Ken McDonald on Vanderbilt game

30 11 2010

Western Kentucky basketball coach Ken McDonald spoke to the media this afternoon in preparation for the Vanderbilt game.

Here are some of his comments with regard to the upcoming stretch, and how the team has responded since dropping a double-overtime game to South Carolina on Saturday.

– On how the team has responded since Saturday
“We’re trying to continue understanding that we have to compete, no matter what happens. We could be in some close games, but competing will have us in position to be in the game. And we also have to learn how to finish. We had so many opportunities in that South Carolina game, but we have to go out and do it. (Monday’s) practice was really good, about 75 percent of it was really hard – we lost a little at the end – but I was really pleased with that effort.”

“It was important from the standpoint of knowing the process. We could be so much better. You see spurts and in the South Carolina game you see a longer effort and a better effort and even with that we could do so much more. … We don’t want to take steps back, only forward. That’s what we’ve talked about. We’ve watched a lot tape and when we see all those opportunities we see that there’s a lot of room for growth. That’s a positive and that’s how we’re trying to make it.”

“We’re not the tallest team but we have some gifts with our speed and quickness and we have to use that. Last year against Vanderbilt, a lot of the 50-50 balls and effort plays we made. We did some good stuff against South Carolina in the rebounding game and dealing with their pressure, but we have to continue to grow. Execution is how you win games with a lead, you get shots at the end of the clock, you set good screens – that’s how we can improve.”

On how last season’s win over Vanderbilt can be a good teaching tool for this season’s game

“It was a special game down there, we hadn’t beaten them in a long time, we were due but we went and made it happen. That’s the message we’ll send. We went out and took the game, we didn’t just hang around. We rebounded, we scrapped, we played hard from the beginning to the end – we can show guys a lot from that tape.”

“It’s an emotional time because the way our schedule’s cut up, it’s a very tough stretch and very competitive stretch. We’re trying to gauge our team based on improvement with every practice. This past week we improved, against South Carolina we improved, (Monday) we got better – and when the lights come on, we have to carry that over. Now, if you lose a game or two, then you have to take into account where the mental state is. That’s coaching, that’s maturity and there’s a lot that goes into that. Momentum wise, you want to get one of these to help with confidence. … You’ve got to talk the talk and walk the walk, and I’m excited for these opportunities.”

On the overall mental state of his team:

“You get better through adversity. You can’t have too much adversity because you lose confidence and a little edge, but the attitudes have been good. Each individual is having highs and lows and that’s hard – but I really feel like each individual is getting better. We made a jump from Davidson to South Carolina, but we’re not there yet by any stretch. We can be a heck of a team and everyone in that locker room wants to do well, it’s just a matter of managing what we do and carrying it over from game to game.”

On Cliff Dixon’s limited minutes Saturday:

“I think he hit a tough stretch (in Saturday’s) game with some breakdowns in a short amount of time. He had a good practice yesterday and he can play a big role against Vanderbilt. He had a great attitude yesterday and he played well, but he’s got to continue to play fundamental basketball. Giving us a great post defensive presence, defending and blocking out. Offensively he needs to give us a presence inside, he needs to run, he needs to help – there are a lot of fundamental things he can do, and he’s working hard on making those happen.”

On Vanderbilt:

“They’ve got good size, but it’s not so much the length, you’ve got to guard the rim. They’re not a post-dominant kind of team, but they’re a system team. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, they don’t go one-on-one a lot. They screen, they cut hard, they’re going to want to go low early and we’ll have to handle that.”

On Sergio Kerusch’s play of late:

“Serge still hasn’t gotten into a rhythm, for whatever reason. His defense is getting better but I think you’re going to see him rebound the ball better. Those are his roots, that’s what stands him apart. For his size, he can really rebound. I want to see him go out and be the old Serge where he’s putting less pressure on his offense and taking good shots, he’ll take some challenged shots, but there doesn’t need to be that much focus on the offensive end outside of rebounding. We’ve been preaching to him to get back to his game, and mentally, I think he’s starting to get back into that mindset.”

McDonald also said that sophomore point guard Jamal Crook was expected to return to the practice floor today, and a decision about his availability for Wednesday’s game would be made from there.

Crook missed the game against South Carolina on Saturday with a hamstring pull – forcing junior point guard Ken Brown to play 40 minutes.

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