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March 12, 2016

Steve Fisher

Malik Pope

Winston Shepard

Dakarai Allen

Las Vegas, Nevada

Fresno State - 68 San Diego State - 63

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thoughts on today's game?

HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: This was a tremendously hard-fought game between two teams that did everything they could to will their squad to victory. They did. We weren't quite able to do it.

As disappointed as we are and I am, I'm ten times more proud of who we are and what we've done and how we've done it. We had chances. We didn't lose, we got beat. We fought. Fresno won the game. They made plays. And they made big plays, they made hard plays, they made plays when it looked like they weren't going to get a shot. And that's what winning teams do, and they did that. You have to tip your hat to them and have the hurt be there because it's important for us.

Q. You guys seemed to make so many plays offensively throughout the game, a big dunk, find a rebound, force a turnover, but yet Fresno State still hung around. Did you feel like at some point as well as you were playing that you guys would create more distance there, at least in terms of a lead, or were you surprised they were hanging that close when you guys made play after play?
MALIK POPE: We didn't capitalize defensively. And we guarded and they made tough shots at the end of the buzzer. We played hard, they just got some nice shots at the end.

Q. Can you take us through the last few minutes. You guys get up 62-61, you have that real nice tip. What happened there? What did you see?
WINSTON SHEPARD: We just didn't take care of the ball like we should have. We should have been better with it. Give credit to them. I thought we did a decent job throughout the game taking care of the ball and getting guys looks where they needed to get them at. But ultimately we came up a little bit short.

Q. Marvelle had 14 in the first half and hit some tough shots and you pretty much locked him up in the second half. What did you change defensively on him?
DAKARAI ALLEN: I seen he was feeling good because first half my hands were in his face and he still hit the shots. I wanted to take us more airspace and make him drive because I know I had help behind me.

Q. We asked Coach Fisher this yesterday, but not the way obviously you guys wanted to finish today, but has this team done enough to be an NCAA tournament team in the minds of the players and your mind?
WINSTON SHEPARD: You guys sure don't think we are, so I don't know. I thought we had an excellent season. I think we're definitely one of the best teams in the country. I don't think this is a team that many people would want to play. So this is the hard part. We have to leave it up to a bunch of people who will go to the metrics and things like that, so we just have to wait and see.

Q. You told me I think a month ago or so that you guys needed to not only win the league but win it with separation in order to get an NCAA bid. Do you feel like you've done that and do you feel like you've done enough?
HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: I said yesterday that if we win today all doubt will be erased. If we don't, I'll be like everybody, wondering, worrying and waiting.

And so that's what we'll do. Not my job to politic, not my job to pick. So we'll have to wait and see.

We've got a really good team who's played really hard together and I'm proud of the way we've grown as our conference season started. We wanted to be the team that won the league outright with separation. We didn't. We wanted to be desperately the team that put an exclamation point on it here, and we didn't. So I'm disappointed, and we'll see what happens tomorrow.

Q. Can you talk about the turnovers? I think you guys had 15 of them but three or four were late and really crucial spots. Just taking care of the ball in those situations, how much did that obviously hurt you down the stretch?
HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: We had eight first half turnovers and for the bulk of the second half we were pretty good. I think we had three or four, but to your point, we turned the ball over at least three times in the last couple minutes. If you're going to win you have to obviously get a shot. And then you have to find a way to make one.

To their credit, they're the best team in the league at forcing turnovers. They have a plus five, I think, in difference between turnovers for them and for their opponent. We talked about that. They created some of those. We probably self-imposed one or two. You're right. You have to get a shot.

I thought that we had a couple of opportunities to shoot the open jump shot that we passed and drove it and sometimes drove it into traffic, where turnovers occurred. But that also happens.

Q. It's rare for a team to be 16-2 in this league and be in the position of having to wait and see until Sunday. I know some of that is stuff you did to yourself in the non-conference schedule. But how much do you guys in particular and the league in general need a rejuvenated UNLV and a rejuvenated New Mexico to bring the league back to where it was a few years ago?
HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: We're not a one-bid league as a rule. We've had as many as four or five in the tournament at one time. I think we had four -- if not four, maybe even five in the time we had only nine schools -- maybe four. That's what we should be. And it happens in a variety of ways. You have to have teams that are good, schedule with thoughtfulness and then win some of those.

