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March 18, 2010

Steve Alford

Dairese Gary

Roman Martinez


New Mexico – 62
Montana - 57

ROGER ROSS: We'll begin with a statement from Coach Steve Alford and go on to the student athletes, Roman Martinez and Dairese Gary.
COACH ALFORD: I think you just enjoy March. Anthony Johnson gets 34 in one half and most of our game plan and preparation was for him and I thought Dairese did a tremendous job, and Qvale has a career night in the month of March.
Sometimes you've got to take your hat off to a great performance. He had a great performance. Our guys made good adjustments in the second half, but this month is all about to win and get to play another one.
Our guys did a really good job especially in the second half making enough plays, and this is what we've done all year long and made enough plays to get another win.
ROGER ROSS: Questions for the student athletes.

Q. Guys, the second half you guys came out with a lot more intensity and fire. Was that simply the only thing you worked on at halftime, or were there a lot of other adjustments, too?
ROMAN MARTINEZ: Well, defensively they were getting easy buckets and we had a lack of urgency in the first half and Coach got on us and we knew it.
But second half we tried to set a more defensive tone and we got five stops in a row coming out in the second half and I think that's what really jump started our lead in the second half.

Q. Did you guys have the tendency to take a breather after the big lead thinking you had them?
DAIRESE GARY: I don't think we had a tendency to take a breather. But I mean, kind of let down a little bit. Coach said we had to keep it on them. We started full-court pressing and our energy level was up. I don't know if people got tired or whatever, but we let down a little bit and Coach addressed and we got after it after that.

Q. Dairese, can you talk about the defense that you played on Anthony Johnson, holding him to 1 for 12 and what you were able to do?
DAIRESE GARY: Johnson is a great player. He had moves, he was great with the ball. It wasn't just me, it was my teammates that helped me. If he went past me he had somebody there to block his shot. Our wings fake trapped at him and it was a team effort in stopping Johnson and that's what we did.

Q. Dairese, I wanted to ask you about specific play there at the end. You were able to strip the ball from Anthony Johnson and I think A.J. came up with it, but you were able to strip the ball on that final minute. Can you tell me what happened on that play?
DAIRESE GARY: Basically trying to stay in front of him. I knew if I could keep him from gettin' to the basket he was going to do a step-back and try and pull up on me and happily that's what he did. Just keeping my hand in the shootin' pocket. That's what I was trying to do when I was guarding him, keeping my hand in the shooting pocket, and he went up and I got a strip.

Q. I know you guys are focused on the win tonight, but can you give us an early thought on matching up with the Huskies on Saturday?
ROMAN MARTINEZ: When it comes to Washington we saw them early before we went in and I think a really athletic team.
COACH ALFORD: You could tell they were athletic by them walking through the hall? That's the only time you've seen Washington.
ROMAN MARTINEZ: In the hotel we were watching them.
COACH ALFORD: They're not in the hotel.
ROMAN MARTINEZ: We were watching the game in the hotel, previously, and I got to see them tonight.
COACH ALFORD: Let's talk about tonight's game. I'll handle Washington.
ROGER ROSS: Next question, please.

Q. Ro, something you did see tonight was their big guy, did they expose something that you guys have been worried about all year? How do you change that around coming for the next few games as far as you go?
ROMAN MARTINEZ: I think we need to come out with more urgency. He was getting deep post touches. Give credit to him he had a great game, a career night and he battled tough during the game. But I think we have to have a more defensive mind coming into the next game. When we play against Washington it's going to be tough. So we need to focus on defense.

Q. The history of the program not being the most successful in the NCAA Tournament, do you guys care about style points or maybe an ugly win? Does that cross your mind?
DAIRESE GARY: Not at all. Coach tells us a win is a win, if you win by 100 or if you win by 1. A win is a win, and that's what we tryin' to do. We don't want to go home yet.
ROGER ROSS: Thank you to the student athletes, we appreciate it.

Q. Steve, you've been around a long time in these tournaments. Like Jeff was just saying, not a lot of style points but surviving?
COACH ALFORD: Well, this isn't gymnastics. We don't get points for that, you get points for making -- it goes all the way back to my good friend Hollow Barney at Manchester College. You keep it out of one hole and put it in the other end and if you do that you win.
This is the way we've been all year, Mark. When we make a lot of shots then we look a little prettier. We didn't make a lot of shots tonight, but I thought our defense was good, we hold a team in March to 40% shooting and 502 points -- 57 points.
I think it's disruptive to your opponent when their leading scorer goes 1 for 12, and that makes others have to increase their role and increasing roles in this month becomes difficult so I was pleased with the way we battled. I thought we were -- flat is not the word, but I thought we were a little deer in the headlights, in the first 20 minutes.
None of these kids have played on this stage and in the NCAA Tournament, so I jump-started them at halftime and we've had to do that on occasion. I thought in the second half we came out and played and didn't care about the stage, didn't care about where we were.
We played a much better half. But overall, here we are in our 34th game. We've won 30 and we turn the ball over six times. Those are amazing things. This team has been amazing. It was tie game, down 1, up 1 with four minutes to go and that last four-minute game we controlled and we've done that a lot this year. We're banged up, Darington is banged up and Dairese is banged up, and we have to find a way to get healthy before Saturday.

