bleedCrimson.net: How is the team doing in preparation for the game against New Mexico on Friday?
Mark Trakh: The team is doing great. I think we had a great week of practice, the team is up and ready to go. We're looking forward to playing the Lobos at our place tomorrow night. I know they're going to be ready. Coach Sanchez is a great coach and does a great job. I know they'll be ready but we're going to be ready too. It was a close game, a one-point game up there in Albuquerque. Hopefully it'll be a close game here and we put in a few different wrinkles as I'm sure New Mexico has. We're looking forward to the game. The kids are excited, I think the community is excited and so we're ready to go.
bc.net: Looking back at the Utah game, it was a tough shooting night but what were some of the things that you were able to take away from that game?
MT: We had just played a tough Santa Barbara team, who by the way two nights later beat UTEP which was UTEP's first loss of the season so it was a pretty good Santa Barbara team that we beat that night. Anyway, we had to leave at 3:30 the next morning to go to the airport and leave for Utah and travel, the kids were tired and we couldn't practice that day. I'm not making excuses but it was real tough getting up at three and traveling there and we couldn't practice. The next day we had a shoot-around and then you're playing a Pac 12 team that's got two kids that started on the Canadian National team that are pretty good. I'm not making excuses for our kids but it was a real tough trip. That basically, we just took that game and we don't mention it. I told the kids, "Forget about it, we're not even going to mention it." It's just a throwaway game as far as we're concerned and we just move on to the University of New Mexico. That wasn't who we are and I told the kids that we aren't going to let that loss define our team or who we are. It happens, it happens to everybody, it happened to us, there were circumstances beyond our control for not getting our kids ready but hey, we're on to New Mexico, we're improving, we're getting better. We've got three home games in a row here and it's just up to us now to play as well as we can.
bc.net: One of the things you were able to do well against UNM up at The Pit was force turnovers and turn those into points. Is that something you think you'll be able to take advantage of again?
MT: Maybe not 25 points because they weren't prepared for our press. I'm sure Coach Sanchez is going to be prepared this time around but it doesn't mean we can't press them. I don't know if we'll score 25 points but even though we generated 25 points off our press, we still only scored 53 points. I think our halfcourt offense, we might not get 25 points off turnovers but I think our halfcourt offense and fast break will generate more points than it did up in New Mexico. We're going to press but I don't expect 25 points off turnovers like we had up there.
bc.net: You didn't get to the line very much in that game, just eight free throw attempts, how important is it for the team to get to the free throw line in the game tomorrow?
MT: We've got to get to the line more than eight times. We've been doing it but a lot of that isn't in our control.
bc.net: What were you able to take away from that first meeting with UNM that can help you in the game tomorrow?
MT: I think what we take away from that game is we were down 15 points with about eight minutes to go in the game and took a four point lead with three minutes to go in the game and we could have won the game. Tab Wampler scored 11 points in 11 minutes and she fouled out. You look at three of the fouls that were called, I guess the referee saw fouls. We looked at it over and over again on tape and we didn't see any fouls on those three plays. So that's three fouls and she played 11 minutes. I'm proud of the fact that our best player only played 11 minutes and we were playing up there, down by 15 and there's 7,000 people there screaming and yelling and we came back and really could have won the game. We could have won the game, they [UNM] obviously deserved to win, they had one more point than we did but we could have won the game. That's what we take away. The kids didn't quit, they stayed in there, we're missing our star player for most of the game with foul trouble, she fouled out, and we came back. We take that as, "Never give up, hang in there." We applied that lesson against Santa Barbara. We were eight points down with seven minutes to go in that game against a very disciplined team that works the clock and doesn't turn the ball over and we came back and won that game. These are lessons I think we can use as we go forward. The team understands now to never quit, never give up, keep on grinding, grinding, grinding and good things will happen.
bc.net: With four games left before you start conference play, where is the team in terms of learning the system, becoming more comfortable in the system. Where are they from a development standpoint in terms of where you had hoped they would be at this point?
MT: I think they're coming along very well and if you look at the schedule, you lose on a last-second shot to Southern Utah, an overtime game to UTEP, a one point game to New Mexico, we could conceivably have five wins. I think we're playing a lot better. They're acclimating to the system, we're getting a lot better. We want to really start piquing in conference. I think we're doing okay. They're learning. The kids have been great. The team chemistry has been great. If you watch our games and you watch our bench, you see a lot of kids that are together. They're cheering for each other, they're pulling for each other, they're up the whole game. There's a lot of good things happening and hopefully we can win a few games now because I think the kids deserve it. They've been working really, really hard.
bc.net: What are some of the things that you want to see from your team offensively and defensively in these next four games before you hit conference play.
MT: We've got to hit our stride. It would be great if we could win three out of these next four games, hit our stride, get going, get some confidence going. Defensively we've been pretty good. You throw out the Utah game, we're playing some pretty good defense. Defensively I just think we're learning to be tougher. It's a state of mind, you've just gotta execute in the halfcourt, you've gotta play defense. Defensively I think we're good, offensively we're improving, we've gotta get out of the 50s somehow, we've gotta generate points but we're improving but I think our defense is going to carry us. If you throw out that Utah game, we're pretty good defensively right now. We're beginning to understand how to play with a sense of purpose and focus for 40 minutes and we're learning to not take any possessions off, ever. I think those are the ways that we're progressing and getting better.