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March 11, 2017

Eric Musselman

Jordan Caroline

D.J. Fenner

Marcus Marshall

Las Vegas, Nevada

Nevada - 79 Colorado State - 71

COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: You know, have to give Colorado State a ton of credit. Coach Eustachy is one of the best coaches in the country. And at halftime we talked to the team and we all discussed -- we knew that they weren't going to go away, that they would compete and make a run, which all of Coach Eustachy's teams always do. They're tough-minded and can compete. I'm proud of the way we defended and rebounded, especially when we struggled to score at times and they went on their scoring run.

Probably the biggest thing is just thanking these guys for believing in a vision. Everybody but D.J. is guys that came when we were here, and we told them what we thought we could do. And I told them in the locker room, thanks for believing in us, and for D.J., thanks for sticking around and trusting us.

Q. Obviously you had a big day offensively. But defensively, too. How important was your work on Omogbo?
JORDAN CAROLINE: He's a very talented player, so I put it upon me to keep him off the glass and just limiting like the shots he could get.

Q. A lot is always made about the rivalry between Nevada and UNLV. How sweet is it for you guys to come down and win it in Las Vegas?
JORDAN CAROLINE: It's a great feeling winning it anywhere, knowing we have an automatic bid to go to the Dance.

Q. D.J., you're the elder statesman on this team. How special is this? After all you went through, coaching change, different teammates, ending your career going to the Dance?
D.J. FENNER: It's extremely special. First of all, I want to thank God for this opportunity. And for Coach Muss to put us all in this situation has been amazing. Last time I remember being here I was crying because we lost, and I didn't know who my next coach was going to be. And now a couple of years later I'm here and we won it. It's absolutely amazing. And I couldn't be more thankful for my coaches and my brothers.

Q. Winning the CBI last year, how much did that influence what you were able to do this year?
D.J. FENNER: It influenced us a lot. It definitely gave us postseason experience. It definitely gave us confidence going into the Mountain West Tournament this year. And even playing in the Mountain West Conference Championship against Colorado State last week. I think it was great. It really helped us. It really helped us grow. And we're exactly where we want to be.

Q. You guys shot 34 free throws in the second half alone. What was the strategy offensively in the second half?
MARCUS MARSHALL: Coach Muss always tell me just to try to get to the line. And that helped get me going. And I just try to stay in attack mode and I got there.

Q. What does it mean that you're going to the tournament?
MARCUS MARSHALL: It means a lot. It's crazy to think about, because the first time I ever talked to Coach Muss, that was all we talked about was making the tournament. And he told me how he was going to change the program around. He was a man of his word and I respect it.

Q. Your guys' offense gets a lot of attention, but it seems like the defense won this game. Can you talk about that aspect of the team and how it's developed?
D.J. FENNER: It's definitely developed a lot. We made it a point of emphasis after we actually lost to Utah State and everybody bought in defensively after that. And it really showed because even if we weren't going on offense, we were able to pull each other together on defense, and that's really what ended up creating our offense in many situations. Everybody bought in and we became a much better defensive team the second half of the season.

Q. Jordan, is that your ball?

Q. Second time you've won an MVP award in Vegas this year. You said this one is going to mom. Who does that go to?
JORDAN CAROLINE: It goes to mom.

Q. Did you feel like you could take the game to another level and be a bigger part of the team?
JORDAN CAROLINE: I wanted to help my team any way I could to get to the tournament, not just scoring, any way I could. And like defensively, I just wanted to play hard defensively, take it upon me to guard people like Omogbo, First Team players, that was really it.

Q. You guys had a great offense in the first half and then what changed in the second half? What changes did Colorado State make defensively that kind of looked like it took you guys a little out of your offense?
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: I thought they did a really good job of double teaming Marcus. And we had some costly turnovers. But the theme entering this tournament, and even the last regular season game, was we just have to defend and rebound. And so to say that a team would go 4 for 22 and figure out a way to win, I mean again, Coach Eustachy's teams are always great defensive teams and physical. And this game was won on the glass. One of the best rebounding teams in the league.

And we always have Sesame Street rules, and we told them Sesame Street rule No. 1, and it will play out if you win the battle of the boards. We're going to win this game.

Q. You went to the tournament a few years ago at ASU. How has that helped you prepare for next week?
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: I've been more than fortunate, two of my four years as a student-athlete I got to go when I was at University of San Diego and participate as a player. And I've only been in college basketball three years as an assistant and two of those three years I was able to go to a tournament. And now as a head coach.

I just told the guys we're going to enjoy this. I want them to enjoy it with their families tonight. We're going to get back to Reno tomorrow morning and enjoy it then and enjoy Selection Sunday. And then Sunday night it will be back to work.

We're happy that we're going, but we're going there to compete and try to win. And we're not just going there and saying, Hey, we're a mid-major and we're in this tournament. We're going there to win.

And it's interesting because our first team meeting to start our off season, we have a code on a door, and on that code the code is 3-12-17, because that's the day of Selection Sunday. And it's been that way for 11 months, basically, where every time they walk in that locker room they had to put that code in. And Cam just brought it up when we met as a group behind closed doors. And this was our goal from day one.

Q. A lot of the coaches in this conference say that they believe that you guys are probably a level above everyone else in this conference.
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: I don't think all of them said it.

