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bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Spence Interview :: 02/23/11 | bleedCrimson.net :: Your Source for NMSU Aggies Sports News

bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Spence Interview :: 02/23/11

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bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the past four game homestead, aside from the Hawai'i game you played fairly well, unfortunately your team was only able to come away with one win.
Darin Spence: The crazy thing is, here's the thing that sticks out to me the most. We're the only team in the league that had to play Louisiana Tech back to back like that. It's tough. We got up twice, competed really hard against them, especially the home game and gave ourselves a chance. I saw that letdown, just the emotional letdown coming when we played Hawai'i. We had beaten them by 20 points at their place. I saw it coming. That's one of those deals where the conference schedule wasn't very kind to us. I don't want to say we're not tough enough, but that's been the one concern I've had about our team all year long was our overall mental toughness. When you come out flat like that it's even moreso draining to keep plugging away. We even took a late lead in the Hawai'i game but I just think bouncing back off that LA Tech game just really took a lot out of us and we played flat. I thought we did a good job of picking it back up and taking care of San Jose and we turned right around and had to play Fresno State. There hasn't been a team in the league that played that kind of a stretch like we just played. I wish we could have pulled out one more win but we didn't. We've got a very drained, very emotionally beat up basketball team right now. Not to mention looking back at all the injuries. Going into the Fresno game, Kaitlyn Soto ruptures something in her calf muscle and Fresno State is not the team you want to go into when you're short on guards. We fought it, we hung in there and really competed but they're a better basketball team. All-in-all it's just an emotionally drained basketball team. That stretch was really really tough.

bc.net: That being said, you're still in a position where if you win the last four games you will almost certainly finish in the top four in the standings.
DS: Yeah, we've got a chance. That's pretty much all we can ask for and all we've been working for, to try to get in that top four. We would obviously need to take care of our business and obviously need a little help from some people but we've got four very tough basketball games. At Utah State, they've been playing very very well as of late, we beat them but our team hasn't shown great bounce back the second time we've played a team that we've beaten so that'll be an interesting game there. Utah State is probably playing as good as anyone in our league right now and they play such a different style that you don't see. We handled it pretty good in stretches the first time we played them so we'll see.

Nevada, they've got things going and they're playing at a pretty high level and both of those teams are trying to finish in third and fourth also. Those two are kind of in the driver's seat for the third and fourth spots.

Then we come back with Idaho and Boise State. We haven't had a whole lot of success against Idaho lately and Boise who will be trying to get into the tournament so everybody's got something to play for including us. It's a tough four game stretch.

bc.net: Somewhat overlooked in the last four games is the play of your team on defense, particularly the last two games against SJSU and Fresno State.
DS: It's something that I've always been about in my coaching career and it's just been something that has been proven. If you can play good defense and rebound the basketball you're going to have a chance to win a lot of games. For the most part our team this year really hasn't grasped that. We've been more of a "hey, let's try to go outscore you" type of team and that hasn't worked for us. But again, you've got to be a very mentally tough team to hunker down and play solid defense all the time. Teams can do it for stretches but really good teams like Fresno State and LA Tech, they do it all the time and that's still the next step for this team to buy into. The group just hasn't done it yet. That puts us in a bind because we're trying to outscore people and there's those nights where we don't shoot it well but we have kind of fallen into the defensive rotations and we have gotten better but our defensive rebounding is still letting us down. It's moreso, Tabytha Wampler has been in foul trouble again the last couple of games and Jasmine Rutledge has just been a tear on the rebounding but our guards, Madison had a night where she rebounded it well, Day Day had a game where she did okay but for the most part our guards are really not doing the job that they need to in rebounding the ball. There's still a lot of room for improvement and we can keep growing in that area and if we want to make a run at this, the kids can decide to pick that end of it and keep evolving and make that our identity. It's something that we spend a lot of time working on.

bc.net: What would you like to see from your three seniors coming down the stretch in these final four regular season games?
DS: Each of them in their own way have contributed quite a bit to our program. The biggest thing that I would like to see is our local community come out when we have our last two home games and really celebrate these three kids. They've been really good and have been good for our community and our school. That's the first thing I'd like to see.

Jasmine Lowe, she's hot and cold, we know that and you take some good, you also take some letdowns. She still has some room for improvements. She competes. She gets out there and even when she's not playing her best she gets out there and tries to find a way to get going and try to help her team.

Day Day has really grown in her four years here and is one of the better shooters around. She really turned the corner early in the year where she was playing off the dribble and she was creating some things and she was defending but for whatever reason she's backed off. We need her to get recharged and re-energized and get back to bringing a little more toughness to us. I know she wants to and I know she can. We look forward to some good things from her as well.

Madison is Madison. What more can that kid do? We talk about the local community, she is a Las Cruces kid. We've got one on the men's team and one on the women's team and this community needs to jump out and really join in on the fun for these two kids. I don't know what more she can do. I think she'll finish sixth on the career scoring list, she's going to finish up as the player who has started the most games in her career, she'll be an All-WAC selection, she's fifth or sixth in the league in scoring. She's handled it, she's passed it. The thing I feel for her is our officials in this league have just let her get beat up. That's been an upsetting part of this last run here. She's just been handled and pushed and shoved. As a team we went from leading the league in free throws shot and made and now we're around fourth or fifth in just attempts. It's been an incredible turn of events where we haven't changed the way we play, we're just not getting calls and Madison is getting hammered every game out. Hopefully we can stay to our gameplan offensively and we can get her on the foul line some more as well as others.

Those three have been really good, I just encourage our Aggie fans to come out those last two home games and send those kids off in a real positive way.

bc.net: This week wraps up seven games in 19 days. Have you in your 20-plus years of coaching every had a stretch like this?
DS: No. Never. That's a great point because we've lost some games. We all wanted to win a few more games but if you really step back and take a look at how things are set up, nothing this year has been kind to us. Coach Ceci was talking the other night, she has a lot of pride, she played her for three years and was part of the growing process, she said, "We've just had some bad luck this year." There's some truth to that. The injuries, we get playing well and we get one hurt, we lose one for the year, we have two hurt with knee injuries in one game, then a concussion, then a rupture, it's just been an amazing run this year of having to overcome a lot of things this year. Our depth has been challenge, our resolve has been challenged, our mental toughness has been challenged. That stretch in the schedule, not to mention how tough our non-conference schedule was, as I said earlier, it's an emotionally drained basketball team that has to quickly get recharged. We're trying to find ways to get them some rest. We're practicing short, we're taking days off and trying to get some juice back in their bodies but it has no question been a tough tough stretch for us.