Can you talk about the struggles your team has had down the stretch of the last couple of games?
That's something that we've talked to the team about. We played awfully well on the three- game road trip. I just don't think we played with enough poise, even in the Minnesota game. In all three games, we gave up an awful lot of points in those last 3-minute games. We have to play with poise at both ends; getting the shot we want, and it's a must time of the game where you've got to get stops. In all three of those games, we didn't get very many stops in the last 3 minutes of the game.
Does Pierre look tired to you?
He might be a little bit. We've got to look at that and get him some more rest. With what's happened to our team in the last two weeks, it's hard to all of a sudden throw somebody in that might not be ready versus just leaving Pierre out there. But we've been behind (in the last two games). It was hard for us to get him rest. Once we got the lead at Iowa State, there was only about six minutes to go in the game. That's a hard time to get him rest. We've got try to get him a few more minutes rest, but he and Jeff are still guys that are going to have to play 36+ minutes.
With Mike Henderson and Nick DeWitz, is that just a simple matter of two guys not getting it done on their own or are there deeper issues?
Well, ultimately, whether it's on the floor or in the classroom, student-athletes are responsible to get things done. In both of those cases, it didn't happen. I don't like that one of the kids (DeWitz) that gets dismissed is a kid that graduated from junior college early. The other one is ineligible after only one semester. Both of those things are very unfortunate, and things that we didn't see happening to us. Unfortunately it does happen. Now, we've got to deal with it.
Erek Hansen didn't very much against Iowa State. I wonder if there was any anything about his game that kept him off of the floor?
Well, they went right at him. Homan went at him three straight possessions. It's kind of similar with any of our guys. You've got to be able to defend. He wasn't quite as assertive as he was in the (Illinois) game. That's all new to him. He's a sophomore that really didn't play his freshman year a whole lot, and then he sits out a year for us. That was a tough environment for him, and a very physical environment. It was a good experience, although it was only 10 minutes. We just opted to go a little bit smaller (with) Bru and Glen when Sean got in foul trouble.
When you go small like that, what are the pluses and minuses?
We're quicker. Although with Erek instead of Jared, Erek gives us quickness in the center position. We've got a little bit more experience. Both Bru and Glen can shoot the ball on the perimeter. It really opens up our offense a little bit more, where Erek is still pretty much low post.
What is Greg Brunner not doing now that he did earlier in the year? And does he need to maybe step out and shoot that 15-footer?
For some reason, he's gotten uncomfortable with his offense. We're going to need him. We talked about Glen being an X-Factor. Glen is an X-Factor when we've got Bru playing at a high level. The key position the rest of the way out is going to be Brunner and Worley. These are two guys that are very talented and very good offensively. We're going to need their offense and their board play now that Jared is gone. Bru's defense and board play has stayed at a high level. He's lost some confidence and some edge that he had earlier in the year offensively. He's got to get that back. It's pretty important to us because we can't go into every game getting outscored 20-5 on the bench and getting outrebounded from the bench. There wasn't a stat that was very good comparing our bench to Iowa State's bench.
What do you do to try to break him out of this?
We've just got to keep encouraging him, keep talking to him. We tried to ease some pressure by bringing him off of the bench. We've just kind of backed off as far as our approach to him and free him to kind of get out of this thing a little bit on his own and just relax and play. He's such a fierce competitor and someone who takes losing and playing poorly so very hard. Their traits that we really appreciate. You make a shot here or there. You get a dunk in transition. You get your rhythm back. That can snap you out of it. We have to hope that that happens with Greg.
Are you concerned with your team's mental state with the personel issues?
I don't think that will have anything to do with it. This team is a tough group that's stayed together through a lot of things that have been thrown at us over the last several years. To be honest with you, we've played well. We played well Illinois and Iowa State. We just lost to two good teams on their home floor in the last four minutes of the game. I liked our demeanor (Thursday) in practice. We know we have a team coming in here that has had success in this building. I fully expect our guys to be highly motivated for Saturday night's game.
From what you've seen of Ohio State, what in their outside game is happening to cause them to be so inconsistent?
That's hard because I haven't seen them all year long. I've just seen them tape. That's a little bit different than being live. They've got guys that can knock down shots. The thing that I'm most concerned about is that they do an incredible job on the backboard. We gave up too many offensive rebounds at Iowa State. And we've got to get back to playing the defense where we dictate whether shots go in or not versus standing around hoping they go out.
