Rick Ray Monday Morning Press Conference

"There's a couple of things we need to fix on our team I think that will help us. One is we have to figure out a way to keep our post guys from getting in foul trouble early in the first half. Obviously we're low with our depth and our numbers. We can take maybe one guy getting two quick fouls, but in the past couple of games we've gotten two guys with two quick fouls."

"That just makes us a really small team with Tyson Cunningham playing the four-spot. We just can't have success defensive rebounding with that rotation. So we have to do something as far as improving our post defense or helping those post guys out with some sort of post-trap or digging the ball out of there so those guys don't get early foul troubles. "

"And then I just think the other team is scoring too many points. We've had success when we hold people in the 50s. But we're holding people in the 70s the last couple of games and that's too many points because we struggle on the offensive end. I don't know if we can consistently score 70 points in order to beat a team. So those are the things we're going to concentrate on here in these next couple of days of practice, trying to get ready for Arkansas."

Gavin Ware is the only big body and he's struggling to score lately. "I think it's two-fold. He's struggling somewhat but I think also there's a concentration from the opposing team of not letting him score, when he's your only inside threat. And he's been playing well. I think there's a concerted effort by the opposing team to try to take that away from you, and that's what good scouts and good coaches do."

How do you offset that? "I think we've got to do some things as far as like making him a screener, where he sets a screen that is a ‘threatening' screen. So, now his man has to help in some way or form or fashion, so he gets some sort of angle on the post and try to get the ball inside to him. But he's got to make quicker moves in the post. He has a tendency to wait, and dribble, and things like that, things that allow the other team to come post-trap him or post-help. He's got to make quicker moves to the basket so he can eliminate that post-trap."

Is Mike Anderson's style different this year? "I don't know, the only time I've ever played a Mike Anderson team was back when I was at Purdue. So what he's done in the past is kind of immaterial to me."

Does Arkansas make you change what you do defensively? "I don't think you can change the tempo defensively with what they do. I don't think their tempo is based on their offense, I think their tempo is based on their defense. So to me what you have to do is take care of the basketball. You give them easy points if you try to run fast versus their press, or if you try to score early versus their press. So to me dictating the tempo is more to do with what you do offensively than what you do defensively. So I think our defense will be fine as far as with tempo, it's how our offense handles their defense and all their multiple presses."

Is that a concern after what happened with Alabama? "Yeah, I think anybody that saw that film sees that we might struggle versus a run-and-jump and presses, and that's obviously all Arkansas does, is press. So we've got to take care of the basketball, that will be our number-one concern in going into the game offensively and defensively. Because you know, offensively you don't want to turn the basketball over; and when you turn the basketball over you have no chance to set your defense."

What troubles do Young and Powell cause? "I think Young is a guy that is just hard to keep out of the paint. Once again it's not going to be a one-man effort with Young. Our guys have got to move to Young and they've got to move to Powell, whether Powell is in the post or on the perimeter. Because I think he's a problem. We've got to keep Young out of the paint, and he is the type of guy that he tries to drive one way and you cut him off he'll cross over or spin or something like that and probe the defense the other way. So you've got to be constantly be moving to him, and make sure you don't allow him to get penetration."

"And then Powell is a skilled four, where he can score in the post and he can score off the post; he can catch and shoot. So we've got to do some things when he catches the ball off the block to try to move to him and not give him gaps to try to score."

Jalen Steele and Craig Sword are having success penetrating, is that something you need more of? "I don't think it's something different than what I want those guys to do in the past. I think they're just doing a better job of it. Those guys are continually getting better as basketball players, and you'll see the evolution of their game throughout the season. I don't think it's anything different than what we're doing, I just think Craig is hard to keep out of the paint. Craig's biggest problem is once he gets into the paint, the decision-making; not getting charges, not turning the basketball over. I think you'll continue to see him get into the paint. With Jalen, people play him as a shooter, and when people play you as a shooter they run you off the three-point line. So he's got to have the ability to shot-fake and drive the basketball and make plays."

So does driving become more important rather than feeding the post? "I don't know if it becomes more important, I just think it's part of our offense, a part of what we do. We've got to get more people in posting opportunities than just Gavin, though. We've got to get back screens, Roquez and Colin into the post and have those guys. It can't just be Gavin. It's got to be other people, too. We've got to get some other people cutting in there and making post plays, not just Gavin."

Do you subscribe to it's harder to speed-up a game than slow it down? "I don't know. I'm not worried about it, I'm just worried about how we play, and the way we want to play is we want to grind you out defensively. We want to take opportunities to score the basketball, and we have them in transition. But if we don't have those opportunities, that's where we can get the best possible shot we can get. I think that we can dictate what's going on in the score and the tempo by the way we play, if we play the way we're supposed to play. Now, when we turn the basketball over and we take quick, bad shots, then we're dictating--I don't care who you're playing--good offense for the other team."

