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Coach, how does a game like Saturday help your team, this team focus for the stretch run of the Big Ten?
"Well, I'm always under the assumption that you're not unfocused at any particular time of the year or that you're too focused… I think that's an expression a lot of people like to use, but what does it really mean? Our guys understand what competition is about. They know what needs to get done. Sometimes you don't get it done. So focus had nothing to do with Saturday's game.
"When you lose a game, you just have to understand that there are factors that occur during the course of a game. And you deal with it and, I know all the obsessive people who kind of like, ‘Wow, those kind of things don't happen.' Oh yeah they do. It's just amazing that things like that do not happen more to some teams. So maybe that hasn't happened very much around here in the past five years, and it does, our guys are human. They can miss shots.
"If they only turned North Dakota State over eight times and get four offensive rebounds, I've got a real problem. And I mentioned those statistics before because, not because in that particular game that's the way it came out, but we always look at those. Those are always hustle opportunities.
"For the most part, I've been very fortunate over the years to have players who, in the hustle-opportunity categories, have usually been on the good side, but not always. So when it doesn't happen, you deal with it and get ready for Penn State. But focus, nah. I think that's a harsh way of looking at a defeat by saying guys weren't focused, which is what you were alluding too. I don't think that's true."
Bo, your first year, a few years back, you lost a handful of guys because of injuries and such. And I'm wondering, having gone through that experience a few years ago, as a coach does that help you deal with what you're dealing with now?
"I've been short-handed before at other places… when it comes to maybe sheer numbers, but we've got some guys on the bench that are anxious to get on the floor and contribute. So got to try to find some of those contributions and get some more from the guys that are here."
Bo, you mentioned Kevin Gullickson being a guy who was ready to contribute before Saturday's game. Has he just continued to show you the things you saw from him early in the season?
"Yeah, he's got some bounce. He's got some, it was a tough walking call on the up-and-under. That was a great post move, but he did, on the tape, he did slide his foot ever so slightly. But it was a walk. But defensively, he got out there and was very helpful. And then, of course, in the end, when we were playing with our smaller lineup and there were all the timeouts and all the rest times that were available, I stayed with that group of five.
"But Kevin is a guy that I'm not leery of putting out there on the floor. I like what he's doing. I like how hard he's worked in practice. He commits all the time to what the scout team does and always works on the shooting drills and always has a lot of energy to do the things that are presented to him. You've got to like those kind of people, and fortunately we have a lot of those kind of people. Sometimes execution doesn't happen, but as long as the energy and the willingness to get better and to participate and to be active is there, then he's got a chance."
Alando talked about pressing, maybe trying a little bit too hard because he felt that he had to do more considering that you were short-handed. How do you talk to kids like that after a situation like that to maybe make them relax or to get them to play?
"Well, Alando has had halves like he had for a full game, even when those guys, when he didn't feel like he had to make up for the loss of some guys, so I don't buy that. That's a young man trying to be nice, and Alando is nice. He didn't shoot it well. Shoot it better the next time.
"I'm not going to overanalyze that and say that's because he was pressing. If he felt he needed to say that after the game, I let guys speak for themselves, but he shot poorly other times and then snapped out of it. Usually it was like a half and a half. This was a half and another bad half, percentage-wise. That's too bad. But he'll be ready Wednesday."
Did you look at the shots? When you broke down the film, did you look at (were they good shots?)
"Of course. I'd say five of them I wouldn't let (men's hockey coach) Mike Eaves take. But all the rest of them, they were all shots that we can look at Michigan State, Iowa, whatever, Northwestern, and the shots went down. It is what it is."
I've seen a lot of basketball games in your time. There was an amazing amount of rattle in and outs.
"How about the tip-ins? How about we put five back of the 22, so that leaves 17 offensive rebounds. Six or seven of them came out so far that we, you know, got them and then ran some offense. But the other 10 to 12, we're right at the basket, tip-in on a controlled tip, which counts as a shot. A controlled tip that does what you're talking about. And if we had put a couple of those in, there's a lot of those stories that can go on. But we didn't.
"So shot selection, 90 percent of the shots, take any time and have and knocked them down. And other teams have overloaded on Tucker. Other teams have overloaded on the post, on whoever catches it in the post, double and we kick out, whatever.
