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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Video: Ernie Kent after Arizona

Opening statement:

I thought we really started the game and just really battling, and had opportunities to start the game even better. We look at missed layups by Charles, missed layups by Josh, missed free throws by Ike, missed free throws by Josh. You had a chance to put them in even more of a hole. And a team of that caliber, when you get the opportunity to do that, you need to do that. Because they settled down, they came back on us, they took the lead on us and we fought to hang in there with them. But it's probable when I look at tape, I'm going to see the same old tape again. The mental lapses on the floor, when you forget to block out, forget to rotate, miss a  layup, miss a free throw. Those are things you can only get so far as a coach and as a system putting things in, where players have to step up and have some ownership and learn how to put teams away and close out halves and close out games. And that's where we're at right now. We've seen it, we've seen it before and we're there again. And that's just about experience and growth and they're just not there yet. They certainly are putting them in the positions for me to have these conversations with you. I thought again, Josh has made some great strides these past week. We challenged him to do a better job defensively. With the exception of Anderson, I thought we battled them extremely well playing them straight up without trapping the post. And I thought we had an excellent game plan, and obviously with the way we started the game it showed that.

(Player's mindset here-we-go-again when seeing opponent build a lead?)

I think it's very easy for young people to have that mentality. And again, being in these situations before, the thing I look at is how they bounce back. Do they bounce back at practice with their energy, with their focus, do they come out competitive again, and I see those things. The here-we-go-again mentality is again the ability to learn how to win, how to close, how to win games and that. Well, Washington State as a program is in this transition right now where they've been in a lot of situations like this and we need to come through it. It may come next week, it may come next month. I'm hoping it comes sometime this season so we don't have to take it into the summer and take it into next year, but that's where they're at. They're close, but they need to learn how to win. More so just play the game, play to win the game. That's a mental thing and that's why I talk about being mentally and physically tougher, it's really about being mentally tough enough to know your job, do your job, knock down free throws, make layups, put people away. That's a mental thing. And that's kind of, when you turn programs kind of the last thing. Because here-we-go-again might have been there for a long time before coach Kent got here. That's that mindset we're changing right now. Let's be winners. Let's learn how to close. Let's want to win. Let's expect to win. Let's get it done. That's where we're at right now with them.

(Growth when WSU cut lead from 19 to eight?)

I did. I don't see a team that quits at all; I see a team that forgets. They forget. And what I mean by that is having the mental toughness on a possession-by-possession basis. Your veteran teams, your more experienced teams, your talented teams, more mentally tougher teams have an ability to do that. There's slippage throughout the game by everybody. It's who has the least amount of slippage and right now we're having too many guys that break down at the wrong time. You do 27 seconds of defense, we don't close out on Tollefsen and he hits a 3-pointer right in front of our bench with three seconds on shot clock because you don't put the pressure on him, that's a mental thing. We have Junior reach and foul Anderson with three seconds on the shot clock right in front of their bench, that's a mental thing. When you've got a guy locked up, how do you do that without making that mental breakdown. There're situations on the floor where there was three or four seconds on the shot clock, there's a back door and the guy doesn't see his guy. That’s mental thing. That's where we're at right now.

(Need another scorer to step up and relieve pressure on Ike Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson?)

Maybe Josh, Ike and coach Kent, too. Because we think that guy should be there right now. There's certainly enough candidates there. And yet we started the game with an opportunity for a third scorer to have a lot of points out there on the floor. And when you get two players who go a combined 5-of-25 in 64 minutes, that's hard to coach. So that's about confidence, being ready to play, being locked-in and all those things.

(What sort of balance do you strike telling Callison to keep shooting when he's struggling?)

The example I use is Aaron Brooks. His junior year, there's nine games you give him the ball, he kicks it out of bounds, throws it away, turns it over in six, seven, nine games and we're a struggling basketball team. His senior year, there's 11 games you give him the ball he becomes Big Shot Brooks. He hits six game-winners for you and controls it. It's about growth, it's about having confidence in them that they will figure it out and get to where they need to get to. And they have to go through the adversity to get through. There's no shortcuts. You can't just leapfrog over it. They have to learn how to do it.

(Seemed like offensively the guys were too quick? Callison shot too early on fast break?)

No because that same play he made was the same play we made to get to that point. You've got to understand that. We scored those seven points really quick. He hit a 3, he hit a pull-up. It was the same shot and the right play. A speed transition down the floor, you have the defense backpedalling. That's a basketball 101 play. Pull up at the free throw line, knock down a jumper. If he makes it, boom, huge momentum. If he misses it, boom, it takes some momentum away. I don't fault him for taking that shot. The only think I thought of that was he probably could have hit Ike for a drive, layup, maybe get a foul but at least he didn't go in there out of control and maybe throw it away. He shot a good shot.

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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