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March 8, 2018

Brian Dutcher

Malik Pope

Matt Mitchell

Trey Kell

Las Vegas, Nevada

San Diego State - 64, Fresno State - 52

BRIAN DUTCHER: First of all, I think the Aztec fans travel. What a great turnout for us today. If history is any indicator, we'll have double that at tomorrow's game. And they're important to our success. We want to thank them for traveling and supporting the Aztecs.

I think we saw the improvement is we're better defensively. We're harder to score on. We look like Aztec teams of old, where we can struggle through an offensive period or two because our defense is so strong. And that has kind of spearheaded our 7-game streak right now. And we have to continue to defend if we want to advance in this tournament.

Defending the three was a big part of the game. I think they only had three 3s, we only had three 3s. It was old-fashioned basketball, it was slug it out, nothing easy, two opponents that knew each other well, and both played well.

We actually hit a spurt where we came away with a victory. So proud of both my seniors. When I took this job I told them I could think of two better seniors that I want by my side than these two with me, Malik and Trey, and I told them that when I was named many months ago. And they've been the key to everything for us and me to be able to rely on them on the floor over this last season. And I just want to tell them how appreciative I am of them. Along with the freshman Matt Mitchell, who he's learning from the seniors, I hope.

So with that I'll take any questions.

Q. They had a stretch there where they didn't score for six minutes, they had five straight turnovers. What's that like on defense when you're just getting stop after stop? Can you sense their frustration or does it energize you to get those stops?
TREY KELL: A little bit. I feel like the main thing you feel is the offense starts to press. And with them I felt like they tried to -- during those times they just try to give it to one of their better players and go one-on-one. That's something we worked a lot on where we don't allow anyone to go one-on-one against us. It's a team effort.

So they made some tough shots. But at the same time, I feel like we did a good job of playing one-on-one defense, but at the same time having the help side ready and making plays.

Q. Matt, you took two charges, talk about taking the charges, and Tim Shelton is sort of the master of that. What did you see on those plays and how important was that to you?
MATT MITCHELL: I just saw an opportunity to take a sacrifice for the team, and really just create more opportunities offensively, less for them, for us on the defensive end. So really, it's just an opportunity to sacrifice my body for the team and help out in any way that I can.

BRIAN DUTCHER: I had that on the board defensively, who is going to take the first charge? I asked that question in the locker room and had four or five guys raise their hand. We're not the shot-blocking team we've been in the past. But we have to stop the ball somehow in the paint, and we've done a good job over the last two or three weeks of sacrificing our bodies and throwing them out there and taking charges to let teams know that it's not a free path to the rim whenever they want.

Q. It seemed like you got the ball early a lot and were doubling a lot. Was that part of the game plan to establish that inside game with you?
MALIK POPE: From the early get-go, yeah, just to put a little pressure on the defense and see how they react. And luckily I was able to make good plays.

BRIAN DUTCHER: Both Trey and Malik do the right things. If they draw a double team, they move the ball. If they play one-on-one, they're both capable of scoring. There's great comfort as a coach to put the ball in their hands and know the right thing is going to happen.

Q. This is your 11th straight win in a quarterfinal in the Mountain West Tournament. Were you aware of that streak and why is this team so good in these games?
TREY KELL: I had no clue about that streak. I just feel like we lock in really well in the first game and we don't take any game for granted, no matter who the opponent is. Tonight we played a really good Fresno team. And there was some added motivation knowing we haven't beat them yet this year, especially the last time we played them the way we lost. So I think we just, like I said, we don't take anything for granted.

Q. San Diego State has been known for how great they played defensively the last several seasons. This season you started off and you didn't seem to have that defensive prowess. What is it that turned on in the second half of the conference season that you guys have really started showing up defensively?
BRIAN DUTCHER: I think the two main things. We've been anchored by shot blockers for a lot of years. We had Skylar Spencer who was the all-time shot block leader in this conference; Angelo Chol; we had Valentine Izundu last year to block a lot of shots. And we didn't have a shot blocker. We moved Malik in the post this year. He usually has played stretch four out in the perimeter. It took him a while to provide the help he needed to provide; ball screen help, helping up early, baseline drive, shutting that down. And so as Malik has continued to grow his game defensively, we've gotten better.

And added to that, we didn't take a lot of charges early. So we've made an emphasis that if we're not going to block shots, we have to take charges. And over this last win streak we've taken quite a few. We had a few we tried to take today that were blocked, but at least we're thinking that way, we're throwing our bodies out there and trying to protect the paint area. And we've done a lot of better job of that over the last seven games.

Q. What was your sort of take from the sidelines watching that stretch where they didn't score a basket for six minutes and kept turning the ball over?
BRIAN DUTCHER: You know, it's like anything, when you slide behind a little bit you have a tendency to press, and that's us, any team in the country. You keep looking at the clock and seeing you're just a tad behind. And they have really good players. So they tried to press their game a little bit, which they should have done. And they had a couple that wouldn't go in for them. They got quality looks that didn't go in.

To our credit, we didn't give them a lot of second shots. I thought we did a pretty good job on the glass in the second half, we held them to one shot pretty much every possession down the stretch.

Q. So you get Nevada now. How hard is it to have to beat a team that good, ranked team that quality, twice in six days?
BRIAN DUTCHER: They're a fantastic team. We can all see that. What they've done with their body of work this year. And it's going to be a real challenge. But having just played them less than a week ago, the game prep is pretty much the same for both teams, I'd imagine. There will be a tweak here or there, but in playing in 24 hours, there's not a lot each team is going to do. We are who we are.

We'll come out and try to defend them at a high level and limit their three-point looks, like we did tonight. And then hopefully do a little better job on Caroline. He was sensational against us the last game. He had 29 and was a dominant player in the game.

The Martins are good, Caroline is good, Stephens shoots the ball. They've got a lot of talent. They're shorthanded without Lindsey Drew. But what they have is good enough to win this tournament and what we have is good enough. I think it's going to be a real battle tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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