Here's what David Cox, Jeff Dowtin and Tyrese Martin had to say about Wednesday's matchup with Duquesne.
On what it will take to beat the Dukes: It’s going to take our A game. It’s a really good team, a well-coached team. They do a lot of things well. They defend at a very high level. They share the ball at a high level. They shoot it well from 3, at least in conference play. They’ve got dominant post play. They do everything at a pretty high level.
On seeing signs the past few years of Duquesne's success: You spend just a little time around coach Dambrot - which I’ve been fortunate to do the last couple of summers with A-10 coaches meetings - you know how intense and focused he is, how driven he is. If you watch him on the sideline, he’s in a defensive stance for the majority of the game. That’s not being a fraud. He’s just locked in. I anticipated his team following suit. I just didn’t anticipate it being this fast.
On defense: It’s a point of emphasis every day. It’s a part of our culture. And we’re playing eight guys right now, so everybody kind of understands their role and understands what they need to do to stay on the floor. You’ve got to defend at a pretty high level and they’ve bought into that.
On talking about championships: It should be the goal. It’s the goal of every coach and player in this conference. If it’s not, then you shouldn’t be playing. I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn. I’m not boasting at all. I just think we have a talented roster. It’s a very tough league. Our goal is the A-10 regular-season championship. It’s pretty simple. I don’t know why you would be in sports if you’re not trying to win it all. That’s our goal.
On how to approach big goals: It’s kind of who I am at the end of the day. I’ve chased this dream for 20-30 years. Now I’m here and I’m never content, so now I’m chasing the next dream. And the next dream is to win a championship as a head coach, to advance to the NCAA Tournament as a head coach. I’m trying to have the guys hear that, feel that, believe in that. That’s why I constantly say it. By no means do I mean to disrespect the opposition. It’s one game at a time for us as always. I never look at the schedule. I have no idea who we’re usually playing next unless somebody says something. I’m locked in on Duquesne. That’s our biggest mission right now. Win or lose that game, the goals will be the same and the focus will be the same.
On Duquesne's ability: It’s a really talented roster he’s put together. He’s got three dynamic guards. It was two last year. You’ve got Hughes, the transfer Weathers, who’s a stud, and the big kid who can shoot 3s. I think [Dambrot] has done a hell of a job piecing it together, and they play very complimentary basketball. They play off one another. You can see it - one thing I truly admire about watching them play is their connectedness. On both ends of the floor, I admire that. Really good recruiting, really good coaching and they’re a cohesive unit.
On winning: We’re past the measuring stick. That was the non-conference. Now we’re trying to win championships. If we win, we put ourselves a good spot. If we lose, we’re not out of it and we’ll focus on the next game. So we’re just focused on winning this game, not necessarily on the measuring stick.
On the opportunity: Big time players step up to big time games. This is a great opportunity for us. We’re just excited. Coach has been preaching that this is a big game for us, not just because they’re the number one team in the conference, but because it’s the next game up. Just having our home crowd behind us, it means a lot. We’re definitely going to be ready for this one.
On last year's loss to Duquesne: I try to forget that game because it was so heartbreaking. We had a big lead on them at halftime. They came out second half, punched us in the mouth and they took that game from us. We’ve still got that sour taste in our mouth. We know what they’re capable of doing, so we’ve just got to be ready.
On learning from that game: You’ve got to watch film, go over your mistakes and try to correct those for this upcoming game. The game of basketball is two halves. Just because you played good the first half doesn’t mean you’re going to play good the second half. You’ve got to make adjustments, figure out where you went wrong, make those corrections.
On defense: Defense wins games. Defense wins championships. I think our defense contributes to our offense. The way we’ve been defending teams, checking ball screens, diving on loose balls, rebounding - I think we’re playing a great defensive game and that translates to our offense.
On Duquesne: Definitely a balanced attack. I think they have two or three players in double figures, two more at nine points a game. They have some great players who can go and score at any given moment. We’re going to be ready for that challenge.
On goals: Everybody has goals that they set at the beginning of the year. Ours happens to be regular season champions, tournament champions and make the NCAA Tournament. We want to reach those goals. We just want to strive to be the best we can possibly be, but like every other team, we also take it one game at a time. We know that these one games is going to lead to our bigger goal.
On his message to teammates: Just be consistent. We’re on a three or four game winning streak. As long as we keep winning ball games, we’re going to put ourselves in a great situation for our goals in the future. Just stay confident in yourself. Things might not go your way down the stretch, but we’re brothers, we’re family, and we’ll pick each other up. As long as we stay together as one group, we’ll be fine.
On last year: I feel like we’ve got some revenge to get on them after the game we had last year against them. But every game is the same - we take the same approach.
On defense: We’re just worried about stopping them - nobody let their man score. If we do that, we’re going to be good.
On a victory: It would mean a lot, put us higher in our conference and put us closer to our goals.
On the team's belief: I feel like this team is not respected enough in the conference and everybody else. I feel like we’re just going to force people to respect us. We’ve got to set high standards for ourselves.
On last year's loss to Duquesne: Last year, we were young and we had a problem handling prosperity. I feel like we overcame that this year. We’re all older and we know to lock down for 40 minutes. I feel like we’ve done that for a lot of our season this year.