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March 11, 2010
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
New Mexico Â– 75
Air Force - 69
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by New Mexico head Coach Alford and student-athletes. We'll start with an opening comment about the game from Coach Alford.
COACH ALFORD: Just a hard-fought game. We knew coming in we had eight days off. That helps you with rest. But it also, I think, takes time to get back at it.
I said this to our team. I think Jeff in the last two to three weeks has done more with his team than anybody in this league. You've seen it coming. They have really played hard. Their young guys are getting more confident. At least in the 80 minutes that we've played Air Force over the last 10 days, they've really given us a tremendous challenge.
I give Jeff and his staff a lot of credit, because for a team that hadn't won a lot, wasn't really playing for much, you see teams go the other way. That's a tremendous credit to Jeff and his staff to get a team playing this hard and this well.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for the student-athletes.
Q. You are 12-0 in games decided by six points or less. Does that give you any kind of confidence so you don't panic if the game is going to be tight?
ROMAN MARTINEZ: I don't say we panic. I say coach said it best. We try to make winning plays. In this game, A.J. Hardeman made two winning plays that really put us over the edge. We have a lot of guys who can make winning plays within the games.
Q. Obviously you're the focal point on opponent's scouting reports, yet you continually get double doubles. Can you talk about how you're able to do that.
DARINGTON HOBSON: Well, for me it's just been preparation. I think when my teammates are pushing me hard in practice, it usually carries over for the game. A lot of that is my teammates are making shots and it's opening things up for me.
Q. What has it been about Air Force that they've been able to give you so much trouble the last two times you faced them?
ROMAN MARTINEZ: Great effort. They come out playing hard. We had a lot of defensive letdowns. You got to give credit to Air Force. Their game plan was good. They come out and play hard. Great effort every time we play them. I think we got to give credit to them.
Defensively we have a lot of things to work on, a lot of layups they had, I think they were 50% from the field. I think we need to shut down defensively a little bit better.
DARINGTON HOBSON: Ro said. You got to give credit where credit is due. Air Force, they played a great game. They had nothing to lose. They came out, made big plays down the stretch. Like Ro said, we got to buckle down on defense. We got stops when we needed to get stops and that's how we won the game today.
Q. You had such a hard time here in the opening round in the last four years. To walk off that court in March with a victory under your belt, tell me what that's like.
ROMAN MARTINEZ: Felt great. Haven't experienced that in my career, winning in the first round. It's just a great feeling to know that we could win in the tournament because haven't won one yet. But it's a battle. Every team in this league wants to go to the tournament. It's a bid for the tournament. Every game's a fight, and a fight to win.
DARINGTON HOBSON: It feels good. Coach, the coaching staff, has been here for three years. It feels good to get out the first round. We're not going to stop there. We're going to rest a little bit and turn all our focus on tomorrow because it's going to be a tough game.
Q. Did it help you guys to have a game this tight in the first round to get a little momentum?
ROMAN MARTINEZ: Well, we haven't played in a while. I think we got all the jitters out in the first game. I think, like we said before, Air Force played a tough game. Now we have to get ready for the second round.
DARINGTON HOBSON: The same. Ro is answering the question for me (smiling).
We came out, were a little bit uptight in the beginning of the game. It feels good to get the first one under our belt. Tomorrow I think we'll come out a lot more loose and have a lot more confidence when it's time to play.
Q. You've had a lot of great crowds all year long the Pit. To have a crowd like this on a Thursday at noon in Las Vegas. What was it like?
ROMAN MARTINEZ: I mean, it felt like a home game. There's a bunch of fans. It was a great feeling. How many times you see at the tournament, it's a great feeling to have such great fans. You got to love 'em out here in Vegas.
DARINGTON HOBSON: We have the most loyal fans in America. As all three of us said, as the year went on, there's a couple games this year we would have lost without them. They were great today. They willed us to victory, really gave us that confidence and that extra energy to get stops at the end of the game. A lot of credit goes to our fans today.
Q. How much does it mean to leave here with at least 30 wins going into Selection Sunday? How much are you thinking about getting a second or third seed?
ROMAN MARTINEZ: Well, I think right now we're trying to focus on the third season and trying to win a tournament conference championship. I think that's our focus right now.
We want to keep on winning games. We got to take it one step at a time. We're in season three right now, which is the conference tournament. In order receive great success and everything, we have to take care of the next game.
DARINGTON HOBSON: Same thing Ro said. All our focus is on what our seeding is going to be. We're not playing for that. We're playing for the Mountain West Conference tournament championship. We can only control the things we can control, and that's winning basketball games. As long as we do that, I think the rest can take care of itself.
Q. 15 straight now. How much has coach been talking about 15 straight? Are you talking about 15 straight? Are we the ones reminding you?
ROMAN MARTINEZ: I think, you know, coach has really strived for us to play hard, tough, give a lot of effort. We're not thinking about that, like Darington said. We're trying to focus on winning a conference championship, winning games. We're trying to live in the moment.
I think the rest will take care of itself. But it's great that that's happened. We have to get ready for the next game.
DARINGTON HOBSON: You know, same thing Ro said. And coach did a great job of keeping us all levelheaded. A lot of coaches will blow your head up and make you get a little big-headed. Coach has kept us levelheaded. You know, that's in the past. 13 straight, 14 straight wins we had is in the past. We just try to take it a day at a time.
