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Monday, September 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Video: Ernie Kent after Colorado

 

 

Ernie Kent

We've had this conversation before, where it was a great effort on our part. Any time you can take a player the caliber of Josh Scott, and hold him to 11 points in a game, and score 70, you're in pretty good position to win a game. But they were a team that came on the road and made their free throws, 22-of-26, and we missed ours. Very similar to the Washington game where if you just make your free throws the game is different because you have more control of it coming down the stretch. I look at that number – 16-of-27 – and I don't know how many of those were front ends of one-and-ones. That's probably an even bigger number that's sitting there and those guys feel terrible. We'll just rally them up and I'm really proud of them, the way they bounced back from the Utah game. I thought they gave a tremendous effort and obviously again, a big reason for that, I think this crowd just continues to grow. The energy in the building, how loud it was, just a great atmosphere for us to play in. It's just unfortunate that we did not close out the game for these people. It was a good college basketball game and it was there for us to close it out and we didn't do it.

(Went with a smaller lineup to start the game?)

It had nothing to do with size, it had to do with communication. I went with the veteran lineup to start the game because I felt our starts were not good. We'd lost five out of six, you need to go with a different energy, a different spirit, a different look. I went with the veteran guys that really are loud on defense. Offense has not been our problem. It's been defense. And I think they got us off to a tremendous start.

Ny and Brett -- the communication on the floor was outstanding the first three minutes or so. Colorado settled down but there were times again, playing the zone, that we were again a really good defensive team tonight not having Val, just because the communication that those veteran guys bring to the floor. For whatever reason, I've got three or four guys who are great in the hotel rooms, but when we get on the floor, they don't talk loud enough. I've said that before about young people and this texting generation. For whatever reason, I've got to get them to communicate more, especially in basketball.
 

Brett and Ny were put in there because of their energy and their ability to communicate on defense, and hopefully the guys sitting on the bench got a clinic on that.

(Issue of getting behind)

The issue was subbing. I think we had to sub to get some guys that were fatigued out. Junior Longrus got into foul trouble. We needed him on the floor -- vocal, defense. All of those things. They stretched the lead out on us. But we got back into the game, though, with the zone. The zone was able to reel them back in, got some stops, gave us some runouts and we were able to get back in the game that way.

Really, we kind of tracked them down throughout the game and we're in pretty good shape again, coming down the stretch of the game, with the game tied and with the ball. But the free throw shooting failed us again. It cost us the game. We should be sitting here maybe 3-4 right now and in great shape going on the road. Unfortunately we've let two of them get away just by not converting at the free throw line.

(Iroegbu's last shot)

He could have drove the ball. We talked about shooting the 3 and all that. Again, players have to make plays. He probably could have drove Josh Scott and got another quick two, foul again and put them in a situation where they have to stop us coming down the floor.

(Ike Ireogbu bounced back from Utah game?)

It wasn't Ike. That was us. We ran offense that had that floor too congested for him. So that was not the players, and we talked about that as a staff and went back to doing some things that we normally do and it completely opened up the game for Ike again, opened the game for Josh, opened the lane up for Que, opened the game up for Conor.  That was us, maybe even doing too much coaching with this group. We need to learn, as well, too, to maybe let them have more freedom to play. And I thought it was a big adjustment on our part and I thought our guys responded to it.


(The play of Que Johnson and Brett Boese when bigs were in foul trouble?)

We needed Brett and Que to be tougher. We talked about it after the Utah game, to be tougher, and they did a pretty good job rebounding the ball. There were some rotations down there because with that team, you've got to front the post and keep the ball out of Scott's hands. I thought there were some times with fatigue factor we conceded the post. And every time we conceded the post, they made us pay. But when we fronted the post and we dug in there and got physical on rebounds – which is a good indication, again, coming from a game where we played soft everybody thought on Thursday – to bounce back and play a physical game, that's a good sign. And a lot of that had to do with the grittiness of those veteran players stepping up.

(Better defense simply being more physical?)

Well, two things. Going back to your veteran players, and they set the tone with the communication. When we broke down against Utah, and we've broken down in a lot of our games, is the lack of communication on the floor. Now that's hard for a guy like Charles coming into a program, to take control, be vocal, tell everybody what to do when he's on an island trying to figure out what he's supposed to do. And it's even difficult sometimes for Que, who doesn't speak well on the floor, he doesn't speak. But Brett is a great communicator on the floor, as is Junior Longrus, as is Ny Redding. And we figured that out in practice the last few days and were going to switch up the lineup and get a different energy, different spirit. Sure enough, it took us to another level with their energy on the defensive end of the floor. Offense has not been a problem, it's been getting stops. And we had an opportunity a few times in that game to get a string of four stops in a row and were able to real them back in down the stretch with our defense.

(Is it counterintuitive to try to play tougher but also play a zone defense?)

Well, it's not because understand that when I say toughness, toughness is not a physical thing all the time, where you have to physically manhandle someone and push. Toughness becomes a mental thing to know your job and then have the physical capability to do your job. When you get fatigued, you don't cave in mentally and don't cave in physically. Know your job, do your job. My thing, I felt like on Thursday we were mentally out of the game and physically out of the game. Today we were mentally into the game and physically into the game. We didn't manhandle Colorado; we just did our assignments. When it was time to block out we blocked out. When it was time to run we ran. When it was time to score inside we scored inside. When it was time to front the post, we fronted the post. We did what we were supposed to do but we did it with mental toughness as well as physical toughness to not break down as much with this young team.

(You feel like you're missing opportunities in terms of growth?)

Not in terms of growth. Missing opportunities, yes. But I told myself in taking this job from last year and where we're going. If you look at what we're doing here as a book we're in chapter two. We've got a few more chapters left in this book. I always say if you finish a book and you look back at chapter two, they were missing out games on free throws, now they're closing out games and winning the championship, that's the key. I've been down this road before, we'll just keep pushing them and keep coaching them.




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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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