I think we did some better things tonight than we did in the first game. I felt for the Nike team, they've played six or seven games in the last [two weeks] and they sort of gave out on us. I was very discouraged at one point because I thought we were giving in and we were a little tired and I tried to convince the guys that it's better to get your conditioning out there during a game than it is with me after practice getting on the end line.
I thought in the first half that Sean May's rebounding was sensational. The times we ran we were effective. The challenge for this team is to be able to run every single time. I do think that we can do a much better job doing that more consistently and keeping pressure on the other team. At times it was an ugly game. I think exhibitions can be like that lots of times. The good news for us is that we've got about seven practices until we open up for real. We've got to get a heck of a lot better between now and then.
Sean's rebounding in the first half was big for us. Jawad made some shots. Rashad was ugly in the first half – 1-for-9 – but I was not concerned about that and told him so at halftime because they were good shots. He had one shot that was questionable and the others that he took were all real good shots. We ran a couple of set plays for him and the ball just didn't finish by going in the hole. Raymond was able to push the ball up and down the court and at halftime he had three turnovers – two of those were the silly variety and I know as much as we push it he's going to have some turnovers, but we can't have the silly variety. I think Justin Bohlander did a nice job for us off the bench and Jackie was awfully active off the bench. I think he had three offensive rebounds in the first half and I think he had at least two or three in the second half. Jackie does a lot of good things for us – I've been really, really pleased with the way he was playing.
You hold them without a field goal for about the first six minutes of the game and all of a sudden they came back. Did they warm up or was it a case where your guys weren't able to maintain their intensity?
We shocked them a little bit at how hard we were coming at them and at that time we were really into it mentally and emotionally and our defense was better. The discouraging thing is we got a little fatigued and all of a sudden our defense is not as good. I told them that's a bad signal that you're not in shape. We've got to do better job in the week and one day before we open up at being able to maintain the intensity on the defensive end of the floor. I think it was a little bit of both. We gave in a little bit because of fatigue and they began to get more accustomed to the surroundings and make some shots. Someone told me they took a lead on us in the first half, but I don't look at the score very much. During that point, we didn't maintain control of the dribble and let them dribble penetrate down the middle on us. We didn't get back and pick up very well. If you're going to be a running team, you'll have a lot of defensive transition as well and we didn't do a very good job at that.
Have you ever tried to talk an official into not ejecting an opposing coach?
No [laughs]. All I heard was one whistle. I thought he'd called one technical. I hate those kind of things for anybody, even in a regular game. I wanted him to be able to stay but the official said he didn't have any choice – I thought he should have a choice since it's an exhibition game. Bill Frieder's a good guy, been a friend for a long time and it would have been more fun if he was able to stay out.
Where is your defense in terms of preparedness for the season?
It's about like our [stats] computer – it looks good at the start, but gets worn out quickly. … Like any defense, with each pass the opponent makes it gets a little weaker. I think that's the thing we've got to really work on – to hold our concentration for more than the first ten seconds. I think if you continue to move the basketball on the offensive end the defense will make a mistake and that's what we've got to make sure we [don't do]. We're working on it – they're getting more defensive drills and more defensive station work than they've ever had and we've got to hang our hat … everyone talks about how our teams at Kansas ran the ball, and we did run the ball, but our bread and butter was our defense. Two years ago we led the entire nation in defensive field goal percentage and that is something that I look at and I want the percentage that the other team shoots to be low, so we've got to continue to work at it.
What positives do you take away from this game?
When we ran, we did some nice things. They scored and Sean May dunked it on the other end. To see a big guy running like that and Raymond pitching it to him, you've got to have a lot of things. You've got to have a guy that takes it out of bounds and gets it out quickly, you've got to have Sean running the court and Raymond making the pass. So three guys really have to do a good job. I think we're getting better – we're a long ways from where I want us to be – but we're getting better at it and I think the guys will get better and enjoy it even more.
You've got nine days until the opener – how many more days can you work on conditioning?
Every day. You can tell them that – that'll make them real excited. We'll give them Wednesday off, but every other day we're going to practice hard because we need it. It's hard for me as a coach to push them as much as I want to push them because we're thin. Sometimes it's hard to get mad and push and push and push and the kids don't want know they're supposed to do. If you build habits by repetition, then you can push them harder. We're just now getting to the stage of building those habits.
Are you still getting to know these guys and figure out how to work with each individually?
I think so. The first half with Rashad was a good example. He was 1-for-9, had that blank look on his face and he was struggling. I told him ‘They were good shots. If they were bad shots I'd be mad at you. But they just didn't go in so you've got to find something else in your game to help us. Just because you played poorly in the first half doesn't mean you'll play poorly in the second half.' If you want it badly enough and focus badly enough, you can turn things around.
How do you feel about Sean May's level of conditioning at this point?
It's harder to condition Sean than anybody else. When we start running, I send him over the bike because that's easier on his feet. He's sprained both ankles, been kicked in the calf in the same spot twice and that's bothered him, plus the problems with his foot last year. So it's harder to condition him.
Has Justin Bohlander earned more minutes by his play thus far?
Yeah, he's done a nice job. He was the first guy off the bench. Justin's done some nice things for us. He's coachable, he learns things well. He understands the game and has a good feel for the game. We need some guys with size and I think he needs to mature and get bigger and stronger, but if sticks with it he'll have a bright future.