And I said this before, they just got off to a great start in non-conference play. And how much the wins that they had over UCLA, Indiana, Oregon, how much those are diminished, dismissed because of the way the season ended for them, I don't know.

But sometimes perception is reality. And the more you talk about it, the more others who have never seen us play talk about it. This is a one-bid league, they're not all that good, look at whatever you're looking at. But I said this yesterday, to play in the league we're in, it's hard. It's a competitive league, a hard league to go on the road and win in. And what we need to continue to do is stand up for our league the right way.

I'm not here to campaign to get ourselves into the tournament. We had the chance to do that on the court, and we didn't win on the court. So we'll wait and see what happens on that.

But we've got to get our teams where we continue to schedule ourselves in Vegas and New Mexico and whoever -- but more. I mean, Boise had a good non-conference schedule. And then we have to win enough of those. And that will change in a hurry. A couple, three years ago we were second or third in the country with who our league was supposed to be.

Q. To your point about the league, you've been in this league a long time, been at San Diego State for 17 years. Do you feel the league is at an all-time low at this point right now?
HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: No. No, not in my eyes. I played these teams. I've gone to those buildings, I've seen how tough it is to go play. No, it's not. It's not. We've got to get better. Do we have to get better? Yeah. Are we better than the perception of a lot of people? Yes, absolutely.

Q. Just give an update on Trey and Jeremy. How was Jeremy's foot and was Trey just completely gassed from two games in two days with the flu?
HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: They both shot one for nine from the field. I don't think they would with want me making excuses for them. Jeremy's foot was fine. Trey probably was fatigued a little bit. But he had some looks that didn't go in. He had some looks where I thought -- I was hopeful I would hear a whistle, it didn't happen. But they were one for nine or two for 18 collectively. You're not going to win when that happens. And it happened today. But we have no excuses of sick, tired, hurt foot, that's not relevant.

Q. Talked to Malik Pope after your guys' opener in this tournament, and he played so well over the last six or seven games, but tonight hits 3's, dunks, everything that he's done, he talked about a crisis of confidence he had early in the season. How dramatic is the difference between the Malik Pope we saw here today and earlier in the season?
HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: It's two different players. He's playing now like everyone expected him to play. And why things happen, you don't know. But I like the direction and trajectory that his basketball is as we speak. He's gotten better. He's gotten better because he's worked at it, he's believed, he's trusted. He's not allowed himself to fail to listen and learn. And he's done that. I'm very proud of what he's done, and as he is, disappointed that he couldn't have made one more tonight.

Q. If things don't go well tomorrow, one of the games a lot of people are looking at it is the San Diego game and pointing that out as a bad loss. It was played under bizarre circumstances. Those are trendy, fun games right now. Do you regret scheduling that game if that's the reason you guys don't go?
HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: You know, when you start making excuses, you make a schedule, you play your schedule, you play to win and we didn't win that game. We didn't play well enough.

So it happened. Should it have happened? We don't think it should have. They think it should have, and it did. So I feel badly we didn't play better and didn't win the game. That's what I regret, not that we played the game.

Q. Update on Matt Shrigley and why he didn't check in today?
HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: We went with the eight guys we went with. And hindsight I wish that I had put him in. But I didn't. So nothing wrong physically, no lack of confidence, but we play eight guys.

Q. You played a lot of tough teams this year, you beat Cal, played Utah, West Virginia. How does Fresno compare to those top teams you played earlier?
HEAD COACH STEVE FISHER: Terry has done a marvelous job with that team, keeping them together, playing hard. He has good players, good athletes, led by a player -- led by a star, Marvelle Harris, that you win with. And they played through him. They played through him and that's not always easy when you've got other good players. But they were able to do that. I believe now they've won nine in a row or 11 out of 12 or something like that, they're playing really good basketball right now.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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