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March 8, 2018

Eric Musselman

Kendall Stephens

Jordan Caroline

Las Vegas, Nevada

Nevada - 79, UNLV - 74

ERIC MUSSELMAN: I thought defensively we were pretty good the whole game. But offensively in the first half the ball stuck. We didn't move it like we have all year. I thought we did a great job again of taking care of the basketball and not having turnovers and getting shots on goal.

Eventually we talked about at halftime if we could just continue to have good spacing and move the ball, we thought eventually our three ball would fall down. And made an adjustment at one of the time outs against their zone where we ran a double side pick and roll with some unusual spacing that we haven't done all season long. And our guys did a good job adjusting to that set on the fly. And we changed up a lot of things since our last regular season game. And I thought our guys for the first time doing things, both offensively and defensively, they did a great job.

And the key tonight we kept talking about the rebounding. And I thought for us to have one more shot attempt than them was really, really big, because UNLV is such a great rebounding team offensively.

Q. What was the feeling like at halftime? You guys were down 11 in the same building against Fresno State last season, and came back and won by 11. It was fairly similar.
JORDAN CAROLINE: It was funny, when we were down I was just thinking about the Fresno game last year, where we had to come out with a lot of energy to be able to win it. And I think that's what we did. So I felt a lot reminiscent of the Fresno game last year.

Q. You were down 12 early in the second half and were able to come back, and take a look pretty quickly.
KENDALL STEPHENS: Throughout this whole season we've always been battle tested so I feel like we weren't really new to it. We knew coming into it, it was a tournament game, so it has a little different atmosphere as far as other teams can play their best game. But at the same time, we have a lot of guys that played a lot of big games in big moments. We handled it well.

We kind of just got out of our game. Once we got back comfortable, shots started to drop, we didn't foul as much. We started to get our identity back and it was good.

Q. Can you talk about the impact Josh Hall had on the game tonight?
JORDAN CAROLINE: It was crucial. Especially to start the second half, he was really kick-started. He came in playing well. He was moving the ball. He was finishing well. And he really helped to be a mismatch with our front court.

KENDALL STEPHENS: It's amazing because you don't really understand how tough it is to be in a role to where Josh has been up and down in his minutes, not really consistent. And so for him to always have a good mindset coming in, knowing to play hard and knowing his role, and doesn't play outside himself, I think that's what winning teams need. And he's like a glue guy that we have. And he was definitely a difference maker, and I think he was really the reason why we won.

Q. Obviously you don't know who you're going to play yet, but if you play San Diego State, how badly do you want another crack at them after what happened Saturday night?
JORDAN CAROLINE: I mean, they're a great team. I'll be happy to play either one. They're both talented and tough teams. We have to be prepared for both.

KENDALL STEPHENS: I'd like to play San Diego State, almost for revenge. But at the same time we're going to be ready to play whoever. In tournament play you've got to be ready to play, no matter who the matchup is.

Q. You're known for your 3-point shooting, you did break the school record in single season 3-pointers, five blocks for a career high, five rebounds for a season high, two steals, took a charge. I guess talk a little bit about your defensive game tonight and what you tried to provide on that side of the court.
KENDALL STEPHENS: It was the type of game we were in. It was the kind of game where loose ball deflections, rebounds, everything mattered. I tried to do what I can. And it just so happened I ended up having a decent stat line. That's kind of the game. It was kind of a grind-out game so that's what it is.

Q. The Martin twins have had great seasons, but a little bit off tonight. What does it say about the team that two of your better players have an off-game and you still come out and win a game like this?
JORDAN CAROLINE: They're still crucial to our win. They played big in the second half, especially defensively.

It shows that the whole team can score. Josh came out and gave us 16. Kendall went five of ten for three. It's not just one person you can take off the floor offensively to stop us.

Q. I assume you thought they would do different things when they came out with the 2-3. How do you think they defended compared to last week, and what you saw from them?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Obviously we watched -- I was sitting right behind you yesterday, we watched the Air Force game. So they had their full quarter, three-quarters court, 2-2-1, kind of a soft trap, tried to take time off the clock, slow you down a little bit, and then fell back into the 2-3. And we were discombobulated because of the fact that Cody got in foul trouble. And we didn't move the ball like we're capable of and so I thought it played into their hands.

I thought Marvin did a great job of making an adjustment coming out with something different. Although that is what they did yesterday almost exclusively against Air Force.

We were frustrated because shots weren't going. And like I said, we added during time outs two different zone attacks. And it was really, really effective for us when we ran the double-side pick and roll and spaced it out with certain guys. And during time outs we would tell which guys to cut to open areas. And I wish there was more time outs because we were scoring after ATOs.

But I thought Marvin did a great job of coming out and changing up what they did from a week or two ago.

