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March 12, 2010
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
San Diego State Ã‚â€“ 72
New Mexico - 69
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by San Diego State Coach Fisher and student-athletes. We'll start by taking an opening comment about the game from Coach Fisher.
COACH FISHER: I told our team at halftime this is big-time, high-level major college basketball. We played about as well as we can play and we're one point behind. That's what they're telling their team, that San Diego State can't play better. But we can. We have to. And we did.
It was a really, really good win, obviously, for us. To beat a team that's won 15 straight, rated 8th in the country, second time we've beaten them, is a testament to our players.
The offense was sensational early. But we really talked about winning with your defense, winning with your rebounding. I do think that's why we won the game. So needless to say, we're very excited to be playing in the championship game tomorrow. I'm very proud of our whole team. These are three of our stalwarts that were so vital in our success.
I said to our team and the media that I thought D.J. Gay was our most important player. He had seven assists tonight, no turnovers. Guards like crazy. Helps everybody else out and wins. He's done that since he was a little guy, and he's doing that for us.
Billy and Kawhi were sensational. Great win for us.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for the student-athletes.
Q. D.J., after the game, you kind of collapsed at the three-point line. What were your emotions?
D.J. GAY: The adrenaline, all at once. I kind of collapsed because I got hit on that last screen, kind of just took my back out.
But, you know, it was just a moment of joy and pain.
Q. Billy, simple question with a complicated matter. Are you guys in this tournament?
BILLY WHITE: I don't know. I think we're not worried about it right now. I think we're worried about winning this Mountain West Conference.
Q. Billy, why do you think you were able to be so effective against their zone when your teammates seemed to be struggling to get good looks?
BILLY WHITE: Uhm, you know, my teammates just came to me, was, you know, You're hot. We're going to keep giving you the ball. They kept boosting my confidence up. I knew if I could get close to the basket, I could keep making every shot. That's what I tried to do tonight.
Q. Can you talk about the three-point play that Billy had late that put you guys up.
BILLY WHITE: I was crashing in and I saw Kawhi get the rebound. I didn't see nobody back, so I took off. Kawhi saw me. I knew Gary was going to try to foul me before I got to the basket. I just stretched out and just made the play.
Q. Billy, how special is this for you coming home and winning this kind of game in front of a pro Lobo crowd?
BILLY WHITE: I feel great. You know, just to come home, relax, be in my own backyard, play my game. This game meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to my team to get this victory.
Q. Kawhi, you're not one to get excited. Tonight you clearly were really excited. How much did this game mean to you?
KAWHI LEONARD: It mean a lot. We split. They got us at they house in overtime. I thought also I just try to bring high intensity in this game, play great defense, get defensive rebounds. My whole team, it was very important for the win. We wanted to get to the championship, go out and be champions throughout this tournament.
Q. D.J., do you ever get tired?
D.J. GAY: Uhm, can't allow myself. That's the mental part of basketball. You know, coach asked me to play a large amount of numbers. He asked me to do that in the summertime. I prepared myself early and it's paying off now.
Q. Kawhi, where did you feel the three-point touch come from tonight?
KAWHI LEONARD: I knew coming into this game, they were going to be like playing back off me. My team did, too. We already knew they was going to be in the zone, so we just focused at practice this week, knocking down shots, just knowing we gonna get wide-open looks, being ready and prepared to shoot 'em.
Q. D.J., obviously you felt the ball was going to go in Gary's hands for the last possession. Talk about what you tried to do defensively.
D.J. GAY: In the end, we tried to get the ball out of his hands actually and into Hobson's hands to make him make a play. As good as Gary is, the ball found him or he found the ball.
He made a good run. He got a shot off, and had an opportunity to win the game for them. But, you know, my hat goes off to him for his competitiveness. He's a great player.
Q. Billy, you hit the mid-court area there about three or four times after the game. What emotions were going through you?
BILLY WHITE: I was just, you know, glad that we came out and battled. We battled for two days and we got to battle again tomorrow. So, you know, I was just proud and just decided, you know, we hit the floor because we was just ready to go. That just give us momentum.
Q. D.J., you said you wanted to get out of Dairese's hands into Hobson's hands. Why would you want to do that?
D.J. GAY: Gary is their best driver, the length of the court. Hobson is a very good player as well. After watching film and watching everything about New Mexico, Gary can get to that basket at will. That's just a chance we took.
Q. D.J., in a game where every possession was so valuable, what was the key to you keeping your guys as focused as you were in terms of facilitating the ball and making sure you got the most out of each possession?
D.J. GAY: It's all about trust, you know. Our team has came a long way since our first game. The comfortability level with each other is significant. It showed tonight.
You know, keeping -- the team believes in me as their leader. With that on my shoulders, you know, they look to me for answers. With the ball in my hands, I have to make plays. So they came through for me and I feel like I came through for them.
Q. Billy, seen a lot of great games that you played over the years. Where does this game rank? Compare the emotions of this game to some of the other games you've been in.
