wherewithal of the league and I think that as you're able to do that over a consistent period of time that probably aids you in recruiting. And since at the end of the day it's always about players, you want to sign the best players can you, so any ammunition you can get is always beneficial.
Q. Your players talked about this being a battle of two different styles. Can you contrast the advantages and disadvantages your style has against what they're going to present?
COACH WILLIAMS: That's a really good question. I think it is two distinct styles of play. I think that the reason that Utah State has had the success that they have had over the last decade is every team to an extent is diametrically oppose today what Utah State does. In the WAC, in the non conference, in the post season, because teams are so different.
Obviously I think if the, if it's a high possession game you could argue that that favors us. But if you look at it from a mathematical situation, I'm not sure that it does favor us.
If they're making one out of every two shots that they attempt they're probably going to win. So the thing that we have to do more so than any other thing is we have got to get consecutive stops defensively because if you try to trade baskets with them, and 34 games into it they're shooting 50 percent, you can't trade baskets, you got to be able to manufacture and get consecutive stops and finish possessions with a defensive rebound. I think if we're able to do that I think that that trends towards us being able to shoot the ball from a higher percentage offensively. So I don't know that it's a matter of wills and impose our will, I think that nothing against our guys, our guys are a lot smarter than me in some ways, but I think a lot of that is just media rhetoric.
We're not going to try to impose our will. I don't know how that works. Really what you need to do is compete every single possession as hard as you possible can and be efficient in what you do and be intelligent in what you do to give yourself a chance for success.
Q. Dwight Burke compared Wilkinson to Luke Harangody, in terms of Quayle and his ability to run that offense and run that team, is he more Scotty Reynolds, more A.J. Price, more Jackson from Notre Dame, because you also talked yesterday about his rebounding ability?
COACH WILLIAMS: That's a good question. I do think that Gary Wilkinson, if he was playing in the Big East, would have garnered much more attention than he has up until this point. With then having said that they won the regular season, they won the post season, he was named MVP of the Year in the regular season and he was named MVP of the post season tournament. So from an accolades standpoint he's gotten everything that he can possible get.
Then having said that because of the exposure that our league gets in comparison to their league I do think that he would have been compared to Luke. I don't think he's quite as tall as Luke, but I don't know if it was a sprint from baseline to baseline who would win. But from a skill set perspective, they're for sure the same. And from their ability to score over either shoulder from four feet to 15 feet out to three, I think they're very similar.
As it relates to Quayle, I think that he's probably similar to Tory Jackson, because he can really run the team. And you're right, I think he's the only point guard in the country that's second on their team in rebounding of the east. He's averaging 5.8 rebounds a game. Two of those are offensive. For a point guard to average two offensive rebounds is almost unheard of. Not just this year, but any year. So I think he does a great job running their team and he does do an unbelievable job of attacking the basket once the shot goes up.
But he's more offensive minded, he's the second leading scorer and the second leading rebounder. That's a unique combination when you run a set play every possession from the point guard position. So I think he is in a lot of ways the key to what they do.
I think Gary Wilkinson gets a lot of credit for being the best player, but I think Tai Wesley is the heart and soul of their team.
Q. Utah State has noted that you are team has actually made more free throws than your opponents have shot. How are you getting it done, how important is that, and are you particularly friendly with referees?
COACH WILLIAMS: No. I think it's probably similar to the question about how do I root for our league. I don't know that I have built any equity, probably I'm upside down in my loan with the officials. We have made more free throws than our opponents have attempted. And that's a stat in a lot of different ways that we pull from. We don't necessarily just monitor it, have we attempted more, have we made more than our opponents have attempted.
We want to make 23.4 free throws per game. We have been in the Top 5 in the country through the first 30 games of the season. And I think that that's been really important to us for a number of reasons. But the number one reason being we have nobody in the post that can score. So we translate free throw makes, no matter who makes them, into post scores.
