March 11, 2006
San Diego State
Coach Steve Fisher: I was wrong, I said there wouldn't be two of you left, but we got six (smiling).The thing that impressed me the most was the way we shot the ball in overtime. Three for five, seven for eight. We went into overtime, they not only fought and defended and guarded, but you saw the Aztecs play the way we've played a lot this year.We struggled to make baskets in three games, so I'm doubly proud of the fact we're the last dog standing. That's a tribute to these three and the rest of our group.We will proudly represent the Mountain West Conference in the NCAA tournament. We feel good about ourselves.
Question: Brandon, can you talk about your play in overtime, just what enabled you to step up?
Brandon Heath: I mean, we went down by six about two minutes left. Came to the huddle, everybody just tried to stay positive. It came down to getting stops and rebounding. Guys made plays on the offensive end.That's all it came down to, make good plays.
Question: Brandon, probably a horrendous game for you by your standards overall. 7 for 27 from the field. What turned it around for you in overtime?
Brandon Heath: I don't know, man, just our team. Our back was against the wall. My name was called, I just tried to answer. My teammates believed in me. They got me the ball in the right situations. I just tried to capitalize. Thank you, guys.
Question: Can you talk about going into overtime knowing you're playing without Marcus Slaughter, even the last minute. Talk about the team's play without two of the starters.
Coach Steve Fisher: We talked after the game about this is a San Diego State team victory, and it was personified tonight when arguably our best player, if not right there, and tonight, for sure our best player, fouled out in Marcus. And then Richie, who had been a dynamo out, we had guys that were able to hang in there and deliver. It's nice to have veteran guys like Sharper and Trimaine that can come in and fight. Then we've got some feisty young kids, Kyle and Richie.So, I would have felt more comfortable had we had Marcus going into the overtime. But we dug in there. You know, we should have, could have, but didn't win it 30 minutes ago in regulation when Richie just did exactly what he wanted to do, drove it to the rim. We were a little anxious and didn't finish it.And then you got to make sure you're not too disappointed. We've had a thought: Live in the moment and don't dwell on what just happened, make that next play. And they did a nice job of that.
Question: Your thoughts on Wyoming's performance tonight. Steve McClain thought it was a phenomenal ballgame by two teams showing what the Mountain West Conference is all about. Your thoughts on Wyoming?
Coach Steve Fisher: We have historically had some tremendous games with Wyoming, at both places. We've won there; they've won in San Diego. We won a game in Laramie that we shouldn't have early in the season. I think at times one play can make a game, one game can make a season. I said that before the game. I said, "I do believe for us, the play that Trimaine Davis made to tip in the basket, get fouled, and the hopeless cause, for us to win that game catapulted us to the rest of the story."I think it helped make this a great, great season for us. They played terrific. They played absolutely they were like us. They had a hard time scoring, but you couldn't tell the effort lagging at all on either end.
Question: As you have some firsthand knowledge, this tournament over the last couple years has had a history of Cinderella teams like Wyoming winning this tournament. On this floor, they had a large contingent of their fans down here for this game. How, with all that in mind, did you prepare this team mentally coming into tonight's game?
Coach Steve Fisher: I really don't think that we had to do anything along that line. We do have a pretty mature club. Trimaine Davis is a fifth year senior captain. I've stated he's the best captain I've ever had, and I've had some really, really good ones.He's not afraid to stand up and tell them what he thinks. If you come here to play, you come here to win. I know that our guys were every bit as excited about playing this game tonight as was an extremely excited, anxious and tough Wyoming team.We were jabbing just as hard as they were.
Coach Steve McClain: I think that might have been as good a college basketball game as I've ever been involved in. You know, two teams that had a purpose, they had something they wanted. Like I said, I don't know if I ever saw two teams fight, grab, do whatever they had to do to try to win the game.And, again, it was unfortunate for us 'cause I think these kids laid it on the line. I think more than anything they saw what Wyoming basketball is.You know, again, I give Steve Fisher and his staff credit. They did a great job. You know, it's disappointing, but that's what happens this time of year.
Question: Coach, you had talked about believing for 40 minutes in the first two ball games of the tournament. Did you just not plan for the extra five here tonight?
Coach Steve McClain: Might have been. You know, and I think the thing is, you know what, it was almost like that's how that game had to go. As hard as both teams were fighting, it had to go another five minutes.You talk about guys step up and make plays, you know, the unfortunate thing for us, they made the last play. But other than that, it was just that kind of game.
Question: Justin, obviously this has got to be a difficult way for you to end your career here. What is running through your mind right now?
Justin Williams: Just how much I love my team, how hard we fought this tournament.
Question: Brandon and Justin, during the last couple of months, during the streak, if you will, you thought you would be a dangerous team here in the tournament. Are you pleased with the play? Disappointment? Obviously you came in here with a purpose, that you thought you could do something, and you did.
Brandon Ewing: Yeah, as competitive as we were, we're definitely disappointed with the outcome. We're pleased with the way we played. We left it all out there on the court. We played hard till the finish, all 45 minutes. I believe we played as hard as we ever played.Just like coach said, the last couple of plays that they made, we missed a couple of shots. But I take my hat off to them. They made the last plays to win the game. But I'm definitely pleased the way we played throughout the tournament.