The post players can't get good competition in practice, does that affect how they react in games? "Oh, I think it's a natural tendency. There's nobody else for Gavin to go against in practice that's like him. Like Roquez and Colin do what they're supposed to do in practice as far as battling with him, but he's just so much bigger and stronger than those two guys, and so now you go up against a guy like Jarnell Stokes, where he's just as big and strong as you are, there's going to be a difference. We cannot simulate that in practice. I don't think those guys are hesitant to play against those guys, or are scared, they just don't have experience going against those bodies like that in a day-to-day practice situation."

Colin Borchert is struggling to shoot but doing other things well? "The biggest factor with Colin is the fact he knows what's going on on the court. He has a wealth of knowledge about basketball. He has a good feel for the game of basketball. He can do other things besides just shoot the basketball. And that's what I mean by a skilled forward. A skilled forward is not just all because a guy can shoot. It's because he can dribble, he can pass, he can score from in the post, he can score from outside the post. He can do a lot of different things in your motion offense. He's a good basketball player, but it's going to help us if he starts making those threes, because it stretches the defense."

Is Borchert someone you look to as a leader as an older guy? "I don't think so, I think inexperience is inexperience. He hasn't experienced anything on this level. Junior college is just so much different than playing Division I college basketball. He's found that out, too. I thought he thought it would an easier transition for himself, just because he played junior college. It's no different. You're still inexeperienced."

Is Sword coming into his own other than the fouling? "Yeah, we've just got to keep him on the court. In the last game he played 19 minutes--I'm not quite sure on that, I don't have it in front of me. But he still scored 10 points. And then on top of that he probably missed a couple of layups that he normally makes. He had one bunny that he missed in the first half, and then he had one in the second half in transition that he missed. So he really should've had 14 points in those 19 minutes. He's just a problem for the other team, because of his penetration ability. We've just got to keep him on the court more, and he's got to stop gambling."

Thomas' outside shot looks so good but doesn't always go, does that get to him? "I don't know if anything much gets to Fred! He's a confident shooter, and he thinks every shot he takes is going to go in. You like that. You like the fact that a kid, playing his first year in major college basketball, has no fear. And Fred definitely doesn't have any fear. He just continues at times to take shots that are bad shots, because they're contested threes. His pull-up is so good. That's the thing you show him. He shot-fakes and takes two dribbles, and he's so long, and he rises up over people, and he still takes a good shot. But he just gets to playing basketball sometimes, and he needs to shot-fake and drive by people and pull up. Plus, he's a good passer, too. So he sees what's going on on the weak side and behind him and things like that. Fred is another guy, like Colin, who has a natural feel for basketball. He just needs to use it more."

The last few games Thomas has shot better? "He is shooting better, but it is also a direct resolve of him coming in and getting some shots up of his own too. I tell our guys it's not hard to figure out. When you come in and get some shots up on your own with a manager or a coach, you are going to shoot the ball better. When you don't do that, when you take time off and not find the time to come in and shoot, you don't shoot as well. It's a direct correlation."

How do you divide time between assessing your team and how much is on Arkansas? "It's hard to be honest. You have two days of preparation a lot of times. In those two days of preparation you also have to take in the fact that you want to rest your guys too. Especially when you don't have depth. If we had a full, 13 scholarship guys and two walk-ons, then we could rest some guys with reps by going against the other team. When we are going against the other team and trying to simulate what they are doing, our guys are the ones who are the other team and they are practicing against the other team. You wear them out in practice if you go too long trying to get prepared for the other team. It's a fine line between improving your team, getting yourself better and getting preparation for the other team."

How concerned are you with the grind on your players? "Plus the quality of competition too. When you talk about the physical bodies and factor in all those things. It's a little bit of a concern, but you have to work with your medical staff. We make our guys take ice baths to try to recover. We keep them off their feet. We are having shorter and shorter practices. We are doing a lot more as far as walking through for simulation against the other team rather than physically doing it. There's little tweaks as far as trying to manage their bodies and time the right way."

How is your relationship with Mike Anderson now that you're in the same conference? "I don't know if we kept in contact more so. It just feels good about the fact that there's good people in this profession. We are in the same conference, we are going to play each other, we are going to be rivals and there are going to be recruiting wars. For Mike Anderson to be that good of a person to reach out and say ‘hey if you ever need anything, I know it's your first head coaching position, I've been through it if you want to talk about things.' More so congratulatory. Just knowing that there are good people in this profession makes you feel good. We keep in contact, but you can't share a lot of information."

Does fatigue factor into the fouling situation? "I don't know if it's guys being tired or more so guys being undisciplined? That what it boils down to for me. I think sometimes fatigue makes us do things that we shouldn't be doing on both the offensive and defensive end. Making that necessary foul is part of it. Some of it is our rotation from the fatigue. There is a whole bunch of different battles you fight when you are dealing with a short, depleted roster and that's one of them."

Are there any new injured managers or coaches this week? "No, nothing new to report on that. Thanks!"

Have you talked to anyone in the same situation as you? "No. Everybody I talked to says it's a unique situation. There is nobody that can draw on any experience. The one thing that I'm pleased with when I talk to my fellow colleagues, guys that I look up too. Even talking to Cuonzo (Martin). After the game he said ‘your guys are really playing hard and trying to do the things that you want them to do. Once you get more bodies it will really make a difference'."


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