Q. Darington, this was an emotional game, energetic game. Resulted in a technical foul. Can you grow that passion without encountering the negative side of that?
DARINGTON HOBSON: Yeah, that's one of the things I've been working on, trying to work on down the stretch. You know, it cost us two points during the game. I apologize for that.
But, you know, that's just something I still have to work on. I'm an emotional player and I show a lot of emotion when I play.
Q. Darington, you've always been a high-energy player. Do you feel coming down the stretch that there's more communication between you and your teammates, maybe a pressure to help lead them and get them in places on the floor to put you in positions to win?
DARINGTON HOBSON: Uhm, I mean, I don't know. You know, our communication has been good all season. And, uhm, we're unselfish. When you got two good leaders like Roman and Dairese on the floor, that's not really my job to put people in places. They do a good job of doing that.
The main thing right now is for us to just stay focused, everyone know their roles and play unselfish.
Q. Darington, today you tied Danny Granger with the most double doubles. Do you draw any comparisons between you and Danny and what does it mean to be in that type of elite conversation for you?
DARINGTON HOBSON: Uhm, I don't really know if I play like Danny. I thought Danny was more of a 3-4. I'm more of a point forward. Some similarities, but not much.
It's just a blessing to be in the same category as him. He's an NBA All-Star. He's a great player. As long as I work hard and my teammates and coaches keep pushing me, you know, I can see where the comparisons are coming from.
Q. You hit your first two threes, then it went south. Can you talk about Darington and Dairese taking over from there, taking it inside, getting higher shots, fouled, so forth, how that maybe got the Lobo offense on track.
ROMAN MARTINEZ: I mean, they make the game easy. I've said it before, they have the ability to take over games. Those two players, you know, MVP, First Team, I think they've shown that they can take over games, take us over that edge that we've had most of the season. I think, you know, without 'em, on the floor not only point-wise, defensive-wise, rebounding, blocking, getting those end-of-the-game free throws, I'm really, really happy they're on our team.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll dismiss the student-athletes. We'll open it up now to questions for Coach Alford.
Q. The earlier in the season when you played Air Force in the Pit after the game, you said Air Force is going to be a game we can look back on in the post-season and say, Remember Air Force. Is this just another game that you remember Air Force both times?
COACH ALFORD: Yeah, I don't think it really matters whether the name is Air Force or it's Wyoming or BYU or whoever it might be. Sometimes you got to give credit to your opponent. We're 29-3. We broke every Lobo record there is to break. We've now had more wins than any Lobo team in the history of the school.
If you asked me what our strength is, we work really hard. This is the hardest working team I've had and the most unselfish team. So to match that, you've got to match that kind of work effort.
I think in the two games we've played in the last 12 days against Air Force, they have matched how hard we worked. Again, that's a credit to their staff and it's a credit to their young team for playing so hard. It's a good lesson that when you play that hard, good things happen; you shoot the ball well, you guard better. We've just been very consistent in that area all year. That's why I appreciate the efforts of our guys.
Q. Was there any difference between this game and some of the other close ones you played as far as any nervousness?
COACH ALFORD: No. That's funny. This team, they're very poised. They just believe they're going to win, whether it's a tight game or a runaway. They just believe in themselves. Coaches believe in them. There's a lot of trust there.
You know, I think these guys alluded to it. A.J. Hardeman is probably not going to get talked about a lot tonight, but he made the two biggest plays. A huge put-back for us in a tight situation and makes a big defensive play. Those are things that don't show up all the time. But our guys understand that and they appreciate the things, whether it's A.J. or our bench does.
We wanted to pressure them a little bit more, we wanted to up-tempo the game a little bit more. I thought periods of time, that was good. Again, to their credit, you know, playing their second game in two days, I thought their effort and energy was outstanding. They played at a high level with energy.
So we tried speeding 'em up. Thought we did a pretty decent job with that. But they played pretty well playing sped up, and that's a credit to them.
Q. We've been talking about Darington all year long. Anything else you can say about him?
COACH ALFORD: We're talking about conference tournament play. You're talking about somebody that's 28-15. He gets to the line 11 times, he makes nine of 'em. I thought he was dominant at both ends of the floor. I thought he made his presence known defensively. He had a performance today that maybe there's 10 performances like this in conference tournament history of the 11 years of this league. That was a big-time performance by the Player of the Year. We needed that today. When you get in season three and season four, you need the players of the year to elevate, and I thought he did that today.
Q. Gary looked shaken up after the game. Was that anything to worry about?
COACH ALFORD: He took a pretty big hit two minutes into the game. Dairese just does what he does. He didn't stop, he didn't quit. He is sore right now, so we got to get him a lot of treatment and rest before we get into competition tomorrow.
But I know Dairese will be in there. Dairese is that way. He's played banged up that way most of the year because he throws his body around every game. He easily could have sat down if it was a different guy, but not Dairese. He shoots 15 free throws and makes 14 of them, get 20 points for us, played most of the game. I thought his minutes were terrific. He's just got to get a lot of rest and our trainer has to earn some money in the next 20 hours to get him ready.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH ALFORD: Thank you.
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