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March 19, 2008

Jim Christian

Al Fisher

Mike Scott


THE MODERATOR: Kent State is next up. Student athletes, Al Fisher and Mike Scott. And we'll go right for questions in the 15-minute session.

Q. What you guys been doing since you've been here?
MIKE SCOTT: Shoot, we just got to the hotel yesterday, and so we went out to dinner at a little restaurant, had a good time there. Then this morning we had a little practice session over at Creighton.
We had breakfast right before that, and here we are.

Q. Al and Mike, if you can just talk about what you know about UNLV? Probably don't know much about them, haven't seen them much, maybe on tape getting ready for these guys. But what do you know and what do you look forward?
AL FISHER: We know UNLV is a great team. They're 8 seed; they definitely deserve their way here. So we know they're a team with like big men, there's guards and they're a driving team, great shooting team, and we have to come out and guard them.
MIKE SCOTT: Like he said, they're a team full of guards. I think their tallest player is the four man, shoots really, really well and guards Wink, he's the leading scorer, never have to contest all those 3s. He shoots like unconscious. And just really have to guard them. They get up in transition. They're a defensive team just like us also. We know that so we want to execute on offense.

Q. Mike, can you talk about -- how many of you guys have been here before? I know you have. How many of the other?
MIKE SCOTT: I want to say about six or seven, not all of us play, but like Q was here, but he didn't play. Mike McKee, Brandon Parks. Myself, Julian. Isaac. That's about seven, I think. It's about half, a little more than half, something like that. Coach actually recognized this fact a couple of days ago and he said more than half our team. That's why I'm saying about six or seven. About seven.

Q. Tournament is obviously a stage for a player like you sometimes to break on nationally, but it seems like at the Saint Mary's game a lot of people obviously knew more of you. Can you talk about the difference after that in terms of attention and things you noticed after you had that kind of game in terms of people knowing you and your game?
AL FISHER: Well, the attention stepped up a little bit. But with the team, with the great teammates I got and all definitely made it a lot easier because the team, we can't just focus on one player. We've got a lot of people that start and come off the bench that can do the same thing. Like we had -- I say we've got about three or four people who could have got player of the year. So being on this team is definitely good because it's not just one person that you can focus on.

Q. Since UNLV is pretty much a team you guys said made up of guards and played mostly guard set with a lot of short forwards, would you say this is almost like playing a team a lot like yourself?
MIKE SCOTT: Most definitely. I feel like it's going to be a game to grind out. Because like I said before, like you said, they're a lot like us simply because we're not very tall. We're fast, and they're not very tall as well. And they play defense. That's the type of their program, is playing defense. And also for us, we thrive on defense, they get on the ground and we get on the ground. Yes, most definitely.
AL FISHER: You know, here they are a lot like, we just -- they're fast, they play very hard and they just get up and down the court. We're going to have come out and follow the game plan and doing what we've been doing thus far.

Q. Is there any doubt who is going to take the shot at the end of the game, if it's close?
MIKE SCOTT: Oh, the ball's going in his hands (smiling). Definitely going in his hands. He saved us a few times this year. I mean, actually maybe -- he's put us in this position here. I mean, we won the league outright and things like that. So, yeah, the ball's going in his hands.

Q. Where is your confidence right now after hitting a couple there in recent times to win games and do you absolutely want the ball at the end of the game if it's close?
AL FISHER: My confidence is definitely high, but I give my confidence all to my teammates and my coaches. Players like Mike Scott and Jordan Mincy, they all just -- they take the pressure off me a lot by knowing that it's going to happen. Mike Scott came up to me like one time when the ball was handed at the end of the game, I already know it's good. I'm not worried about it. That definitely take the pressure off the last shot.

Q. What should UNLV be worried about, concerned about, scared about?
AL FISHER: You know, just -- we're just coming to play. We're going to play hard and do what we've been doing, we'll be doing what we've been doing so far, follow the game plan and play defensive rebound. Just worry about us coming to play, I guess.
MIKE SCOTT: Yeah, I think most definitely we're not backing down from no one. I remember my sophomore year we came to a tournament a little hesitant, a little scary somewhat. This year we're not coming with the same mentality. We have confidence to win and do damage in the tournament, come to win.

Q. Mike, how are your thumbs doing? And I know how you got hurt. I read about that. But how does it affect your shot and just your overall game to have those things?
MIKE SCOTT: Probably should have my thumb wrapped the first three years of college because I'm feeling pretty confident from the field. Percentage-wise, shooting it well. You know, they're fine. I ran into a problem a few games ago catching the ball, but quickly got on that, corrected that in practice. Had Chris Singletary, strong as ever, having him throw me the ball and practiced catching the ball so corrected it.

