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March 10, 2011

Steve Alford

Dairese Gary

Drew Gordon


New Mexico – 67
Colorado State - 61

THE MODERATOR: We're ready to begin with New Mexico. Coach, we'll start with some general comments on today's game.
COACH ALFORD: Well, I thought it was two really good, solid teams that were battling. Very similar to the first two matchups. In fact, the score was very similar to the first two games. There wasn't a lot of change once it came to a neutral site.
I thought the biggest probably difference in the game was the last six or seven minutes. I think we held them to one field goal the last seven minutes of the game. We made the winning plays down the stretch. We've been in a lot of tight games this year. I could just see the faces. We looked a little bit more confident, a little bit more comfortable that we were going to get over the hump and get this done.
It's a great credit to our players because they made a lot of good plays down the stretch.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll open it up to questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Dairese, best pain you've ever felt in your life?
DAIRESE GARY: Little bit of pain. But the win make it feel a lot better.

Q. Talk about a few of the things, the bumps and bruises you have there after this one.
DAIRESE GARY: I mean, basically the same stuff: back, elbow. A lot of diving on the floor tonight. A little beat up. But I'll be ready for tomorrow.

Q. Dairese, you came up with two huge plays where you dove on the floor. One you got the timeout. How determined were you to get some of those loose balls and you saw you had a chance at them?
DAIRESE GARY: Very determined. Coach talked about it before we got on the floor; 50/50 balls needed to be ours.
I felt that I needed to help my team. I really wasn't doing much scoring or anything. Whatever else I could do. So it was loose balls tonight. Diving on the floor tonight, doing little things like that to help my team out.

Q. Drew, Tim Miles earlier called you a rebounding machine. What were you doing tonight?
DREW GORDON: It all really comes down to our positioning on the offensive and defensive ends. Our wings and point guards have good spacing on the floor, so it kind of opens up the inside of me to go one-on-one with whoever I'm playing to get the rebounds. Fortunately I came out with a few more rebounds than he did.

Q. Can you talk about Cameron's shot at the end of the game and Kendall and how he played.
DAIRESE GARY: Kendall was just being Kendall tonight: very active, hitting big shots, getting to the free-throw line. That's the shot Cam hit. It's a shot he works on every day, before practice, after practice. You see him in there shooting. We have a lot of confidence in him shooting and he did tonight.
DREW GORDON: Kendall does a great job of being who he is. He's real active, real hyper, gets to the ball when he needs to get to the ball, has a knack for getting to the basket.
He did well tonight. His passing, he was doing Kendall basically.
Cam, his shot, I passed him the ball down low. I really didn't have any options except for Cam. Like Dairese said, Cam is in the gym every day putting up the jumper. I had full faith in it that he was going to make the shot. I had to hold my breath because he just got subbed in, was running up and down the floor. He did a great job, shot it with confidence, knocked it down. That was huge for us.

Q. Drew, you see Dairese in practice every day, you've played with him all year. When he goes into that mode where he's putting the head down, diving all over, how much of an inspiration is that for you and the rest of the guys?
DREW GORDON: It's a lot. Rese has been through a lot here. It's his senior season. Something a senior being the hardest worker on the floor is something special.
He doesn't take it easy. He doesn't take plays off. He makes sure that he leads by example. Unfortunately, that example gets him beat up every once in a while, like tonight's game. Make sure that everybody on the floor is motivated. It only takes one person to start the fire. Afterwards, people do a little bit extra in order to win. That's what we did tonight.

Q. Dairese, the matchup with Jimmer tomorrow, why have you been successful against those guys and him in particular?
DAIRESE GARY: Really just it's a team effort. Everybody does their assignment. Everybody comes together as a team and plays as a team.
Jimmer, he's a great offensive player. He gets a lot of big shots. It's not just me out there guarding him. Sometimes it's Tony. Sometimes I get beat and one of the bigs steps up or the wings. It's a team effort all together what we've been doing against BYU.

Q. Is this a game you would have won in January when close games were a real problem for you?
DAIRESE GARY: I can't say I think we would have won. The close games that we lost back in the past, I mean, you could see today we have learned from them. We've come a long way. Back in January, a couple months ago, we still were young, still had things to learn. I think up till this point, we learned them and we showed it tonight.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll dismiss our student-athletes and continue with questions for Coach Alford.

