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March 14, 2019

Brian Dutcher

Devin Watson

Jeremy Hemsley

Jalen McDaniels

Las Vegas, Nevada

San Diego State - 63, UNLV - 55

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher and student-athletes Jalen McDaniels, Devin Watson and Jeremy Hemsley. Coach, an opening statement.

COACH DUTCHER: First of all, I'd like to thank our Aztec fans. We travel well and it makes a difference in a close game to feel like you have that kind of support, that kind of enthusiasm behind you. And we have a great fan base and it's great they were here, and I'm sure they'll be doubled by tomorrow. So we're looking forward to getting more Aztec fans in this building for our next game.

The game was hard fought. When two opponents know each other this well then it's going to be hard fought. Nothing came easy. Marvin had his team prepared. They defended us as well as anybody defended us all year. We shot 29 percent for the game, still managed to win.

At halftime I was concerned that anybody other than the name McDaniels or Watson was going to score a point. They scored every point but one for us in the first half. And Jeremy Hemsley, who got to his spot all game long and couldn't get anything to fall, maybe hit the biggest shot in the game when he made that 3 when it was a tie game. He rolls up at the end of a shot clock and made a huge 3, and that's what senior guards do. They step up when it's most important. That's what Jeremy did. He was great all game at the defensive end and stepped up with a timely 3.

The biggest stat to me of the game, and I made a point of it at halftime. We were down 11 rebounds at halftime. They had 10 offensive rebounds. We outrebounded them by one for the game and they only had one offensive rebound in the second half. So rebounding was the critical stat to the game in a hard-fought game.

Even though we didn't make baskets we found a way to fight our way to the foul line. We shot great from the foul line. And rebounding the free throws was the difference in the game for us. Excited to move on and an opportunity to play Nevada for a third time this year.


Q. You guys have, I think, 15 out of 16 times, you've got so many wins in this building not, only against them but in the conference tournament. First of all, do you think you have a mental edge against UNLV? And also do you think, is there something about this building that you just feel comfortable?
JALEN MCDANIELS: I feel like we've just got to play like this every game, just playing hard and just executing and playing good defense and rebounding. I feel that won the game. We're familiar with playing in here, and shout out to our fans for traveling. And coming to feel like a home atmosphere here. So we respect them for that.

DEVIN WATSON: I definitely like playing in this gym. It's a great atmosphere especially at this time. Yeah, it's just fun out there.

COACH DUTCHER: We have a lot of good memories in here -- winning the conference tournament last year. And the extra games in here obviously as much as everybody complains about Vegas' home game, we're playing a lot of games in this building, and we're getting familiar with it and we're feeling comfortable in it.

So the extra games in here obviously make it nicer for us when we come in. We're familiar with the locker rooms because we're playing in here twice a year. And the familiarity has helped us.

Q. Devin, your shot fake, by now everyone should know it's coming, yet you still get people up in the air. Just talk us through what happened; you got the switch on Nick Blair and you're able to get them up in the air. Are you surprised people still go for it?
DEVIN WATSON: The one in the second half?

Q. Two minutes left.
DEVIN WATSON: No, I'm not surprised that they still go for it, because they know I'm a good shooter. And if they don't go for it they know I'm going to shoot it.

So I just got him on a headsy (phonetic) and then I pump-faked, and normally they jump straight up, but he jumped forward. So, I knew I was going to get him. And it was a big play.

Q. Jeremy, you have to defend that sometimes in practice over the years. Why is that shot fake so good? Even after watching it on film people still go for it?
JEREMY HEMSLEY: The trick to a good shot fake, you gotta have your eyes on the rim and you gotta really look like you're shooting it and that's just how it looks. If you're defending and you're in the flow of the game and you think he's going to shoot it, you're just going to jump. That's just how it goes.

But he's obviously good at it. And it's something that he's practiced a lot and something that comes natural for him. It's hard for any defender to guard that, especially if you think he's about ready to shoot the ball, sure.

Q. Jeremy, the game is tied, under four minutes to play, you haven't made a shot. Talk about taking and making that 3-point shot there to give yourself the lead?
JEREMY HEMSLEY: I know my teammates and my coaches believe in me. Even with me missing the shots, not one time did I hear to stop shooting or to stop being aggressive. So the clock was winding down, and I've been here, this is my fourth year here. I'm comfortable taking that shot if the clock is winding down. And I know my teammates believe in me too. So it's just really believing in yourself at that point.

Q. Jalen, you had your lowest scoring game of the season against Nevada. You talked about how you needed to step up. What mentally switched in the last four days for you?
JALEN MCDANIELS: You know, just staying in the gym, you know, working on my game. I know that translates to on the court. So just doing that I feel like it really helped me. And just gotta keep it up.

COACH DUTCHER: Against Nevada, Jalen had quality looks. He maybe had one bad shot against Nevada. Every other shot I'd let him take every time and encourage it. And he just couldn't get one to go. So hopefully he's seen a couple go in now he's back in his rhythm and he'll get the same looks tomorrow when we play them.

Q. Jalen, the first half seemed like the entire team was struggling. Did you ever feel like when the team was struggling you need to shoot the ball more and be more aggressive than you normally are?
JALEN MCDANIELS: I felt my teammates just put me in the right position for me to score. If I'm at my spot I'm going to take it and make it most of the time. So I feel like my teammates just getting me open and recognizing that.

