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March 18, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We've got the San Diego State student-athletes Billy White, D.J. Gay, Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas.
Q. Billy, looking at your stat lines for the last couple games it seems you are not only being more productive but trying to take a more active role in the offense. Is that a conscious decision?
BILLY WHITE: No. I just, you know, trying to help my team get the win. You know, I know I needed to just step up a little bit more, and if it just takes me to get more rebounds and, you know, score more points, that's what I have to do.
Q. D.J., the Temple players were saying they probably wanted to slow things down a little bit, maybe try to play at a slower pace, half-court pace. When teams try to do that to you, what do you guys do to not play that way, or are you okay playing half-court?
D.J. GAY: We definitely try and play an up-tempo game, try to speed it up. When teams try to slow it down on us, you know, we might come out more aggressive on the defensive end. Try to cause more turnovers or do anything to help speed the game up.
But I think speeding the game up can be done on the defensive end.
Q. For D.J. and Kawhi, what has Billy's production meant for you guys here the last, what, four or five games?
D.J. GAY: Billy's performance has definitely been a boost to this team, especially to the team's confidence. We need him day in and day out. And his productivity has came at the right time. You know, couldn't ask for a better time for him to peak like this.
KAWHI LEONARD: Like D.J. said, he is helping out a lot for the team. Getting defensive rebounds, the other team's not getting second-chance opportunities. And he also is getting second-chance opportunities on the offensive end by getting his own misses or getting me and D.J. or Malcolm's misses off the glass.
Q. Kawhi, what are some of the things that you saw on film with Temple that concerns you all?
KAWHI LEONARD: They have good guard play. And they do a lot of handoffs and a lot of ball screens to guards. So we're going to have to be focused on that. And communicate a lot with our bigs throughout the game.
Q. D.J., you know, yesterday was so historic for the program, but how many hours, minutes and/or seconds did you actually have to enjoy it before your mind and everything got filled with playing Temple?
D.J. GAY: As soon as we walked out of the locker room we knew it was time to turn the page on this chapter of San Diego State basketball and start focusing on, you know, what's possible in the future. And that's Saturday. We're trying to achieve each goal one by one. And we got the first one in the tournament. Trying to achieve another one on Saturday.
Q. Billy and Malcolm, Lavoy Allen for Temple seems like he is a big, physical presence in the middle. Have you guys faced anybody like him? And, if so, or if not, what do you think you will have to do to play him when you are on offense and when you are on defense? We'll start with Malcolm.
MALCOLM THOMAS: He is a really good player. He gets a lot of rebounds. He's skilled inside. We're just going to have to, you know, scout, do our best to contain him. And play hard and try to get a win.
BILLY WHITE: Like Malcolm said, you know, we just got to watch what he does on film and just try to learn his moves. We know that he likes to -- he has a knack for the ball, try to get the ball offensively. And defensively we just got to box him out and try to do a good job on him.
Q. Malcolm, do you feel like being here a few days now, having a game under your belt, that you are going to feel more comfortable coming out tomorrow?
MALCOLM THOMAS: Yeah, I feel like all the nerves are out, getting that win out of our system. San Diego State hasn't won a post-season tournament in, like, six tries. To get that first win kind of gets all the nerves out of our system.
Q. Kawhi, off-the-court question. After the game yesterday, thousands of San Diego fans were going crazy. Students just happy as can be. Off in the corner, quiet, by herself, a lady with a 15 jersey, No. 15 jersey on the back that said "mom." I talked to your mom. She said she is so proud of you. I wanted to know from your perspective what it's like to have her support throughout the season and you have a big decision coming up, what factor she'll play in that role. Just basically the support you're getting from your mother and your family.
KAWHI LEONARD: My family being behind me throughout all the years of just playing basketball and her being at the game just always boosts up my confidence, knowing that she's there and I am going to see her after the game. And, you know, she's going to play a big part in my life. She's my mom. And I am going to listen to her decision.
Q. D.J., what about Temple's guard play? If there is any area they think they might have some advantage is it might be their guard, scoring ability, because they're so big.
