March 10, 2005
An Interview With: WYOMING COWBOYS
COACH MCCLAIN: I think it was a typical four?five type game. I think both teams fought up. Both teams had runs. You know, I give Vegas credit. I give our kids credit. We did what we wanted to and they had other guys step up and make big plays for them. And again, as I told my kids afterwards, you know, we did the right thing for three days to prepare.
If you win, you are happy; if you lose, you are not. I give Coach Kruger of Vegas a lot of credit. He had guys step up and make big free throws. That is why they will continue to play.
JIM MILLER: Stick with us, Coach. Open it up for questions directed to student athletes.
Question: What was the trouble offensively in the game?
Jay Straight: Just couldn't knock the shots down. You know, it is frustrating for us as players when you come out and compete hard for 40 minutes and trying to get a rhythm. We just couldn't make shots today.
Question: Kind of reflect ?? I know it is soon after the game. Reflect on your careers at this point.
Jay Straight: I am still thinking about possibly playing again. This day won't be emotional for me. I am discouraged that we lost. I am angry, like our whole program is. Hopefully we have got another game to play. I have got a couple of days to find out, then I will decide whether or not I am bummed out or not.
Question: What do you think your chances are of getting to the NIT?
Jay Straight: I think they are pretty good, as Coach McClain just emphasized to us a second ago. A couple of years ago San Diego got in with a bad record. I wish that we would have put ourselves in a predicament so we could know for sure that we are going to the tournament or NIT. Again, we put our fight in somebody else's hands. Hopefully those guys will decide that they want us.
JIM MILLER: Alex, the same question.
Alex Dunn: It's not in our hands right now. We are going to prepare this week like we're playing again. We'll find out Sunday. Hopefully we will get another opportunity on the floor.
Question: What was the biggest difference of the last three weeks? Was it as simple as not winning the close games in the previous month?
Alex Dunn: A lot of hard breaks going our way, and a lot of breaks couldn't pull out in the end. Teams get hot on us and can't miss a shot. Morgan, a 67 percent free throw shooter, on the line didn't miss a shot all night. This past few weeks, not getting any breaks or anything to fall our way.
Question: Alex, you guys pretty much dominated the inside. You held Blankson to five points. At any point in the game, did you feel pressure to produce the big plays, as the guards had trouble making shots?
Alex Dunn: I don't want to say we had more pressure. We were getting some good looks inside. They were battling out like the guards were from the outside. It was frustrating at that point. They held their big guys to not a whole lot. They kind of went off on us. They were hitting shots in the second half and we did a pretty good job on them, but not enough to shut them down.
Question: Can you just talk about what happened on the rebounding tonight with the smaller line out?rebounding you?
Jay Straight: Their guards killed us the first half on the offensive end against the second chance points. I am not sure what happened really, I'll have to go back and watch the film and see if we missed the block outs and whatnot.
Question: Did you change your mindset in the second half?
Jay Straight: It was ?? I couldn't determine, you know, which way the guys was going to call the game. They did a great job of calling it. I couldn't determine whether or not they were going to call if you touch a guy or give them contact. I was kind of indecisive about that.
In the second half, Coach McClain told me not to give in, to get in there and just play with the flow. A little bit towards the second half, I just relaxed and just played my game. I played my game, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't where we needed to be.
JIM MILLER: Anything else for Jay or Alex? We'll let you guys go and open it up for questions for Coach McClain.
Question: Steve, it sounded like you guys had a good couple days of practice. The start of the game went well. What changed? You had a ten?minute scoring drought?
COACH MCCLAIN: We didn't score. It is about as simple as that. We were getting looks that we wanted to get, and we couldn't get a ball to go in the goal.
And you know ?? but again our defense was keeping us right there. You know, when we couldn't score then Vegas kind of got going. That is why it is a frustrating game sometimes.
You know, both teams ?? I don't think either team said, boy, we really shot well today. They shot 33 percent and we shot 32. The difference in the game is at that the free throw line.
But, you know, again you give Vegas credit. They were guarding really hard and we knew they would. We just didn't finish some plays at times when we had opportunities to finish them.
Question: Can you pinpoint over the past few weeks, anything that has gone differently for you guys?
