How did it feel to finally get the mask off your face?
"It was great. It felt more comfortable without it. It gave me a lot more confidence. When you have it on, sometimes you are a little timid about certain things just because you want to nurse your injury. You aren't playing to your full potential. When I got it off, it was a big breath of relief just being able to play without it."
Does it hurt or is it sore at all?
"Just a little bit. I bumped it just a little bit the first half, but it stood up and felt pretty good after getting that little knock on it. I knew then that it would be alright and I wouldn't have to be too worried about it. That really helped me out."
How did it help you to not play with the mask?
"I was more aggressive. That's the bottom line. The past few games, Coach (Stansbury) was telling me that I wasn't as aggressive as in the past. I knew it was just because of the mask and having to sit out some games and getting back into it."
Do you still have to wear the mask in practice?
"I have to wear it in practice."
You and your teammates totally dominated the boards 55-23.
"We just wanted to go back to playing hard and really controlling the game on the defensive end and pulling down rebounds. We knew if we did that, then we would come out with a victory."
Why were you guys so good defensively, tonight?
"The last few days we have really been trying to buckle down and play hard on defense."
You really seemed to put them away just before the first half.
"We wanted to stay aggressive. We knew they were a good ballclub. They played some good teams like Oklahoma State. We knew if we let them stay in the game they were capable of making some runs, so we really just wanted to keep attacking and keep hitting them while they were down."
You've got a tough task ahead this coming week, going to New Orleans and Xavier.
"It's going to be tough playing New Orleans and Xavier at their places. It's always tough going on the road and playing. You just have to do a good job of staying focused and keeping our defensive mentality."
Did Coach Stansbury wanted to put more emphasis on trying to get the ball to you early in this game?
"Yeah, we wanted to work on getting inside more and be patient. A lot of times we have shot the ball quickly and that is not us. We wanted to settle down and just do a good job."
You had 21 points in the first half and 6 in the second half. Was the reason for that something they did or something you did?
"It was one of those things where we controlled the game in the first half and I felt good where we were at in the game and just wanted to do a good job on defense (in the second half) and come out with the victory."
WESLEY MORGAN (16 minutes, 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 2 turnovers)
Talk about what you bring to this team.
"I try to come out everyday and play with as much energy and effort as possible and defend and rebound. I don't look to score because we have enough players on the team right now who can score. If it does come, then that's a plus."
You guys really dominated the boards tonight.
"That is a key to us winning a lot of games. To be the type of team we can be, we have to come out and rebound like that every night."
You really dominated them the last few minutes of the first half. Was there anything specific you guys were doing?
"We were really hustling. We were getting stops and we were pushing the ball and converting on the other end. We were being very unselfish."
You really looked like you were having a ball out there tonight.
"I was having a blast. I have a blast everytime I play. It was good to get out there and help the team. Anytime I can get out there and contribute that makes it that much better."
Is your role to provide some productive minutes in relief of Roberts and Campbell?
"That's all I'm looking for right now because we have our starting lineup. Anytime I can come in and give them a breather and give them a chance to get their legs back under them, that is much better for the team."
How much did the Arizona loss hurt this team?
"It really hurt. It really did hurt because we had a chance to win and we didn't really play well. And we still had a chance to win it. We know we can beat them. It's just like Syracuse, we know we can beat them. We know we can beat those teams. We just let them slip away."
How much does playing a team like Arizona prepare you for the SEC?
"It really helps because that is a top-10 to top-15 caliber team. They were very physical and had good guard play. We are going to see a lot of that in the SEC."
DIETRIC SLATER (16 minutes, 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 turnovers)
What did you guys do in practice this week after losing that heartbreaker to Arizona?
"After the game against Arizona, he told us that we waited too late to put a lot of energy in that game. So, during practice, while we had a lot of finals, we did a lot of concentrating on playing defense and doing a lot of shooting."
What do you bring to your team?
"Most of the time I look to play defense, but (Coach Stansbury) told me to look to play more offense. So now I have to look for my offense, too, so that I can help the team even more."
You also look like you are very aggressive crashing the boards.
"Yeah, they call me the animal."
At one time the players said you were a little embarrassed with that nickname. You appear to take pride in it now.
"Oh yeah, I love it now."
Was it fun out there tonight?
"It was a lot of fun. Even when I was rolling around on the floor it was a lot of fun."
Coach Stansbury mentioned that you play defense so well that he overlooks the fact that he doesn't always know what it going to happen when you on offense. Do you know what you are going to do on offense or does it sometimes just happen?
"Some things just happen. Half the time I don't know what I am going to do. I'll be so full of speed on defense that it carries over to offense. I'm trying to learn to go full speed on defense, then slow it down just a little bit on offense."
Is this team better defensively than you thought it would be at this time?
"We are really good in practice. And you play like you practice."
Are you and Gary Ervin similar in how you play the game so fast?
"He has another speed. He has three and I only have two. That is why coach (Stansbury) is going crazy out there."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.