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March 15, 2018

Matt McMahon

San Diego, California

THE MODERATOR: Here is head coach Matt McMahon.

MATT McMAHON: Our guys are really excited to be here. We've had a great season to this point. We were able to win the regular season, Ohio Valley Conference Championship. We went on to the OBC tournament, beat Jacksonville State and Belmont and excited for the opportunity we have tomorrow against what I believe is one of the top-10 teams in the country in West Virginia.

Q. Coach, now that your players are here at this arena and seeing everything for the first time, how do you prevent them or keep them focused on tomorrow's game without getting that wide-eyed look?
MATT McMAHON: I think that's been one of our strengths of our team all season long, the ability to focus on the next most important thing, the task at hand, not getting too caught up in the moment and the hoopla that surrounds this great tournament.

Like we have talked about all week, I want them to enjoy this experience. But I also want them to find a balance of we've got to go to work and we've got to try to prepare to win and beat a great team. I think our guys have been very mature in that way and having two great senior leaders in Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller has driven that for us.

Q. Terrell talked about rebounds and how important that's going to be in this game. How much have you kinda emphasized that to him especially since he's been a big key for you guys especially in the OBC tournament?
MATT McMAHON: We emphasize it every day and we have since we started practice this summer. I think it's a big factor in winning. We've been a good rebounding team all season long. Now this is about to be another level with West Virginia being 4th in the country in offensive rebound percentage. We're going to have to rebound, gang rebound with all five. They're going to have to do Yeoman's work on the glass against their formidable front line.

I went through the stats they have eight guys who average at least one offensive rebound a game and Jevon Carter averages 0.9. So essentially 9 guys who are at least one offensive rebound per game. So we will need all five positions to rebound extremely approximately.

Q. Coach, talk about your two seniors, Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller and the leadership they've provided with a lot of new players this year and in developing the culture that you want in the Murray State program?
MATT McMAHON: Well, I can't say enough good things about both. They have a perfect mix. Jonathan Stark is the leader from a business-like approach to how you get better as a player, how you approach practice, how you approach the games. He leads by example and all of our players follow him because they have great respect for his ability as a player.

Then Terrell has become the voice of our team. He's our vocal leader. He is the one when we faced adversity this year that the guys looked to to see what he has to say. He's said the right things. We faced some adversity in the semifinal game of the tournament where we lost a big lead and went down by 1.

Couple of our younger guys were a little frustrated and struggling and Terrell demanded the timeout huddles, kept everyone encouraged and we were able to finish that game on an 8-0 run and win and advance to the finals. They've had a good balance between the two of them and of course the most important part, the leadership is key. But they're both high-level players. So that's why they have been able to have great success this season.

Q. Some other coaches who have faced West Virginia say the Mountaineers' pressure makes the simplest things difficult. You can't take anything for granted. Have you faced anything like that during the season? How do you prepare your team for that challenge?
MATT McMAHON: Not to the level they do where they're second in the country in forced turnover percentage and they hit you for 40 straight minutes. We've played against pressing teams, but we know this will be different.

We're fortunate we have great guard play with freshman Ja Morant and our senior Jonathan Stark. You can't simulate it. The pressure they are going to see. But I expect them to be ready to go on Friday. We know we will have to handle their pressure, not just in the full court. But they're just as good in the half court with their man-to-man pressure. So we know what they're up against and it will certainly be a challenge.

Q. Coach, when you're on as long of a winning streak as you are, do you run out of pregame or postgame speeches to kind of give these guys? How have they handled this long streak? Obviously, not easy to do under any circumstances.
MATT McMAHON: Well, the players really deserve the credit. They've been fantastic. I know it's been a couple of months since we've lost. We were sitting at 5-2 in our league and we felt like we would have to run the table to win our regular season Championship. So we went into tournament mode back in the middle of January and our guys have responded every timeout, any adversity, any challenge they faced. It's been a very determined group. Some of the things I'm interested to see at tip-off tomorrow it will have been thirteen days since we played. That's a long layoff. We have tried to simulate game mode and keep them as dialed in as we can, but I think they're anxious to get back on the game floor and play a real game. So we will see how we respond tomorrow afternoon.

Q. Jevon Carter, what do you see on film that makes him stand out? What makes him special?
MATT McMAHON: It's a long list of things. We could talk about him for days. Just to me watching him seems like the ultimate winner. Leader, tough, plays both ends of the floor, makes everyone around him better. Gets a lot of credit for being National Defensive Player of the Year, 17 points a game, 7 assists, primary handler, makes them go. There is a reason he's all-American, one of the best in the country.

Q. You mentioned West Virginia's offensive rebounding. Defensive rebounding they have struggled with some this year. Do you see that as an area that you can take advantage of and what things differently do you emphasize with your team rebounding on the offensive end versus defensive end?
MATT McMAHON: For us, rebounding on the offensive glass we want that to be a strength of our team, regardless of who we are playing. It's an effort-type stat. I think that's why West Virginia is so good at it the on the offensive glass because they're relentless and we try to do the same thing. The opponent doesn't change how we approach offensive rebounding. We want to do it every game regardless of who we are playing, and I think it's a stat that impacts winning in a huge way. So it's something we try to focus on every day.

Q. I know Murray State has a rich history in basketball, but a lot of people we've come across this week have said Murray State who? Is this an opportunity for this team on this stage to kinda show the country who Murray State is again under you and trying to bring this team back to where they have been in the past?
MATT McMAHON: I don't look at it that way. I don't worry about the past. We all know the great tradition at Murray State, 25 Conference Championships, 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, the great players we've had, the NBA players we've had. The terrific coaches, some of the best coaches in college basketball right now have come through Murray State. We're aware of that.

The thing about this team that's special is they have eliminated everything that's happened in the past and focused on becoming the best team they can be and that's all I want them to continue to do, to play with great energy and passion and joy and a lot of toughness, because if you don't bring toughness tomorrow you're in a world of hurt.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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