"Everybody witnessed what we knew coming into this game. I knew UAB was coming off a 21-win season. They went to the championship of their conference tournament after beating Marquette and almost beat Louisville. Then went and won two NIT games. They had four starters back and they also brought in three new players, two of whom are are their leading scorer and their third leading scorer. So, we knew just how good they were going to be, but you never expect someone to come in here and have an individual performance like Mo Finley did. That was unbelievable. That is all I can say. He is preseason first-team in their league. He is a great player. He didn't miss. He scored 38 points. I thought their entire team shot the ball well all game long.
"But, on the other hand, give our kids some credit. We were in foul trouble with Lawrence (Roberts) not able to play much. Campbell didn't have his best performance and we survived the first half. Then, we had to survive Mo Finley's run when they got up nine. I think it was about 8 minutes to go when we were down 8 or 9. But our kids didn't quit. They found a way down the stretch to make basketball plays. We switched to the zone when we were down. Normally, you don't do that against a shooter, but I thought the zone broke the rhythm of the game and allowed us, when we came out of the zone, to guard him in man. And the last four minutes we made free throws. We were 12 for 12 down the stretch. Before that, we were 14 of 31. Give credit to Lawrence and Frazier for stepping up and making free throws when the game was on the line. This was a great win for our program. That team, as I said before, will compete for the championship in their league. Everybody will find that out as the season goes on."
Q&A with Rick Stansbury.
Was the last (scoring) play (that won the game) designed or did you do whatever opened up?
"We wanted to ball screen Tim (Bowers), one, and get him on a drive. We wanted Lawrence to roll in there. We wanted Tim or Lawrence to make a play. Naturally, they cut Tim off, but we want that ball to somehow get inside, either get it to the rim or get fouled. We want the ball going to the rim. We got it to Lawrence and he attacked the rim and made a shot. Then, Mo missed a shot, his last shot. Everybody held their breath on that because of the way he had been shooting."
Did you need a close game like this?
"Well, I don't know if a game like this is ever good for you. Did I enjoy it? No. But, anytime you can win a game against a team that played as well as they played..to survive all that with us missing some free throws, I think that is a tremendous win for us. We will look back later in the season and see how big this win was."
Talk a little more about going to the 2-3 zone with about 8 minutes to go when you were down,
"It broke their rhythm. They were hurting us on penetration. They were hurting us on penetration shots. At least, we were going to try and take the penetration away. When you go zone, you worry about the shot. But, the zone spread them out and made them stand around a little bit. We took a gamble with that. You go to zone with Mo Finley in the game, shooting the way he was shooting was a little bit of a gamble. But, it made him spread out a little bit. He wasn't as close and it caused him to stand. I'll have to look at the stats, but I think they got 0 offensive rebounds probably the last 10 or 12 minutes of the basketball game."
It seemed like it was hard for you to just pound them inside.
"They don't let you just do that. The way they play, they are going to make you scramble. They are not going to let you run sets and be a typical basketball team. They are going to make you play. When you are playing, you can't always just throw it inside because they are trapping you on the wings."
Were your players' legs dead after playing so many games in so few days?
"There is no question that was a part of it. We got tired. That was a big concern when we set up this schedule. We had to play a UAB on the backend of the 4th game in 8 days. They are the last kind of team you want to play because they are going to bring out the most energy because of the way they play. I went with those guys who I thought were going to lay it on the line the most. That was Shane (Power), Timmy (Bowers), (Winsome) Frazier, Branden (Vincent) and Lawrence (Roberts)."
You now have started off 6-0 on the season.
"We are just pleased to have survived this stretch. Our team has been in a lot of situation. We have been on the road in a different environment. We have been at home against a really great team. And we have done it in a stretch of 4 games in 8 days. That is what I am pleased with. This team, so far, has answered all of the tests."
Forward Branden Vincent
Talk about UAB.
"We knew coming in they had a couple of junior college players that are the type players that come in and make an impact when they first come in. When we watched tapes on them, we saw how quick they got the ball up and down the floor. We knew, if we were going to stay with them, we had to be able to run with them."
It appeared as the game went on, you guys never seemed to lose your confidence?
"We just knew we were better than that. The whole time we weren't playing to our full potential, we knew we had more in us. So, we kept picking up our intensity as the game went on. And we pulled it out."
Mo Finley was a load to handle on the defensive end.
"He is a great player. He is one of the top shooting guards in the country. When he got in his shooting zone, it seemed like everything he threw up went in. When you have a player come in the gym like him, you can expect a good game from him."
What does a win at the buzzer against a very good UAB team do for your team?
"It lets us know that we don't win just the easy ones but we also go out and win the hard ones."
Guard Timmy Bowers
This was a very good ball game against a very good ball team.
"UAB came out with a lot of intensity. They were diving for loose balls on the floor. The thing that made them even better was Bo Finley. He didn't miss."
Guard Winsome Frazier
You have played 4 games in 8 days. Do you feel you have survived something?
"It felt like conditioning (drills) all over again. But, you have to come out and do what you have to do."
The pace slows down now.
"Yeah, we don't play again until next Saturday. We will be able to get our legs back then."
Talk about the last possession that won the game.
"Coach wanted us to hold the ball for one shot. That's what we did. We got it in to Lawrence and he scored."
How much did the crowd help the team?
"I love the crowd. I love Rick's Rowdies. Without them, where would we be. When they got into that, I felt a little energy going, so I fed off that."
The team struggled with free throws early on but made 12 of 12 in the second half. What was the reason for that?
"I don't know if we relaxed or what. I just said we need to take our time. Down the stretch, that's one thing we did."
How difficult was it to defend Mo Finley?
"He wasn't difficult, but coming off screens and running around searching for him, you had to be on your toes."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.