D.J. GAY: Temple, they do have very big guards and can score in a variety of ways. I think they might try to take advantage of, you know, us smaller guards. You know, me, Chase, and, you know, possibly James. We might see a post up or two. And, you know, we just have to be aware of, you know, their size and them trying to use that to their advantage.
So we're going to have to make adjustments on the fly, and, you know, try to use our quickness around it.
Q. D.J., if Temple tries to make you beat a zone defense by taking shots over them, you certainly can make those shots and have done it in the past, but not got get away from your game as well, make sure you get it inside, too.
D.J. GAY: Like I said before, we're a team that can win a variety of ways. We can win inside and we can win outside. We have players that can knock down shots and we have a very good inside presence.
We're still going to continue to try to attack inside. But we know that our bigs are very good passers. If we find open gaps, you know, that is what we're going to look for and have the opportunity to take and make shots.
Q. Kawhi and D.J., for much of the season you have been ranked in the top ten, at times top five. This is for a spot in the Sweet 16. If you don't win tomorrow, how big of a disappointment will it be to not advance to the Sweet 16?
KAWHI LEONARD: It will be a big disappointment. You know, we want to go all the way to the Final Four and be possible to win the national championship. But we did have a great season so far. And like I'll be, probably, okay with it.
D.J. GAY: As a team we'll be very disappointed if we don't come out with the win. It has been a special season so far. We're not ready for it to end yet. But it's important to embrace the moment and the opportunity that we've been given and try to do whatever it takes to come out with the win.
Q. D.J., two-part question. One, you only have 29 fouls on the year. How is that possible? Then, two, have you seen another team in the last year or so that reminds you of the size that both Temple guards have?
D.J. GAY: I don't know how I've managed to stay out of foul trouble. I think I've only been in foul trouble once. That was guarding Fredette. But I don't know, smart defense or picking and choosing my routes the best I can, I guess.
The closest thing that reminds me to this team we're about to play is probably Tennessee last year. Their starting guard that I went up against was, I think, 6'3" or 6'4", something like that, a very good player. And so playing against somebody bigger is something I've been doing all my life. So I think I'll be able to adjust well on Saturday.
Q. For D.J., the only game many of us have seen you guys play was that CBS college sports game against BYU. And it was at BYU. Tough atmosphere. In what way was that game not indicative of the way your team really is? I'm sure there were a few things.
D.J. GAY: Like you said, it is a tough environment. They played a very good game. And we made adjustments too late in that game. But they were a good team, and they beat us, hands down, at BYU.
But for those people that only saw that game and haven't seen us throughout the season, I think that our wins speak for itself. It's hard for any team to go 33-2 no matter who you are playing. And for us to, you know, get up for every single game and play as hard as we do, I think just looking at our wins says enough.
Q. You guys fly around and up and down the court a lot alley-ooping to each other, getting them from D.J. and Chase. For small guys like me who never got that opportunity, can you describe what it's like to do that. And also, how does it come about? It is out of practice, just knowing each other. How do those alley-oops come about?
BILLY WHITE: We usually just know each other on the court. Chase and D.J. and Kawhi and everybody just knows, you know, that we like to get the ball towards the rim. And it's just chemistry that we know each other. We've been with each other for two years now. So we just know each other. We know what we want to do on the court together.
KAWHI LEONARD: Like Billy said, I think it's the two years that we've been together. The team chemistry. And D.J. and Chase know that me, Malcolm and Bill are very athletic and can run up and down the floor. And they know when to throw the ball up.
And it's a little bit of practice too. We play around at practice, throw each other lobs and have fun.
MALCOLM THOMAS: Like he said, we just like to have fun. If there's a two on one, we just like to use our athleticism and, you know, get the crowd going or something. It's all just fun.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.
COACH FISHER: We're excited that we're still here. And we are very much looking forward to playing a really, really good Temple team on Saturday. I've known Fran Dunphy for a long, long time. He's a good friend and an exceptional coach. I think it will be a terrific game.
Our players are anxious and our coaches are anxious. So I will entertain any questions.
Q. Fran was saying you are a better person than you are a coach. I guess that means you are a good person and a good coach, too. But he also talked about taking his Penn team and winning at Michigan one time.