Q. Al, can you talk about kids who aren't recruited heavily after high school they get to this level and you get in situations like this, how easy is it to differentiate the very closeness of players no matter what seed or team it is at this level, and can you talk about your own journey and experience of how you have been able to become this player maybe not recruited as well but have now made a name for yourself at this level?
AL FISHER: You know, it's not that big of a difference to players. I mean, because in this league and everywhere everyone always comes to play hard. So they come ready to play and they play their game and bring intensity with it. And for me, this is my third school. I came from Siena, went over to Redlands, Oklahoma, Ju-Co, and came here. It was hard getting here first, but the players, they like took me under their wing and showed me this is a family, just opened up and we're going to be here for you through thick and thin.
And they just made the transition from ju-co and the other schools to come here a lot easier.

Q. Mike, you talked to Marcus or Scott yet?
MIKE SCOTT: Actually, Marcus Crenshaw, he messes me on face book and tells us congratulations and we'll see you out there. But I haven't talked to Scott Cutler.

Q. The sports books in Las Vegas had Kent State as one and a half point favorites going in, a lot of respect. Talk about the respect you guys have built up over the year?
AL FISHER: Well, you know, we don't really look at that. We're just going to come and play our game and do what we've been doing. We definitely -- we play and we be opponents, and I think we deserve the respect we've gained thus far. It should be good. Going to be a good matchup.
MIKE SCOTT: I feel it's a well-deserved thing. Kent State has been a strong program for quite a while now and I think it's really starting to come to a head and starting to show the country that Kent State is a great program. We're going to probably start getting better players here. And I think this is definitely a great thing.

Q. Want to ask you guys what you know of UNLV as a school. Probably as kids, six-year-old or seven-year-old kids you probably heard of UNLV. What comes to mind when you think of UNLV, tradition and stuff?
MIKE SCOTT: Pros, NBA players. Great program all the way around and just athletic players always.
AL FISHER: I have to agree with him. Pros, and just a great squad. They've been a good squad for years and they're probably going to be a good squad for years to come, too.

Q. I know you guys set goals during the year to run the MAC regular season, MAC championship, what guys are you doing if anything to make sure that you reset your goals to come here, not just now that you're here, take a deep breath and enjoy it, but to do something and try to come up with a win and push forward into the next round?
MIKE SCOTT: The first goal is to win the first half of this next game and then going to to win the second half. Breaking it down, it might even be more than that, breaking down to win the first four minutes then the next four minutes, that's the goals we have right now. We just want to continue to add to that, just break it down.
Because you look at it as a whole it can really look intimidating. So we're going to break it down, take it one step at a time.
AL FISHER: We just want to focus on this game. We don't want to look behind us or who we might play next. We just want to focus on what we've got to do and what we got to do for UNLV and get ready and get prepared for them.

Q. Al, I asked you this once before, but maybe I'll try it general. Did you ever see yourself being the double-figure scorer in college? You won it Siena and Redlands, what is it that transitioned from there to here in terms of not just being a double-figure scorer but a game-winning scorer?
AL FISHER: I never really looked at it like that. I just came in and said I'm going to help this team in whatever way they need me to help. If they just needed me to cheer that's what I was going to do come do, come cheer. But being in the position they put me in, you know, being a double-figure scorer is good, and being that they trust me enough to do it and put the ball in my hands in game-winning situations is definitely lovely to have that support behind me.

Q. Mike, aeronautical systems engineering?
MIKE SCOTT: Aeronautical studies.

Q. How does that translate to basketball, and how did you come up with wanting to do that?
MIKE SCOTT: Well, you see I don't know if you have seen any games or not doing my airplane thing after I dunk, that is representative of my major. I don't know, I've always been in love with airplanes since I was a child. I don't know, just really stayed with me. It wasn't just a little stage. I just love -- I used to drive past the airport. It's not like a little kid story but I used to drive past the airport see them taking off and landing. It's stayed with me. I love airplanes.

Q. What do you want to do then after you are done playing basketball?
MIKE SCOTT: I want to eventually open up my own business as far as small planes, maintenance company. Scott Mechanics or something like that and just work on airplanes. I just want to be around airplanes.

