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March 20, 2015

Steve Fisher

J.J. O'Brien

Dwayne Polee II

Matt Shrigley

Skylar Spencer


ST. JOHN'S - 64

COACH FISHER: Tonight we beat a team that's very hard to guard, and we statistically are a pretty good defensive team and we had a hard time keeping them in front of us, especially in the first half. They had four guys play the whole game and they would have had, Jordan probably would have played the whole game had he not gotten two early fouls. So we thought we could create tired legs, but we were the ones that got tired legs in stretches, but first half we made some shots obviously and Polee and Matt combined to make a bunch of 3s. When you do that, you've got a chance. When we score points, we've got a chance. We score this many points, we've got a chance against anybody. St. John's is well-schooled, they play hard and they were very difficult to keep out of the transition game. But our guys did a nice job, I love the way we compete and play for one another, so really good win for San Diego State and we're glad that we're here and going to be playing another game on Sunday.

MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes?

Q. This is for Dwayne. Dwayne, you came out and took seven shots tonight, you hit five of them and hit three of them in the first five minutes of the game, obviously you're feeling well coming out of the gate. Talk about that a little bit.
DWAYNE POLEE II: My teammates found me in positions where I could shoot the ball. I found myself open a lot of times because, you know, we have a lot of great players on this team. You know, Coach Fish, he just does a great job of telling me to shoot your shot and I found myself wide open so I give a lot of credit to my teammates as well.

Q. JJ, start with you first, can you talk about just kind of how uncomfortable it was, this was definitely not the type of game that you guys generally get drawn into, yet you were able to really score in bunches.
J.J. O'BRIEN: Yeah, we haven't played a team like that all year. They do a great job of pushing the tempo and they kind of imposed their will on us early so we kind of had to slow it down and get back to our defense in the second half. We did a good job of getting back to how we play, getting back to our defense, getting inside and hit people on the outside or scoring inside. They do a good job of that but we did a good job of adapting.

Q. Dwayne, how special was this for you to have this type of game tonight in an NCAA Tournament given everything that you've been through health wise?
DWAYNE POLEE II: It's just a blessing, you know. I had a lot of positive support around me, my teammates, the whole coaching staff, my family, my girlfriend, they just stayed positive for me and that's the reason why I'm here right now, just living by faith and just staying really positive. It felt really good to have a good game in the first game of the tournament.

Q. Matt, you just kind of knew things weren't going well, you guys weren't shooting. Like Coach said, when you guys score you probably can beat anybody or at least be in the game. When you were getting hot right there, did you know how important it was or how important it would be to score a lot of points against these guys because they're tough to stop?
MATT SHRIGLEY: Yeah, definitely. They push the ball and play a lot of transition, that's a lot of their offense. Dwayne came out, making a lot of shots. You kind of take it upon yourself to say, okay, let me make my shot now, and you feed off each other. Coach says it a lot, take your shot, make your shot.

Q. Is that what it will take to beat Duke?
MATT SHRIGLEY: Definitely. I mean, to beat anyone you have to make your shots and score a lot of points.

MODERATOR: Other questions for the student-athletes?

Q. This is for Sky, you were playing in there against I don't think anybody taller than 6'6 to start. What was it like to kind of play where you are the big guy in there and kind of have your way?
SKYLAR SPENCER: It was different but I had to kind of take advantage of my opportunities and just let everything come to me and let the game flow.

Q. For JJ, obviously Aqeel wasn't feeling a hundred percent tonight and you guys have all said he's your emotional leader. What was it like not having him out there in such a big game, how did you guys adjust?
J.J. O'BRIEN: It was different, usually he's out there with us, someone had to step in in that role, I think we all tried to step up and be a little more vocal. Someone had to fill in, we had to adapt to situations like that. But we definitely missed him and we hope he gets better.

MODERATOR: Any other questions? Thanks, guys. Head back to the locker room. Good job. Questions for Coach Fisher?

Q. Coach, just give us an update on Aqeel and how were you able to play him or not play him based on how he was feeling?
COACH FISHER: At our open shoot around here yesterday, came into the arena feeling good. Towards the end, he told Tom that he didn't feel great, had a knot in his stomach. By the time we got back, he could hardly stand up. I think they've attributed it to some form of food poison. He had an IV last night. He had another IV this morning and he probably still is feeling pretty miserable, but he said I'm good to go. He tried and competed, like AQ competes, but he was not obviously at full strength. And hopefully we'll have a day and a half to get him ready because we need him.