Because obviously for the most part in order to get fouled you got to attack the paint. And we keep up with paint touches. And we want to have 38 paint touches per game and we want to make 23.4 free throws per game. I'm not trying to be silly with the .4. I understand that you can't do that, per game, but from an average standpoint, and in order to get fouled you need to get paint touches and because we don't have Gary Wilkinson on our team or Tai Wesley on our team, that we can just throw the ball to, we have got to manufacture it from 22 to 25 feet. And that's got to come off penetration and so to be honest with you in a lot of respects that's one of the reasons that's given us a chance to win some games because is because we have made more froze than our opponents have attempted, but that's because we got to play downhill because if we try to play east and west, we'll lose every game.
Q. How did you settle on 23.4?
COACH WILLIAMS: I would it would take longer than I'm prescribed to and I'm really trying to with hold any analness or uniqueness to what I'm saying to you, but it is 23.4 and if I would have been smarter I would have just said 23. I don't think you think I answered your question completely and I wasn't trying to dodge it, um, I don't think you can impose your will. I think you have to play the way you play every day to give yourself a chance for success. And that's what we have got to do and that's what Utah State's going to do. And you look at all of the teams that they have played in the WAC, every team has played them zone, every team has played them an odd front zone, an even front zone they have pressured them in the full court man, they have pressured them in the full court in zone. They're not changing what they do. And just because we're playing them we're not going to change what we do. And that's not to be, that's not my ego speaking, that's just how I believe that you have to play. I don't think that you can play 34 games and then get to this point and go, hey, our opponent does this so we're going to change what we do and do this. So maybe that will help you answer your question better.
Q. I was going to ask you about Tai Wesley. And they often run their offense as you said inside out and a lot of that goes through Tai and his passing ability. Gary gets a lot of attention as well. But what does he, what have you seen that he does for their team in getting the offense going?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think he's the heart and soul of their team as I said earlier.
They're averaging 72 points a game, 29 of it comes from the post. 29 points per game come in the paint. Most of that either comes from Wesley or from Wilkinson. Both of which are shooting 59 percent from the field. Which definitely aids their team in shooting 50 percent overall.
They're scoring 13 points a game off inside out. So the ball goes to Wesley, the ball goes to Wilkinson, it's fanned out, and it's either, typically for Utah State when the ball goes inside, and they fan it across the court, it's as soon as that guard catches it, no matter who it is, it's one more pass to the corner. They're scoring 13 points a game on that.
So at that moment in time they're at 42 points. So they're getting 42 points just from that. They're getting five points off offensive rebounds. They get 11 offensive rebounds a game. They get five off offensive rebounds. Typically that comes from either Wilkinson, Wesley, or Quayle.
So we're at 47 points, there's only what is that? How many points are left? 72 out of 47, whatever the difference in that is. But I think that Wesley like I said, is the heart and soul, and I think so many times that teams, what they do such a good job of is they're going to throw the ball inside and shall knows that, but when the ball goes out side, where they're really good is they throw it immediately right back inside. And I think Wesley does a great job of I'm posting, I'm throwing it back out and as soon as I throw it back out as the ball's in flight I'm going to get a deeper position and we're going to throw it right back into him.
He can turn over either shoulder, I think Gary Wilkinson's probably better turning over his left shoulder, maybe even facing up, he's better than Wesley, but Wesley is so hard to guard because he just has such great poise. I think that probably comes from playing with his older brothers as he was growing up because he's not scared of anything and I go I think that he gives them a level of toughness that probably helps that team from a toughness perspective.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, coach.
COACH WILLIAMS: Thank you.
UTAH STATE QUOTES
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, welcome to the first round interview
session, Boise, Idaho. For Utah State University, the Aggies, with us
on the dais this morning starting on your right and working to the
left, Pooh Williams, Jared Quayle, Tyler Newbold, Tai Wesley, and Gary
Wilkinson. And we will start with a couple of questions.
