Feb. 19, 2003
How will ASU's recent play help their crowd and the atmosphere on Saturday?
"Arizona State has been playing great and their attendance has been coming up. With the in-state rivalry, you would expect that they would draw well. I guess they've been sold out for a while now so it should be an excellent game. I think both teams are playing very well right now. If you look at what they've done the last couple weeks, they've probably played as well as anyone. They played better on the Washington trip than we did. They had to win in overtime at Washington, but they killed Washington State. And they had no problems with either of the L.A. schools. It should be a good game with two good teams playing the best that they've played all year so it's a good time for this one."
What did you do to limit Ike Diogu the first time you faced him and the Sun Devils?
"We made it difficult for him to get any room to maneuver. If he gets the ball in the post, you're going to have problems because of his big body, his great shooting touch and because he draws fouls. He's very, very good. The only way you're going to contain him is if you limit the number of touches he gets and the number of times he can do something with the ball. That will be our challenge as it is everyone's challenge that plays against him. They're going to go to him, it's almost every time down the court they're going to try to get the ball to him."
Has Diogu gotten better since you last played against him?
"Guys are going to get better, especially when he's the center of attention regardless of who plays him. So it's not just us, it's not just learning from our game. Everyone knew coming in how good a player he was based on the non-conference play. You'd have to go quite a way to find somebody who has had the impact as a freshman in the league that he has had, not only with the scoring but with his rebounding and blocked shots. He's a good one. He's better now than he was the last time we played him. The team is a lot better right now than when we played them the last time. And this is at their place, it's not at our place. You don't want to triple him because they have a very good supporting cast for Ike. Here, Tommy Smith got in foul trouble right away, which had a big impact on their team. He's an important guy. So as I say, we're better and they're better. We just have to see who's improved the most since that time. But again when you're playing them here as opposed to up there, we have a tremendous advantage here and they have a tremendous advantage up there as you can see by most of the games the last seven or right years."
"He hasn't reinjured for a while. It will be helpful this week that he's only playing one game. His Thursday night games have generally been better than his Saturday games. I think that will be an advantage, when he just has one game. If he plays Thursday and he plays Saturday, he's sore on Saturday. Timing is so essential in this game, it's hard to get your timing down when you're limited in the amount of time he has on the practice floor. His presence on the court is so vital to us on the leadership end of it. He just has a really good feel for people. If somebody is down a little bit, he has a way of getting him back up. He just has an unusual feel for what needs to be said and when it needs to be said. When I look back at tapes from last year in preparation for teams we're playing, you can see that he's not moving as well as he was then. His shooting now is consistently much better. His misses even look good in terms of his arc and getting the ball up on his fingers a lot better than he did last year. Although, we saw the change take place about midway through last year. I think he has a lot more confidence in his shooting than he's ever had. But if you play him strictly as a passer, I think now you're making a mistake."
Is this the perfect time for a break in the season with three important road games ahead?
"This time of the year, it's good for any team to have a break. That's the reason that, in the first round (of Pac-10 play) when we play ASU, we usually play another team like we did against Kansas. Whereas in the second round, I really want that as a time for the guys to get some time off so they can recharge their batteries. On Monday we had the intrasquad scrimmage with everyone but the three seniors. It was great because we put the four freshmen and Isaiah (Fox) on one team and that always get the adrenaline flowing a little bit."
Are the freshmen continuing to improve defensively?
"Andre (Iguodala)'s development has left us in a situation where he's getting more minutes. And of course, Hassan (Adams) has been pretty effective from the start. Chris Rodgers continues to get better. I don't think he had a good game on Saturday, but we're seeing some great things happening with him in practice. As would normally be the case, you start seeing it in practice and a week or so later, you start seeing it in the games."
How important are the defensive performances of the freshmen?
"I've said all along that defense wins games. If it gets down to two guys who are fairly even on offense and if one of them is a better defender, the defender is going to get a lot more time. Chris is a really a good defender and Andre comes off the bench and is really a good defender as well. In certain matchups, Hassan is (a good defender) as well. I think his defense is getting better too because he sees that Andre's defense is getting Andre more and more time."
Do freshmen hit walls and run out of gas?
"In terms of hitting a wall, the basketball season is a long season. The practice season is a long period. Before we got into games, we had been practicing five weeks. It's not just the physical aspect, when you get to a certain point of the year it's the mental side of it. It's very difficult for a basketball team to stay on top of its game throughout the season because you have lulls. It was good to see our guys come out the way they did last week. Right now they see that there aren't that many games left in the league and I think they're more refreshed mentally right now too."
How critical is ASU's defense to its success compared to past years?
"I think they've played really well defensively in past years, but they're more experienced this year. When they've been in the program for four or five years, they know what needs to be done and when."
How was Senator John McCain's visit today?
"He had come down to Tucson for the day. He just wanted to come over and visit for a while, so we had about 45 minutes together. He's a big basketball fan. He said he has to stay up awfully late in D.C. to watch some of the games, but he's going to be at the game on Saturday. I think he'll be very neutral at that game, but it was nice to see him today."