Monday presser: Lisa Stone

Women's basketball coach discussed her team's up-and-down recent performances and injury struggles

Audio file 1 (5:52)

Lisa, could you talk about Shari's (Welton's) performance? She did really well yesterday.

"Shari' has had to step into a vacant role. Our perimeter is obviously thin due to injuries, and she's done a great job for us. Defensively has had some tough challenges and has stepped into the challenge beginning at Penn State and through yesterday.

"She's perfect from the field. (She) took a 3-point shot that I really didn't want her to shoot, it went in, and it's one of those that it's good if it goes in, not if it doesn't. But she's done a really nice job for us, logging a lot of minutes, and it's nice to watch her growth. I think the extended playing time is increasing her confidence."

Iowa has had, lost three players with ACLs and obviously you've had a string of injuries. How would you say that's changed their team, and how has it affected your team?

"Well, I think when you look at a lot of the teams that we've played so far this year, they're senior-laden at perimeter. Crystal Smith is leading the Big Ten in scoring. She's one of the best in the business, the quickest player. And I said this last year, she's the quickest player I've ever seen.

"Her father, Michael Morgan played at Iowa the same time Barry (Davis) was wrestling at Iowa and I was playing at Iowa, so quite the connection going on here today, that's his daughter, and she's a lot like her father in a lot of ways, but he was not quite as quick as she is. She's very, very fast. And I think with the fact that they can rely on her to get to the free throw line, she gets to the line a lot because she's so fast and can penetrate.

"And they've got 6-8 Skouby inside. I mean, that kid can flat-out play and scores 29 against Michigan State last week, and last night, in a rout over Northwestern, I believe she nearly scored 20. So, they've lost a few players, and some good ones, but their main senior scorer is back."

Anderson came in last year and everybody knew about how good she was coming in. Would you look at (Megan) Skouby and at Bjork yesterday as two freshmen who you think are really going to make an impact as their careers develop?

"They've already made impacts certainly. I think Lori Bjork (Illinois) is, and we talked about her last night, certainly a very well-rounded, bright, bright young lady; came in with all kinds of prerequisite academic accomplishments coming into school, as well as demonstrating what she's doing on the court.

"Skouby is a different player. You've got a guard and a post player. And with Iowa's triangle offense and the way they run their offense through her, you know, certainly she's getting touches early. She's going to make an immediate impact, just like Jamie Cavey did. She's trying to pick up for that vacancy. If you double on her, then they've got a veteran in Krista VandeVenter in some regards, a sophomore, who had a great year last year, who is, if you double off, you're going to leave VandeVenter open.

"So we're going to have to be active inside. We present a bigger force with Danielle (Ward) and Caitlin (Gibson) if indeed we can go one-on-one with Skouby inside and wrinkle up our defenses. But both of those freshmen are having great years and their impact is felt now. It's not something that we'll wait for. They're great players and making noise early."

You mentioned VandeVenter and Skouby. Do they have the potential to be a (Jennie) Lillis and a Faulkner?

"Kristi Faulkner, again, is a guard and I think that's certainly more Crystal Smith. I would say Crystal Smith is and Krista VandeVenter are more like Jennie Lillis and Kristi Faulkner. That's more of a comparison. I think you're looking at Skouby in comparison to Cavey, I think you're looking at some of their guards, Tiffany Reedy, (Johanna) Solverson is not in there right now, but there's some comparisons to former teams. And Lisa Bluder does a great job. She has a system, an offensive system, that they recruit players to fit into that system. They now have a post player that has had to step in due to an injury to a senior post player and she's doing a great job."

Coach Stone, yesterday you had mentioned, you know, obviously you displayed your frustration with the performance yesterday. What are your expectations this week for your players in practice?

"Well, we're kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a little bit. If you looked at our performance on Thursday against Michigan State, and maybe it's an elevation of the fact that you're playing a ranked team, you go in and you just play, and that's what we did. And Illinois, who's off to a great start, they're tied for first place in the Big Ten right now. I mean, that's a good basketball team, and they shot 70 percent from 3. That's tough to do with nobody guarding you.

"So, a combination of a few things. We played as poorly as we can, and they played very, very well and made a lot of really good shots. And they're playing well. They've got some early confidence. I would hope that we come out now like we did last Thursday. We had a great game at Iowa last year. I think that was a little bit of a confidence turning point for us to go to Iowa and win there, having been down by nearly 20 in the first half, rallied back behind Ashley Josephson's great performance.