Q. I'm assuming that you and Pooh will be the two regarding the two
Marquette guards. Can you talk about the matchups and how you guys are
preparing for, to meet those guys.
TYLER NEWBOLD: We're going to be matched up against obviously
Matthews and McNeal. And watching them on film, they're great
athletes, great basketball players and myself and Pooh are really
excited to be able to match up with guys of that caliber.
And you want to, as an athlete and competitor, you want to play
against guys like that. You want to compete against guys like that. So
we're both looking forward to that opportunity and looking forward to
playing well against them.
POOH WILLIAMS: Yeah, we're just really excited about it. These are
two guards that will possibly be in the NBA, so we're excited for our
opportunity to have a chance to play against great players like them
and we're just excited for it. We're going to do our best to slow them
Q. Gary, since you guys are in the WAC, obviously, and have been
here before, can you talk about maybe a slight advantage about playing
here in Boise.
GARY WILKINSON: Definitely. I think that we, yeah, we feel
comfortable in the gym and we have a great fan base. Obviously being
in the WAC, Boise State fans as well as coming up from Logan, it's not
too far of a drive. So I think we'll have a lot of support here. Feel
comfortable playing in the gym. So that's definitely an advantageous
for us and I think we're going to try to use every advantage we have
to go out and win.
So it's a great draw for us in terms of where we're playing.
Q. Tai, two years ago you had one of your great wins in this
building, this year was one of your worst games. Talk a little bit
TAI WESLEY: I don't know really what to say about that. This year it
was a real big letdown for our team how we kind of didn't show up for
that game. We got beat.
So hopefully we can come out like two years ago where we came out
kind of on fire, playing good defense, playing Aggie basketball and
have the same result as we did two years ago.
Q. Looking at statistics at least there might be, if any advantage,
you guys have, as a team, there might be an advantage on being able to
take advantage or maybe their posts are not scoring and rebounding as
much. Do you guys see any advantage there that you can take advantage
TAI WESLEY: We have, will have an advantage inside. Coach has been
telling us that they crowd hard with their perimeter players. So we'll
probably look to go inside out first and try to attack them on offense
GARY WILKINSON: Size wise and that type of thing it may look like an
advantage, they're an athletic team. So they use that to their
advantage. They're quick and we'll just see what we can do as far as
inside out game. That's the game we played all year and I think we
have always had an advantage in the post. I think that's one of our
largest strengths and then our outside guys are deadly from outside.
So I think that's, we'll just play the way we have played all year.
And it's worked for us so far and hopefully it will continue to work
for us tomorrow.
Q. Gary, a lot has been made of the fact that you're older than
dirt. Older than 200 NBA players, you know, the oldest guy in the
tournament. How do you feel about that kind of talk and is it an asset
for you to be an older guy?
GARY WILKINSON: I don't know. It's just talk. I think there's older
and younger guys in every profession and it's just something I don't
know if it's an advantage, I have had a lot more experience in my
life, so that might play a part. It's what it is. I'm older than most
guys and so maybe I have a little bit more old man strength as some
might say, but other than that I don't know if it's too much of an
Q. Marquette's game is a lot of drive and kick. They get a lot of 3
points that way. How disciplined do you have to be on defense in terms
of not helping too much because they're going to kick out eventually
and get some 3 pointers? How disciplined do you have to be on defense?
POOH WILLIAMS: We got to focus on keeping them in front of us.
They're a very athletic team and we just got to just stay in front,
stay down on a shot fake and just know that they're trying to get into
the lane as much as they can. They also can shoot good from the 3
point line, so we just got to stay aggressive on defense and just be
JARED QUAYLE: One of our strengths this year has been our help
defense. We know that they're going to get by us and they're great
players, of course they are. So our help defense is going to be key.
We're going to have guys stepping up and taking charges, because we
know they like to get all the way to the basket. So definitely our
help defense is going to help us win this game.