Q. Coach, what can you say about Duke? You have a big game ahead of you playing them and it's going to be a tough match-up, they had a pretty good game themselves tonight.
COACH FISHER: They did, and they've had a lot of pretty good games, which is why they're the No. 1 seed. We're glad that we're playing. It's them that we have to play. We were 8 seed. That's the math, I used to teach math and we will definitely have our hands full. But our players compete and if we make shots and that's a big if, we will have an opportunity to make it interesting. We know not only are they a terrific team but they are a premiere program that is in that elite stratosphere, and that's where all the rest of us aspire to get. We're inching our way along, building our own resume. They've got a pretty good one that's built on a number of years of great, great teams. Our players and our fans will be very excited to play the game and we'll see what happens.

Q. Steve, I think you shot 16 3s in the first half and I don't think you've shot more than 17 in the last nine games. Every game has its ebb and flow, but were you at all surprised by that number, that high number there?
COACH FISHER: Well, the 3s we got were wide open 3s, and they were taken by guys that can shoot and make 3s. And between Dwayne and Matt, they made a bunch, and I saw highlights of, I think it was, Davidson or one of the games where a player banked it in and he turned to the TV and said I called that. DP did not call his two banks but they were well received on our end. You have to get a little bit lucky and we were ready to talk about had we continued to shoot them and not make them about play inside out, throw the ball to JJ or throw the ball inside and play inside out. But the 3s we had were great looks.

Q. Steve, I'm going to try to sneak in two questions. One, how much did you watch tape of St. John's with Obekpa and what kind of a difference might he have made in this game? And on Duke, where does Jahlil Okafor rank against some of the great freshmen in college basketball you've seen and coached against?
COACH FISHER: Well, St. John's is not as good a team obviously without the big shot block or the inside presence. We knew he wasn't going to play so I watched very little without him. I did watch some segments, but they're different. They're like us. When Skylar's not in there we're a little bit different. When they get to the rim they can finish. When we get to the rim tonight we could finish, and with him in there it would have been harder for us to finish up going to the rim, but we earned a win tonight against the team that they had. Okafor is a terrific player. I'm not an NBA scout but everyone says he's going to be the No. 1 guy taken in the NBA draft this year. He knows how to play, he plays within himself, he's a legitimate center that wants to be a center and doesn't care to drift out and shoot 3-pointers. He's a hard guy for anybody to guard. I don't like to do a lot of ranking because I'm not very good at it, but I know he's good.

Q. Coach, from going essentially facing a five guard lineup in St. John's how much of a transition will it be facing Jahlil Okafor, Marshall Plumlee and Justise Winslow at Duke?
COACH FISHER: Every game has a different storyline. Every game has a different way that you have to play. Tonight our No. 1 concern is who's going to cry uncle first, can we get back and can we have a bigger lineup and stay in front of people without them driving around us time and time again. Obviously with a smaller team, point of emphasis, go rebound the ball, go rebound a miss. I think we had 13 out of 28 misses. We had a goal, rebound half of our missed shots, so we were close on that tonight. The thing we did tonight, we not only rebounded them, we got them in the basket. We got several points off of offensive rebounds and Sunday will be different obviously. They've got some size, and size that's quality, but they've got some perimeter play that will be hard to deal with, too.

Q. Steve, it's essential obviously to win at this point in the season. How proud are you of your guys, playing a team like they had not played all season, that they did find a way to get it under control and to win and advance?
COACH FISHER: I've loved every team I've ever had but this is a unique group and we're fed by our fifth year seniors. Got three of them, AQ, Polee and O'Brien, and JJ is someone that I use often, play like JJ. If you have a team that will be willing to give up -- give of themselves, we had to say, JJ, we're going to play through you and we want you to be a facilitator when needed but an aggressor to score, he's as happy if he scores two points or if he scores 22 as long as we win. So this was a good win for our program. We want to continue to play. This is a stage, as all of us know, where everybody starts watching, the eyeballs multiply with each victory. So we'll have more folks watching, it will be a bigger deal come Sunday, and if we happen to win, it will be a bigger deal come next week in Houston.

MODERATOR: Anyone else? Thanks, Coach.
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