Q. The benefits of your tough schedule, looking back, it's tougher than I thought at the time, not just TCU, Texas Tech. The benefits of that as you move through the season and some of these schools that might not want to be challenged that much, what would you say to those schools to step up?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: I don't want to speak for anybody but our program. I just remember being in the Mountain West my first meeting, because I'm new to the league, I'm still new to the league. And I couldn't understand why people were playing Division II teams. And I was reminded in a tone that I could hear very clearly that there's financial benefits. Because a couple of ADs spoke and said, Hey, and a couple of coaches said, Well, it doesn't hurt you. And I'm like, Well, I'm new, but we need things to help us, not that it doesn't hurt you.

And we spent a ton of time this summer looking at Radford's roster and looking at these teams' rosters. We knew Davidson was going to be really, really good. They had the 8-10 Larry Bird of their league coming back, and they had a freshman that we knew was really, really good.

And so for us, we wanted to challenge ourselves. We wanted to play as many road games as we possibly could. For us to go to Hawaii is maybe the one game that stands out because no one on our staff wanted to do it but me, nobody. And at halftime of that game I thought I was crazy for doing it. To travel that far and only play one game.

But we have one more game than most programs in the country because that's an exempt game going over there, because they need people to go there. And so I think playing at Texas Tech really, really helped us to playing in an environment like today. When we played at Boise, I thought the Texas Tech game was really important for us.

And you've got to schedule appropriately if you want to try to make the tournament. Look, it's not easy in our conference to do that. We've got a game tomorrow night we have to figure out how to win no matter who we play. Until you see your name Sunday, like you're not in. And I keep telling the guys every day that, my wife, my two sons, my daughter, We're not in, I don't want to hear it. We've got to keep winning.

But I think our non-conference schedule prepared us for games like today.

Q. You guys were down 12 early in the second half and responded on a 22-6 run. What does it say about the toughness and character of your team that you respond like you did?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: I think every game this year except maybe the TCU game is the only game we didn't have a scoring spurt. And my junior in high school son says it all the time, Dad, eventually you're going to go on a run. And our runs have not been like 10-2 runs. They just haven't been that way this year, we've within like 15-4 runs and 19-6 runs and a wider margin than a quick 6-0 run. And it's because we shoot so many 3s, and because we space the floor out.

When we get defensive stops, when we get three or four consecutive defensive stops sprinkled in with a couple of 3s, that's when we go on our scoring spurts. But we didn't have one the first half.

Q. Josh has been up and down all over the place this season. What did it mean to see him step up in the game? Especially the first half.
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Yeah, Josh is so good at finding open gaps. And yesterday when we practiced after watching UNLV play zone, we talked about playing cat and mouse on the baseline and being a sneaky cutter. And he was our best sneaky cutter tonight. And he has been, even dating back to, for whatever reason even his freshman year, he was a guy that finds the open gaps, and you don't need to call a play call for him. He was ready to play.

Q. It was the best defense I saw Kendall play. Did that surprise you, the impact he had?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: It didn't surprise us, it shocked us. For him to have five blocks, somebody else might have blocked him. But he's got great length and he used it today. And we backed off some guys that he was guarding and played them for the dribble drive and they kept driving into him and he was there and did a great job with his verticality.

Q. Marcus Marshall set the 3-point record last year and Kendall Stephens comes and gets that today. Your thoughts on how impressed you are with what Kendall has done for your team this year.
ERIC MUSSELMAN: No. 1, we have to go back when I got the job and we were literally the worst shooting basketball team between here and 6th grade CYO. The first thing we had to do is get some shooters, like no matter what, doesn't matter if a guy can't dribble, how tall, how short, we just had to get some shooters. And obviously the focus recruiting-wise was to fill a gap that we were so horrendous at.

And we got two guys in Marcus and Kendall that can really shoot. And I told the team in the locker room, like Kendall set a record for the least amount of dribbles for a made 3-ball record. The guy has dribbled like nine times all season long.

Q. You were talking about the spurts and going on 22-4 runs, these huge runs, because you have been able to do that, what has it done for the team's confidence because you know that you can do that?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: At halftime they kept telling me that I was the one panicked and not them. And they said, Well, all right, shots are going to start falling. I think they really believed that. I think they're a confident group and you can't be a ranked team for five straight weeks if you're not a really confident team and you can overcome adversity.

Having said that, tomorrow night, whoever we play is going to be a real difficult challenge. It's not like we had the luxury of resting a lot of guys. So it will be interesting from here on out.

Q. The first half Mooring had 13, looked like he was on his way to the game like he had in Reno. What did you do in the second half to rein him in?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: We put Cody Martin on him, and Cody was guarding the four man. And not often you can put a four man and tell him to now guard a combo guard. And we wanted to try to get more into shoot over an extended hand of a 6-7 player.

And there's a reason that Cody is defensive player of the year. He understands are spacing and he's really, really smart. And I thought he forced Mooring into some really, really difficult shots, especially late in the game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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