COACH MCCLAIN: No because I think our kids played hard. I got asked that question heading into this. I think our kids played so hard. Can I say we didn't practice well? No, I can't. As I told the kids, if you ever do this for a living, all you can ask is they prepare. You can't control whether that ball is going to go in the goal. They prepared for the last three weeks. At times the ball didn't bounce our way. Maybe we were lucky when it was bouncing our way.
Again, that is why I told the kids I was going to be proud of them today either way. Because we prepared as well as we could. They prepared mentally and physically. In the end that is all you ask of your kids.
Question: What do you think of your chances with the NIT?
COACH MCCLAIN: I have no idea. As the players said, and I told the guys, I don't have any idea. I know this every year our league as had eligible teams. We are eligible. Who knows. You don't know what is going on all over the country, where they need home games, where they need opponents. We have a great reputation with the NIT. Hopefully they will look at us and see a team they would like to see play some more.
Question: Steve, what do you ?? same question about Denver. You had good crowd here. There wasn't an electricity in the building. What do you think about Denver as a site?
COACH MCCLAIN: I think in the end it will be evaluated by the athletic directors. The Mountain West Conference is doing a great job of putting it on.
Again, it is unfortunate you can't have everybody play at night. You can't have everybody play when they want to, but I think this, I think our people are supporting it, and you know, it is going to be interesting when it is all said and done, how the financial part of it comes out. I know this, the Mountain West Conference and Craig's staff has worked hard at this; they are doing everything they can.
I know our fans are doing our part in supporting it. I thought Utah had a nice group here today. It will be interesting to see the final numbers when it is said and done. The Pepsi Center is a great place. It is just, you know, we got to get the local fans to come out and see it a little bit more, I think.
JIM MILLER: Any other questions? Okay. Thanks, Coach McClain.
An Interview With: UNLV RUNNIN' REBELS
JIM MILLER: We're joined by UNLV head coach Lon Kruger, No. 3 Michael Umeh, No. 11 Ricky Morgan, No. 30 Joel Anthony. If you want to begin with some opening comments and then following those opening comments we'll open it up for questions for the student athletes.
COACH KRUGER: Just a hard-fought win. I'm really proud of our guys. I thought they hung in there and battled. We got into a margin midway through the second half and played with that down the stretch. The kids were going to fight and compete, and they did that and came back late and made it very interesting.
I'm really proud of our guys. I thought a lot of guys stepped up; Michael Umeh in the first half was just terrific, and I thought our big guys inside battled Wyoming's big guys and held their own on the boards, and I thought Ricky did a terrific job down the stretch of handling the ball and getting to the line and converting. It was a very good win and a hard-earned win.
Question: Can we talk a little bit about that first half run where you were hitting all those threes? What the heck was going through your mind?
Michael Umeh: It was just trying to be aggressive, just trying to come out and get a good start, just trying to be aggressive, trying to attack. Just hit a few shots that got us going.
Question: I was just wondering defensively what you did to keep Wyoming out of sorts on their offensive end.
Joel Anthony: In the post, we were just trying to make sure we fronted the post, trying to deny a lot of the post catches. Their big guys are pretty good so they could hurt us a lot offensively, so we just tried to deny them as much as we could from engaging the score.
Question: Ricky, you get in that roll shooting free throws there. How tough does it get after you've hit 12, 14, 16 in a row to keep focusing? Do you just keep rolling or do you think, I'm due to miss one one of these days?
Ricky Morgan: I just didn't want to go home. I've been shooting I think under 60 percent for the whole season from the free throw line and I wasn't too proud of that, so tonight when I got to the line, I was just trying to focus and shoot the ball straight. Our assistant coach, Coach Henson, always tells me just shoot it straight, get up there and follow through, and I did a good job of that tonight.
Question: Ricky, can you talk a little bit about Michael's run there early in the game? You're out on the court; what do you think is going on when the other starters aren't scoring but yet everything and anything he puts up goes in?
Ricky Morgan: I'm just so happy for Mike. He was one of the guys here with me this summer and he worked really hard. As of late he's been carrying us a lot offensively and we've been leaning on him to get us going. He's been our emotional leader, and tonight he got some big shots and big time drives to get us going.
Question: Michael, how do you feel about handling this burden that's been placed upon you to kind of lead this team the last month?
