Can U–M Win At Purdue? Amaker Answers

Men's Basketball Coach Tommy Amaker answers questions on Purdue. Also Freshmen Lester Abram and Daniel Horton talk.

From their pre-Purdue game press conference.

Tommy Amaker Interview:

On Purdue being a "no name" team:
TA: I think they do have some name recognition. Willie Deane has been a big time player. He was that way last year obviously and he is certainly as big of a part of what they're doing now as any player on their respective teams. He's explosive, he's fearless, he's a big time scorer. He plays a brand (of basketball) that is exciting to watch and I'm sure it's exciting for their team to have him play, so we'll have our hands full. I wouldn't characterize their team as being a no name bunch of players. I mean, they've won 16 games overall and haven't been beaten at home – in first place in our league. I think they're tough, they're explosive and athletic and I think they're a team that they feel – and rightly so – that there's no one that can come in their building and win. That's my impression in watching them and, as we get prepared for them, that's the way that they carry themselves.

On the differences between Michigan and Purdue:
I think that they're older, they're obviously going to be at home. I think that their team is very similar to ours in the fact that they're playing with a certain hunger and passion, so there are a lot of things there that we like to think we see in ourselves. But, obviously, there are some differences and I think that their experience and their age and maturity jumps out for me as our coach. And the fact that they're home – I'm sure they have no fear of being at home.

On how Purdue's team has taken on the personality of their coach:
Having known Coach Keady over the years and having played for him one summer, in my opinion, he loves the tough, hungry kind of player. And I think that this team, to me, has taken on his personality of being fearless and hungry and attacking. He's a tough guy and obviously very demanding and obviously a great coach. I'm sure that they have adopted his way to a great extent this year, maybe much more than they were able to do last year and they're having some success and I'm sure it's been a fun year for their team.

On Graham Brown's outing at Indiana and how he's bounced back:
It was frustrating for Graham and it was frustrating for our team. When you make an effort to get the ball inside to one of our post players and it looks like you have a good chance of coming away with something positive and then that's not the case, that's hard. But, I think for a young player on the road, being able to bounce back and he did that, so I think that says a lot for his tenacity and his stick-to-it-ness if that's a correct word, if I can use that, I think he was able to fight through. And we're going to need that. We're going up against another big front line player and shot blocker and that's going to continue to be the case for us in this conference and we're going to need our front line guys – especially Graham with Chris not being 100% - Graham has got to – well, we need production from him. We haven't really addressed it that way, but given Chris' limitations right now when he's not as effective around the basket and with scoring and things he can do – he's limited – so Graham has to…we need production from Graham.

On the maturation of the Fresh Five:
They have to play a lot of minutes for us and they're doing a fantastic job in every way. In every way, every way for us with our program and I understand that we're going to have some youthful moments and some youthful mistakes – and how can we continue to teach them and try to make them get better from it. You want to speed up that whole process, but there's not much that you can actually do but to keep coaching and teaching and letting them learn by their mistakes. They're going to have to fight through it and go through it.

On what U-M needs to do differently against Purdue:
We want to be who we are. We want to play our style and our brand, but we also recognize that they're an explosive team especially at home and we're concerned with their runs and how well they can score in transition and so there are going to be a few aspects in our strategy this week to prepare for Purdue. There could be slight changes in our mindset. Nothing drastic or monumental, but we need to understand – and I'm not sure we can match a team of that caliber on their home floor with their depth, their speed, their quickness, the crowd, their confidence and all the things they bring when they play in West Lafayette.

On how he took the news regarding the death of Eddie L. Martin:
I think it was brought to my attention, actually, by someone in the media. They didn't know if it was true, they were just trying to give me heads up and asked me if I'd heard and I told them I had not heard that and I wasn't sure if it was a rumor at that time. And then, after the game was over, one of our assistants had left the arena and I was still here and he called back to the locker room and I didn't answer the phone, but said there was something talked about on the radio that that (his death) had actually taken place. Obviously that was something that shocked a lot of people. That's basically how I took the news.

Lester Abram Interview:

Q: What are you going to do differently than your last road trip?
LA: The same intensity we bring at home, the same fire we play with, we have to bring it on the road also. That's our main goal when we go down there (to Purdue).

Q: Does the thought come into your head about the kind of success they've had at home?
LA: No, but, I mean, we know they're a good team at home. 13-0, I think. But every team is a good. We've won 12 or 13 games here. Whoever's going to take this league is going to have to win on the road and we think we're a team that can do it.

Q: Why do you think that? Is it because you guys have had that success or have you learned how to win on the road maybe a little bit?
LA: I just feel like this team is so eager and so hungry to win, that we want this Big Ten title so bad that we're going to do anything to win games.

Q: Do you think that you guys have a different mentality (on the road)? That you kind of rally together because everyone is against you?
LA: It's always going to be like that when you're on the road. Nobody is going to be rooting for you. You might have a couple of people wearing maize and blue, but the fact of the matter is that it's tough to play on the road, but we have to get it done somehow. We have to win one of these road games coming up.

Q: Did you guys kind of learn that after the Paradise Jam when you guys didn't have much success there, obviously, and that was kind of a road situation?
LA: I don't think we learned it there because that was a neutral site. Everybody had their own fans. But when you're away in the Big Ten, you've got 13,000 or 14,000 fans against you, you've got to overcome that somehow.

Q: What do you see from Purdue that has made them so successful this year?
LA: To tell you the truth, I haven't seen them much this year. I saw clips of them and highlights and it seems like they play together as a team – they've got a couple of good scorers out there and they play real good basketball.

Daniel Horton Interview:

Q: What happened against Indiana?
DH: We got outhustled and we didn't make any plays on offense or defense. When we played Ohio State the first time, we made a lot of plays and we outhustled them. We got two crucial loose balls towards the end of the game that we got three point plays from. So we just hustled more the first time we played Ohio State than we did at Indiana.

Q: What does it mean to you to be going head-to-head with Purdue for first place at this point in the season?
DH: It means a lot. It's probably the biggest game of the conference season so far. We're going to be ready. We're going to be prepared. But at the same time, we recognize that if we're unlucky and we don't win, it doesn't take us out of the chance for a championship which is our ultimate goal.

Q: How tough do you have to be to win on the road in the Big Ten?
DH: You have to be really tough. As well as (being) tough, you have to play hard and be smart. You have to take great shots and take care of the basketball. You can't really get caught up in doing some things like playing to the crowd like you do at home. You have to be more focused and have presence on the court.

Q: Given where you guys are this late in the season, would it be fair to say that your Michigan experience has lived up to your expectations?
DH: Yes, it's lived up to my expectations and it has been more than I expected when the sanctions and that kind of stuff figures in to it. For us to have played like we played this year even with all the adversity and things against us, it's been a dream come true even though it's not going to end the way we want it to end (playing in the NCAA tournament).

Q: Does the fact that you guys can't go to the postseason make you want it (the Big Ten title) more?
DH: Yeah, definitely. At the beginning of the season we were like, well, it's not going to affect us, because we haven't won any games yet. But now, we've won games and we've won big games and it's like we kind of deserve a chance to play somewhere – the NIT or something – at the end of the season, but we realize we won't, so we're just trying to make the most of it now and win the Big Ten championship and do well in the Big Ten tournament.

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