Weekly Hoops Press Conference

UT men's basketball coach Gene Cross held his weekly press conference yesterday as the team reached the midway point of the MAC season. The sparsely-attended event (1 television, 1 newspaper, 2 internet media outlets) began with Cross discussing the loss of walk-on Manny Rodriguez to a dislocated kneecap.

UT men's basketball coach Gene Cross held his weekly press conference yesterday as the team reached the midway point of the MAC season. The sparsely-attended event (1 television, 1 newspaper, 2 internet media outlets) began with Cross discussing the loss of walk-on Manny Rodriguez to a dislocated kneecap. He said that he constantly stresses to his team that "you never know when your last play is going to happen", and therefore it is important to play as if each play is your only shot.

Discussing the lack of consistent scoring from the post, Cross said that's been a problem because "teams have been able to jam the middle, take away driving lanes… Zac has been hurt and hasn't been 100%, Mo has been sporadic in foul trouble, so that takes a toll on you offensively because you can't rely on guys to make jump shots or actually driving into the lane and create. You have to have a release man in the post. We're actually going to change the lineup tomorrow, we're going to start Mo in place of Ian, see if we can get at least a post feed, draw the defense in…try to free up some driving lanes…You need somebody to at least throw the ball to. They may not necessarily be a scoring threat, but at least it's a pressure release, changes the angle and the way defenses move."

Asked if such a strategy would change his offense, Cross said "no, you're not going to run exactly what you want to run, but you can tweak it. The funny part of it is, people pay so much attention to a Tyrone or somebody coming off a screen that will give an opportunity for a big to get a layup, or give Justin an opportunity to come off a ball screen to an open area and become a scorer, give Mo or Ian an opportunity to go to the basket."

Cross said he felt the Rockets took a step in the right direction defensively against Buffalo, but that "we're in quicksand with loose balls, or boxing people out, making toughness plays. You're can't win on the road if you're not making toughness plays, if you don't get after loose balls, do the little things, take care of the basketball."

The play of Larry Bastfield as the point guard slot was improved last week, and his coach feels that it appears that the game is slowing down in his mind much better. "It's an ongoing process for him. He's in a tough spot, but I commend him for taking the reigns and doing the best job he can." Cross drew an analogy of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix trying to throw himself in the air, learning to slow down and let things happen and said his players are learning that, the game is slowing down for them. "I feel the growth, I see the growth, I wish I could see it in the Win column, but that's what happens when you have some young guys who are still picking things up. And they're going to be so much better next year, you're not even going to recognize them."

Regarding the upcoming Golden Flashes, Cross said "whew…I see their offense in my nightmares. I see they have some tough, hard-nosed guys…I'm nervous about them, because historically their program is good. But I feel there are things we can do to put ourselves in position to win the game. I feel pretty good about the way we practiced today, I feel good about our focus today, and I feel good about our work today."

It is apparent that Gene Cross the competitor is not happy with the wins and losses. But it is also apparent that Gene Cross the coach is still focused on the long-term while managing the details. Naturally one hopes that all the effort of the players and coaches will translate to wins yet this season, and that still can happen. The possible return of Jonathan Amos later this week would be a huge boost, of course. Contributions in the scoring column from everyone rather than a very few, solid rebounding, and good ball protection could make this a decent Rocket team by the end of the season. And of course those have been the keys all season so far.


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