"You know, those are some things that we can remember. We only play Iowa once this year and we have them at home. This is one that we need to rebound for. We're off today and the kids start school tomorrow. We're back in the regular routine. We've got to keep moving forward.

"As disappointing as it was, and we talked about the softness of our defense, we need to look forward, look forward to the next two more at home before we go on the road again. We need to make a late push at some juncture. And if, when we get (Janese) Banks back, that's certainly going to be big for us. And, continued improvement with Annie Nelson. We have to put it behind us and move on as best we can."

Audio file 2 (4:40)

Coach, you said after the Michigan State game maybe that was the best performance in three years, and then conversely, after the Illinois game, maybe the worst performance in three years. Is that something maybe just from a coaching perspective that's almost unexplainable how that happens or is it something you've maybe seen before as far as a let down goes?

"Sometimes what you fear most (happens). I went into that game hoping that we could maintain that excitement and come out the same. Another thing I wanted to make sure is we kept Danielle Ward out of foul trouble and she got two early, so she's on the bench. Thirdly we wanted to be able to handle their pressure, their man-to-man pressure, which we didn't do very well.

"Then we made a run. It was 36-30. We had an opportunity, and we just made poor decisions. We softened up defensively. We were not attacking offensively. And, you know, it's disappointing. Do I have an answer? No, I don't. I wish I did. I wish there was a magical something we could eat before the game that would just turn it. But that's what we're trying to figure out. (It's) an internal passion, it is truly internal. You know, we can motivate and we can give a scouting report, and we need to continue to do those things, but our players need to as well. And Jolene Anderson was in my office today, said ‘what more can I do.' I'm challenging her to be more of a vocal leader and little things. They're all in the boat. That's the big thing. They're all in there. We just, we have to develop some consistency somewhere. And to explain how and why, that's something that we're studying right now."

You mentioned that the spring semester starts tomorrow. Would you, do you expect to have Akiya Alexander back for the second semester?

"Her status is still the same as of right now. And Banks' status is, she'll find out more on Wednesday. Nelson is about almost all the way back."

Lisa, who do you talk to to get your frustration off your chest, besides us?

"My coaches are great. We all were wide awake all last night. My spouse, he hears it all. And, you know, the supporting cast that we have, that I have around me, I'm blessed. My family, our fans, our administration, everybody is there to watch and watch the growing pains that we're going through right now. But I would say the closest people to me are my family and certainly my staff."

Can you confirm or talk about Kelsey Hendrickson joining your team as a walk-on?

"I do not believe I can make a comment on that at this time. I'm not certain of the rules of that at this point."

Do you think with Janese being out, that this is taking quite a heavy toll on Jolene, that she's being asked to do so much?

"When I had heard the comment and Theresa Grentz had said that to me last night, that she certainly applauds all that Jolene's trying to do. Offensively, defensively, she leads us in rebounding and scoring, steals, assists, etc., etc., and now has taken on a leadership role. And she's the one calling me asking what more she can do. I'm excited about that. That's obviously our top recruit and she wants to weather even more of a load. Physically, she's fine. I think these days off are good for her. Her feet are getting better. She just has a few blisters here and there but she's playing her heart out and we can't ask any more of her. I think maturity. I think she's growing from it, I don't think it's lessening any of her impact. She wants to do more, so I think that's pretty lofty of Jolene's willingness to help this team as best as she can."

Janese's absence, how has that affected you the most would you say? Has it been running the offense, has it been on defense?

"Defensively, for sure. That's our best defender and Shari's done a great job. She's done a tremendous job. Also another ballhandler out there. We've been pressed ever since Janese has been gone and we're getting the heat put on us and we're working on that. We need a continued senior leadership in making decisions against the press, calming our team down when you're in the trenches. But with Janese, there's a ballhandler missing, there's a leader missing, there's a defensive player missing, our second leading scorer missing. She plays 38 minutes a game. But she's working hard on the sideline. I don't know if you see her during the game, she's really into the game and is learning a lot from this and gave me a hug last night and said ‘I'll be back Thursday.' I said, ‘well, that's not your decision.' So that eagerness hopefully, when she does return, will be a big lift for us."

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