The following are quotes from Utah State men’s basketball coach Stew Morrill prior to the Montana Western and Saint Mary’s games. Opening statement:”As we head into this week it is still a little strange to take a pause in conference play and step outside the Western Athletic Conference. With the BracketBuster situation you would think it is something that we would be use to, but throwing the Montana Western game in with the BracketBuster game is kind of an odd situation. As I look back on when we scheduled this Montana Western game I remember thinking that I have never had back-to-back one game weeks this late in the season. That is what we had going when we scheduled our BracketBuster game and it just so happened that it was our week in league play to only have one game the following week, and I just didn’t want that. Honestly, it is really difficult to find a non-league game in the middle of February. I am good friends with the Frontier Conference Commissioner, so I gave him a call and the Montana Western team jumped out as a team that we could make it work with and happens to only be about four hours away. If I am a player I would much rather have games than just more practice time and we took that into consideration as a staff. Our team knows the value of practice, but this late in the season we would much rather have our guys in a game situation over additional practices. That’s how this situation came to be and how it happened. I am actually looking forward to having some extra practice time these next two weeks. After the Montana Western game we will have a few days before the Saint Mary’s game and then next week we get more time before the Idaho game that will allow us to get some extra practices in and benefit us a bit.” On last week’s games:”As far as last week goes, we obviously had a tough outing against Idaho, it is always a little bit humorous to me how everybody reacts when we do lose. After winning 25 straight WAC games and a 17 game winning streak this year it seems that people think we can’t lose or something. We are pretty much over that loss, we had a one day funeral for ourselves and got over it. I thought that the team came out with a lot of energy against Fresno State and played awfully well. The game never really was in doubt. We got up by 26 and looked good doing it, but I don’t think we played well after that. We played well for about 25 minutes of that game. I think that summarizes last week for me and the team.” On Montana Western:”If you look at Montana Western they are 19-7 and they are playing for chance to win the Frontier Conference. They are shooting the ball well from three-point range, they are defending teams well, and they are a good non-Division I team. It’s not like we are playing a team that has won only a few games, they are having a very good year and I know that they will play well. They are obviously more concerned about their conference and winning their conference games but they have the option to count this game or not count this game and from what I understand they are not going to count the game. Obviously we don’t have that luxury with this game so we need to take it serious. They are going to come in a play hard and play like they know how and then they will go back to focusing on their conference schedule.” On Saint Mary’s:”As far as Saint Mary’s go, we will start shifting our focus to them on Thursday. They really deserve a lot of attention; it is a little ironic that it is the third time this year that we are playing a top 25 team on the road. That is unique to have happen. We have played three top 25 teams in a year before but usually we were lucky enough to get at least one of those games at home. It has been an obvious challenge for us to play at BYU, at Georgetown and now at Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s, as we all know is a very good team. They are a physical team, they are a great shooting team and they have really come to rely on their perimeter game now that (Omar) Samhan has moved on. We are obviously very familiar with them and the games we have had with them the last several years have been tough outings for us. The main thing for our guys is that they approach this game as an opportunity and are excited about getting to go compete. That is the way we need to approach it as a team.” On any similarities between Montana Western and Saint Mary’s:”As we prepare for these two teams there are similar preparation things that we are doing to prepare for their outside shooting. Obviously they aren’t the same team and there is a real difference in personnel, but there are still some similarities between the two. It is not the same exact action from these two teams, but they do have a similar style of play. Hopefully we will get a little preparation by playing Montana Western that will help lead us into our game on Saturday.” On Montana Western’s Brandon Brown:”(Brandon) Brown is Montana State Western’s, (Mickey) McConnell or (Jimmer) Ferdette style player. Watching Brown on tape I can see that he is a Division I-caliber player, there is not much doubt about that when you watch him play. He is averaging 20 points a game, his athleticism and quickness make him very capable. I am also very familiar with the kid Montana Western has playing at the four position in Tyler Hurley. His uncle played and coached for us when I was at Montana. His dad played for Montana State and Tyler came to camp and looked at the possibility of becoming an Aggie and he ultimately chose to go to Montana and then transferred to Montana Western. It will be interesting for me to see how he is playing and getting to see him play again.” On Utah State:”As a team we need to come out and have a good work out today, we actually