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March 10, 2011

Steve Fisher

Kawhi Leonard

Malcolm Thomas

Billy White


San Diego State – 64
Utah - 50

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by San Diego State. Coach, if we could start with your general comments on tonight's game.
COACH FISHER: I thought we played exceptional defense, especially the first 30 minutes of the game. Utah had 11 turnovers at half and 15 points. Our defense dictated everything that happened. Down the stretch we turned the ball over. We wound up with 12 second-half turnovers. We turned it over 10 times a game. I thought we got a little bit complacent and didn't finish the last six or seven minutes in a fashion that was indicative of how we'd played for 33 minutes.
That being said, at this stage, to hold a team to 50 points, to win by 14 points, you have to be happy. I thought Malcolm was sensational. And I think our team, what happened with this game tonight exemplifies the fact that we are a team. We had 24 baskets. We had 18 assists on those baskets. We had at least two or three more that would have been assists if we'd have finished when we got fouled. So I thought we moved the ball with a tremendous amount of poise and thoughtfulness. It never stuck in anybody's hands.
Proud of the fact we're playing tomorrow. We've got a very good team. We know that. Our expectations are to continue to play well.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Kawhi, you left the game with a back injury it looked like. Can you tell me what happened, how it's feeling now.
KAWHI LEONARD: Just a little cramp. I'm fine now. Just need to get it stretched out. But it's no serious injury.

Q. Kawhi, has this been a recurring problem for you or is this something new?
KAWHI LEONARD: Just today.

Q. Billy and Malcolm, can you talk about the defensive pressure. Seemed like midway through the first half you turned it up. What did you get out of it in terms of a spark it provided for the team?
BILLY WHITE: Coach Fisher and coach Huston came to us and said we want to put a little more pressure on them. We started trapping full court. I think that's where we started getting our runs.
MALCOLM THOMAS: Like Billy said, we just wanted to turn the pressure up. We were rushing a few shots, so we just wanted to get on the other end, on the defensive end. I think we did a good job.

Q. When coach talks about playing team ball, what does it mean for you to watch others when you distribute and get points and help the three of you out?
KAWHI LEONARD: Just knowing that our whole team can score, we draw like double-teams all the time on the court. There's always an open man. All three of us like to pass the ball. We're not looking to take an attempt every time down the floor. It just builds more team chemistry once you see everybody scoring, and excited when others score.
MALCOLM THOMAS: Like Kawhi said, nobody is selfish on this team. We got a bunch of scorers. If you play defense, the offense will come. That's how we look at it. So if we just pass the ball, we'll have a good game.

Q. You got ahead late in the first half, then put a run on them. Did you see what happened to BYU earlier? Did that motivate you to try to put a team away when you had a team down?
KAWHI LEONARD: I didn't watch the BYU game. I was just focused on our team. We were trying to play defense, trying to get better each and every game. We're trying to close out the game.
MALCOLM THOMAS: I didn't watch the game either. We had a game plan coming in. I think we executed pretty well. We made them turn it over a bunch of times. Our execution was just there, so...

Q. You played a lot of minutes today in a game that was fairly one-sided. Given the risk of injury this time of the year, knowing you're assured of being in the NCAA tournament, how do you balance how hard you go and how much fear do you have of getting hurt?
BILLY WHITE: We don't think about that. We just think about going out there and playing hard. You know, injuries happen. We just try to give 100% every game.
MALCOLM THOMAS: Yeah, there's no fear. It's just basketball. All of us are going to play hard, regardless. We're not worried about the NCAA tournament right now; we're worried about the Mountain West tournament. We're just trying to win this.

Q. Billy, first half you went on a big run. You got excited, getting the fans up. Coming home to Las Vegas, playing in that arena, you looked excited. Was it more special knowing that it's here at home?
BILLY WHITE: I'm always like that. I'm just an emotional guy. I just wanted to get my team pumped up. I know once we get pumped up, we're unstoppable in our guards. I just try to bring energy to my team.

Q. Obviously you don't know who you will play next. If it is UNLV, can you comment on playing them here again on their home floor.
BILLY WHITE: We know that's going to be hard. They're going to have a whole bunch of people here. They're always hard to play. We just got to stay focused and look at the game plan. We beat them twice. We can beat them again. We just got to stick to the game plan.
KAWHI LEONARD: Yeah, like Billy said, we're going to be on their home court. Most of their fans are going to be at the game. We just got to buy into our game plan and just focus as a group, come out playing hard, hope we get the victory.
MALCOLM THOMAS: Playing UNLV is always tough. We have to limit turnovers, be a little patient. It's going to be an aggressive, tough game. We're just going to have to be focused mentally, hopefully come out with a victory.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll dismiss our student-athletes and continue with questions for Coach Fisher.

