POST-GAME COMMENTS: Fresno State & Nevada

WITH SATURDAY'S WIN OVER FRESNO STATE the University of Idaho men broke a four game losing skid and evened their season record at 8-8, 1-1 WAC. Inside, senior forward DJIM BANDOUMEL and junior guard Mansa Habeeb, as well as Idaho head coach Don Verlin, spoke to the media. Also included are coach Verlin's comments following Thursday's loss to Nevada.

PLAYER POST-GAME following Saturday's victory over Fresno State (Mansa Habeeb, Djim Bandoumel):

Mansa, what happened on that last play? It looked like he was going up. Did he actually shoot or was it you contested it and he tried to go back down?

MH: He had a shot and I contested it enough that I was going to block it if he got the shot off; so he just came down with it and got the turnover."

Did you actually tip it?

MH: "No, I didn't tip it. He just hung onto the ball."

It was a pretty exciting finish obviously. To be even in that situation obviously, to be on the court there to make a key play…that's obviously a big moment.

MH: "Yeah, that is big. I'm proud that coach has the trust in me to be out there to finish the games and defend the opposing players as well as I do. Give a lot of credit to Fresno State. They played a hell of a game."

Djim, the energy level seemed to be a lot higher today than Thursday. Was there a strong message from the coaches that you guys needed to play with a little more.."

DB: "Yeah. He kinda gave us a reminder from last year when we lost against New Mexico the first game of the year, and we bounced back and won huge that second game. We just tried to do the same thing today. We watched film right after the Nevada game, and it was the first time we did that. It was a message for everybody; so we stayed here until midnight that day. We tried to work hard on that video tape and tried to send a message today."

Do you practice taking a shot in the corner at the end of the shot clock?

DB (laughing) "Well, that's not my work to do right now. I'm playing inside, but if I have to shoot it and it goes in ... luck is a part of the game."

You guys, free throws obviously came up big and I think you only missed a couple the entire game. Djim, I think you were 6-6…you guys have struggled as a team with that this year. That was really big, right?

MH: "In practice coach has been on us about making our free throws, because we shoot free throws; so he's just been on us to get in practice and be better at shooting free throws."

Was there anything in your game plan coming into this one that maybe you didn't execute as well as you would like, looking at one or two things? They outscored you guys 26-22 in the paint. You guys should have had the advantage out there. Is that one thing you guys targeted coming into this game?

DB: "We knew right away that we had the advantage inside with our height and tried to send a message right out of the gate and force the referees to make some calls. We thought after the Nevada game that we were not running our system fast enough and hard enough; so the next day we went through all the motion offense, and I think the result came through today."

That full-court press near the end of the game seemed to give you guys a little bit of trouble. Any explanation for that? Are you guys just not used to playing against it?

DB: "Well, I was on the bench and I was going crazy (laughs). I think we're capable of breaking any press. It's just (we need) to stay poised and make the right decisions. If somebody pressures you with two guys, somebody is open. You just have to stay poised and make that pass. Obviously a couple of our teammates … we found a way today."

Idaho HEAD COACH Don Verlin:

"We needed that one. Holy cow."

Coach, pretty exciting finish at the end there. Talk about what was going through your mind, especially on that final quasi-blocked shot if you will.

"It wasn't perfect at the end by any means, and when you've lost four in a row, you've lost a ton of close games in a year, sometimes getting that first one is really, really difficult, and it was difficult tonight. Like I told the guys in the locker room, we'll figure out how to fix some of those mistakes, but enjoy this one because we deserved it. I thought our team showed a lot of character tonight. We got our tails kicked on Thursday, they came back with a lot of energy. I thought they played hard. Rodney (coach Rodney Terry) is doing a great job with Fresno State. They're really hard to guard. They play small a lot. I was really happy with the outcome of the game."

What did you see on that last play? Mansa says that he didn't actually tip the ball but it looked like the guy was going up, saw Mansa coming, then tried to go back down…

"It looked like…Mansa was right there to contest it. We talked about not fouling obviously at the end and it looked like he went up and down. When you're a kid playing you set up-downs. Up-downs was his travel. That's what it looked like to me. Shoot, I don't know exactly what happened. We'll watch it on tape. It did look like a travel to me."

It looked like Mansa skied, once on the rebound and then once on that shot. He got up. He outfought Djim?

