Stewart's Montana Game Comments

Western Michigan's women's basketball team's head coach Ron Stewart addressed talked to the media following the Broncos victory over Montana. Coach Stewart talked about worrying about the Lady Griz defense heading into the game, about the play of Kristin Koetsier and about the upcoming game with Kent State as well as a brief look at the MAC portion of the season schedule.

"Well, just in general I think it's a tremendous win for our kids. It's a game that we scheduled knowing it would be very difficult. They're extremely well coached, they got great size, they have the shooters but they play so solid and they don't very much from what they do. So, they keep it simple and they play well, they play hard and they are very well coached. I've been worried for about three or four days so for us to survive it the lead at halftime helped us very much. Coming back as they did we expected that but we were able to keep them off the free throw line with our zone and do some things to kind of secure the win. I'm just extremely pleased and very happy with what our players did tonight against a very good Montana team."

Speaking of the worried part, I talked to you on Tuesday and you showed a lot of concern and to me it seemed you were not that confident about your team coming out with a victory tonight.

"Well we played on Sunday and we played very hard on Sunday at Purdue. So Monday was pretty much a light day where the players watched some tape and we really didn't hit the floor. So we came back on Tuesday and didn't prepare nearly as well as I thought we needed to. Sort of feeling that the players maybe didn't appreciate how good this Montana club was. But then on Wednesday we jumped in there and had a very good practice, very solid practice and they bought into the scouting report and they really did their homework. Then of course today, game day, is another day of preparation when you have the seven o'clock games. So I really felt the players were much better prepared after the two and a half days than maybe they were after the first day. It took them awhile to understand maybe how good they were but still I don't think the inside players knew how big their inside players were until they actually got out there tonight."

Talk a little bit about Kristin and is there anyway that anyone can stop her, it doesn't seem like it?

"I think people are always going to try to stop Kristin. They are going to be in there physically trying to stop her but she won't play against any bigger post players than she did tonight. They had two six-threes who are very solid inside and yet she got the job done and she wanted the basketball. You know it's the old cliché but only Kristin can really stop herself in some of those situations and I don't think her personality right now is that going that direction. I think that Kristin is very focused right now. She had very good minutes at Kansas State, she had excellent minutes at Purdue against a six-five inside player and tonight it goes without saying what she did against not one but two wide bodies inside."

Fans are going to look at the roster and they are going to see the Kansas State, they are going to see the Purdue and they'll overlook the Montana but this is a pretty big win for you guys.

"It's an excellent win for us and it's the fourth win at home this year so that was a factor. We wanted to make sure that we kept that steak going and when that's in the back of their minds as they prepare. But yet the physical part of playing the game is another. You talk about what you need to do but, boy, when you are out there, against an awfully good Montana club you got to perform on game night. I really thought that we made progress today during the game. I thought we did that at Purdue on Sunday in the second half. We made a lot of progress but today we found ourselves with a fifteen point lead at halftime, came back out, got a little hesitant and then turned it up a notch when we knew we had to, to preserve it. It's an excellent win for us and it was a great crowd too. You mention the crowd, I was concerned that on a night like tonight people might not understand that Montana was a good basketball team and was really pleased with the crowd and the atmosphere."

You were talking earlier about not giving them shots from the free throw line and at the end of the first half they had seven fouls, your team had one foul and you guys only had five fouls for the game. Talk about the play of the team to be able to avoid getting into any kind of foul trouble.

"We look at Montana, we know that they are big and we know that we are going to have difficulty guarding them in a man to man defense. It's real important to us that we keep Kristin on the floor, that we keep our post players out of foul trouble. I can just tell you that he's (Robin Selvig) such a good coach and he does such a good job with feeding the post and clearing out and taking away the help. If we would have played them man to man we would have seen them going to the free throw line and we would have been potentially in foul trouble. So we decided, after the first day of practice we decided that it had to be a zone defense for us and we stuck with it and we didn't foul. Truthfully, I don't think there was a lot of fouls. There was some physical play but I really don't think it was a situation where fouls were not called or they were letting them play, as people would say. I think it was a game where we played pretty solid defensively."

