The following are quotes from Utah State men’s basketball coach Stew Morrill prior to the Nevada game. Opening statement:”It was a long, tough trip. Anytime you make that trip as a coach you get concerned about the next week. The game Wednesday is already upon us. I have always been a believer that when you make the Hawaii trip that you need to take Monday off. There have been years when we had a Thursday game that I would let the guys take Monday and Tuesday off, just because of the wear and tear on your body when you travel. We did not practice Monday. Nevada is the third team in our league that has had a week to prepare to play us.” “The road trip was very positive. We caught a break in San Jose when Justin Graham came up a bit lame in warm-ups and couldn’t go. He is a very good player and not having him on the floor certainly didn’t help San Jose’s cause. We got out of there with a very solid win.” “Walking into Hawaii we knew we were in for a fight. All the promotion and getting the word out and having 8,000 people in the stands certainly made it tough on us. It was a great college basketball game, it was a great atmosphere and I am very proud of our guys. We could’ve lost that game several times and we hung in there, made plays and made shots. We were very fortunate to get out of there with a win. To win all five of the WAC road games we have played, is a great accomplishment for this group.” “As far as being ranked, its great. I told the guys to enjoy it while it lasts and let’s work to make it last as long as we can. As everyone saw last week in the rankings, when you take a loss you can drop really quick. We are excited about being ranked, we are excited to be able to play in our upcoming Bracketbuster game against Saint Mary’s, but right now we really need to focus on Nevada. If you look at Nevada’s league stat’s you know that they are playing extremely well. They have several wins in a row and their percentages are incredible when you look at what they are shooting and who their leading scorers are.” “We are going to have a couple days after the Nevada game to get ready for Boise State, but our team really isn’t going to get a lot of practice this week. I told the team after the Hawaii game that they could be tired tonight and they could be tired Monday, but they needed to be ready to go and can’t be tired on Tuesday. We can’t afford to be tired today and we can’t afford to be tired tomorrow. The dog days of February are upon us. It is always an interesting part of the college basketball season when you get into February. There is certainly a grind to it and you start to show a lot of character and who you are as a team, you have to battle and persevere in practice and in games. We have a very high character group and I enjoy coaching them as much as I can. As long as I have been coaching it is what you get when you win, the more you win the more you want to win and the more others want you to win as well. It is a good problem to have but it can certainly be a challenge.” On Brain Green’s play over the weekend:”The word I would use to describe it is special. The fact that he came off our bench to get WAC player of the week certainly doesn’t happen very often. We have now had two players coming off our bench who have got the player of the week award; it speaks to the energy the kids bring off the bench. Brain shot lights out. He played so hard and brings so much emotion to our team and from a coaching stand point it’s great to see a kid like that rewarded. I got to see him yesterday for a bit and I got to congratulate him and I know that our whole team is very pleased for him.” How does the team react when Brain is vocal on the floor?”The team reacts very positively. When he first showed up out of Junior College, it was like ‘who is this guy?’ Cause he was immediately chattering on the floor and trying to get guys to play harder and getting them to do the right things. That is something that has not changed and it would be shocking to me if there was a day that he wasn’t out there doing it. That speaks about Brain being ready for practice everyday and how much he loves the game of basketball. The guys on the team love it, he is one of those guys who is just fun to play with.” On Brian Green having point guard size and shooting guard ability:”A shooting guard is what he is. We tried to play him a little bit at the point guard position but it just wasn’t good for our team and it wasn’t good for him. Trying to learn two positions coming out of junior college and into our system isn’t easy. We want him to do what he does as a two guard. I think back to when I watched him at Salt Lake Community College I was talking with his coach and I told him that Brain was too small, too slow and I would love to take him. He is a good player and he is a tough kid who makes our team better. I will be honest, he isn’t as slow as I originally thought and what he doesn’t have he makes up for in his scrappiness. When Brain checks into the game, I always try to match him up against a player who makes sense for him to play and I know that defensively he isn’t a liability to our team at all because he plays so hard on the defensive side of the ball. Most of the time he gets everyone else going and is certainly a plus along those lines.” “With all the focus that has been given to Tai Wesley when teams are preparing for us, he was a real positive for us this weekend. The teams were double and triple teaming Tai and we had to have other guys step up and were able to get wins. Brady Jardine had a good weekend and the bench in general stepped up and gave us the boost that we needed to win those games.” Is this the deepest team you have ever had?”It’s not like we are playing 10 guys consistently night in and night out. With Brady and Brian we certainly gain a lot of depth and we are always experimenting at the point guard position to get some of the new guys time. We aren’t nine or 10 deep, but seven and eight we have some real talent.” How do you feel the team has changed sense the end of December?”One thing that you have to do in life as well as in sports, you have to be able to laugh at yourself. I