March 20, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with Washington State. Coach, if you want to take a minute or two and give your thoughts on the game.
COACH BENNETT: Well, it was a tale of two halves, obviously. In the first half, I thought Winthrop did an excellent job. They're a very good defensive team. We had a lot of respect for them. They had the experience of being in the tournament. They make you work hard to get good quality shots. When they were banging some threes, getting some second chance points, easy baskets, it concerned us.
I thought the difference in the second half was a few things. I thought we got great production from Aaron and Robbie. We really challenged Taylor to guard Jenkins well, their leading scorer. Derrick Low got on track. But our defense, we're going to try not to give 'em the easy baskets. They're going to have to earn everything. No second chance points, no easy breakdowns on cross screens, no stuff all the ball screens. When we did that, they got a little cold, our offense caught fire. Like I said, when we get production from our big kids inside, do the right things, we can be effective.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Taylor, talk about your defense tonight.
Taylor Rochestie: I know that he's a great scorer, so I tried to, uhm, just stay as mentally ready as I could 'cause they run him off a lot of screens. In the first half, it was easier for me because he didn't play much. He got a quick two fouls. In the second half, I spent a lot of time, uhm, with one of our assistants, Coach Woodley, breaking down the film on Jenkins and I've been asking to guard him for a couple days. Luckily Tony gave me that assignment. A lot of it's just the principles that we have, just trying to stay in the gaps. I got a lot of help from the gaps from the rest of the defense. You know, just stay at 'em. I just try to be as pesty as I could. I think I frustrated him. It was good for us.
Q. Robbie, you guarded McCullough in the second half. After he had the big first half, what was your thought process?
Robbie Cowgill: Yeah, whoever guarded him the first half didn't do a very good job (laughter). I had him in both halves. I was pretty disappointed in myself the way he really just kind of abused me a bit in that first half, made some good plays. He got on the glass, had a couple second chance points. You know, coach challenged me at halftime. I really wanted to come out and just give a better defensive effort.
He wasn't as aggressive. But I tried to get up on him a little bit more because most of his shots were over the top. He wasn't really getting all the way to the hole.
Again, any time we stop someone like that, that's kind of a driver, slasher type, it's a team deal because we're all about getting in the gaps. I thought the whole team did a good job on him the second half.
Q. Taylor, it's been a while since Aron kind of let loose on the offensive end. What did you do to get him involved today?
Taylor Rochestie: Just get him the ball. He was making everything. He was positioning himself really well. When they're going to play behind, we like to go to Baynes. He was making great moves. He's a lot to try to block. I don't think anybody's going to try to take a charge. When he has a full head of steam coming in for a dunk, he gets some confidence in him. The rest was history, you know, making great plays.
Q. Robbie, you've had some great second halves this year as a team. They've been preceded sometimes by a very interesting halftime speech. Was there a fire and brimstone in the locker room at halftime?
Robbie Cowgill: You know, coach got on us a little bit, but rightfully so. We didn't really play well at all in the first half. You know, offensively I thought we were all right. But defensively, it's just kind of a lackluster effort really. Giving up easy baskets. Kind of what we called all week, we called their gimmick plays, back screens, cross screens, then giving them second chance points. We talk about those are losing plays, talk about eliminating losing so coach challenged us to play harder, better.
He definitely challenged us as halftime and I thought the guys responded well.
Q. Aron, what were they doing to you on defense?
Aron Baynes: That was just on the guys. They penetrated and they forced the defense to rotate over. My guy just helped up each time. I just had to step into the spot. They're going to get me the ball in my hands. I just have to catch it and go up. That's one for the guards.
Q. At one point in the second half you outscored them 35 to 4. Did you glance at the scoreboard and realize how one sided it had become in the second half?
Robbie Cowgill: There were a couple times when I looked at their score. I saw they were stuck on 29 for a while. Just kind of I felt that took that as a challenge to keep that D up, let's go as long as we can without letting them score. It was kind of fun to look up each kind of break and see 29, then 34 for a little while.
I guess with that, wasn't really looking at the spread, just trying to keep limit them from scoring.
THE MODERATOR: Fellas, thanks. You guys can go. We'll continue with questions for Coach Bennett.
Q. Right at the beginning of the second half, it looked like you spent a minute with Derrick, talking to him. Anything you can share with us?
COACH BENNETT: I just challenged him, don't go out like this. I thought he was a little lackluster in the first half. They did a real nice job tagging him. Like I said, they're a good defensive team. He couldn't get stuff. I just talked to him, okay, if you can't get a rhythm shot, attack off the dribble. But be assertive. When he gets going, that opens everything else up. We made a little adjustment offensively that I thought helped them helped him and them. I felt he needed to be challenged. He responded.
