March 13, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Coach, we’ll ask youto make a couple of quick opening comments.We’ll take questions for the players then finish upwith coach.
COACH LICKLITER: First of all, I thankthe seniors for the way they accepted me. Iappreciate that. It was a difficult transition forthem, I’m sure. But they were a pleasure to workwith this year. Everyone’s disappointed. It wasn’tthe year that we had hoped for. But I don’t thinkthat we really allowed that to affect our effort andso I appreciate the effort the seniors gave, and Ienjoyed getting to know them.
It doesn’t take a very astute basketballindividual to figure out if you go 2-for-17 in threepointersand struggle from the line, that you wouldbe amazed it’s an eight-point game. I’m surprisedit was an eight-point game. [Michigan] got on a runearly. We couldn’t stop them. We missed earlyand then from there it was fairly even. Guysdefended fairly well.
I thought Cyrus [Tate] and Seth [Gorney]played well. Cyrus was very active. He’s beenvery active toward the latter half of the seasonwhen I think he became comfortable with what wewere asking him to do. And he really committed toplaying high percentage basketball.
[Michigan head coach] John Beilein runsgreat stuff, as we all know. They’ve become morecomfortable with it. They get good looks and theyshared the ball and shot it well. It’s a tough way tolose. But like I told my son, who won the statechampionship the other day, I’ve not been aroundvery many people that have finished their year ona win. What a great experience that would be.Most of us have to go out sometimes a lot earlierthan we wanted to. But I guess it’s part of thebasketball life.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questionsfor the two players, please.
Q. Cyrus, what about yourdevelopment this year? Do you feel that you’vemade a lot of improvement?
Cyrus Tate: Yes. I feel like I tried mybest and contributed the best I could for our team.In the beginning, it was kind of rough. Like coachsaid, I bought into what was going on and whatcoach wanted me to do. I just took it from there.As things progressed, my confidence builtand I was able to contribute every time for ourteam.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We willfinish up with questions for Coach Lickliter.
Q. Todd, do you feel this team gotbetter from the end of January to the end of theseason? If so, how? If not, why?
COACH LICKLITER: Are you just writing acolumn or a book? You want me to go througheverything (laughter)? When you say why didn’tthey get better, I think that they probably played attimes as well as they could. Were theyconsistently doing that, I don’t think so. We’re notas good as we could be.
With our group, we had a very smallmargin for error. When we weren’t on the top ofour game, we struggled to compete. So did theyget better? I believe they got better. Did they getgood enough to compete in the Big Ten? No, wedid not.
And I also think that if you look back, Ihope it’s not perceived as an excuse.I thought the initial part of the Big Tenseason was very demanding. I thought we playedat a very high level. We weren’t always rewarded.We played Purdue and Indiana well. We actuallybeat Michigan State. And I thought not physically,but maybe emotionally or mentally, there was alittle bit of strain. I think that’s typical when you’reasking people to play at the level we were askingthem to play at to compete in this conference.And so I do think they improved? I do notthink we obviously improved enough.
Q. You’ve had your scoring this yearobviously but 16 minutes today without a fieldgoal in the second half. What do you think wasgoing on? What do you think was theproblem?
COACH LICKLITER: You tell me. I mean,this sincerely, did we have good looks? I believewe did have some good looks. And we’re not ateam that gets a lot of second shots. Cyrus [Tate]works incredibly hard, but he’s really our onlyoffensive rebounder.
We’ve got to make the shots we get. Ithought we really got some good looks. And I’vesaid this all along. If we come down and take badshots, which we do occasionally, that really puts usin a tough spot. But I thought today we probablygot enough good looks that if we were shooting theway we’re capable, not the way we do all the time,then we would have been much more competitive.But 2-for-17 from the three, you’re probably goingto have some droughts.
Q. What do you want Jake Kelly to looklike next year at this time? I mean body-wise,physicality?
COACH LICKLITER: Great question. Iwould like for him to be about — well, here’s thething, that’s not my area. I’d love for him to bestrong enough to compete in the Big Ten. Andright now, he’ll tell you he’s not. We have astrength and conditioning coach. You should askhim what you want him to look like. And then let’sfind out and let’s make sure it happens.
Fortunately for me, at this level, I don’t have tooversee that. Now we just have to give him theopportunity — he has to put the work in.I’m a fortunate guy in that I’ve been able tocoach some really good teams and some reallygood players. And the really good ones madegains in the offseason in their strength. It isimpossible to be too strong.
Q. He said he wants to look like JarrydCole?
COACH LICKLITER: I say set your goalshigh, Jake, and go for it. I’m with you.
Q. You talked earlier this week aboutnine days off leading into the game. After it’sall said and done how do you think thataffected the team either overall positively,negatively, maybe not at all?
COACH LICKLITER: I don’t think weplayed very well so your initial response would beobviously it affects us adversely. And I think we’dbe making an excuse there. I didn’t think it was abad thing. And I still don’t. I don’t think we’d doanything different, either. I’d love to have beenable to shoot in this facility one time, either thenight before or the day before. And I say thatthinking we’re a better shooting team. And itcouldn’t hurt.
