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March 10, 2012

Steve Alford

Drew Gordon

Tony Snell


New Mexico – 68
San Diego State – 59

THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by New Mexico.
Coach, if we could start with you, your remarks about today's game.
COACH ALFORD:  Well, obviously very pleased.  Our guys have been playing good basketball all season.  We've been a very consistent team.  Today was no different.  I thought this week we played outstanding basketball.  We had an emotional week last week.  Cut down nets last Saturday in sharing the league championship that we're awfully proud of.
Now to come here and play the way we did for three days is a remarkable feat for our young men.  I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys.  I've said it all year long, I think they've gone underappreciated.  Much has been asked of them.  Now they sit at the end of season three here getting ready for the NCAA tournament next week at 27‑6, league, tournament champ.  They've done unbelievable things this year and I'm very proud of them.
Everything that they've earned thus far they've definitely deserved.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll now take questions for our student‑athletes.

Q.  Tony, start of the game you hit some big shots.  Was there something opening up or one of those nights you felt it out there?
TONY SNELL:  I felt pretty good shooting the ball, so I figured just keep shooting.

Q.  Coach Fisher said he recruited you.  They have some pretty good D on you?
TONY SNELL:  They had really good D on me.  Hard to fight off the screens.  I tried to push my way through, be physical with them, try to get open.

Q.  Can you talk about winning the Mountain West tournament MVP award and if that makes up for things that happened in the regular season?
DREW GORDON:  Well, won one out of two, so it's not bad.  I've been saying this whole time that we need to end up on top, be able to look back and kind of laugh at some of the honors that weren't awarded to our team, especially on the defensive end, some of the six men.  I know our bench has been huge this whole season and especially in the tournament.

Q.  Considering a regular‑season championship and now this, do you consider yourselves by far the best unranked team in the country?
TONY SNELL:  Drew (smiling)?
DREW GORDON:  Uhm, I mean, I'd say yeah just for the simple fact that, you know, we stick together.  You know, some of the stuff we've been able to accomplish through this tournament has been huge for us.  We were ranked earlier in the season and lost two straight after that.  We've been flirting with the rankings for quite some time now.  Hopefully this will help us out a little bit and boost our stock and our ratings.

Q.  Tony, how good does it feel to get the co‑champions off of your title and just champions now with this one?
TONY SNELL:  It feels great.  Can't even explain how it feels right now.  Like a dream come true.  Like we've been starting from the beginning of the season, we had our ups and downs, but we stuck together.  We fought through it.

Q.  Drew, after these accomplishments, will the chip remain on your shoulder going forward or is it coming off?
DREW GORDON:  No, it's not coming off.  We've got stuff to accomplish.  The season's not over.  Games are still being played.  You know, we still have another go at another championship.
So, you know, in my eyes it's still there and bigger than ever.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll dismiss the student‑athletes at this time and continue with questions for Coach Alford.

Q.  Was that a set play you ran for Tony right off the bat?
COACH ALFORD:  It had nothing to do with the first two games.  But Tony's obviously one of our go‑to guys.  We always have (indiscernible) up if we get the tip.  We get a lot of tips.  We actually wanted to go to A.J. if we got the tip.  They did a good job defending it.  Ran that for Tony, and Tony did a very good job of getting the shot, making the shot.  He made a couple early.  Really got him going.  I think it got us out of the gate pretty good.

Q.  Do you have any thoughts on where you think you should be seeded?  No.4, No.5?
COACH ALFORD:  That's hard.  You know, we're obviously hoping we get four, four bids.  Our league is deserving of four bids.  You play the tournament for seeding in the NCAA tournament.  We're the automatic qualifier.  We had the best record in the league.  We obviously feel like we deserve the best seed.
Doesn't mean one of the other teams can't have an equal seed, but we're definitely deserving of the best seed that's handed out to the Mountain West Conference.  Hopefully that takes place tomorrow.

Q.  There was a 15‑minute stretch where you held Jamaal Franklin without a point.  What were you doing to shut him down on defense?
COACH ALFORD:  I think through three games we've done a nice job on him.  He's a very talented player.  He's gotten more aggressive as the year has gone along.  He does a lot for them, scoring, rebounding the basketball.  I think if you look at our three games we had with SanDiego State, we did a pretty good job.  We made him earn his stuff.  Tonight we made him earn his stuff.  6‑14.  Kept him off the line.  He's a load.  He's a good player.  This is an outstanding team.
To play the two teams we had to play back to back, and an Air Force team that was loose, getting better and better, we're ecstatic about the quality of basketball we played over the last three days.

Q.  One of the guys that gets lost is Phillip McDonald.  In the first half he made three or four crucial plays.
COACH ALFORD:  Our bench has been terrific all year long.  Our bench has been outstanding.  We won the bench again tonight 22‑12.  I would venture to say over a 33‑game schedule we might have lost the bench three times all year.
Tremendous strength of ours has been the bench.  Phillip has been struggling.  I thought tonight he got back to the old Phillip.  I thought he was aggressive.  He defended really well.  He rebounded really well.  He got off good shots, made good shots.
Then I thought Demetrius, though he didn't shoot well, made big free throws for us.  Got huge rebounds in the last two and a half minutes.
I think the guy that might have did as much for us off the bench for us in this tournament was Cam.  I thought defensively how he shot the ball, how he rebounded, screened, I thought he just had a terrific tournament.

Q.  Kendall was a bit frustrated getting in early foul trouble.  He responded well today.
COACH ALFORD:  I think that is what Kendall is capable of doing.  But our team, to play UNLV last night, not have Kendall really for the most part of the entire first half speaks volumes again of our bench.
I think the neat thing about this team, there's always been somebody to pick somebody up.  We've talked about holding the rope all year long.  These guys have done a great job of holding the rope for each other.  They trust each other.  They believe in one another.  So I think when somebody goes down or is having a bad game, other guys can pick it up.
Then I thought Kendall tonight did a lot of good things for us.  We're asking a lot of him defensively.  Again, another kid that's underappreciated, because I think he's a terrific defender.  He did a really nice job defensively tonight.  He had Thames a lot of the night.  That was an adjustment we made in game 2.  Game1 he didn't guard Thames, Games 2 and 3 he guarded Thames.
I think if you look at Thames' numbers in games two and three, you'll see what kind of quality defender Kendall Williams is.

Q.  Greenwood had 10 boards.  How big a plus is that?
COACH ALFORD:  He's a big, physical guard.  He really takes a lot of pride in rebounding the basketball.  His shooting has continued to get better and better.  I think as the years go by, you'll see him taking more and more shots as he gets comfortable with things.
He's such an unselfish player.  I wouldn't trade that freshman for anybody in the league.  He's been the starting point guard on a team that's been 27‑6, won two titles.  He's averaged about six rebounds a game for us.  So he's just done a lot of good things for us.
For a freshman, he does some unbelievable things on the defensive end.

Q.  Do you have a prediction for the El Dorado/La Cueva game?
COACH ALFORD:  It's obviously very stressful for Coach Neal and I, that's for sure.  We're grateful we beat UNLV because this is one game we don't want to be at for many reasons.  One, to win a championship here, and two, that's a tough one to watch.  Obviously Coach Neal and I are very close, our families are very close.  Kellen and Bryce have grown up playing.  So that's a tough one.  Two outstanding players having remarkable junior years, and their teams have done very, very well.
It makes for a great championship game tonight.  It's in the Pit, so that's a lot of fun.  We'll leave the families back to deal with that stress and we'll just get text messages on how things are going.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, coach.
COACH ALFORD:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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