Feb. 26, 2015
"It was a huge game, this was the big stage. We played a very good team with a very good coach and a very good staff. They were extremely prepared. They are a very good program. UTEP has won a national championship. One of the exciting things about being in Conference USA is getting to play against UTEP in the Thomas Assembly Center. I thought our crowd was terrific. They were as energetic as they have ever been. They were as much of a factor as they have ever been. I thought the conversion of jump shots early on really got us going. Erik McCree carried us offensively and set the tone to where we could get into a pretty good rhythm against one of the better defensive teams year in and year out. I thought we played with poise with the lead. Overall, on the defensive glass it was as good as we have been all year."
On Duplicating performance in El Paso:
"The two games were completely different. We lost the turnover margin to UTEP at home which is unique. We do not usually do that, especially at home when you play well. I thought they did a good job of taking care of the basketball, they were very prepared. We won the game with the way we rebounded and what we did offensively. Our guys were unselfish getting each other good looks and converting. This was as physical was we have been. It was different than that January game where we were terrible offensively and off the charts defensively. Tonight was different because both teams have evolved and are playing differently. Anytime we play UTEP moving forward, we know it is going to be an absolute war."
On McCree and Appleby:
"Thankfully Raheem got a big three in transition because we know how much they key in on him, as everyone does. UTEP is as good as anyone in the country at taking a guy or two out of it. Getting that open look early was very helpful. The Erik McCree factor was even bigger for us, because they make you play left handed. They make you play different defensively. They are very unique in their approach. We knew that Alex and Raheem were not going to get a ton of great looks against this team. The way Erik stepped up early, set the tone for us. He settled us in offensively. I thought Speedy Smith complimented him stepping up and making jump shots. That was as good as we have been offensively all year."
"Erik's performance was more like he got 23 or 25 points. He was drawing fouls and being very aggressive. I thought he made it to where they had to key in on him."
"Speedy is such an energetic kid, he plays fired up anytime he is between the lines, whether it is pick up, practice or games. I did not anticipate him playing any harder than he normally does but I did anticipate him being a little more aggressive offensively. That is because Speedy and Raheem have been in the gym a little more this week. It is no secret why their strokes look so good. That is part of basketball, you have to get in the gym and put in time. You have to get in there by yourself at times. Their confidence in their jump shot is as high as I have ever seen it. I felt it at shoot around this morning. Every time they shoot it, it looks like it is going in. Speedy unfortunately had the bad miss early, but he was so confident with the way he has been shooting the past few days that it did not deter him from stepping up and making some others."
On feelings at halftime:
"We talked about the first five minutes of the second half. We wanted to set the tone, settle in defensively and get stops early. I was uneasy at halftime. We were up nine and we were 8-of-15 from the three. We shot the heck out of it and only forced three turnovers. We were far from being comfortable. We understood that we needed to settle in defensively. We needed to pick up the defensive energy."
On avoiding let down:
"I am just going to be honest with them. I do not have a recipe for it other than telling them what is at stake. The win tonight put us in the position to where Saturday's game is very meaningful. With a championship on the line and the conference tournament on the horizon, our focus has to be better than it has been all year. This is an eight month season for teams that go on a foreign tour. We are sitting here with a couple of weeks left. We cannot have any distractions. We shouldn't have any excuses."
"Our fans were incredible. They were as much of a factor as they have ever been, from the tip. You could feel it. Our guys responded. I thought they had fun with it and I thought our fans were as good as they have ever been. My challenge to our fans is to bring a friend Saturday, we need you. We are very appreciative of the fans effort. If we can somehow win a championship, they are a part of it. They are a part of this huge home court advantage that we have had and this huge run we have had at the Thomas Assembly Center."
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