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March 16, 2013

Steve Alford

Cameron Bairstow

Tony Snell


New Mexico – 63
UNLV – 56

THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by New Mexico.  Coach, your comments on tonight's game.
COACH ALFORD:  I'm just explaining to my Aussie what All Tournament means (laughter).
It's just been a really special team.  It's been a team that's been together.  We talked about it again in the locker room just minutes ago about how you start a season down 16, that doesn't happen very often.  We're not down 16 very often in the Pit in the second half and come back and win.  They have just been battling their tails off all year long.
To go 13‑2 with the toughest non‑league schedule in school history, to go through arguably the toughest conference that our school has ever been a part of, whether it's been the WAC or the Mountain West or whatever conference we've been in in the past, arguably this has been the toughest league ever.
To win that by two games, then come here and win three games against three really good opponents, no upsets, we're playing the best of the best in this tournament three days and four days.  To win this is just a very special feeling.
This group of young men, they understand it.  They get it.  They're very coachable.  I really appreciate their efforts and they're very deserving of this.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll now take questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.  Tony, last March you stepped up in the Mountain West tournament.  Last four games you've hit 24 out of your last 43 points.  What is it about this time of year that has you playing better than at any point in the rest of the season?
TONY SNELL:  I just have more confidence now.  My teammates always encourage me to keep shooting the ball whenever I miss it.  My confidence definitely went up.

Q.  Cam, you and Alex were kind of battling really hard down low.  It seemed to open up the guard play a lot.  Talk a little bit about just that battle inside.
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:  I just think UNLV did a great job defensively, especially Thomas.  He did a great job bodying us up.
While we didn't have a great night, it was just one of those nights even when we're not playing well the guards managed to pick it up just like they have all season.

Q.  NCAA tournament is the next step here.  Where do you think this team deserves to be seeded?  Where do you think this team needs to go for this season to still be a success?
TONY SNELL:  I think we deserve a 2 seed or higher 'cause we definitely proved ourselves all year.  That's what I think.
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:  Yeah, I think definitely a top 2 seed with the schedule we've played, how we've performed, especially down the stretch.  I think we need to be up there.
As I said, as Coach already said to us, the first three seasons have already been successful, so it's just up to us to continue it into season four.

Q.  Tony, does it say a lot for the balance on this team when you have the conference Player of the Year who is not sitting up here, but you have the player of the tournament and first team player?
TONY SNELL:  It definitely shows how unselfish we are because the Player of the Year, just try to move the ball around.  We definitely unselfish for each other.  We like to see each other get going and make buckets.

Q.  You came in, the odds makers didn't have you as the favorite.  What does it say about this team that you are able to take all that negativity, the naysayers, that you're able to take that and turn it into the positive?
TONY SNELL:  We knew we've always been the underdog.  That's what I love about this team.  We underdogs, but we still like to go out and prove people wrong, that we're good enough to win championships.
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:  As Tony said, we've always played with that chip on our shoulder.  We don't get a lot of national recognition.  That's fine with us.  We just try to go out every game and try to prove ourselves.

Q.  Tony, Coach Rice said UNLV made a number of mistakes defensively.  What did you see out of their defense in the second half?
TONY SNELL:  They kept trying to stay close on me.  I tried to stop and give a little bump to give me some space to run off the screens.  I tried to cut hard and tried to get open.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll continue with questions for Coach Rice.

Q.  I know you've talked about this all season, but now that you've done it in the tournament, Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk, neither one of them make all tournament team, Hugh gets off for a little while, Tony does what he does in the tournament, the balance of this team, have you ever had anything quite like what you have in this starting five?
COACH ALFORD:  It's a special team.  I've said it.  I thought Vegas did a really good job of banging and battling our inside guys.  All that effort then freed up some things for our guards.  I think that's why we're hard to guard.  We got a great backcourt and front court.
I've said it, we'll put our starting five up against anybody.  I think we have an outstanding starting five that is experienced, they're talented.  They understand winning.  They understand the ebb and flow of a game, the importance of D stops, coming out of timeouts, getting to the free‑throw line.  Whatever it may be, they have a really good understanding of that.
To win four in a row, this is four in a row, and arguably the last two years have been the most difficult this league has been.  We've either got a piece of the championship or in three of them outright championships.  To get four in a row in this league with a lot of the same guys in this locker room, that's a lot of fun.
Then to think about that entire starting five's back, pretty excited about the future.

