OPENING STATEMENT: Good afternoon, everybody. (I'm) proud of our efforts this weekend. I thought that in the Utah game we played 40 minutes of basketball and we've been looking for that on the offensive and defensive end all year. I think it was a real confidence builder for us to turn around and head over to Colorado. I thought our kids played enormously hard and physical for 40 minutes of that game. A lo of people saw it; it was on national TV. It was very physical and we were in a lot of foul trouble and we prevailed. We're excited about both wins and we want to continue to get better.
Going into the weekend we talked about how our rebounding was not where we needed it to be. I thought that was a key in both victories that we did a much better job, especially on the offensive boards. Obviously you can't overlook the performance of Tia Presley and the weekend that she had. Congratulations to Tia on the Pac-12 Player of the Week, it's great to see a Coug be honored that way, it was obviously well deserved with two wins on the road and the way that she played.
Questions after the jump.
When did you know this group would be special?
The thing that impressed me was in our European tour that we did in August, we played some very, very good competition. International competition. And a lot of those players were coming off World Championship teams so we were playing not just some great teams but great individuals. I thought we played loose, had a lot of fun. Each night in the games we played their was a different leading scorer. I thought there was a better attention to what we wanted to do defensively so all-around I thought it started in the offseason. We were very fortunate to be allowed to make a foreign trip, you only get to do it once every four years.
So I think it started there, no doubt about it and I think when we came back from Europe — we didn't have a lot of time off because I think school started two days later with the new rules — but there was a different type of swag about our team, a different type of confidence coming into our preseason practices because of that. I think that really served us well in the confidence category.
Now that the team is getting attention for being on the NCAA tournament bubble how do you keep them focused on the task at hand?
I don't know how much, the kids get bombarded, you know, online these days. I think that we as a coaching staff have to be really mindful (that) you don't know who's in their ear, you know, or what they're reading or not reading. But what we try to do is to keep the focus on how hard can we play for each other. And how much better can we get for each other.
That's something I think is in our control so if we can continue to get our players to buy-in that that's within our control and continue to do that every day in practice, obviously games, film session — we'll have a scout session tonight — then anything can happen. That's what is exciting. We'll talk to them a little about that but with this group it's let's get the film rolling, let's see what we didn't do well against Oregon State the first time, let's make sure we're getting better so we can help the person to our right and left in that locker room.
Five of eight Pac-12 wins have been decided by seven points or less. How important has closing down the stretch been?
Well they've proven they can. They've proven they can and the last game, the Colorado game, there were so many plays that came down the stretch, I think there were nine of them under two minutes where the game could have gone either way. The charge/block, the turnovers, the officials had to go to the monitor not once, twice but three times. Inadvertent whistle late in the game where we lost the basketball when in fact the game probably should have been over at that point.
Officials make mistakes, he acknowledged the mistake but unfortunately the arrow pointed at Colorado and they still had a last-second shot. Obviously it speaks well about how mentally tough this group has become … They believe they can win and I think they just kept themselves really calm and worked through it. I think it was one of the longest games of the year but one of the most interesting games of the year, if you will, with the officials going to the monitor … The resilient group that was out on that floor — I thought the bench was the same way — everybody was just really positive. I think it shows our maturation, I really do. A lot of these games in the Pac-12 have come down to the last possession.
We talked at the beginning of the year saying the order of the Pac-12, maybe even the champion may come down to the last week because it's been like that the last couple of years. Any team can win on any day and you've got to take care of business. If you win on the last second, you win on the last second, but I think our group can do that now.