bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the games against Nevada and San Jose State?
Darin Spence: It was an interesting week to say the least. We put ourselves in position to win on the road at Nevada but just didn't quite get it done. But then we came back and took care of business with San Jose. The San Jose game was kind of rough. I think we were just a little emotionally drained from the game at Nevada so we played a little ugly at the beginning of the game but at the same time we made San Jose play that way as well. In the second half I thought we did a pretty good job and got rid of them and took care of our business. All in all we finished fourth in the league and we'll move on and get ready for the tournament.
bc.net: Your thoughts on the team and your prospects as you head to the WAC tournament?
DS: I think first of all the WAC race was interesting for us this year. Going into it we were picked fifth and sixth in the coaches and media polls. We've got a new team heading into this year, a couple transfers, kids who hadn't played in a year and trying to mix a new group together and had a pretty good first semester and so our expectations and hopes were pretty high going into the WAC season. I think we rode this group really hard first semester and came away with some big wins and I think sometimes with a new and inexperienced group it kind of wears on you once you get into second semester.
Plus those other teams in our league, the WAC was good this year. It was the 12th ranked RPI league in Division I this year. We didn't pull out some wins that we probably could have, I won't say we should have, we beat the bottom end teams and the teams ahead of us beat us. We had chances to beat Nevada twice and chances to beat Idaho twice. I think finishing fourth is a good position for us. Going in every year we're always looking up at Fresno, La. Tech, Nevada and Boise to begin with, we took care of Boise but Idaho has a good team. They're much much better than what their record might indicate.
I feel good. With the loss of two post players two knee injuries going into the year. I felt this team has grouped together and come away with a good season with 18 wins and fourth place. Now heading into the tournament we've got some enthusiasm to us, we've got a confidence level, we're hungry, we're going to go in there and focus on our first game which is Idaho. Idaho is so much better than what people might think by looking at their overall record. They went 8-8 in conference play as well, they're a hard team to guard. I call them the poor man's Fresno State. They play a lot like Fresno, all five players on the floor can score. What separated us from Idaho the first two times we played them is their guard Charlotte Otero who is a senior point guard, does a phenomenal guard. She's an all-conference level player in my book, she just doesn't make mistakes down the stretch whereas ours made some mistakes down the stretch which is what allowed them to get the win over us twice. They're two games that we had won and hopefully we learned from that going into this game. We're obviously going to have to be ready to play and I think our kids are excited and eager to go.
bc.net: Crystal Boyd earned Second Team All-WAC honors and Camila Rosen earned All-Freshman honors.
DS: We're pleased an happy for Crystal. She's made a name for herself in a quick one season here. You figure when you're the fourth place team you're going to get one player on the team and that's about it and she's the one that is deserving of that honor. We have others that I think are All-Conference level players but you can only put so many on that team. I think Crystal has done a really good job for us. What's interesting is this is like Crystal's freshman year. This is her first complete year in her collegiate career. She battled through injuries at Texas and coaching changes and so she transfers here and come and gets new life. She's healthy and really doing a good job for us. We expect so much out of her and those moments where she didn't play her best this year, it's funny to hear people from the crowd and newspaper columnists, we turned on her so quick because we expected so much and not fully understanding that this is her first full season as a collegiate player. I'm proud of her. I think she's done well for us and carried the torch for this program. Could she have been a First Team player? Sure, no question about it. I'm really proud of what she's done this year. If the NCAA will wake up and do what exactly they claim they are for the student athletes then they'll give her another year here and you'll see a much much better player and much better leader in the next year. If they don't, that's going to be unfortunate for her.
Camila has stepped in and done a really good job. Here's a kid who had a very good high school career, hurt her knee going into her senior year, missed her entire senior season in high school and slowly but surely worked her way back. She didn't practice for about a month this year early on because she broke her wrist and had her wrist in a cast. She's just persevered and weathered the storm and when she was called on she came in and has really done a good job for us and filled in. I see her getting better each day and it's nice to have a freshman on that All-Freshman team. We've had a few over the last few years on that All-Freshman team, it makes us look a little bit more promising heading into the future.
bc.net: This year's conference tournament would appear to be one of the most wide open tournament in the past four seasons, as evidenced by the two Idaho schools knocking off Nevada and La. Tech on the final weekend. What's your take on the eight teams that are in the tournament?
DS: I think maybe six teams have a legitimate chance of winning it. It just depends on who gets hot. Tournament time affects players differently. Some play to win, some play not to lose. Some are so nervous that they can't function and others could care less and they just go out and play. You've got one team, Fresno, that's got great experience in tournament play. For sure they're the clear cut favorite in my book. They've run the table, 16-0, it's been a long time since they've lost a game and if somebody could put them where they have to play from behind in a one-and-done scenario like tournament play is, you never know. La. Tech, with their two big kids, if they get going they're pretty good. Nevada is at home. Idaho has a good team, I think we have a good team that has a chance. We've proven in tournament time, three out of the last four years we've been in the championship game. Boise State I would not overlook for a minute. With all the fifth and sixth year players that they have in that senior class, they've got a lot of experience. They've won the tournament before. You just never know. You go out and hope for the best and compete and try to hang in there and keep a game close and hope you have the ball at the end for a shot to win it. I do think it's kind of wide open and we're just going to go play and see how it goes.
bc.net: Is this the freshest your team has been going into a conference tournament in the last four years?
DS: Yes and no. I think a lot of it depends on how Jasmine's ankle is. She looked better the other night against San Jose, we obviously need her at full strength. If we have Jasmin, Crystal and Madison playing at the top of their game and they score, we have a chance to beat anybody. We'll tinker with some stuff to find a way to get baskets. Defensively we'll be solid whether we play our man, we'll mix in our zone. The big thing for us is will we step up and rebound defensively. That's been our downfall this year in games that we haven't won. We just haven't rebounded, we've given up untimely rebounds and second and third shots and so if we can clean that part up and we're healthy going in, I think our kids mentally are really excited to get going, I like our chances.