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Head Coach Craig Neal:
Opening statement...

Really proud of our guys. And yeah, I was nervous again. This one counted. But really proud of our guys. That’s the way I envisioned our guys playing. I thought our veteran guys really led our younger guys in the sense that that’s probably one of the best starts we’ve had here in a long time. The veterans came out, imposed their will on them. And I thought they really, really did everything I asked them to do from a defensive standpoint and also pushing the ball and trying to get the ball inside. And I can’t say enough about our big guys. But I thought it was a great team effort. I think we can play better, but it’s baby steps and I was just glad to get a lot of guys minutes that counted. And ready to get on to film and try to make my team better. But I was really happy.

On the pace of the game…

I think we could have made it a little faster. I respect him and think he’s a good coach and when you’re up a certain number, I’m not … We could have pressed a lot more in the second half but that’s not me. And he does a good job. And I thought it was going to be a good test because they had 11 guys coming back, veteran guys, and I just thought we pushed the tempo in the first half, but once we got to a certain number, I didn’t see any reason to push the tempo again.

On people overlooking Assoc. Head Coach Lamont Smith and the defense...

I did. I hired him. He does a great job and I’m giving him the freedom to do that. It was kind of funny, because I used to be the offense and the defense, but now it’s kind of vice versa: I’m doing the offense and trying to coach the game and he’s doing the defense. But he’s doing a great job. All my guys… I’m really happy about my staff. I thanked them for being here. I thanked them for working for me. It was a big night for them and a big night for me. And it means a lot to mean that they believed in me to work for me. And Lamont does a great job. He knows defense. He was a heckuva defensive player in college. And I think our guys respect him and I think our guys respect all of our coaches. And they’re doing what I ask them to do. We just have some small things to shore up.

On Cameron Bairstow’s performance...

“He’s 9-for-10 and he was in foul trouble. What he’d sit out: six or seven minutes in the first half? I don’t know exactly. He has 22 [point] in 23 minutes and 11 rebounds. That’s just what you’re going to get. Those guys [Bairstow and starting center Alex Kirk] are hard to guard. I’m really proud of him. I’m really proud of all of our guys.”
 

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