Q. What was different in this game, because you were in a similar situation last week against Fresno? You had the lead with about a minute left. How were you able to close this one?
DEVIN WATSON: Just from experience. Like, you bring up that game, just from experience knowing what to do, how to do it. I felt like we were locked in focused. We knew everything was going to happen because we've been through it before. I think we did well.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.

Q. Knowing now that you guys play Nevada tomorrow, did you watch the game earlier today? And if so, what did you take from that game that you can work on to be ready for tomorrow?
COACH DUTCHER: I didn't get a chance to watch much of it, just a little on the TV in the locker room. I had my assistant coaches here watching them. We played them a week ago. Not a lot we have to prepare for, just do a better job executing our game plan than we did the first game.

Obviously Nevada's greatest quality is they play hard. They're one of the hardest-playing teams in the country. So they never give in. They never give up. They believe in themselves and they're grown men. They play like it. It will be a great challenge tomorrow, but one we're excited for and look forward to it.

Q. There's a lot of talk in Las Vegas about the job status of Marvin Menzies. I know you guys are close. You just beat him. You've been pretty outspoken this season about the job he's done. Do you think it would be unfair to fire him now?
COACH DUTCHER: I think Marvin's done a great job. They finished even with us in the standings. He's built the program every year. They're better off this year than they were the year before and the year before that. And they're trending up. They have the majority of their team back.

And so I'm not here to try to lecture and say Marvin should be the coach or shouldn't be the coach. I'm just here to say he did a great job. And they guarded us well. They ran a great game plan and we hit a couple timely shots.

Jeremy's 3, if that doesn't go in, what happens? Nathan Mensah on a rebound gets fouled, throws it up and it goes in. Basketball is sometimes a game of a bounce or two. And I would hate to think that Marvin, because he lost a tough game at home, should even be worried about his job status.

Q. You mentioned it before, but can you talk a little bit more about Jalen and Devin's performance, especially in the first half?
COACH DUTCHER: I was most worried about Devin because Devin hasn't practiced since Nevada. He missed all three days of practice, and usually I'm a guy that wants to see reps in practice so I'm comfortable. We called the first play of the game, a new one we put in. We haven't even gone for the jump ball and Devin said, what am I supposed to do on that?

That kind of gets a coach a little apprehensive. But Devin is Devin. He's a fifth-year senior. You rely on experience, even though he didn't practice. You rely on his ability to make game-time decisions which he did.

And Nathan Mensah, obviously, he practiced one day leading to the game and I thought he was great. Nathan made some timely blocks and big rebounds. It was good to see him play well somewhere other than Viejas Arena. So hopefully that will trend well into tomorrow's game for us.

Q. This week you were mentioning how Devin and Nathan were banged up. What's their status looking like for tomorrow's game against Nevada?
COACH DUTCHER: I think Devin is still banged up. So we have our medical staff here. I like this 2:30 game. And I wanted a third seed. But this 4-5 game playing at 2:30 in the afternoon is great, instead of playing at 8:30 at night. It gives us time to get in for treatment and prep for the next game.

And so even though I wanted the third seed, I think sitting here in the 4-5 game was better for us. At least it was today. So we'll see if that holds true tomorrow when we're playing the No. 1 seed tomorrow. But I like the chances of getting treatment, having recovery time leading into tomorrow's game.

Q. Is there a correlation between Jalen's performance and your guys' performance? Because you guys lost by 28 when he had a poor game. He puts up a show today, you guys win. Is there a correlation?
COACH DUTCHER: At first, at Nevada, the only thing I was concerned about Nevada was I thought Jalen got a little down on himself and quit defending hard at Nevada because he couldn't get a shot to go in. I took a look at every shot he took in that game and he shot great.

But he's played his best all year against UNLV. I think he had a career-high 30, and followed it up with 17 or 18 here. And then he had 25 tonight and 14 rebounds. And so for whatever reason this is a good matchup for Jalen. We've got to see if he can translate some of this positive into a good game tomorrow against Nevada where he struggled. And I think he's ready for that moment. I think he'll be ready to step up and play a really good game tomorrow.

Q. The student-athletes talked about it a little bit, but what's it like having the Aztec fans come out and make it feel like Viejas?
COACH DUTCHER: We have great fan support. They travel and I knew it wasn't -- it was great today; don't get me wrong. But when I think about what it's going to be like tomorrow, I just smile and shake my head because I've been coming here for maybe -- what is it, 17 of the 20 years of this event. And the Aztec fans travel and they travel well.

So I'm excited to see how many find their way to Vegas tomorrow for our tip-off. And I think that will be a huge advantage for us.

Q. What's the biggest adjustment just so a 28-point loss won't happen again tomorrow?
COACH DUTCHER: A 28-point loss is a 28-point loss. I can say what I want. Honestly with a eight-minute time to go in the game at Nevada, I told the team if we could just get two stops and get the next two baskets and cut it to single digits, we'll play ourselves back in the game.

Well, they hit a couple more 3s and got rolling. And that was it. I thought we were in the game. Even though it didn't feel like it to a lot of people that watched it, I thought with eight minutes to go, in a 13-point game, we were in the game. So we have to try to keep it close tomorrow, so it's a close game down the stretch and give ourselves an opportunity to win the game late.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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