Q.  Your players have already said where they think you should be seeded.  Are you going to do a little lobbying now?
COACH ALFORD:  I hope our league gets the respect it needs to have.  Our league has been building momentum over the last three or four years.  I think you're seeing our seedings get better, getting more teams in the national tournament.
Now our league is an RPI either 1 or 2, it varies.  We've been either the best or second best league in the country really from January on.  You need to be rewarded that way.  That's why I think we deserve five teams.
I don't think Boise should be a bubble team.  Boise should be in the NCAA tournament.  Their body of work is good enough.  What they did out of conference was good enough.  Then in conference, if you look at what they did when they were healthy versus when they had some injuries, they were definitely the fifth best team in our league.  Our league deserves that.
Then you look at seeding, and our league should be deserving of seeding.  You start right with us.  Win 29 games.  Our schedule of strength, our season is over, is going to be probably 3 or 4 now that we've played Wyoming, SanDiego State and this really is a road game when it goes to looking at the schedule, it ends up being another road win for us.  We get a road win, play UNLV again.  Our schedule of strength has to be 2 or 3 when we leave here tomorrow morning.  Our RPI is 1 or 2.
Duke lost, we won three in a row.  Our RPI, if it does change, it's going to change from 2 to 1.
These guys have been extremely consistent and now we will finish the year regardless of what happens of being a team that never lost two games in a row.  That's phenomenal.  To go through our schedule, to go through this league, never lose two games in a row, have a losing streak, what these young men have done is amazing.
We don't know what our seed is going to be, but we know we're deserving of a very good seed.

Q.  Does that include a No.1 seed?
COACH ALFORD:  I think you got to be in the talks.  I have no idea what is going to happen tonight or tomorrow.  I know there's been some upsets.  There's talks of teams being No.1 seeds that haven't won the league and the league tournament.
We haven't won the 10th best league, the 10th best tournament, we've won the No.1 or No. 2 league in the country by two games.  We've won the conference tournament as well.
That's deserving of at least being in a lot of discussions for those seeds.

Q.  Back to the early portion of this game.  Bennett came out on fire.  He scored their first 11 and I believe 13 of their first 15 point, then at the end of the game he ends up two more points the rest of the way.  What did you do differently?
COACH ALFORD:  There was no adjustment.  That wasn't coaching.  That's who our team is.  That's a great credit to our players.  One of the reasons why I think Cam was up here as an all‑tournament selection isn't just what he did offensively.  O'Brien last night gets no points, no rebounds, that was Cam.
Tonight, you're right, Bennett is extremely talented, he scored 13 of their first 14 points, and he finishes with 15.  The last 32 minutes of the game, he gets one basket.  That's Cam.
Chad had a lot to do with it as well.  I thought Chad had a good tournament for us off the bench.  He worked hard, did a lot of good things for us coming off the bench.  With that said, Cam had a lot of that on him.  He had a great defensive tournament.

Q.  Got to ask you about the net.  I don't think I've ever seen a coach wear a net before.  I think you've started a fashion trend among your fans.
COACH ALFORD:  Fans like it.  It's like my red blazer.  I haven't worn a red blazer before either.  It's not like they're a fashion statement.  I know our fans like it.  I try to do a lot of the things that our fans like because we have the best fans in the country.  I've said that.  I've been very fortunate and blessed to be the coach here for six years now.
I say it every year:  we have the best fans, not just because they come out in volume, but then they have volume when they're here.  They travel well.  Whether we're at home or we come to this tournament.  You introduced UNLV, this is their home, you introduced UNM tonight, I'd have to give a serious nod to the UNM fans.  That's pretty impressive.
When you look around the country, I don't care if you're talking about the Big 12 or the PAC‑12 down the street, the SEC, these fans will rival any fans in the country.
Our team and our staff really appreciates what our fans do because they have a tremendous amount to do with our success.