Q. What about Darington?
COACH ALFORD: He fell hard on his wrist and lower back and finished the game. He ends up getting a double-double for us. But I'm not sure, we will have to wait for the medical reports.

Q. I think 11 years between NCAA Tournament victories for New Mexico it's been a while for you, too, I wondered how gratifying it is to be at this stage.
COACH ALFORD: This is the biggest stage and we've had a special year, not a lot of teams in the country that can say they won 30 basketball games. We're going to be one of less than 5 or 6 that can say they won 30 games regardless of what happens on Saturday.
So this is an incredible journey that these players have taken us on and they're young, we have one senior, an extremely young bench that's not ready for a lot of this stuff but they're giving us everything they can, and we've stayed healthy, 34 games, same starting lineups, doesn't happen like that all the time.
We're making the right steps in New Mexico. That's the pivotal thing, and that's the thing we want to do. 24 wins in year one. 22 and League Championship in year two. Now we're sitting at 30 wins and another League Championship this year, and those are all positive strides and we're getting national attention and that's what you want to do in a program.
Our guys see the best record of ranked opponents against anybody in the country including the number 1's, that doesn't mean we're a number one seed or the best in the country, but if you look at what we've done we've had an incredible body of work yet the guys watch TV and they start talking about New Mexico and they see New Mexico State highlights.
So they got a chip on their shoulder. They know we're nowhere near where we want to get to in the level of respect but that's coming. They were talking in the locker room, hey, we swept them this year, wrong team, wrong highlights, but I think that helps you going from game to game.

Q. What made Dairese so successful against Anthony? How much do you think the size of the guys you put on him affected him?
COACH ALFORD: Dairese Gary is a great basketball player and people are starting to realize that. Our league realized that this year. He's just a great college basketball player. That's all I can tell ya. What you saw tonight is what we get out of him every day in practice. This is what we get every game.
There's games where he's had 4 points and shut down the opponent and made the key free-throws down the stretch. There's games where he had 20 and -- he does whatever he has to do to will his team to win and that's a great point guard when that happens.
He has start all but three or four games in his career. I think he's got the better part of 73 to 74 wins in his career already. He's a champion and he plays that way. You're talking about a kid that got 34 points in his last game in one half and this was Dairese tonight. A lot of times we can say we put a lot of different people on him, but it was Dairese Gary tonight and he holds him to 1 for 12 and I thought that was the biggest key to the game.

Q. Steve, how much have you seen Washington play this year? How much did you watch them play today, and what are your thoughts on the match-up Saturday?
COACH ALFORD: Very little. I went outside twice and saw three or four minutes of that game. I'm kinda like the guys, they look good walking down the hall they're a good-lookin' athletic bunch, Coach Romar has done a great job of getting these guys. They had a good start and then they fell on hard times and they finished the season as well as anybody, and they get down 13, 14, 15 points in the second half and find a way to win, really good teams do that.
Lorenzo is a dear friend. He's a terrific person. He does it the right way, so it will be a great match-up. They're out of the Pac 10, but we'll go to work tonight and try to figure out a game plan, and we've got to get healthy. We're banged up and we're not real deep right now so we've got to find a way to get healthy.

Q. Coach, they're making a run late in the game, Roman Martinez gets to the free-throw line, what are your thoughts?
COACH ALFORD: He's going to make 'em. Just what we've done. There have been years in my coaching profession that I've had teams and teams make runs against us and the game gets tight and you've got a big time anxiousness to you, and I think what you've seen in our team this year, staff and team, there has been a -- I don't know, a calming, a poise.
There has been, because there is so much trust, I think the teammates trust themselves, they trust the staff and we trust the players that regardless of what's taking place if you let us hang around and get to that last four minutes we seem to make plays, and we're not a great foul shooting team. We didn't make a lot of three's today, but we do those things.
Dairese makes a couple of foul shots, maybe six in a row and then he has a huge steal that gets us another possession. This team understands time and possession. Time and score and how much time is on the clock and the possessions that are getting played. This team understands that. I don't know why. I don't understand that with the lack of experience, but they just do.
We get to the last media time-out and I put on the board "winning plays" because more times than not this year that's what we've been able to. We lost to three teams this year, San Diego State beat us twice 10 or 11, UNLV beat us 10 or 11, Oral Roberts beat us about that over break, and then San Diego State was tight in the Tournament, and we've only had one loss when we lost the last 4 minute game. So you get to 34 games in the season and that's good, and I appreciate what my guys do.

Q. What specifically do you think you need to do better Saturday. I understand what you're saying about you win the game?
COACH ALFORD: Tomorrow we've got to get rest and heal up. We've got to hope Darington is okay. He's a key part of what we do. We've got to hope there is nothing there. We're hoping he's going to be fine and he can move on. We've got to get into our bench. Our bench is young so trying to get bench minutes is not easy right now. We're not big.
How much they go inside that affects what we do but the more you go inside you take away the three-point line. It's catch 22. Anytime you can hold a team to 57 points and 40% shooting I like the chances of winning. We need to shoot better, you keep on moving, advancing in this Tournament we've got to make shots and hopefully our defense will be steady.
ROGER ROSS: Thank you, Coach.

End of FastScripts

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