But other than that, I don’t have anycomplaints with the time off.
Q. Todd, you said a couple of weeksago you would have a list of things to work onduring the offseason. You’ve had about 30minutes now to move into the offseason.Anything you can share with us at this point?
COACH LICKLITER: I’m really notprepared at this time. What I meant to say, and Ithink as we went through the season, I was tryingto assess what was available to us, what otherprograms had and what we may need to grow. Iwant to be competitive. And a part of that is I needto do my job. I need to be good at what I do. AndI need to put a team on the floor that has a greatunderstanding, competes hard every night, andprepares well. And that’s my responsibility.
And then I know there are people at Iowathat want to do their part, too. We just need to gettogether and talk about some things that we thinkcan advance Iowa basketball. And I apologize toyou. I’m just not prepared now.
Q. Was there anything about the lastfew months, about this season that surprisedyou? Anything you didn’t know before you tookthis job, as you look back, you didn’t seecoming?
COACH LICKLITER: I initially was goingto say that I was prepared to get on a bus and ridefour or five hours after games and I got on anairplane and flew home. So I like that aspect, tobe quite honest with you. I hadn’t had thatadvantage before.
We competed at a high level. And this is acompetitive level. It’s a great conference. But it’sbasketball. It’s Division I basketball. And I wasfully expecting what went on. There are alwaysobstacles. I used to tell the guys all the time,you’ve got to move on. If the bus breaks down,we’re going to play that night. So let’s make surewhen somebody throws us a curve ball we hit it.You’re going to live that way. That’s theway life is and you’ve just got to be well groundedand prepared. Everybody can perform well wheneverything is going smoothly. When things aretough, you have to continue to be poised andperform well.
So there wasn’t anything that I would sayjust knocked me off guard at all.
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate yourtime, coach. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks foryour time. We’d like to have you make a coupleopening comments then we’ll go to questions forthe two student-athletes and finish up withquestions for you.
COACH BEILEIN:: Aside from the fact thatit looked like we would never score a basket againfor the rest of my life in the last 10 minutes, it wasa great first step for us to come into a first-roundgame in the postseason and try to gathermomentum for tomorrow and for the future.
As a result, I’m really pleased for our kids.I’m preaching for them to enjoy this and try to getbetter through it. Hopefully we’ll be able to comeout with a similar victory tomorrow againstWisconsin.
THE MODERATOR: We will now takequestions for DeShawn [Sims] or Ron [Coleman].
Q. You kept Iowa without a field goalfor 17 minutes or so in the second half. Whatwere you doing defensively ?
DESHAWN SIMS. The coaches did agood job of preparing us as far as what they weregoing to run. They taught us some different reads,how to use ball screens. We did a good job ofplaying them.
We went out and played tenaciousdefense. We weren’t looking for the switches. Wejust held ourselves accountable for our own man,and that helped us not allow them to score for thatamount of time.
RON COLEMAN: I think we did a goodjob. We came in with a mind-set that we had todefend in order to get a victory. That’s whateverybody locked on to. I think we did a good jobof defending three-point shots as well as theirdrivers. I think they’ve got great drivers on theirteam in players like [Tony] Freeman and [Jake]Kelly.
I think we did a good job of help-sidedefense and of talking. There was a lot ofcommunication on the floor. That’s a big step forour team.
Q. DeShawn, I know you’ve gonethrough your scoring droughts this year. Haveyou ever gone through something like thatwhere neither team could get a basket?
DESHAWN SIMS: Was it like this game?(Laughter). Well, as long as neither team isscoring, nobody will win. If we can’t score, we justhave to do an even better job defensively.
COACH BEILEIN:: We went 10 minuteswithout a basket. How long did they go? Believe itor not, this is true. Those are stats you bring up tous. We don’t realize that. We’re out there playingand not thinking about when the last basket wasscored. We’re looking at the differential on thescoreboard. That’s how we determine how we’redoing – not by how long it’s been since we scored.
Q. When we talked to you Tuesday, youseemed fairly upbeat. Did you sense that thiskind of performance was about to come outfrom your team?
DESHAWN SIMS: Yes, because any timeyou can erase everything that happened in theregular season, you get a chance to clear your record. Everybody, even the top team in ourconference, starts 0-0. It kind of gives yousomething to play for.
Just watching all the major teams aroundthe country and how they played this week, it justlooked so fun. Our whole team was watching it,and we came out like we wanted to play like that.That’s how we want to play.
That effort got a lot of those teams into theNCAA Tournament. That’s how we came out andplayed.
Q. Ron, you guys have been burned inthe past defensively and have tried to improvethat. You looked pretty improved today. Howhard was it to continue to play the defense youwere playing, knowing that you weren’t gettingrewarded at the other end of the court for muchof the game? That must have been achallenge, especially mentally.
RON COLEMAN: It has been a challengefor us all season, just having lapses in the games.In some, we’ve been more focused because wehave to play hard for the whole 40 minutes. Justbecause your shot didn’t fall in, you have to keepgoing and defend on the other end. I think that’swhat we did tonight. We did that well.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about theWisconsin game. What do you hope to dobetter this time around?
