Weekly Coach Menzies Interview :: 01/18/11

Editorial Note:This week's interview was conducted through a teleconference with members of the media from the Las Cruces Sun-News, Las Cruces Bulletin and Albuquerque Journal. The questions asked by are marked as such.

Marvin Menzies: This is a huge trip for us potentially. It depends on the result but it's going to be a big trip just when you have two environments to play in like Lawlor and in Logan. You've got to be ready to play. Yesterday's practice and today's as well as tomorrow even though that's a little trickier because we're on the road so it'll be light. I'm just anticipating trying to get better on the defensive end and trying to get some consistency there as well as shoring up a few things on offense. I think that you can throw the records out the window when you play either one of these teams. There'll be a lot of passion in both those games so we've got to make sure we match it with our energy and enthusiasm. We just have to go out and play the best ball we can play. With that we've been playing the best ball we've been playing as of late but you can't attach one game to the next unfortunately. Each game will stand on its own so it'll be interesting to see how this road trip works out for us. Last season you went into this same road trip in a similar situation and didn't have a very good results. Obviously you got your revenge in the conference tournament the next week against both teams but is there anything that you do differently this time around?
Different team, different players. I think every year it kind of just depends on the matchups and so forth and that'll be a different component that we have to look at. As far as how we traveled and what we did, I think we had the most expeditious form of travel that we could have laid out for ourselves, we just didn't get favorable results. I think the only difference now can be hopefully that we have learned a little bit and we've got some retention of players that have been there and that will be more focused and understand what they're going into and not let the crowds rattle them at either location.

Jason Groves: Does Nevada beating Boise on the road surprise you at all?
MM: Nevada winning on the road wasn't surprising at all just based on the fact that Nevada has a lot of talent. They've struggled at times this year just due to their youthfulness but they do have a lot of talent and I remember the year that we were the fourth youngest team in American and got into the [conference] tournament and had just as much a chance to win it as anybody because we were playing well late. It's a little reminiscent of that team. They're a scary team because you look at their record and you're going to fool yourself. If you watch film you see how good they are. They've got a lot of close losses, six or seven games that are probably six points or less that could have went the other way with experienced guys. At the end of the day it wasn't a surprise at all.

Jason Groves: They [Nevada] don't play a lot of guys and depth has been one of your strengths the past few games.
MM: Yeah it has been. Depth on the road is something that you need for sure but just to have depth alone doesn't do it. You've got to have depth with production. You can go deep into the bench and not have any production and it doesn't matter who you've got coming off the bench. We've had good production as of late. Hopefully we can build off of that. This is a good challenge for our top nine or 10 guys that we play to go out and be a unit, have good chemistry and answer the challenge of two big-time games.

Jim Hilley: Do you like having this road trip at this time of year?
MM: I think it's okay. I think now we've got a few games behind us. Probably better now than at the very end and probably better than at the very end. It could work out to our favor in terms of having a few games under our belt with everybody healthy. Hopefully we'll end up on top in the games as a result of that.

Jim Hilley: Do you think having those two games right at the end of the season last year got your team pumped up for the tournament?
MM: Yeah, well the loss definitely did in Logan. That game was just an enigma of how good we were. We just fell apart that game so it was good to have something to shake us up a little bit. I think that did help propel us into the tournament with a little bit of focus and chip that we've got something to prove that we're much better than we performed that night. It just worked out that way.

Jason Groves: Is this [Nevada] team a better three point shooting team?
MM: They have been in conference. They've got two or three guys that are shooting the ball well in conference. I think typically the Nevada teams have had one guy or a couple other guys that are capable but right now they've got three guys that are shooting at a pretty high clip. Any time you have that you have to make sure that you're taking care of business as far as your three point field goal defense as well as making sure you don't open up the dribble penetration as a result of flying out trying to fly out and contest threes. It does give them an extra bullet in their gun so to speak.

Jason Groves: How much is Hernst's experience an advantage at the point guard spot?
MM: It's hard to say because we're not going to play him exclusively on those guys. One of the advantages of having CK and Bandja and Tyrone in the lineup is you have a few guys that can guard multiple positions. We're trying to not put it all on one guy to pick up a point guard and stay with that guy the whole time. Typically that's when you get in foul trouble a little bit if you're guarding the ball the whole game. We're asking you to guard the way we guard guys which is heavy ball pressure. We gotta protect Hernst and share the defensive obligations on those guys.

