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Courtesy: Washington State Athletics
Release: 01/27/2009
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Jan. 27, 2009

On the challenges playing ASU...
"Their system defensively is in some ways similar to ours, where they really want to take away the lane. With zone principles they want to contest shooters but limit lane touches and penetration. It's a defense that's stymied a ton of teams, us in the past though we've had success, we've had to struggle to get good shots and make them, and they're doing that to good teams. They are so experienced this year; this is the year they've been built for. They can really stretch you out and are proficient offensively. "

"(James) Harden speaks for himself...he's projected as high as the second player taken in the NBA draft if he goes out... so you have to work to get the ball out of his hands. But they'll test you on the inside and have some shooters just waiting on the outside; they are certainly one of the top in the league. They do a lot of ball screens, and they'll spread you way out. It's well organized and they have guys that can really make plays when it gets close. They've done it time and again. I've seen people double and run at Harden and he still finds a way. He has great pace in his game, he just lets it come. Very rarely do you see him force the action and make a wrong decision. He either drives and kicks it or finds a way to get to that foul line and he's so strong. When his jumper is falling he becomes a nightmare."

On the emergence of zones in the Pac-10...
"They're all different zones. We haven't played Arizona's 1-1-3 yet and that's giving people a lot of trouble. It would help if they were all playing the same zone, but because they are all different you have to attack them a little differently, so I'm not quite sure yet. It is interesting, before Coach Sendek everybody was man to man, occasionally someone would sprinkle it in, but these three teams are playing it almost 40 minutes, 90-95% of the game. I've been here six years and I've never seen that."

On ways to improve shooting percentage and get more points...
" We certainly work on our shooting. Our guys got good looks, we took the shots, there is probably a few where we forced one or made a mistake, but for the most part, boy those were great looking shots. You just keep shooting and keep working at it. You have got to be what you are, and you can look at little mechanical things, but you're not going to make a major overhaul on a guy's shooting stroke or anything. A lot of it is mental, taking good shots, but if you don't get too focused on that. We say look, we are in these games, the fact that we went 14-51 and still had a chance to win, I'm not going to say it's unheard of but it's close. We've been in so many close games and it's because our defense has held us in there even when we've labored to score. We have to keep challenging our kids not to let that slide because that is what gives us a chance, and if that's not strong we are not even going to be in games and have heartbreaking losses. Certainly we keep looking at ways to improve: putting the ball in Taylor's hands more, looking inside, running different sets, so you are always adjusting. But if you obsess or focus on it too much it can hurt you if you lose sight of what has made you competitive."

On whether the close losses are improving confidence or lessening confidence...
"Probably both. When we got a couple of those victories against Stanford, Oregon State, then Oregon, I thought those earlier losses before where we didn't execute down the stretch I think it helped us. UCLA was a little different, we had to fight and scrap to get back into it and we made a couple of shots to get back into it. I think we played pretty darn well against UCLA. I'll be honest with you against USC that's one of our best defensive performances we've had all year no question about it, we just shot the ball very poor. A couple mistakes here and there. It was one of those games where we needed to not make a couple mistakes down the stretch, but certainly we played well enough to win shooting that poorly. Doubt will creep in, but you can't just focus too much on those games, you have to say we were in those games let's just keep going. Wins are so valuable, and when you look at the USC game you felt like maybe you had it and it slipped away that does hurt and it stings but you just have to bounce back and keep scrapping that's all you can do. We've been in this spot, we haven't in the past couple of years but we have in this program and that's where we are at. I keep challenging them to be the best they can be whatever that is at the end of the year. I think they want to do that. Keep getting senior leadership and keep getting the young kids going. I think they are becoming a little more steady, I'm seeing a little more consistency from Klay, DeAngelo and Marcus, the guys that have played a little bit and we're hoping as the season progresses that will be a good thing."

On the final possession against UCLA...
"We got two cracks at it. Taylor just didn't see it. He missed the first time we ran it; Klay slipped and was open underneath right on the block. Taylor threw it and Collison tipped it so we got another crack at it. We were looking for either Thompson coming off a staggered screen and then Collison jumped over to Thompson, then Caleb slipped right to the basket and ran the baseline and was really open, so we had the two looks that we wanted and then when Taylor didn't see it he threw it out to Marcus and that was more of a safety valve thing. In hinds sight I was thinking about that I probably could have put in a (Abe) Lodwick or a (Daven) Harmeling to have another shooter on the floor. Although we had four seconds I thought if Marcus got it he could either attack off the dribble or give it to Taylor sprinting to the ball. We didn't even have to get to that, we had two open looks right under the basket that where I think they would have gotten fouled or an and-one. But that is part of the game, and I liked how open the guys were. We will call the same plays in that situation again."

On the team's defense...
"We've talked about it in the past, when you're not scoring it puts a lot of pressure on your defense. I think we are playing at a pretty high level defensively, but knowing that it will be challenged even more so this Thursday on the road and Saturday. Just to keep shrinking those lapses, you can never play a perfect defensive game but you can keep shrinking your lapses. I felt we were a little more active on the ball. We kept UCLA and USC off the offensive glass for the most part. We really pinched the lane; I like the things we did. I think the guys (were) more alert and focused on stopping the ball. They were struggling to shoot too and that just strengthens your defense, you can see that when teams are struggling to hit outside shots your defense just gets stronger and stronger. I'll keep driving as hard as I can on them as defensively to get better and tougher and sounder to hold us in games. That has to be the way we do it this year no question."

Washington State Cougars Men's Basketball