Q&A with Kirk Penney

Kirk Penney is hoping Thursday night will not be the final time he steps on the floor in a Wisconsin uniform. He talked about the big game before the Badgers headed on their bus trip to Minneapolis.

You were the only player on this team that was part of that win over No. 1 Arizona in 2000, and you played No. 1 Maryland last season. Is there anything you can take from having played two No. 1 seeds in the last three years, as you head into another battle against a No. 1 Thursday night?

Penney: Arizona was kind of a different situation. Different team…we can go into this knowing we have a big challenge ahead of us. But we've seen at this tournament, there are teams that have come close, with Oregon and Purdue. They've had the chance down the stretch to win the games. So you certainly have to believe in yourself, that you can win the game. If you're going to have any chance against the No. 1 seed, that can't be a factor. It's just a matter of going out there and stopping them, getting it done.

How do you stop them? They are so deep, so athletic, so talented. How does this team stop Kentucky?

Penney: They are a very athletic team. We just have to make sure we do our stuff to perfection. We have to box out and we can't give them second shots. We have to make sure we get the ball back. We may have done that down the stretch against Tulsa when we needed to. So we have to remedy that. They are athletes and they play some very tough defense. We have to make sure we're patient and we're poised and we run our stuff the way we know we can, and not let them get to us.

Does it give you confidence that you scored only six points against Tulsa and you were still able to win?

Penney: That's great. I mean, that's fantastic, knowing that the guys will be there to pick each other up, and we have been all season. To be in a game like that, where you are playing for the Sweet 16, and everyone is pulling their load and then some, is great. Because we've been a team that throughout the year, has been said we don't have a lot of depth, and we don't have this and that, but that game proves that there is some depth there. When the opportunity is there, guys are willing to step up.

That said, do you have to be the Kirk Penney that Badger fans know and love in order to have a chance to beat Kentucky?

Penney: I think we all need to play a very good game. When the lights are on, I think the guys will be ready to play. It feels like a new life, to be honest with you. You want to make the most out of this opportunity that we've been given, to advance past that second game and to go against a team like Kentucky, it's a great opportunity for us. You want to take advantage out of what feels like a new life.

Needless to say, you must feel very fortunate to have another opportunity to go out on a positive note, rather than have your career end on a poor performance like the Tulsa game?

Penney: I'm very thankful to be able to go out on that court again and play with the guys. As a team, we have to prove what we can do against one of the best teams in the country, if not the best team. So this is what you want. You want to play the best. You want to be in this spot.

This must be a special situation for you, playing in the Metrodome in front of what figures to be a big Wisconsin crowd?

Penney: We're definitely hoping for a large fan base. We're hoping they can pull us through parts of the game. That's awesome. We've had some success in Minnesota. We can't wait to get there. I'm so glad we're able to share it live with a lot of supporters that have been with us for the whole year.

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