Some comments from WKU coach Ken McDonald following the loss.
On if he’s feeling pressure with his job status currently:
“Well, there’s more people in the media room than ever. There’s always pressure. That’s my job. That’s why there aren’t many division one coaching jobs and there aren’t as many as good as this one. It’s my job and the staff’s job to get us through this, and we’re going to.
“Would everybody like it sooner? Absolutely. But we’re going to find something to build on from this. … We’re going to focus on improvement, because literally, that’s all we can do. If I approached it any differently, I’d be letting down my team, this program and administration.
“People have made a run on us. I’ve got to respond, the staff has to respond, but we’ve got to focus on improvement and that’s all we can do.”
“This is the first time I’ve been through this to this extent. As upset as you are after a loss, I’ll watch tape and see some positives. And I’ll be able to show the team what we need to have more of. If there was no fight over 40 minutes and we cashed it in (it’s different). But we had a chance to win the game, that’s a positive. We’ve got to get more minutes in the hard-play category. That’s our job.”
On how he’s dealing with all the negative feelings from the fanbase toward the program:
“It is our job to try to keep the negative part out of our guys’ heads and that is tough. It’s tough in a small town and obviously with a program that is used to winning.”
“The guys have to put their foot down and we all want that. You saw a team in the second half that kind of put their foot down. But having the toughness to understand that no games are going to be easy games (is key).
“I want the guys understanding that this is not good enough and I do want them to come out with a chip on their shoulder. Stop being the hunted and go out and be the aggressor and start hunting. That’s a mental mindset. The mental to the physical game is four to one. We have to get that mental mindset right and that’s the biggest challenge right now.”
“Just stay with us. We have an incredible fanbase. You’ve got people that will be very supportive no matter what and some will jump off the wagon. That comes with the territory, but put that on me. Don’t give up on the players. As leaders of the program, we’ll get this thing turned around. These guys are working hard, more than you know behind the scenes and eventually it’ll show up in the win column.
“We call ourselves a program. The fanbase has to stay with us and stay positive. We all want more, we all demand more. But we’re going to get this thing turned around.”
On if he’s taking outside criticism personally:
“It’s always personal, don’t ever think it’s not. And I mean that in a good way. It motivates me as a coach. There’s no question the staff is working hard, and the players, they hear it. They’re good kids. We’ve got good kids now, kids that want to win. We just haven’t put together that 40 minute effort.”
On the game in general:
“We’re putting certain stretches together but I’m disappointed because our mental mindset and focus and energy against Arkansas State was good and we thought we’d have some confidence and be ready to play. Denver did a good job freeing people up, did a good job with their movement and that dug us a hole because our man-to-man defense wasn’t there and it got us down.
“Then we have to dig back and that’s tough. Totally different energy level in the second half, but we have to learn our lesson and understand that aggression and energy level has to be there at the start.”
On how the team learns that lesson:
“When you find out, let me know. It takes time, experience, leadership and a lot of different things. But the biggest is the focus that goes into a scouting report. That was big tonight because they can make you pay if you’re not ready to play.”
“We’ve got to do better, we’ve got to defend better and have better energy at the beginning of a game. We got down on ourselves a bit in the first half when they made a run and I wasn’t happy with how they responded.”
“We’ll watch tape and learn from this experience because it’s a different kind of team. In the second we responded differently, but we have to get to a point where you can’t let a team go on a run to put you down 12, 14, 16 points before you react. … We have to respond better.”
“Anyone that’s in this position right now is frustrated, but you’ve got to stay the course. In terms of improvement, teaching guys to learn from their mistakes, you’ve got to stay the course to get more leadership.
“Now that we’re in Sun Belt play, we have to build momentum from how we play for 40 minutes. … Even though it is frustrating, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we have to concentrate on the positives.”
McDonald didn’t have any definitive update on sophomore point guard Jamal Crook’s status. He said that Crook may have twisted his elbow, but the overall severity was unclear.
Crook took a tumble on his left arm midway through the second half. He exited the game with help from trainers and didn’t return, instead spending the remainder of the game on the WKU bench with an icebag on his arm.