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March 12, 2011

Steve Fisher

D.J. Gay

Kawhi Leonard

Billy White


San Diego State – 72
BYU - 54

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by San Diego State. Coach, your comments on today's game.
COACH FISHER: I want to first of all congratulate Dave Rose and his BYU squad on a phenomenal season, seasons plural. I told Jackson Emery and Jimmer as they were walking back that it's been a privilege to compete against them. We haven't had too many times to be able to do this: celebrate after competing against them. They're good. They're well-coached.
I think they have represented the league, themselves, the school the right way. So we're hoping that both of us can go a long way in the NCAA tournament.
With our club, we know that we're good. How good we still don't know. But we had a thought that if we came and competed, we would have a chance to back-to-back cut down nets. Doesn't happen often. It doesn't happen unless you have talented players with character that will give to get. They've done that to the 10th degree.
The three who are up here now, our two seniors, D.J. and Billy, have been with us for four years. They have been such a backbone to the program that words can't describe how much we owe them. And Kawhi is Kawhi. Every day he delivers more than is expected, and we expect a lot.
So this is a wonderful feeling. It's a well-deserved feeling for our kids. 32-2, back-to-back championships, and now the anticipation of the next tournament. So we're excited. We're proud to represent our league as the tournament champs. We look forward to the NCAA tournament.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Kawhi, what was your reaction when you just heard that Fredette was named tournament MVP?
KAWHI LEONARD: I just thought it would go to the winning team. But, you know, he played a great tournament, so I'm not doubting him at all. I don't know what he averaged, but he had 52 in the semifinal game. That deserved the MVP.

Q. D.J., you played 40 minutes last night, short turnaround, yet you had remarkable energy today. How do you explain that? Do you think your depth may have been the telling factor of three days in three games?
D.J. GAY: Absolutely. This game was won by more than just us three and Coach Fisher. James Rahon, Chase Tapley, Malcolm Thomas and BC. They came oft the bench and played great for us tonight. They played key plays, knocked down big shots for us. It was an all-around effort from everybody. Everybody was on the same page. We knew exactly what the game plan was. We stuck to it.

Q. Billy, today was your first time playing BYU without Davies. How much of a factor do you think that was?
BILLY WHITE: It's a big factor. He's a key player on that team, too. We took advantage of that and crashed the boards, just played San Diego State basketball. We knew if we just tried to contain Jimmer and tried to make everybody else shoot, we knew that we had the game.

Q. Billy, what was your plan of attack in trying to contain Jimmer and why were you able to execute it so successfully?
BILLY WHITE: Our game plan was just try to force the middle. I knew that I had help in the middle. We just executed that. Sometimes he made hard shots. That's Jimmer. He's going to make shots. Like I said, you know, he's a hard person to stop. You can't technically just stop him. You knew he was going to score.
Like I said, we just tried to contain him.

Q. Kawhi, during the course of the regular season there was a lot of mutual respect with these two teams. At the end of the game you and Jimmer were talking. Was that more respect or other stuff?
KAWHI LEONARD: More respect. Just telling him that they played hard, both teams played hard.

Q. With BYU beating you twice in the regular season, how does it feel to come out in the biggest game of the year and play so well and beat them?
D.J. GAY: It feels great. I can't tell you that those two losses weren't on our mind, because it definitely was. It was another thing that we can use as motivation on our end.
They're a very good team. You know, we haven't really beaten them a lot in my career here. Just to go out with that win is huge for the team and myself personally.

Q. Most of the projections have you as either a 2 or a 3 seed. Do you think today's game makes a statement to the selection committee that maybe you deserve a 1?
D.J. GAY: Honestly, the whole 2, 3 or 1 isn't really a big deal. We're just happy to be playing in it and have the opportunity to be playing in the NCAA tournament once again. If we get a 2 seed, great. If we get a 3 seed, great. At the end of the day, we just want to have the opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament again.

Q. Billy, you've had a great season as a team all year long. Can you tell me how you think you are peaking right now at the best time?
BILLY WHITE: I think we always come together at this time of year. Last year we started to find ourselves at the end of the year. We just bonded together and, you know, just competed. We knew this was a big game for us. We lost to them two times in a row. Everybody knew that we needed this game.
I think we just played hard. Both teams played hard. I think we just played a little bit harder and it showed today.

Q. Billy, after the game you were up on the shoulders of some people. Did you know any of those people?
BILLY WHITE: I knew a couple, but not all of them.

Q. Is that a first for you?
BILLY WHITE: Yeah. You know, it just feels good, to win on my floor, just to be in my hometown with the people I love.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll dismiss our student-athletes and continue with questions for Coach Fisher.

Q. How much of your strategy, particularly defensively, was dictated by three games in three days and fatigue?
COACH FISHER: Well, our strategy was make sure we don't give up easy baskets, because this is the best running team we will play all season. Jimmer Fredette is the key to their team. We wanted to make him take hard shots. We tried to keep him off of the free-throw line. Didn't do a great job of that.
The number one thing that we said that we did not do a good enough job of was rebounding the ball. This team rebounds better than most people realize, BYU does. I thought we were a little better on all of those fronts.
But I thought collectively our defensive energy, in all three games, has been really outstanding. We are long and we plug holes and gaps, turn easy shots into really hard, contested shots. We did that once again.
I do think that Billy White has played his most consistent, effective, productive basketball for us. And when he does that, obviously that elevates everything else about our team.
But we've got good players. We got a lot of ways we can win. We felt like we needed to play a lot of people early and then see what it's like in the second half. We tried to do that from the beginning.