Do you go back to what you did last season on how to play with a shorter bench?
That's the balance that we're trying to find. We don't have the bench that we had two weeks ago. In the process of trying to figure it out, our guys have played hard and played pretty well. We've got to find a way to get some guys some more rest and just trust the guys coming in. We can do that. It's just been a very frustrating three weeks because we haven't known what's going to happen. We're told people are eligible and we're not going to know things until the first day of class. Then, all of a sudden that happens and we still don't really know for sure. It's been three weeks of trying to find out who's on the team and who's not on the team. Now, we know. Those guys that were kind of in limbo off of the bench see some opportunities there. They've really worked hard in practice. Ben steps up and hits a big three and gets a couple of rebounds for us in the Iowa State game. He's starting to get in a little bit of a rhythm. The other gusy know that they've got to be sharp and ready because they can get called at any time.
Is Brunner going to continue to start on the bench?
He will in this game.
Do his struggles the last two games have anything to do with Reiner being out?
I'm not for sure. It's a good question. You have to guard Sean. So, I don't think that it's only Jared that you have to worry about. In fact, with Sean, you've got to guard him on the perimeter as well as in the post. He's just lost a little bit of confidence. He needs to have some success.
Your team and others around the country are low on scholarships for a variety of reasons. Women's basketball gets 15 scholarships. Is it time that the NCAA allow you guys to have 14 or 15?
We've talked about that in each of our Big Ten meetings as coaches. I don't think we've had a big push to get the 15, but we have talked about the 14th. It used to be that you could oversign. When you have things like happened to our program, and DeWitz gets dismissed, we can't replace him because of the 5-8 rule. You put all of those things together, you can really get handcuffed for a variety of reasons very quickly. Our hope would be that if we can't get the 14th scholarship then just eliminated this 5-8 thing. But one of the two things need to happen.
I just wondered if there was any more knews on Jared? Are you still going to seek a redshirt?
As far as him, all that is paperwork. We're in the process of seeing just what goes on there. His foot is in a cast, and he really just is trying to do some exercising with the upper body on a bike. That's just about all he can do right now.
Do you feel like you'll have to use a little more zone defense with the shorter bench?
We might have to. It's been good at times. I worry about it from a rebounding standpoint. We do run very quickly out of our zone. That's a positive. We've just got to make sure that we're doing a good job rebounding and getting matched up. We have to do a better job, whether we're in man or we're in zone, of being active. Sometimes we make those changes, and we get inactive with our man or zone. Regardless of what we're in , I want to see 40 minutes of very active defense.
Coach O'Brien has had to deal with some voice issues. Could you imagine having to deal with that?
No. I'm sure that's difficult and frustrating. I've sent Jim a letter, and he's responded. I just hope and pray that everything works out well for him. It's a bigger picture than coaching. Sometimes we so wrapped up in the heat and the pressure and stress of the job that we forget about the life issues.
What does this team look like to you with Darby?
They've still got really incredible guards. They just haven't had the experiences that Darby has had. They can beat you off of the dribble. They can shoot the basketball. They've just got some guys that can really hurt you inside. We got hurt at Iowa State with inside play. We know it's going to be a great matchup. They've had success in this building over the last coulpe of games.
Do you have any comments on the Iowa State crowd?
No. I got a very good phone call from the athletic director and Wayne on some issues that we're happening behind our bench. I appreciated that phone call. In the Big Ten, it's a little bit different. I've got issues with chanting. That's a Big Ten rule. You're not allowed to do the chant. You're not allowed to verbally attack a player; single out a player with a chant. That showed up a little bit in the Illinois game. I voiced our concern to our commissioner. Hopefully things like that are not going to happen on the road as far as chanting goes.
You've talked about your team sometimes recognizing (the opponent's) change in defense. Whose responsibility is that? Is it the point guard?
That's where it starts. Jeff and Pierre are very smart that way. That disturbed us a little bit in the Northwestern game, but we've really been good since then. We played two teams, Minnesota and Iowa State, that changed things up. It's good prep going into the Ohio State game, where Ohio State plays multiple defenses.
Home teams have not done well in the last eight or so Big Ten games. Does that worry you?
Well, I hope it's not a trend, at least going into the weekend. We won't mind if it goes mid-week next week. But it's what we've said all along. There's so much parity is really going to make for an interesting season. It doesn't really matter whether you're playing at home or on the road.