"But that's, when your two guys—I mean, it can't be like some people in business, when your two best salespeople have great months for you and all of a sudden there's a down month, you can't beat them to death with blame or anything else. But you've got two guys that shoot 19 percent between the two of them that are pretty good scorers and had pretty decent looks. So what do you do?"
Your experience tells you you definitely don't want to over-coach, something like that, you don't want to make too big a deal of bad shooting.
"Well, here, let me put it to you this way. There's two other times where shooting percentages like that hit teams that I've coached. Both of them ended the season: 4-for-28 or whatever against Wittenberg in the NCAA tournament, 1-for-15 from 3 against Stevens Point in '97.
"We had to put the uniforms away and couldn't play anymore. The fact that we can get on the court Wednesday, I think that's pretty good. Let's get on the court Wednesday and see what we can do.
"I don't want them to lose their confidence though. Shooting is a heck of a thing when you start getting a little gun-shy. I don't want that to happen."
Coach, a lot of the talk has been about the negative of Saturday. Is there anything you can take away that's positive?
"Well, there were people that got tickets for this game that didn't normally have tickets, so those people that complain and write letters that they can't get into the Kohl Center and blame it on me or somebody, they got to see the game. You know, it's amazing how somehow a comment about somebody not being able to get in the Kohl Center to see is about the rich, the rich taking over and the poor can't, I was like, ‘Whoa, wait a second.'
But there were a lot of people that got tickets for North Dakota State from people who either went out of town. I had more people that I've heard from that say, oh, this is the first game I was ever able to make because my neighbor gave me the tickets because they were doing this.
"How about that for a positive, pulling that out of the air?"
Works for me.
"OK. Yeah, there were people who were first-time viewers in the Kohl Center that hadn't been in here before for a game or hadn't been in in a long time. There's a positive."
You had your '95 reunion after that game (for UW-Platteville Division III NCAA championship team), the team that went undefeated, and you had all those guys back. What were some of the comments you heard from them about that game?
"There weren't a lot of comments about the game… Everybody can think about that group, when they were juniors, the seniors that were there in '95 as juniors. Aaron Lancaster was one of the guys who had a really bad shooting day against, or night against Wittenberg. Peavy, O'Connell, that whole group was the group that shot, and that's probably the one, well, hey.
"And Saul (Phillips) remembered Wittenberg. He was on the team. He said, hey, the only way we beat you is you have to have a Wittenberg game. Now that would mean something to guys that knew about that game. Saul remembered that game. So for them, that's what they remembered it being compared to.
"But what they wanted to do was we wanted to talk about their kids and how their teams are doing, the guys that are coaching, how their businesses are doing, what their significant others are doing. It was just fun. It was fun to get together with them. And of course, all of them said, ‘Man, we should have had scholarships to Wisconsin, we could have done that.' I said, ‘OK, thanks.' No, they didn't say that."
Coach, your thoughts about Penn State and the biggest threat that you think they possess coming in on Wednesday?
"Well, that they're feeling pretty confident right now, playing well. They got rope-a-doped by Ohio State by about 40 I guess. I don't know what the final was. And then they just played Ohio State and it was pretty close, ended up losing by 10 or 12, but it was a good game all the way. They play Iowa to four points. They beat Northwestern at Northwestern.
"Right now they're playing their best basketball. So they're coming in with a heck of a lot of confidence. What our guys better do is make sure that we haven't lost any. So they turned around and they're, I forgot that they had played Ohio State twice. Not too many teams have played two games in the Big Ten against the same team. So they lose by 40-some one game and get it down to, they were 30 points better, is what I'm saying, the second time they played them. That's a big differential."
Bo, over the years, it seems like whenever you've been down a guy or someone hasn't been around for an injury or whatever, you know, you've kind of ignored using that as an excuse. And I'm just wondering in general, where that started from, maybe who you got that, you know, just that whole idea of, you know, ignoring it, ignoring losses and not using them as excuses and kind of applying that as a coach.