Q. Steve, I know we'll talk about it more tomorrow night if you win, but do you think a third win over BYU could get you get in that NCAA tournament picture?
COACH ALFORD: It's hard to say. We haven't watched much. Watched enough TV to see, I don't understand why some teams are in the picture. I mean, our league is ranked fourth in the country. There are leagues behind us that supposedly are getting five and six teams in.
It doesn't make a whole lot of sense when we're the fourth ranked league in the country. We should be considered.
But you just got to keep playing games. Right now we're in season three. Season four takes care of itself by what happens in seasons one, two and three. We were 12-3 in season one, did a lot of good things. Our strength of schedule is now in the top 80 in the country. We've won 21 basketball games. Our RPI is in the low 60s, high 50s now. We're getting ready to play an RPI team that's got top five in the country. Win or lose, your RPI is going to jump to the low 50s just by playing them.
Our body of work is getting better. That's what you want to do in March, you want your body of work to get better. We're on a four-game winning streak. The work these guys are doing are getting better. Two weeks ago we were 17-11. Didn't look so good. 21-11 looks better.

Q. How tough is it to beat a team three times in the same season?
COACH ALFORD: Well, it's very difficult, especially when that team is BYU, top-10 team in the country, and they have a player like Fredette, their supporting cast that's so good. In the last couple years, they haven't lost too many games outside of us. I don't know if we know that secret. It's just kind of been fortunate it's happened that way.
They've had an enormous amount of success in our league the last five years. This is the top of our league. This is the best of the best. For us to advance now, we've got to beat that team three times in one year, and that's not easy.
We're a little banged up. You've seen Dairese. He's banged up. Tony Snell is still suffering from an ankle sprain. Tony had a lot to do with both of our wins against BYU. We got to try to get some miracle health in the next 24 hours to get ready for them.

Q. CSU takes a one-point lead with 12 minutes left. You call a timeout. What do you tell your guys?
COACH ALFORD: I can't remember. Probably just, Hang in there. Wasn't anything big about that timeout other than we were up eight. I think the frustrating part was up eight and we lose that lead because I thought we got careless and soft offensively and it led to easy baskets. We had done such a good job of taking away easy baskets in the last 12 minutes of the game. We didn't do that up until then.
I thought that was the difference. Holding them in the last seven and a half minutes to one basket was huge. We kept them off the free-throw line. We ended up winning a game shooting 39%. We didn't shoot the ball well again tonight. But we learned to win. We shoot 39%, but we out-rebound them badly, we did a lot of good things at the defensive end and got to the free-throw line. Anytime we get to the free-throw line, that helps us.

Q. How critical was the run you had, 6-0 run, having that momentum going into the locker room?
COACH ALFORD: Yeah, I think it's hard, unless you've seen us all year. But we've had 32 basketball games now. I think if we've had issues, of our 11 losses, our issues have been the last four minutes of the first half and the last four minutes of the game.
The first 16 of each half, we've been a pretty good basketball team. But learning to close out halves has been something we've had to drill our guys in practice. We have to put up fake scores. We've done things like 30-30 in the first half, shoot some free throws, come back. Then 60-60 with four minutes to go.
Then I think the close games, all the way back to Dayton, Texas Tech, which we won, the four games we lost in league play on the last play of the game, we've been able to reflect and that helps us.
It hasn't just been the end of the second half, we've had brutal endings of the end of the first half. Sometimes when it's just negative, negative, negative, the players probably don't know it, but Eikmeier, I thought that was going in from three-quarters court. I thought that thing was going to go in. All those shots seemed to go in to end halves and games. To our players' credit, they're getting better at it.
If you look at TCU, even Air Force, a game where I felt we didn't play particularly well, the last four minutes of the first and second half, we're good. TCU same way. BYU same way. Tonight I thought that was the difference. The last four minutes of each half we played really well. That was enough to get us over the hump tonight.

Q. Can you talk about Kendall's play today. Seems like he's been stellar the last three games.
COACH ALFORD: He's freshman of the year hands down. If there was a unanimous choice other than Player of the Year in this league, it would have to be freshman of the year. He's been tremendous, incredibly consistent, which is odd. You don't see freshmen play with the consistency that Kendall has. In 32 games he's had maybe two, maybe three that have been considered poor performances. I mean, he has been really consistent. His defense has gotten better as we've moved on. A lot of freshmen hit the wall. He's getting stronger.
You're looking at somebody that I think is going to be a very special player in this league. He's done a lot of good things for us.

