GAME QUOTES: Don Verlin & Mark Phelps

Following Idaho's thrilling 69-67 victory over Drake University of the Missouri Valley Conference on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Tournament, Idaho head coach DON VERLIN and Drake head coach Mark Phelps met with the media to discuss the game. Inside, each coach provides their perspective on how the matchup played out and the importance of this post-season game.

Idaho Head Coach Don Verlin, post game quotes

Coach V: "Wow. Wow."

LARRY JOHNSON: Kind of a thriller there at the end.
Coach V: "Yeah. I think I let the guys play free and easy for 37 minutes then I started coaching ‘em, or trying to screw it up. What a game! I mean what a great game. It was tough to coach there at the end when we started losing it, losing our lead, but I thought it was probably for a fan a hell of a game to watch. Lots of runs, lots of transition baskets, lots of 3-point shots. I thought we played one of our best games of the year from an offensive standpoint. I thought we passed the ball as well as we've passed it all year. You look at Kashif Watson's line: 7 assists, no turnovers; Mac Hopson 9 assists, 3 turnovers…I mean we really shared the ball well tonight, and we had to do that versus the matchup zone. We did a great job of that."

Q: Balanced scoring too, coach; five in double figures.
Coach V: "Yeah. We did a great job. I thought that was a tribute to us passing it. They 1-2-2 zoned us all night long. They had a couple of different slides that we adjusted to throughout the game, but we haven't seen that much zone lately, and I thought our guys did a great job of executing our zone offense. I thought they did a good job of finding the open man. On a number of occasions we drove the lane and found the open man. We found the open guy on the break, and I think it was the key to us shooting 49% tonight. Then I was really happy with the way we shot our free throws, because we've all know that's been our Achilles heel all year long. We stepped up when we needed to and made the throws tonight. Very happy for our guys and our program."

Q: In the first half, if you could just make a couple comments, I really thought that Brandon Wiley and Luciano (de Souza) did some good things for you early.
Coach V: "They did. I tell you what. That's the most energy that Brandon Wiley has played with for a long time, and I think the couple days off really helped some of our guys that I play a lot of minutes. We basically hadn't played since Thursday, obviously; so we went Friday, Saturday and Sunday where we didn't do anything and it helped with our energy. I thought Brandon played with an unbelievable amount of energy as well as Luciano DeSouza. I challenged Brandon pretty hard because Jonathan Cox is such a good player. He goes 17 and 10 tonight, but I thought we did a good job. I really thought the key to this game was Kashif Watson. Kashif Watson in the second half, I don't know if Josh Young scored. He might have scored some free throws, but he might have been about 0-for-10 if my memory serves me correctly. He locked that kid down, and that's a really good Missouri Valley player. That was a heck of an effort for Kashif, and I thought that was one of the big reasons why we got our lead in the second half."

Q: How about the way Kashif and Wiley really seemed to click and play together in that first half particularly – they were getting great looks, great assists…
Coach V: "They did a great job. Like I said, we haven't played (much lately) against a zone, and one of our keys to the game is we had to get it into the lane. We had to get it into the lane by touches, getting it into our posts to Marv (Jefferson) or we've got to get it into the lane by driving. I thought Kashif did a great job of driving it into the lane, and when they helped up on him B Wiley was there for the dump off and he did a great job dumping it off. It has to be one of Kashif Watson's best games of the year I thought from an overall defensive standpoint and then passing the ball the way he did. We did a really good job executing our zone offense. I was really worried about that coming into the game."

Q: You guys think you go to Pacific next?
Coach V: "That's what it sounds like. I know that they're gonna host another game, and obviously that one's got an interesting turn to it because my twin brother is the associate head coach there and obviously the staff I know very well. As a matter of fact we went ‘em down our Portland tape before the game started tonight or before this week; so yeah. It should be a lot of fun. It's a hard place to win, but it'll be a lot of fun to get down there and get after ‘em."

