"I am awful proud of our kids' effort. When that game got tight down the stretch when they went ahead four or five and fatigue sets in and maybe some doubt sets in, we never folded. I'm proud of them for that, number one. Number two, you have to make shots against a quality team like that if you want to win a game. And we found ways to make shots.
"Two things that are a first this season; we had more assists than turnovers and it was the first time we shot above 50%. Those two stats are huge, particularly when you outrebound them at the same time.
"It was (our team's) 7th game in 15 days. With them bouncing back and winning these last two game and bowing up and winning today, there is no doubt that our kids have grown up some. Now, we can get some practice time and get some guys back. And, hopefully, this team can keep improving."
Talk a little about Santa Clara.
"Santa Clara is a very good team, a very experienced team. They can make shots. But they didn't make as many three-pointers in the second half. I don't know if that was due to us or them. They started doing in the second half what they wanted to do the entire game. In the first half, we kept the ball out of the high post to (Travis) Niesen. The second half they started getting the ball to him in the high post. When he gets that ball in the high post, well you saw what he can do. He has the ability to score and the ability to draw fouls."
What have you learned about your team the last couple of weeks?
"I've learned that we have to execute better offensively. And there is no question that we have to become better defensively, particularly in the man. There are a list of things. Getting some depth back will help immensely. Being able to get Richard (Delk) back will help. We are really short having a sub at (the point guard) spot. When we sub at the one, we sub with a young man (Jamont Gordon) who has gone as hard as he can go for as many minutes as he has been out there."
You said all preseason these freshmen could be special. And they were huge down the stretch for you.
"That is two games in a row that Reginald Delk has had to step up and start and play 35 minutes. He actually played 41 minutes this game. For a freshman, in his 7th game in 15 days, to play 41 minutes with no turnovers, that is a huge stat. In the last two games he was 5 for 9 and I think 4 for 5 at the three-point line. That is pretty good shooting from him.
"I think the biggest thing with Jamont (Gordon)is you've seen him settle down a little bit. He is going to make mistakes. That is just his makeup. But his shot selection is much better. The shots he is taking at the three-point line are good shots. His turnovers are much better. He's creating plays for other players. He's a guy who can catch it in a lot of spots and take it to the rim. He causes defenses to have to sink. And he's done a much better job of kicking it out. The first five games, he probably didn't kick it out much. And there will be times he won't kick it now. He had one of those lapses late in this game. But one thing about Jamont that you never question is that he is giving you everything that he has every possession."
Isn't it surprising to see freshmen make clutch shots with the game on the line?
"After the schedule that (Reginald Delk) has been through, I don't know if he knows he's a freshman. He has been through a lot. He played 41 minutes with no turnovers. That's a pretty impressive stat. And 41 minutes, 18 points."
Do you think these freshmen don't feel the pressure that previous freshmen felt? Maybe that's the reason they are playing better.
"The thing these freshmen are getting that others didn't is more playing time. They are getting the chance to play through mistakes. In the past, due to the teams makeup, it didn't call for them to have to play 40 minutes like this team does for 2 or 3 of them. There's no substitute for experience and playing time. But we have miles to go before we are a really good team. But we have seen some progress."
Talk about how Wesley Morgan did today.
"He played 35 minutes and got 10 rebounds, 6 points and 4 block shots. The thing about Wesley Morgan is whatever he gives you, he's giving you everything that he has. I never have to holler at him for lack of effort. He may be out of position sometimes, but Wesley is going to try and, maybe, his fatigue will break him down sometimes."
Your team outscored Santa Clara 16-3 in the overtime. Did your team do anything differently in that period?
"I wish I could answer that. But I do know that our kids bowed-up at that time. That's probably the most impressive thing about the entire game. We were absolutely, totally fatigued. But we didn't allow it to be a reason to lose this game. Santa Clara has had some rest because they've been here three days. Reginald Delk got us going that stretch. Reginald and Jamall (Edmondson) got us separated in a hurry."
I realize you feel your team was totally fatigued, but it appeared to me that they weren't leaning over with their hands on their knees this game. Do you feel they were less fatigued than the last two games?
"I think we were playing a lot easier down the stretch in the last game. But when you make shots, it helps everything. Plus, we had one extra day to rest. We played Wednesday and this was a Saturday game, as compared to playing Thursday and Saturday games. That probably helped, too."
Will Dietric Slater, Richard Delk and Walter Sharpe be available for your next game?
"We hope so, but we don't know for certain on any of them. We'll have to wait and see how Richard progresses this week. Hopefully, Monday, he can start jogging, but we don't know. Dietric, I would hope so. Walt, if he doesn't have a total (academic) collapse, then we hope so."
How will it help to have Richard Delk back?
"I think we can all agree that Richard was playing as good or better than any of (the freshmen). He makes everything work a little bit better because he gives you a little bit more quickness and gives you the chance to rest somebody."
Do you feel your team is where you wanted it to be at this point in the season?
"I really haven't had my team so that I could get it to where I want it to be. Our progress has been totally slowed down. We have been in the survivor mode the last two weeks. If I had known we were going to have all these injuries when we first got started, I would have started to do other things earlier. But we've had to kind of backpedal by jumping into a zone, so that they had a chance to win. We didn't do what I wanted to do, but what we were capable of doing."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.