You had about as good a first half. Do you think you couldn't have played much better?

"I thought that we got off to just an excellent start and I thought Curleta Harris had a lot to do with the way that we got off the start of this game. You look at the statistics and your going to say Kristin scored, Casey hit a big three late and so on and so forth. But I don't think anyone had anymore focus than Curleta did at the start of the ball game. I mean her play, her shots from out, her play and her defensive work I thought she got us off to a great start. She was focused, she showed leadership in the locker room and I'm not just saying that I really though what she did was outstanding. Then when we got in the second half she struggled a little bit and we had some other folks that came in and did that and so we didn't go back with Curleta. But I know that she contributed to that first half that you mentioned. We shot the ball extremely well, we didn't foul, and we didn't turn it over in the first half it was pretty fun to watch. I look forward to watching it on tape."

In the second half they started making their comeback and I think it was right when Casey hit her three point shot with a second left on the shot clock. Did that have something to do igniting the team being able to pull away a little bit?

"That particular play definitely has something to do with us being able to extend it. I think if you really go back and look at what happened we missed three lay-ups. Casey had a lay-up the ball was down, she was turning to go away because she though for sure it was there and it popped out of there. So Casey missed two lay-ups, Curleta missed one; we turned it over twice and shot an air ball. We are not taking care of the basketball or doing things well offensively and because of that we were not as strong, we were not as bouncy on defense. I thought that Casey hitting that shot that's something Casey does all the time in practice so we expect it to go in. But with one second it was kind of a back breaker for them. But it really was our defense, an extension of it in our trapping as they got the ball across that helped us sustain that because they did not get the looks during that stretch that they were getting because they were getting the ball deeper on us. We weren't scoring and they were."

That was a big play by your defense when they knocked the loose ball and Casey raced out and went in for the lay-up…

"Yeah, she didn't quit on that. A lot of people would have let that roll out of bounds. Absolutely, that was over there by you but I thought the ball was going to go out of bounds and she took off and got it and she's got a great feel for things. That was huge."

And they could have set up in the half court defense and then done something.

"And they have great leadership by Maria (Jilian) too. She scores no points, she has seven assists and forty minutes I mean gosh to lead the team there count on that every night it's big. But then Kelly (Koerber) came in and gave us quality minutes and Andrea (Thelen) and Kate (Verseput). Andrea comes in there and she's going to make baskets when she comes in there and she did a good job with us. Then Kate kind of finished it out. What we did there is we got more size wit Kate. We needed more size on the weak-side board. I thought we were getting hurt on the on the weak-side board there so Kate kind of came and shored that up."

…I think that Jilian makes some nice decisions.

"Yes she does. She slows it down and does stuff. It got to be two minutes and forty five seconds to go, we talked about using the clock right there and there is really only one time we didn't use the clock from that point on. I thought it went from two forty five to one minute pretty quickly and sometimes it seems like that's an eternity but today it was running on our favor.

Quick look at the upcoming game.

"Well we come back tomorrow, we'll practice, we'll get on the court tomorrow a little bit lighter, but we'll get on the court tomorrow and Saturday. We'll take Sunday off and then have a two-day preparation for Kent. Kent plays on Saturday at two so their preparation will be a little bit less than two days. Kind of get a couple of bonus days there, to think about the MAC, and some other people are still finishing up their non-conference season. So, I like what we have. If you look at our schedule in January, between now and February fifth, we go to Kent on Wednesday and we go to Central Michigan on Monday the twentieth of January. Everything else is here. We don't play a lot of games so we have time to improve, we have time to prepare, watch other people, sit back and take care of business. It's awfully tough at Kent, a lot of people don't win there and then we have Miami on Saturday. It's not that we don't have tough games but we have time and that's not always the case to prepare. I like where we are right now and I think we are in great shape because we've gotten better in the last two weeks and if we can keep doing that, and we will, I really think we are in great shape for the league."

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