Feb. 27, 2014
"The defensive effort was one of the best we have had and it took every bit of energy that we had in the tank to defend that well against a really good team. We have a lot of respect for that team and program. Obviously, them being in first place in the league coming in and being as proficient as they are defensively, especially in the half court, they are very hard to score against. We put 100 percent of our focus into being as good as we could be defensively. We had 31 deflections. Our press allowed us to get out in the open floor before their really good defense was set again. We scored just enough, played very well defensively. I was very proud of our guys. Our effort level was awesome and we needed it in the worst way because Middle Tennessee is a terrific team."
On Middle Tennessee:
"I wish that all their players would have struggled. They have a good lineup. They have shooters and handlers and their front court is so good. Neiko Hunter and Shawn Jones are just really good players. Jones is arguably the best player in our league, but did not have his best night tonight. I thought Michale Kyser played his best game, maybe in conference. His numbers were not as good as they were a couple other games, but to have eight blocks against a team that good and step up in that fashion when your team needed it that bad was awesome. I was happy for Mike."
On defending MT's Shawn Jones:
"We were trying to help off certain guys. We did a lot of scrambling and digging in the post, but with our guards we tried not to leave Neiko Hunter open too much. Our guards were scrappy. We almost have to do that at times. Michale is a great shot blocker but sometimes he will lose the wrestling matches that relate to post position. We try to help him in that regard and he cleaned up the plays and finished up the plays with his length and his bounce. You have to give our guards credit; they were almost pressing even in the half court, doubling the ball and rotating out of it."
On LA Tech's run after it being tied midway through the second half:
"It was huge. As hard as we played in the first half, I was concerned with our energy level early on in the second half and as a staff we were right. We came out and they really punched us in the mouth. Middle Tennessee came out and set the tone defensively and really offensively as they ran their sets to perfection. They went on a little run to tie the game and let us know they were here and not going anywhere. They have great experience, poise and toughness and before you know it, we were tied. We took a time out and the next basket was a Kenyon McNeail three and I thought he hit a hard reverse layup that was really contested and he drove through contact a few times to get ourselves in the bonus. To answer with that run, that was the game."
On the team playing with a lot of physicality:
"We are not an overly physical team but we are fast, quick and I would like to think we play pretty hard. We get after it and scramble around. I cannot admit that we were the aggressor physically to Middle Tennessee. I know we did some good things and we did enough to win but it is hard to be more physical and tougher than those guys. I thought we matched their toughness though. We played tough enough. We will continue to be in that weight room and continue to eat our Wheaties and be a bigger, stronger and more physical team."
On the meaning of the win:
"It was a solid program win. You have to protect your home floor. What made it a little more special than just being solid was that it was a nice night to honor our four seniors. It is nice to honor them with a huge regular season win over the number one team in the league rather than a win against a team that was not quite as good as Middle Tennessee. It was nice to honor them in front of a crowd that was big in numbers, really into the game and a big factor. I thought our crowd was awesome, the way they celebrated those four seniors and got really loud at times, it was fun. In that regard, if you add all the factors, it was a pretty neat night. It could end up being historic if we go on the road and go steal a couple."
On the return of Raheem Appleby:
"Our team is a real close knit group. When he was subbed into the game, our guys were really happy for him first of all. Raheem is a very good player and he is such a leader both by example and verbally. I think our guys feel more confident with him in the lineup. He is a great scouting report guy. He has become even more of a leader when he is sitting over there next to us as he has become an assistant coach over the last seven weeks. I thought our guys responded in the right way. They were very happy for him. They rallied around the fact he was getting minutes. Our crowd was probably even more of a factor than our guys. I thought they appreciated the work he has put into rehab and the fact one of our better players is back. They roared when he went into the game. He appreciated that. I appreciated that. It was a nice, emotional lift for our team."
On handling Appleby's minutes going forward:
"We will continue to try and increase his minutes, but at the same time, some of these other guys are in such a good rhythm that you have to be careful and try to balance it the best that you can. First thing is first, with how he feels. Postgame, he talked about how well he felt. I guess he is checked out in that regard and we will move on to the UAB scout. We have a big one in front of us and I have a lot of faith in these other guards and what they have been able to accomplish in the last seven weeks without Raheem. At the same time, I know what Raheem can do when he is at full strength. We will definitely throw him out there against UAB and he may play a few more minutes. His conditioning will also be a factor."
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