The following are quotes from Utah State men’s basketball coach Stew Morrill prior to the San Jose State game. Opening statement:”Last weekend was good, to hold home court. I thought we played solid against Louisiana Tech and real physical up against New Mexico State. That was kind of a backyard brawl against New Mexico State and we came out on top. Our defense and rebounding gave us a chance to win that game. We had a hard time scoring, they were long and big and quick and physical. Thank goodness we responded with the two areas we always talk about being constants, defense and rebounding. Louisiana Tech was a little bit more of an all-around game, with a comfortable win at the end. On to the next week, which is what you do this time of year. You enjoy wins on Saturday night, or fret about losses, and Sunday you are on to the next week. Our players have not gone on to the next week yet, the coaches were in Sunday doing all of our work on Sunday and Monday. We will see our players (Tuesday), and one of the things I will stress to them is I was not happy with our energy level the last time we played these two teams. Basically, I felt like if we had not been at home we probably would not have won those two games. I guess you never know. We have to approach these two games with more energy and effort and enthusiasm and all those things, and we should with an extra day off. Everything is at stake with all the good things that can happen, we should be excited about playing in both of those games. You throw in travel, you throw in all the things and that is why I felt we needed a day off mentally and physically, and hopefully that will help us.”On being ranked 25th in the nation:”I remember the first time we were ranked in 2003-04 and I was a little bit surprised that Utah State hadn’t been ranked since 1977, so a period of 25 to 26 years. We have been ranked three different years since I have been here. So it’s always positive stuff. Everybody can do or say what they want on if we deserve to be ranked or not, or all of that stuff. I really don’t get into that, I just think it is very positive publicity for our university and our basketball program, and our players need to feel good about putting themselves in a position to be ranked. With that being said, the nature of us being ranked has been if we lose we are no longer ranked. So, enjoy it while it lasts, and try to make it last as long as you can. Don’t take it too seriously. Feel good about it but don’t take it too seriously. Our goal is to try and beat San Jose State on Thursday and keep plugging along. That is kind of the way we approach it. I probably won’t even talk much with our team about it to be honest with you. I didn’t talk about the record number of wins in a row in the WAC, in fact I didn’t really know about it until the media brought it up. I hadn’t really sat down and calculated that. It is just our kind of nature, my nature in particularly, to not do too much slapping on the back. If you think anybody is going to care that you are ranked, or that you are 18-2, won seven straight league games [this season], or 21 in a row, nobody does. It just makes everyone more motivated to beat you. We have just got to keep grinding away.” On the consistency of the program through the years:”We have had a lot of character kids. That has been a constant. Something we have worked at. We don’t lead the league in jerks, we probably lead the league in good kids, and that is by design and is a credit to them. My assistants go out a lot of the times and see good players and say they can’t play for us, or they can’t play for you coach, they won’t last a week. I don’t know whether that is good or bad, but it is the way it is. We expect guys to act right and guys that are looking for the wrong things or not taking care of their business usually don’t last very long. That is just the way we have run our program and we will continue to do so. It has been good; the guys have bought into it and they like the kids they play with. There’s nothing worse than playing with guys you don’t like. I have had 25 teams so I have had a few teams where they don’t like each other, different stops along the way, and it is not near as much fun. We have had some teams with the idiot factor going and that is not near as much fun for coaches, players, fans, or anybody, I don’t think. Sometimes fans don’t get into all that much as long as you are winning, but I think our fans have come to appreciate that we have got pretty darn good kids.” On the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum being full last weekend:”It was nice. That was positive. I kept saying, well it is not the same this year and I knew why, but it was still kind of frustrating. Our home court has been so solid and such a big part of our program. You would like to think without the students we could still pack it with the size of our community but even if we did, which we don’t without the students, it is not the same atmosphere. The student factor is huge. I remember years ago I talked to the students during a Blue and White game and said you guys set the tone and I turned the other way and said you pay the bills, so thanks to both of you. That is kind of the way it is. Now the students help pay the bills more than in those days with the student fees but that is still with priority seating and all the sponsorships and all the things going in to making money it, we appreciate both.” On Utah State’s first game against San Jose State:”I watched it yesterday. I watched their game with Hawaii, I watched that one, and I watched our game with Hawaii. Our next opponents conveniently played each other last weekend, so you get to see them both in one game. We didn’t have much of a spark. They are better defensively than they have been, and make it hard for you. I thought they played pretty well, and we could have played with a little more energy. We got out of there with a win, but as you recall that was not a real happy weekend for me. I will try not to do that again, that is not something I like to do very