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March 7, 2014

Jarmar Gulley

Paul Lusk

Keith Pickens

Austin Ruder


Missouri State – 53
Illinois State – 48

THE MODERATOR:  The victorious Bears are here.  They have a date tomorrow with the Number 1 seed Wichita State Shockers.  We're going to ask Paul Lusk, the head coach, to start off with a statement on the game.
COACH LUSK:  Both teams struggled offensively, but we found a way to win the game.  Shot 32 percent from the field, 35 from three, and 52 from the line.  We were really poor from the line.  But our guys didn't cave in, even when they took the lead, and we found a way to win the game.  That's all that matters.
I thought our guys really battled.  We were good on the glass.  Obviously, Austin made some big shots.  I thought Devon did some really good things.  Pick and Jarmar weren't great offensively, but they were unbelievable on the glass.  So it was a great team effort.  We're excited to come back tomorrow.

Q.  Austin, you're a guy who doesn't get too excited about situations, but talk about the atmosphere today and the way you're shooting it with confidence when the game was on the line.
AUSTIN RUDER:  It was a great atmosphere definitely, being my first time here.  Hitting shots felt good.  I shot the second one that I made, it felt really good, and I thought it was going to be a pretty good night.  I kept putting them up.  My teammates kept telling me to put them up.  So it was a good feeling.

Q.  Austin, if you could specifically talk about that last three‑pointer, the one with 2:04 left that gave your team the lead.  And also for Pickens, if you could talk about the tip‑in.
AUSTIN RUDER:  It was just I got a good pass.  The man over helped a little bit.  He had a pretty good close‑out on me.  I had to put a little more arch than I usually do on it, and I just got it to go.
KEITH PICKENS:  When you tip‑in, I was scratching the boards the whole game.  I missed a few close layups, and Kirk told me to just keep attacking the class.  The last one rolled off, and I got my fingertips on it and got it up to the backboard, and it rolled in for me.  So it was a good feeling.

Q.  Keith, you almost didn't come back this year, and then I know you had some injuries along the way this year.  Can you just talk about what the year was like battling through.  And then is it all worth it on a day like this?
KEITH PICKENS:  Oh, yeah, definitely a tough year, obviously, when you have to go through injuries and you can't play every game or practice like you want to.  When you get into a situation like this, it's all worth it.  You just live to fight another day.  It's a good feeling to be out here and competing with my teammates in one of the highest levels of the college tournament.  You can't have a better feeling.

Q.  Jarmar, did they take away the inside on you a little bit that you were able to exploit on them earlier?  Do you think that maybe opened it up a little bit for Austin on the outside?
JARMAR GULLEY:  They were leaving a man in the middle where we usually flash in.  So the corners were open.  Me and Pick, we got together, and we just started screening the outside of the zone.  Rudy was lucky enough to hit the big shots.

Q.  Keith, I know you've seen Austin do this before.  For a young guy on this sort of a stage, how impressed are you to describe his play today?
KEITH PICKENS:  It was big time.  Any time you can get Rudy going, you just want to find ways to keep feeding him.  I think that's what we did.  We got him in good situations to make shots, and he did what he does best, and he knocked them down.  His confidence continues to rise.  He'll continue to do it.  So it was a good feeling.

Q.  For any of you three, thoughts on getting another shot at Wichita State and what you remember maybe about the first two meetings.
AUSTIN RUDER:  We played them at home, and we competed really hard, just didn't get the job done.  And then we went up to their place and just kind of crumbled.
Looking to come out tomorrow, play hard, and give our best effort.
JARMAR GULLEY:  I think we just need to go out tomorrow and just play Missouri State basketball and play our hardest, and things will be great for us.
KEITH PICKENS:  Definitely exciting.  Obviously, I didn't get to play in the first contest.  We went down to Wichita last weekend, I believe, and we didn't do the things we needed to do to execute to be in the game.  So any time you can play a team like this at that caliber, second in the country, you just have to be excited and give your best effort.

Q.  Keith and Jarmar, this is win number 20.  Talk about a year ago, 11‑22 until now.  What kind of accomplishment is that for the team?
AUSTIN RUDER:  It's a great feeling.  You can look around the country and not many teams have 20 minutes.  Any time you can get to that level, it's big time, and it's great for the team.  Hasn't gone the way we wanted to with injuries.  20 wins is big time, it's a good feeling.
JARMAR GULLEY:  I think getting more than 20 wins or getting to 20 wins is one of the team goals.  I think we reached it.  We've just got to get better and be ready to come out tomorrow and play.
THE MODERATOR:  All right, gentlemen, thank you for your time.  Congratulations on the victory.  We'll stay here with Coach Lusk.