Q. Representing the MAC, when you take the court, do you feel like you have something to prove against larger schools or larger conferences?
AL FISHER: No. We don't feel like we have anything to prove. We just feel as though we represent the MAC and we want to represent the world, we're just going to come out and do what we've been doing up until this game. And come out and do things that we're supposed to do and follow the game plan and all.
MIKE SCOTT: Yeah, like he said, I don't think it's necessarily anything to prove. I just feel like we need to go out here and win the game. It's that simple. I think you get caught up into thinking about things like that you start to lose focus.
Like I said, we need to win the first four minutes of this game. And we'll let the country and the media decide what needs to be proven and whatnot, things like that. We're just going to try to win this game.

Q. What was your reaction when you found out you were coming to Omaha, Nebraska?
AL FISHER: It was just, okay, we got another game to worry about. Let's dress up and get ready for the game that we have on Thursday.
MIKE SCOTT: It was like Nebraska. Nebraska? But you know I'm grateful to be here (smiling). Never been to Nebraska. I can tell my kids I've been to Nebraska. But Courtney Lee is one of my high school rivals. He's in Tampa. I talked to him the other day. I was jealous about that. But I'm grateful to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Best of luck.
Head coach of the MAC champions is with us, Jim Christian. We'll ask him for an opening statement on his team being here in Omaha then questions.
COACH CHRISTIAN: Our team is very excited to be here. It's part of being a part of March Madness is special for these guys. The whole experience has just been wonderful and just now we're excited to get started and play.

Q. Coach, what can you tell us about what you've seen from UNLV on tape and how you guys are going to match up with them tomorrow?
COACH CHRISTIAN: You know, in watching their film, I think the teams are very similar. Both are very defensive-oriented teams. They get tremendous guard play. They shoot the 3 extremely well, and you know they play so hard.
And I think our team kind of mirrors them in the way we approach the game. So I just think it's going to be a great game.
And we understand they're going to be very, very well prepared. You can watch the games they played on tape and you can see the little things they do to try to take teams out of what they feel comfortable doing. And that's a credit to Coach Kruger and his staff.

Q. I know both teams like to play defense. In your gut, who do you think plays the bet defense, Kent State or UNLV?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I think defense is the pride of both programs. And if the score is 1-0 tomorrow, then you'll know who plays better defense. It's just -- again, I respect how hard they play and the way they play because I think it is very similar to how we play.

Q. This tournament -- first the Saint Mary's game, now this tournament obviously allows a kid like Al to come on more of a national stage. Can you talk about his development, what you saw in him and apparently he didn't average double figures before he got here. He's more of a scorer for you. What about him that you like?
COACH CHRISTIAN: The thing I like about him, he's just constantly trying to learn and get better. From the first day he was here he really wanted to learn our system, to pick things up. He's a really fun guy to coach because he's so confident.
And regardless of whether he plays bad the first half or previous game, he comes to work and get better the next day. That's what good players do. It's been fun watching him get better and better because he's always the first guy to evaluate himself, come back and watch the tape, wants to constantly you know learn from what he did the previous game, and that's what's making him a very good player.

Q. You're facing a team that starts two walk-ons, what's your reaction to that?
COACH CHRISTIAN: If they're starting two walk-ons they don't play like it. This game is funny. I mean, you know, we are starting a guy we never saw play live. We saw a guy that we never saw pick up a basketball live. So this time of year, there's no walk-ons, there's nothing but good players and good teams on the floor.
So, you know, we know what we're up against in UNLV. We know how good they are. You have to be an excellent basketball team to win 26 games, to hold teams down the way they hold them down in a great league. So we know exactly what we're getting into.

Q. Your big man doesn't necessarily put a lot of offensive numbers up on the board, but because of UNLV's lack of size, do you anticipate maybe using him a little bit more on that end of the floor tomorrow?
COACH CHRISTIAN: He's a key player for us. He has had big games this year. So we play -- it's too late in the year to change what you do. This is who we are and this is how we play.
But he's been a very, very good player for us all year. He's had a lot of big games for us. He's such a unique player and we use him a lot in the type of things we do offensively and defensively. He's a huge part of every game plan. So it's not going to change for us.

Q. Can you talk about UNLV without really mentioning Wink Adams, is he kind of where you start?
COACH CHRISTIAN: It's hard not to mention him because he's such a good player. He's a lot like Al Fisher and our team in terms of how much confidence they play with. One of those guys, every time he gets a ball, he's a threat to score. They have a couple of guys like that. He's one that stands out. He's a great basketball player and we'll have to do everything we can to try to -- you never stop a guy like that but try to make him work for what he gets.