Q. Have you had a better second half this year?
COACH BENNETT: I don't know. We've had some decent second halves. We talked, I think Taylor alluded to it, maybe it was Robbie, defensively we try to talk about getting gaps. For us getting gaps is three stops in a row. Whenever we can do that, that's a gap, then we start another one. We just kept trying to challenge them, encourage them, get another one. I thought they really responded. I could feel them getting some confidence. You know, like I said, they got a little cold, which helped us. But I thought the combination of offense and defense together, that was one of our better halves. We've had maybe as good or better one side or the other, but I thought it was a pretty complete half. We struggled early, again, partly due to the way they played. I'm just glad that Kyle kept us in it in the first half because, you know, McCullough was tremendous.
Q. Talking about that second half, how much momentum and confidence can you take into Saturday knowing you played that well for the last 20 minutes?
COACH BENNETT: You know, we'll see who we match up with. But hopefully that helps. They played a good half. But you'll have to come out, whoever will play, and probably can't have a first half like that. But they established some good things defensively and offensively. We got to this spot last year, so obviously the challenge is here before us to step up and hopefully take it a step further.
But whoever it is, it will be a high level opponent. You don't get into this tournament, every team here is special. I think our guys are poised and hungry. We have experience. But whoever we play will have that. I hope we if we can play like that again, I'll be very happy, in the second half.
Q. Yesterday Aron said he didn't think it was all that important that he scored a lot of points for you guys. Is that true or not? Seems like you are a much better team when he's putting the ball in the basket.
COACH BENNETT: Initially, that's what I said, when we get production from our four and five, that helps us. Our guards have carried us and are our leading scorers. But there was a size advantage with Aron and a size advantage inside. I thought we would get more offensive rebounds in the first half. They did a good job of keeping us off. I was hoping that Aron, if they were going to play behind him, could get some baskets. Because he does a pretty good job when he gets deep post position. That certainly helped us. Then Robbie knocking down some shots. Robbie got a couple offensive rebounds in the second half. I thought it was key, both of those. The job that Robbie did in the second half defensively on McCullough. But Aron, whenever he can score for us, we can spread it out, that's big.
Q. At the point when they've got it tied at halftime, are you concerned at all the further this goes your guys might tighten up a little bit?
COACH BENNETT: Like I said, I didn't feel I was disappointed with the easy things they got. I knew it was going to be a dogfight, I really did. We're not the kind of team that overwhelms people. We're not gonna throw a knock out punch. We thought, All right, if we make them earn everything. That was our whole goal coming in. That was the disappointment. Certainly at halftime I was concerned. These guys are shooting the ball well. They're getting easy looks. They're running good stuff. We're having a hard time scoring. I knew we needed a Derrick or someone to really cut loose offensively. So that was important.
But you're always in there going, All right, do we have enough to come out? I hope our league prepared us. I got a little thing on my desk that says, There's nothing more important than the score less important than the score at halftime. That was one of those cases. Not to make light of the first 20 minutes. Coach Heideman always says, Gentlemen, it's a 40 minute game. That was the challenge before them. You know, they're very sound and patient. So we knew they weren't gonna get loose with the ball or shoot real quick. We knew we were going to be in longer possessions, which is okay. But that's challenging when you're in a tight game.
Q. Going back to the first half, we talked yesterday about parity in college basketball. In retrospect, do you think you had their attention or did it take the first half to get it through that Winthrop was dangerous?
COACH BENNETT: I told our guys at halftime, It's one of two things, you're either scared or you're being overconfident. And I said, You better figure out which one it is and make a change. I said, Because our whole deal is knowing who we are. And I didn't feel like we came whether they were fatigued, you can come up with a ton of excuses, but it wasn't good enough. And the way they played in the second half, you know, take away some of the shots, just the effort they put forth, the execution defensively, was acceptable. And I thought in the first half, it was borderline not. Again, a credit to the execution that Winthrop, the things they did. They carved us up a couple times.
I don't know what it was, but it was a little it bothered us. It bothered me. And I let them know about it.
Q. Can you comment briefly on the experience of your two Colorado kids. They're the only two kids from Colorado of the entire eight here in Denver. They played some valuable minutes off the bench.
COACH BENNETT: Yes, they did. I told Daven, if you're going to miss a shot, that's great. Miss it so we get a jump ball and get the ball back, after he crotched that one that got stuck in the corner of the board in the rim. When we were selected to come to Denver, I said there's two guys very happy. Daven has been a very important part of the program, and so has Caleb. They're two of the classiest kids you ever want to meet. They're so full of character. They're about the right stuff. It was neat to see their families today. And then they both what I think identifies them is how hard they play. They're kids that are two of the most unselfish kids we have on our team that will do whatever you ask and play with just a tremendous amount of heart. They're a joy to coach. That's why I was glad to see both of them. You know, Daven's job, he didn't hit a shot. But I thought the job he did defensively was important for us in the second half. He guarded well. That was important. And then I thought Caleb at a crucial time got a nice offensive rebound and put back. Caleb, you look at him, he doesn't always look the smoothest, as we say, poetry in motion. But he's a worker, a continuous player. We'll need those guys. We'll need them all for whoever we play next.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks very much.