Q.  You've talked all year about intangible stuff.  Tonight it seemed like that was really the key.  Talk about your team's effort off the stat sheet.
COACH ALFORD:  Hugh is one of those guys that doesn't get the respect he deserves.  He can beat you in so many ways.  They did a really good job of trying to jump hard to the ball to our cutters, mainly Tony and Kendall, and leave Hugh.  Hugh bangs down three threes tonight.  He hasn't had too many games all year where he's made three threes.
I've said this for two years.  If you look at his record as our starting point guard, it's phenomenal.  He can beat you by making shots, board play.  Seven rebounds tonight, I think 9 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists.  He doesn't turn the ball over.  We ask him to guard the best guard every night.  We ask him to do a lot every night.  He finds a way to do it.
As he said on the stage, Coach, we find ways to win.  That's right.  That's who Hugh is.  He's a very unselfish kid and he's extremely tough.  He's as tough as anybody in our team and we feed off that toughness.

Q.  In the beginning of the season you talked about Tony Snell stepping up to a leadership role.  That's not who he is, to be more vocal.  I don't know that that necessarily happened.  Have you given up on trying to get him be a vocal leader and let him do his thing?
COACH ALFORD:  We may say we want him to talk more.  I've never been about changing kids' personalities.  We want our young men to be who they are.  But he's doing a good job in leadership.  I'll tell you why.  He's developed defensively.
So now all these guys, whether they're the starters or the bench guys or guys that are playing a lesser role, they get to watch Tony Snell.  Everybody sees him shoot, everybody wants him to shoot more and score more, but now they see a guy that is really committed to the defensive end.  The defensive end is the unselfish end.
I think seeing his development there has given Tony confidence.  Now he's doing more offensively because I think where he's built his confidence at the defensive end.
All these guys lead in their different ways.  Kendall is more vocal than Tony.  Tony leads a little bit different, but still has done a very good job for us in leadership.

Q.  You've done this NCAA tournament a lot as a player and a coach.  The prep time, differences between this time of year and the regular season when you might have a break?
COACH ALFORD:  We got to do a good job.  It's fun being an afternoon game.  We celebrate tonight.  We have a lot of family members here.  We don't let them see them much because it is a business trip for us until it's over.
So tonight we'll get to celebrate this.  Season three is over for us.  We've had an incredible run.  It's been an unbelievably successful season.
We've got high hopes.  Dreams of season four.  Hopefully things will go well.  If it doesn't, it's not going to tarnish our season any.  It's just the next step, trying to get the program to that next step.
So we'll have a lot of fun tomorrow.  Tomorrow is Selection Sunday.  CBS is in our building.  We'll have CBS, a big part of the Pit.  We'll have a large crowd at the Pit.  A large contingent waiting for us at the airport, follow us to the Pit, we'll have fun with Selection Sunday.
Coaches will work through the night of getting tape and preparing scouting report, then we'll meet on Monday.  Probably won't do a whole lot on Monday.  Then it depends on whether we're a Thursday‑Saturday, Friday‑Sunday type of thing in the NCAA tournament.  I think our guys will have enough prep time, enough time to get rest.
We look at it as we played at Air Force on Saturday, flew here Monday.  This has been a long week of travel.  It's never easy being somewhere for six days.
But when you win a championship, it makes it all worth it.  I think we'll have enough time to get ready for the NCAA tournament.
We're healthy.  We came out of this tournament healthy.  We came into it healthy and we're going to leave healthy.  That's a big deal.

Q.  Second half it didn't seem like UNLV had two or three attempts inside the paint.  Talk about how you accomplished that?
COACH ALFORD:  I hope so.  The NCAA tournament is about matchups.  It's about seeds and it's about matchups.  I've been on both ends of it.
You got to get fortunate.  That's why we hope we get a good seed.  We hope the matchups are good.  I think Coach Fisher was talking about matchups last night.  They're not a team that I think matches up right now well big‑big.  It's why we present some problems.
But if all of a sudden we're matched up with a quick four‑guard lineup, how does that affect us?  We played a lot of styles, but there are matchups that are better than others.
This league has prepared us for that.  We've seen everything out of this league, maybe other than a lot of zone.  That's maybe the one thing we haven't seen that.  This league is a tenacious man‑to‑man league.  If we get matched up with Syracuse or something.
We're prepared, healthy, confident, playing our best basketball of the year.  I don't know what that is.  It's 9 out of 10, 10 out of 11.  With the only loss being a last‑second shot on the road.
We're undefeated.  Neutral site, 5‑0.  We've got a great road record.  So this team is prepared.  Now we just have to hope we can continue to play well.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.
COACH ALFORD:  Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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