bleedCrimson.net: You had three games last week and I’m not sure if you could have gotten three more different styles of basketball out of three consecutive games.
Tamara Inoue: No kidding! UTEP was a really tough game. Our kids really stepped up to the challenge and really played well. Shanice Davis came out ready to go and Briana Freeman and our freshman Zaire William came out composed. We played so good there. We didn’t come out with the game at the end but we battled really well.
We go up to Boise and it’s completely different. They run something similar to us but they have two BCS transfers with some size and that’s the first time we’ve seen that size and we struggled a little bit with it just in terms of what we want to do in driving the lane and boxing out and getting offensive boards. That was just not happening for us. Then playing two days later against Sac St. and that was an absolute track meet. Again, our kids battled and played great, we just haven’t finished on the road. That’s what we struggled with.
Different preparation for every game. I would have loved three to four days before Sac St. just because they’re so different in the way they play.
bc.net: How do you feel that your kids did in that game because it is such a different style and not getting caught up in what Sacramento State is doing which is basically just taking the first open look that they get?
TI: Absolutely. We told our kids, you’re going to be open, you’re going to be so open on the first pass but you’ve just got to work it around and you can get a better shot. Abby [Scott], she knew she was open and what they [Sac St.] want you to do is shoot it so fast, I think for her it took her a long time to really figure it out, let’s work it to the other side. When we did do that, we literally got wide open layups, wide open shots. Usually that shot that Abby takes is a shot we want them to take just because it is an open shot but against Sac St. you’ve got to be patient enough to reverse it and hold it. We ended up doing that and getting open layups. I think in the second half we gassed out and just started to shoot the ball as quickly as possible and not passing the ball around. That hurt us. The first half I thought we handled it pretty well.
bc.net: Just from watching the games you’ve played so far, I was really impressed with your players’ ability to get to the basket and score. Your team shoots a lot of three but I think their ability to get to the basket and score is something that is underrated about this team.
TI: You’re right. Moriah Mack is by far our best penetrator as far as going right through the seams and getting to that basket. Tamara William as well is a phenomenal athlete who is just trying to figure out how to finish. If you look in the last couple games, Sasha Weber has had two quick fouls and hasn’t had a chance to get out there and really show what she has just because of foul trouble. She’s going to fix that problem really fast. Sasha is probably our strongest guard and never gets knocked off the ball.
We shoot the three really well. We haven’t shot it well on the road but we do shoot it well but we are trying to tell them to get to the basket a little harder because I don’t think anybody really matches us athletically.
bc.net: When we talked last week about your teams’ strengths and weaknesses you mentioned that you didn’t feel like right now that you’re team was very good at defending on the ball. How do you think they did in the first three games?
TI: Better. We still definitely need to work on it. We’re really good defensively as far as containing, holding the ball, getting one shot and then second half and last four minutes and sometimes the eight minute mark we’ll just give up an easy layup. We’ll just give it up. We’re trying to teach our kids to value every possession and value the ball. We’re getting there. Coach Trakh is by far emphasizing this the most in practice and boxing out. It is a defensive practice from now on because offensively we’re okay. We just have to really work on the defensive side. We’re getting better. A little improvement, not necessarily where we want it as a coaching staff but we know it takes some patience.
bc.net: In the UTEP game, rebounding-wise, UTEP’s ability to offensive rebound really hurt. What do you need to get your kids to do to shore up that area and limit the other teams’ possessions?
TI: They’ve gotta like contact. Our kids have got to want the contact. Right now they’re trying to work themselves through it. In practice we have a lot of rebounding drills right now and they just have to really understand that it’s not just enough to stand in front of someone. They really have to get out there and actually hold someone back. That is what they’re trying to figure out. Tyler Ellis is our leading rebounder with the minutes she plays to what she’s achieving is phenomenal but Tyler has to get in better shape. She’s got to be on the floor longer for us. Briana Freeman and Cassandra Harris, those two are doing a much better job as far as figuring it out in practice. I thought Briana was really good at UTEP defensively, moving around, getting boards, stopping the drives. Their post players really didn’t hurt us. She did a good job against them. She’s just got to continue that.
bc.net: What were some things that you saw that your kids did well in these first three games that maybe surprised you a little bit.
TI: The nicest surprise was Zaire Williams, our freshman, just being a gamer. Just showing up and knocking around. We weren’t too sure about how our freshmen would come in and be ready but right now we’ve been very happy with here. Shanice Davis, we knew she was going to be good but what she’s done for us with her point guard play, I don’t think we’ve dipped at all at the point guard with her coming in. I think we’ve actually elevated our game with her just with her ability to shoot and pass. She can pass the ball, she sees the next pass, she shoots the ball well and defensively she is one of our best defenders. Our problem right now is we need to get her rest. She’s playing too many minutes. We’ve got to get her more rest. I think she is our biggest surprise and we are so grateful we have a good point guard. It’s the start of our offense all the time. As far as everything else goes, Sasha and Abby still have not shown up to their abilities. What they’re showing right now is just okay. Sasha and Abby still have a lot behind them that they haven’t done yet. Once that happens I think we’ll be fine.
bc.net: Not many teams have to open up with three straight road games and play three different styles of basketball. You came away with a couple single digit losses where really a bounce here or there goes in your favor and you’re sitting here at 2-1 instead of 0-3.
TI: There’s a lot of things on film we go back and show our kids and the biggest thing is always teaching them, we’re trying to get them to play hard all the time. When you take off one possession but the four others don’t, it hurts us. If we can get them to understand that, and I think we’re getting them to do that, and to get them to do that on the road has really helped us. They battled. They are competing and they’re battling. They’re not giving up. They were frustrated these last three games but they’re not discouraged. They can see what we see. Having six games in a row at home, is completely encouraging and a relief and everyone is excited about it.
I thought the road games right way were good for us. Coach Trakh and I were talking about it today. It was a very tough road trip but it’s good that we set the standard. If we can get through this and battle through this and come back home and really show what we can do, we’re going to be fine come conference tournament time.
bc.net: The two games this week, what do you want to see from your team against these two opponents?
TI: Defense. We want to see them defend. We want to see them rebound. We want to see the comfortable, we want to see them play together. We want to see them constantly playing hard, sprinting in, sprinting out, getting after the 50/50 balls. I would love to see our kids win the 50/50 balls, going hard after the offensive boards. Playing aggressive and controlled. That is something we’re trying to get our kids to do because our athleticism needs to be to our advantage not to our disadvantage just as far as getting dumb fouls our going for things that aren’t there. We’re trying to get the most out of them.
bc.net: It looks like Weber State has a little bit of size at the guard position.
TI: I’ve watched film, they do have size but nothing that we can’t handle. I think our pressure and our quickness can take them out of it. They’re not going to be able to shoot over us with our athleticism. I don’t believe they can match our speed. Again, we need to be able to use our speed to our advantage.