bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie women's basketball head coach Darin Spence throughout the 2008/2009 season as the Aggies take aim at a conference championship. Coach Spence was out traveling this week so we spoke with assistant coach Joel Washington about last week's games UNM and UTEP, Madison Spence and Danisha Corbett, their nine day break and the next month and half away from the Pan Am.
bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the New Mexico game.
Joel Washington: The New Mexico game was obviously a different game. As a staff we were very disappointed in the performance of the team both offensively and defensively. Especially in such a big rivalry game. That's always a big game and just to have your kids understand what that rivalry means and how far we've come. You take a look at what we've done in the past three or four years and just being able to compete with them and last year finally being able to get a win against them at our place and actually having a great chance to win the game at their place last year, to come out with such a disappointing performance from basically everyone. We didn't defend, we didn't execute offensively, it was just a very bad performance all around.
bc.net: Despite the poor performance about three minutes into the second half you got the 19 point halftime lead down to 14 points with a chance to hit a pair of free throws with a chance to get it to 12. Tyshae [Walton] missed them and they come back and get a three and it's a 17 point game. That swung the momentum back into UNM's favor pretty much for good because you had come out playing pretty well in the second half
JW: Absolutely. That's a situation where we're down 19 at the half, we cut that lead to 14, we had a couple opportunities, we turned the ball over twice within that sequence and with those two missed free throws and still having a chance to cut it from 14 to 12, it just kind of takes the wind out of you when they stretch it back out, they come down and hit a three pointer and then a two pointer and it's back to 19 and we're back to square one. It just takes the wind out of you as a team and as a staff. You have to keep fighting and fighting and using your energy to chip away at the lead. You have to credit that team, they fought through some things and once they got the lead back up they continued to execute and they continued to go to what worked for them all night long.
We were just never able to really find a rhythm offensively. A lot of that goes with poor shot selection at certain times, at key moments. And throwing the ball away. We're growing, we're young and hopefully we'll learn from that.
bc.net: Danisha Corbett had 17 points in the game which was a team high.
JW: Danisha's a player that hasn't really played a whole lot. If you look at last year she didn't play a whole lot last year. So she's still a relatively young player and still trying to find her way. She did score in double figures for us, the thing about Danisha at times is she's such an athletic player that we kind of have to let her go and make plays. Coach would love for her to be able to do that off the dribble. We have to get her out of settling for shots at times because she tends to do that, settle instead of go and make a play. I know Coach is really trying to get her to drive to the basket and make a play, get fouled, get to the foul line and things like that. She's probably our best player at being able to do that because she is so athletic. She's really come on, she's grown in leaps and bounds but still has a long long way to go.
bc.net: You were able to hold Amanda Adamson and Amy Beggin to 10 pionts combined points which is about 20 points below their combined average but I dont' know if you or even their coaching staff could have expected a 51 point output from their bench.
JW: That's a sore spot for us because first of all you talk about those two players, they're great players and it's not so much as to what we really did, they went with what was working for them on that particular night. They got the ball to other people to where they were able to score and be effective against us. You talk about the 51 points against our 48, 51 bench points against our whole team scoring 48. I think that's going to be something that we remember when they come in here and we'll be ready for that. Coach has often told our kids that it doesn't work that way, if they come into the ball game, things don't just happen because they want it to, they have to go out and make plays and make things happen. Just because we lost by 32 points up at their place doesn't mean that when they come here that the table's going to be turned. It's not going to be turned if we don't go out and we don't do the work. We can't make any excuses. We have to come out and defend our home just as they did. We have to play with a lot of energy. We're going to have to get out and defend when things aren't going well for us and then we're going to have to be patient and run our offense just as well as they do.
bc.net: Your thoughts on the UTEP game. The kids came out strong just like you did after the Cal Poly game, they rebounded well from the loss at UNM.
JW: It was great to beat UTEP. This is my fourth year here and in eight tries. I think our last victory against UTEP was in '04/'05. I really liked our kids' approach, they worked hard in practice. Sometimes it's really tough, you come off a loss like you did at UNM and you don't know what to expect with a young team. We came in as a staff, Coach was very encouraging, he got after them a little bit as far as where they needed to be on their level of play. We felt like we had defensive pressure. We felt like our team defense was obviously better, our offensive execution was better and you can't say enough about the two kids that carried us all night in Madison and Day Day. We got 20 points from two kids and I can't remember the last time that happened.
We had a spot there where it was tough, they closed it to three and we settled down and hit a big three pointer and then kind of went on from there and continued to execute and played to our ability instead of succumbing to the pressure of having a lead and a team chipping away. Good teams are going to do that, they're going to chip away. It's the way that we handled it that I'm most proud of.
bc.net: Danisha had 21 points, Madison hda 20 points, 13 in the second half and 10 in that four minute stretch when you really started to put the game away.
JW: You really can't talk too much about it. Words can't really express how happy we are as a staff with those two kids. With such a young team, you talk about two sophomore players, they look like the best two guards in the conference at that point. You talk about guard play in our conference and where we're going and just how much they're growing, it's encouraging to see those two have the types of games that they're having and to be able to build team chemistry.
If you notice on the court, they're coming down, they're trying to figure out where each other are, they're trying to work with each other. The most important thing is they don't get in each other's way, they kind of give each other spacing.
At the time right now we never expected to be so guard oriented, we pretty much are and until we get consistent play from our inside kids we're going to need those two kids to keep playing well.
bc.net: Tabytha Wampler was much more active offensively in the game against UTEP. She finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Has that been a point of emphasis with her, I know she's just a freshman, but to be maybe more aggressive?
