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March 7, 2014

Bobby Hunter

Zach Lofton

Dan Muller


Missouri State – 53
Illinois State – 48

THE MODERATOR:  Illinois State Redbirds are with us.  Bobby Hunter, Zach Lofton are the student‑athletes.  Coach Dan Muller is here.
COACH MULLER:  First of all, congratulations to Paul Lusk and his team to moving on.  We picked a bad night to have our worst offensive night of the year, clearly in the first half.  It would be an understatement to say we played poorly offensively, other than Zach.  He was terrific all game.
But other than him, missing free throws, missing shots, guys uncharacteristically turning the ball over really hurt us.  We came back.  We took the lead, but Ruder made just a couple too many threes for us.

Q.  Zach, could you just kind of talk about, especially in the first half, your mindset.  Could you see your teammates were struggling?  Did you kind of feel like you guys needed something to kind of pick it up, come in and kind of make some shots actually?
ZACH LOFTON:  Yeah, a little bit.  But as we have this season, we started off a little slow and then picked it up.  I just‑‑ my mindset was coming in to help my team to win anyway.

Q.  Bobby, would it be fair to say you guys were nervous, tight in that first half?
BOBBY HUNTER:  Yeah, that's fair to say.  This is pretty much all of our guys', besides two players, first MVC tournament game.  We were tight and a little nervous, and once we kind of got out of it, we started playing well.  Zach was making some shots.  We were attacking, got some stills, and we fought ourselves back into the game.
Like Coach said, Ruder hit too many threes, and it's hard to bounce back once he hit those two from 25, 28 feet.

Q.  Bobby, we talk about 50‑50 balls a lot.  It seemed like they got more 50‑50 balls tonight.  What was the reasoning behind that‑‑ what happened there?  Did they just not fight you for a lot of those?
BOBBY HUNTER:  Some of them, yeah, they out fought us.  Some of them, we were just lackadaisical going towards the ball.  Some we had right in our hands, let it slip, and they were the first to dive on it.  So we just have to work on that and be more aggressive going towards the ball when it comes to 50‑50 balls.

Q.  Zach, this is the end of the regular season and tournament season, but did you guys get a chance to play, is that something you want to keep doing this season?
ZACH LOFTON:  Yeah, we're for whatever Coach Muller wants.

Q.  Bobby, same thing?
BOBBY HUNTER:  Yeah, all the team, they still want to play.  So whatever tournament we get chosen to play in, we'll take that.

Q.  Was it confusing for you at the start of the second half when the shot clock was going off and they kept stopping the game?
BOBBY HUNTER:  No, it wasn't confusing.  It was just kind of‑‑ I don't know how to‑‑ I don't know how to put it.  They just kept stopping it, and it's kind of hard for a team to get in the groove because every five seconds they're stopping play, and then they say ball in, and then they tell us to go back.
So it was just kind of a weird situation.  That can happen on any day.  It just happened on us.
ZACH LOFTON:  I was on the bench at the time when they were having that happen with the clock.  It felt kind of weird.  I guess you could say long breaks that we don't usually have.  Other than that, it didn't do anything.

Q.  Zach, you've really gotten on an offensive roll here in the last four games.  What's the difference?
ZACH LOFTON:  Playing more free, I guess.  Having a little bit more confidence in myself.  I think that's the biggest thing is confidence.  Getting a little confidence, practice hard, made a couple shots in practice, and it carried over.

Q.  Bobby, you talk about playing some more games.  What kind of things could you benefit from if you do get a chance to play some more games this season, do you think?
BOBBY HUNTER:  We can learn from everything.  Coach has done a great job of getting us prepared.  Whenever we have practice next, you know, all 10 of us or 11 of us will be ready to go and learn from our mistakes and move on from there.
THE MODERATOR:  Gentlemen, thank you for your time.  We're going to dismiss you and stay with Coach Muller.

Q.  Dan, when you guys were able to take the lead, you had a couple of possessions where you probably didn't really kind of run what you really wanted to run.  Did the guys just get a little too nervous, even at that point maybe?
COACH MULLER:  We may have.  We got some good looks, but the truth is, when we came back, Zach made those shots.  If he makes them, wow, great shot.  If he misses them, why did you take it?  So he was playing terrific.
We had a couple of turnovers, I thought, that really cost us in that stretch.  I don't know if they were‑‑ I know one was after we took the lead.
But we were uncharacteristically, I thought‑‑ and I'm not‑‑ really nervous at different times.  So no one got in a groove really.  If you look at our players, other than Zach Lofton, they made seven field goals and shot it poorly from the foul line.  It was a learning experience.  Certainly would like to learn more after a win.  But like I said, Ruder was terrific.

Q.  Defensively, you guys had trouble with Gulley the first two games and kind of really took him away.  Was that almost pick your poison and did that leave Ruder open a little more?
COACH MULLER:  I don't think it did.  Ruder made some incredibly deep, difficult shots.  He actually made his first three in transition, which our defense allowed those transition shots.  We had a couple breakdowns, but in general, he made very difficult deeper‑‑ he just extended his range.
We did a great job on Gulley.  We didn't do a very good job on the boards, again, unfortunately.  But our defense was not the issue, other than Ruder.  But he made‑‑ that last three he made was really, really a good shot.

Q.  Like you said, the guys were just tight really the whole game.  Did you have that feeling coming into the game maybe that there were some nerves?
COACH MULLER:  You just never know for sure, to be honest, especially when you have a new situation.  We looked like we did at VCU, which was a long time ago.
I mean‑‑ I said this to the team, and I mean it, if they wanted to play well, they really did.  They may have wanted it too badly.  I wish I could have‑‑ I probably could have done something differently, I don't know what, with the preparation, to get them loose and free, which is what I've been talking about.
Then we got hit.  We got hit in the mouth a little bit, and that shocked us even more.  We missed some shots, we missed some free throws in that stretch, we got a three‑point shooter, they made a couple of transition baskets.  We just couldn't get it going offensively.  We never settled in other than Zach.

Q.  Dan, if it does become an opportunity to play some more, how much will it go into the thinking of you don't want them to go out like this?  You want to have an opportunity to go into the off‑season whenever that comes?
COACH MULLER:  Yeah, put our guys in a situation to play again, and the practice time is always nice although, with the extended practice time, we've been practicing a long time now, and we don't have a lot of numbers.
I think the biggest value for playing more right now is being in a tournament situation.  So we'll see.  We'll talk to our administration.  We'll see what options we have and make a decision.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Dan.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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