bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Menzies Interview :: 02/25/09

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 victory over Louisiana Tech and Cal-State Fullerton, the rematches with Louisiana Tech and Boise State and who the best individual player the Aggies have faced this season is.

bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the first Louisiana Tech meeting last Monday?
Marvin Menzies: That was a battle. I think having the opportunity to be up big late and have them keep fighting as they did was a good opportunity for us to learn a lot without taking an 'L'. I think we did because then we came back against Fullerton and had almost the same scenario and made good decisions and made free throws and concentrated and did smart things in terms of our execution down the stretch. It was a good lesson learned.

bc.net: Your thoughts on the Fullerton game.
MM: Fullerton was a team we knew was going to be a scoring, high octane game especially with the NBA prospect Josh Akognon. We knew he was going to take a bulk of their shots and he was very capable but he's also a bit streaky at times. We were trying to keep him in check. We did that when we needed to, which was the beginning of the second half. He had 19 at the half so obviously he was on fire in the first half. The second half we did some things different defensively and slowed him down a little bit but it was just enough to give us the lead that we needed. The last few minutes was basically taking care of the ball to win the game.

bc.net: You had six players finish in double figures and shot 78.3% in the second half. Talk about the offensive execution that you got out of that game and really you've been executing well on offense the last several games really.
MM: We've been really trying to share the ball, we had 21 assists and did an excellent job of trying to find teammates within the offensive scheme and structure. We have a lot of freedom within our offense but there's also some structure involved where they need to do certain things looking for their teammates. They're getting better at it and they were very good that game. Unfortunately these games don't alway string together, so you've gotta hope that they put it back together and do what works and come back out and do the same things against Louisiana Tech.

bc.net: You face Louisiana Tech, they fought back but you were able to hold on for the win. You had a lot of success with them for really the first 34 minutes of the game, what do you change if anything?
MM: Any of the changes we're going to make are going to be countermoves to what their coach decides to do differently but basically our gameplan is going to be the same. Hopefully we'll have the same situation in terms of having the lead in the last four or five minutes. But you never know, this team is going to fight, we're not playing at home this time, that adds another dynamic as well as their ability to shoot the ball much better at home. We're anticipating a full 40 minutes that we're going to have to battle to get the 'W'.

bc.net: Then on Monday you come back home to face Boise State.
MM: Greg does an excellent job with those guys so you know we're in for a battle there. We obviously have close contests every time we play them. You can point to the triple overtime game last year, the three point game this year. We're just expecting another war and we've got to be prepared to go in and do what we do and focus on that.

bc.net: When you look at big picture, how much do you talk big picture with the team because you've still got a very good shot at the 2-seed in the WAC tournament and how important is the seeding for you given that this year the difference between one through nine isn't as big as it might be in normal years.
MM: I think the 2-seed this year, the 3-seed, anything after the 1-seed is basically a crapshoot. I think you've got so much parity from 2 to 9 on any given night, one of the lower seeds, 5 to 9, are capable of beating the upper seeds. I think Utah State probably is still the dominant team in the conference, their record indicates it and so they're the team to beat right now until someone knocks them off their pedestal. They've had a couple stumbles here and there but at the end of the day they're still the dominant team in conference right now. I think anywhere from 2 to 9 you're going to have a war for the first two rounds of the tournament. You've just gotta be prepared to go in there and try to string three games together hopefully so you have the opportunity to dance again.

bc.net: With Josh Akognon's performance on Saturday, you've faced some very good individual players this year, UTEP's Stefon Jackson and Randy Culpepper, Kansas' Sherron Collins, SJSU's Adrian Oliver, Nevada's Luke Babbitt, Utah State's Gary Wilkinson, Fresno State's Paul George. What has your team been able to learn through facing those kind of players and who do you think the best player is out of those guys you've faced?
MM: That's a tough one. Collins is right up there even though we did a pretty decent job on his scoring, he still had a bunch of assists, and is such a complete player. He does a lot of different things. Probably Josh Akognon was the best scorer, but again he gets so many attempts. Wilkinson is probably the best big we've faced in conference. Babbitt was good against us the first time around as well. I think Josh just because of his ability to shoot the ball so deep and he can bounce it as well. He might have a slight edge on some of the guys. But we've had some good guys in conference too. If they had that many shots they'd be right up there in his ballpark as well. It's kind of hard to pin one guy. You can even go down the line and look at Kyle Gibson, he did a great job late in the game against us and had the one shot go in and out to win the game for them had it gone down.

Any given night you've got to stop these guys as a team. I think that's something our guys have learn, no one player should beat you. You've got to have a team effort to switch off on guys, deny guys and do different things defensively but no one player should ever beat you if you do a good job.