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MSU pulls away to defeat McNeese State

Mississippi State, behind the play of sophomore Mario Austin and senior Marckell Patterson, defeated McNeese State, 70-58, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, Texas. Mississippi State advanced to the second round where they will face Texas, winners over Boston College, Sunday at 1:15 p.m.<P> <a href="http://www.mstateathletics.com/0,5604,1_25_0_11691,00.html">Game story...</a><P> <a href="http://www.mstateathletics.com/0,5604,1_25_0_11697,00.html">Game stats...</a>

Post-game conference quotes.

RICK STANSBURY

Give your thoughts about the victory tonight.
"You are always happy to win. We are very happy to get that first game out of the way. We knew it was going to be a very difficult game for a lot of reasons. Number one, McNeese is a very good basketball team. They have a lot of experience and a lot of athletes. Give Tic Price and his team a lot of credit. I really thought they were the more aggressive team, especially the first ten minutes of the game. I thought that they really took it to us. I thought that we were a little uptight. After that first ten minutes, I really thought that we loosen up. However, I don't know if we ever loosen up offensively the entire game. The thing that got us going was kind of the same thing that got us going all year long and that was our ability to defend. I felt like at that ten-minute mark in the first half, we started playing with more quickness. That got us the lead at halftime. And we continued to build on the lead in the second half."

Give us an update on Michael Ignerski's injury>
"He jammed it somehow. He had an x-ray and I think it came back negative as far as a break. There is no question that it is a severe sprain or pulled ligament of some kind. We will now have to wait and see if he can play Sunday afternoon. I really thought that our team did a very good job of making adjustments without him in there. Ontario Harper came in and had to play some four for us. Iggy is a big part of what we do and a big part of our chemistry. He adds a lot of skills to our team."

How close was Mario Austin to going pro out of high school?
"There is no question that coming out of high school, it was a thought that he had just as it would be a thought for any of us if someone told us that you would have a chance to play pro basketball. Fortunately for Mario, he listened to us and trusted us. He learned during his freshman year the limitations he had at that time and he learned that he had to go to work. To his credit, he went to work last March and lost forty pounds."

What is the one thing about today's game that concerns you about going into Sunday?
"I hope that Iggy is ready to go. He is really a big part of what we do. I really thought that he came into this tournament playing about as well as anybody that we have. We just won the SEC Tournament and he was a big part of that. Because of his skill level, we need him back in that. If he isn't able to play, then we will have to make an adjustment and have some young men step up."

Were you surprised by the way they attempted to defend the post?
"We knew that was where we had the advantage. It was very obvious that we wanted to go at Brewer and get him out of there. When we got him out, it forced them to put Jackson and Gentry on Mario. They didn't want that Gentry matchup because he is their best player."

What did you tell the guys in the huddle after the slow start?
"Naturally, it was the first time that they had been on (the NCAA Tournament) stage. You look around the country and you see a lot of close scores. The team that is an underdog is the team that can play so much looser. I thought that (McNeese State) was the better team in the first ten minutes. After that first 8 or 9 minutes when we got down by 6 or 7 points, I think the game changed."

You held them to 58 points, their lowest point total of the season, what do you think the keys were in doing that?
"It is something that we do consistently and that is play as a team (on defense). If you look at our previous 8 games, we probably held a few teams to their team-low in points.

"I thought that we did a good job on Gentry who is a load. We limited his touches, limited his shots. We never let him take over the game. He got some baskets off put-backs and off the dribble, but we kind of took him out of the basketball game."

Do you attribute any of the jitters at the beginning of the game to the some lingering affects of the SEC Tournament?
"Absolutely not. We came in very confident and had plenty of rest. It was just a new stage, an NCAA game. I guess the kids put a little pressure on themselves and were a little excited coming into the game."

Did you see something that caused you to use the press when you did? Also, was that the turning point of the game?
"I wanted to change the tempo of the game. We were up 8 or 9 at that point. They were coming down and running sets. We wanted to use our athleticism a little bit more and get a deflection and a steal. That will loosen you up offensively. We scored five or seven points very quickly and that changed the game."

Talk about the job that Michael Gholar did today.
"He is a warrior for us. When you look down the stats sheet, he will get overlooked every time, but players like Michael are what you have to have to have a good team. Michael Gholar is a 6-5 player who had to play the number 4 spot for us a lot because he is big enough and strong enough. But, more importantly, he is determined enough to defend and rebound. When you get a little offense from him, that is a plus. Tonight he was on Gentry most of the time and I thought that he did a good job. Gentry is a terrific player and was first team All-SLC and SLC Tournament Most Valuable Player."

DERRICK ZIMMERMAN

There was a time when you guys were in the press and had a seven-point where McNeese State didn't even get to their offensive side of the court. Talk about how important that run was.
"I think it was right after a timeout and we went into our man-to-man defense. We wanted to change the tempo of the game because they were kind of dictating the tempo at that time. They have very small guards and Michael (Gholar) and I did a good job of trapping the guard. We were trying to make him throw over the top. Our athletic wing players would get in the passing lanes. That also picked our intensity level up."

All the defense and strategy is fine, but tell us about that dunk you threw down.
"That probably surprised everybody with that dunk because they have the big kid in the middle. He is a big shot-blocker and he was standing in the lane waiting for the small guards to come inside. I guess he didn't know this small guard can get up like that. I guess I got the best of him with that one."

MARCKELL PATTERSON

How about talking about the first ten minutes of the game and what it took to get you guys going.
"We came out with a lot of jitters because of just being (in the NCAA Tournament). We didn't bring the game to them and let them dictate the pace of the game. Once we started playing defense and rebounding, we let the game come to us."

MARIO AUSTIN

You were down by eight with about nine and a half minutes to go in the first half, then you went on an 18-4 run. You scored 14 of those. Talk about that period of the game.
"It started on defense. And I also wanted to make their big men convert. I knew as long as I was running the court, I knew Z, Tim and Marckell would fine me."

How much do you want the ball when you are on the court?
"Of course players want the ball down the stretch. I just wanted to help my team every way that I could no matter if it is offensively, defensively or rebounding. For some reason, (the McNeese State) players were letting me catch the ball. I never could figure out why they were letting me catch it."

I'm sure you've seen on film that number 5, Larry Jackson, and number 52, Khorokorin, don't play much. Were you surprised to see them rotated in when Brewer got into foul trouble?
"Coming into the game, I wanted to get two quick fouls on Brewer. Once we got Brewer in foul trouble, we knew that they would have to play them."

TIMMY BOWERS

With Mario playing so well tonight, did the offense go through him first?
"We just wanted to work it inside-out. Mario is a very good post player down low. We just wanted to get it to him and if they doubled him, he could kick it to the outside for an open shot."

MCNEESE STATE COACH TIC PRICE

"We faced one of the hottest basketball teams in America. Mississippi State is the most athletic team that we have faced this year. Mario Austin is the most skilled post player that they have faced this year. Defensively, they did a good job on us. When they went to their press, they made it very hard for us to get into any of our sets. Because of their ball pressure and their athleticism, they set very good pressure traps against you and force you to throw over the top. Then they went on a run. Normally, when teams go on a run we respond but because of their defense we were not able to. During that period, we may have lost our poise as well."


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