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 talked with Coach Menzies about the road sweep and previewed Nevada and Utah State.
bleedCrimson.net: Going back to the UNM game what was the team able to learn from that game that helped you in this past road trip?
Marvin Menzies: I think losing the game at the very end there with some of the decisions we made gave us some great footage and great experience to take and learn from. Luckily we were able to make better decisions, not all the accurate ones, but better decisions at San Jose down the stretch. We didn't have the same situation at Fresno State because we had a pretty comfortable lead and every time they made a run at us our guys did a good job of responding. But the San Jose game I think it really bodes well for us to have that tight game against New Mexico.
bc.net: That first road trip, aside from the two wins, really presented two ideal opportunities for your team. Against Fresno State you jump out to the big halftime lead and then hold off their multiple runs, every time they made a run you answered with a run of your own. Then the San Jose State game you trailed at halftime, then lead most of the second half, lost the lead late in the game but then get it back and win the game on a couple free throws by a freshman.
MM: Yeah. A lot of different experiences that you can say that you gained on that road trip. Unfortunately in this business it's tough to really know the value of those games until you've played a few more games to see if you've developed. I think that we've come a long way from some of the earlier non-conference games as evidenced by us winning on road to start the year off, not once but twice, was very apropos considering that we had a couple tight losses on the road. So that's growth.
Also to take the lead early like we did, which I quite frankly did not expect to jump on them [Fresno State] like we did, they did a phenomenal job of not giving up and fighting back, luckily our guys came through and responded with some continued execution and not getting too rattled.
bc.net: How important was it for the confidence of the team to win the first two games on the road.
MM: I wasn't too worried about it. A lot of people don't have the big vision that I have for this program and where we're headed. It's a process and we're still at the starting phases of it. What I envision happening is continued growth and a lot of excitement and a lot of relationships built between the players and the community. To win on the road gives them [the fans] something to be excited about but they should be excited about this team just because they're their Aggies and they're kids that have said yes to the university as freshmen not typical of the way things have been built here in the past with junior college transfers and things of that nature.
We're trying to do it with this philosophy and it seems to be working so far and we're off to a good start in conference so we're happy right now.
bc.net: Thursday you've got Nevada here at the Pan Am. This will be the third straight game that you're facing a top flight player, this time freshman Luke Babbitt.
MM: I think anytime you get a big time player you've got to stop him as a team. You can't ask any one guy to shut one guy down, it's too tough to do in this day and age. These guys are so skilled and so versatile. It's gotta be a team effort and we're approaching it that way. They've got more than Luke. They've got other guys that are very capable scorers, they're very aware of the intensity of this game when Nevada meets New Mexico State. Guys that have played in it, [Lyndale] Burleson has played in it six, seven or eight times now and so they have a lot of guys that are aware of the significance of this game. There'll be a lot of intensity in the game and there'll be a lot of fire and I think the team that stays a little more poised and even tempered will probably come out with the victory.
bc.net: Then on Saturday you face Utah State. They've also got a top notch player in Gary Wilkinson who was just named one of the 50 players on the Naismith Award watch list. I'm sure they also remember their last visit here to the Pan Am.
MM: We did a great job on them last year, we caught them coming off that trip to Ruston which we'll do again but I'm sure there'll be a different result. They're a very solid team, very fundamentally sound, very well coached, very good in their execution of their offense, very sound in their defense. They won't gamble, they'll do things, we'll be very well scout, they'll know all our plays, we'll try to throw a few things at them. For the most part that one's going to be a thinking man's game. It's going to take a lot of energy, effort and execution to come out of that game with a win.