Q.  Paul, the way they couldn't put them away and kept coming back.  I think you called that time‑out to settle things down before Austin made that shot.  What's your thoughts there?
COACH LUSK:  I thought we did a nice job of guarding them, and they clearly did a nice job of guarding us.  We guarded a little bit better.  Zach Lofton is a guy that sometimes it's feast or famine, and I think Dan would tell you the same thing.  When he gets it going, you can't do a whole lot with him.  Some of those shots, if they don't go in, it changes.
Well, we got the ten‑point lead, and he went on a really big run.  Then I think we got it up to ten again, and he did the same thing.  So give him credit.
But proud of our guys.  When they stole the ball from Dorrian there with about four minutes left, it reminded me of the two plays over in Bloomington a couple of weeks ago, but we kept it together, and we found a way to win it.  It's good to win here and still be alive.
We'll have to get our guys rested up because we'll have a huge challenge tomorrow.  They've had a perfect season.  32 times the opponent has tried to beat them, and they've been very unsuccessful.  So we'll see what we can do tomorrow.

Q.  Paul, talk about Devon's play today and then also how you've seen him mature this year.
COACH LUSK:  Really, he's going to be a very good player for us.  I thought about starting him, but if I were to start him, I would have had four guys out there in Devon Thomas, Dorrian Williams, Tyler McCullough, and Austin Ruder that never played in a conference tournament.  And I just didn't do it.  Wanted to go with Pick and Gulley because they've been here before.
Devon is going to be a really good player for us.  I thought he changed the game and did some really good things.  He has that breakdown ability.  He's not afraid of the moment, even at Wichita last week, and they absolutely handled us.  He was the one guy out there that was trying to lead and be a point guard.  So I think he's got a very bright future.

Q.  Just kind of a brief overview of what you need to do tomorrow against Wichita State.
COACH LUSK:  Well, what we needed to do was win today to get the opportunity.  Now it's just another opportunity.
They've handled us.  They could have named the score a week ago.  So we're going to have to try to guard them.  You've got to be smart when you drive the basketball.  They're so good at the rim.  I watched a little bit of the Evansville game today.  They had a million blocked shots.
They're just really good.  They don't beat themselves either.  If you're going to have a chance, you've got to‑‑ you've got to match their toughness, and then you also got to match their wits because they're a smart basketball team.
It will be a monumental challenge, but it's one that we're looking forward to.

Q.  Paul, you talked a little bit about Austin.  A lot of times, especially the first time on this big stage, guys get a little nervous.  Why was he able to just kind of put all that out of his mind?
COACH LUSK:  Just when I recruited him, I just‑‑ he's got that "it."  He doesn't‑‑ he's not afraid of the moment.  He's done it all year for us.  And I think he'll continue to get better and work on areas in his game, there's no doubt about it.
But he just never seems to be afraid of the big stage, and he's had some very big moments for us this year.  And then especially when Marcus went down because I think he complements Marcus well, and I think Marcus will make his job easier as well to have another perimeter guy out there.
But really an unbelievable effort for a freshman.  It's a heck of an effort from a freshman on that stage.
And then like I said, I thought Devon Thomas was really good for a freshman.  The guy that's not getting talked about a lot was Christian Kirk.  I thought he had a very good day.  He had six points and five rebounds, three blocked shots.
Ron came in and did some good things.  Ron really rebounded, but he struggled to make a shot.  We're going to need all those parts if we're going to continue to play in March.  Everybody's got to step up at different times.

Q.  Coach, what's the importance of this win for your program?
COACH LUSK:  Well, I mean, we're‑‑ we've come a long way.  And it's been a slow process.  We're certainly not where we need to be.
But I'll go back to talking about those first two high school classes we've taken.  Obviously, Marcus is out of the mix, but this next high school class with Tyler, Devon, and Austin, those guys are going to be the core of what we're trying to do moving forward.
Pleased with our guys.  They could have hung their head all year with some of the injuries.  Pick's been gone a lot.  Obviously, Marcus was hurt, came back and got hurt.  I think we're moving forward.
We're certainly not where we need to be.  Guys need to continue to get better, but very pleased with this season and with where we're at.  It's been a big jump from last year.  Felt like last year was going to take some time, there's no doubt about it, playing all those young guys, and then with Jarmar going out.
I think we're headed in the right direction, but we've still got a lot of work to do.
THE MODERATOR:  Paul, thanks very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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