Q. You guys have talked about the athleticism. How do you prepare
for that without seeing it in practice? Have you guys done anything to
try to simulate it? Have you put seven offensive guys out there,
anything like that to prepare for the athleticism?
POOH WILLIAMS: No, we have just been doing what we do all year as
far as game preparation. There's nothing we can really do about their
athleticism, just play smart and Aggie basketball. Cut hard, set good
screens and that will take care of itself. We haven't changed anything
as far as that.
JARED QUAYLE: Well, we have our scout team and they're great
athletes, so they give us a good look every day in practice. So they
may not be as athletic or as good as athletes as we're going to be
facing tomorrow, but I think that it will prepare us well and we'll be
able to do what we do.
Q. All year you guys have been, coach is trying to keep you on an
even keel with getting in the Top 25 and things like that. Now the
atmosphere is even more, NCAA tournament, the excitement and things
like that. What are you guys doing to stay focused despite all the
TAI WESLEY: All this excitement is only going to help us. It's
exciting. Who wouldn't want to be playing in the first round of the
NCAA tournament? Five hours from where we play. With we'll have a lot
of fans here.
I think all this excitement's just going to help us play better, get
more up for the game, we might have to deal with a little bit of
nerves, but I don't think we have had to deal with that much this
year. So I think it will just help our team play with more energy.
TYLER NEWBOLD: Once they throw that ball up, it's just a basketball
game. There's a lot of stuff that goes into it and there's a lot of
fun times and we got to enjoy that, but we got to remember that what
we focused on all year in order to win and in order to play well. And
I think as a team we're a mature enough team that we know what we need
to do to have a chance to win and we just got to focus on those
things. Have a good time with all of the other things that are going
on, but make sure we understand what it's going to take physically and
mentally in order to have a chance to win.
Q. Gary, with your shorter amount of time on the team and doing what
you've done as far as putting up that massive amount of points, and
being the senior guy of the team talking about your age, how much
pressure have you put on yourself to try to take life experience and
talk to these guys and actually get everyone rallied to get involved
in this game? It's going to be one of the most important games ever
GARY WILKINSON: The great thing about this team and for me
throughout the year is that I think that every guy I haven't really
had to be the loan leader. These five guys or four guys sitting up
here with me have been leaders on this team and I never felt alone in
terms of trying to amp up the team or get the team ready. Every guy up
here, and there are guys not up here, that have taken it upon
themselves to get ready to go every night out and that's one thing
that's been a strength for us. We have relied upon each other. We're a
family. And it's, we have relied upon each other to get going.
One guy stepped up one night, another guy stepped up another and
that's taken a lot of pressure off me as a senior and I don't feel
like I'm a lone leader. And so I think that's what's really been a
benefit for us. As far as trying to help everyone get motivated, I
just try to be motivated myself on the floor in practice and that type
of thing and hopefully don't have to say anything but lead by example.
And I think everyone up here's done that and I think that's what has
made us a really cohesive unit this year.
Q. Tyler, everyone has been talking about how you're going to
defense them, but what can you offer offensively to set them a little
bit back and try to make them work extra hard so it takes up some of
their energy on defense?
TYLER NEWBOLD: The biggest thing we're going to have to do is with
our offense, we must screen well. And if we want to kind of offset
their athleticism and their pressure that they're obviously going to
try to put on us, we need to cut hard and we need to have a great
screening game. When we have screened well, in games this year, we
have gotten great looks. If we want good looks at the basket we will
have to screen them well, we'll have to cut hard and when we're open
we have to be ready to knock those down.
I think if we do that, I think our offense will be all right.
Q. Gary and Tai, how important is it going to be to limit foul
trouble? In games where you guys have struggled there's one or two of
you that have ended up on the bench for a lot in the first half. How
important is that going to be against a team that's as athletic where
you need that help defense?
TAI WESLEY: I've struggled with foul trouble all year. So all my
career, excuse me. (Laughter.)
