Western Kentucky coach Ken McDonald spoke to the media this afternoon in preparation for Thursday’s home game against Denver.
Here are the snippets.
On the team’s overall mindset at this point:
“We’re taking steps. You always hope for a big jump and stay confident and understand the feeling you get when you have success and then be consistent with it. When we get there, when we show we can do it over the course of a game and gain some confidence and understand the potential of this team, I want us to have the maturity and understanding that we can do it over and over again.”
“I want our guys to have a sense of pride about playing at home, I want them to understand we have lost to (Denver) the last two times out and I want them to understand that we’re 0-1 in the Sun Belt and we’ve got to get in the win column. That’s important.
“I look back to our approach in the last game on the road. We go in a man down and the approach at the beginning was excellent. We didn’t get a victory, but we came out with a good mindset and battled. We got down, but battled back and were in position to steal a game. But we’ve got to finish.
“Any game – I don’t care what level you’re playing – nobody’s going to just give it up that easy. Denver has a lot of pride in what they do, and we have to understand we have to come out with a chip on our shoulder or whatever you want to call it. Our guys have to be hungry for a win, and I think they will.”
On what the group learned from a loss at Arkansas State:
“The guys have come back ready to work, we’ve watched film, we’re trying to learn from mistakes and build from positives. We came out with a good mental approach, but we got tired a little. Guys are going to have to condition themselves to play a lot of minutes and continue to get in shape. We’ve got to keep cutting down breakdowns and not let teams go on runs of 10 to 12 points on the road – that’s important.
“The most disappointing part is that when a guy get’s hot, we’ve got to step up and shut that scorer down. That’s got to be a team effort, but we’ve also got to have some stoppers. We haven’t had anyone step up and embrace that. But it has to be anybody that’s guarding someone that gets hot. In the second half, the first two minutes were big, and they got some layups and we took some bad shots. Then a one or two point game goes to eight or 10 – so learning from that is important for this week.”
“This is a totally different team that hurts you from anywhere. A lot of movement, lots of long possessions where they try to lull you to sleep. It’s similar to Davidson, to be honest, we’ll need a lot of focus for the full 35 seconds of a shot clock. We’ll have to pressure them, but be smart.
“In the last two years we’ve played them we’ve been passive. … I’m glad we’re playing them at home. We haven’t played well out there. They have. They’ve got a good basketball team with tough kids. They stay with what they’re doing and they’ve out-played us the last two times. It’s not the air, they’ve out-played us and we have to out-play them. … They can play, they’re tough kids, their coach does a great job and we’ve got to be ready to just go play hard.”
On the process of finding a on-floor leader:
“When you’re a player who’s consistent every night, it’s easier to emerge and talk and start to lead if you’re not a natural born leader – unless you’re Peyton Manning or something. But no one’s been that consistent. Look at our seniors, they’ve tried, but confidence-wise (it’s not there). Pett’s not yet where he’s hopefully going to be, Sergio is coming off a good game offensively and he’s getting better defensively but he’s (had his struggles). Juan’s been up and down, Cliff’s been up and down. They’ve all had their moments, but consistency has been a hard thing. And leadership comes with that, but it has to come collectively.
“We need to be consistent with putting together a full game, no matter what. We jumped out and played one of our better first eight minutes against Arkansas State, but we didn’t stay with it. Teams rally at halftime and adjust, we have to do the same. We’ve made strides, we reacted well to their zone – we’ll see more of it against (Denver). We have to respond to what they throw at us and we’ve got to get our minds right to finish possessions.”
On point guards Jamal Crook and Kahlil McDonald taking the bulk of the minutes with Brandon Peters ineligible:
“They’re getting better. They’re gaining some confidence and you saw it in the last game, but it needs to go to another level. Jamal needs to run the team, Kahlil needs energy to play both sides. He has to be a stopper as well as a guy who makes baskets. There’s a lot of improvement to make, but their gaining confidence.”
McDonald also said that freshman forward Stephon Drane has been limited in practice with a groin injury, making him questionable for the Denver game. Senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew has missed the past two practices with a calf-strain, but McDonald expects him back to work today and “probably” ready to play Thursday.