MSU Coach Rick Stansbury:
"I am very proud for my team. This team, back in the second week of January, I don't think many people would have given this team a chance for playing for a Western Division championship. That is what I am most pleased about my team. They bought into that fact that it wasn't a three-game season; it is a sixteen-game season. To our kids credit, they withstood the highs and survived the lows better than anybody else in the West and put themselves into position to win this championship.
"There was very little doubt (early in the game) who was going to win that basketball game. We were playing with a lot of poise, a lot of confidence today. We made some shots in transition.
"We did this today without Mario (Austin) a lot. He played a lot of minutes but he was in foul trouble the first half. Because we had so many other people scoring today, we didn't have to depend on him to get points. Believe me, that is refreshing.
"We are going to miss the two seniors, Iggy and Zimmerman. We all know how much they have meant to us. I was very pleased to see both of them come out and have great games. There is not a better way to send them both out the last game in the Hump than with a championship and both of them having great performances.
"(Auburn head coach) Cliff (Ellis) needs to be congratulated just for having his team in position to be here. Cliff was picked last by most people this season, so he has done a terrific job putting his team in this position today."
Q and A
What do you think was the reason for holding Auburn to its lowest point total this season, your matchups?
"I don't know if it was matchups. It could be. It was probably readiness to be ready to play both games. I thought that we had a great game over at Auburn. I thought that out kids played with great focus and we have good matchups on their people. It starts with guard play. We match up with (Derrick) Bird pretty well. I think Bird came into this game averaging 21 points per game the last two games. Today, he gets four. We had quickness on him. And we had a pretty good matchup with (Marquis) Daniels. He is going to get some points but we held him to 14."
Auburn said they wanted Zimmerman to prove that he could shoot the ball.
"If that is what they wanted, I guess they got it today because he shot it today. He shot it with a lot of confidence. They decided that they were going to come in here and play a zone. I can't blame them for that because we haven't attacked zones and shot (the ball) very well. The thing you have to do in the zone is beat it in transition. That is the best way to beat it, beat it before it is set up. I thought that we did that great, early in the first half."
Did you sense early that your team was going to rebound today from the previous two games?
"Our team has always responded well. You have to survive the highs and the lows and our team did that."
Derrick Zimmerman got two curtain calls near the end of the game.
"He is special. He is a special player. He has been here for four years. He was in my first recruiting class as a head coach. I think everybody that has watched him play the last four years know that they aren't many more exciting guys that can run and jump and dunk like he can. I wanted to make sure the fans had one more chance to send him off because he deserved it."
Talk about how you beat the zone today.
"It was our ability to beat that zone back down the floor. The ball was in (Zimmerman's) hands and he was making reads. We attacked the zone a little differently today. Even though we didn't get it to him a lot, we got Mario (Austin) out on the baseline a little bit. But again, it was about making shots. When you makes shots, you can do a lot of things and everything looks good."
Talk about how your team has done on the road this season.
"One thing our team has been this year is a good road team. It started with Xavier and Oklahoma. On the road at Ole Miss and Auburn. On the road at Georgia and Alabama. Those are games that we (won) or should have won. We have been a very good road team. The last two games that we played on the road, we didn't play our best. That is going to be part of every bodies season. It wasn't anything to panic about or worry about. We had some shots but missed some shots. We didn't do as good of a job scoring in transition as we needed to against a zone. But our team has played with a lot of confidence on the road and have been in most of the games."
Auburn Coach Cliff Ellis:
"I want to congratulate Mississippi State. They certainly played a great game.
"We went in with a gameplan to try and take Austin out of the game. We limited his shots, but when you take someone out of a game, it opens it up for somebody else. When it came to making shots, I thought that Derrick Zimmerman was the key player.
"(Allowing) 67 points, from a defensive standpoint, was good. From an offensive standpoint, their defense never allowed us to have a gap. We struggled. They were a very physical team and I didn't think that we stood up to the physical nature of this basketball game that way that we needed to. Their defense has done this to virtually everybody. They are long, tall, strong and quick and make it tough to score."
How does it feel to have won the SEC West?