DESHAWN SIMS: We want to control howhard we play. In the Wisconsin game, we hadsome previous losses, some close games, and wejust went out there and battled. There wasn’t a lotof structure to that game, but we played as hard aswe played all season. We have to try to keep thatsame mentality that we had the day before thegame and come out with that same energy as soonas the game starts.
Q. DeShawn, you guys have beentalking about this tournament for a little whilenow. Does this win prove something? Should itprove something to the people outside theteam?
DESHAWN SIMS: Not really, because weplayed Iowa in the regular season, but the winmeans something. We split with [Iowa], and wehad a feel for how they were going to play. We justwanted to win. Whoever was in our way, we aretrying to advance and go to the promised land.Whoever is in our way, we just have to play withthat chip on our shoulders because no one has anadvantage.
We’re playing in a different arena. No oneis home or away, and anything can happen. Wewere looking forward to this tournament, though.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks. We willfinish up with questions for Coach Beilein.
Q. Defending three-point shots hasbeen a problem, but today you wereoutstanding. Was there a difference?
COACH BEILEIN:: I think the players arestarting to understand at this time that we’re tryingto speed that up. I think it’s important to continueto realize and recognize who the shooters are,especially when you do a lot of the things we dodefensively. We switched on some screens,sometimes we didn’t. All of a sudden you can beon a man, and you have to know the scoutingreport, and you also have to know the schemebecause there’s a lot of thought involved.I think that while it slowed down and we’vegotten better at it, I think there are some timeswhere we’re either tired or don’t understand thepeople at this level because we have so many whocan shoot from so far away. Today I don’t think weallowed many good looks to either [Tony] Freemanor [Justin] Johnson.
Q. Can you talk about the Wisconsingame tomorrow – in particular, what did youtake from the last meeting?
COACH BEILEIN:: It seems like it was solong ago. I think the best thing we can take intothis game is the belief that if we play at our best,we can be in the hunt at the end of the game.As good as they are, we were certainly inthe game at the end. And that’s something where Ithink the confidence will help, especially playingagainst another great containing defensive teamthat you really have to struggle to score against – ateam that obviously has great experience andgreat size and girth.
I’ll have to watch more film. We didn’t payattention to Wisconsin, but in the next 24 hours I’llbe doing my best with Wisconsin.
Q. Given the way this season has gonewith this young team, a 9 minute 52 secondsdrought would have killed you in the regularseason. Why didn’t that happen, and is thatpart of forgetting the past and looking ahead?
COACH BEILEIN:: I think the personalityof this team is sensitive to, at times, just looking atthe negative side of the opponent scoring a coupleof baskets. I just missed a jump shot. I’m in foultrouble. I just had a turnover. And you take it tothe other end of the court.
It’s our personality and it’s something that,as a coaching staff and as players, we’re trying tobuild this “I can” type of personality. We continueto work at that. The one thing I was preaching tothem is that we have to be happier as we’rewinning that game. We have to work at these firstandsecond-round games because any tournamentgame is difficult to win.
I think earlier in the year, that game mayhave come right down to the buzzer, as opposedto being able to at least be comfortable in the lastminute.
Q. Do you look at this as a positive forthe future?
COACH BEILEIN:: Absolutely. This is ahuge momentum swing for us to be able to come inhere. We’ve lost our last three in a row. In thosegames, we had a similar dynamic to us where wegot ahead in the game and we couldn’t hold thelead and we couldn’t make a shot. That’s just partof the growing up experience.
Now, we still did it, but we found out thatour defense is a constant. We couldn’t score, butwe stopped, so we won the game.
Q. Could you just talk a little moreabout your defensive intensity and how youguys were really locked in on trying to makesure that [Tony] Freeman and [Justin] Johnsondidn’t get shots off. Maybe talk about howfrustrated Iowa was offensively but mostimportantly, the defense you played today?
COACH BEILEIN:: I think that [Iowa],particularly [Tony] Freeman at our place, and Ithink [Jake] Kelly has made great improvements aswell. But you look at Johnson’s stats and howmany threes he’s made in his lifetime at Iowa, andwe just said if they’re going to beat us today, they’llbe bouncing the basket, or we’ll be all over them.By stretching a little bit, I think we gave upsome offensive rebounds because they’re so muchbigger than we are with their two big kids. But theywent to a lot of dribble-drives, and I thought wecontained it fairly well.
Q. You took three charges in the firsthalf. How far do you think this team’stoughness is compared to at the beginning ofthe season?
COACH BEILEIN:: That’s a great question.We’ve noticed lately that we’ll go into a game witha different defensive plan. We won’t go in therewith the same defensive plan every time. We werehaving trouble adapting from the last game to thenext game. We tried to use our strengths tonegate their strengths.
We’ve seen this plan evolve to the pointthat now they can adapt on the fly a little bit. I wasproud of what they did. The baseline drive andtaking the charge were a big emphasis this week.We still have some guys that have taken two orthree charges all year, and we also have guys thathave taken 20.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.