Phil Cunningham talks about Xavier

Mississippi State assistant coach Phil Cunningham talked about MSU's loss to Xavier.

What are your defensive options when a team is shooting as well as Xavier did against you today?
"One thing you can do is go to a zone defense to try and get them out of their rhythm. In the first half, we went into a zone one possession and Chalmers hit a wide open three. In the second half, we go to the zone and they hit another three. We tried to handle their ball screens different ways. Then, the biggest blow was when we went to our halfcourt trap and they moved the ball around and hit a three against it. In the past, that defense has always gotten us back in games. So, that was a tough blow to take."

I know you have scouted them quite a bit this year. Have they had another game shooting the ball this well?
"No, but this game reminds me, when I scouted them, of the St. Joe game in the Atlantic-10 Tournament. They were hitting everything. What happens when one team is hitting threes on their end, it gets into your head a little bit and makes you rush on offense. All it takes is you missing on a possession or two and they hit a couple of threes and it is a double-digit lead. They are a tough team to come back on."

In the first half, your team had a 10-point lead and it looked like you had a chance to knock the wind out of them. What happened from that point?
"We missed a couple of shots. And Xavier is a team that can hit a couple of threes and get back into the game. It didn't surprise me when they came back on us. But the biggest play of the game was that halfcourt shot just before halftime. We had a two-point lead and had the ball and was running a play for Lawrence Roberts. Lawrence was wide opened but Timmy stumbled and couldn't make the pass, so he had to make a shot. Then, the long rebound kicks out and they ended up getting that long three from midcourt. So, it goes from a two-point lead for us to a one-point lead for them. If Lawrence had gotten the ball he would have either made the shot or gotten fouled. Instead the momentum changed in their favor."

Even though you lost the experience of making the tournament has to help the younger guys for the next season.
"Yeah, it helps because it makes you hungrier and makes you work harder during the summer. They are upset right now because we are just like the fans, we wanted to go to the Sweet 16 bad. Those kids are hurting right now. All we talked about was wanting to practice this time next week. Everybody, the players, the coaches, we all wanted to be playing next weekend. It hurts when that gets cut off."


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 swindoll@genespage.com.


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