bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Spence Interview :: 11/17/09

bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly in-season interviews with Aggie head women's basketball coach Darin Spence. Coach Spence and the Aggies are looking to end a lengthy postseason drought and take aim at a WAC Championship during the 2009-2010 season. This week we talked with Coach Spence about the team's road split at Cal State-Northridge and Cal Poly, improvements he's looking for from his team and preview the home opener against Long Beach State on Friday night..

bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on Friday's win over Cal State-Northridge. In addition to the win, you also dominated the game for the most part but also got a good push from the Matadors in the second half.
Darin Spence: We did. I think at one point we got up 17 and had a comfortable lead and did some good things to get to that point as a team, of course we had individuals step up and play well but as a team I was really pleased with how together they were. If something went bad there was no trying to blame somebody for a bad play it was picking each other up and that's something we didn't have a year ago. Our maturity is a lot better this year. The leadership from player to play is a lot better.

The crazy thing was there were so many fouls called in the game that the game lost any flow that it had, especially in the second half. It was really hard to adjust both as a coach and as a player. Just watching the kids, they hit some frustrating moments but we fought through it.

What I didn't like is we didn't come out of the halftime break and start the second half with the energy that we needed to. And we spent probably a good two or three minutes talking about that in halftime, about how we had to come out and hit this floor ready to go and we just didn't have that energy like we had in the beginning of the game.

We did a good job of hanging on to the ball and stepping up and making free throws. Getting a test like that early on the road was good and was something that helped us into the second game and it'll help us down the road as we go.

bc.net: Even though it didn't show up in the final statistics, your team really dominated the rebounding in the game, something that your team had trouble with last season.
DS: Right, and we're getting rebounding from our guard positions a little more, our ones, two and threes, I think that's a big help to us as well. I think you have to have your guards rebound better. You can't just say your big kids are the ones who are supposed to go rebound because we're facing some teams that have some good rebounding guards. We've challenged Madison and Danisha to both rebound better and it's something that those two in particular have to do a much better job on the defensive end. Kaitlyn Soto and Jasmine Lowe, those kids for being smaller guards do a good job of rebounding and getting in there and mixing it up.

It's a team effort, it's been a team emphasis to rebound better and I think we're taking small steps in that area.

bc.net: You mentioned the free throw shooting, both teams shot lights out from the free throw line, 74 combined free throw attempts, but your team goes 9-of-10 in the final minute and from three different players as well.
DS: And they stepped up and held their composure and knocked some shots down and showed some toughness during that stretch. It could have been easy to get up there and miss them and then you open the door for the home team to make a little noise.

Northridge made the decision to start fouling us and putting us at the line which was okay but in my opinion they did it way too late in the game. They could have done it with about two or three minutes but they waited until about 1:30 to star that, which I myself have done that in past years, tried to extend the game and make it longer. But our kids did a good job of stepping up and making our free throws and it's something we did well a year ago, we made our free throws. Kaitlyn got a bunch of them and Jasmine and Day Day, it's contagious when you get the right people at the line and they start making them, the rest of them feed off that as well and it's something I think will be a strength of ours during the season.

bc.net: In the second game you lost a very competitive game against a really good Cal Poly team.
DS: We got Cal Poly, they'd just gotten beat by Oregon State, so they had a little bit of that where the team, on their court, is a little angry and want to play better and they did. They are a good team, they've got a lot of experience back from a team that won 21 games a year ago and were picked in the top three in the Big West. They play really fast, they've got two inside kids that are really good players and they're as good as we'll see this year and they score well. Their guards do a good job and they've been together for a while.

We started okay, we had some good energy. When they took a lead, we fought back and did some good things. It was a really good Sunday afternoon basketball game. I'm encouraged by how we competed and we didn't let their lead get away from us. I think that shows a huge step of growth from a year ago. They kept together. At halftime we had a lead but I could hear them in the locker room before I got in there talking about what they needed to do and that's really encouraging. I think it says a lot about the character of our group.

