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South Dakota State has beaten UWM, Nebraska. Is this, after the competition you have played, is this kind of a dangerous game in that it looks like you should win but they've beaten some good competition?
"They beat Nebraska pretty handily too at Nebraska. It's a game in that we need to play. They're an up-tempo, 3-point shooting team. They'll resemble certainly some of the shooting teams in the Big Ten. The three that we just finished playing, again, are great measuring sticks for us. And every game is dangerous. There's not an easy one on the schedule. And I'm happy that we're playing at home. I liked what I saw in our team and their work ethic and their effort yesterday, that we're going to strap them on and go after them on Thursday."
After opening the season with four wins, you talked about the optimism with the team and the confidence you could see in them. Do you have to go back and remind them of that or what would be the mood of the team after the couple of losses now . . .
"I'm a positive motivator, and having played the way we did on Friday, banged up, nicked up, three starters out for the game potentially yesterday, and then to play the way we did yesterday, I'm extremely encouraged by what I see. Our team is believing they can win. They're upset that they lost. It's different. You look on paper, and Notre Dame is ranked 7th in certain polls, 11th in others, and we're right there, right to the very end.
"We executed some things. We missed some things defensively detail-wise. But the bottom line is our team is very positive. They're not down about the losses. They're excited to get back out there. And I think having played the competition we've played thus far, you start off with four and now we've dropped a couple in a row that no one likes to lose, but they're reminded by the fact that they want that not to happen. They don't ever want to feel like we did after Marquette again the rest of the season, that if we lose we're going to go down in a valiant effort like we did yesterday."
Coach, can you talk about what it's like when you have some people nicked up and you're looking at the younger players and how surprising it is when they do well?
"Well, it's exciting. I think sometimes we can wallow in our sorrows with people being out. Injuries happen in athletics in every sport there is. And to have the opportunity for somebody to step up and do, for instance, what Caitlin Gibson did yesterday, she became a crowd favorite. I mean, we're smiling on the bench and what a great chance for her to go in against one of the top post players in the country and to make some moves, to be a presence for us.
"It gave us scoring inside. It gave us defense inside and she steps up. Now if she's called upon again, hopefully that continues to accelerate. So you can take it as a positive motivator and give Shari' Welton, two players started for the first time ever, Janese Banks is playing with goggles for the first time but we're not making any excuses. We're taking this as a positive and hopefully inflict our team with, again, more momentum."
You mentioned Caitlin. In what ways have you seen her improve over the course of these few weeks and how have you tried to toughen her up in practice?
"Well, you have to stay on her. I mean, we're beating her up with football blocking pads and she's going against some tough competition. It's much different than in high school and she stated that even last night in the press conference. She just said she was a softie, but we're trying to get her tough. And she moves very well. I think that was demonstrated.
"I went home and watched the tape last night, and Caitlin moves really well, up and down the court. That's 94 feet and a long way to run, but she gets up and down the floor very well. She led a break, finished in transition, scored inside. I thought she defended (Melissa) D'Amico very, very well last night and just I think was a big confidence-builder for Caitlin. Now obviously expectations now rise and you want to see that every day, but it's a good starting point for her."
Your other scholarship freshman, Christine (Spencer), hasn't played that much, but how have you seen her develop so far?
"Chris is coming in to visit with me today. Her opportunity is going to come and she's going to be one that when she has success, that's what happens. When you get a reserve player that comes in and has success, it excites the whole team and the team plays with more emotion. Nobody wants but the best for everybody else. And I hope to get Chris in the mix here very, very soon. She had a great week of practice last week.
"I thought the Notre Dame game would be one that we could get her in from a standpoint of having a bigger guard on Lindsay Schrader but you want to put people in positions where they can be successful. You don't want to have somebody go in and have to be perfect, because we're not asking anybody to be perfect. We're just asking people to be their best. And Chris has given us great effort. You'll see her in the mix very soon."
What is your connection to the South Dakota State coach? I think you mentioned before that you know . . .
"Well, Aaron (Johnston), actually, before they became a Division I program two years ago, he and his staff came up to visit with us. We see them out recruiting. They recruit the Midwest similar to us. We played them when we were at Drake in an exhibition game. Actually their losses are to Drake and to, I believe, Middle Tennessee State. And that was a two-point game down at Drake, and having known some of those players and the style.
"Aaron also speaks at clinics, and we've just become friends over the last few years. And he works hard. His players are very blue-collar. They work very, very hard. They all can shoot the three outside of (Christina) Gilbert. And it'll be similar in a lot of ways I think to the Idaho State game and our preparation for that game out in Hawaii."
I know it's been talked about, Banks and Anderson and how they complement each other on the court. In terms of what they bring from a mental standpoint and a leadership standpoint, are they personality-wise similar? Are they different kinds of people? They're obviously good friends off the court as well.
"I think they're as different as they come. They really are. I mean, one's quiet, one's not. They complement each other on the court very well. Off the court, they have different personalities. Jolene actually is quiet. She may disagree with me on that. And Janese and she both have a lot in common and a lot of differences, and I think that's good. That's healthy that every player grows as a young person and continues to believe. But if you look at our freshmen and sophomore class right now, we're asking them to do a lot of things, and they're doing very, very well from a leadership standpoint to productivity on and off the court, and that bodes well for the future."