Q. You already talked about how you feel that your team's play mirrors of that UNLV's, talking about how you have a lot of journeymen and UNLV makes a lot of walk-ons. Do you think the stories are similar of how the players got to the universities?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I'm not sure what a journeyman is, but some guys they have to find the right place for them. And I think that's what this whole thing is about. That's the beautiful part of college basketball, is that you may go to a situation that just doesn't -- you may be a good player but the situation just doesn't fit you properly you have to find a place that does.
Both UNLV and ourselves are fortunate to have guys who kind of fit what they try to do very well. And I think that's why both of our teams are here.

Q. Do you know much about the Mountain West, the league?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I know a lot about it. We see a lot of their games. I watch -- I watched a lot about it the last few days. And it's always been a multiple-bid league and a great conference. And you know whoever represents it does very well in this tournament. You had a Sweet 16 team last year.
So I think it's a great league. And obviously they're sending great teams into this tournament.

Q. You have a ton of last-second shots that win games over the course, Fisher has made a few for you. One, is it easier to draw something up for him now in that sense? But, two, what about him, I guess, did you see when he first got here or did he have to develop this kind of confidence to make that kind of shot?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I think he had the confidence when he got here. And the thing about it is the game-winning shots he's hit those have not been his particularly better games. He's played poorly in some of those games made a shot to win it. That's probably the greatest compliment you can give a player, he wants the ball in those key pivotal situations, irregardless how he's played up to that point.
I think that's what made him a pretty good player. It's easy to draw plays up for a guy at the end of the game who wants the ball.

Q. You talk about players who have to find a place to fit in. The couple of your former players ended up at the same regional here with Cal State Fullerton. Scott, when you recruited Scott Cutley, did you think he had the skills to become the player that he became in the big west?
COACH CHRISTIAN: No question. He was an impact player for us from day one. He's a guy I'm so happy for. He deserves it. He's been a winner his whole life. I knew he was going to be a great player.
We were disappointed when he wanted to go closer to home but we understood it. And I'm just happy that he had a chance to play in this tournament, because he's a winner, and he deserves to play in the NCAA tournament.

Q. Do you remember watching that Westchester team with all the talent and were there a lot of coaches around?
COACH CHRISTIAN: You know, we signed Scott during the early signing period. So I saw him play more in the summer than when they played later on in the year. But I saw a lot of their players play. Such a talented team. That's what stood out about Scott. He was the guy on the team -- and still is when he came to Kent State and still is now, that just took a lot of pride in doing all the little things that make you win basketball games.
Those kind of things are something special to a coach and something that's very rare and hard to find.

Q. One thing seems to stand out in both teams, Kruger's and just watching yours, is that kids accept roles they defend. Can you talk about in 2008 the difficulty to get kids to embrace what you want them to do defensively and embrace roles where maybe they're not as highlighted as maybe they thought they were when they came to this school?
COACH CHRISTIAN: I think it's just a constant, constant talking about it. And talking to them one-on-one, and then you've got to share events like this, because everybody does do that. You get a chance to play in this tournament and be a special team.
The funny part about it is it's amazing how guys who have accepted those roles over the course of the season now all of a sudden they're starting to get their name in the paper, people are writing articles about Jordan Mincy's defensive ability or Al Fisher's ability to create his own shot or Mike Scott being the glue to our team.
Those roles were embraced a long time ago. But because you embrace it now you get a chance to show it in this stage. If you asked every single one of those guys was it worth it they would all tell you it was worth it.

Q. Have you ever had a chance to cross paths with Lon Krueger or is this the first time?
COACH CHRISTIAN: This is the first time I've crossed paths with him. I've obviously seen his teams play forever and always respected how hard and how much success he's had and taken teams to the Final Four and Sweet 16 and won wherever he's been. Admired how they played.

Q. Jim, you're a Rhode Island graduate. Do you have any reaction to the NIT game here last night?
COACH CHRISTIAN: My reaction would be sad. They had a great year. I followed them very closely as a former player. It's funny, you know, I played 20 years ago there, yet the guys on my team we still talk to all the time. It's a special place.
And happy for Creighton, but as an alumnus of Rhode Island, sad they got beat in the last-second shot in post season. You hate to see any season end.

Q. Were you here last night for that?
COACH CHRISTIAN: No, I was not. I was not. We didn't even get ESPNU at the hotel which was disappointed I had to hear about it this morning. Dana Altman looked pretty happy when I saw him at practice, though.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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