Jan. 17, 2015
"It was an odd game where we really struggled defensively in the first half. We had some struggles offensively throughout the game against one of the better defensive teams in the country. Year in and year out they are very good. Any Kermit Davis coached team is going to be good defensively. It was a very physical game both ways. Both teams pride themselves on man to man pressure. It was odd because we did not have our normal guys step up and become a part of the outcome, especially in the scoring column. I thought we had two guys come off the bench who were huge factors in the game but they did not necessarily score that much in Merrill Holden and Dayon Griffin. Neither of them have played very much this year. We are very fortunate that they were ready to play. I thought Merrill made some big time plays for us defensively. Dayon was great in press and made some terrific decisions. One of the positives to draw from is that our bench got a little bit deeper tonight, at least a little more experienced. Moving forward, I hope we can call their numbers a little bit more. Alex Hamilton was so good offensively that he just carried us. Raheem did some really good things too. Overall, defensively I thought we were a lot better than we were Thursday. Middle Tennessee is a great team and I thought we got back to our defensive ways."
"Honestly, I am not good with time and scores. It was a hard fought and emotional win. The way I remember it as a coach is that Dayon and Merrill went out there and really helped us to get over that hump defensively. We got in some foul trouble when Erik McCree picked up his third foul, especially with Qiydar already out. We were playing Xavian as his backup at the four. Obviously Xavian can get minutes at the two or three. Both Xavian and Erik had three fouls, so we went small. We tried to go big first and it backfired because we could not stay in front of the basketball. I thought that would help us rebound the ball a little bit better and it did not. When we put Dayon out there, I thought we started containing the basketball a little bit better and started making some stops. When Michale got his third, we went with Merrill who has not had many opportunities this year. I just thought Leo and Joniah struggled a little bit in the first half. I have been eager to give Merrill an opportunity because he has been practicing really well, especially in a physical game like this. With Merrill and Dayon out there together, it proved to be our best defensive lineup. Those guys should have been playing earlier in the game, maybe earlier in the season. That is what I always told the guys, coaches do not control the playing time, players do. They sure made a case for themselves tonight. Practice should be a little more competitive next week."
On offensive struggles in the first half:
"Honestly, I just credit Middle Tennessee. When you make a shot against Middle Tennessee, you earned it. They are everywhere. They always have good team speed and girth. They are physical and play hard. They are drilled in what they do. They are just a good team year in and year out. They are really good defensively, as good as it gets. To score 75 against them is definitely a positive, even though it was ugly at times, but it usually is ugly against those guys."
On picking up a key Conference USA win:
"I cannot remember pre-season rankings but our staff and veterans knew that Middle Tennessee was going to be one of the better teams in the league. It is great to knock them off at home and continue to protect our home court. I thought we improved a little bit defensively tonight. We are in a pretty good spot in a good league, but there is so much time left. It is just as much about becoming a better basketball team as it is worrying about the next game."
On Alex Hamilton:
"Alex Hamilton is as good as any other player I have coached at drawing fouls. He is a student of the game. Every night he is watching an NBA game. Every day he is trying something knew he learned from James Harden or some other player. He is a very quick thinker. He understands how to get fouled. It is paying off because he is cashing in a lot more. He is more productive in getting those points when getting to the line. I am happy for him because this was a game where we really needed it. They closed out so quick to our shooters. They did a great job of switching on our guard to guard handoffs. The guards are good with understanding their actions. They are just so good defensively and Alex is our most physical guy. He stepped up when it was most needed."
"I do not mean to discredit Middle Tennessee, because they turn a lot of people over. We had five travels at halftime. I asked the guys at halftime, `When was the last time you had a travel called on you?' Nobody in the room could remember, it was probably three or four weeks. We have been very sound offensively and played within ourselves. We played at a pretty good pace. I want us to play a million miles an hour defensively. I want us to chill out a little bit when we have the ball in our hands. I thought over the last month we have done a great job of that. It probably had a little bit to do with the fact that it was an incredible atmosphere. Our guys were fired up. We were catching the ball and travelling. A few of our guys had happy feet."
"I am very thankful for all of the people that came out and provided this atmosphere, as well as our administration. I am also thankful for our Bulldog faithful who are here all the time. Our administration has done a great job collectively to continue to improve this environment and give us a great home court advantage."
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