COACH FISHER: He didn't say that, did he?
COACH FISHER: I think the referees cost us the game. (Laughter.) I do remember that. I don't remember names. But he had guys that were lights out shooting the ball against us and they beat us in our building. And I congratulated him, put my chin to my chest and walked out. He is exactly right. I wish he hadn't said that, but he is exactly right. (Laughter.)
Q. Coach, your players Billy, Kawhi, and Malcolm have been on the receiving ends of lots of alley-oops from each other, from Chase, from D.J. When you talk to them do you encourage them to do things like that? Is that something they come up with on their own? How do those alley-oops that really excite the crowd come about?
COACH FISHER: You make a basketball play. The things that I have talked about is don't do something in a game that I've never seen in practice. So if a basic two-hand chest pass is sufficient, that's what you want to do. But if you are running and you are in front of me and I can put it up and you get a guy as long and athletic as some of them are, then you put it up, and it looks good when it's completed.
So we've got a team that likes to get out and run. You can only do that if you guard and rebound the ball. And we've done a good job of that to allow ourselves to get out and run. I think when we've run, we've run with thoughtfulness. We've run with intelligence. We've run with a purpose.
Q. After looking at your tape, the tape against Temple, what do you think about Lavoy Allen and ways that you can make to stop him tomorrow?
COACH FISHER: First team all-league, three times all-defensive league. He is very, very good. Big strong hands. He's a tough guard. He's not got the accolades for nothing.
So we'll work hard. We'll try to make him catch it where he's a little bit uncomfortable, then hope that he misses shots and try to keep him from getting second and third opportunities.
Q. Coach, how do you explain the way Billy's been playing maybe the last four or five games? What's he doing differently, what's he doing better?
COACH FISHER: Billy has been absolutely sensational for a long stretch where he's had moments like that before. He had, I think, a 30-point-plus game against Gonzaga and he would come back with a lesser performance after that. I think Billy is -- I know Billy has become more active.
If you watch our game from Northern Colorado, Billy several times pursued the ball from long distance and got -- he got seven offensive rebounds. One of the things we talked to him about all season is he was too stationary. He would stand and watch and not allow the athleticism to come into play. But that's not the only thing. I think Billy has found a way to manage his emotions. He's an emotional guy. And that can be a help or hindrance. And he's turned it into a help.
We took him out in the Northern Colorado game. He had a couple of stretches where -- early, where he didn't play particularly well. And he came over shaking his head. And he said, What's wrong with me? I got to get my game together. I got to get my act together. And sat down and did just that. Rather than coming over and saying to somebody, Why is he taking me out? What did I do?
And I think so many things are controlled by, you know, the mental part of your game. So I'm hoping that he keeps it up. Whatever it is, that he is doing. I mean, he's played really, really well for an extended stretch for us now.
Q. Coach, in a perfect world what kind of tempo and pace would you like to see tomorrow in the game? Especially from you guys?
COACH FISHER: Reggie, we're a team that likes to run. And yet, you know, we're not a team that's going to run for 40 minutes. We want to create some turnovers and run off of turnovers. Have you take maybe a little different shot than normal and run off of that.
I think at this level it's too hard to play, to grind it out for 40 minutes at nothing but half-court. That being said, Temple will not allow us to run for 40 minutes. And we won't allow Temple to run. So we're going to need to pick and choose. And then be able to run a half-court offense.
But we would like to have a pace to the game. And what that means for a score, I don't know. I know Temple doesn't give a lot of run-outs and easy baskets and they're hard to score on in half-court. So it will be a challenge for us.
Q. Coach, is there an opponent this year that maybe reminds you of Temple? Or is it maybe a situation where you look in the mirror almost to find a team that mirrors Temple?
COACH FISHER: Hard for me to compare them to anyone else. They're a very good team. They can hurt you in so many different ways. If you extend on them, they're going to drive by you. If you sag off on them, they're going to make three-point shots. They haven't won 26 games against the caliber of competition without having some skill level. And they're very well coached.
You know, they know what they want to do, and they're very, very good at it.
