Sam Webb: Coach Alexander, first things… winning plays at winning time. You guys made it and this time it was big Jordan Morgan making the play at the end.
Bacari Alexander: “Certainly, J-Mo has been in that situation a lot of times on the practice floor, Sam. The beauty of it is Nick’s ability to recognize what the defense was doing. Two guys converged on him, J-Mo rolled to the basket. We call that a gamecock drill. We stole it years ago from South Carolina Gamecocks. You know, screen & roll simulation drills so that you know how to finish and land on too with balance and traffic. I was just happy for J-Mo because the ball danced around the rim and went in.”
Sam Webb: You think back to last year, Indiana that ball rolls off. This year it goes in. But it is one of those things where he is in and out of the game because of fouls and be ready at that moment. I saw you guys on the bench talking about next play, next play, next play… that seemed to be the theme for you guys.
Bacari Alexander: “Certainly, it is a credit to his teammates. I think J-Mo has some really good teammates that he can draw strength from in times of adversity or times of prosperity. I think he did a particularly good job of staying in the game when he was on the bench by coaching on the floor, talking guys through possessions from the bench. Those things keep you engaged so that when your number is called to come back in the game, it’s almost like you never left it.”
Sam Webb: Talk me through defensively what you guys do from this point. How do you shore things up at this point of the season?
Bacari Alexander: “What we want to do first is try to disrupt rhythm of our opponents by using some man, using some zone, some switch coverages. So try to create some type of confusion, which may lead to turnovers and easy baskets for us. The other part of things is you changed the defenses to try to give your players opportunity to get some rest as much as you can, considering the fact that you’ve got three games in three days. So, there is a lot of different thought patterns that go in to why we do what we do. One of the zones that we had to use, which is our 2-3 zone, you may even see that in the coming games. We are just trying to keep people off balance and rest our players at the same time. The last part of things is to protect them from foul trouble. That is critically important when you play zone. Now with Nik Stauskas with two fouls or Jordan Morgan with two fouls, can remain on the floor and give us an opportunity to still be effective on offensive end.”
Sam Webb: You know Coach (Beilein)… I heard him say, ‘Too many blow-bys, too many blow-bys, too many blow-bys.’ Is that a call to play more zone or is it just a feel for the game. I know talking to Coach Myer, he said a lot of times the early games are games where maybe things are slow because of the energy level to start. Is that just feel thing to kind of figure out when you are going to do it?
Bacari Alexander: “I think more importantly is the heightened awareness of how the other team is scoring against us. One of the things that we look to do in our defensive schemes is to let guys know what our opponent is trying to do. ‘Nik, they are going at you the last couple of possessions off the bounce. Caris (Levert), they’re looking to attack you, Spike (Albrecht), they’re looking to post you up.’ Just a heightened awareness and then sometimes in lieu of that, our players may be able to give us some feedback of things that are going on on the court that we may not be aware of. It is just important for us to continue to grow in that area. I remind people all the time that we have the youngest team in the Big Ten. Sometimes when you have that level of youth, you don’t tend to be as good defensively as you would like to like most veteran clubs are.”
Sam Webb: So offensively you guys had a rhythm early and they switched things up and go zone. Is it just a matter of missing shots in that situation… did they kind of slow things up for you guys with their defense?
Bacari Alexander: “I think you’ve got to credit Illinois. I thought they did a particularly good job of scouting our zone actions. As a result, I thought our rhythm was a little bit off. Once we got to the point where we set ball screens in the zone, was able to get downhill, maybe cut guys through there to get middle touches, we found some opportunities there. But you got to give Illinois a lot of credit. They had great length, great activity in their zones, which gave us a little trouble today.”
Sam Webb: Last but certainly not least, I want to end on a high note and go back to that winning play. Nik has the ball and instead of going up like a lot of guys would do in that situation, he is going take that shot, he trusted his teammate enough in Jordan Morgan to give him the basketball.
Bacari Alexander: “Without question. I think that is the word that you kind of go away with in this particular game is trust. Nik Stauskas is Big Ten player of the year. Those big time players know how to make big time plays. More importantly, they know how to inspire others. I thought the conversation that Nik had, the look in his eye he had with Jordan Morgan, was particularly special because you knew that if those guys doubled Nick, which is something that lavall jordan did a great job in the scouting report on, he knew he could trust J-Mo to finish those shots.”
Sam Webb: So that was the conversation before that play ever takes place.
Bacari Alexander: “It was one of those many what ifs. Nik did a marvelous job of seeing it. Jordan Morgan actually finishes at a pretty high clip when Nik Stauskas is the passer. So it worked out, it was pretty poetic.”
Sam Webb: Thanks a lot, appreciate your time.
Bacari Alexander: “Yep, Go Blue!”