But it will be extremely important. Coach has told us they have made
more free throws than any of their opponents have shot. So it is an
extremely important thing that not just me or Gary, but every member
of our team stay out of foul trouble. Limit their free throws during
the game and I think that will help us a lot.
GARY WILKINSON: I echo what Tai said. I think staying out of foul
trouble is a huge part of any game but especially here because of how
aggressive they are. I think that it's just going to be about playing
solid defense and then help defense isn't so much about fouling but
creating harder shots or getting in the way, taking charges, that type
of thing. And so we just got to be this is probably the most solid
help defense game we have had to play all year, so that's the way
we're going to approach it and hopefully we'll execute it.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, gentlemen. And we'll have Coach
Morrill up here in just a moment. We'll go ahead and get started with
questions for Coach Morrill.
Q. Coach, can you talk a little bit about when you played in Boise
and even when you were in Reno you guys have had such good fan
support, what does that mean to you and to the guys on the team to be
able to have so many people come out, no matter where you play?
COACH MORRILL: Well, that's the first thing I said when we got our
NCAA pairings and knew we were going to Boise, the first thing I said
is, This is unbelievable for our fans to have a chance to get to this
venue, and it's four hours away and the problem is getting enough
tickets. I think we were assigned originally I think 550 tickets and
you will see more Aggies than 550. Last time we were here, you know,
there were 2, 3, 4,000, and we bought tickets from our schools. I
think we have done the same this time. However they get tickets, they
find a way.
But it means a lot to our players. Our environment is as good as it
gets in college basketball. We get 4,000 students, our place is
basically packed every night we play. To our guys, it's as big time as
So hopefully that will help us in an environment like this when
we're stepping into the NCAA's and competing and I hope our guys can
settle in and play. That's the challenge, obviously.
Q. When you look at the tape of Marquette and you look at their
athletic guards, what do you see? A lot is made of what they can do on
the floor and that's really what makes Marquette tick. What do you see
when you're watching game tape?
COACH MORRILL: Well, their skill level and athletic ability jump out
at you. It's real easy to say, Okay, it's a Big East team and they're
extremely athletic, but you got at that level and that league, you got
to be more than just athletics, you got to have really good basketball
skills. And obviously with the scoring averages of their team you got
a lot of guys that can shoot it and make plays and drive it and
they're just so explosive. The thing that concerns me, number one, is
can we get them slowed down.
If they're just getting easy baskets on turnover transition, easy
baskets driving to the paint because we can't contain them, then it's
going to be a long, I want to say night, a long morning for us.
But, so that's the challenge is trying to stop them from getting so
many easy baskets in transition and off the drive.
Q. Can you compare what you will be facing in Marquette with any
team that you've played this year? Is there anybody, any team that
comes close to that?
COACH MORRILL: I think their style is similar to Boise State and New
Mexico State in that they want to run on mades, they want to play
fast. They want to mades, misses, whatever, I don't know anybody in
our league that has the free throw discrepancy that Marquette has with
more than 300 free throws more than their opponents have shot. I've
been coaching a long time and I haven't seen that one very often.
What that tells you is that they are getting to the basket, they are
getting people in foul trouble. So similar styles to Boise and New
Mexico State, but yet obviously a little higher level talent level
when you talk about Big East players. And I like our league a lot and
I think our league has real good players, don't get me wrong, but
obviously a little higher level player that you're dealing with
Q. This isn't the first time you've been in the NCAA tournament, but
it's the first time for your players. This is the biggest stage they
have been on. How do you keep the atmosphere from being a distraction?
How do you keep them prepared to go?
COACH MORRILL: We try and focus on playing the game. All this other
stuff that you do because you're in the NCAA tournament, enjoy it.
Experience the whole environment and enjoy it. But don't let it be a
distraction. Focus on game plan, focus on getting ready to play and
it's a basketball game. It's not life or death.
