Lisa, what impresses you most about this version of Michigan State?
"They could be better than last year. Right now, Michigan State will be the toughest opponent we've faced all year. They're solid. They're experienced. Their media guide is 25 pages of celebratory success from last year, and they're worthy of it. They're very hardworking. They play their defense very well. They're coming off a big win this weekend over a ranked team obviously. And they play tonight against Iowa, in which I thought would have been an opportunity for us to see on TV, but it's not on TV. So if there's anything, hopefully they'll be a little tired coming into us. But they're solid. They're just solid. Liz Shimek is one of the best in the business. She's a workhorse. Nothing flashy, but she gets the job done. She can go left. She can go right. She can shoot it outside. She can post you up. Nobody has had a match-up for her across the country yet. Obviously Lindsay Bowen is one of the best three-point shooters in the country. So they've got an inside-outside punch, along with defenders in (Rene) Haynes and Victoria Lucas-Perry came in here last year and drilled us for a number of three-point shots too. So we have our hands full yet. It is a challenge that's in front of us that we have here at home, and we've got to simply just be a lot more consistent."
Lisa, given your injury situation of late, have you been limited in terms of what you can do on the court in terms of your rotations, and can you just expand on whatever those limitations are?
"I think the limitations come in practice when you look at what we can do. We have spent some time in the pool from a standpoint of making sure that Jolene can go the distance with her foot and trying to get (Janese Banks) back as soon as possible and get Annie Nelson back. Our team, just with eight players. Shari' Welton goes 32 minutes last night, there's only so much you can do when our practice squad doesn't come back until school resumes.
So that means you have we as coaches defending our players and we're going to be in the infirmary soon as well if that happens. So as far as rotations last night, in last night's game, we were right where we wanted to be in it. I don't think it had anything to do with our lack of depth. We just didn't get the job done.
We executed offensively in the first half, played good defense. We were in a hostile environment, a place that obviously Wisconsin hasn't won. We jump out right away, come out of the gate and score and do some things, and then we go dry. And it's a mentality of consistency where had we played with that same hunger and vision we had at Minnesota, it's just two different games. I mean, your result would be different. But, you know, hindsight is where it is, and we've got to improve.
Lisa, how was your senior leadership yesterday against Penn State?
"Our seniors are great leaders in terms of people and their character and what they're about, and they're good students and loving, wonderful people. But in decision-making, our seniors need to make better decisions on the court. And we expect a lot out of our senior class, and we put a lot of pressure on our sophomore class. I mean, that's just the way it is. I don't want to divide it because our entire team needs to make better decisions, and our seniors need to limit their mistakes as well. I mean, there's certain things you just don't want to do as a senior, like turn the ball over in crunch situations and go from urgency standpoint to panic standpoint. So from a standpoint of being a leader to captain and there for your team and huddling the group and rallying the troops, that's all there. But as far as, you know, productivity, I need more productivity out of our senior class as well as the rest of our team."
Why is your team struggling so much to get to the free throw line on the road? At home against Northwestern, you were 14 of 20 from the line, but on the road, you're just not able to get that done.
"It has nothing to do with the road or home. We just are not attacking the basket as we need to. We settled last night for jump shots in two-on-one breaks instead of going to the rim, just some little things. That's called decision-making, and our decision-making in crunch time, in particular in the second half, when you have a team on the ropes and you have a little momentum going, and it's poor decisions. And if you're not going to attack the basket, you're not going to get fouled. That had nothing to do with officiating."
Coach Stone, you had mentioned hunger from one game to the next. Do you feel like your team still has that hunger, and are they getting discouraged, just based on the record, even though they've had some very close games, do you feel like that fire is still in them?
"You get beat down a few times but you just have to continue to believe. Northwestern was a win, yet we didn't play very well. Minnesota we played really well and came up empty. Everybody in the room knows I'm not a moral victory person, yet you're seeing some signs of progress.
"Danielle Ward's points-per-minute productivity is pretty fabulous, but she's on the court for eight minutes with five fouls, nine points. Those are things that we've got to do a better job of. She is a fantastic player, but does us no good when she's on the bench. And I'm not trying to single her out. It's that along with turnovers and some poor decisions down the stretch that, from a discouraging standpoint, and I'm not so sure it's that.
"Our team needs to be held accountable for what they do. We address things in practice. Today again we went for a swim this morning. We're having a fundamental shooting and ball-handling workout this afternoon. And they're going to break the film down themselves, see themselves on tape. That's all you can do, is continue to teach and continue to grow."
Do you have any update on as to whether some of the players will be back, like Annie or . . .
"I haven't seen a trainer yet today. I maintain optimism. Obviously we want to be at full strength. But even with eight players the other day, you're not at full strength when you're in foul trouble and your bigs are on the bench. So, we go from eight to maybe six, maybe five due to some folks being out.
"I can't ask any more out of Jolene Anderson. The kid has to score, she has to rebound, she has to bring the ball up the floor, she has to defend, she has to play the whole game. She's wearing a boot all over the place and is giving us everything she can. We just need that to start to filtrate through the rest of the team."
Well, is she going to be able to hold up under that and to be able to play or do you fear that she'll have to sit out some games?
"I don't think so. Jolene is pretty tough and she's been doing a lot off the court from extra conditioning to taking care of herself, getting enough rest, things of that nature. We're very cautious of that and in practice maybe limit her touches a little bit and put her on the bike. And it's important. We need Jolene at game time, there's no question."
You talk about some of the other players needing to match what Jolene is doing. Is there a point or fear for you of that the other players need to have that leadership on their own, where a coach can only say a message so many times before maybe they just tune it out from having heard it so much?
"Well, we talk a lot about within. I'm very pleased from the standpoint of our team is not bailing. I mean, they're all there. They just need direction. And we have to pull it out of each player individually. Everybody has got to bring their best. I think the more you visually watch it on film, and then you remind them. I did that before the Northwestern game. You show a highlight film of when they're successful. You don't want to beat them down. We're down now, you've got to build back up before we go on to Michigan State. We're at home for four games right now, and it's important that we get some confidence back. I think that's huge.
"We have a tough team in Michigan State, there's no question. They're very, very talented. And we played them last year at their place very tough, got down and made a great run back, and in large part due to Danielle Ward. I believe she had 10 points in 10 minutes and seven rebounds and just really gave us a nice little lift. Folks will step up, and then you look at who's to follow, those are games that we've got to get. And Michigan State is one we'll prepare for. It's a tough match-up zone defense, and we're going to do our best. We're playing the match-up zone this year, so it'll help us in preparation offensively as well as defensively."
How did Shari' do yesterday starting?
"You know what? For Shari's first start and to log 30-some-odd minutes, I thought she did a great job. You know, maybe shot selection is something we'll talk about with our entire team. And, again, on a two-on-one break. I thought Shari' was a great penetrator, could have gone to the rim, instead settled for a jump shot.
"She wasn't the only one. Our guard court did that. But I thought she played tremendous defense. She did a great job for us and gave us a good lift, again, logged a lot of minutes, and it was good. So I think from her standpoint, it was a benefit of growth now for her, but defensively, she was our best defender on the floor yesterday."
What do you do from a teaching standpoint to help Danielle stay out of foul trouble?
"Well, it's frustrating in the game. She is not helping me sitting right here. But on the other hand, it's just maybe we've got to call more fouls in practice. We've got to be a little more in tune to that. Teach on the film. Show her. I mean, she wants to block shots, and we've got to have her play a little bit better position. It's just understanding the game, teaching moments, one-on-one's with Coach Freitag and myself, in talking about how badly we need her on the court because she's a very tough match-up for opponents."