"It is a great feeling. We worked hard to do this. It was our goal from the start."
Did you have a sense on the floor that this was going to be one of your better games?
"We were full of energy and came out and played hard and tough. When we play like that, nobody can beat us."
Did the team have any doubts about itself after that last two games?
"No, we had some pretty good practices. We didn't get down and knew we had a good chance to win."
Talk about your play against the zone today.
"We really haven't been the aggressor in zones the past couple of games. I said to myself today that I was going to be the aggressor, taking shots and making things happen by getting into gaps."
Perfect game to end your career at home?
"What better way would you want it, to win the Western Division championship your senior year? My freshman year we were 15-16. To get from 15-16 to Western Division champs, that is a big leap that I have made in the four years that I have been here."
You aren't really known as a three-point shooters, but tonight you looked like one of the best three-pointer shooters in the SEC.
"People don't know this but I shoot a lot of jump shots before and after practice. I know that my ability to knock down some shots is going to make this team even tougher to beat down the home stretch. I wanted to come out and shoot it if they backed off of me. Coach said to jump up and shoot it."
Talk about coach letting you get that second encore at the end of the game.
"I appreciate coach doing that for me. It meant a lot to me because I have been here for four years. The fans were great. I thought that they appreciated everything that I did for Mississippi State to help Mississippi State get back to the point they were in 1995 and 1996."
Talk about how fast you guys started today.
"I thought today that we really came out and played with great intensity, defensive wise. I think that was the key today."
Talk about the alley-oop to Timmy Bowers.
"Well, when I hit the alley-oop to Tim, there was a lot of momentum going on in the game. I saw Tim streaking toward the basket and he was basically coming off a back door play. With Tim, you can really throwing it up there because he can go get it with the best of them. Once he caught it, I knew it was finished. It really got the crowd into it."
You and your family were very emotional in the pregame. How long did it take you to get over those emotions?
"After we went back in, I sat down in a chair and kind of stared for a little bit. It was really hard to get away from all the emotions, because there was so much built in. I thought back from four years ago to the point where I am now. I told myself that I had come a long way. My parents were here, too, and knew I was frustrated at times. They told me to keep fighting and that we would make it. That was one thing my brother told me out there; that we had made it. Once I came back out, it was time to throw it up and play."
What are your feelings toward the fans of Mississippi State?
"My feelings for the fans are great. I love our fans. Our fans have been with us all year, through our rough times and through our good times. It was great to have our fans stay with us and celebrate this victory with us because we wanted to win it in front of them."
Timmy Bowers: Talk about Zimmerman's shooting.
"It opens it up for everybody. Teams don't really respect him a lot because he doesn't shoot the ball a lot. We all know he can shoot the ball very well. It was his night tonight. If he is open, shoot it. We knew he could make it. He stepped up tonight and knocked them down."
Coach Stansbury said he knew early in the game, you guys were the better team tonight. Did you feel the same way?
"We felt like that before we came into the game. I think the people outside the locker room were the people who didn't know who the better team was."
I think I saw a tear in your eye at the end of the ball game. It was emotional for the seniors, but it was emotional for everybody, wasn't it?
"Yeah. It was special to see those two guys leave. It hurt me as a player to see those two guys play their last home game."
Talk about what you guys did to overcome the zone today.
"I told Derrick after the Tennessee game that team would sagging off of him and that he had to step up and make shots. We know that he can shoot it, but he never shoots it. Tonight, I think he really showed people that he can shoot. If people want to continue playing zone, let them go ahead and we will continue to shoot them out of it. When they decide to go Man, I'm pretty sure it will get back to the way it used to be. I'm just going to keep my patience and do the little things to help us win."
Does it every frustrate you to have so many players sag on you when you are on offense?
"No, the thing that frustrates me so much is when I get so many knick-knack fouls called on me and I can't get fouls called on the opponents when they foul me after I catch the ball. As far as having three or four people on me, I don't get frustrated about that."
Do you ever say anything to the officials, maybe some helpful hint type things?
"All the time, all the time."
What do they say to you?
"They tell me all type things. You wouldn't want to know all the things they tell me."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org