From Pullman — For the first time in 2014 the Washington State men's basketball team wasn't on the road yesterday, so they took the day off. They were back at it today, however, practicing in Beasley Coliseum and preparing for Sunday's game against Utah. I got a chance to speak to coach Ken Bone and sophomore forward Junior Longrus before practice.
Find out what they said, after the jump.
How do you move forward from the overtime loss to Colorado?
Obviously a tough game, we were up most of the game so it was definitely a tough game for us to come out with a (loss). But we definitely showed how good of a team we can be — like we have during the year, especially in Orlando. So I think it was good for us to get some confidence going into Utah and going back to the Bay Area in a couple of days. But overall I thought we played good as a team we've just got to find a way to finish those tough games out, we're going to have a lot of those in the Pac-12.
Did the Colorado game show that this team can compete with the top Pac-12 teams?
I don't personally think that there was ever a question of us having the talent or not. It was just kind of about us buying in and doing the little things on the court to show everybody else that we can play with the good teams in the Pac-12. The initial shock is over, we've got to kind of turn the page and and learn from that loss with Utah, Cal and Stanford coming up pretty soon.
Was being able to nearly beat No. 15 Colorado without leading scorer DaVonte Lacy good for this team's psyche?
I think it's very big. Obviously, DaVonte's pretty much one of the best scorers in the country so for us to be able to go put up points and compete with the good teams without him is definitely a good confidence boost for us. When he comes back we'll just be that much better.
You've been taking more midrange jump shots recently, are you getting more confident in your shot?
I am. I think that the biggest transition going from one level to another whether it's high school to college or college to the pros is the speed of the game. I think that this year with everything kind of slowing down for me I've been able to focus more on the offensive end of the court and hopefully be able to help my team get wins.
Did the team get a day off yesterday?
Yeah we got a day off, a lot of us went and got treatment, kind of came in and got shots up. Stuff like that.
Does it still feel like conference positioning is up for grabs?
I love playing in the Pac-12, a lot of the kids I played with in high school are in the Pac-12 and it's so competitive this year. I think it's up for grabs. A lot of good teams, a couple of top teams too, but I think on any given night anybody can go out there and get a (win).
Have you been telling Junior to shoot more?
Junior's out most-improved shooter. I don't know if statistically, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is there also. Just watching him everyday in practice he's our most improved shooter on the team from last year to this year. Last year he would hardly even look at the hoop from 15-feet. And now we're asking him at times, if people back off him, to shoot the 3. He's yet to do it but in practice he shoots it pretty well.
What have you seen out of Utah?
They're a good ball club. They've only been beat a couple times and they're very athletic and they play different schemes different nights. Last game they drove it and drove it against Washington and had pretty good success. But they're also capable of shooting from the perimeter and they've got some bigs that are good.
They're a good ball club and I think they're also playing with a lot of confidence even though they got beaten the other night. They're playing with a tremendous amount of confidence.
What is the key to a WSU victory on Sunday?
To be able to execute the way we did the other night (against Colorado) and to continue to make shots. That'd be a great start right there. We need to do a better job on the glass and be extremely competitive there every game. And then be able to guard some of their stuff, they run a lot of things on the offensive end and so we're going to get after that today and start looking at some of the stuff that they do and some of the concepts that they use, and start working on guarding it.
Was it important to give the guys a day off?
Yeah, we've been together for whatever, eight or nine days, on the road for eight or nine days together so it's just that time of year and also being on the road that long we needed a little time away from each other.
Why hasn't Ike Iroegbu played as much lately?
I think Ike is still learning. We keep adding and adding and adding stuff depending on who we're going up against next, different scenarios that teams present, situations, so it's a real learning process. It's like a rookie in the NFL, not a lot of rookie quarterbacks are great. There are a few, but most of them take a few years. Well it's the same for a guy like Ike. He's playing at a position that's maybe not his true position but we think he can be a good point guard and he's still learning, but as soon as he catches up — like maybe around the Gonzaga game — all of a sudden we add more.
So we don't throw the book at everybody the first three or four weeks. So we keep adding and as we add it's not easy for that position especially.