JW: Tab by far is probably our most aggressive player, by far. With her being a freshman she's going to make freshman mistakes. The thing with her is that she just needs to relax a little bit and not try to force the issue and allow the game come to her and realize that with other players on the court that kind of take our scoring loads, with Madison and Day Day, that she doesn't have to put the pressure on herself to really score points. Just get out there, be physical, grab rebounds and play defense. She can get us anywhere from eight to nine points a game and maybe double digits. She's got to be more selective with her shots. A lot of times you're just in the moment of the game and you can't fault players for wanting to take big shots because all of them want to do it at certain times. It's just shot selection with her right now. As time goes on you're gonna see her get better and better. If you look at her upside, I'm going to be afraid to see her as a senior. I think teams are really going to be afraid to play her when she's a senior, but that's three years away. You talk about how she's growing now and how she's grown and one of the things we like to talk to them about now is not to focus on where they are now but look back at see how far they've come.
bc.net: Areyal LeDeatte, even though she didn't play a ton of minutes in the first half, in the second half she came in and had a couple of key plays, she had a key blocked shot and then hit a couple buckets.
JW: Areyal's gotten better in certain spots but we need her to get even better. We need her to get in better shape, we need her to be more consistent. If our five spot, which as a staff we're having problems with our five spot, we're having to play younger kids. Areyal is a junior college transfer that averaged 17 or 18 points a game. We need her to come in and be more consistent. We need her to come in and post up stronger and tougher and demand the ball. She's a very significant part. She needs to work harder, she needs to run the floor better. As that happens we'll be a very good team because we'll have a legitimate inside threat. We believe she can be that player for us, it's just her wanting to come in and do the work and as she comes in and does the work she'll see the results.
bc.net: It's not very often you see a team get out rebounded by 10 on the offensive glass and come away with a 10 point win.
JW: It's puzzling to us as coaches because every day we work on two man box out. Shot goes up, you get into your man, if you can't get it, they don't get it. It's something we work on daily. It's puzzling to us why we've given up so many offensive rebounds from time to time.
It's not a habit we want to get in giving up so many offensive rebounds because we're smart enough to realize, there are going to be other teams that if you give up that many offensive rebounds they're going to be getting more second chance points and you're not going to come away with a win. Last night we were fortunate, we kind of countered that with great defense. You've got to have great defense but then you've got to finish that with a box out and rebound the ball.
It's definitely something we'll work on as a team.
bc.net: With the win you've now had three games that you've gone into halftime with a small lead and been able to put the game away down the stretch. How pleasing is that for you as a coaching staff to see the team be able to win those types of games this early in the season?
JW: As a staff we're happy with that because early on they've had leads and then lost them down the stretch but that was just because of the inexperience. Coach always talks about that when he comes into the locker room and and we have a lead at halftime. He challenges them, he challenges them to come out and really step up their game. When we have them [the opponent] on the edge, to push them all the way off and keep raising the level of our play.
I think as we play in so many close games, when conference comes around this team will be ready. Coach says it all the time, you play 14 preseason games to get ready for the conference. These players have gone through so much even in their young careers, you talk about eight new players and they've gone through so much already. When conference comes around and we get into a close ball game they would have already been there and we're hoping that because they've already been there they'll figure out a way to get it done. To have played in so many close games is a luxury that will help us down the stretch.
bc.net: You've got nine days off, finals this week, what will you be working on with your team as you go into a stretch where you play just one home game in the next month and a half.
JW: As coaches this is our favorite time of the year because we get to condition them. It's great for us, I've been here, this is year number four and every year when we go through this part, this is the best time because we go through and condition them in a way they've never been conditioned. This is the week or nine days that they really get that extra confidence in their conditioning that they can get up and down the floor and it kind of takes us to that next level and gets us ready to step into conference play.
bc.net: Does having a stretch like this where you have a lot of consecutive road games and obviously a lot of travel together help, especially with such a young team, to build team chemistry?
JW: I think it does. They can be kind of goofy when they're away from home. You get to go stay with them, you get to go stay with different people, they learn about each other. But at the same time it helps us be battle tested on the road. Normally in the past we've played a lot of home games. Now this year with such a young team, it's just funny that it worked out that way. I think it's better to play on the road and get them comfortable playing away from home and being able to go into some pretty hostile environments and being able to handle that. You go to Boise, Nevada, La. Tech, those aren't going to be easy places to play. I think where we're going early and then ending with KU, those are going to be great environments but I don't think we're going to see any environment any worse than what we've faced at UNM. I think that we'll be ready to go on the road in conference and that's what we're preparing for.
bc.net: Talk about the game against Northern Colorado. They've got wins at Air Force, a home win against SJSU by a pretty big margin (101-63) and then a win against Washington State. They've got just one senior and they're a good offensive team (.467 shooting percentage) and a good three point shooting team (40% shooting threes).
JW: That's not going to be an easy game. Last year we went to the locker room with a 10 point halftime lead and they came out in the second half and played extremely well. They took the lead late and then our experience took over and we were able to come out and execute on the final two or three possessions and score. They're a very good team. You talk about points in the paint, last year they had 22, they're a good transition team, they had 15 points off our turnovers. They've got some great shooters, one player we're going to really have to be conscious of is Kate Kevorken, I think she's number one or number two in three point shooting but she shoots an awful lot of three point shots (.439% from three, 18-41). They had 20 three point shots against us last year, only four fell but to be in such a tight battle, it was a two point game here. Now we're going up to their place, they're going to be gunning for us, they're going to remember last year's game. It's important that our kids don't go into that game thinking that just because we beat them last year that it's going to be easy going up there this year.
With so many young kids, new kids on our team, Coach is going to guard against that. Anytime you step on the floor you have to respect your opponent. They're doing a great job with their team. Courtney Stroemer, Jamie Schroeder, there's so many great players on their team and they play very well at home and they play with a lot of confidence. We've got a good challenge ahead of us.