First I want to talk about Utah because I thought, they're in a little bit of a rut and they pulled out a game against an Oregon state where Oregon state had some key mistakes down the stretch and I thought it knocked Utah right back into whack, because they played fantastic tonight.
We just had no answers. Poeltl was extremely good and when you double team him he gave up the ball for dunks. I thought Loveridge played like seniors and just played lights out basketball with their speed, their quickness, their ball movement and more importantly their confidence. We just had no answers for them on the defensive end of the floor.
We bounced back in the second half offensively but the hole was too great. All wed did was exchange buckets, we couldn’t' get any stops, any string of stops whatsoever and they really controlled the game even though we scored better in the second half.
I thought the students were fantastic. What a great job by our marketing team, what a great job by our students. I thought it was the best crowd we've had since Gonzaga.
And unfortunately we let them down because we did not play tough enough basketball on the defensive end of the floor. We've got to play a lot harder and a lot smarter than we did tonight, especially with that team coming in here on Saturday.
(How were they able to score so effectively in the paint?)
Well until I look at tape I can't exactly tell you.
I mean we were in man; we were in zone. We couldn't stop them in man, we couldn’t' stop them in zone. WE gave up point-blank layups. It was very disturbing to me. To say what was happening, the biggest thing is we were very poor at defending the drive all over the floor. I don't think anybody really dug in and shut down a guy that made up his mind that he was going to drive us. They took us to the hole pretty good the entire game.
(How important is Valentine Izundu to interior defense?)
He's extremely important but I don't want to sit here and say Val is the answer. Yes, he changes the game on that back line, having a shot-blocker back there. Obviously we miss him. But at the same time, when you're 30-feet from the bucket, you shouldn't get driven to point-blank. There's something that needs to happen between 30-feet and three feet where you can get a guy under control. That's my bigger concern.
Val will eliminate some of it but we're giving up way too many points right now to be successful in these games. We're playing alright offensively, but defensively the last three, four five games now, we've got to get better.
(Did Utah's outside shooting limit your defensive options?)
You know, we shut (Poeltl) down last year and Taylor and Loveridge got loose in the second half and won the game with their 3-poitn shooting. You can't really double down on the post when they shoot the ball so well, when they're hot like that. You leave yourself on an island and I think when I look at tape I'll say I'd like to have fronted the post a little bit more and not given him such a free range to wheel in there but it's very difficult to do any stunting against him with the way Taylor and Loveridge and Tucker were shooting the ball.
(Were you focused on protecting inside or outside on defense?)
Well in this game it was the defense as a whole. Obviously, a 2 is much better for you than giving up a 3 but we weren't stopping the 2 and we weren't' stopping the 3, either. So it was a very frustrating night. It felt like you were handcuffed to do anything because you could not defend this team. And they played extremely hard but I'm not going to give that as the reason. I just don't think we're very good defensively right now.
(Do you think the team played soft?)
I think the whole teams' defensive effort was soft. I would definitely agree with that and we talked about it. What you continue to do is give other teams the tape. And until you change the tape, other teams will come in here with the same mentality: Drive this team, rebound against this team, out-tough this team. I thought that's a very good analogy of how this team played tonight, and it's on me to get them tougher.
(Is that a recurring issue?)
I think it's a mentality the program has had. I've seen it from afar, from getting here and everything else. It's a mentality we've worked extremely hard to change and we're just not there yet. We'll go back to the drawing board on it again because it's very unusual for teams that I've coached to give up points like we're giving them up and I take the responsibility for that because I've got to get this team mentally and physically tougher. Will that happen over night? Probably not. Will it help when Val gets back? Probably so. But still, we've got to get better as we march to the second half of this conference. WE have to get better.