Sun Devils head into second-half of Pac-10 play
On his teams' play earlier in the season compared with now in the season, in terms of shooting the ball:
"I think we're getting, by and large, the same quality of shots. In some instances, better shots than we did when we were shooting so well. I don't have any brilliant insights to explain that, but I think over the span of the last five games, it had been pretty much the same as previously."
On facing tougher competition night in and night out, now that they are in the middle of Pac-10 play:
"Perhaps, but I wouldn't use that in this case, as an explanation. I think some of that has happened to some of our players, but you just have to keep playing, keep working, and take the next open shot."
On making any significant changes after the two home losses:
"If you were going to make a change, then you would want to do so in a way that it would have a chance of impacting the result. In other words, if my arm is hurting, I'm not going to change the bandage on my leg because my arm is hurting. I have to change something that is directed at the issue at hand. When you get to this level, the differences are negligible, and in the end, in all humility, certain guys in certain instances are going to step up and make plays. On the nights they do that for you, you're successful. On nights when the other team has someone who does that, then you go back to the film room and look to change a hundred things. That's usually not where to look. Usually it comes down to these amazingly talented people doing extraordinary things."
On being over .500 at the halfway point in the Pac-10 season:
"We're pleased to have won the five we have. We would like to have won a couple we didn't, if not all of them. We always try to win every game, but this league is really good. It's no different than any of the other power conferences. When you look at the standings, the difference between first and last place is nothing. Wake Forest has beaten North Carolina and Duke, yet they just went on the road and lost to the last place team in the ACC, a team that hasn't won a game. That's college basketball, and the Pac-10 is no different. You talk about standings and records and places of finish, the difference between second, third, and fourth compared with six, seventh, and eighth is nothing. That is something I took away from Sunday's Super Bowl. In the end, we know one team had a win and one was going to lose. But it certainly wasn't a function of preparation or desire, or even excellence."
On the team being mentally fatigued heading into the second half of the Pac-10 season:
"I don't know if that excuse [being mentally fatigued] is reserved for any week in the season in particular. It can come upon you at any time. Finals in December, with games either before or after that. Christmas holidays in December and those early January games when the students aren't back yet and you have been on campus for three straight weeks. That stretch when you play 5-out of-7 on the road in your conference. That stretch when you lose one you didn't want to at home and now you have to go on the road. At any particular point, there is always that possibility because it is such a grind, such a mental and physical marathon. It really is a long and grueling journey. It can come at different times for different teams and it is one of the reasons why, with so many great teams in college basketball, no one has gone undefeated since 1976."
On their confidence during the game when they're shooting the ball well:
"It can be [something that affects other players performance]. Then there are some other guys who don't really pay attention to anyone else but themselves. You could miss 100 in a row, but they are going to make the next one because they aren't really worried about you. Those kinds of generalizations are hard to pinpoint, so I suppose it could be catching if you let it, but I've known some guys who have been on bad shooting teams, but that didn't stop them from being a good shooter. I've also seen some other guys on really good shooting teams, but every time they shot, they missed. So its not like they could catch it."
On the rollercoaster past two weeks, winning at UCLA and at Arizona, then losing at home to both Washington schools:
"The season is certainly filled with some great highs and challenging lows. One thing about it is that it requires all of you. It invests all of you. All of your heart, your mind and your soul get vested in this. It is any emptying experience and sometimes you are fortunate to have some exuberance and other times you feel stripped, with nothing left to give. It gives you all those rush of emotions. What more can I do? How can I make it better?"
On conference teams becoming accustomed to the Sun Devils match-up zone:
"I definitely think teams are increasingly more set on what they want to do against it. They have seen it more. We also have two other teams in our league who play zone as well, Oregon State and Arizona. So when an opponent comes to our state (Arizona), they know they are going to see zone all weekend. I think that it a contributing factor as well. But once again, having said all that, our defense is more driven by our fundamentals than it is anything else. When Washington scored on Saturday, it had more to do with (Justin) Dentmon and Isaiah Thomas's ability to beat defenders off the bounce than it did the fact we were playing zone. We could have been playing man-to-man and they could have beat off the bounce the same way."
On the challenge of playing at Mac Court, Oregon's home gym:
"It's a great place. I love Mac court. I'm partial to those kinds of places. They smell of popcorn and the courts all close. It's not sterile; it's just a gym. I love those kinds of venues for college basketball, as do general sports fans. In baseball, doesn't everyone love Wrigley Field? I think those places have been too quick to be replaced in many instances across the country. I'm sure there are seats that have terrible sight lines, too small for someone who just ate two hot dogs. All those kinds of things. You probably have to wait in line to go to the bathroom, but it has that ambience. I'm not saying I like to go up there and play, because that's a tough place to win."
On Oregon State's success this season, compared with last season (the Beavers have already won four Pac-10 games this season, compared with zero all last year):
"I said it last year, and I know it was shrugged off as coach speak, but they were a capable team last year. They didn't break through, but I knew when we were going in to play them, it wasn't an automatic lay-up. I thought they were a very capable team and they returned that group in store. They're a good team and they have some good players. I'm absolutely not surprised at all."
On James Harden's approach in the first half during some games this season, when he has allowed his teammates to take control early:
"I don't think he necessarily starts deferring or trying to get others involved. I just want him to play. I trust him and want him to play. Take what's there and make good decisions. What happens a lot of times, with a guy like James, we, meaning coaches and media, create expectations that even if someone is playing well and doing pretty good, they cant possibly live up to these creations. We create this amazing, mythological figure in our minds, and when reality doesn't match our mythology, we being to say, `oh my goodness, what's wrong? He really can't dunk with his feet. He did miss a shot and he didn't score 80 points in that game.' It's not that this person is failing, but that our mythology is better reserved for Zeus."