MARK TRAKH, NEW MEXICO STATE HEAD COACH: SASHA WEBER, NEW MEXICO STATE SENIOR GUARD: MORIAH MACK, NEW MEXICO STATE JUNIOR GUARD: SHANICE DAVIS, NEW MEXICO STATE SENIOR GUARD:
COACH TRAKH: Needless to say we are very excited and happy to be a part of March Madness. I felt we had a very successful season. We tied the school record for most wins in a season, tied the school record for most wins in a row. First time we've been in a tournament back-to-back since the late 80s. This is the first time we've won a tournament, our conference tournament, back-to-back since the late 80s, regular season.
So the kids, especially our seniors, have left a legacy at New Mexico State University. I think we are going to be a perennial competitor in our conference from now on. So we're excited for what we did during the regular season and now we're here in the tournament and we want to compete to the best of our abilities.
I think we got some experience last year of playing Maryland at Maryland, and we got everybody back from that team this year and so we got experience. It's going to be a great challenge playing the Pac-12 co-champions on their home floor. They are a great basketball team. They are very well coached by a good friend of mine, Charli Turner, and she just does a great job with the program. They play very, very hard, but our kids play very, very hard, too.
It's going to be fun. We're going to go out there and compete to the best of our ability, and see what happens.
Q. I did want to ask you guys what Mark was talking about with the Maryland experience from last year, what do you gain from that and how can you apply that?
SHANICE DAVIS: Hi, and I really think that the experience from last year will help us more so that we don't have jitters no more. We're not nervous about this game, more so coming in more confident than last year, and really trying to get this first win.
MORIAH MACK: Yeah, just to kind of talk about what Shanice was talking about, we've played in an NCAA game now, so the jitters are kind of gone and we kind of have a little more confidence, and now we kind of know what to expect coming into these type of games.
SASHA WEBER: Going into Maryland last year, that was the first time for the majority of this team, I think aside from the coaching staff, to even go to the tournament.
So not knowing what to expect last year, coming into this year, we kind of know the physicality that we're up against, and we just know it's going to be a pretty physical game and going to give it the best we have.
Q. For Sasha or Moriah, rebounding seems like it's going to be a big key and last year against Maryland, the post play, kind of is what hurt you guys, but now you have that size. Is there anything that you can take from that game last year piggybacking off that to help you in the post?
SASHA WEBER: Yeah, as I just touched on a little bit, the physicality, going against a lot bigger posts, bigger guards, the physical play in the tournament is a lot more than what we've experienced. But we did get a taste of it last year, and I guess the coaches are really stressing rebounding and putting a body on somebody. So we know that's one thing we really have to focus on.
MORIAH MACK: Yeah, rebounding is definitely going to be a big thing and coaches have really talked about this week because Arizona State is a really physical team and they are bigger than us. So rebounding is definitely going to be a big factor in the game tomorrow.
Q. ASU is known for their pressure defense. Does that come across when you watch them on tape, and how do you combat that?
MORIAH MACK: Yeah, watching film on Arizona State this past week, you can definitely tell that they are really physical and they really like to pressure the ball. Just being smart, protecting the ball and not trying to do everything yourself. If somebody is pressuring you, you give it off to your next teammate and finding the open man.
SASHA WEBER: Yeah, absolutely. We have a lot of guards, I think we usually respond well to pressure just because we have so many other guards that can handle the ball. Really, Coach told us that if we're getting pressure too much, just give it up to our teammates. We can help each other out a lot and it's going to be something we continue to do in this game.
SHANICE DAVIS: Yes, what they said. We have a lot of guards that can dribble up the floor, not just one or two of us. So the key thing is to limit our turnovers and just act like we've been here before and have a lot of poise.
Q. What are the big challenges about having to play this team on their floor?
SHANICE DAVIS: The first challenge is we're on their home floor, so we know a lot of things are going to be easier for them. This is a gym that they are used to. They can shoot. They know how to get the ball inside. They know their sweet spots, and we're coming in, we don't really know the floor yet.
Also, they are going to have a big crowd, and you know, the support from fans really do help us. Hopefully we'll have our fans come down here, too, and just compete with them.
MORIAH MACK: Like Shanice was saying, this is their home court and a lot of teams tend to shoot better at home. They are used to these rims. They are used to these baskets, and their fans are going to come out and our fans are going to come out, as well, but the main thing is this is their home court. They know everything about it. They have played on it all year.
SASHA WEBER: Obviously there's going to be a little bit more comfort if you're on your home court but the dimensions of the court and the basket are all the same, so coming into this, at least for our team, we're just going to treat it like another game. We're not going to overthink it. Anything like that, it's great for them to be at home but we are going to have a good fan base, as well.
So knowing that we have everyone (ph) behind us and all the Aggy community, I think that will help a lot, even playing on their home court.
Q. Pressure defense has been really key for you guys all year, getting a lot of turnovers on the backcourt. Seems like ASU is prone to that. Do you think that's something you'll have an advantage in, try to get some turnovers in the backcourt?
MORIAH MACK: Yeah, you know, they pressure just like we pressure, so we're going to stick to what we do and that's one of the things that we've been really successful at this year.