often. Sometimes your emotions get the best of you. I think that is the same weekend I threw (referee) Vern (Harris) a chest pass. Vern and I have laughed about that since then. I told him thanks for not throwing me out, I have never been ejected, and he said it was hard.” On San Jose State’s Justin Graham:”What he does is disrupts our offense, he pressures the ball coming in to offense, then he doubles Tai [Wesley], or the post but mostly Tai, and he is long. He is 6’5″, 6’6″, and long arms and just active as can be and he gets a ton of steals. So he is a one-man wrecking crew versus our offense and it is hard to simulate him in practice. Preston Medlin is about as close as we can come. Preston understands what Justin is trying to do out there so he can kind of simulate it, but he is not quite as long or tall or all of that. The big thing right now and of course it is frustrating for Tai, is everybody is doubling Tai, doubling him, tripling him, whatever. New Mexico State didn’t do as much of that, they just physically guarded us, and used their size and strength, but with everybody else it is the new thing to do, not so much new, but everybody is trying to double us, or double him.” On Adrian Oliver coming back from his injury:”His stats don’t reflect that he is the same as he was. We keep getting these guys after they have had a chance to get healthier. We are getting Bill Amos (Hawaii), and he is at full tilt right now, he is really playing well and he wasn’t when he first got back. Now Oliver has had some game time after his injury. He is scary. Him and Graham are scary by themselves. They can both go out and have huge nights if you don’t guard them.” On athletes being more delicate than in the past:”I think every situation, every job I have had has been different. I am not sure I can answer that so much as athletes then and athletes now. At Montana, I had the rough and tumble Montana kids to set the tone. They could deal with a lot, that is just their nature, and they were the base of our program. We had some other kinds of guys there too. Colorado State was those middle years for me, and then I come to Utah State and I have had so many older kids that can handle me, and handle the way I sometimes get. I think sometimes the tough thing is people don’t see the sense of humor you have with you team. They don’t see the fun things you do when you are watching film, when you jab a kid here and there and laugh a little bit. They see you sometimes getting after a kid on the sideline. For example, I got after Brockeith [Pane] the other day, and him and I both know, we talked about it afterwards, that he was too emotional. I was upset about him being too emotional because he doesn’t help our team when he gets overly emotional and he loses his effectiveness. He was the first to admit that he was too emotional. I am mad at him because we have discussed that and talked about that and he has been so good about it and then he had a little relapse there against New Mexico State. I get after him, everybody thinks, ‘oh they don’t have a good relationship,’ not true. A lot of times the emotions of a game, don’t reflect what goes on day to day. I would not want a microphone on me. Our guys here have been older. The base of our program, is we have had a lot of success with junior college kids, we have had a lot of success with freshman, but the area kids and in particular the older LDS kids that have been on missions. They have provided a base for us at Utah State that has been really important, very important. When you have been out knocking on doors and riding your bike, you can put up with me, heck I am nothing.” On this team’s rebounding:”We are a really good rebounding team, right now, knock on wood. It is because we emphasize it in practice. I have one assistant that watches rebounding every possession; that is his job. I have always believed in an offense guy, a defensive guy, and a rebounding guy. Through the years I think that has helped us, but it is all about personnel too. Tyler Newbold is a bull right now on the boards, he is just going like a crazy man and that is great. We are not overly big or dominant physically, but we have good rebounders. Brady Jardine is a pogo man and a really good rebounder, and a great jumper. Tai Wesley is a position rebounder, Nate Bendall is physical. He will knock you down, and he has really been rebounding it. It is a combination of emphasis and a lot of good rebounders. There are people who say you have a good free throw shooting team, but when you don’t have a good free throw shooting team, they say do you ever practice free throws in practice. You work on free throws the same, a lot with certain teams and some teams are better than others because you have got better shooters, better free throw shooters. Some teams have better rebounders because you have better rebounders individually. You emphasize it just as much from year to year, but a lot of it is personnel.” On Brockeith Pane:”I am really pleased with Brockeith since we have gotten into to league. That is what we talked about in the New Mexico State game, he had a little bit of a relapse where he got into foul trouble and didn’t really play well. You look at how he has played in conference; he has really tried to do the things we need him to do from preseason to conference. As I have said many times, Brockeith wants to do the right things. He is very good guy to coach. Now if he gets over emotional and things aren’t going right, that is when he, like we all can, over-circuit and he is not functional, but he has been great. His assist-to-turnover ratio is improving. He is more comfortable scoring the ball mid-range. He picks his spots; he is great on the break. Sometimes I think we need to call his number a little more in our offense, and we discuss that because he is doing some real good things. He is a load going to the basket. He is strong. We need him to use that strength a little more defensively, a little bit more consistently, but he is strong.”
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