"Yes on that big rebound there at the end. That was a heck of a rebound. He's a good athlete and played at a very good junior college and was a very good player there. I like the way he played tonight. I thought Deremy Geiger and Mansa Habeeb did a great job on (Kevin) Olekaibe…15 points below his average. Those guys had the assignment all night long. They were trying to deny him the ball, make it tough on him. I thought they did a good job in the second half. We defended him a little bit better than we did in the first half, and I thought our post guys did a better job in the second half than they did in the first half. Our defensive effort was pretty good. I thought we executed okay offensively. I just don't think we made our shots, but we did make our free throws, and that was nice to see."

Talk about Djim for a second. He just exploded in this game, came out with a fire and didn't stop.

"I tell you what. It was great to have him play as energetically, and that's what I've been on him about for the last 48 hours. Djim Bandoumel can bring energy to this team. He can make energy-type plays, and he made 'em tonight. I've been on him really hard about his rebounding. He had three offensive rebounds. We need to get him a few more defensive rebounds, but his ability to change the game around the basket can really help our team. I thought he played with a lot of energy and a lot of passion, a lot of emotion tonight, and you're exactly right. He gave us a spark all night long with Kyle (Barone) was in foul trouble."

You just talked about offensive rebounds. Stephen Madison had 5 offensive boards for you guys, and then that shot at the end there. He's only a sophomore. How much leadership does he bring? It seems like it's quite a bit.

"Yeah, he does. Stephen plays hard, and he kinda leads by example. He really plays hard. He's a very good rebounder. He's not the highest jumper on our team, he not the biggest, strongest, but he's got a great knack for the ball and good hands, and he leads by example. When Kyle was in foul trouble and they were playing small all night long, it was really hard for our matchups. Basically they were playing (Jonathan) Wills or (Larry) McGaughey. Both those guys are guards and we basically had to have a guard on him I thought; so they caused some tough matchup problems, and I thought Stephen played a lot of minutes, but I thought he did a very good job."

The full court press seemed to give you guys a little bit of trouble. Talk about why and what you can do to fix that.
"Well, we've gotta clean it up. We weren't executing very well. When our guy got trapped we didn't have a guy break in the middle like we should have. We've just got to do better. I think we panicked a little bit. I'm not gonna tell you we didn't. I guess if we'd lost you would have called it 'choked,' (chuckles). We panicked a little bit. There's no question about it. You can talk about not letting pressure get to you and all that stuff, but it does, and that's the way it is. There's no one that wants to win the ball games more than the guys in that locker room because they come out and work their tail off every day. When you get close like that and have as many close calls … this was a great I hope for us to get over the hump."

Djim said that you guys were here until midnight on Thursday watching film.

"Yeah, we might have been here that late."

Obviously kind of an unusual circumstance but he said you wanted to remind them of what happened last year when you guys lost to New Mexico State, came back…

"We didn't play quite as well as we did against Louisiana Tech (last year), but I thought it was time for our team to see a game in its entirety after the game the other night…I like to call those 'prayer meetings;" so we just had a little 'prayer meeting.'"

So you what did you see in this game specifically that you guys are going to focus on. You've got a few days before you've head down to Ruston.

"We've got to shoot the ball better, and we're a good shooting team; maybe our execution offensively, but obviously we've go to clean up some press breaker things. New Mexico State has always pressed up; so we've got work like crazy in that area of the game. We've just got to continue to fight together. I think that's the biggest thing for this team and get our swagger back. We lost our swagger a little bit. That's mainly going to be it. Not any different than what we ever do, but just continue to fight and get better and try to get better and better and better so we can play our best basketball in March."

You guys cut down the turnovers. It says 16, but at least five turnovers in the first half were offensive fouls.

"Uh, you know I don't want to say anything about the officiating. I will tell you what I did say to 'em, though, is…'I've been around basketball for 30-plus years and I've never seen that many offensive fouls called.' That was wild. Both ways. Not just for us…We had seven on us and we probably took four…I bet there were over 10 or 11 offensive fouls called in the game, and that was wild. I don't think I've ever been involved in a game like that."

Matt Borton's status?

"Day to day (knee injury). We thought we were gonna have him back today…We're hoping that we will have him back Monday for practice or at latest Tuesday. He did it on the play before he got the elbow (Thursday against Nevada). We think it's just a day-to-day situation…"

We haven't seen a whole lot of Wendell Faines or Dazmond Starke recently. Any reason for that?

"Starke has decided to transfer. For whatever reason Wendell has lost his confidence and struggled when he's been in there. It's getting that time of year where you've got to shorten the bench a little bit. Joe Kammerer has been here a long time, doesn't make a lot of mistakes; so I felt like that was the way I wanted to go."

Is Starke going to finish out the year?

"No, he's going to leave at semester."

That was his decision?