took yesterday off, which is not unusual for us in February. I felt like we needed to sneak a few days off in and let the guys take a day off whenever we can. I think it’s important for our teams legs and minds in February to have some breaks. Practice is shortened for us, yet we still have to do all of our preparation work and get our bases covered. It is always challenging as a coach because you want to practice everyday, but this late in the season it almost becomes counter productive to wear the guys out everyday.” On Montana Western’s head coach:”I have met Steve Keller, he was a high school coach when I was in Montana, but its not like I have a previous relationship with him. We have played them before and it has just worked out that this is a game that just made sense. For them they get a check because we aren’t going back to Montana Western to play in their gym and there is an amount that you pay non-Division I opponents. A lot of Division II schools look to play Division I schools for the money and it is cheaper if you can bus your team to play rather than fly them somewhere and have them stay in a hotel. The proximity is why this game just made sense for both parties involved.” On James Walker and his play against Fresno State:”I thought that James Walker came in Saturday and did a good job. He really struggled at Idaho, but he wasn’t the lone ranger that struggled in that game. I was glad to see him respond. Brockeith (Pane) got into some foul trouble and James came into the game and continued to build a solid lead. I didn’t want to risk Brockeith picking up another foul so he got to play some good minutes for us. It was good to see him play well.” On Saint Mary’s backcourt of Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova:”Saint Mary’s guard combo is very good, I would put them in the same category as Jimmer Ferdette and Jackson Emery for BYU. They are that same type of talented guard combo and they are going to be a tremendous challenge for us. The plays they make, the passes they make and the shots they make are very impressive, and add on top of all of that they are good defenders. It all starts there for this team, but they have other good players as well. (Rob) Jones at the four position is their second leading scorer. They rotate a lot at the five position, and I think most people remember what their three, (Clint) Steindl did to us last year by knocking down some big shots. Their perimeter shooting is a very big concern and the question is if we can guard those guys on a consistent basis. We won’t have to double the post as much with Samhan gone but with Jones down there we will still have to give the double look against him at times. You can’t go into this game thinking that their post players aren’t going to impact the game much because they will and they are very talented.” On the last time Utah State played at Saint Mary’s:”The last trip we took to Saint Mary’s was a mess to be completely honest with you. We are hoping to avoid some of the mistakes we made on that trip. We made the mistake of scheduling a flight before we really knew our game time, and I am not using this as an excuse by any means, they probably would have thumped us anyways. But I really felt that we didn’t give our team as much of a chance to compete in the game as we should have. We played an afternoon game and those of you who were with us remember that we were stuck in an Oakland airport for what seemed like hours waiting for our bags. We didn’t get a chance to shoot around because the game was in the early afternoon and we looked out of it in that game and we played out of it. Give credit to Saint Mary’s cause they took it to us, they were ready to play and played extremely well. We are much better prepared to make a better showing then we did that afternoon but anytime you go play on a top 25 teams court you are up against it. I don’t think they have lost a home game this year, so it’s a big challenge for us, but it will be a fun one.” On any similarities between Utah State and Saint Mary’s this season:”There are certainly similarities between our program and theirs, they are having an excellent year. It is so loud there and it is so unlike anywhere we have played. It is a 3,000-seat gym and they are all right on top of you. It is an old, traditional gym and you can feel the home court advantage as soon as you walk out onto the court.” On Saint Mary’s defense:”I know that Saint Mary’s will play man against us, they play man-to-man. If they came out and played a zone against us I would be shocked. They play very good man-to-man and every game that we have watched they have played very few possessions of zone. They will pick us up full court sometimes and I would expect them to pressure the ball a bit but not a whole lot. I expect a lot of man-to-man.” On Utah State playing BYU next season:”We haven’t got a contract signed and nothing is finalized with BYU yet, but it looks like we will be opening our season with BYU next year in Logan and the following year we will go to Provo for opening day, but again nothing is finalized. That is the only time that they could fit it into their schedule so that looks like that’s what we will be doing. We certainly would like to continue the series between us on a home at home basis, and again that is something I was told would happen and they are committed to. I am glad we are back to the home and home situation for now and we will see how it goes as far as long term. Looks like we will have a home and home coming up with them and from their perspective playing Utah State is not a priority and I understand that. I really appreciate BYU sticking with it and playing this game.”
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