March 9, 2006
Coach Steve McClain: Well, I think it was another just great Wyoming Air Force game. And I'm so proud of these kids because, you know, we knew the scouting report, we knew what we had to do and they got it into the game. And then when the game was on the line, we made free throw after free throw and that was the key to winning the game. 22 for 23 at the free throw line.Great effort out of everybody. Maybe one of our best team efforts in the last couple of weeks.
Question: Steve, talk about the free throw shooting at the end. Was that the first one on your last attempt the most critical?
Steve Leven: They were all pretty, you know, tough when it gets down the stretch, you know. Take the same approach. Go up to the line every time whether it's first half or second half. We just did a good job of getting the ball into me and Brandon's hands where we can get it on the line and make some free throws.Every one else stepped up and we went 22 for 23, so that was pretty good.
Question: Brandon, could you talk about that shot you made with 1:37, the clock's running down and you get a clutch shot going to your left?
Brandon Ewing: That shot kind of reflects the first half. When the shot clock was going down, I was settling for three's. Coach pulled me to the side several times and said when the shot clock is going down try to penetrate to the middle, that's the sweet spot in any zone. Once I got there, the zone just spreaded out. And I shot the left floater. It kind of went in. I don't want to say it was kind of luck but I guess it was our day.
Question: Steve, the importance of the 9-0 run to start the second half, that really set the stage didn't it?
Coach Steve McClain: Well, it did. And you always want to come out of halftime. And especially when you're ahead, if you can just build it at all get a cushion. And especially against a team like Air Force that won 24 games this year, you know they're going to make a run. They're not going to lay down and quit. Those kids get up and do way more important things than me and you do every day.You know they're not going to quit. So when we got that nice cushion to deal with, it made it a little less pressure on us the whole time.
Question: Brandon, I know you said coming into the tournament you felt like you had a bit of a chip on your shoulder the way the last month had went. Do you feel you might have proved something?
Brandon Ewing: I feel any win you proving something, especially with the seventh seed. We are not really focused on that. We're just trying to take it one game at a time. If we win tomorrow, we in the championship. Then if we win the next day, we win the tournament. Pretty much just take it one game at a time and focus on the next team at hand.
Question: How did it feel to get back in the lineup and just stroke the three out there? You looked very comfortable in this game. Was there something that Air Force does that plays to your strength?
Steve Leven: Not really. The last couple of weeks have been hard, just personal reasons. And Brandon and Brad really did a good job of getting me into a rhythm, giving me the ball when I was open the first couple of minutes. And I'm the kind of player if I get into a good rhythm, you know, it's very easy to hit shots. And my teammates did a hell of a job looking for me and reading me coming off screens.And it's good to get a win. That's the most important part, doing my little bit. Brandon does his. The other guys do theirs. And we get the W. I don't really look at stroking three's, but we just want to get the win.
Question: Guys, the last month you've been playing the second half down 10 points. What was the mindset in the huddle among you guys out on the floor playing with the lead and trying to hang on to it?
Brandon Ewing: Like coach said, when you have the lead at halftime, you want to come and make another run. So the lead could be 12, maybe 14 points to give Air Force or another good team a cushion because if they make their run, we're still up 6 points and we have a nice comfortable lead to maintain.Steve knocked down big shots. Everybody hit free throws. I mean, that was fantastic. And we keep doing that, we'll keep winning.
Question: Steve, just talk a bit about your guys' defensive effort. How do you think tonight's effort stacks up against the others this year?
Steve Leven: You're talking to me?
Steve Leven: I think that the last couple of days in practice and everything, I don't know about you, we probably haven't hit many shots like the last couple of days in practice. That whole focus has been defense and not letting people get easy baskets against us, you know, making them work for everything. It doesn't matter who you're playing, if you're making them work for every point they're getting, it's going to take its toll.And I really feel, even when they made their run tonight, you know we still withstood their runs and it was awesome.THE MODERATOR: You guys can take off. Questions directed to Coach McClain.
Question: From a coaching standpoint, having the lead in the second half, what were you telling the kids?
Coach Steve McClain: Well, you know, we turned it over a couple of times. And, you know, the nice part is, I said, Don't panic, we're ahead, we can make a couple of bad plays. And we did. But, you know what, that's the game of basketball. And that is but for 40 minutes we were pretty focused on that defensive end.And again, people never talk about, you know, we're 35th in the nation in defensive field goal percentage defense because they don't like to talk about that, they like to talk about other things.
Question: I want to know, do you believe Air Force has earned a spot in the NCAA tournament?
Coach Steve McClain: I have no question they deserve to be in the NCAA. Come on, they beat Miami, they beat who is the other one? Georgia Tech. They lose to Washington by six on their home court. You've proven what you are. There's no question.And you know, I think this: You know, you have success like they've had, you've proven you deserve I promise you this, there ain't anybody in the country that would want to play them. And there isn't a lot of teams you say that about.I know this, you don't want to play them. And Jeff has done an unbelievable job with that team. They're great kids, they're great competitors. And, you know, I just have the utmost respect for him. I always have. We've had great battles with them and that's what I love about them.