Q. Is Billy's performance even more impressive considering what you asked him to do defensively, and a little bit about the freshman, Franklin?
COACH FISHER: Billy is a phenomenal athlete. He never gets tired. When he's hurt, he's not hurt. So he needs maybe 20 seconds to regain his breath and he's ready to go again.
I never worried about Billy being fatigued and not being able to do whatever we asked. He was more focused on how to do things, I thought, in these three games, this three-game stint.
Jamaal, if we said, Who is most improved from October to March? Probably Jamaal. I said this Thursday, I think. He's revamped his shot to now he can shoot the ball. Very good athlete. I think he's been chomping at the bit, got a little opportunity. I know our fans are looking forward to having him for three more years with us.

Q. Can you talk about how your approach was different this time facing BYU without Davies and the smaller lineup they put out there.
COACH FISHER: It really wasn't a whole lot different. We went back and looked at our last game. We showed them things that we failed to do against their zone. We were much better at it today, I thought. I'm coming back to Billy. We said, You got to post the body inside. Don't float out to the short corner. Don't let them push you out to the three-point line. We were better at that.
Obviously, a 6'8", 6'9" really good player no longer there affects you. But we played well. We played very good basketball at both ends.

Q. You've had the opportunity to coach a national championship team, the Fab Five, terrific teams at Michigan and San Diego State. Where would you rank this particular team as far as possible national championship goals and perhaps the team that won in Michigan?
COACH FISHER: I don't want to get too far ahead of anything. Our goal and our fans' goals are, Let's win a game. We have never done that. I've had the privilege to go to three at San Diego State. I haven't won one yet. So we need to find a way to win one.
We'll talk on that. We'll talk on what we have to do to do that. That's our focus. We're not looking too far ahead. We're not going to tell people how good we think we are. We know we're a good team. But there are a lot of good teams that will be in this NCAA tournament.

Q. What do you think this victory, given how you won it, how dominant you were, what does this say about your program heading into the final stretch here?
COACH FISHER: I know that we've got the tenacity and resiliency to stick with it. You have to stay healthy. Right now we're healthy. You have to be confident. We've won 32 games, so we're very confident.
We're a good defensive team. It's the best defensive team we've had at San Diego State. And you can win when you are as athletic as we are and you guard as hard as we do. You might not be making a lot of shots, but you find ways to get easy shots that eventually will turn into making a lot of shots.
So we've got a nice team that right now we feel good about ourselves.

Q. For a good portion of the game it almost looked like you were substituting like a hockey coach on Jimmer. Is this a different strategy than you've used before? Is it maybe more aggressive in that regard?
COACH FISHER: You know, I don't think it's too much different than our last game with them at our place. It is different from when we played at BYU. We had a guy guard him for a long stretch at BYU. In this game, that was the plan. Our thought was, we wanted to switch every ball screen. We said, Let's start Billy, length on him, then we'll go to Kawhi or Chase, then we'll go to the other one. That would be our three-man rotation who would guard him as he brought the ball up the floor. We were switching everybody except the guy guarding the post player if he would use a screen.
He's hard to guard. And I think that you wear down a little bit when you try to really say, I'm not going to give you those 35-footers that you make with regularity. That was the focus, to make sure that we kept a relatively fresh body on him.

Q. With your record and your RPI, what will your initial reaction be tomorrow if you're not a 1 seed?
COACH FISHER: I'm like D.J. I'm not going to get caught up too much in seed, where we go. Does no good. We knew before the tournament started we were going to be in the tournament. We know we're going to have now a high seed. What that is, I don't know. But we've been a double-digit seed the three times we've been in. So I know we're going to be a single digit, lower single digit. So I'm not going to worry about that.

Q. You talked a lot this season about shared burden, offense, defense, leadership. When D.J. was speaking earlier, you seemed to smile almost with a father's pride. Talk about the difference that D.J. has in terms of leadership on this team.
COACH FISHER: D.J. is a quiet leader. He leads by example. Businesslike approach. Doesn't like to mess around. Doesn't like to boast about what he's done. But he, more than anybody we had, worked between seasons to get better. And because of him doing it, it pulled everybody into doing it.
He's a wonderful, wonderful example of what you can do if you put your mind to it. D.J. Gay, when he came out of high school, people weren't sure he was a Division I player. He's proved that and then some, that he's not only a Division I player, but he's a winner at the highest level.

Q. What is the most satisfying thing about this run, being where you are right now?
COACH FISHER: It feels good anytime you work as hard as you do. We're not the only one that did that. All eight of the teams who came here have worked, and probably worked as hard as we have.
I've done it long enough to know that to do what we're doing now, be last up at the podium, have the nets when you go home, you need to be good, you need to be a little bit lucky, you need to do it together. When you do it, and as you're doing it, you need to savor it.
We've really all done that, myself included. We haven't said, We have to win this tournament, we have to win this conference. We've enjoyed every step along the way. I think that's helped us win the conference and win the tournament.

Q. More so than earlier in your career?
COACH FISHER: I think when you get a little age and experience about you, you're a little more wise in terms of stepping back, taking a deep breath. Everybody talks about it. But most people in my profession, they're worried about keeping their job. Fact. I'm not worried about that. I got my job. I'll leave when I want to leave.
So those worries you don't have. I think that helps you. I think when you got a good family, I'm 36 years, got my son on the bench, it's fun to be a part of that. And I know that that doesn't happen to many families. To work with your son or daughter every day, you can't beat it. I'm living a dream.
I tell our players, Dream big. And I'm doing that, too.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.
COACH FISHER: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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