Q. Steve, I think you faced Temple twice in the tournament while you were at Michigan. Is there any particular thing that you remember from those games?
COACH FISHER: We won. (Laughter.) Different coach, different program, so it's different.
We're playing a different team at a different time. So I don't think that will have any impact on what happens on Saturday.
They've got a storied program. One that's been very successful with Fran and before Fran with John Chaney. And they've got a proud tradition. And, you know, they're just like us now, they want to win and advance and get to the Sweet 16.
Q. You appear to have a size advantage in the front court and they appear to have a little bit of a size advantage in the back court. Do you expect Fran on offense to try to exploit that, maybe play inside-out and get his guards down a little bit on you guys?
COACH FISHER: They're a hard guard, you know. Fernandez, when they penetrate off the dribble, they are big. And they have that ability to get in off the bounce and shoot over the top of you. So I'm sure that's what they do against everybody, regardless of their size. So we're going to have to do a good job of trying to keep them in front of us on all the things they do off ball screens, dribble handoffs and all that stuff. And that will be a challenge for us.
And, you know, we -- they got a good front line, too. I mean, we're team that, like most, that likes to throw the ball inside and play off of an inside-out type of a feel. So it will be interesting to see who is able to establish some sort of a rhythm with their offensive game plan.
Q. Coach, obviously, no Aztec team has gotten to this round of the tournament before. But you have as a coach. How much different is that first-round game than the second-round game in terms of intensity or preparation or any of those factors that go in?
COACH FISHER: I don't know that it is much. I think when you go in as the favorite, maybe a heavy favorite, whether you are or not, that is an added type of pressure on you. And probably most people said you are a heavy favorite when we played on Thursday against Northern Colorado. They are a very good team. We knew that. And sometimes when you are supposed to win and you look up and it's close, you get a little -- that can add to the tension that you feel.
We're going against a team that is every bit as good as we are that's going to expect to win. And I don't think that either side would say, Boy, how could they win, or how could they lose, when the outcome happens on Saturday. Whether that has any impact on playing a little more relaxed, making shots, playing better, I don't know.
For us, we took a deep breath. I don't think we were overly tight when we started the game. But well documented we hadn't won a game. But we've had a lot of games like the one we had on Thursday with Northern Colorado where it's, like, back and forth and back and forth and then we get a spurt and are able to get a little bit of a lead. So that game for us was not unlike a lot that we've played this season.
Q. Coach, do you think despite the fact that you are ranked in the top ten, it's the round of 32 at the NCAA tournament, that you are a second seed, you still can sneak up on some people who haven't really seen you much so far this year?
COACH FISHER: Only on fans. But not on the teams that we're playing. They know we're good. They know we're good. And they have the same type of film sessions we do and showing things that our guys are doing that their players with respect are saying, We got to make sure we do this against that. So, no, I do not. I don't think so.
Q. Steve, from what you saw yesterday and on film, what kind of problems does Fernandez create for you guys?
COACH FISHER: He's extremely intelligent, very gifted with the ball, a great passer when you have -- when he forces you to help. He's got the size to be able to both pass and shoot over you when he gets into those areas. Obviously, he had 17 first-half points, then he had the leaner, wiggle basket that won the game for them.
I read about the knee problem that he had in January that cost him to miss a few games. He's very, very good, very smart, and obviously right now probably playing with great confidence.
Q. Coach, the team has been ranked in the top five and in the top ten for most of the season. Would it be a big disappointment if you did not advance to the Sweet 16?
COACH FISHER: Absolutely. And it will be for Temple. Any time right now that you lose, you're crestfallen, you are devastated. And that is the way it should be. That's why so many people are engaged, involved and interested to see what happens.
This is a wonderful game that we have the privilege to be a part of. And if you are in that winning locker room, there's no feeling like it. And if you are in that other locker room, you can play just as good and come up one point short, and you are 180 in terms of your emotions and your feelings. So at this stage when you lose, it's devastating.
We want to win. We want to win. We want to win because we want to continue to play in the pursuit of moving on and doing what everybody aspires to when you close your eyes as a little guy and dream about what you hope to accomplish.
THE MODERATOR: All right, coach. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports