A Q&A with Damon Archibald

Iowa State's men's basketball team is busy preparing for a difficult meeting with Texas Tech, and a few key areas have been at the center of a four-game winning streak. Assistant coach Damon Archibald gave an ISU progress report during a question-and-answer session with CycloneNation.com.

CN: Why don't you start by discussing the recent four-game winning streak?

Archibald: What people have to understand about sports is it's a process. Tasheed Carr and Rahshon Clark are not going to come into Division I basketball and have instant success. There is a process. Those two players' play the last four games has taken us to another level, in the aspect of the load they're carrying and role they're playing on the team. Everybody can see that.

Early on everybody was talking about our big three and how those guys have to play. Now when people think about the Cyclones, they think about the Cyclones and not just Curtis Stinson, Will Blalock, and Jared Homan. They're thinking about the whole team and that's when you've got it going.

CN: How have the emergence of Carr and Clark made defenses more honest?

Archibald: It's a double-edged sword for us in the positive. By those two guys hitting shots, it's created more room for Will and Curtis. But don't forget about Will Blalock; he's made a few threes too. When those three guys are hitting jump shots, it takes us to another level and opened up the floor. That's been our biggest success.

CN: Has the new seven-man rotation become beneficial to this team, or does it remain a detriment in that your depth is limited?

Archibald: You can say yes and no. I'm going to say no. We have Rahshon Clark playing the four man in portions of the game. But what we've done is make our biggest weakness our biggest strength. When we move Rahshon Clark to the four, we press and that makes us a quicker team. It's not like we have Rahshon Clark in there getting his brains beat in by a Big 12 four- or five-man. We've reversed it and have a quicker, sleeker, faster team on the court that they have to prepare for.

Coach Morgan has done a great job of flipping that on everybody. We may have six guys and odd lineups in, but we're going to force you guys to adapt to us. Right now the kids think that they're the best defensive team in the country. The way they approach a game, the arrogance and confidence they have with the steals, traps, deflections, blocks, and rotations, they feel very confident in their game.

CN: Just how much of a burden was lifted off this team's shoulders last Saturday in Austin?

Archibald: It was one of those things where we were knocking on the door. Some people thought there were a couple of games that, had we had a more experienced team, we could have finished it off. All of a sudden, everything clicked in Austin. The guys made big plays and Will was unbelievable hitting big shots. And you don't forget about Tasheed Carr going into orbit at the end of the game. It was fantastic the way the kids hung together.

It was special when we were in the timeout after the conclusion of regulation. Jared Homan had been getting banged on all game. The last three or four games, teams have set out to stop him. Jared sits down in the timeout after getting bruised for the first 40 minutes of the game. He screamed at the guys, ‘It's a tie game and we haven't played well yet. I know we're going to play well these next five minutes.' Everybody got pumped up and it was scary how good we were the next five minutes.

CN: That momentum carried into Nebraska the other night, when the Cyclones answered the call on many different occasions What were your impressions of the effort in Lincoln?

Archibald: That's the maturity of our team. I've got two words for you during that game: Curtis Stinson. He was unbelievable. It was probably one of the best defensive games a Cyclone has ever had in our tenure here. He got loose balls and made rotations. He also got rebounds and made his free throws.

The biggest play of the game was when Will was at half-court and they threw a half-court stunt at him, double-teamed him, and caught us off guard. Will made a pass and one of their players jumped 10 feet up in the air, tipped the ball, and got it. Nebraska went on a 2-on-1 fast break, but Curtis came out of nowhere and intercepted the pass from behind. It was just a killer play on their part, because they're looking at two quick points and getting the crowd involved. He flipped it on them and took it the other direction.

CN: What are some factors that have attributed to the success of Carr and Clark?

Archibald: I think the biggest thing is the way Coach Morgan handles the players. He's fabulous with handling the kids and keeping their confidence up. There was a time when we started conference at Missouri, home against Kansas, and at Oklahoma State. I don't care how good you are, those are three pretty tough games that a lot of teams would go 0-and-3 in.

The biggest obstacle we had was if we could keep the kids' confidence up after those three games. It was extremely low and kept plummeting. Coach Morgan did a great job of doing a few things: keeping the confidence up and building on the little things, as well as getting rid of the distractions that were on our basketball team. We got rid of a couple guys and that really helped, especially with the younger guys.

CN: Two of the hottest teams in the Big 12 square off Saturday in Hilton Coliseum. Talk about the matchup with Texas Tech.

Archibald: They're playing as well as any team in the country right now. They're nationally-ranked and have won like 10 of their last 12 games. While we've won some recent games, they've been winning for over a month. They're playing with a lot of confidence and have it rolling right now.

In my opinion, every one of the guys is going to have to step up and play a big-time game. Our sixth man needs to be a big part of that also. When you've got a team playing as well as Texas Tech, we're going to make plays and play hard, but the X-factor is that sixth man.

But we're up for the challenge and are excited. The kids are glad to be coming back to Hilton. People are getting excited about this team and the game is sold out. It's going to be one of those epic games in Hilton, one of those games that could make or break a season. Can we keep it rolling? Can we keep it going? Can these young kids handle the situation?

CN: You've gotten through the extremely difficult month of January and are now on a roll as the Big 12's home stretch awaits. What are your hopes and expectations for the rest of February?

Archibald: Not to sound cliché, but our only focus is the next game and working on Texas Tech. I don't even know who we play after Texas Tech. That's how focused I am right now, in the aspect of who we play next game. When we were 0-and-5 in conference, we weren't looking two or three games ahead. That's the formula we continue to follow. We'll do what got us here. We're going with the girl who brought us to the dance and that's one game at a time.

CN: This Cyclone basketball season is developing into quite a story, especially over the last two weekends when both the men's and women's teams beat Texas and Oklahoma. How much of an achievement is that at ISU?

Archibald: The women's team is playing well and have it rolling. They're in the 10th year and we're in our second year. We have a vision down the road, years from now, where we have the system of people in every class that are contributing. We haven't gotten to that point yet, but people see the sophomores we have here and the freshmen we've brought in. Next year we're going to have juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. That's what we're trying to build.

CN: Last but certainly not least, Damion Staple is really starting to play at a level many fans had expected at the start of the season. Talk about the role he has had on this team of late.

Archibald: Defensively, he is like a dynamo. He knows all of our rotations and is the one who makes big-time plays. He's unheralded because he's not a big scorer or basket maker, but he's done a ton of other things. There was a reason why he started games last year. We had Jackson Vroman and Jared last year, but Damion was starting. He knows his role, both offensively and defensively. He's always in the right place at the right time. The public spotlight and media spotlight is not on Damion Staple, but the team spotlight and coaches spotlight is in full bloom on him.

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