"Probably a Little League championship game. The guy that was our coach couldn't coach and my dad didn't ever want to coach me, so the guy could only get my dad to take the team for that game. We're down 11-4, and my dad is not one of those guys that would ever allow me to use an excuse around the house, of don't tell me what you can't do, so I get it from my dad.
"And it's 11-4, bottom of the sixth inning. As you know in Little League, you play six innings. He sits everybody down in the dugout and goes into one of his tirades, but it was a good tirade. I had heard them all before, but this one was pretty good. He's got guys crying in the dugout… Probably there would have been some parents today that would have had him arrested for how he was getting on us. He didn't touch any of us, but he got on us.
"And bases are loaded, we're down two, and I hit one off the top of the fence that bounced out of the park. We win the game, win the championship, and he had kept talking about all the excuses, we were missing a guy or two, our best pitcher wasn't pitching, this didn't happen. So he went through all the excuses that guys were moping around with on the baseball diamond and in the dugout. He rips all these kids. We set the stage, and he bought ice cream afterwards. It was the best. It didn't get any better than that. So I think I learned you don't need to make excuses for anything. You know, there's going to be another game, there's going to be something else in life that you're going to deal with. So you pick yourself up and move on."
One other thing, changing gears a little bit, but now that DeAaron (Williams) isn't on the roster, can you do anything with his scholarship as far as maybe giving it to a walk-on for a semester or something like that?
"Well, we haven't gotten into that at this point. So there's nothing that's been determined there."
In football, if you would have lost a game like Saturday's, people would be talking a lot about anger, you know, you don't want to face that Wisconsin team, they're angry now after Saturday's game. Does anger play as big a role in basketball, do you think, and if it does, is that a useful emotion in basketball or is that something that you want to try to get your team away from?
"You can't punch the basketball into the basket, OK, so you can't—but I thought it was ironic. I read one section of the newspaper every day, Daybreak or something like that. It's got the puzzles, it's got the word things in it, it's got some good stuff. There was a thing in there on anger, on how to deal with anger, like a booklet thing that they were promoting. Anybody else see that? What as it called? Or don't you read that section?
"…..Well, in there it had a neat, kind of a neat description of so many people that bury their anger and get it inside and they don't know how to let it go and they don't, you didn't write the article?"
"Anger, it's an amazing thing. On defense, you can actually, if you get a little angry, there are some things, maybe anticipate, you jump on a pass, you get a deflection, you get something. In football you can maybe stick somebody maybe a little harder. You know, in basketball, anger can only get you just but so much.
"Maybe in other sports there's ways, go after the loose balls harder, rebound tougher. If you're an aggressive person, there are ways that you can let it out on the basketball court. The loose balls, the rebounds. That's why I said about forcing turnovers and offensive rebounds those are statistics that say whether or not at least your players are active. Not accurate. Active.
"But in football they've got to wait a week. That's a long time to some athletes… you get to play in basketball, you play a little quicker than that, except the one at the end of the year that ends your season. Then you've got a long wait. But I really don't think anger helps with shooting, that's for sure. Confidence is the most important factor."
A follow-up to Mark's question about DeAaron's scholarship. Can you make that, you said that you'll make a decision later.
"No, I didn't say any decision was made or any conversation right now."
But can you make it retroactive, like say somebody has paid their tuition already for this semester?
"No, no. Not that I know of. Barry (Alvarez) is here as an (athletic director), so you could, no. Two sources say no… But the AD is the final one."
You talked a little bit about it, but are you more anxious to get back on the court because of what happened on Saturday? Is Wednesday… are you a little more excited about it?
"Yeah. Yesterday was our day we had to give them off, so we can't be with them yesterday. And I can't wait to get with them today. Not to yell at them, not to jump them, not to, no, to prepare them for what we're going to face Wednesday. That's all we can do.
"But I just want to know—Mike (Eaves), I called (women's hockey coach) Mark Johnson. I don't know if (women's basketball coach) Lisa (Stone) did. But I want to know how he won in the Kohl Center this weekend, what candles he was burning. Mark Johnson is the only one to come out of here on the left-hand side."
Do you know yet if Marcus (Landry) and Greg (Stiemsma) are available for Wednesday's game?
"No. That will all be handled when the players do their thing this afternoon."