And we went down to Nevada with a whole lot of pressure, there were
a lot of people saying even though the year we had had that we
wouldn't be in if we didn't win the quarterfinal game and then we won
that one. Now you won't be in unless you win the semifinal game and we
won that. Now you probably won't be in unless you win the championship
So there's some pressure in that certainly, but our guys, we're real
steady and I kept telling them it was the Nevada invitational because
we were playing on Nevada's home court. And with all due respect,
maybe this is the Big East invitational with three number one seeds
and pretty much all of their whole league in the dang tournament or at
least half of it. So for us we need to go play. We're not picked to
win, we need to go have fun and play and get our game plan ready and
see what we can get done. Obviously we want to show up and compete.
When you look at who we have played in the NCAA’s, it's like a
who's who of college basketball. In the six years, we have been six
out of the last ten years and we started with Connecticut, then we
beat Ohio State and got UCLA the next year. Then it was Kansas, then
it was Arizona, then it was Washington. Now it's Marquette. So it's
been a challenging game every time out. So that's something that I'll
relate to our team and it's no different than it's been in the past
when we have been here. Very challenging game.
Q. Is too much being made of the age of your team?
COACH MORRILL: Yes.
Q. Seems like there's a lot of people that want to talk about that.
COACH MORRILL: Yes, way too much is being made of the age of our
team. Nothing was made of it really until we got a lot of national
publicity this year and then Mark Fox from Nevada for whatever reason
decided to make a deal out of it.
Every team and every program has things that help them. We're not as
athletic as some teams. We're not as big as some teams. We do have
some older kids. And that's a little niche for us. But everybody has
their thing that helps their team. Our guys have still played the same
number of years, just the fact that they interrupted it with two years
of not bouncing a basketball some of them, not all of them, that
doesn't necessarily it makes them a little more mature, it doesn't
necessarily help their basketball abilities. I've always said what it
does most is help them deal with me, which isn't easy to do, just ask
So it helps them deal with me and maybe that's the biggest plus. But
every team has some things that help them, whether availability of
getting players or like I say, athleticism or size. Ours happens to be
that we have a little maturity. But it shouldn't be quite as big a
deal as it's being made out to be.
Q. You mentioned the free throw discrepancy for Marquette. How
important will it be and what tactics or what game plan have you
stressed to your team to help avoid getting into foul trouble and
getting them to the free throw line?
COACH MORRILL: Well, we're not going to tell you our game plan, you
probably knew that. But how important it will be depends on whether
they can just get us in foul trouble. You've seen a lot of games this
year where Tai Wesley has got in foul trouble. And that's not a plus
if we have him or a number of players setting over by me. You look at
Marquette and their big three, McNeal, Matthews and Hayward, they're
on the floor for close to 40 minutes every night out. So we have got
to keep our top players out there as many minutes as they can be out
there to matchup and that kind of thing.
If we're in foul trouble, it makes it really, really hard. One thing
that will help us maybe not get tired and maybe not foul as much is
the NCAA time outs are about nine minutes long. Believe it or not,
even though it's the NCAA tournament, as a coach you're used to about
90 seconds. And with these time outs, in past NCAA tournaments I've
said to my team, That's all I got. That's all I got. We'll sit there
for about 20 seconds and then we go out. I mean, it may sound like
coaches have always got more to say, but those time outs, they're good
for resting but sometimes they're a little long. But maybe that will
help us stay out of foul trouble, I don't know.
Q. Have you noticed a difference between Marquette since they lost
the point guard? What do they do differently, how are they similar and
COACH MORRILL: I haven't worried about them when they had the point
guard. He's a really good player. I saw a little bit of them playing
when they had him, but we have concentrated on who they are now. And
they're still plenty talented, still plenty good. We haven't got into
all the differences when they had him and when they don't, because
we're playing the team that doesn't have him and that's what we need
to focus on.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you, Coach.
COACH MORRILL: Thank you.
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