The following are quotes from Utah State men’s basketball coach Stew Morrill prior to the Louisiana Tech game.Opening statement:”Well obviously it is a nice start to conference play when we go out and get three road wins. Going into those games you looked at it and hoped you could get a few wins, two out of three you would have felt really good about. It is pleasing that we found a way to win our three games. Who knows what it is going to take as you are going along trying to compete for a fourth conference championship. I don’t think there is anyway of knowing, right now, what it is going to take. The best thing we can do is concentrate on Louisiana Tech, and from there, concentrate on New Mexico State. It is easy if you let yourself, overlook a team that doesn’t have a conference win yet. You need to be smarter than that. Louisiana Tech has always played us well. They have specific things they try to do when they play us that they may have not done for several weeks or maybe not the entire season. For example, I haven’t seen a 1-3-1 zone from Louisiana Tech but they will play a 1-3-1 zone against us. They always seem to do that; they run and double some of our ball screens. They do a variety of things to try and screw up our timing and tempo. There is no way you can really prepare; you would be preparing everything under the sun so you have to kind of adjust on the fly.” “You get back on Sunday and get up at 4 a.m., and you get three hours of sleep after the late doubleheader game. We had two late doubleheader games that were supposed to start at 8:00 or 8:15 and I looked at my watch in Fresno and it was 25 until nine before we tipped off. Our guys, in terms of not having time to recover, are young and that is a good thing. I am not and that is the bad thing. The nature of a conference season is trying to keep your team going, and to keep their energy up. Don’t wear them out. So it is a fine line you walk as a coach, trying to make sure you get covered what you need to get covered. Obviously there are always things to work on, for example, we were horrible against the press at Boise State and we are addressing that and making some adjustments. There are always new looks you want to have. You do all of your game preparation and while you are doing all of that you are trying to shorten practices. I believe when you get into the middle of January you need to shorten them up and when you get into February you need to shorten them some more. It is just the nature of a college basketball season. When February arrives I will remind the players of the dog days of February. That is what I call them because you have been out there a long time. Are you still concentrating? Are you still focused? Are you still practicing hard? All of those things go into trying to have a good year. I have to say we are pleased with where we are at and we are trying to get better all the time. We don’t go out and dominate, we have to do things right to have a chance to win. We are not a dominating basketball team, I have said that for what seems like quite a few years and it has been true. You have to scratch and claw to get wins and that is what we did last weekend.” On WAC teams being 3-12 on the road this season:”Weird, is the only thought I have. That is not college basketball. What I have always heard is home teams win 70 percent of home games in college basketball. When you do the math, our league is bucking the norm. I really don’t know why. I don’t know whether teams are expecting to automatically win at home. We were not as good at home as I would have liked us to be our first week; I know that. Then we went out and played well at Nevada, and played well enough to win. We did a lot of really good things at Boise. Our shooting percentages, our defense, it was just the turnovers that were the issue, and then defended really well at Fresno. If you could answer some of those questions it would make coaching a lot easier.” Is the youth of the league perhaps one of the reasons for all the road wins?”I think anytime you have new guys you are dealing with lack of reps and lack of understanding. Our new guys, when I talk about Saturday night on the road, they look at me like “what?” and our veterans know exactly what I am talking about. For example, the dog days of February, the new guys will be like, “what is that?” If you really want to see a shock on the new guys’ face you should have seen them when I did the sweep dance. That is not a pretty sight, and that will never be done publicly. That is a private matter and needs to be kept that way.” “I think the travel, in this league, might be a factor too. Boise [State] and Fresno [State] is not normal traveling partner routine. You have to fly back to Salt Lake and take another flight to Fresno. It is not like the good ole Big West days where you bussed across town and have an hour bus trip. The travel might be part of the factor when teams come back a little worn out and all of a sudden they turn around are playing at home. The teams that are coming in have been at home are maybe are a little more rested, who knows? It is hard to say.” On previous Utah State teams and if they were a dominant team:”I don’t know how many dominant teams there are in college basketball. I think that every league is pretty competitive. To me, dominant is when you go out and there is not much question that you are going to win. I never feel that way. I don’t know that I have ever felt that way all the years that I have coached. When you are just so good that the other team really can’t beat you, and we have not been in that situation very often here at Utah State. I would say that we’ve had a lot of really good teams and a lot of good kids and we’ve had some blow out wins and all of that. We haven’t had any of those this year. I think that since we have been in the WAC we have had less and less blow out wins, there are a few here and there. We have our deficiencies. We don’t take care of the ball quite as well as I would like. Our execution is sometimes sporadic. We play hard, we defend, we rebound and we play hard. That gives you a chance every night out, but those areas you are trying to get better in you have to get better in if you are going to be a dominating team.” “Along the same lines, do you have dominating talent? Where people look at your team and go “Whoa, they are loaded at every spot.” I always joke with our guys that we don’t win warm-ups very often, when you look at our guys warming up and the other team warming up. We don’t win the walk through the airport very often. We are what we are and I love what we are but