Q. Some of them. Coach Eustachy just did. What seeding do you think you guys deserve in the NCAA tournament?
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: This is just a great opportunity for our student-athletes. Whatever number they want to attach next to us in the brackets, we're cool with, just let us go play. So we're not going to have a frown on our face if it's -- whatever -- and we're not going to be smiling jubilantly if it's a lower number. We're ready to go play a game. So tell us where we're going, let us book our tickets and let us get there and get down to business.

Q. Watching Josh Hall progress this season has been exciting. I thought he came up huge in this tournament. Talk about his contributions today. Very important, I think.
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: Absolutely incredible. It started yesterday in the game. From a defensive standpoint when Josh checks in that allows us to take Lindsey Drew off the best offensive player. And Lindsey is a young player, sophomore, and he's going to get stronger and build his body up and so is Josh.

That's one of the things that we're so excited about is our young players that have come into our program as freshmen. And Josh's development, incredible. He's not a guy that we look to offensively, but the play of the game was his left-handed layup and-one. And then right when we put him in the game he's in the right corner and banks a three. I just thought his contributions were absolutely incredible because we didn't run a play for him and he had 12 points.

Q. What has Dave Rice meant to what you've been able to do this year? How happy are you to see him have this moment today?
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: It's great for all of our assistant coaches. They all contribute. Our grad assistants, I can't say enough about them and all the work they do. But it's got to be special for Dave in this building, coming back to Las Vegas. And anytime someone has sat in that head coaching chair, I think that when you look over and talk to somebody that's been there and is a calming influence. His personality is not slightly, but drastically different than mine. So it's a good combination.

Q. Two years ago Nevada won nine games. Last year --
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: You know what? I know. Because my son was at the first practice and he was rebounding. And he actually had to walk out of the gym because he got tired of rebounding all of the bricks.

Q. Last season a postseason championship, this year Mountain West regular season, and now postseason championship. What was the key moment you realized this was a special group that you could accomplish something so quickly?
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: We had some growing pains for them to understand the work ethic that we were going to have in the off seasons, not going home for long stretches, but going to class for the two long sessions we have out of our three summer sessions, for them to actually go to class and not go home and come back once regular school started. I think the turning point was them talking about in the locker room about them going to get shots and reps up working on their ball handling when we're not around. Because the difficulty of college basketball is that we have time constraints on how much we can be with our players in the off season and then in the season. So we have to rely on them to self-coach or buddy coach as we called it.

They've done an incredible job where one guy goes into the gym at 9:00 at night and he calls three of his teammates and drags them in. Once they believed that through work ethic you could improve on your own that was a turning point. And it probably happened last summer is when we really kick started that.

Q. It was just a few years ago that the Mountain West was a four-bid league. You won 27 games, but the general feeling is if you don't win this game, you're not going to the NCAA tournament. So we're back to a one-bid league. What do you think it's going to take for this league to get respect?
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: You know, again, I'm like the -- close to a rookie in college basketball. And probably the guys that have more experience can speak to that better than I can. I can tell you my feelings are don't schedule Division II games because out of our 28 wins, 28 of them were against Division I teams. And I think that's a start.

I think a few years ago in the league, at least my first league meetings that I partaked in, everyone talked about Division II games don't cost very much money and Division II games don't hurt you. Which I understand that they don't hurt you because they don't count in the committee's eyes, but they don't help, either. And so I think that would be a great start.

And we have to win, our conference has to win non-conference games, because it's so difficult playing in our conference. I mean I've been a part of the SEC and the PAC 12 and I can tell you they don't travel like we do. So to win on the road in our league is really, really hard. And the buildings and the venues that we play in -- Utah State is as hard as anywhere that you play at in some of these other conferences.

So hopefully we'll continue to talk about it in our league meetings. And I know that league office and the coaches and the athletic directors and the presidents, we all want multiple teams to make this tournament.

Q. Do you plan on changing the security code that you gave out to everyone?
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: That's a great point. We might have to change it. Great point. Thank you.

Q. There's been a lot of speculation about you in the last couple of days, and it heated up during the game. How do you plan to keep the players away from reading things and speculating on things that are going on with you?
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: There's nothing going on with me. I'm happy and my wife is happy. My sons are happy. President Johnson and Doug Knuth gave me an opportunity when no one else would, and trusted in our vision.

So our guys haven't said anything and we have more than an open policy where our guys talk to me about everything. And I don't think it's affected us at all. And it shouldn't. I'm happy I get to drive over and watch my son play high school basketball. My other son can jump on a flight and see me in 45 minutes. And my wife is involved, and she does too much, actually, in the community. So it's all good. And our guys are focused on the task at hand, which is enjoying today and enjoying tomorrow and then getting ready for a game on Thursday and Friday.

Q. I know you had a vision when you came here about what this program could be. Two years later all you've accomplished, you have Lawlor rocking again, how rewarding has this been for you as the head coach?
COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN: It's been very rewarding. If you look at my career and being at the top level of the NBA and making a decision to be an assistant coach in college, I don't know of an NBA former head coach and was an assistant coach in college, to my knowledge I don't know of anybody. Maybe there are, but I don't know of it. It was a humbling experience.

But support of my wife and my sons. So I kind of reinvented myself in the college game. And couldn't be happier. I don't even watch an NBA game on TV. It's all college. And it's a totally different lifestyle.

I feel like I've got -- these guys are all my kids, so to speak. So you can have an influence on people for the rest of their lives. So I've loved it. It's been a great change of career for me.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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