was certainly a tantrum coach that weekend. That is something that you can’t do very often, maybe once or twice a season. Sometimes it is something that you can’t control and there have been times that I have regretted it. I certainly think that we have responded sense that weekend, our play has gotten better and our energy is much better. Those two teams would have beaten us on the road if we played with the same effort we did at home against them. To go out this last weekend and get those two wins shows that we have improved since the opening weekend of WAC play.” How are you preparing for Nevada?”We have watched that game as kind of a reminder as to how good they are. When we first came into the WAC we knew that they would be the measuring stick. We have a great amount of respect for their talent, coaching and their program. We are going to need to continue to hold them in the same respect. They are long, they are shooting the ball well and they have gotten much better with the young players on that team. We need to know what we are in for tomorrow, they have had a full week to prepare and I am positive they will throw some things at us that they have had a chance to work on all week.” What are your thoughts on Deonte Burton?”If you look at Burton’s stats, he could be a strong candidate for conference player of the year. He has good numbers that could get him into the NBA. He is playing very well right now. We got him early last time before he had really begun to shine, but he presents a lot of problems for us. Dario Hunt was another player who we didn’t have to contend with much the first time we faced them do to foul trouble. Olek Czyz is a hand full with his athleticism. Nevada has a bunch of good solid players. This is going to be a challenging game for us tomorrow night.” How will Dario Hunt affect this game?”He is shooting 68 percent from the floor, he can block shots and rebound. Since his freshman year the improvements he has made are amazing. His game has gotten much better.” Do you feel that you have had to work hard to get respect nationally playing in the WAC?”I actually looked at the top 25 rankings and counted the schools on there that aren’t from the BCS conferences and there are only three. Two of which are from the Mountain West, which is a conference ranked higher than most BCS conferences right now. It’s really tough when you are in a conference that isn’t one of the top ten in the country. There have been times when the WAC has been rated that high but its not this year. For a team like ours you have to win a boatload of games to even be considered for a top 25 ranking and if you lose just one you are out. That is why I try not to take it to seriously, it is fun and our players should feel good about it. They should really try to make it last by not losing, cause as soon as we lose we are out and it’s just that simple. We really try not to get too carried away with it, we should be focused on beating Nevada and trying to win our fourth-straight WAC title. If this group of guys can somehow find a way to do that, what an accomplishment it would be for them, some of these guys started as a freshman. Conference play has been something that is very important to me and conference championships should mean a lot.” Would you like to see something more to reward the team who wins regular season play?”We made an adjustment with the conference tournament where if you are fifth through eighth you have to win four games, if you are third or fourth you have to win three games, and if you are first or second you get byes into the semi-finals. That was an effort to try and reward the regular season. Last year the WAC had two bids and we got an at-large bid. We always talk like the WAC can get multiple bids and it has on occasion, but its hard. With leagues that are one-bid leagues or borderline one-bid leagues, the only way to do it is to not have a conference tournament, if you really wanted a reward for the regular season. I don’t think that is an option at this point around the country, the Ivy League is the only one that I know of that does that. The Pac-10 used to be. There are so many good things about having a conference tournament, trying to keep playing and get higher, so I am not an advocate of not having a conference tournament. I just think the regular season should have a whole lot of meaning. Another thing it does is if you win the regular season, you are automatically in the NIT [National Invitation Tournament]. To me, that is a good reward for lots of leagues. Everybody downs the NIT but I don’t. That is a good reward if you get upset in a conference tournament. Anything can happen in a conference tournament. We won several conference tournaments in the Big West when we weren’t first, and we didn’t feel like it was an upset, and we may not be first this year or even second, we don’t know yet. You could lose seven games in a row; there are all kinds of things that can happen, so we will see.” Do you think you can compete with most teams around the country?”I don’t know if there is anyway you can judge that. We don’t play them night in and night out. I think those conferences speak for themselves with who they play night in and night out. We have competed well in NCAA tournaments. We haven’t won as often as we would like, but the games have been very competitive. We could have, should have won against Marquette; we played Kansas to a very close game when they went to the national finals. We have done some good things. So I would like to think we can compete if we get one of those, that is all we have gotten. We always get a BCS school, which is who we get if we get to the NCAA tournament. We haven’t gotten anybody else. I sure would like to find out if we can compete, that would be fun.” How is Matt Formisano?”He is practicing a little bit. He is out of shape, still a little weak and trying to get it back together. We are not practicing enough right now to get him enough time, but he is feeling better. He is available for play and that is progress. He went on the last trip and was available for play.”
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