Q: Is that official?
Coach V: "Not 100% official. They'll let us know tomorrow, but that's what it sounded like in the locker room after the game and I talked to the guy before the game tonight and it sounded like that's where we were gonna go if Pacific won and they did by six or something; so it sounds like that but I can't…as soon as we find out we're throw out a release exactly where we'll go. I hope we go somewhere in the West. There's only one (other) West team left. If not, we're gonna have to go across the country to the Midwest; so it would be good to play on the West Coast if we could."

Q: We saw you waving your arms there at the crowd there at the end.
Coach V: "We needed all the help we could get. I'll tell you…I can't express how happy I am with our administration, Dr. Spear, President Larsen. This was hard, because we had to come up with some money in some tough times, and they stepped up. We had a number of boosters whom I can't mention, but they did an unbelievable job of raising some money. Then I thought our entire administration did a great job of marketing the game and getting people here. There were no freebies tonight, and I was really happy with the crowd and how loud they were. I felt we needed all their help, and we sure got it tonight. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the dedication that Dr. Spear and President Larsen showed for this basketball game. They really stepped up."

Q: Mac said if you need another foul in the closing seconds he's… (Verlin breaks out laughing). He's gonna back off a little bit.
Coach V: "Wow. You know, you can talk about that forever. What do you do? What don't you do? I come from a system where you never foul. We had talked about it prior to this game, and I felt like #3, Stanley, had missed some free throws tonight and I felt like late in the game that they can't beat us -- if we foul them and they go to the line we get the rebound and the ball game is over. And they called an intentional. I have to watch it on tape. It happened so fast that I don't know if he wrapped him up or what he did, but that would have been a tough way to lose one. I told our guys that was something we've definitely got to learn from. As coaches we've definitely got to analyze what we want to do in that situation. I thought it was the right call at the time or we wouldn't have done it, but it ended up making a lot closer ending than I had hoped."

Q: Coach, when you mentioned earlier how you let the guys run free for about 37 minutes, if you had it to do over would you just let ‘em keep going like that our would you go back and still try to dominate?
Coach V: "You know, in a situation like that -- you're up 12 with 3 to play – the clock is your ally, and they're in a zone. If you go down and burp it up quickly, and they shoot so many 3's, and the swings of the game that happen so much so fast, I felt like we'd be up six and then boom we'd be down three. It just felt like the game was swinging back and forth so much; so no. I probably wouldn't have. What I wish I would have done is maybe called some different plays down the stretch. I didn't think I called very good plays down the stretch, but you've got to give (Drake) some credit. They did a good job of adjusting some things. That's always a tough call. Our record when leading at halftime is pretty good, and we led at halftime tonight. We led late. It's always a fine line as a coach because you worry about your guys getting unaggressive, and we did that a little bit tonight. The other side of it is the only way they can beat you is to have the ball; so we've just got to execute a little better down those stretches and I've got to coach a little better."

Q: A big rebound by T-Mo there at the end.
Coach V: "Huge. Huge rebound, and then the senior steps up and makes two big-time free throws. I was happy for him. I tell you, Trevor Morris has really played well the last part of this season. What a way to finish his senior year! Tonight he was big again. That's just a credit to T-Mo hanging in there and battling all year. I thought we had a number of guys play very well. I really did. I thought we played well tonight…maybe a few mistakes, a few sloppy things here and there, but for the most part I thought we played very hard and very well."

Q: Talk about being the first Idaho coach to win a post-season game since the Phil Hopson years.
Coach V: It's awesome. I've been to the post season the last 10 years, not as a head coach but as an assistant coach. We won one time. Post season wins don't come very often, and it's great. Like I told our players before the game. They'll remember this game for the rest of their lives, because it's post season, and we got a win. When we tie it up and lace it up on Monday, we'll be one of 40 or 50 teams still playing, and that's a good feeling. I'm happy for those guys. I told our players tonight before the game in my pregame talk that all year long we've earned the right to play in this game. We've worked our tails off and we've earned the right to play in this game. Tonight they owed something back to the fans and the people who helped us get to this game, and I really thought they played. I said the only way you can pay them back is to play as hard as you possibly can, and I thought we did that. I thought we were all over the floor. I thought we were on loose balls. I thought we tried to rebound it. I thought we drove the lane, and I was happy that we were able to pay the people back who helped us so much to get this game."

