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March 14, 2019

Leon Rice

Justinian Jessup

Derrick Alston

Las Vegas, Nevada

Nevada - 77, Boise State - 69

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Boise State head coach Leon Rice and student-athletes Derrick Alston and Justinian Jessup. Coach, an opening statement.

COACH RICE: It was a good battle. I was proud of the way our guys competed. It's been a rough year. And they never ever, ever wavered in how they competed. And I told them I was really proud about that because that didn't look like a team that had the record that we had.

It looked like a high-level basketball team against a really good basketball -- high-level basketball team against a really good basketball team. We didn't get the results we wanted, but it doesn't mean I'm any less proud of them.

Q. When you see the way you're up 15 in the first half and playing like that against them, just knowing how talented you guys are, and then you mention the record you have, I don't want to say this to make you think, "where did it go wrong," but when you look at how good they could have played and obviously did tonight, what does that make you think about where the season could have gone if you did something different here or there?
COACH RICE: You can't do that. You just -- every game is its own entity. And the season's a long season. The thing I'm proud of is the progress we've made. We're a lot better team than we were in November. We were a bad basketball team, to be honest.

And at the end, I think we played a lot of good minutes. We didn't get near the results we wanted, not even close for this program. But I knew that you weren't going to knock Nevada out in the -- it's going to take five punches, five times putting them to the canvas not -- I think Evan asked me at halftime about their comeback. Of course they're going to -- you're not going to beat them in the first half.

They're a really, really good team, and they're a team of historically big runs. That's what they do because of the way they play offense because they can make a bunch of hoops in a row and they can stop you.

So credit Nevada. They didn't fold. But, again, that's something I've ever seen them do. They'll compete right to the whistle or the final buzzer. And we knew we had to and these guys certainly did that.

Q. I was going to say you didn't fold either. There were a couple times in the second half they'd go up by seven or eight and every time you guys came back would take the lead. To see the fight, like you said, in a season that has gone like this, to see them literally going toe to toe with them with three, four minutes left in the game, what were your thoughts on that?
COACH RICE: That's the character of these guys. And the three of us were just talking, I don't think I've ever -- usually you get done with the season just exhausted and worn out and been through the battles. But I don't think I've ever been more excited for -- let's start tomorrow. Let's go.

Broncos are going to be back because of the character of guys we have and the guys we have redshirting and the guys we have coming in. The Broncos are going to be back. Like I said, I don't remember when I've been more excited for a season to start. Usually it's like, okay, let me catch my breath and move on.

But, no, I want to go play with these guys again right now and I want to get those redshirts off redshirt, and I want to get the new guys that are coming in here, and I want to go get this team back where it belongs and this program back where it belongs because I know we're going to get there because the backbone of these guys, how good they played in the last month of the season -- I mean, if you watched us, you know what I have here are two really, really special players. And then I've got like I said I've got a lot of them waiting in the wings. And the Broncos are going to be back. We're excited to go.

Q. Derrick, earlier in the year a lot of us were wondering who would take over the role of Chandler Hutchinson. He took a lot of final shots for you guys, and Nevada had a lot of runs tonight, and you kept firing back. And you hit a couple of big momentum-type shots. How much do you feel you've grown in that capacity? And, Leon, after Derrick answers would you mind following up your thoughts.
DERRICK ALSTON: The year has been kind of crazy just taking it all in. I love this game and I love my teammates. I love this program for giving me the confidence to go out there do what I can do. So for me, I'm just out there competing trying to win, just having fun.

COACH RICE: I told Derrick, he's got special, special days ahead of him in the game of basketball because he's hungry. Look at how much -- first time we played him, he was a non-factor a little bit, or the second time. And look at how much he's grown in the last month. And he's going to continue to grow.

He's got the taste now. He knows what it takes. He knows why we're pushing him. And he's matured over this year and become -- he's going to be -- like I want these two to be two of the best players in the league. And I know they'll push for it and I know they'll work for it. They're gym rats. They love the game. They play for the right reasons. They've got great days ahead of them.

And, again, that's what gets me so excited about it because I know these two. I've had them for a long time. And they're going to be -- that's a heck of a cornerstone for our program going forward.

Q. To lose Zach Haney with 4:44 to go in the fourth quarter, how much do you think that impacted the finish for your guys?
COACH RICE: I don't know. I'd have to watch the film to figure that out. But the shot Caleb hit with the contested 3, I think they were up 3, that's vintage Nevada right there. That probably jumps out at me more than that.

But it obviously didn't help because Zach's been scoring so well. So it takes one of our weapons away and shortens the choices we had that we can make.

Q. You mentioned that you wish you could just get started right away right now. What positives would you say you take away from today's game?
COACH RICE: Maybe not just today's game, but the positives are, hey, we had, I think, most teams if they went through what we went through wouldn't have been able to compete the way we did night in night out. I think we had maybe one game where I would say, like, maybe one-half where I said we didn't just compete at the highest level, and that wasn't the problem.

And that takes character and that takes some toughness, because, hey, we got our hearts ripped out many, many times. And we're going to be better because of it.

We had a team a few years back that had about the same record that we had and then the next year went to the NCAA Tournament, and because of what we had to go through together as a team. And I've seen this maybe even more growth out of these guys than even that young team that we had back then.

So I think that's my cause for excitement. Because when you got guys with character and guys with toughness, you can hang -- that's what I always say about Nevada. That's what they have. They have some guys that have big-time toughness, big-time character. That's what Muss has hung his hat on. And that's what I get to hang my hat on next year.

Q. Derrick and Justinian, I asked Coach, but the way you battled back in the second half and never really caved when there were chances where you could have. What did you guys see from your team in the second half and not giving up, despite how things had gone this year?
DERRICK ALSTON: I just feel like the same all year. Like I said, we're going to compete until the end no matter what. If we're up 10 or down 10 there's no quitting in our group. And that's just something we've always had.

Q. Justinian, how bright is this team's future?
JUSTINIAN JESSUP: Very bright. I'm excited for next year. It's tough to have a year like this, and lose so many close games. But I hate to, like, look ahead right away after just coming off a loss like this, but, yeah, next year is going to be big time. That's how I feel.

Q. Justinian, how much do you feel that you kind of grew this year? I know you're kind of known as being a quiet guy, but you played almost every single minute over like the last month of the season. How much do you feel like you maybe grew in some of your intangibles?
JUSTINIAN JESSUP: Appreciate the coaches, like, giving the trust in me to go make plays down the stretch. This year, honestly, it was kind of a trial by error sort of thing, especially late in games.

I failed a lot earlier in the season in those situations and as the season progressed, I'd say I got better. I mean, there's still so much work to do. I'm going to go back, evaluate what I've got to get better at.

But in terms of growing and stuff, I think me and D.A. and Hobbs, a lot of guys took big jumps this year. And we just gotta go back, evaluate what we can get better at even more. And continue to get better.

COACH RICE: I gave him a rest tonight. Remember I got him out.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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