BILLY WHITE: I think this is the most important one to me. I think this year is just our year. We worked so hard all year. We just deserved this win. We came out there and fought the whole 40 minutes. So, you know, it just meant a lot to me and this team.
Q. D.J., can you describe the last sequence there with Gary driving? Did it look like he had a lane to the basket or what was going on exactly?
D.J. GAY: Like I said, Gary is their best driver length of the court. And he just willed himself to the basket. Like I said, just got a shot up. I don't know how he did it. I think I was on the other side of the court when it happened. But, you know, he had the strength and the will to get to the basket and get a shot up, so... I think he got it up. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I know the ball did get up.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll dismiss the student-athletes. Thank you. We'll open it up for questions for Coach Fisher.
Q. Make your case for why your team deserves to get into the NCAA tournament.
COACH FISHER: That's not for me to do. Our goal is to win, cut down the nets tomorrow, as will be the winner of this game. So we'll see what happens.
I think we've added to the rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ© with this win today, no question about it.
Q. Can you talk about Billy White's maturation as a player. Where did this come through over the last three years that you've had him?
COACH FISHER: I don't know where the reputation of not a hard worker came from. He's been nothing but a hard worker for us. Willing to do whatever we ask. And had his share of struggles. This year, most significantly starting with the hand injury that cost him games. The high ankle sprain that set him back for half the season really. Frustrating at times.
But he stayed with it and believed in himself more than anything. And he's a really talented player and a terrific young guy. So I'm so proud. I'm so happy for Billy today to have him come home and play as well as he did. He was sensational. When we went out before the game, I grabbed him, I said, Make your mom proud. Afterwards, I said, You made everybody proud.
Q. Why do you think he was so effective against New Mexico's zone?
COACH FISHER: There were times, I think, when he had size and height on the defender. And he utilized that. There were other times when a bigger, stronger guy was on him and he used quickness and ball skills. He's worked really hard. And our coaches have worked really hard with him, like everybody does, with skill building. Every day we have 10 minutes of offensive moves. Post at one end, guards at the other end. Our post players as a group are so much better than they were at the start of the season. I think we're as good a passing big-man squad as there is around. And today Billy was the recipient of his own skill. I mean, he got that ball in the low post and made play after play after play. And when he went to the free-throw line, he was five for five from the line.
Q. Coach, obviously Kawhi deserves all applauds he's gotten for freshman Player of the Year. You have another freshman on the team that's not too bad. I thought maybe you could speak about the guts of Chase Tapley playing through the pain both days and giving you a big lift.
COACH FISHER: No question. Chase is playing with a broken hand. And not that others haven't, not that others aren't doing that right now. But he's got a broken hand. Left hand, ring finger. It hurts. He did that in the Colorado State game nine days ago, and he's playing. Had 15 points in the first half last night. We squeaked one out. 3-4 from three-point range tonight. He's a keeper.
There's no question he is a very, very valuable piece to this team.
Q. I know it's kind of clichÃƒÂ© to talk about, but was this one of those games where it just came down to desire on the floor?
COACH FISHER: I think the second half, neither team shot quite as well. New Mexico, I'm looking here, they shot exactly the same thing from the field. I thought it was a terrific basketball game. If I'm a fan in the stands, if I'm not a Lobo fan or an Aztec fan and I'm there watching, if I know anything about basketball, I would have to say this, this is darn good basketball. Two teams really playing hard and efficient basketball.
One team has to lose. It would have been a criminal had we lost on that last drive. But happened before. And it will happen again. We were fortunate to hang on and get a victory in a high-level, hard-fought, evenly competed game.
Q. How are you health-wise going into this final game? Are you guys all good tomorrow?
COACH FISHER: If you can't play at a game that's as important as this one, you don't belong in either locker room. We're fine. You know, we're fine. We're better than we were yesterday.
So we will be ready to play tomorrow.
Q. Can you take us through, right before the final sequence of the drive, that timeout that you called before, what kind of strategy you were going through.
COACH FISHER: We were kind of bumbling around saying, What do you want to do? How do we want to guard it? Do we want to trap Gary? We knew they were going to throw the ball to Gary. He was going to try to make a play. We said, Let's go out, see who takes it out, see how they line up, but take a timeout right before they put it in play. I never intended to have Billy White on the ball, but we said go guard the ball when you go out there and hope that they would say, Well, he's going to guard the ball, let's try something different. We didn't want Gary to get the ball, but he got it anyway.
I'm looking and I'm saying, Fast forward that clock so it runs out. We hung on some way, somehow. The basket gods were with us today. And we had a game at their place. You may or may not remember. D.J. gets fouled, down two with a second to go, makes two of the three. We lose in overtime. Hobson threw one in from three-quarter court at halftime.
So this is just basketball. You love it when you're on our side, and you despise it when you're in the New Mexico shoes.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH FISHER: Thank you.
End of FastScripts