Question: Just talk about the momentum you pick up for tomorrow tonight with this win obviously. You don't know your play yet, but talk about that a little bit?
Coach Steve McClain: I believe this. When you get to today, you're promised one more day. That's all your promised. And we're promised one more day. That's all we're promised. And that's just what I told the kids.And I told them today walking in here, believe. When they went to bed last night, I said believe, because we're coming in here and do this. You know, I those kids did an unbelievable job, you know. They came in here believing they were going to win the game. And we've won a few games since I've been at Wyoming, and I know a little bit about tournament play, and all you got to do is believe for 40 minutes. It doesn't mean it will always happen for you, but if you walk in that with that attitude something good can happen.You know, again, I would say most people didn't want to play us as the number 7 seed because we had only lost 6 games by a total of 1 point, 1 point, 1 point, 2 points, 2 points, 2 points. This team could right now easily have 18, 19 wins. So, again, I think more than anything, those kids deserve all the credit. They just decided they were going to get a win tonight and they deserved it.
Question: Could you talk about Brandon's poise for true freshman? It's pretty amazing to watch him. He never seems to get rattled about anything.
Coach Steve McClain: Well, he doesn't. And, you know, he's done it all year. You saw him at Colorado State when we were on the road. He makes a mistake and he just kind of smiles like, I know I shouldn't have done that, I'll just get back in there and play. That's resiliency that most young players don't have.Most times you got to take a young player out and pull him out and kind of sit him down a minute. It's pretty hard to rattle Brandon Ewing. You know, he believes in what we do. And, you know, I said a month ago he's my coach on the floor. He knows what I'm thinking. He knows. And you got to have this side of your point guard. He's receptive to coaching. You know, just like he said, he was settling for three's. You tell him, Brandon, you got to drive it. He doesn't look at you and go, No, I'd rather shoot a three. He drives it. You know, he just isn't afraid to step up.
Question: What does Justin do when he's on the floor?
Coach Steve McClain: Again, he creates problems. How many and he got five blocks you said.
Coach Steve McClain: And how many traveling calls did he create?
Coach Steve McClain: But to break a guy's record that's played in the NBA for 12 years, that's pretty impressive and yet be a solid defender. He doesn't go block shots. He, you know, makes people travel. He does everything. And, again, I'm proud of him. He doesn't really care about it. But, you know, it's a nice thing.
Coach Jeff Bzdelik: First of all, we want to give credit to Wyoming. Their coaching staff created a heck of a game plan. Their players executed it. And congratulations to Wyoming.From our standpoint, after 30 games it was not a timely way to not play our very best. That's for sure. We've played two games now in 14 days. And I probably did not do a good job as a basketball coach keeping my team sharp. With the one game at the end of the year against Colorado State, and waiting for this game, like I said, two games in 14 days.Obviously, I got to go back and look at myself and say, How could I have kept my team sharper? But I'm very proud of my players. After 30 games we are 24 and 6. I've been coaching I told them for 30 years. This is the most rewarding, most enjoyable experience I've had because of these young men. They are tremendous and you saw that tonight. They compete. And don't quit.I said many times this nation should be very fortunate that these young men will be their future leaders.
Question: For both Matt and Antoine, from your standpoint was free throw shooting late the biggest difference in the game?
Antoine Hood: First off, I want to thank God, my personal savior Jesus. We didn't shoot very well from the free throw line today. I mean myself personally, I missed three, and then we got someone one on ones we didn't drop, a lot of in and outs. Wyoming made all their free throws down the stretch. Definitely played a big part.
Matt McCraw: I also think it played a big part in the game today, especially down the stretch like Antoine said. Wyoming hit their free throws when it counted, and we missed the front end of one and ones, so that's they was an important aspect of today's game.
Question: How hard is the rest of this weekend going to be for you having to sit around not knowing what your fate is and what do you think is going to happen on Sunday?
Antoine Hood: You know, it's definitely going to be challenge. We're 24 and 6. We feel very confident that we're in. A lot of other teams lost today as well. It's always hard when you take everything out of your own control. We controlled our own destiny. Tonight was another opportunity for us to come out and make another statement and solidify ourselves even more so for the NCAA tournament. But we still feel confident that we're in.Like I said, we've got to good wins, RPI is good. I mean we can just sit back and pray. So like I said, I feel confident about it.
Question: Antoine, drawing on your experience over the last three years now, do you think there's a lack of recognition on the part of the Air Force players that the tournament is a different season and it's not just another regular season or conference game?
