Feb. 11, 2013
Q – You played these two teams tough earlier this season. Do you take any confidence from that or is it too long ago to make a difference?
“I think that’s something you know in the back of your mind, that you were there with them on both of their home courts. But I think it’s risky to try using that as encouragement. I think there has been a correlation for our guys to come out scratching and clawing, and I think we have played, with the exception some little stretches, we’ve responded well on the road to start some games. So I like more of the desperation mode, where we almost assume that we are on the road in order to come out like that. We haven’t necessarily had that energy at home, and that’s troublesome. We have two really good teams coming in here, we know about the past but it’s really more about the first play on Wednesday.”
Q – Can you talk about getting a second look at Arizona State and Arizona, and what you learned that you can use this time around?
“I thought the Arizona State game was one of the better games overall. I think both teams played pretty well coming down stretch in the first part of that game and it never really got away from anyone. It was a couple of basket differential at most. I remember specifically that game coming down to a few 50/50 balls and loose ball rebounds. We got them to miss inside of 40 seconds, then there was a long rebound that came out and they tracked it down, then kicked it out to Carson and he hit his only ‘3’ of the game to tie it up. That’s one of those moments of truth where if we get the loose ball then they have to foul, and the complexion of the game is different. That was a well executed game I thought by both teams. There were some learning points where it comes down to what we might say are little things that end up becoming big things. They’ve gotten better as the year has gone on. They’ve added quite a bit to their offensive schemes and they’ve got a lot of great pieces. They’ve got the point guard that’s going to do what he’s supposed to do in this league. And they’ve got the 2, the 3, the 4 and the 5. With Felix at the 3, he’s been the Player of the Week a number of times in our conference. Bachynski has had double-digit blocked shots, Gillen is as good of a 4-man in our league who shoots the 3, and they have the two kids in the backcourt, so it’s a really nice blend for them.”
“I think it’s a little bit less complex. Personnel is one of the areas for a lot of our guys where you still want to remind everyone of what people do. But let’s face it, not only did we see their team live but our players watch the Pac-12 Network and ESPN and at this point in the season you might have seen them 10 or 11 times. So we will talk a little less about what they want to do and more about what they’re trying to do, not individually but as a team. I think the mental part is less strenuous the second time around, and you can focus more on the physical aspects of the game.”
Q – You held an eight-point lead at halftime. Is there anything you can do as a coach to eliminate that second-half funk?
“Sure, we’re trying to put the fire out just as players are. I watched the second half of that game on the plane early Sunday morning coming back. I thought we started the second half real well. It wasn’t the first eight or 10 minutes of the half that got us, there was a stretch…it’s pretty easy at the end of the day if you turn the ball over and you don’t run back on defense, that’s a five-point swing. It’s the two you didn’t get plus the three they made. Or you miss a layup and you have guys jog back on defense, back peddling, against the University of Oregon, they’re going to stuff it down your throat. So there’s a lot we can talk about and try to change that as much as possible. We will show them film and show them where the game gets away.
“Basketball is very interesting, even as a coach, you watch it live and it’s such a fluid game and it’s about the next play. Basketball is really fluid. You might have three possessions of offense and three possessions of defense, and as a coach you’re living it but you forget the big picture. Then when you see it on film, that’s what the guys need to see. You have to eliminate those 12-2 runs. We had four runs at Oregon State and one of them was on our behalf where we outscored them 12-2. The other runs were eight or nine point runs for them.
“There’s a lot of different elements to putting those to an end. I asked our team how to put an end to runs and they all wanted to talk about the mental part. But you also need to know personnel. If a guy wants to drive right and you know that, then we can’t run out at him and let him drive right. When you’re presented with an open opportunity, we have to use our skill and make shots when they’re presented. You can’t overcomplicate things and look for one answer. It really comes down as the ASU game did, to getting a loose ball. So we’re trying to fix as many of those things as possible and keep our guys in the next play. I think that’s another way you end some runs, instead of letting momentum get to you and carry into the next play, you just have to win the next point. There’s a lot of elements we are trying to improve on.”
