bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie women's basketball head coach Darin Spence throughout the 2007/2008 season as the Aggies aim for the WAC Championship and Beyond. In this week's interview Coach Spence talks about last week's road games at BYU and UTEP, his coaching influences and what benefits he's seen from the preseason trip to Canada.
bleedCrimson.net: Can you talk a little bit about the two games this past week?
Darin Spence: It was a tough week, going back we had UTEP at home, it was a tough stretch of four games. We learned a lot about team, we won two and lost two. I thought going in that if we could go 2-2 we'd do pretty well.
bc.net: Playing three games in a week against pretty good competition you went 2-1, you talked about your depth and how you'd need to to get over that emotional win against UNM and against BYU you played 10 players and all but one played at least 10 minutes for you how much did that help?
DS: It definitely helped us. We knew going in it was going to be a tough battle, coming down from the big win and then to turn around and play against good team. It was battle, we did some good things. We didn't have that spark from the game before. We talked with the kids going in and the bench gave us a big lift, they played well. The rotation of kids allowed the top kids to rest and get back in and get good minutes.
bc.net: The team has had some stretches of not scoring in the past four games, against UTEP in the second half you were getting good looks but the shots just weren't falling, the first 16 minutes against BYU, what will you be working on with the team this week to keep that from happening?
DS: The biggest thing there was after we got out to the lead, I thought we, at end of half, made fatigue errors. We weren't real sharp in what we were doing and it affects the shooting. A lot of shots were not going in, we missed handful of shots and that led to some poor decisions on other shots. We were in frantic mode trying to score and we threw up some bad shots. Offensively it's something we have to work on, we have to get our timing worked on. Something we talked about all time was, Anikia [Jawara] played well she had 20 points but Sherrell [Neal] only had six points. That's not enough, her role with her experience that's not enough out of her.
bc.net: I thought one of the positives out of the UTEP game even though you lost was that your team had 22 assists on their 25 baskets, that's got to make you pretty pleased from an offensive standpoint.
DS: No question. In earlier games, we've had too many turnovers. Any time you're moving the ball, we did a good job of making the extra pass. Every pass led to the pass that led to a score. That'll help us down road. On our offense our timing will get better, that'll help more and more. Having a lot of assists spreads out the defense and makes us harder to guard. When we keep the ball moving around they've gotta be ready to guard us and they can't just focus in on one player.
bc.net: Irma [Kmataite-Smith] looked like in the game yesterday that she's starting to look for her shot a little more, is she starting to get back into the flow of things?
DS: She is. In the last couple games, you can see her getting more comfortable. I told her at BYU that she's gotta get in there and settle in and make shots. What she was doing earlier was picking up her dribble and not being ready to catch and shoot. You can see her slowly working back into it, and she's getting good minutes.
bc.net: Defensively you held another opponent under 40% shooting from the floor, even though you didn't win, you have to like your chances of winning if you do that every game.
DS: Yeah, no question. I think our defensive effort been pretty solid. Our length and activity bothers teams and it's bothered some pretty good teams. When you do that, all I ask is to give ourselves a chance, be in position late to win game and our defense has put us in that position.
bc.net: What coaches have influenced you in your coaching style?
DS: I grew up in the John Wooden era, I grew up right there, that's probably had the most impact. Things I've gotten to see and go back and look at. A guy named Randy Smithson who's a junior college coach in Kansas (Cowley Community College, Butler Community College), he was the the head men's coach at Wichita State when they had Xavier McDaniel and Antoine Carr, His defensive philosophy is similar to what I was using. Those two guys probably have had the biggest influence.
bc.net: Up next you've got Wichita State out of the Missouri Valley who's 4-5 and Lamar who's 6-3, out of the Southland Conference. What can you tell us about them?
DS: Last year at Wichita State we snuck out a win down there so I'm sure they'll be excited to come back and try to get us. They're a solid team with some upper classmen. They were up there at the Paradise Jam and played Indiana and Wake Forest so they're record is not a true indicator of how they're playing. They won't make a lot of mistakes. The best thing is it's our home game.
Against Lamar, Larry Tidwell is their new coach, he brought in some new kids and some international kids. They've played I think three NAIA low level teams so their record might be a little misleading. He's taking over a program and trying to get wins and it helps with their confidence.
They'll both be good solid tests. The best thing is we've got them both at home.
bc.net: Eight games into the season, what benefits have you seen from the Vancouver trip before the season?
DS: Well, it seems like it's such a long time ago. It's interesting you bring it up because there's some good and bad to it. I talked to some of older players about it. With a trip like that before you start the real season, if we were 2-6 right now it would have been a waste of time. What it does is extend length of season. I think it's given us a shot in arm, we had a chance to go down there and play games, get familiar with each other. We played good competition. Two of the three teams were as good as any team we've played. The Simon Fraser team is a pretty good team. They play for five years there and they've got good size, good experience and I think they're as good as UTEP, BYU and UNM. We've saw some really good teams and nobody we'll see this year should scare us or make us not think we're going to win. But really it gave us an early start and chance to get to know each other.