Q. Talk about Jamaal Franklin's performance tonight.
COACH FISHER: He should demand more playing time (smiling). And he already has.
Jamaal has made significant improvement. If you watched him in September, he's totally revamped his shot. He's a worker. Very, very good athlete. Has always been a very good athlete. Now he's slowly turning into a very good basketball player.
Had a stretch where we really needed it, where he had three straight threes for us. Then he had a stretch where he was out of bounds, stepped in, threw it back out of bounds, had a couple of turnovers.
But Jamaal, he's a keeper. He blocked one of Foster's shots that looked like was going to be a dunk. I think you see glimpses, we see it every day in practice, of someone that is excited about what he's going to do for us, and we are excited about what he's going to do for us over the next three years.

Q. Could you give us your level of anxiety when Kawhi goes out in the hall and is face first on the floor, whether your limited minutes in the second half was mainly precautionary.
COACH FISHER: I looked around when I was going to put him back in and said, Where did he go? Yeah, it gives you concern. He never asks to be taken out. He asked to come out. He said he got elbowed in the back and it cramped up on him.
I think it was more precaution on my part. When we took him out about seven, eight minutes to go, I didn't want to sit him for three or four minutes and put him back in.
I told him, I don't think I'm going to put you back in. It was not that I was fearful that his back was an issue, but I just wanted to make sure he didn't go in, stiffen up going back in.

Q. In terms of your rotation, how much of what you did in terms of substitution had to do with this game and how much of it had to do with the possibility of playing three games over three days?
COACH FISHER: With intent in the first half, we said we need to play bodies, we need to make substitutions. I think a couple guys were disappointed that we took them out at the 16-minute mark. We have to be able to do that. We got guys that can play.
We'll probably do that again tomorrow. But we're going to do whatever we think we have to do to win the next game. So when we got that lead, I thought we could continue to be liberal with our substitutions.
Would I have done that if it had been a two-point game the whole way? I don't know.

Q. Can you talk about the significance of that 30th victory, what it means tonight, what it might mean going forward as the seeding comes out.
COACH FISHER: 30-2, that's pretty good. That's a lot of wins. I think we've earned them. We found different ways to win. We've won when we've made 20 straight free throws. We've won when we haven't made a three-pointer. We've won in a lot of different ways. I think that's a mark of a good team.
The one thing we have won with consistently is pretty solid defense. We can be a hard team to score on even when you get it into scoring areas. We have to stay that way.
Tonight I think in one stretch Utah scored five or six straight possessions. That's a credit to them. But we got to do a little bit better job after they get a couple on us, saying, You're not going to get an easy look on that third or fourth one.
We've got a good team. We're all very, very proud of the fact that we've got a 30-2 record.

Q. You mentioned the huge run at the end of the first half that put them away. Did you talk to the team about how important it is to put teams away like that in post-season play?
COACH FISHER: We always put four or five keys to the game up. We always put up, We want to have spurts. I read Jim Boylen's comments early in the week saying when we played them the first game at their place about seven or eight minutes to go, it was a close game and we had a spurt. We're a team that has spurts. And we are. You maximize spurts by guarding hard, not turning the ball over. We had a couple of those in this game. I think we were ahead six points and outscored them 10-1 at the end of the half, go up 15.
We've done that with some consistency all season long.

Q. You're old enough to remember Bob Lanier getting hurt, Kenyon Martin. How do you balance the desire to win versus the risk of injury when you know you're in the tournament?
COACH FISHER: I think what Malcolm said, you can't play fearful you're going to get hurt. Even if you have a little tweak, your ankle, whatever it might be. When you do that, that's when you get hurt.
I mean, sometimes kids get hurt and nobody is around them. But I can't worry about that. We can't worry about that. We're playing to win three games here in this tournament. Obviously we want to do well in the NCAA tournament. But we want to win here. We want to win two more games here. It's important to us.
If it means playing D.J. Gay 40 minutes tomorrow, so be it. You know, they're anywhere from 19 to 22. I think they'll be resilient enough. I worry about Game 2, Game 3 here, but I'm not worried about what's going to happen next Thursday or Friday right now.
We've practiced thoughtfully. We have had the bulk of our practices the last few weeks we have had a minimal amount of competitiveness. Now, we do skill building and all that stuff, form and technique. But we'll go maybe 15, 20 minutes of an hour and a half practice on competing.
Usually guys get hurt in practice rather than games, so... I think we'll be okay (knocking on wood).

Q. The ball movement was really impressive tonight. How have you instilled that in your players with the athletes you have not to take over the game?
COACH FISHER: We've practiced that way. We talk in practice: You got to get the ball to two sides before you can shoot it sometimes. We got to have penetration, either dribble or pass before we shoot it. We work at that.
But I think, most importantly, it happens because of the kids. These guys all are good and they think they're better than they are. They all want to score. But they're willing to move that ball and swing it and make one more. I think that's the character of the kids that we've got more than anything else.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH FISHER: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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