Jason Groves: Does Deonte Burton try to score more than a typical point guard?
MM: Yeah, he's a scoring point guard. That's who he is. He'll get better and better and better, he's a freshman that's learning the ropes of the conference right now. He's very athletic, he's a kid that can score in bunches when he gets hot. He's a kid that's logging a lot of valuable minutes as a freshman that's going to bode well for them going forward. Talk a little bit about the matchup in the Nevada game between Olek Czyz and Troy and then in the Utah State game, your big guys, Chili and Hamidu against Tai Wesley and Nate Bendall.
MM: I think again, we're not looking at it as one guy versus another guy. I think our matchups are going to be versatile guys against a guy. For instance we may have Renaldo play a few minutes on him, we may have Chili switch off and play a few minutes and then Hamidu. It just depends on what defense we're in as well, how we're going to match up defensively from our press back to whatever we decide in our halfcourt whether it's our zone or man-to-man. It's kind of hard to say. I think we've got to look at it from a bird's eye view and say this is how we're going to defend them [Nevada].

Jason Groves: Is Utah State any different with Brockeith Pane this year versus Jared Quayle last year at point guard?
MM: Quayle obviously was a big-time player that had a lot of experience in the conference and was very offensive minded when he wasn't getting the team going. Pane is a little bit more athletic in the sense of defending and also being able to get into the paint. Maybe not as prolific from the deep ball but he's very capable at the position. I think he was a very nice addition, especially with all the seniors that they had in place, to bring somebody in with some experience and maturity and that's what they did and that's why they're getting Top 25 votes right now.

Tristen Critchfield: Talk about how you guys have been so successful at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line this year.
MM: It's really just something that happens because of our personnel. I'd love to say that we've been practicing and emphasizing that but we haven't. It's just something that's happened as a result of players growing up and learning the system and running things a little more efficiently than they had the year before and understanding the goals and options of every different set and our speed game and just what we do offensively. Our players are to get the kudos for all of that because they're actually implementing what they're supposed to do.

Tristen Critchfield: Do you think it's just overall size and athleticism drawing fouls and getting to the line?
MM: I think that's a big part of it. That plus what I mentioned. We've got big strong kids and we've got some kids that can bounce it and any time you can create your own shot and get in the paint you're going to increase your probability of getting to the free throw line. Having guys that can get in the seams and make good decisions is a huge part of why we're getting to the line so much.

Tristen Critchfield: Do you think on this road trip it'll be a little more difficult to get the calls?
MM: I hope not! Life on the road is tough. Especially in conference. Once you get to league it's anybody's game. I know the first week in the league there was only one road win and we got that one then in the second week there were quite a few road wins. It just varies from matchup to matchup. I don't think officiating plays a major role typically, obviously it does from time to time but I think those guys do a very good job. They're very fair.

Jason Groves: Troy is such a versatile player but he only has five assists all year.
MM: It's a combination of Troy being offensive minded, which is one of his roles. You would think he would have more but he's one of the guys drawing a lot of fouls. Every time he gets fouled it takes away from a potential assist. He's making a lot of shots and he's taking a lot of shots. Those are reasons he wouldn't have an assist opportunity. I think as the season goes on it'll pick up because teams are adjusting and they're going to say, "Hey, whenever he's catching it, he's not passing it." You may think that but a lot of times because of our system, he may be the guy that makes the assist that makes the assist. It may go inside out. That's just the way it works out.

Jim Hilley: Some people have wondered if you're going to play your two big men together.
MM: I would like to think the twin towers could exist in Las Cruces but I just don't know. Defensively is my major concern if we were to do that. What would we play? Would we play a zone? If so, who's on the forward spot? You can't play a 1-2-2 because the bigs have to cover a shooter as well. You can't play a 2-3 because then one of them has to be on the forward spot and he has to cover a shooter. I guess it could happen. Will it happen this year? I don't know. It could, we've thought about it, they're both shooting a pretty good percentage from the field and it would give us a definite rebounding advantage. It's a thought, we just haven't fully investigated at this point. What is it about Chili's shooting that has allowed him to be such a good free throw shooter, which is normally something that is not very good with big men?
MM: Mental. It's all mental. Bobby Knight once said that mental is to physical as four is to one and he's just got that thing mentally where he's got a great level of concentration when he gets to the line and it's just been working out so far. Maybe it's ignorance to the fact that bigs can't shoot. Maybe no one's ever told him that they're not supposed to. I don't know. We're just riding the wave of his concentration when he gets to the line. He's got a strong streak going a lot because of his confidence in starting off well too. It's hard to pin one thing on it. We're just hoping it keeps going.

I do know that Ham has gotten in the gym and worked on it. Competition is good for business. Both those guys are banging each other a lot in practice and getting after it. I think they both help each other to be much better players. Once we get Ham healthy and he's getting there, we're expecting a big week from him. He is one guy that's got to step up and play a significant role for us if we're going to pull these two games out. Ham having been there and being a junior, nearing 100 percent health is someone we have to have high production from in order to have a chance to win these games.