Tell us about the game, Don. Obviously the first half, turnovers…

"Yeah. I thought they dominated us in every phase of the game tonight. (Coach) David (Carter) did a good job getting 'em ready to play. I thought they played harder than us. I thought they played with more energy than us. They're obviously a very good team that came in on a roll. They took us out of everything we wanted to do in the first half, and … we turned it over 13 times. We turned it over 2 in the second half and played 'em even, but against a good basketball team you can't them the ball 13 times whether it was their pressure or us not being strong with the ball. Whatever the case may be, that's unacceptable. If we expect, which we do, to play at the top of this league we have to play better with more energy, more intensity and we've got to execute a whole lot better."

Do you feel like the team came out a little flat?

"I don't know if they did or not. Obviously (Deonte) Burton had a lot to do with that early. He comes out on fire making the threes against us. I like to think not. I've got some good senior leaders. I thought we worked really hard as coaches trying to get 'em ready to play, explaining to them what they're in for, and Nevada jumped us and we were never really in it. I'll tell you, they dominated us really from start to finish."

They extended their pressure and a couple of times you had a tough time getting it past half court. What was going on there?

"It was exactly what we expected. We for some reason were confused. The plays that you were talking about we were confused in a press breaker that we had put in a couple games ago, and for whatever reason we really struggle with the execution of the that press breaker. That falls on my shoulders, nobody else's. They have to be able to execute at a higher level and a better level. Give the credit to Nevada. They did a good job in the first half of changing their defenses, extending their pressure, and the Vandals didn't do a good job of attacking they way they needed to."

Burton has had five games where he scores more than 26 or he's under 10. Is that a product of the defense or does he is just kind of a streaky shooter and when he's going there's not a lot you can do?

"You know what? He can really get it going. He's gotten it going against us every time it seems like, and most definitely he's a guy that can get it going. I think it's a little bit of both to answer your question. First and foremost you have to do a good job on him. You can't allow him to go to his right hand. You can't allow him to step into his jumper. You've got to slow him down off the ball screen. There are things you've got to do to slow him down, and we didn't do any of 'em; so you allow a good player to get going and the result is 26 points, 6 assists, 2 turnovers. He's a good player. He's a guy in our league that's probably the best candidate to play at the next level, and he showed why he's that guy tonight."

You had 13 turnovers first half, only two second. What did you say to the guys or what happened different? Was it maybe a lack of press?

"I don't know. I guess they changed their defenses a little bit. I thought we just really, really sloppy with the ball in all aspects of. I mean for whatever reason, I don't know if our guys were shocked about how hard they came at us. It's exactly what I expected, exactly what I told 'em was coming. I thought we just weren't very good with the ball. Kyle (Barone) turned it over four times. Landon (Tatum) turned it over a couple times. Djim (Bandoumel) turned it over. I mean it wasn't just one guy. It was a bunch of guys. I think Nevada had 10 or 11 steals in the first half; so they had something to do it, but we've got to execute better. That's what we do, and we didn't do that tonight."

Is there something you can do differently that you're going to focus on differently against Fresno State or like you said is this kind of an anomaly game because Nevada puts pressure on the ball the way they do?

"So does Fresno. We're gonna work hard. We're gonna do a lot better job competing. I don't think we competed hard enough. That's the bottom line. You've got to come out in WAC games and you've got to fight every possession. They know what you're gonna do. There are good coaches there. They scout just like we do. They know what you're gonna do. They're going to take your sets away. They're going to take your things away. You've got to be able to adjust and execute the things that you've got to do. It's a game of wills, and tonight their will was a lot better than ours."

Four straight losses, three on the road…and then one here and we don't have 1,000 people. How big to this team are the fans and fan support?

"I think always its huge, but we knew this was going to be a tough spot in our schedule. You look at what Wright State is doing lately and what Green Bay has done, and Boise is a good team. We all know about that game. This game, we knew this was the toughest part of our schedule. The one thing obviously we didn't think we were going to go 0-4, but you know what? I'm a firm believer in you can't worry about the things you can't control. What I can control is the guys in this locker room. I tell our guys all the time the most important guys are the guys in the locker room, and we play first and foremost for the guys in the locker room, then we play for everybody else and everything else, but the most important thing is the guys in the locker room. Tonight we didn't play that way."

How is Matt (Borton) feeling (after taking an elbow to the face)?

"I haven't talked to him yet. I'm sure the trainer is checking him out. I didn't see the shot.

Is the rule on a "Flagrant 2 Foul" that he (Deveonte Elliott) is suspended for the next game?

"I don't know that for sure. I think it's just an ejection for this game because it was not fighting. It was a flagrant 2; so I'm 99% sure it's just for this game."

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