Is the team starting to play defense the way you would like it played?
"We are getting there. We really are. Our players are understanding that that end of the floor has to always show up. We played a very good, very high scoring, in fact to hold a 77 points-per-game Green Bay team to 48 points was truly remarkable. Our defense had a lot to do with that. Lello Gebisa was unbelievable. She was the difference maker for us. Defensively, when you are 6-7, when you look at our roster of 6-7 and 6-5, people assume that we have a post presence and a lot of times refer to that only on the offensive end. Our post players have come a long way defensively. We have changed some things like how we guard the block. With a team like Green Bay, we did not help off our guards, we just allowed Lello to come in and she really altered a lot of their shots. I am very proud of our defense at this point."
Ashley Josephson made some big buckets. Is there something that you can see when the players want the ball?
"I tell you Brian, she has made some big shots at the right times in nearly every one of our games. Right when there is a lull, whether it is first half or second half, Ashley (Josephson) is the one that has that look in her face and even in time outs. You can call it pen-up anger or whatever you want to call it, but she wants the basketball. When you see that in someone's eyes you have to give it to her. I am very proud of Ashley. She has shown a lot of maturity this year and has made some big shots. She stopped a Green Bay run for us. In the second half, we had not scored for over five minutes and she hit a jumper in the lane, a tough shot, and followed it up with a three (point shot). Ashley had the game winner against Iowa State. Will she always be the one that takes the last-second shot? That we cannot determine, but I can tell you right now I am very proud of her willingness to want the ball in clutch situations."
What was the adjustment made in your players that led to the increase in defensive aggressiveness?
"In transition you look at how you want to run your offense. You want to get quick easy baskets and transition is fun to watch. We are adjusting and doing all we can to win every single game. We may dictate possessions and possessions and the value of the ball has become a very important ingredient in our basketball team. That starts on the defensive rebounding end. We are out-rebounding our opponents, which is a positive statistic. The games that we lost, we did not rebound well or play defense. The belief is coming. Instead of spending all your time on offense, let us spend more time on defense and make their offense work the ball. Teams want to go at us and get our post players in foul trouble and we are doing a decent job on the perimeter. We have a long way to go. We have certainly not perfected it, but we are getting better."
Have you taken a look at the Big Ten yet, and the teams you might be playing early on. Are you thinking, you might be okay, or we have a lot to work on?
"If you start looking too far ahead in the season, you're going to miss all the enjoyment in between, but the women's conference, the Big Ten conference is as strong as it's ever been. When you see teams in the national spotlight and some of our preseason picks, you look at our chances and right now the fact that we're getting better puts us in a better position, obviously. We're still the old cliché one day at a time and one more interstate rival is on the horizon here with us in a week. With finals and all that the students are going through right now, it's a tenuous week in many regards. The Big Ten is very strong and we will prepare for every game. We respect all of our opponents, there are tremendous coaches in this league (Big Ten) and we'll take one of them, one at a time."
I realize it's a week ahead, but what are some of your general impressions of UW-M and I know they have a good center.
"Maria Viall is putting up big numbers, 20 points and 11 boards a game, that's a major double-double. She has some preseason accolades that are obviously very high as the top player in the Horizon League and Green Bay has the best guard in the Horizon League and we've played some teams out of that conference. The interstate rival and the fact that I made this comment before we played Green Bay as well, that you throw the record books out. We'll get Milwaukee's best shot. It is an even playing field from the stand that both teams will be going through the week of finals and the holidays and all of that. Our game plan is for this week, today and tomorrow, basically to keep our kids in condition, keep practices short and sweet and tune up a little with some drill work, then we'll get into Milwaukee toward the end of the week, near the end of finals week. We certainly would like to end this semester on a high note, keep some momentum going, try to pick up our third win in a row, for the first time all season. It's important that we take care of business. Yes, they have a good post player. Yes, they have some nice guards. I like Molly O'Brien, she's aggressive. We've just started dissecting film on them and we'll know more by the end of the week. Our defense has to show up once again if we want to continue to take steps forward on that end and put ourselves in position to win."
You might have already touched upon it, but are some games bigger because they are the state schools with Green Bay and then Milwaukee?
"I think I'm going to mirror image Coach (Bo) Ryan's thoughts on that, you treat every game the same. You just have to expect that you're going to get their best shot. We're Wisconsin and we're the Badgers. I say we're the Badger State and we are. There are three great coaches on the women's side that I'm friends with at Green Bay, Marquette and Milwaukee, I have a very high regard for their programs and their staffs and what they've done. It's going to be a game where we're going to have to lace them up tight because they'll bring their best game to us."
One of the things Coach (Bo) Ryan has been asked about playing these games within the state, is it just as important for women's basketball and the growth of women's basketball in this state. I know you had a record crowd at the Resch Center in Green Bay. How important is that to the growth of the game in the state?
"I think it's a must. It's a must. We must compete against the state schools. Again, my roots are similar to Bo's in the fact that I was at Eau Claire for 12 years and you raise the bar and the rivalry, etc. It's great for the state of Wisconsin. It's great for youth basketball and young kids. The opportunity to see these teams in the state, we need to have these games in order to continue to make that grow."
Coach, can you talk about your rivalry, or friendship, with (UW-Milwaukee Head Coach) Sandy Botham. Do you guys ever do any trash talking before the game?
"Sandy and I go way back. She's one short year younger
than I am and she had a great college career at Notre Dame. We knew each other
from high school. Little Oregon took on the Madison schools in our quest to go
to state as well. Sandy and I have known each other from camps. We actually used
to work the Wisconsin camp together, for years. We're friends, she's done a
great job at Milwaukee and her team will be prepared to play us."