dominating is not the word.” On Louisiana Tech playing better in the preseason than they are in league play:”They lost two kids, one to a season-ending injury and one to academics that might be back February 26, is what I think I read. That will screw you up; both of those kids were playing double-digit minutes, over 20, I think for one of them. That probably screwed up their rotation and their confidence level a little bit. It is just like when you get on a roll winning games you can get to the point where it is tough when you lose a few in a row, it is the mentality of it of we have got to find a way to win. They have always played well against us; they always play hard. It is [Kerry Rupp] coming home to Utah so I would not be surprised to see them come out and play well on Thursday.” On Louisiana Tech’s loss to Hawai’i at home in its last game:”It is tough to win when you don’t have guys step up and play well. We saw Hawai’i play well. Bill Amis, he comes back into the line up and he hasn’t played in four or five weeks, he is a really good player. It just took him a few games to get going. Of course we are going to see him at full strength by the time we get to Hawai’i next week. It kind of disrupted Hawaii’s lineup and positions when he was put back in the lineup and actually it hurt them a little bit. It will help them over the long haul because he is good.” On Louisiana Tech’s Olu Ashaolu:”He is a load. He is just athletic, he can get to the basket, he can score around the basket; he can face you up and drive by you. He does a lot of things and DeAndre Brown is playing more two than one. He has hurt us big team at LA Tech last year and he played well here when he knocked some threes late and made the game very interesting. I think it starts with those two guys. They have other players that do things specifically; they have shooters and drivers to go with those two guys. They have always played good defense. LA Tech has always been physical. You have to kind of settle in with how physical they are when they guard you.” On Nate Bendall:”I think (Fresno State) was his best game no question since he has been back. It has been a struggle at times for him to get his rhythm, to get his conditioning, to get some positive things going out there. He has had some bright moments but this is by far the brightest. What becomes tough for a guy in that situation is I have got Brady Jardine sitting by me a lot of the times, Nate is struggling and we are trying to win games. Brady Jardine is going to go in, in that situation. It was kind of reversed the other night. I was in the hallway after the game and I grabbed Brady and said, ‘hey, you didn’t do anything wrong. It was not reflective of anything you did wrong, Nate was just on a roll.’ He [Brady] said, ‘coach I understand completely, he played well.’ That was his comment, so that is what you need.” On if he expected Nate Bendall to play 36 minutes:”No. I didn’t even realize that I left him out there 36 minutes. He was just doing so well and I kept asking him if he was tired in the media time outs and he kept saying he was fine. There was a time or two that he looked a little winded, and he jokes about getting into shape and all of that. He has made a lot of strides in terms of his conditioning. It is tough when you miss such an important part of the year, and he missed a really important part of the season.” On the point guard situation:”We are going to give EJ [Farris] a look this week. When you look at James’ [Walker III] stats, they are not really good quite frankly. We need him to play a little bit better. In practice EJ sometimes plays well. So we are going to give him a little bit of a look. James’ shooting percentages in league are just not very good, and he is struggling defensively. Those are not good combinations. When another guy gets an opportunity it is good for that guy to show up a little bit, and hopefully that will happen. It doesn’t mean that James won’t play, it just means that EJ will probably go in first at the back-up point. We just made that decision yesterday to give EJ a shot with James not performing that well. He deserves a chance, it is the only fair thing to do.” On Utah State’s current 19-game WAC winning streak:”I didn’t even realize there was a record to even talk about until I was asked about it at the game. In any league, in any time, it is a tremendous accomplishment; knock on wood I don’t want to jinx us. This has been an amazing group to be playing for a fourth-straight WAC title. I keep telling them to enjoy it. I think they are listening but there is a degree of pressure anytime you are trying to repeat, let alone three-peat or four-peat. The best you can do is play hard, and try and do your game prep, and rely on your experience. I told them, what is one guy going to be disappointed that you only won three in a row? You know what I say about that guy so we are not going to worry about him much. When you are in the middle of it you don’t over analyze it, you get ready for the next game. I thought about it for a few minutes and that is about it, on to the next thing.” “My friends used to say you need to smell the roses a little bit and I tell them anytime you do that there are thorns attached. I have never been too good at smelling the roses. Sometimes after a season I will reflect. It is an interesting thought, and I don’t mean to be cynical, but I told my wife last night that I was standing in Fresno’s arena and you think of Fresno State and they have a lot of great basketball years, Jerry Tarkanian and Boyd Grant, they draw well, they have a really good tradition, and they have been in the NCAA [tournament] four times. You go out to the arenas and except for New Mexico State, there is a lot of that. My point to her was, we have been 19 times at Utah State, seven times since I have been here, how big of an idiot was I last year to let it bother me when someone wanted to be mad when we didn’t win in the first round against a five-seed. If we had that same situation happen again, Lord knows that we will try and win, and Lord knows that people will be mad if we didn’t. I will take it right now, are you kidding me? To go to the NCAA’s again, that would be unbelievable. The 20th trip and the eighth time since I have been here. It is amazing what happens with expectations. It just keeps [getting to be] more and more and more. We are fortunate to be in that situation again and we will try like hell to win, but I will not let anybody make me feel bad. I did that last year and I will not do that again.”
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