Q – How much is situational with the freshmen, where you are teaching them things that a junior or senior might already know?
“That experience is very valuable. I had breakfast with [Colorado head coach] Tad Boyle in Eugene. They just played Oregon the night before, he’s a friend of mine. That was one of the discussions, he was saying ‘Man, you know how much you miss a senior until they’re gone’, talking about losing four pretty good seniors last year. That’s where we want to get with this program, where you have young kids in the program as freshmen. They’re learning and that’s why we watch a lot of film. I remember one play in particular on the end line at OSU. Jordan was taking the ball out and Brandon was trying to deal with pressure. It was a learning point and we didn’t see that at Oregon. So they learned from it, being under fire in one game, it was improved when we got to OU. All those freshmen keep soaking stuff up. They want to learn and they want to get better.
Q – What stood out to you about the rebounding at Oregon and what can you work on?
“We have been working on them. We’ve got to continue working on it. They’re going to see some clips. Again it’s a combination. It was interesting, there were times when we did block out but got out-jumped or got pushed underneath the basket. It’s a physical game. And there are other times when we shouldn’t have tried to block out. There’s a handful of clips we will watch today where the weak-side board should be ours. All they need to do is turn, get their hands up and find the ball. We would turn and try to block out but by the time we did that someone else was inside and the ball hit the rim really fast and we didn’t get a hand on it because we weren’t ready. So rebounding I think is a combination of being in a stance defensively and being aware when a shot is taken. There are guys in our league who just need to go get it, and there’s others who need to rely on a block out and a lot of the technique. If they’re a little undersized or thin they need put a body on a guy and block out. We need to start building on that. Giving up 21 offensive rebounds for that team, which was the area that was going to get us. Kazemi is the leading rebounder per minute in our league. When you look at their power forward production and ours, we didn’t get a rebound from the power forward position between the two of them. At some point we have to make up our mind to go get some and be more determined.”
Q – You had your 10th different starting lineup against Oregon. Did you like the way they started?
“We went through a streak of three games where it wasn’t a fun way to start games. I think if look at the Oregon or Oregon State game, it wasn’t the initial part that got us in either one. We were ready to go from the beginning. I think part of the responsibility of a coach is figuring out who might be better served in a starting role, who isn’t going to make mistakes. Everyone responds a little differently. At this point I’m pretty pleased at the way we’re starting games. I don’t want to downplay it, I understand the importance of starting for players, but as a coaching staff let’s put five out there who we know are ready to go. As the game goes on it’s probably not the same five who will finish the game, but it’s all about trying to win those four-minute segments throughout game.”
Q – Can you talk about the parity in this league?
“It’s true, you look at Cal beating Arizona and then losing to Arizona State, there’s no doubt you could take any team. There’s a lot of good teams and teams are beating up each other. I don’t think that’s going to affect the NCAA committee, I think we’re going to see a nice handful of teams make it to the tournament in March. We have seven regular season games remaining, four at home and three on the road, plus the tournament. Regardless, we are tied with two other teams at the bottom of the league. But you get a couple of wins here or there, we could finish eighth in the league, as you know what can happen with the conference tournament. We lived it last year. We had really good game against Colorado in our opening game and it came down to a couple of possessions. Then who ends up winning the conference tournament, it’s Colorado. Our lifeline is to finish these seven games on a high note, be more consistent, and piece some possessions together. Then when you head to Vegas anything can happen. You can’t get ahead of yourself but that’s where we are. We hope we have double-digit games left in us. At the end of the day we can talk about possibilities, but at the end of the day we have to improve in practice and stay with the model we have had all year.”
Q – What do you think about the football team hiring Dennis Erickson?
“He’s a unique guy. He is one of guys that when you throw the name out there, you just know he’s a football coach. A lot of what he does and his personality is about football. I think he will bring a lot of excitement and character to the staff. I’m sure coach Whittingham knows what he’s doing, knows what he’s looking for, and wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t think coach Erickson would bring a lot to the table. I’m looking forward to catching up with him.”