bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Spence Interview :: 02/18/08

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 game against Louisiana Tech, their upcoming game against San Jose State and the challenge of facing a team with nothing to lose and resting up to gear up for the final stretch of five games.

bleedCrimson.net: Can you talk about the La. Tech game?
Darin Spence: It was a big win for us. We needed it and any time you can beat La. Tech you take it and you move on to the next game. So I was really pleased with how we came out in the first half and tried to establish that hungry attitude, try to put people away. We let it slip a little bit in the second half but I thought we did a great job of regrouping and fighting them off and getting a double digit win. It was a good win, good night for us.

bc.net: How important mentally/psychologically was it for your team in the second half to, even though La. Tech came all the way back to tie, for your team not to have given up the lead?
DS: It shows that we bent and we never broke. We found a way to stay in our gameplan. Defensively in the beginning of the second half we had some missed assignments and then once they had tied the game, we regrouped, we showed a lot of maturity at that stretch. We started doing our defensive assignments better. On our offensive end La. Tech made the decision early in the game to sit on our inside game which opened up our guards and we made five threes in the first half. I knew in the second half they were going to do the opposite so they started stretching out on our guards which opened up the lane for our inside players. It showed the intelligence of our team and how we played to the balance of our scorers.

bc.net: Can you talk about Anikia Jawara's second half of the 2nd half? She had 14 points in the last 9:30 of the game and really came at a time that really helped you out.
DS: She showed a little more patience. Really in games she does a lot of things too quickly. She doesn't read the floor as well as she should, she starting to get a little bit better and at a good time, there's five conference games left. I think she's just finally settled in and read the floor a little better and allowed her to see that they weren't doubling and triple teaming her and so she was able to find openings in there and go get points.

bc.net: In the first game you held them to 29% shooting, then on Thursday you do one better and hold them to 28% shooting, what is it about the matchup with La. Tech that you do so well defensively?
DS: What's interesting, when you look at their team and then you see what they did to us at the beginning of the second half, you stop and scratch your head go why don't they do that the entire game as far as playing a lot quicker and trying to get after people? They kind of play into your hands and lull you to sleep and so the pace of the game is pretty slow for the most part. With us being a position defensive team, because they play a lot slower on their offense, it allows us to always stay in better position. Now their inside players are good and they're hard to match up with because they're as athletic as our kids are but they're bigger and they're taller so even if we jump well they're still going to be higher than us because they jump just as well but they're longer. I just think the pace of their offense and they don't do a whole lot of running out in transition it just allows us to get our position defense set up and I think that's a lot of it there. Then I think our perimeter players are taller and so it's harder for their guards to shoot. Kind of like my team was the first two years here, we were really short on the perimeter and when we played longer teams it was hard to get shots off. I think that's probably the biggest reason and the other side of it is we're kind of hungry to start beating those people on a little more consistent basis if we just stay focused.

bc.net: You've got one game this week, San Jose State, you beat them in the first meeting in Las Cruces, they still haven't put it all together although they did have a one point loss to Utah State what has changed if anything with their team since the first meeting?
DS: They're a team that's just trying to find their way. I've always thought they've had good athleticism, they have a good scheme in what they try to do. The problem I see is a lot like Idaho. The inside players of both those teams last year got a lot of shots. This year, Powell, she's not getting the same amount of shots because their guards, in my opinion, are shooting the ball too much. But I guess that's just a difference in philosophy. I believe you go inside out and San Jose had been that way in the past but with new coaches they're letting White shoot it that many times and she's having a good season but what it does is it takes away your threat to get fouled and to get more free throws by attacking inside. Shooting a lot of jump shots you're not going to shoot a lot of free throws. I see that as their biggest change in their team but they're a good solid team if you don't defend well. They're quick and they're fast, if you let them get past you driving the ball with their smaller guards they could cause you some problems. They're close, like you said Utah State beat them by one and then they got beat pretty good at La. Tech but they're that team that's looking for their next win and we for sure don't want to be it. We know going to San Jose is not the easiest place to play, the atmosphere is not that great there and so we're going to have to be real focused and hungry. This week in practice leading up to the game is going to tell a lot about the maturity of the team and just how hungry and how committed we are to actually playing for a title.

bc.net: A lot of people might look at this SJSU team at 2-22 and 1-10 in conference and think that they don't have much to play for but that really couldn't be further from the truth. They're trying to stay out of that play-in game and they're in a race with Idaho and USU and just looking at their schedule vs. USU's schedule, they've got the slightly easier road. Can you talk about the danger of playing a team like SJSU that really has nothing to lose, is trying to be the spoiler and is motivated to stay out of the play-in game?
DS: No question. That is exactly it. I think it was my first year here. We were doing the same thing towards the end. We had to win one game to get into that Sun Belt Tournament and we went and knocked of Arkansas State at their place and they were in first place. Those kind of teams, I know exactly what position they're in and those kind of teams are really dangerous. As you said, they're not supposed to win, they get to just kind of let loose and if their shots are falling early and they start getting a lot of confidence and the opposite happens for us, it could be a longer night, it could be a struggle and you really don't want to go in there and stumble around for 40 minutes.

bc.net: These past two weeks you've only had one game does that help your team at all staying fresh for this stretch run of the next five games especially considering you guys had the trip up to Canada early and have basically played a little longer season than everybody else?
DS: I think it's probably a blessing because you get to rest some kids. We've battled some people being banged up for a long time this year. We haven't been hurt a lot but we've had kids that have had so many nagging things it's really slowed them down and hasn't allowed them to play their best. So, we are thankful for times that we get to actually take some time off. At the same time you've got to do some things in practice and not be bored and you really have to challenge yourself and we do that, there's no question about that. So we're always preparing, if we're taking a day off we're doing something with weights or watching film or just talking with them about things we need to do or get better at. If we're not doing anything physical, we're always going to do something mental and just keep preparing. But it's nice to have a couple days where you can practice one day and then take one day off and then practice the next day and try to stay in your routine as much as possible.

This is also the time of year where we start putting in some new things as well. At that last five games, people haven't seen it before and then they haven't had a lot of time to prepare and it takes you into the conference tournament as well. I've always done that and it'll be the same starting today, just working on a few different things.

As I said before, this is the time for the players. This time of year is all about players, if the players can find another level of enthusiasm, commitment and desire, that's half the battle right there. You have teams where kids start looking at the standings and saying they don't have a chance and it's really disheartening and then those teams, if you give them a reason to quit when the game starts, they're gonna take that easy out, especially those teams that have lost a lot of games. We want to make sure that we're really enthusiastic about what we're doing from here on out.