Feb. 28, 2012
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COACH BLUDER: Just want to congratulate Morgan, Kamille, Jaime and Sam on their Big Ten honors. I haven’t studied it exactly, but we have three players represented in the top 15 in the conference. That’s pretty good. That’s great balance by our program. I always feel Morgan and Kamille could have been higher in those rankings, but at the same time I know how competitive this conference is. Our conference only selects five for each of those teams. A lot of conferences select 10 for each team. To be on the All Big Ten team is a great honor and congratulations to all those threes. Sam being unanimous on the All Freshman team, a great honor. Sam is coming off her third consecutive Freshman of the Week award and second co Big Ten Player of the Week award in the last three weeks. She has done a great job.
Here we are going into the Big Ten tournament. We’re happy that we’re tied for second in the Big Ten Conference. We picked up the third seed. We’ll be playing the winner of Nebraska versus Northwestern. I keep getting the question asked of me, who would you rather play? Part of me thinks Northwestern would be nice because we’ve swept them, great confidence. Also the Nebraska game is interesting to me because they swept us. As a competitor, you’d love to have the opportunity to go against them again. Since we last played Nebraska, that’s when we were kind of at our low. We were 3 5 coming off that game. Since then we’ve won eight straight. They were 6 2 after that game. Since then they’re 4 4. They do have a signature win over Ohio State in the last game of the year. They won a triple overtime game at Purdue. They have the three big players in Jordan Hooper, first team All-Big Ten, then Lindsey Moore and Emily Cady on the All Freshmen team as well. Great opponent. They’re still ranked in the top 25. They’re ranked 24th in the Coaches Poll this week. So if you just look at pure numbers, we’re probably facing Nebraska, but who knows, because Northwestern did beat Nebraska at Nebraska within the last two weeks.
Our schedule this week is we’re going to try to practice on Thursday, where half of our practice will be after the conclusion of that game so we will know who our opponent is and have at least one hour on the court to prepare for whoever that opponent is going to be. It’s an exciting week going into the Big Ten tournament on an eight game winning streak. I can’t think of a better time for us to go into this tournament.
Q. Great to have a 1:00 game so you don’t have to wait around all day?
COACH BLUDER: Yeah, I think playing the earlier game is nice because you’re not sitting around all day and thinking about it. I think that’s good.
Q. How do you feel about going to Indianapolis, Taylor averaging 17 minutes last three or four games, do you think at this point in the season she can come off the bench, be an X factor for you?
COACH BLUDER: Theairra has been getting a lot of minutes for us, especially since Jaime’s injury. I think one game she had 17 minutes, I think the Northwestern game. She’s an important part. In a Big Ten tournament, hopefully where you’re playing three games in three days, you have to go to your bench, you have to be able to count on them because of the fatigue factor. Bethany is somebody we’ve counted on all year to back up Morgan. I’m thankful that Kalli Hansen is really coming back. She had a bout with the flu and a groin injury. In the last game I think she’s gave us the best minutes we’ve had in a long time. Basically Trisha and Theairra filling in at that guard position for us, Theairra is an important aspect because she fills in at both the 2 and the 3.
Q. Virginia, any update?
COACH BLUDER: Nothing. I really thought we might have her back for the Big Ten tournament. Right now it’s looking very doubtful that we’ll have her back.
Q. Where did Morgan make her biggest strides from her sophomore to junior year?
COACH BLUDER: I think she’s smarter in that she knows how to use her body. She’s more aggressive in there. She’s stronger than she was before. She is staying out of foul trouble. If you remember in years past, she’d kind of get in a little foul trouble, have to come to the bench. I think the biggest growth is just her confidence. She knows how much she put into it over the summer and she now understands how good she is. Before I think she kind of questioned herself. Now she understands she’s a big part of our team and that she’s a darn good player.
Q. You mentioned that Nebraska game as a low point. Can you put your finger on anything specific that happened? Was there a key meeting, intense practice, anything right after that game that might have sparked this squad to the month it had?
COACH BLUDER: It’s kind of unusual. We had three games that week, all against top 25 opponents, two on the road. We played at Penn State and at Nebraska. Came home, only had one day to prepare for Purdue. We played them on a Saturday. It’s not like we had time to make huge adjustments or huge changes, having a huge coming to Jesus meeting. None of that happened. We really just prepared to try to beat Purdue. When you beat a top 25 team that does a lot for your confidence. That’s kind of what propelled us into this eight game win streak.
Q. Has Sam surprised you with anything she’s done?
COACH BLUDER: You know, of late she’s shooting the ball a lot better than what we saw in high school, especially from three point range. She’s getting more and more confidence in her three point shooting. That’s kind of something you have to have with our program. We shoot a lot of threes. We enjoy shooting threes. You also have to have that person that distributes. She’s done a great job of that. Now I think she’s just becoming more aware of being an offensive threat for us. When we were recruiting her, you knew you were getting a competitor, you knew you were getting a kid that could rebound and distribute the ball. I’m really I guess happy, the most excited about her improvement in her offensive side of the game.
Q. Does that help Melissa, too?
COACH BLUDER: She’s a recipient a lot of Sam’s assists in the last few games. Those two played together in AAU basketball, kind of found each other a lot in that setting. Pretty neat to see them doing the same thing here at Iowa right now.
Q. How do you think your team’s tournament resume stacks up for right now?
COACH BLUDER: Pretty good. You always want to get more, improve your seed. I think right now if the tournament was selected now, I’d feel good about our chances of getting in. We have a 36 or 37 RPI. We tied for second in one of the toughest women’s conferences in America. So I feel very good about it.
Q. Do you feel like you need to get some wins this weekend to get off that eight, nine area?
COACH BLUDER: Yes. I think wins in the Big Ten tournament can help your seed. That would be nice.
