bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the Boise State win, you erased a late seven point deficit to force overtime and then won in overtime.
Darin Spence: That's a game where we played both poorly and well in long stretches and it just seemed like early in that game I think we thought we were going to just go ahead and outscore them rather than defend them and playing like we like to play. Once we got it figured out just under the last media timeout we figured out we better start guarding and getting some stops and we did that and that just created some better scoring opportunities for us as well. We challenged them a little bit at that last timeout and they responded and got it into overtime and then just took the overtime over.
bc.net: You won that game against Boise State despite being outrebounded by 14 but you guys did a great job on the fast break and a great job on turnovers.
DS: Yeah we did. I'm one that I don't get too crazy about did we outrebound somebody or did we not outrebound somebody because a lot of times that's not a true indicator of how the game turned out, just like there are games that are closer than the final score shows. If I miss a lot of shots yeah there are going to be a lot of rebounds and the other team is probably going to get them. Our tradeoff is we want to be a better defensive rebounding team. Sure, we want to get offensive rebounds but by defensive rebounding you're going to limit the other teams shots. We might not get on some nights a lot of offensive rebounds but that doesn't mean that it's really hurting us a lot. You just find a way and we got out in the break and that's just the way we're trying to get this done, just find a way, no matter how long it takes or whatever we need to do, we're just trying to find a way.
bc.net: The game against Hawai'i, early in the season you talked about your team having different energy levels coming out of the first half and the second half and sometimes it was there in the first half and sometimes it wasn't. That seems to be something the team has moved past.
DS: Yeah, I hope so. I was really pleased. I thought the first half we came out and just ran away from them. Whatever we needed to do whether it was offense or defense, rebounding, getting assists or steals. We just kind of did everything well in that first half. The second half was just kind of a 20 minute runaround exercise for both teams. I was pleased with how we bounced back from the long trip to Boise, a lot of minutes in overtime and just to come back and approach that game like we did shows a lot of maturity on our part.
bc.net: Defensively in that game you held Hawai' to 34 percent shooting for the game, 32 percent in the 1st half and 35 percent in the 2nd half. Your team has made a lot of progression on defense as the season has moved along.
DS: Well we're paying a lot more attention to it. Sometimes you can give it lip service and not really buy in or commit to it. I've seen a lot of teams do that. But we've truly made a commitment to playing better defense every day and we work a lot on it and our players understand our gameplan and what we're trying to do. As long as our positioning is good and we pressure the ball and then we can rotate and help each other, we can be a good defensive team because we are quick, we are athletic and we have enough size to guard anybody we play. It's just a matter of going out and being focused and growing on that side of the ball. I think this group is doing a good job of that.
bc.net: You've mentioned on your Twitter account that your practices have been a lot better as the season has gone on. What changes have you seen in the efficiency of your practices and your kids understanding the purposes of your practices as the season has progressed?
DS: I think it all goes back to a comfort level and understanding how we practice and what we do in practice and just the routine of it. Sometimes I think it takes teams a while to get used to how a coach likes to run practices. We've got a routine down and we do different things but they understand that if they come in and get after it, we don't stay in there three hours, we don't stay three hours, we don't waste time. I think the word efficiency describes us when it comes to practice. We probably do more in an hour and forty minutes than most teams do in three hours and we don't waste time. We don't take a lot of 10 minutes water breaks and let them walk around, we're pretty high paced just like a basketball game. We want to go from one thing to the next pretty quickly. I think that helps in conditioning and it helps in mental conditioning. I just takes time for players to get that figured out and as our players learn each other and how to play with each other that helps as well.
bc.net: Tomorrow night you take on Fresno State how do you feel your kids are preparing for that game?
DS: They're really good. Two-time defending WAC champion, they beat us in the finals two years ago and they have a lot of experience. They're an athletic team, they're quick, they're explosive. I think they're second in the country in three point shooting attempts and makes. That's what they do, that's part of their attack and whether they're up 10 or down 10 they're going to keep doing it. They're always in the game. They're a pesky defensive team and they play hard and compete. They've got a lot of confidence in how they play. I think we match up well with them. We have a real good scheme or gameplan on how to defend them. I think that's how we've had quite a bit of success over the years playing them. I think this year more than any we really match up better with them because we have a lot more players that can play inside out, good ball skills and good basketball IQ. It's going to be a good game and it's a home game so we've got to be really focused and compete.
bc.net: On Saturday you take on Louisiana Tech in Ruston and you've already gotten several wins on the road this season, including the one in Boise on Saturday. How much does that help doing out on the road?
DS: I think it gives us a lot of confidence that no matter where we go, where we play, what time of day, we'll do the little things and give ourselves a chance to be successful and especially on the road. A lot of it comes down to how your team focuses and the distractions that they keep away and let in at the same time. We talk a lot about doing things together and taking care of each other. I think that just helps when you get out on the road. Whether it's Louisiana Tech or Boise State or whoever, we feel if we just go out and compete we'll have a chance.
bc.net: Jasmine Lowe was named the WAC Player of the Week, an award that probably should have gone to one of your players earlier in the season.
DS: No question. Both Crystal and Madi, those three have had weeks where all three of them should have earned it. I guess you could spread that around and make sure people get it once before some people get it twice but that's not the case. But at the same time somebody off this group should have got it after we ran off a bunch of wins and beat a nationally ranked team like Kansas. It's deserving and she's done well and is getting better each day.
bc.net: The league has gone to a Wednesday/Saturday schedule. After the first Wednesday/Saturday how are you liking or disliking it?
DS: I like it in the fact that it just gives you one team to prepare for. You can go take the trip or play the home game and you have one game to focus on and then you still have two days to get ready for the next game. In the ond formula you were rushed all the time. Play a game, get to the airport, get to the next one. So far I like this format better but I'll have a better opinion once we've gone through the entire season. A lot of the decisions we make from a league standpoint or a department nowadays are based on costs. I would think that round trip tickets are cheaper than the three legs we've been taking for two road games. But however we do it, the WAC is a league that it's not cheap to fly anywhere in this league. We don't have a lot of real busy airports. We fly into Dallas and take a four hour bus ride to get to Ruston. But no matter where you go it's not a cheap league to fly in. So far I'm a fan of this new schedule. I think everybody only has one week where you have two on the road and ours is later on at Hawai'i and at Fresno. I think we'll have to go through the league schedule and kind of see how we feel about it at the end of the day.
bc.net: Do you think having that extra day in between games with Wednesday and Saturday games that teams will be a little bit more fresh at the end of the season?
DS: Yeah, I do. I really do. I think that you have the opportunity to take a day off and still have one good day of practice and on that day off you can watch tape, they can do their training room rehab work if they've got some bumps and bruises. And you're not just speeding into the next game and playing kids that are half-speed. I think that could help keep kids fresh and healthier both physically and mentally because the travel in the WAC in itself is difficult. There's no getting around that, you're on commercial airlines, you've got delays, cancellations, weather and you're just hanging out. I think this could really help teams and a lot of us don't have 15 player rosters. We suit up 11, I think Fresno is probably right at 11 and the teams that have 10, 11, 12 and maybe they only play eight, I think that's going to benefit everybody.