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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ernie Kent after CSULA

Ernie Kent

Opening Statement:

Our focus going into the game without Josh was to just play a solid basketball game and have a game where everybody could play, played that hard and played that well. It was getting Conor an opportunity to really play and get on his game, and I'm so pleased for him that he's worked so hard to get his weight down, to get his conditioning, to get his body stronger and I thought he had a phenomenal game.

He and Val give you just a great one-two punch down there at that position. I thought we played well. I thought Ike played particularly well. I challenged those guys to rebound and he had seven rebounds, he makes up for Josh not being there. Just a good balance game for us, a good game for us to go to he break on.

Did Josh Hawkinson's absence make it easier for Conor Clifford to have a big night?

I don't know about Conor because they're different positions. Whether Josh was there or not, that ball was going to go in to Conor a lot to get him on his game. But what it did as a team was it allowed you to figure some things out, without your best player on the floor, and that's always a good things. Because you take 14 points 10 rebounds off the floor, and a guy who knows how to play so well, I thought we struggled out of the gate the first three or four possessions but then we got into a rhythm. The passing was phenomenal between Que and Conor and Junior on that baseline was the big point of the game. Now when you bring him back to the mix again, I think it makes us that much better.

Is this team able to make its own energy even with a sparse crowd?

They create their own energy because the competition is so good. When you have a team this deep – we try to talk to opposing team coaches. And the best compliment we got fro ma coach was you have no drop off when other players come into the game, and that guy in the middle makes you a lot different than last year, talking about Val. Without even seeing Conor on his game. I think the fact you have so much competition and it's so completive in practice, it just carries over to the game, whether you have people here or no, this is a group that is mentally conditioned to play hard, get out and do some things.

The guards are willing to feed the post?

Well, he's a huge target and if he gets the ball down low it's very difficult to stop him because he has such great hands and such great touch, whether with the right or with the left. And I think they had felt confident enough in practice with his ability.

Before he went down, about a month or so ago, he was just phenomenal in practice. You just could not stop him. You saw a taste of that tonight and he can get better.

How do you mix he and Josh into a rotation together?          

Well again, it isn't Josh because Josh will sub in at the four spot, Conor's at the five spot. So when you've got Conor, Val, Josh and Junior, that's a really good four-headed monster sitting in there, you just rotate those four in and out. Most of your better teams will have four big guys, well we've got another one sitting there in Robert Franks whose got a skillset that’s really, really good. And then we can play small and put Brett Boese there, put Derrien King there. We're just developing this bench. We don't need to blow people out by 30 and 40, we need to develop and get guys the opportunity to see footage of themselves and what they're doing right, what they're doing wrong and get them on their game, get them in a rhythm, get then in different combinations. And so when Josh comes back, he just makes us better. It just give us more weapons, more guys you can turn to over the course of a game.

Would you like to keep seeing different players take over?

You know what, we've talked about that before, that we have the ability to do that. Because it's a team that's so evenly balanced, one night it could be Renard. You saw him in the exhibition game, he had that monster game. Then came Viont'e. Ike has a career night. Then Josh does his thing. Here comes Val. Here comes Conor. I'm looking forward to the night where they're all on their game at the same time, that's going to be something to behold and that's what we're striving to do – to where everybody is on their game. Any combination you put on the floor, I'm getting their best game out of them.

Do you anticipate having Hawkinson back by Gonzaga?

I'll know more on that over the next few days but I would hope so. I hope he'll be back by Saturday.

Were the 17 turnovers too many for your liking?

There were. There was a negative, I thought we were a little precarious with the ball, and I didn't think we had enough assists, either. So we'll look at tape and figure out where that came from. I thought we had like a 10-point swing in the game at one point in time late in the second half after we were up (27), I'll look at tape and figure out where that came from. But we're going to have, the way we run, 12, 13 turnovers I can live with. 17, 18, 19, 20 turnovers, that's too many. We're not making the right reads or we're being careless with the ball when we have those kinds of turnovers.

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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