bleedCrimson.net will be interviewing Aggie men's head basketball coach Marvin Menzies throughout the 2008/2009 season as the Aggies take aim at their third consecutive WAC championship. This week we recapped last week's games against Sacramento State and I-10 rival UTEP and looked ahead at this week's games against Prairie View A&M and the rematch in El Paso with UTEP.
bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the Sacramento State game.
Marvin Menzies: I was happy to see us concentrate on the execution. I had a feeling that we were going to have a tough time with them just based on the fact that our guys sometimes have a tendency to look at teams that aren't ranked high or don't have a really good record and overlook them and kind of play down a little bit. Luckily we played well enough. I don't think we played great but there was some good execution there that we were able to build off of.
bc.net: Wendell McKines and Troy Gillenwater combined to go 15-28 from the field, 25 points and 18 rebounds. It was one of the first games this season that your inside guys led the way.
MM: Yeah, we had been working on that hard. That was a good time to get a little confidence going with the guys. That was good to get those guys going. We tried to go inside early and often to them and they took advantage of it.
bc.net: You out rebounded Sacramento State by 17, how important was that game for the psyche of the team. It was the first time this season that you out rebounded a team.
MM: I think it got us going. We came back and out rebounded UTEP as well, not by as large a margin obviously. But it did get us moving in the right direction. Hopefully we can sustain that. Prairie View is out rebounding their opponents so it'll be a good test for us.
bc.net: Yesterday you picked up a big win over UTEP. Your thoughts on that game.
MM: The UTEP game, obviously a good win for the team and the program but also for the community. It gave us a nice quality win here at the house. Now we've got to go get a road win here hopefully in the non-conference before we move into conference. I think that was a significant win for the young kids to go in against a quality team and come out successful.
bc.net: You were able to hold Stefon Jackson and Randy Culpepper to just 12 points combined through the first 32 minutes of the game. Talk a little bit about your defensive gameplan.
MM: Well, both of those guys score in bunches. Luckily their bunches came really late when the game was out of reach. They're really talented kids and I don't expect us to hold them in check the way we did. So you've got to have a concerted effort to stop those guys. Our plan was very simple, it was just play solid defense, understand their strengths and weaknesses and guard them as a team and not just with one guy.
bc.net: Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson's production wound up countering their big two of Jackson and Culpepper and then Wendell McKines and Troy Gillenwater combined to score 25 points which was five points less than the rest of the UTEP team scored.
MM: Our bench is really solid. When we start any particular lineup we're going to bring some quality kids off the bench. I think that at the end of the day while you might not be 11 or 12 deep, if you're eight or nine deep you're in great shape. I think your typical team is going to have five or six guys that can really go and then they'll struggle a little bit. The teams that end up having very good matchups after they've started their substitution patterns are usually going to be pretty successful.
bc.net: The Aggies were spectacular from the line down the stretch, Jahmar went 12-14 and Hernst Laroche went 8-8.
MM: Our guys are gaining a lot of confidence there. We tried to get the ball in the hands of the guys we were confident with going to the line. They kept catching the ball and it was at a place where UTEP didn't have the time to try to put in a defensive scheme to try to get the ball into somebody else's hand. The five guys we had on the floor were all shooting a pretty good percentage at the end of the game. Even if we didn't get it to one of those two who are our top free throw shooters, it would have been a pretty high percentage shooter nonetheless.
bc.net: You had 16 made baskets in the second half, 13 of them were either layups or within five feet of the basket. What adjustments were you able to make coming out of the half to get those high percentage type shots?
MM: I think it was just a combination of focusing on, within the offense, trying to get an inside touch and playing off of that. We got a lot of good post to post passes, we got a lot of good drive and drop opportunities where the wing drives the ball and drops it into a big guy. There were a lot of good looks that came as a result of the kids executing and being disciplined in the types of looks that we were trying to get.
bc.net: What will Robert Lumpkins' status be for Wednesday's game?
MM: Robert will be fine. He did come off the bench, it was a good call, it was the right call and the rule in place is an immediate ejection of the game. Without him being involved in the altercation that will be the extent of the punishment.
bc.net: Wednesday night you take on Prairie View A&M, they're 3-6 on the season but have played a very tough non-conference schedule and the three mid-majors that they've played and lost to, they've played them very tough.
MM: They're a good team. They're a good team that has a lot of scoring weapons. They've got three returners back that are very good and then five new kids that are all in that playing eight. We've got to take a step forward, we can't go backwards because this team can sneak up on you if you're not ready to play.
bc.net: Then on Saturday you've got the rematch in El Paso with UTEP. You've got Prairie View on Wednesday, they've got Texas Tech. Is there any advantage to the scheduling for you with them having another emotionally charged game and you having a game where if everything goes well you could have a chance to get some guys some rest?
MM: Well, I think that schedule is to their advantage because they've got high quality games and a lot of emotion and a lot on the line and any time you've got a chance to play in those games you learn. You gain experience and you gain maturity. If anything their scheduling goes to their advantage with the way that works out.
bc.net: Does the final nine minutes of Sunday's game where Jackson and Culpepper did the bulk of their scoring (30 points combined) concern you at all or is it one of those situations where they were taking a lot of shots and inevitably some are going to fall?
MM: It doesn't concern me because we already knew they could score. We knew that going into the game. So, it's not a surprise if they come out and play well from the beginning of the game at UTEP. That's who they are, they're the bread and butter of the program. When it comes down to it, I don't think it's a plus or a minus. It's just something that existed. We'll just go down there with a 0-0 score and hopefully come out on top after 40 minutes.
bc.net: What changes, if any, do both teams try to make given that there's not a lot of time to make changes and both of you have games in between.
MM: Well, I don't think you make too many. You go in and you anticipate a few things that they may do differently and have a plan for that. But you've still got to play the game, the kids gotta lace them up and go out there and play with the same energy and effort and if they do that it's going to be a barnburner.
bc.net: Watching Jahmar Young on the court this season compared to last season, it really appears as though he's matured a tremendous amount from last year and is really blossoming into a leader or even the leader on the team.
MM: He's definitely matured from last year. He's still got a ways to go for growth and it's a process. I don't think that we have any one particular leader right now to be honest with you. I think that every game presents a different opportunity for a different guy to step up. Whether it's Wendell or JY or a freshman, Hernst has done a great job in his role. I think right now we have a concerted effort and guys are talking more to each other and there's better communication going on and when you have that going on you don't need a go-to guy. If you've got four guys that you can go to, you don't need one.