bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the game against Fresno State on Saturday? Your freshman Jasmine Rutledge had a pretty solid game with 15 rebounds.
Darin Spence: We came out in the beginning of the game and I thought we were focused and we were into the game and then we didn't react very well when we missed a handful of really good shots that we got early in the game. Even off some steals, Day Day had some breakouts, we probably missed five or six shots within six feet of the basket and I think once that happened it kind of took the wind out of our sails and we got back on our heels for the rest of the night. They're an awfully good team and when you do that they're going to step up and make you pay for that. Jasmine Rutledge is a very active freshman and she's been getting better and better.
bc.net: Your team did have a couple of good stretches in the game, after they had their 8-0 run your team responded with an 8-0 run to cut the lead back to two. After being down by 17 at half, you cut the lead to nine in the early moments of the second half.
DS: We did. We cut it to nine in the second half with Jasmine Lowe shooting free throws. She scored that night but just didn't have one of her better outings. She was 2-for-7 from the free throw line. You just think of the free throws that she missed and the two Tabytha missed, I think Kaitlyn Soto missed three, you've got nine points right there from the foul line and it's a different game and obviously a different shooting percentage. We did some good things, we played with some energy, we just found out that a team like Fresno that has won at a high level and has some experience winning, you're going to have to be really good, especially on the road. There were stretches where I was kind of disappointed and we just kind of let down, not in how hard we played, just our execution. We'd get good shots and we'd miss shots or we'd play a good defensive possession and we'd get a stop, we just didn't feed off the positive plays enough and when a negative play would come we'd kind of hang our head and not fight through it quick enough. That was the disappointing part right there. Your'e going to have to be really good to go on the road and beat the team that's a two-time defending champion in our league. You're just going to have to be much better than we were.
bc.net: Going into that game with them coming off a triple-overtime loss to Louisiana Tech, the Fresno beat writer wrote that your team was just in the wrong place at the wrong time catching Fresno State off a loss like that.
DS: Yeah, no question. I watched the majority of the game against LA Tech and Fresno didn't play very well. They had plenty of opportunities to win the game but they didn't play well. Of course a team at the level and with that kind of pride, they're going to bounce back and play better. We kind of startled them because we had such easy shots at the beginning and just missed them, then they turned around and punched us in the nose and we just kind of staggered around the ring for a while and just could never get ourselves going and kind of made us pay. They showed whey they're the level of team that they are. There's a difference between them and us. They go down the bench and their one through five players can all dribble, pass and shoot, their skill level is pretty good. We're still trying to improve some of our kids in those areas and we're trying to play catchup. That night and right now they're just a better basketball team than we are.
bc.net: One of the major statistical trends in your road losses has been free throw shooting percentages. In the five road losses your team has shot right around 58 percent from the line, in the two road wins your team has shot nearly 90 percent from the line. Is there anything in particular that would cause that?
DS: I think some of it is fatigue. You get down by double figures, your margin is big and you come fighting back and it's going to take some juice out of you and I think fatigue sets in and causes you to miss free throws. Against Fresno, the ones we missed were in the first half but again we had that deficit and you're just trying to get yourself back into it and you just get drained and fatigue sets in. What you have to do is you've got to hang around better. In road games you've got to be in the game, within six points or so, you can't let it get to 11, 12 or 16 or 19. We've got to do a better job of keeping it close, get to the second half and then you have a chance. I think then your free throw shooting will balance out a little more.
bc.net: On Saturday night you take on Utah State and one of the interesting things about that team is they haven't been out of the state of Utah since early December. Do you feel like that's something that will favor you a little bit?
DS: You would think but I'm still waiting for us to have a breakout game in the Pan Am. I'm still waiting for team and community to connect, to really pull together and help lift us to a higher level. Until that happens you're going to have some ups and downs. It solely lies on the shoulders of our teams, our players, our coaches that we need to get in and just play better at home and feel a little more comfortable at home. The other side of it is that Utah State is getting better. They put it on Nevada pretty good. We just go out and swing away and try to play basketball like what we work on every day and carry our practice sessions over to the game and have some carry over into the game. We have had some success against Utah State and now it's time for us to get out there Saturday and play better.
bc.net: They have a transfer Ashlee Brown who is having a big impact for them averaging a double-double in conference play. What will that matchup with her and Tabytha be like?
DS: It's going to be interesting. I'm very familiar with her just due to the recruiting circuits. She started her career at UC-Santa Barbara. They're kind of similar really. Tabytha has a little bit more of an outside game. It's one of those situations where they might cancel each other out and it might come down to somebody else on the team. We've got to do a good job of getting to the right spot and getting Tabytha to the ball, not just when she's open but when she's free to do something with it. She's got to do a better job of reading defenses and knowing when she's double and triple teamed. Going back to the Fresno State game, they were putting three people on her every time she got the ball and it took too long for her to throw it back out and re-post.
It's a known fact that every game we play in the other team is going to put their best perimeter defender on Madison and they're going to put somebody big or they're going to doubleteam Tabytha. Every game we've gone into that's been the formula. People have been trying to guard those two and then let the others do what they do. It's up to our others, Danisha Corbett and Jasmine Lowe to step up and fulfill their roles and give us their averages. If they don't, then it's really hard and it puts a lot of weight on Madison and Tabytha. It makes it really difficult and that's kind of what we got caught up in at Fresno and against Nevada. We've gotta be a little bit more balanced and our top four players have got to all step up every game.
bc.net: Heading into this game on Saturday, what have you seen from your team in practice and what are you hoping to see from them the rest of this week as you head into the game?
DS: We traveled Sunday, took yesterday off and came in and practiced today. Everything we did today was ultra-competitive and everything had a payment. If you turned the ball over we ran, if we didn't rebound we ran, if you didn't win we ran, if we didn't reach our goal of shooting 50 percent, we ran. We're doing things now to pull the competitiveness out of this group because that's when we're at our best. In the games we've lost we've hit a point in the game where we've just kind of shied away from that and especially in our last two losses and it's just not us. We don't want them to think back and go, "Wow, we feel pretty good because we played Arizona close or we played Michigan close." We want them to still be upset that we had chances to win the game and we lost. That's kind of a disappointing thing for me, not really seeing our players really grab hold of that and apply that themselves. We coaches now are really forcing the issue now and really trying to shake them up a little bit and make them realize that we're a pretty good basketball team when we get things all put together. We need to keep moving and keep getting better. No matter who we play we feel like we have control over everything we do and everything in the game and it's really up to us to play to our potential.