Q. What were your thoughts, I assume you were surprised when you saw Adam Nigon in street clothes to start the game.
COACH ALFORD: We hadn't heard anything about Nigon. Talking to Tim afterwards, it sounds like a sprained toe or something that's pretty serious with his toe. That's unfortunate. You always hate seeing that out of seniors especially. Somebody that was a walk-on, he was a part of the first couple years that were obviously grinds and very, very difficult. Now been a part of turning around the program. He started as a walk-on. To do the things he's done the last two years has been special.
To not be able to play in the tournament is one of the tough things that happen in our business. You never like to see those things for the student-athletes, especially those student-athletes like Adam that mean so much to the game. They do it the right way, work hard, do the job in the classroom. It's very unfortunate for him.

Q. You've got a guy like that Adam in Dairese Gary. What does that mean to you when you're coaching in a tight game?
COACH ALFORD: All due respect, I do love Adam. But we think Dairese is even another notch. Dairese just won his 97th game. Broke Kenny Thomas' record for scholarship players. He's all-time winningest Lobo. That's not easy when you talk about the history and tradition of Lobo basketball. We have a special leader, somebody that has done it from the beginning. He won 24 games in his first season. Been winning since then.
This was a game where Dairese has been struggling with his shooting. It started with Air Force. He didn't shoot the ball well at Air Force, didn't shoot the free throw at Air Force. Didn't shoot the ball or free throw again tonight. If you ask Coach Miles and me the difference in the game, the loose ball gets, he gets two of them in the last eight minutes. He makes the pass that needs to be made. Makes the stop. Green is getting away from us. I think Green had 10 points at half. Dairese shuts him down the second half to one field goal.
Dairese will do the things that gives your team a chance to win every single night. This was one of his worst shooting nights in his entire career, yet he finds a way of getting his team in positions to win. That's what makes Dairese so special.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Drew Gordon's efforts.
COACH ALFORD: As soon as he puts his uniform on, he's proved he's a double-double. He's been doing that. We've had 17 league games now. Not knowing the stats, I bet there's only two to three games in the entire league season where he hasn't had a double-double. I think he's averaged a double-double all through the league. Just built on that tonight. I think 13-13. We couldn't get him in the flow. They did a good job defensively of taking things away from him, making us make plays with our guards.
In the second half he got going a little bit. He usually does that off the backboard. That's what he did, 19 offensive rebounds. If you're not going to shoot the ball well, which we didn't tonight, it's probably a good idea to get offensive rebounds. When you can get 19, that helps your offense.

Q. Continuing on Drew, he went seven for eight in the free-throw line. Can you talk a little bit about what he's done to improve his free-throw shooting?
COACH ALFORD: I told him how important that was. I think sometimes he gets a little lackadaisical with that, as do a lot of bigs. You get fouled, you get beat up. You don't get points for being fouled, you get points for making foul shots. I think he's learned that. Over the two weeks, he shot the free throw pretty good.
We need him getting to the line. I think we went through about a three-week stretch there where Drew wasn't getting to the line very much. I think it's important he gets to the free-throw line. Tonight he got there eight times. That's big for us if he can start getting there five-plus times.

Q. A.J. Hardeman almost had a double-double. How important was he tonight?
COACH ALFORD: I don't know of anybody in this two-week stretch that's been more important than A.J. A.J.'s working harder. I think that's why his minutes are up. His issue with down minutes have always been effort. He's given us great effort. To be right at a double-double is huge for us. We almost had two guys with double-doubles. You look at his line versus like Franklin's line. That's a big difference.
I think that's a huge reason why we had the success tonight. I thought that matchup, Drew and Ogide, Ogide outscores him, but Ogide may have got a little bit of him there, got more shots, got in the flow. Wasn't even close, A.J. to Franklin. I thought that was really good to see. A.J. has played really well through this four-game stretch.

Q. The matchup with BYU tomorrow, do you view that as matchups that maybe work in your favor?
COACH ALFORD: That's hard. You look at Game 1, they had us down 14 points. We go to a four-guard lineup, make a lot of threes, beat them. Game 2, Davies is out, we got Snell that gets hurt, and we end up playing a lot of two bigs in that game. Now here we are going into Game 3, looks like we're going to be two bigs again.
We kind of played differently. Both of those two games we played them differently. Then we've been fortunate. We've come up on the winning end. That's a positive.
People say, What's the secret? I don't know because we played differently both games. We won with a four-guard lineup in the second half of Game 1 and played two bigs in Game 2, and they were minus Davies for the first time.
They've had time to work, get some things ironed out and play the way they want to play now with him gone. We know it's going to be a very difficult game for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH ALFORD: Thank you.

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