Weekly Coach Spence Interview :: 12/27/07 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 the last game against UNM, their upcoming games against Colorado State and Idaho plus what the team needs to work on heading into conference play. Can you talk a little bit about the UNM game last Friday?
Darin Spence: We had our chances. I thought we did a really good job of taking their crowd out of it for long periods. We put ourselves in a position to be successful, we couldn't quite seal the deal. I was real pleased with how we competed on both ends. We just came up a little short. It's a tough place to go play. You said in our interview last week that you wanted to come out and punch them in the mouth, I thought you were able to do that and you just touched on it a little bit but how would you say that your kids handled the atmosphere and the crowd, probably the biggest crowd you'll play in front of the rest of the regular season?
DS: There's no question, it's the toughest place we'll play in. The team's good, coaches are good, the crowd's good and the officials get sucked up into that environment. I talked about it in locker room after the game, it's toughest place we'll play in the rest of the season. We will be much better prepared for WAC play. We won't see crowd that big even at home. Even last year in the WAC tournament we had good crowds for the three games. We're going to play at San Jose State where there will be 100 or 200 people, Idaho maybe 200 people, that game was by far the biggest crowd we'll see. It will definitely test us, it's showed us that it's very important to stay together even when things don't go our way. With the loss of Brittany Henderson and Danielle Stevens, you'll be looking to get more production out of your two seniors Carla Denning and Niki Holt, what kind of numbers, points, rebounds-wise do they need to give you?
DS: Well, out of that position, you throw Erica Sanchez into that group as well, if they can get us 10 rebounds and 5, 6, or 7 points out of that spot, that'd be great. We have a chance to give them more playing time, it depends on who's playing. They're all solid players, in Niki's and Erica's case, they just need some time on the court. They're both physical kids, Erica in time has chance to be pretty darn good player. We'll get her a little more prepared, she's more excited now, she's ready to step up, she knows we need someone to fill the void and she was a successful high school player. She's practiced well since we've come back. I want them to be solid, play good defense and not do things to hurt us. They've got a chance to help our team. Colorado State is 2-9, all of their losses have been by 10 points or more with the exception of their triple overtime loss to San Francisco? They've only got one player averaging in double figures and only three of their players have started all 11 games for them, what can you tell us about their team and what can we expect to see from them?
DS: Well, we've seen them on tape, it's one of those teams, they haven't found each other yet. They're searching to try to find what they've done well, they haven't hit that point yet, and we certainly don't want it to be against us. They'll be a physical team, we beat them pretty good here last year, teams remember that. The question is are they closer to getting things put together? We don't know. We're more athletic and I think we do some things that will give them problems. Our defensive effort I think will bother them, our two forwards Anikia [Jawara] and Sherrell [Neal] will be a problem for them. We've just got to go up there compete, play solid defense, rebound and make them play defense. They'll come out and give us good solid game. After CSU, you've got Idaho who is kind of in the same position as CSU is 1-10, their first win actually came against Colorado State a couple weeks ago. What do you need to do to start off the conference season with a win?
DS: Well, we always talk about, once you start conference play, you throw the records out window. Teams that have struggled like Idaho, they've been close in a couple games, their coach Mike Divilbiss is good friend, he does good job, we've had some good games with them in past few years. They're going to be much better come league play, they're playing some young players, I think they'll come in here and give us everything we want. We've got to continue to play solid defense, work as hard as we can work, and keep raising the level to where they can't match it. We've got to use our experience against them, the good thing is it's at home. We want to keep our home court as tough as we can for opponents. We've also got to get out in transition as well, keep running and keep getting easy baskets. Colorado State and Idaho are a combined 3-19, how do you keep them focused on the opponent and keep them from taking either of these two teams lightly?
DS: I really don't have to do much about that, that's why this team is doing as well as they're doing. We have players who understand every game is important. We watch tape, we practice the same as if it's New Mexico, Idaho or La. Tech. It doesn't matter to them. We talked about that at the beginning of the year, it doesn't matter the color of jersey of the team we're playing, our biggest opponent is us. It's easy to say that, but this team is living that. We worry about us, we don't spend a lot of time talking about our opponents, we approach it that way, it keeps us really hungry and we have a bunch of younger kids who are proving they want to be playing, keeps us real competitive in practice. Taking a quick look ahead at the schedule, you've got four home games in a row to start the new year, including a big game against Boise State, how much of an advantage is that for your team, coming off the holiday break, to be able to stay at home for basically the first two weeks of the year?
DS: I think it's really big for us, if we just keep our heads and understand home games are important, with the three league games at home, those three league games can put us in a good position, if we take care of those, win all our home games, that puts us ahead of the game. If we can win those three games, it puts us in the driver's seat early on. Even if we went on road right after that and win 1 out of 3 that still puts us 4-2 early on. Classes start for the kids on January 16th, you start your first road trip on January 19th but two of those three games are on Saturdays so potentially your kids only miss four days of school as opposed to maybe six, is that an advantage for your team as well?
DS: Any time you can avoid missing class that helps your kids, but you know, if you've got players who are disciplined and understand what they're supposed to do, on the court and off the court, they're going to step up and do their part. But any time you can stay at home, it helps out, it also helps settle into pretty good routine. After the upcoming game against CSU, you'll have almost finished your non-conference part of the schedule, what did you team do well and what do they need to work on as you head into conference play?
DS: I think our biggest plus is the way we've defended and we've rebounded the ball pretty well. We've turned into better defensive rebounding team than in years past, that's been a plus. I also think on the defensive side, our players are doing a good job of knowing who is supposed to guard who and where they're supposed to guard them. We've been able to make adjustments. Offensively we still have to get our perimeter people to be more aggressive. Looking back at the UNM game, we had a couple guards not step up and shoot. We've got to shoot open shots and obviously make them, but our guards have to step up and have more freedom to take shots, that's the biggest area we need to continue to grow in.