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March 9, 2006

Steve Fisher

Brandon Heath

Marcus Slaughter


THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and begin. San Diego State University. Joined by head Coach Steve Fisher, Brandon Heath and Marcus Slaughter.
Coach, if you want to begin with some opening remarks.
COACH STEVE FISHER: We talked about how you had to, out of the gate, be smart aggressive and not be the reactor. And I thought we did a pretty good job of that. We also talked about being opportunistic and wining the 50/50 balls. And I know we did a good job of that.
And good players make coaches smile, and that's what they did today. They made plays. We didn't shoot it particularly well, but we guarded hard enough to where they didn't shoot it particularly well. To me, the way Marcus rebounded the ball for huge stretches was extremely important especially down the stretch when we maintained the ball I think one time for over a minute because we continued to rebound the ball.
Matt Thomas, I did not intend to sit Richie Williams the whole -- as much as I did. But Matt played so well, we would have been foolish to take him out. He made a couple of great plays, one where he tipped the ball off a missed free-throw, another steal that he got, I think at times when we were starting to get a little disjointed.
So it was a good win for us, a win that we're very proud of, against a team that's given us a very, very difficult time for the first two games.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach. For the next few minutes let's direct questions to the student athletes.
Q. Brandon, I just want to ask you a little bit about what you saw. It looked like you guys kind of took the fight out of Colorado State early tonight, much different than the other games. Is there anything that you saw happening that did that?
BRANDON HEATH: We came out and set the tone with our defense and followed game plan and brought closure to it by rebounding the basketball. And I feel as long as we get stops, this team will be successful.
Q. Do you have anything to add, Marcus?
MARCUS SLAUGHTER: No, he said it.
Q. Marcus, we already talked about your rebounding stretches. Was there something from your game plan that enabled you to do that or was it pursuing the basketball? What enabled you to have such success on the boards tonight?
MARCUS SLAUGHTER: Rebounding is about heart. If you want the ball, you got to get it. I'm not a 7-footer like Jason Smith or the rest of them. I'm just a guy that wants to get the rebound. I fight hard to go get it. I have a passion for getting it. I do whatever I can to get the rebound.
Q. Brandon or Marcus, either one of you, it looked like you got Colorado State frustrated early Jason Smith was obviously frustrated and out of his game a little bit?
MARCUS SLAUGHTER: Could you repeat the question for me.
Q. It seemed like you took Jason Smith out of his game early, he was getting very frustrated and not able to do the things maybe he's done against you guys in the past. Was that an intentional thing that kind of just happened in the game?
MARCUS SLAUGHTER: We tried to play physical with them, double him. We know he likes to dribble in the post. Double, frustrate him, mix it up a little bit, double, not double. So he still played a good game, but I think we did a pretty good job on him.
Q. Did you guys get used to the new surroundings say the first five, ten minutes of the game?
MARCUS SLAUGHTER: No, I think we, you know, coming into a tournament game, you still have a little jitters, you're a little nervous. If you're not nervous, then you're not really ready to play. We were ready to play. Once you get up and down the court, break a sweat, it's time to go out and fight.
They had a game with TCU so they can get used to the arena and everything. But we've been here before, so we got it out pretty quick.
Q. There was some talk about NBA rims. Did you notice any difference?
BRANDON HEATH: No, I mean, a goal is a goal. Either you're on the blacktop or the side of the gym. Ten feet, you got nets, backboards. It's all the same.
Q. CSU in the second half came, made a run and got pretty close. What did you talk about in the huddle to kind of pull away in the end? What did you do different?
BRANDON HEATH: Well, CSU made a run. But we talked about if we don't score another point in this game, we can still win if we come down and get stops and bring closure to it with defense. That's pretty much what he talked about and that's pretty much what we did.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, we'll let you two go. Thanks very much. Questions directed to Coach Fisher.
Q. Coach, how critical was that stretch where Colorado State got within 50 and 44, went on a 9/0 run?
COACH STEVE FISHER: There was no question we were rocked back on our heels when they cut it to six. And we were able to find a way to get the ball. Slaughter has a knack of rebounding the ball. And he did a great job with it.
I don't know if any of what I talked early on, Matt Thomas, was involved in in that stretch. But we had a variety of players who made some plays to keep possession of the ball. We had a hard time -- we had a hard time making shots too. They're long. What looked like were going to be baskets inside, a lot of them were blocked shots.
So I think it was as much them inside. We missed a lot of inside shots, but they're good, they're long. And then we missed some open shots. But they were flying at us. And we're a good-shooting team. But I think you see a guy running at you, and you have one block, that creates some concern.
When we were able to steady the ship after they cut it to 6 and get a basket, and I think it happened after a couple of extra chances, it was significant.
Q. Did it seem to you they lost their sense of urgency near the end, their walking the ball up court?
COACH STEVE FISHER: Are you talking about us?
Q. CSU, they looked a little tired at the end.
COACH STEVE FISHER: You know, I think you get tired mentally when you don't score. They weren't tired when they cut that thing to 6 points. And same thing with us. We got a little frustrated when they made back-to-back stops and scored back-to-back baskets.
And I thought - no disrespect to Kelly - they fought hard for the majority of the game. What our goal was, was to, one, don't let them get run-outs for baskets. And we did a pretty good job of that. When we turned it over, they got chances to run. But this was the best we've been at getting five people to run the floor and not letting them drive it for easy looks going the other way.
And then we were better prepared for some play calls this time. We knew what they were trying to do, and we did a lot of better job of defending their ball screen play. They ate us alive at Colorado State with those ball screen plays, whether it was pick and pop, or whether it was Lewis turning it in. And it was usually Slaughter. But Slaughter is hedging and not losing contact. And Richie and Matt did a pretty good job at not giving him an angle to get in.
But I don't know that they were walking it up. Maybe they were a little. When I look at the tape, I'll say maybe with a couple of minutes to go they slowed down. But when you don't score, it's hard. It's hard to continue to regenerate.
Q. Coach, with 22 wins and the way you've been playing of late, I think four in a row, four wins in a row, how are you feeling? Do you feel any better today about your NCAA prospects than you did before the game?
COACH STEVE FISHER: Yeah, because we're still playing. I feel better that we're playing. Our goal is to play on Saturday. So that means we're going to have to -- beat whoever plays in the second game. We came here to win the tournament, just like nine other -- or nine teams did. There won't be nine left after tomorrow. And our goal is to win this next game.
And we don't want to have to worry about somebody else. We want to get an automatic entry. And that only comes with winning, and that's what we're hoping to do.
Q. How concerned were you with Heath early when he took the elbow? Did you figure he may miss the rest of the game when you came on the floor? Also how much have you talked to these guys you're the favorite here, and sometimes conference crowds tend to gang up on the favorites?
COACH STEVE FISHER: I was a little worried because Brandon rarely gets hurt and he never embellishes when he gets hurt. I was concerned it might be a blow to the head. But he was fine, as we all saw. And you would have had a hard time getting him out even if he wasn't fine.
And I think that we've tried to embrace the fact that we were the favorite to win the conference. We hadn't been there before in that setting. That should help us as we play in this tournament. We expect to win, so for others to say, Well, you're supposed to win. What are you going to do if you don't win? They've done a nice job at not worrying about that.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.

End of FastScripts...

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