Weekly Coach Spence Interview :: 12/20/07 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 the last two games against Wichita State and Lamar, Hannah Spanich and tomorrow's rivalry rematch against New Mexico. Can you talk about your win on Sunday afternoon over WSU? It really seemed like as the game wore on in the 2nd half, you just really wore them out, which showed up in their free throws coming up short.
Darin Spence: I thought we played well, Wichita State is a pretty darn good team. They're solid and their record is not a true indication of what they are. They've been beaten by Wake Forest, Indiana, Oklahoma State, pretty good teams. We knew going in it would be a tough game for us. Our consistency on the defensive end in the second half really wore on them and we forced them to shoot tougher shots and put them in rebounding positions that were not as good as they had in the first half. Last week after the interview I talked you a little about Hannah and how she was struggling with her shot, it seems like she's regained some of her confidence and it has really shown up in the last two games. I thought the turning point for her was early in the first half of the WSU game, one of the other players took a shot and missed and Hannah came streaking in for the rebound and the putback and after that she's just been playing like a much different player. What are your thoughts on her?
DS: She has shown a lot of maturity. She's really put in extra time in the gym working on her game. Eventually it was going to pay off for her and now she's seeing the benefits of the extra work. We've known she's good player all along, she just had to settle in and mature. She is such a confidence type kid and once she starts going good, she starts rolling with it. I'm pleased with how she's handled situation. Can you talk about the Lamar game last night, I thought going in, that it would be a great test for your team, not necessarily from the physical standpoint but the mental standpoint, a late December game against a team that is obviously not as athletic or talented as your team and that we'd find out a lot about your team's mental focus a lot of times those are the games that sometimes the favorite can come out flat and go through the motions and sometimes end up losing.
DS: Especially knowing the game after is New Mexico, as a coach you always look at the schedule for those trap games. I was really pleased with how our kids came out, we very focused early on, especially on the offensive end. When Sherrell [Neal] and Anikia [Jawara] make those early shots it really opens things up for our guards. They fed off each other.

We lost some concentration in the 2nd half but that's to be expected when you have such a big lead. In the second half I play a lot of freshmen, Niki Holt got in, it was important for her to get minutes and get back in the swing. There were two positives that came out of the game. One is we came out with good energy and two, we were able to get kids some needed minutes, we stayed healthy and we have confidence heading to New Mexico. We've talked a little bit about the depth of your team and Tuesday night you played just about everyone, a lot of coaches and players have a hard time dealing with depth but your team really seems to thrive on knowing that there's depth, most of the time they don't seem to miss too much of a step when your subbing in two or three players at a time.
DS: We always talk about how depth is important and how everybody means a lot to the team, whether you're a practice player and you get one minute or 10 minutes, you've got to step up and do your job and be ready to go when you're called on. No one views another teammate as scrub player someone only goes in when game is over and honestly we have some young kids who believe they're good players and are chomping at bit to get in there and prove themselves.

We got in trouble with about two minutes left in the first half [against Lamar], I put all the kids that hadn't played in at same time, that was a mistake. In the second half, I slowly put in one at a time with the veterans on the floor and that's what helped them play better in the second half. Having depth is important and having good depth is even more important. We've got a group that on any given night, kids you don't expect to see out there can play well for us. You've got the big rematch on Friday night, you got the monkey off your back earlier in the month and now the team that has the pressure on them is New Mexico, how do you use that to your advantage?
DS: We just talked about with the team, it's a game obviously we don't have to win, they have to win. They've lost two in a row and now you could say the boulder is on their back. They're angry, but back when we beat them here, a lot of their quotes were not the most flattering towards us. It was more that they played horrible and Don Flanagan said in the paper that you know they must have shot with eyes closed. Your kids remember that but at same time we understand we have a great opportunity to sweep them. We're going to go in and expect to punch them right in mouth. The previous game against them, the manner in which you won, defensively, how tough for an opposing coach is it to prepare his team after losing by being dominated defensively? Unlike on offense where some nights the ball just won't go in the basket, defense isn't streaky. It's not like you guys shot lights out and there just wasn't anything they could do about it.
DS: Right. Well and we know that we can play on offensive end better, we know they're a good defensive team as well and that had some to do with us rushing shots but we missed a lot of easy shots early through the jitters and nerves. They're [UNM] not going to change anything, they really believe they'll make shots and it'll be totally different game. We know that we've got to be focused and hold off their runs. They've struggling on offense so they're going to put all their focus on what they've done on the offensive end. We want to force tough shots and rebound the ball, rebounding will be huge. They'll shoot better but when they miss we have got to have rebounds and not let them get second and third shots. Do you think there's any advantage for you having played a couple of teams that weren't as tough as the two teams they played in Arizona and Stanford?
DS: Well the Stanford game, I do not even consider that game. Stanford is really big and they do a lot of good things, they're head and shoulders better than UNM. Arizona a lot like our team but they're not one of the elite teams, they're lower PAC-10. I think for our program any time we can win games it's a good thing. Associate AD Steve Macy talked two weeks ago about how he felt that if your team kept winning, there should be no reason, especially given the non-conference schedule you've played that you shouldn't at the very least start getting top 25 votes and possibly even crack the top 25 and last week Charlie Creme of projected you into the NCAA tournament. One, what are your thoughts on Steve's comments and two, even though it's still very early in the season and there's a ton of basketball left to be played, how does it feel to be mentioned for the tournament whereas in seasons past your team has been an afterthought?
DS: Well, it's great. Any time you can get recognized for what you're doing it's nice. You've still gotta go out and win games. The sad thing this year is a lot of teams in the WAC had poor starts and so I think we're back to being a one bid league and you're going to have to win the conference tournament to get a bid. I think if we can win more games, we could possibly put ourselves in a position to get an at large bid. But how the teams have started it's going to be tough to get more than one team.

It's nice, I've lived through four years of stuff when it was really really tough, we had a chance twice in the tournament finals, now it's nice to have people know what you're doing.