Question: Brad, Brandon Heath had what might be a bad game for him. He was 7 for 27. Overtime coming down the stretch, he hit a couple of baskets. Did he prove that he was Player of the Year in that stretch?
Brad Jones: Yes, sir, I give Brandon Heath all the credit in the world. He's a great player. I just wanted to try to stay in front of him, make him take tough shots. He hit a couple of tough shots and he proved he was the best player in the conference tonight.
Question: With what's happened over the last few days with Coach McClain and his uncertainty about his future, that didn't distract you. I'd like to hear your thoughts on it, considering the two of you are returning, one of you is considered the go to player. And, coach, if you would comment on that, as well. I know it's a touchy subject, but something your fans would like to hear about.
Coach Steve McClain: I think, one, these kids understand what winning and losing is. This wasn't about Steve McClain. This was about a group of kids that invested. Am I proud of them? Yeah, I am, because they never let it be a distraction. They understand one thing about Wyoming basketball: We're a family, what happens stays in our family, and you don't let people outside you try to tear you apart.I'll answer it for them. That's what they did. They didn't let anybody outside try to tear apart what we were doing. You know what, sometimes in life some people quit on you. This group of kids didn't worry about the people that had quit; they worried about the 10,000 Wyoming fans that walked in there tonight and gave everything they had to give, just like our team did. And I couldn't be prouder of them for that.
Question: Brad and Brandon, this run you guys made the last few days, how soon do you have to start thinking about next year now? How promising have these last few days been for the future of the team?
Brad Jones: Well, it's a tough loss. But I take my hat off to my seniors, Justin and Derek. It's sad for them to go out like this. Me and Brandon returning, there's a bright future and we think we could be in this same situation next year if we work hard.
Question: Talk about the way that Brandon played this weekend and his tournament honors. If you would, kind of compare him to the point guard you had before, Jay Straight, and the way he performed, especially in post season?
Coach Steve McClain: One, I think he's reached the point, he don't have to be compared to anybody. He's made his own legacy at this point. You know, I think him and Brad have proven we could have one of the best back courts not only in the Mountain West Conference next year but in the country.I give them credit because two young guys, two first year guys were thrown a lot of stuff. I never saw them fail. Some people say when you don't play well... They understand one thing: If you watched them play, they leave it all on the court, good or bad.I think Brandon had a great tournament. You know, I said when he didn't get freshman of the year, you know, I kind of thought he was. You always feel like your own player is. But his tournament play, I think, probably showed that.
Question: Justin, the play inside was very physical tonight. It seems like it's been physical with these guys all year. Did you feel like you and Derek and Chris and Ike had a bit of an advantage, especially when you got Slaughter in foul trouble?
Justin Williams: We didn't feel like we had an advantage when we got them in foul trouble. We felt like we had an advantage from the start of the game. Like coach says, you know, our main thing was to just go in and lay it all out on the line and whatever happens happens. And that's what we went out and did.
Question: Coach, if you could talk about what Justin has meant to this program the last two years, and how hard it's going to be to see him leave now.
Coach Steve McClain: Well, I think you look at his line tonight: 16 rebounds, 6 blocked shots. You know, he really grew as a player. One of the reasons NBA people like him is because he just plays so hard. He doesn't always play perfect, but he just plays hard.You know what, he always has a great enthusiasm for the game. He loves the game. He wants to be a great player someday.My only regret is I didn't get to coach him for four years because the progress he made in two was unbelievable.
Question: Coach, last night Coach Giacoletti sat in this room and said this may be one of the best coaching jobs you've ever done, particularly getting the kids down the stretch. Aside everything that's swirling around right now, your thoughts on this team and what it's going to mean to you when you wake up tomorrow morning.
Coach Steve McClain: Well, unlike other people, I don't judge kids by wins and losses. I judge how they represent the University of Wyoming. I couldn't be prouder of 'em. You know, sometimes you walk in and you say, "Proud of a team." "Proud" isn't the right word. This group of kids showed a lot of character. They showed a lot of grit. You know what, in the end they have way more character than a lot of people because they understood.I think, was it one of our best coaching jobs? I think our coaches did an unbelievable job of staying focused on the task at hand. We stayed focused. You know, I'm going to add to this. So many people in life don't ever get to feel this feeling because they're scared to invest completely. This group of kids wasn't scared to invest. They invested. And you know what, San Diego State is feeling good, we're feeling like somebody tore our guts out. But you know what, if you don't ever walk over that line and compete, then you don't know what that feels like.So, yeah, I'm proud of 'em and wouldn't trade 'em for the world.
Question: Can we expect a new wardrobe now? You indicated the wore the same suit, shirt, everything for three nights here.
Coach Steve McClain: I don't know. It did well enough. You know, I might just first game, you come to Laramie, I might wear it. I'm going to have to wear it home tomorrow, though, because I didn't bring any other clothes (laughter).I'll tell you what, we're a little superstitious as coaches. But you know what, there's nothing wrong with that. I'd have wore it another night if we got one more opportunity to play.