Western Kentucky men’s basketball coach met with the media this afternoon to discuss his team’s recent four-game winning streak, and its upcoming tilt with South Alabama on Thursday at E.A. Diddle Arena.
On last week as a whole:
“It was a big week, those wins were important. We were able to build leads in both games and then had learning experiences at the end on how to close out.
“With a team that two weeks ago you weren’t really sure if there was any light at the end of the tunnel, now we’ve got a chance to do some things now. But it’s still about improvement, staying hungry and understanding that we still have a long way to go – we’ve got five in a row at home right now, but we’ve got to take them one day at a time.”
On if he saw a positive swing coming:
“I knew the guys were working and that we were improving in practice, that’s all you can gauge when things aren’t going well. Work hard and good things are going to happen, and you could feel that. It only takes one game to get you going and now you see confidence gaining and more effort and teamwork coming – we’re not perfect by any stretch and have a long way to go, but there have been some definite positives.
“We’re showing our athleticism with our defense with a lot of different things going on defensively now. … A lot more hustle and getting to the ball and contesting shots. Offensively, we’re playing with our heads more. Taking care of the ball, not taking as many bad shots and getting on the offensive glass.”
“Putting that mental effort in at all times. If you have a 12-point lead, how do you extend it to 15? How do you not give the other team confidence to start the second half. We struggle against pressure at key times in a game. That’s stuff we’re all going to work on.”
On if he’s guarding against over-confidence:
“We can’t lose sight of our record. We can’t lose sight of what’s been good and what hasn’t to us. Our teamwork has to keep getting better, the hustle plays, the bench needs to keep coming. We’ve put our foot down and played harder and with more teamwork and excitement – and we want to keep that going.
“There’s too much season left to get complacent, and honestly, we’ve only got four wins – and we’ve got to keep building.”
On his short rotation:
“The shorter rotation shows up at times and we have to go big sometimes, Cliff Dixon can guard different spots and he’ll have to play more minutes. And guard play has to keep getting better and they have to understand that they’ll have to be in shape to play more minutes. Years ago we had Orlando Mendez-Valdez, I wouldn’t let him take a break. Same thing with A.J. Slaughter at times – guys like that have to condition themselves to play major minutes, and down the stretch, it’ll be like that for three or four days in a row and that’s how they have to go about it.
“It has to be more mental effort. You have to put your work in so we don’t have to be out (practicing) all day, and legs are important. You have to manage it but you’ve also got to have toughness.”
On South Alabama and whether or not he expects immense full-court pressure from the Jaguars:
“I think they’re going to press a lot and we have to manage that and make that an advantage for us and take some easy baskets from it. We did a great job on (Tim Williams, Martino Brock and Augustine Rubit) in the first half and we’ll have to do that again.
“We’ll have to handle that press. (Last time) we got the ball in wrong spots, we were careless with our passes and we got tired. There were a lot of times we didn’t attack and have good spacing and that has to improve.
“Our defense got a little slack and they made some shots. And their energy totally shifted and changed and they were everywhere defensively. If you knock some of their confidence out they’re not going to be nearly as effective defensively. We have to handle our passes better and we can make better decisions. We’ll have to break their pressure.”
On what he expects from Thursday’s home crowd after a four-game win streak:
“I expect it to be a home court advantage. Our fans have been great in staying with us and we’re still a work in progress, but we’re starting to put a product out there that guys and fans can be proud of with effort, hustle and teamwork. I want the fans to see a time that they’re excited about coming out and supporting. If the crowd’s anything like the Troy game (I’ll be happy), that was an outstanding showing when we weren’t playing so great.
“The students are back and they make a big impact on the game – I want this to be a big home court advantage and get this thing going again.”