RI: The crowd for the Martin game was incredible. Nearly 6,000. And 10 minutes before game time there was a line all the way to the street.
SP: That was great. This is one of the best basketball programs in the country. It's not just a great midmajor program. It's one of the very best programs in the country. Part of that is our community and how they embrace our kids. And the sense of pride they take in what we do. That's the best thing about being successful here. You know what it means to these people. To have a turnout like that a couple of days before Christmas with the students gone was tremendous.
RI: A couple of your players have mentioned that you give them the freedom to call a play when they see something the defense is doing.
SP: I don't know that they call plays (laughing). They're all very good offensive players. When we're running our sets they know how to adjust and take advantage of what the defense is doing. They've done a good job of playing out of our offense. We don't want to be pigeonholed. They know a couple of things. We don't want to turn the basketball over and we don't want to take bad shots.
RI: You've called a lot of plays in the flow of the action yourself. And that's something a lot of college coaches don't do.
SP: If we see something where we can get a quick advantage we want to do that. That's just something you're going to see through the flow of the game. We have to continue to get better on the offensive end though.
RI: What will you focus on when you come back from Christmas break?
SP: We'll concentrate initially on trying to get our players refocused. It's great for them to get home right now. They need it and the coaches need a couple days off. We've all been pushing the envelope. I think the time off will rejuvenate everyone and when we get back we'll refocus on our goals. We'll show tape of the Martin game when we get back. Show them what we need to do to get better. And then we'll work with the guys to get their wind back. We'll run some and get in the weight room.We play at Eastern Illinois on December 30 and that will be a huge game. Coach Miller is doing a great job and they have a good team. They beat us here last year. We'll have to be focused and we'll have to have great energy. I hear that they're playing a little different this year, playing more man-to-man. And they aren't running their triangle action as much. Our next three games are going to be very tough – at Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky here, and then we go to Austin Peay.
RI: With 13 games in the books you've already played the most highly regarded teams on your schedule. How difficult will it be to maintain this level of play against the competition you have left.
SP: We have to play for Murray State no matter who the opponent is. Anyone can beat you. Eastern Illinois is a hard place to win at. So is Austin Peay. They have a tremendous program. And we have to take care of business at home. We'll have to be sharp to win a conference championship. Once you get into conference play rankings don't mean anything. Our kids will have to be locked in and focused no matter who we play.