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March 6, 2014

Jarmar Gulley

Paul Lusk

Keith Pickens

Nathan Scheer


THE MODERATOR:  The Missouri State Bears are up next.  They play Illinois State next Friday.  Keith Pickens, Nathan Scheer and Jarmar Gulley are up here.
COACH LUSK:  Excited to be here.  The Valley tournament is a topnotch, high‑level tournament.  It's first class in every way.  We're excited to be here.  We're excited to play Illinois State.  We have a lot of respect for them.  Dan's done a good job with that team.
Two very close games, they actually could have beaten us twice, but we were able to come back and win at our place.  But we expect the same thing, very tough game.

Q.  Jarmar, what does it mean to you to be at the tournament healthy after having to sit out last year with a knee injury?
JARMAR GULLEY:  It's a real good thing.  Last year I sat out.  To actually be here to play, it's a real blessing.  So I'm just ready to play.

Q.  Keith, could you talk about when Marcus went down for the season, what you guys kind of had to do as a team just to kind of rally the troops a little bit.
KEITH PICKENS:  The thing about losing a player like Marcus obviously hurts any team.  As a team, we collectively came together.  It's a process.  I think we, as the season went on, we realized we weren't getting Marcus back.  We just had to come together as a team more and work harder and try to make up for what Marcus brought to the team.
Obviously, that's not easy what he does.  I think we're doing a good job, and we'll continue to push through this tournament.

Q.  Coach, if you would just give a brief overview of what will be key for your team tomorrow against Illinois State.
COACH LUSK:  I think Illinois State is maybe on the perimeter the most athletic team from a quickness standpoint and just a lateral movement standpoint.  They're really quick, and they're feisty on both ends.  So their quickness and their speed bothers you when they're on defense.  They do a great job of harassing you.
They're very good in their full court press as well as their zone.
And then on the other end, they really space you out.  They play small ball with the big kid in the middle.  Their quickness and ability to drive the basketball gives them advantage a lot of times.  So we're going to have to keep them in front of us.  Over there, it's amazing that we were probably still in the game.  We turned it over 21 times.  If we're going to give ourselves a chance, we can't do that.
All that being said, 21 turnovers and we had a chance to take the lead at about the three‑minute mark.  And I think they probably‑‑ they're very similar to an Indiana State or a Wichita State.  When you take a bad shot or you have a turnover, they have a very high conversion rate.  They take that turnover, your mistake, and turn it into a positive for them.
So we're going to have to take care of the basketball and get good shots.

Q.  Keith, you probably didn't think you'd be playing back in this tournament after last season.  What does it mean to be back here in your hometown the final time?  And could you maybe chronicle how the season has gone?  Obviously, you still had problems with the injuries.
KEITH PICKENS:  It's been up and downs, but I kept with it mentally, and my teammates have been there for me to help me push through the season, and they always have my back.  Obviously, coaching staff has my back too with that.
Playing in this conference tournament, again, is a great opportunity, such a big‑time tournament.  Like I tried to tell the guys, man, this is just a great experience.  We have to take advantage of it.  It's a blessing to be in a situation any time you can compete at the highest level and then play in front of your hometown.
It's a great feeling, and I'm just ready to go out and play.

Q.  Paul, could you talk about having Keith back this season and what it meant to the team.
COACH LUSK:  It's really an amazing story.  He's an amazing individual.  I have a ton of respect for him, as do all these other guys.  They respect him so much because you see what the young man has gone through on a daily basis.
This will be finishing my third year here, and there's never been one time since I've been here that he's been healthy, never.  And obviously, it got to the point last year to where he just didn't think he could go anymore.
Fortunately for us and for him, he decided to come back, and he's had his ups and downs this year.  Hurt his knee in the fourth game of the year, missed an extended time, came back and got out of the gates after Christmas to really playing good basketball against C. Mo and Illinois State, and then the stress fracture.  And he's dealt with that all year.
It's tough, but he's tough.  Any time he's on the court, it affects winning, and he helps us.  Proud of Nate, proud of Jarmar.  These seniors have done a great job for us.  Once again, Nate made the All‑Academic team, and that's really positive.  They all three have their degrees.
So they've been a very good group.  But getting back to Pick, his story is really unbelievable the way he's had to deal with things.  He doesn't get to practice.  He walks around in a boot.  But when he's out there, he helps us.

Q.  Coach, for you and any of your players who'd care to comment, what, if any, value does playing the top seed in this tournament, an undefeated team, as well as you all did in this season initially?  Or is that so long ago, circumstances so different, it carries no relevance here?
COACH LUSK:  I just think that game is long gone.  We were a different team.  They were a different team.  If we're fortunate enough to advance‑‑ and that's what everyone is trying to do‑‑ and they're fortunate enough to advance because nothing is for certain.  Wake Forest proved that last night.  And you do get another shot at them, we'd probably look at the most recent game we played.
We haven't even talked about that with Wichita State because we have a lot of respect for Illinois State, and we know we'll have our hands full.
NATHAN SCHEER:  I think Coach pretty well summed it up.  We haven't looked forward to Saturday at all.  We're focused on tomorrow against Illinois State.  We don't have any games guaranteed.  That's what we're really trying to focus on.
JARMAR GULLEY:  Same thing as Coach said.  We've got to be ready for the next game, and that's Illinois State.  Hopefully, we can get out of that, and then we can talk about Wichita State.
THE MODERATOR:  Anything else for the Bears of Missouri State?  Gentlemen, thank you very much.

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