Dec. 10, 2013
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Steve Fisher
"The 10 day break could not have come sooner for us. We are able now to take a deep breath, allow our kids to focus on papers, tests and preparations for final exams. So we took both Monday and Tuesday off, and will get back at it on Wednesday. Our goal between now and Jan. 1 is to get San Diego State better. We will focus really hard on improving on both sides of the ball, so I think this is going to be a good period for us where we won't have to worry about the next game, and just worry about us. So that will be our goal, and we'll obviously prepare for Southern Utah on (Dec.) 18 and on and on. But our big focus between now and the start of conference play is to get ourselves better. And the good news is we've got a lot of room to grow, and hopefully we will. I'm happy we were able to get a win (against Washington) on Sunday. We didn't play very well offensively in the first half, but we were significantly better in the second half. And I think our defense helped our offense become better."
On where specifically the team needs to improve:
"We have to make sure that offensively we do a better job with our responsibilities, which means cut hard and you have to screen. We've got to get better with our set plays to where we are much better with our execution. And then we need to finish. We're leaving too many shots on the rim, we're missing too many layups. Part of it is we appear off-balance as we shoot it. So we might try changing a few drills to work on that. Defensively, we are a very mediocre rebounding team defensively, and that's unacceptable. We should be a really good rebounding team on both ends (of the court). Offensively we're good (at rebounding). We pursue the ball and get a lot of second-chance points. We set a goal to rebound half of our misses. We're not quite there, but it's a lofty goal and we're close. Our defensive rebounding is not very good. We must get better at that. And I think at times our guys help too much off shooters, so we're going to work on knowing who you're guarding, having an awareness for what's going on and not give up as many open threes as we've given up lately. Those are a few things we'll zero in on."
On the status of James Johnson:
"James Johnson is progressing every day. He's out of his walking boot, and I anticipate he will be ready to play when we go against Southern Utah. So it's a pretty significant ankle sprain, but I believe he'll be back for practice this week."
On in the importance of Skylar Spencer's development:
"Skylar has gotten better. I think he had some significant growth starting at the Wooden Legacy where he's more assertive. He ran the floor wanting the ball. And he's become a better defensive player, and I'm not just talking about shot blocking. He's moving his feet and staying in front of people. When opponents run ball screens and his man is setting them, he's become a better help defender. So I think everything he has done has improved. We also have the ability to go small and have Josh Davis guard the center. So we've been able to adjust to our opponent, and also make our opponent adjust to us with how we play."
On if he anticipates any more problems with J.J. O'Brien's hand injury:
"I think until we're able to totally get the pad off and the fingers untapped, it will be problematic for his ability to shoot the ball. And yet, he would be the first to tell you some of the shots he's missing don't have anything to do with a bad hand. Some of them maybe do, but he's got to be able to go inside and finish as he did earlier (in the season) in traffic with big guys coming at him when he's got stuff going to the rim. The perimeter shot may be more of an issue, but he's a tremendous competitor, he's able to figure out how to play with a hand that is not 100 percent and I think he's been pretty good with it. He was 3-for-3 I believe in the second half against Washington, and I think he'll be much better in the next game."
On if O'Brien will continue playing with the wrap on his hand:
"He'll practice with it on just as a precaution as much as anything else. Maybe take it off during some of our non-contact practice stuff."
On being ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll:
"I think when you have been ranked before, you want to be ranked again. I do think the fact we've got a program, when we have a win and we're 7-1, people think, `(SDSU) is a good team, so I'm going to think about them in my poll.' To be honest with you, some of these (coaches) never watch anybody. They look at who was ranked last week, were there any upsets, and that's all there is to it. So I think some of the (coaches) that voted for us, haven't seen us play very much. But because we've been good in the past, that's been helpful. So I think when you get good, people think you're going to continue to be good. But we want to be ranked. We dropped down a spot (to No. 25) in the AP poll because there were some upsets. We don't play for a week. If there are more significant wins, we may drop out (of the rankings) for a week. But we can't think about that. If we win, good things happen all the way around, and that includes being ranked in the polls. But yes, we want to be ranked. We want to be someone that has a number in front of its name when you look at us."
On why they've struggled with their defensive rebounding:
"I'm not a big stat guy. I'm big on the stat of winning the game. But we have to do a better job with our defensive rebounding. I think part of it is we sometimes think (Davis) or (Spencer) is going to get it, instead of saying, `I'm not going to let my man get it.' And we leak out just a little bit, where one of those balls that bounces and hits the floor that we should get, we're not getting enough of. I think Xavier (Thames) is a guy that has taken to heart what we've talked about. He's got a few more defensive rebounds the last few games. You can't depend on two guys to rebound. It's a five man responsibility. We're going to get better at it, we have to get better at it."