How pleased have you been about the defensive intensity all season?
"The intensity's usually there. We've got a couple of guys that raise it up, but they usually play really hard defensively. The thing concerning me with this group is our offense sometimes dictates our defensive intensity. [Texas] Tech was running a fantastic offense in the first half and really doing a good job of guarding us. We missed some shots we probably should have made, but I didn't think we had the same kind of intensity in the first half. No disrespect to them at all. We have to be more mature when things aren't going well and hunker down even more so. We were able to hang in there but we've got to mature in that respect."
Go back to your first day here, when you started teaching your defense, and compare that to now ... the progress has been light years.
"Well, they're getting better at it. Some guys don't ever get it. We've got some guys that are really good at guarding the ball but not off the ball, and everybody does that because it's so difficult. There are just so many things. Your body positioning--if you open your body up to the ball, you're going to get back-cut. If you don't see your man and the ball, then your man is going to catch the ball too close to the 3-point line, which allows the post defender to have to change from one side of the post to the other, which gets you in foul trouble all the time. There are a million things that go on. Our guys are pretty well versed in knowing where to be for the most part, because they spend so much time on it. Even if you know where to be it's still very difficult to get there."
How much does having that first road game at Pacific help you going into Stillwater?
"Absolutely none. There's no way to help prepare your team to go to Stillwater. They've got a great tradition. The thing that people fail to realize when you go to Stillwater--they talk about how good the home-court advantage is. The most imposing thing is the team. They always have a great team. They are always ready to play, are totally well coached by a master coach. That's not being disrespectful to their crowd, as good as their crowd is, that's being totally respectful of their team. They've had great teams since they started playing and they'll continue to have great teams. Going to Pacific is not going to help us any. All that did was teach us that we lost. Our guys try to be ready to face the challenge. That's what we have to do. It's on our schedule. We have to play it. We'll go up there and try to compete the best we can."
Do you think Oklahoma State is more athletic than Auburn?
"Yeah. This is a really good team. They've had one team go in there, other than Northwestern State, that played them to 11 on their home court. Everyone else has been 16 or more. They're young, but they're emerging. They're really starting to guard and understand what Coach (Eddie Sutton) wants, and are taking great shots, making shots and shooting over 50 percent for the year. They're doing all the things a great basketball team does. They're emerging as a great team."
Saturday, it was brought up to Acie [Law] that that was the first time A&M has been over .500 in the Big 12, and that put a smile on Acie's face. Do you look at little things like that for confidence?
"No, not really. It's good to win a particular game, no matter what your record is, but if you bring that up all it does is bring up 10 years of bad things. In the last year and a half, we've had too many of those things we've had to talk about--losing streaks on the road, attendance, just too many of those kinds of things. I guess it's good for Acie if he likes it, I'm happy for him. But nobody's talking about it before the game anyway. The whole thing is, it's great to win no matter when you win."
Do you think Acie having an offensive game like he did against Texas Tech could give him a spark?
"He needs to shoot more for us, and needs to make shots and have the confidence to be like Dominique Kirk--where you miss your first five shots and make your next three. I think that most of our guys are like that. They are not afraid to miss. We're to the point now where they know if you defend and rebound, you can take any shot you want to. I know the returnees do, and the new guys have learned that. There's no such thing as a bad shot if you defend and rebound. Acie needs to shoot more. He needs to continue to make more. He showed he could basically take over a game (Saturday), especially with the absence of Joe (Jones). I want him to shoot 20 times a game and sometimes maybe even more. He was getting pretty good looks against the ball screen the other day, and we had a timeout--and I said, 'What do y'all want to run?' He said, 'Coach, I'm not being selfish, but I think we can get 'em on the ball screen.' That's what he has to do, is assert himself more and assert his basketball intelligence more. He's really smart. He's a smart player, and he has to be more aggressive and more assertive and get more shots up."
How big would a win be against Oklahoma State?
"It'd be big. Every win is big, but especially in conference. They (Oklahoma State) are saying the same thing. Every team is getting ready to play their next game, whether it's tonight, or Wednesday, or whenever. They are just trying to survive. Anytime you can get a win, no matter how it works out, it's fantastic in conference. This is a 16-game marathon, but the sense of urgency is always there every game."
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