Michael Umeh: It's no problem. You know, I know the guys have a lot of respect for me just like I have a lot of respect for the guys. It's a team effort. If they look to me to do those type of things, I'm willing to step up always and take that responsibility.
Question: Michael, this was a game, at least from those of us who were watching it, that just appeared to be very strange. Your run early, starters not scoring until early into the second half, Ricky's situation going to the free throw line endlessly at the end of the game. As you're playing this game did you get a sense that this was something real bizarre?
Michael Umeh: It was a little different down the stretch. We knew we had to keep fighting, keep attacking, keep trying to play good defense and do good things to try and get things going. You just want to make good things happen.
Question: Coach, did you use the altitude as any factor at all in your substitutions when you were rotating?
COACH KRUGER: Not really. We have not really talked about that at all. None of the guys have made any comments that were concerning about their fatigue or lack of wind. I don't think it's been on anyone's mind.
Question: Joel, can you talk about facing Andrew Bogut again?
Joel Anthony: Well, you know, I'm definitely ready to go out there and play against him. He's a really, really talented, skilled player. We've just been watching a lot of film, already played against him already. He's obviously a tough match-up, toughest post player in our conference, one of the best in the country, so I just know the job I have to do and I'm ready to go out there and get it done.
Question: Ricky, at times late in the game you guys didn't look like you had a whole lot of composure, yet somehow you managed to hold it together. Could you talk about how maybe this last three-week run of winning games and finding ways to win games played into that?
Ricky Morgan: I just think different guys have been stepping up. Each of the wins that we've had as a team effort, cohesive effort, nobody can do it but ourselves, so at times when I have lapses or Mike or Joel or somebody else on the team, somebody else usually steps up. Curtis Terry has been played great, Villepigue has been playing great for us. We need everyone to win games. We can't do it ourselves. When somebody is out of sync, somebody steps up and usually just feed off each other.
JIM MILLER: We'll let you guys go and we'll go ahead and open it up for questions directed at Coach Kruger.
Question: Coach, same question basically that I asked Ricky and Michael about just the weird flow of this game. Did you get a sense as you're coaching this thing just how up and down and sideways this whole game was going?
COACH KRUGER: Well, especially there in the last quarter of the game when it got very disjointed, all the fouls, all the little mini-runs. We'd get to 9 and then they'd cut it back to 5, 6, and we couldn't quite get away from them, and again, you don't expect them to stop fighting and they didn't. Very tough to finish that game.
Question: Going off of something Ricky said about other people stepping up, if someone had told you that Odartey Blankson was only going to score five points, would you believe you would win this game?
COACH KRUGER: Well, it would be awfully difficult to think that. Odartey has been so consistent for us offensively. He's scored big for us every game with the exception of one, and in that ballgame, I think it was Air Force, some other guys stepped up and did a nice job. Like the guys mentioned, different guys have stepped up at different times. I might Michael and Odartey have stepped up and been there, but different guys have stepped up and complemented their play.
Question: Can you talk about facing the Utes and how to slow them down on the backboards when they're so good?
COACH KRUGER: I don't know that I've got the answer for that. No one has. New Mexico played them extremely well in The Pit, and Ray has done a great job and Bogut is so terrific that he'll take it if you don't double him, but he's very comfortable making plays for his teammates if you do cheat too much onto him. I think they're a terrific basketball team and playing well, and each guy is playing with great confidence and great conviction with regard to their schemes. That's why they're the best team in the league.
Question: Why were field goals so hard to come by today, other than Michael in the first half?
COACH KRUGER: We had a lot of pretty good looks there early that we couldn't get down and even some lay-ups there in the second half. It seemed like we got to the rim but couldn't finish. Maybe it was just that first tournament game, who knows, but we certainly are going to have to do a better job tomorrow to have a chance to hang with Utah.
Question: The attendance at this tournament is down markedly since it moved to Denver. Do you think this is a good venue for this tournament long-term or would you like to see a different site?
COACH KRUGER: The tournament is here so we're a very big fan of the tournament in Denver. Obviously there might be some other options down the road that we might be excited about, but right now we're excited about being in Denver. The facility is great and the hospitality around the venue is great and the people are working awfully hard at it, so we're excited about being here.
JIM MILLER: Thanks, Coach.