Q: The venue worked for you? Playing here worked for you?
Coach V: "Oh yeah. We'll play anywhere. To play a home game in the post season is awesome. Yeah. It was awesome tonight. I thought it was a great crowd. I mean, I thought they really got into it. They were loud all night. You can tell by my voice they were loud. It seemed like I screamed all night tonight. I thought it was a great crowd. 1500; so it was about sold out.

Q: We were just wondering because there was a suggestion in a newspaper in Boise today that you guys should have played this game down there.
Coach V: "You know, Rob Spear told me that too and I didn't see the article. I didn't even think about it. Gosh. I probably should have, but one thing I'll tell you is that there is something about this team…there's something about being at home. I can't put my finger on it. I don't know if it's our pre-game meal. I don't know if it's doing the same routine we do every time, but we've been pretty good at home this year. Selfishly speaking it would have been hard for me to change the venue just because we've been so good, and I think that my job is to give our team the best chance to win. Playing either in Memorial Gym or in the Cowan is familiar. I guess if everybody knew why most college basketball teams win at home, they'd be brilliant. But most college basketball teams win at home, and it has to be the familiar place, the familiar surroundings. That's the only thing I can think of. I didn't think of that. I would like to play a pre-season game in Boise maybe over Christmas break or something. I think that would be good for the Vandals, but this game…man. It would have been hard to not really cheat the people here, but the people here have come the whole second half of the year, and we've got a lot of familiar surroundings here. I like the venue tonight. We won."

Drake Head Coach Mark Phelps, post-game quotes

Coach Phelps game summary: "It was a hard fought game, clearly, by both teams. Each team had their opportunities to make runs. I am extremely proud of our basketball team given the circumstances down the home stretch of the game. I don't know the particulars, but I do know we were down 10 with about 3 minutes to go if not a little bit less. Again, extremely proud of our guys for the comeback. Craig Stanley played a terrific game for us, did some really good things; really unfortunate for him he's right at the rim for a right-handed layup and he would make that shot 99 out of 100 times. I guess tonight was the 100th. Despite that we were able to get a decent look off by Josh Young at the end on a side out-of-bounds play and that didn't fall as well. A hard-fought game by both teams, and I'm extremely proud of my team, particularly proud of our seniors. We do graduate five seniors – Brent Heemskerk, Bucky Cox., Alex White. John Michael Hall and Jacob Baryenbruch have been a huge part of our program, some for five years, and they will be known as the first team to go to back-to-back post seasons in 38 years since we were in the NCAA in 69-70 and 70-71. Hats off to our seniors. Really proud of them and we're going to miss them a lot."

Q: What about the Vandals, coach?
MP: "They're a good team. They made plays when they had to. When you look at the stat sheet, you look at a very balanced basketball team with five players in double figures. The thing that struck me coming into the game, of note, was the fact that they share the basketball so well and their positive assist-to-turnover ratio. When you look at the stat sheet again, 19 assists and 10 turnovers. I thought they did an excellent job on the offensive end. They ended up shooting 49% for the game and 35% from 3; so really efficient on the offensive end."

Q: Coach, what was your trip like? When did you guys get in?
MP: "We got to Spokane last night at 11:30 to the hotel. It wasn't bad at all. It wasn't ideal, but certainly there weren't bad travel conditions. Again, we got into bed by probably midnight, up at 8:30 or so; drove down for our shoot-around, had a chance to rest this afternoon."

LJ: What did you think of the venue [Idaho's Memorial Gym] and the crowd?
MP: "It was actually pretty exciting. When we walked in for shoot around I didn't expect to have a venue quite like this, but I'm sure there's a lot of character in this building. I'm sure you guys could tell me a lot of stories of great basketball games that happened here. It was exciting. I think the venue was perfect for this game."

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