SASHA WEBER: Yeah, going into this game, looking back on Maryland, looking how we pressured them, there's a lot of instances where Shanice, Tamera or I would get steals against and that's a Final Four team, and I'm going to the other side of the court and I don't even notice that they have gotten a steal.
I think sticking to what we've been doing, even though the level of play is a little bit higher at this point, New Mexico basketball stays the same, and we've been doing a very good job with that.
SHANICE DAVIS: Yeah, what Sasha said, just playing our game and knowing that we can do this, and getting steals is what generates our points, but also, we're just a good -- we have good guard play, and all of us are able to go up there and step up to the challenge.
Q. I asked you this earlier in the week, obviously ASU is a program you know very well, but now that you've had a chance to scout them all week. What are your impressions of the Sun Devils?
COACH TRAKH: They are big, they are aggressive, their point guard really gets after it and pressures it all the way down the court. She's super athletic, she's super active, and their bigs really play hard. I mean, they get after it. They hit the offensive boards. They hit the defensive boards. They run the floor.
COACH TRAKH: When I coached at SC and when we played against Arizona State, we always had to prepare for how hard they played. I was just amazed at how hard they played and when I left sc, I called Charli up and I said, okay, can I come and watch you guys practice, because I have just got to see what you do in practice. Went to see a practice and they played really hard for the two hours.
It's just really an amazing thing to watch, to see how much Charli gets out of her team. And I think that that's the main thing is just how hard they play and how hard they get after it and they give you 100 percent all the time.
So it's not a team that will beat themselves. We have to come in here mentally and physically prepared to play for 40 minutes, not turn the ball over, and rebounding is going to be a big, big key for us.
Q. You mentioned the Maryland game, too. Do you think there is some carryover from what they gained there playing a No. 1 seed, now playing a No. 2 seed?
COACH TRAKH: Well, what was great about the Maryland game is the previous WAC champions went to the NCAA Tournament and lost a game 94-40 and 72-38, and I knew if we went there and did that, you know, the season would be looked upon differently.
We went to Maryland, the No. 1 seed, the Final Four team, and there's about 10,000 people there, and the kids were poised. It was a 10-point game at halftime and we ended up losing the game by 17. But the fact it was a somewhat competitive game and it wasn't one that we lost by 30 or 40 or 50 points, which happens to a lot of 1-16 match-ups.
So I was very, very proud that the kids went there and competed and showed their poise. Now we're a 15, and would he have got to do the same thing. We've got to go out there and play poised, because you're playing another great team.
I think, you know, it's going to be very, very difficult tomorrow. But I think if we just go out there with the same attitude and play, because it's going to be a great challenge playing this Arizona State team. This Arizona State team is very, very, very good. They played together, they played hard like I've stated.
But the experience at Maryland, since it was a semi-competitive game, I think that will give us some confident going into the game tomorrow night.
Q. Arizona State had some of their worst games toward the very end of the season. How much stock do you put in how a team ends like that with a couple of weeks going into a tournament?
COACH TRAKH: None whatsoever. Our last two conference games, we were at home the last two games. We had clinched the title, clinched the Championship, but we went over time against UNKC and we lost by ten to UTRGV. We got it together, got refocused and had two great games and wound upbeating UTRGV a week later by 27 points after losing to them at home.
We refocused and played our best basketball at the end of the season. I think that Arizona State will have no trouble refocusing right now. They have had a couple weeks to prepare, and yeah, I don't put any stock in that at all. I know they are going to be -- they are going to come out hard and they are going to be ready.
Q. Coming of off two solid defensive performances in the WAC tournament, your pressure defense has been a strength all year long. Do you think you guys can create turnovers in the backcourt against an ASU team?
COACH TRAKH: Well, we are going to, of course, press, but it's going to be a softer press, keep everything in front of us. We don't want to create open court situations for their point guard; and kind of have them use up some clock and then get back into either our man or our zone, our 3-2 matchup.
But yeah, I mean, we just got to be smart, the way we press and we've just got to adjust it according to who we're playing and what players are attacking the difference spots. We intend to press. We just have to adjust and be smart in the way we're pressing, yeah.
Q. You look at ASU's stats and they don't jump off the page at you because their top scorer is 10-points a game, you wouldn't think that would equate to a No. 2 seed. So the challenge, because you never know who is going to be their offensive go-to player in a given game, what's that like to prepare for? And then also just the way she substitutes and uses as much of a bench as she, does how much of a challenge is that?
COACH TRAKH: I've had experience playing against them and that's what they have always done. They have always had really, really good teams but if you look at their stats, nothing overwhelms you, but it's all five players can score, eight players can score, they sub in and out.
So this is, you know, a reflection of their system and what they have always done. So you've just got to be ready because since they sub so much, everybody is fresh and everybody comes at you really, really hard and 100 percent. But it's something that, like I said, I've seen before. Charli has had great success with it.
So it's something that you can't really prepare for. They are going to sub in and sub out, and anybody on a team -- you know, everybody is around 10-points, is that right, ten, nine, eight points? That means anybody can beat you on the floor at a certain time. They don't go to one person. I just think that kind of equal-opportunity offense, that poses problems, because anybody can go off at any time for them. We've just got to be ready for it and like I said, it's something that I saw for years back then in the Pac-10.