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March 8, 2017

Dave Wojcik

Ryan Welage

Isaac Thornton

Las Vegas, Nevada

Utah State - 90 San Jose State - 64

COACH DAVE WOJCIK: We battled back in the first half and tied it up in the first half. Second half, it was all second half, gave up 59 points. And can't do that with good teams, especially everyone in this league. We didn't defend them. They took advantage of it. The McEwen kid got going, and Jalen Moore got into the act. And they were tough to defend there.

So at the end of the day they beat us up in the second half and we didn't do a good job defensively against them.

Q. Seemed like today there was a lot of possessions where it came down to the end of the shot clock and you guys kind of struggled to move the ball and get good shots. Why do you think that was?
ISAAC THORNTON: We needed to do a better job of executing offensively. We were trying to do some things and we just had breakdowns that you can't have against a good team like Utah State. Moving toward, something we have to do better at.

Q. You finished with 14 points, but nine of those came in the second half and really those points helped you to at least climb back into striking distance. Can you talk about the momentum shift and how you were able to start fighting back?
RYAN WELAGE: Yeah, obviously it was tied at halftime and then they made a push right out of halftime. And then we were able to cut it to four, and so I think that's when I scored the majority of the points. But we made a good run there. We cut it to four and next time down they hit a 3, and that was a really big 3. I think -- we've fought the whole year, but came up a little bit short today.

Q. So there were multiple possessions where you guys struggled to switch on defense. Was there a lack of communication today or why do you think you struggled with that?
RYAN WELAGE: Yeah, we -- I think we had a couple of breakdowns over the course of the game. I don't think we had a lot of miscommunications. They hit some tough shots. And they're good players. And they just hit shots.

Q. Definitely a tough way to go out, but you have a young team, that kind of showed today, especially with turnovers. So what did you tell your team after the game?
COACH DAVE WOJCIK: I didn't want them -- I wanted them to understand the big picture. I know they're upset, mad, angry, whatever word -- adjective you want to use. But understand the big picture, how far we've come. I know that's hard because they're in the moment.

But I'm proud of them, to be where we were, how we had a heck of a season, to be honest. We made a lot of progress. But at the end of the day it wasn't our turnovers today. It wasn't turnovers; it was all defense.

You've got to be able to guard one-on-one in this game of basketball, I don't care if you're playing in the Mountain West Championships or playing out on the street in the playground. It's about guarding the ball one-on-one and we didn't do that today. When you give up 59 points you don't deserve to beat anybody. And that's going to be a big, big, big emphasis in the off season with these young guys.

You're right, we played two freshmen and three sophomores, that's who we started. And it showed today, especially with our young guards. They didn't know what to expect. But I wanted them to have that experience this year. They'll be better for it going forward into their careers, their sophomore year. Nobody likes to lose, especially me, but I'm really proud of our guys for what they've done, or their body of work over the season.

Q. So the second half you cut the game down, after being down 13 to a 4-point game. All of a sudden Utah State goes on a 24-3 run over the next eight to ten minutes. Why do you hit that wall?
COACH DAVE WOJCIK: That's a good question. I think if I knew that I'd stay out here in Vegas and make a lot of money, if I knew that answer.

But I think the difference was the beginning of the half, the second half. McEwen scored I think the first nine points of the second half. And tie game, within the first four minutes we're down ten. And to me that was the difference. And we were playing catchup from then on.

And like you said, we made a run, and then we just ran out of gas on that second time. And you can't get down 13, 14 points against good teams and expect to come back. And that's what I thought was the difference in the game, that first four minutes of the second half. And he's a good player. He's a really good player. He made a lot of good shots. He was five for five from the three. He made plays. And at the end of the day, players make plays, and he did.

Q. You mentioned the young guards. Brown had three turnovers, but Jalen is not young and he had three. Nichols started the game, why didn't you go with him more?
COACH DAVE WOJCIK: I thought he would be a better defender for us and put him on Merrill. Because Merrill and McEwen hurt us at our place. So I thought a bigger guy would be better on him. And so that's why I went with that, to be honest with you, that was the whole mindset of it all. And we did a pretty good job on Merrill, too. He wasn't the one that really hurt us. It was McEwen and Jalen that hurt us today.

Q. Did Koby McEwen do anything differently in the second half where he was hurting you so much, because it looked like you were defending him well in the first?
COACH DAVE WOJCIK: I think he kicked it into another gear. There's a couple of shots, Terrell was on him, he made the three. He made shots. And that's probably why he's the freshman of the year, best freshman. We didn't do anything differently. We tried to change up a lot today defensively. Did a good job in the first half. And we tried to get him -- they're a rhythm team. And I didn't want them to get into a rhythm. And they got in a rhythm in the second half and we tried to change up a couple of times and they figured it out. And their older guy, Jalen Moore, made some plays for them, and obviously McEwen made some shots. I have to credit them.

Q. The first half you moved the ball, got good looks. Second half up until after the run, you guys were kind of stagnant on offense, tossing the ball back and forth, why do you think your team struggled?
COACH DAVE WOJCIK: I didn't see the final stats, but I don't think Brandon Clarke took more than five or six shots. Took four shots. You ain't going to win. He's one of the top players in the league. He was First Team. That's what I tried to tell the guys. He needs to touch the ball every time. Conversely, like I told BC, I thought he was a little bit too unselfish today passing the ball. There were some times he could have taken that. I remember the play, we had a steal in the press and he should have just taken it right to the rack and shot it. He tried to flip it off to the guy and it was stolen.

But we're not going to win if he's not shooting 12, 15 shots for us. It's one thing I try to tell the guys, go inside, get him the ball. We might run a play, they cover the play, throw it in to BC and play off of BC. He's really good at that. He's got to shoot the ball more for us to be successful. And that was a big deal, too, today.

Q. Obviously in a game like this you've got to look for some positives. I asked you a week or so ago, because you guys won the rebounding battle, and you won it again. What does that mean going forward?
COACH DAVE WOJCIK: I'd rather get beat by 20 on the glass, as long as we win, and that has happened before.

You're right, the rebounding got better. But we're not defending. And that's going to be a point of emphasis going forward with this program. We've got to defend better. And if you want to win championships you have to play defense. And you have to rebound. We are rebounding, but we're not defending. You can't do one or the other, you've got to do both.

But I'm proud of our guys, don't get me wrong. I'm mad, I'm upset right now. We had a heck of a year, I'm proud of our guys for that. We made tremendous strides from where this program was to where it is today, and it's only going to be better. Guys are going to be juniors and sophomores next year, I'm pretty excited about that.

Q. Can you talk about Isaac Thornton, he got you ten points off the bench and two blocks, just with the hustle and play making. He's a senior, this is it. Can you talk about him overall?
COACH DAVE WOJCIK: I'll miss Isaac. He was my first recruit. He's a coach's son. He's been a great ambassador to our basketball program and to the school, to be honest with you. He was the glue guy for us, I'm going to miss him a lot. He understands the game. He plays hard. Never bitches. Never moans. Always trying to find a positive in things. It's hard when you lose those kind of kids and a career comes to an end. But I'm going to sorely miss him, just being around him. He's a great kid, great person, great family. So I'm going to miss him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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