Antoine Hood: Well, we haven't fared well obviously in the last couple of years here in the conference tournament here, every since I've been a freshman. You can't come out flat. Every year we came out flat. We came out flat the first half, and then we picked it up. You know, some bounces here, some bounces there. Things go our way, we would be sitting here having a different conversation.It's probably just a mental thing. We have to step it up and be more intense. It's do or die time. It's a new season, zero zero. Wyoming came out and they just out hustled us sometimes. They made some big plays. And, you know, like I said, we missed some key free throws and some shots. They wanted it more. Like I said, I don't know, we had another opportunity that we didn't take advantage of.
Question: Antoine and Matt, this was a really, really tough game for you guys offensively. There were long, long stretches where you just did not execute offensively. What was going on there on the offensive end and why couldn't you get into your offense the way you usually do?
Antoine Hood: You know, Wyoming like I said, it's a piggyback off of coach. Hats off to their coaching staff. Every time we play Wyoming, it's always a close game. They used to blow us out back in the day. Now it's a 1, 2 point game. I think however many times we've played them, it's been 10 points combined as far as win or lose. So, I mean, when they play us, they feel good. It's just a big rivalry. Anytime you're in a rivalry game like that, everybody is going to step it up a little more.We kind of got a little sideways in the first half as far as execution. We missed some passes. We weren't really gelling like we should have in the first half. We got it together in the second half. Some more shots fall and we'd be all right.
Question: Wyoming seems like Coach McClain talks about their scout with you. Is Wyoming any more intense on defense or better than any other team that comes out to defend you guys?
Antoine Hood: They're a well coached team. This season everybody is going to play Air Force even harder. Everywhere we go in the conference they're selling out crowds and this and that. So, I guess it's just they step it up. They want to defend Air Force.So, I mean, like Wyoming did a great job tonight. Not taking it away from them, everybody in the conference obviously, like I said, they step it up a notch against us. And like I said, we execute a little better. Coach McClain, he done a great job at Wyoming, and Justin Williams is a great shot blocker. Leven killed us tonight. That was probably the biggest X factor. We take away his two open three's in the first half, that's 6 points.So it's you know, they are a good team, well coached, and they just beat us tonight.
Question: Coach, were you concerned at all it seemed like you had those two spurts in the second half where the boys got back in the ball game? Were you concerned with perhaps maybe a lack of intensity to open the game in that first half when you did fall behind originally?
Coach Jeff Bzdelik: Like I said in my opening comments, we were flat. Why? I don't know. Perhaps like I said, two games in 14 days. I didn't keep them sharp. I don't know. I don't know, you know. To piggyback what the previous question was, Justin Williams causes a lot of problems. And, you know, in particular for us. And Wyoming has lost a lot of games. They've been very competitive in all their games. And Williams, we get to the rim and, you know, it bothers us. It really does. We're not really sure if we should, you know, take it strong. We're not sure if we should what we should do. And he bothers us, to put it simply.And then, you know, I thought we were very uncharacteristic in that first half. We had three assists, seven turnovers. And it just we weren't disciplined on offense to just keep it going, keep it going, keep it going, like we have been throughout the previous 29 games.
Question: Same question as I had for Antoine. How hard does this loss make the rest of the weekend for you and do you think you should be in?
Coach Jeff Bzdelik: I told the team this: We will be playing basketball again. I believe that. Where and I don't know but we're going to be playing another game. That's for sure. And we're going to practice Sunday because we will be playing.This was not a good time to not play our very best. I'll put it that way. But we're 24 and 6. We're very proud of our season and we will be playing again. That's how I feel.
Question: When you got within three, about four and a half minutes to go, you missed three straight three's. It looked like you were not happy with some of the shots you were taking because you were able to drive or were they just open looks you missed?
Coach Jeff Bzdelik: You know, yes and no with some of those. A couple of them, I thought we could have manufactured better. A couple of them were just good looks. Just didn't make them. 5 to 20 on three's, I think it was a combination of a couple of things, the way we manufactured them. I never thought we were in a good rhythm offensively all night to be honest with you. It wasn't right. It wasn't what we had been doing. For whatever reason I'm not sure.
Question: With the way they were shooting free throws, why not go to the three in the last minute? Why the 2, 2, 2, 2?
Coach Jeff Bzdelik: First of all, they had guys making free throws plain and simple. I like going to the rim plain and simple. What are they going to do? They're not going to foul you. You're going to go in there one on one. If there's a double team, we kick it out and shoot a three.I like us being aggressive, going to the rim, scoring. I mean, all they had to do was miss one or two. They did. That's all they had to do, but they weren't. And you look at their statistics historically, they're not a good free throw shooting team. But give them credit tonight, they made their free throws. And we who had been a good free throw shooting team didn't make ours.I like the aggressiveness of going to the rim and keeping it tight, keeping the pressure on them. If you come down and start jacking three's, it's a lower percentage shot. I wanted to be aggressive going to the rim.A couple of times they did foul us, which stopped the clock, and we were able to set up our press. But we put ourselves in that position at the end to scramble, and that's not really us.