Q. Sam, do you know she was capable of putting up these rebounding numbers and do you think they’ll continue?
COACH BLUDER: She was always a good rebounding guard, in the AAU circuit, in her high school setting. She’s strong. She has that grit and determination to her that you need to have as a good rebounder. I’m hoping that she’ll continue to put up these kind of numbers. She came off a triple double, which is an amazing feat, an amazing accomplishment. It doesn’t happen very often. It’s fun to see her not only getting the rebounds but to get the assists to go along with that.
Q. Can you talk about her development leading the team. Since Jaime went down, she has had to step up. What has she done individually?
COACH BLUDER: You’re right in that everybody has stepped up since Jaime went down. I think Kamille has been tremendous since that situation happened. But Sam has also grown. She’s becoming more of a floor leader. Before she was kind of deferring, because she was the only freshman starting, deferring to Kamille, deferring to Jaime. Now she understands playing the point guard, which she is the majority of the time for our basketball team, she has to be that floor leader. Sam has never shied away from speaking her mind. That’s not something that Sam does. So she’s always been that kind of vocal leader, person that’s going to try to encourage other people, demand a lot of other people. I think she’s becoming more visionary on the floor, seeing what’s out there, and expressing that.
Q. Since November when she made her first start, what has changed about her game? Seems like she’s not making the silly turnovers and other things you expect from a freshman.
COACH BLUDER: I think three things have changed in her game: One is the turnovers. Last game she had one turnover and 11 assists. That turnover came in the last couple minutes of the game. Her turnover numbers have gone down. I think you’re right, she seemed to force a lot earlier in the season. Now she understands she doesn’t have to do that. Her teammates will become open by virtue of our offense if you allow it to happen, if you take your time. So I think that’s been a real benefit. I think, again, her offense has improved. She’s more confident shooting the basketball right now. That’s just through a lot of repetition in the gym, getting after it in practices. The third thing is she understands a little bit more about the value of defense. I think Sam has always been a good strong side defender, a good on ball defender. She used to relax on that weak side a little bit. Now she’s understanding you have to focus on defense for the entire shot clock and not take any time to relax.
Q. What has Jaime been doing? I know there are things an injured player can do in practice to help the team.
COACH BLUDER: She’s really been doing a lot of rehab for us right now. For Jaime, we need her to get back. We need her to be back in October. For her, the most important thing for her is to get in that rehab and take over there. But recently she has been able to join our team again on road trips and home games. So I think it’s a great reminder for our players to see her there. They want to play well for her. But also it’s that reminder, again, it can be taken away from you at any time. So enjoy every second you’re on the floor.
Q. Has Jaime taken more of a leadership role with Sam and Melissa, talking to them when the come to the bench?
COACH BLUDER: I haven’t noticed it. It’s not something I’m really looking at during a game. But it wouldn’t surprise me. Now Jaime can kind of focus on that. Before she’s more into the game, what’s happening on the floor. Now she can help on focusing those freshmen and mentoring those freshmen. That’s what you want a leader to do, especially someone who is going to be a senior next year on our basketball game. I’m glad to hear she’s getting involved because it’s something that’s happening kind of behind me during the game. It wouldn’t surprise me she’s able to focus on that now.
Q. How long is her rehab process? Do you have to keep an eye on her to make sure doesn’t try to get too far ahead?
COACH BLUDER: Jennie Sertterh is our athletic trainer. She’s been around here longer than I have. She’s outstanding. I have complete faith in Jennie that she’s going to have her doing the right things in the right amount of time. She will definitely keep an eye on Jamie to make sure she’s doing things in the right way. We’re hoping to have Jaime back at the start of practice, which is the beginning of next October.
Q. Did that give the team a boost when Megan got to suit up and play last game?
COACH BLUDER: We know what Megan has gone through. She worked so hard during practice in her rehab. That was her goal, her dream, was to be able to put on her uniform for warmups. And then it was frosting on the cake for her to be able to be in the game. It happened that we were able to get her on the floor for a limited amount of time. I think all of her teammates were genuinely thrilled for her.
Q. At what time of Morgan’s development did she embrace being a low post post and trading elbows?
COACH BLUDER: Morgan came in here as a low post post. That’s what she did in high school. She wasn’t a post that wanted to face up. She played with her back to the basket. We didn’t have to fight that battle. There are a lot of posts you have to fight that battle. You’re 6’5″, you have to be down in the block, you have to be playing with your back to the basket, you have to be playing in the post, this is a strength for you. A lot of those posts don’t want to have that contact. What Morgan had to change was the amount of contact and the amount of physical style that is played not only in Division I but in the Big Ten Conference. When she came in as a freshman, she was initiated, baptism by fire. She came in here expecting to back up Jo Hamlin. Now all of a sudden she’s thrown into a starting position right away in her freshman game not expecting that. Then you go in against Jantel Lavender, Allyssa DeHaan, some of the best posts in the country right away. She had quite a quick baptism by fire her freshman year. Now she understands how important that role is and how physical it really is in there in the Big Ten. It’s pretty brutal at times. You can’t prepare for that as a freshman.
Q. You mentioned her treatment right now. It’s every day, every week for her?
COACH BLUDER: It’s every single day. She’s in that training room every single day working on her knees, trying to play as pain free as possible.
Q. Would you consider holding her out for the summer league so she can go into her senior year without worrying about it?
COACH BLUDER: Those are discussions I think we can have after the season with Jennie Sertterh, our trainer. But sometimes her legs are worse when she has two days off. She has to come back; she’s been sitting. There’s certainly an amount of rest time this summer, it makes sense that would be good for her. But I don’t know at this point if she’s going to sit out all the summer or what portion of that. That’s something we’ll work on after the season.