Now of course, we had our fair share of mistakes and down the stretch gave up a couple offensive rebounds late that we shouldn't have which extended their possessions. We had every chance to win that game and probably should have come away with a win but we missed a couple free throws and they made theirs. A four point game on the road like that, it's encouraging but we've still got a long long way to go.

In two games we've scored 79 points and 86 points but we haven't run our offense like we need to yet. It's kind of scary to say that because just think what we could do once we get to where we're executing a lot better. We stood in each other's way and the rhythm wasn't as good as it can be. The second game of the year and we got a split on the road so we'll take it and move on and hopefully improve.

bc.net: In that game against Cal Poly you have five players score in double figures and you shot lights out in the first half but in the second half there wasn't a big dropoff either whereas a lot of times you'll see a team that shoots a high percentage in the first half cool off considerably in the second half.
DS: No question, all of our kids were excited to play. They're figuring each other out right now. The thing that's concerning to me after these first two games is how we've started the second half. I told the kids that we may have to start a different group in the second half. We may have a first half starting group and a second half starting group. Even though Madison and Day Day had good games, to start the second half they don't bring that kind of energy that they do at the beginning of the game. We make look at throwing Jasmine and Kaitlyn out there and letting those two kids that run around and are our spark, give them a shot at it. We'll tweak it and see what we can do. Both games we had a chance to extend the lead at the beginning of the second half but came out and turned the ball over the first two or three possessions of both games. That's just an energy thing and it's something we need to play around with.

The other thing I look at is we've got Jasmine Lowe, Crystal Boyd and Ashley Scroggins playing, those are three kids who didn't see the floor for us last year. Where we do have some experience, we're still plugging in some new people. Malia Magazzeni and Chrissy Fletcher both played some good minutes for us as freshmen post players. We're still a work in progress. This group will keep getting better. Kelsie Rozendaal played really well both games. She came in and gave us a lot off the bench in filling in the minutes that Erica Sanchez would be playing. We've had to fill that role as well. It's still something that we're working on and putting people in the right spots.

Crystal Boyd is giving us some good minutes but she's trying to hard, she's playing like she's trying to make up for lost time in her career. Her shot selection wasn't the best in either game but she gave us some good play and gave us glimpses of how good she could be.

bc.net: This weekend you open up home play against Long Beach State and it's the start of a seven game homestand for your team.
DS: It's huge. We've worked for some time now to develop a schedule like this and so now it's here, we need to take advantage of playing in front of our home crowd. Which we also need a home crowd. It'll be exciting to see what we have in the building that night to draw some energy from.

Long Beach is a good team, they've got a lot of kids back from a year ago. I thought they underachieved last year as a team, even though they beat us, and that's why they made a coaching change. Their staff has come in and breathed some new life in the group. They're 1-1 coming in, they beat Prairie View and then got beat last night by Loyola Marymount who is a very good team.

We've just got to come out with energy. We need to play a solid defensive game and try to get our offense clicking a little better and try to take care of our home floor.

bc.net: You've often stated that your greatest improvements as a team come between your first game and your second game and your second game and your third game, what improvements are you looking for from your team from game two to game three?
DS: On the offensive end our shot selection and our movement within our halfcourt offense has to be better. When we reverse the ball and we set our screens and move and cut the way we can, for two games we've been really hard to defend and we've scored. The other times when we've passed and stood we've just gotten in each other's way. Especially when it's time when we want to use our ability to drive the ball we've just stood in each other's way. I'd like to see us involve our post players a little bit more, giving them a touch. I'd like to see us get out and get a little bit more in transition as well.

Defensively, just keep growing. Contain the ball a little bit better when it's up top and force it more to the outside and not give up such a sharp angle in to the lane like we did a couple times. And rebound the ball a little bit better. So I guess everything needs to get better! But also how we start that second half of the game, whether we're up or down, needs to be better as well.