Ricardo Patton: I don't know that I've ever looked at it in terms of the month of February, but what's more important is to realize how important it is to not lose at home. We were on the road at two tough places to play — Oklahoma State, who's playing extremely well right now, and Kansas, who's always tough to play there — and so now we've got two tough games again. When you look at what Baylor did in beating Iowa State. Anyone can beat anyone. And our guys have just got to put those two losses behind us and make sure that we take care of our home court.
I guess if you look at the month of February, that's when teams are positioning themselves for postseason play. Those really good teams start playing for seeding in February. We're just trying to survive.
Q: Missouri, they've been up and down. What do you have to do to get a win Wednesday?
RP: They've had their moments when they've not played well, but I think that may be behind them. And when you prepare for an opponent, you have to prepare to receive their best shot. I think most coaches would agree that Missouri is as talented as any team in the country, and I know for certain as talented as any team in the Big 12.
We've got to prepare for them to not come in and dominate the glass; we can't give them open looks and second shot opportunities, which we've done in the past.
Q: Because they've started to play well of late, are they a more dangerous team now?
RP: I think so. They're out to prove that their record is not indicative of the type of team they have. And that's always a dangerous team to play.
Q: Is it a rarity coming up for you with Arthur Johnson and David Harrison — two marquee big men — butting heads?
RP: I think Missouri is so talented in a lot of different spots. You mention Arthur Johnson, and then you've got Travon Bryant, and the big foreign kid in there. Then you've got contend with Rickey Paulding. When they put things together, they're awful dangerous.
Q: But with several Big 12 big men being out or having transferred, is it an advantage for a team like you to have Harrison in the middle?
RP: The thing that gets overlooked, is the teams that are winning are doing it with very good guard play. They don't necessarily have a 7-footer in the middle. And our guard play hasn't been as consistent as it needs to be for us to be a good team. Until that happens, then teams are just going to sag in and double-down on David.
If David had an opportunity to play one on one because our guards were playing well, he's pretty dangerous in the post. But he's not seeing one on one coverage.
Q: (Harrison was taunted by fans in Lawrence and fouled out in the second half. He was escorted to the arena by an assistant coach after fouling out so as not to have to deal with the derisive fans) With regards to the Kansas game, what do you say to a young man after a situation like that to improve him as far as dealing with adversarial situation — crowds and such. It seemed like everything mounted up on him yesterday.
RP: Yeah, it did. His frustration built. He picked up some quick fouls he didn't think he had committed. It gets frustrating sometimes for a big guy in there. There's sometimes the appearance that what's allowed against him doesn't go the other way. So it is very frustrating.
Of course, the fans were really taunting the kids and we've got to keep in mind that this is a big kid. He's big, but he's still a kid. As adults, we continue to say play through it. But we know that's not always the easiest thing to do as old as we (adults) are, so I know it's got to be a tough thing for him. We talk to him about that they taunt guys at the next level too. And I think he'll have a chance to play at the next level at some point. We just emphasize that that's something he's got to get adjusted to and deal with.
Q: In this day and age of grade school kids going to the NBA, how significant is it to have two upperclassmen big men playing against each other.
RP: Arthur Johnson has really improved every year I think. I've got a great deal of respect for him, in terms of him playing against David. I just think it makes for good college basketball for guys to stick around and finish out their careers. We all know that guys need to stick around for their degree more than anything. So I just think it bodes well for those two young men.
Q: Missouri struggled in December and it coincided with a lot of controversy they were going through; how as a coach do you try to keep the players focused on the game and not on the headlines?
RP: It's tough. What I do as a coach, we don't spend a lot of time talking about the things that aren't important. Unfortunately, with the access to the Internet — I don't look at it myself, but I hear that there's so much stuff that's on that — kids read it.
We went through a little bit of (controversy) with Michel Morandais, with his academic situation. I think that weighted heavily on him, whether or not he was going to be here. Anytime that you're dealing with peripheral things, the quicker you can get past it the better.
Q: What techniques do you use to keep their focus?
RP: A lot of times what we'll do is talk about it, throw it out there. And then you move on. It's like that old adage: Times heals all things. You've just got to let it run its course, whatever that might be, and then you've got to move on and get over it.
Q: How much of a distraction is it to have the potential for David's temper to flare up like it did against Kansas?
RP: I just think if that's the worst thing a kid does all year, that's fine. I don't want to make too big a thing of Harrison fouling out and responding to the fans taunting him. They were pretty vicious with him. And this dates back to he and his brother, D.J., playing at Kansas. It's unrealistic for us as adults to think that a kid's going to respond the right way in every adverse situation. Certainly, we want to talk to him about that and just tell him he's no good to his team when he does that. But to think that he's always going to respond the right way is unrealistic.
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