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Lisa, can you talk about the status of Annie Nelson? It seemed when she first came back there was a lot of optimism that her progress and rehabilitation was going to go a bit faster, but it kind of seems that it's been stunted, I guess you could say.
"It's (shoulder) sore. It's similar to (Janese) Banks as far as time to heal. You know, when you're a senior, Annie wants to be back out there, there's no question. And yesterday's game wasn't one certainly to risk it. We hope to get her back in the loop. She's certainly one of our more fundamentally sound post players and we could use her back. But as of right now, it's still day to day.
"And she's practicing, and if you'd watch practice, she's wrapped up in a contraption that eventually hopefully that can be gone soon, and she stays with daily rehab and hopefully we can get her back in the loop here pretty quick. But in her position, she takes a lot of shots and it's very physical inside. And it's sore. It's just flat-out sore and it's going to take some time."
In the preseason, Indiana was viewed by some of the coaches in the league as kind of a dark horse because of players they had returning and one coming back from injury. Are you, with the new coach, are you surprised at all at how well they've done thus far?
"Not at all. They have a fifth-year senior in Jenny DeMuth, who's one of the Big Ten's best. Sharon Versyp is a new coach and she's had tremendous success at Maine. I respect her a great deal. But she inherited two of the best guards in the conference. Their games last night, both had 24. They score 48 of their 55 points in two guards.
"They're playing a different type of defense than what you normally see. It's very, it's interesting to see Indiana playing a zone. They're going to play, their zone is very tight, and they have done very, very well and played Michigan State to the wire. They've done well. They beat Iowa at home. They're a solid team with two tremendous perimeter players."
How do you stop Cyndi Valentin? I mean, she's been somebody who's done some damage to your teams the last couple of years.
"Well, Cyndi and Jenny. I mean, Jenny didn't play last year due to an injury and she's, you know, when you're a fifth-year senior, you're a veteran. You've been through the league. She's been on, you know, post-season, or overseas tours, etc. Great player. Draws fouls. Both of them get to the free throw line and are tremendous free throw shooters. Cyndi obviously is on a streak right now and is one of the conference's best as far as that goes. We have to keep them off the line. Defensive transition will be key in this game and getting back and finding those two. But they also have another senior, a post player inside, (Angela) Hawkins is not, is somebody that you don't want to forget about either. So their senior players are just outstanding players. They're playing very, very well. They've got some confidence. The dark horse, as Jon had mentioned, really has come to fruition. I mean, they're playing great defense. They're doing well at home. They've got some confidence. And they're leaning on great perimeter play and a great post player inside."
Coach Stone, how badly did the team need the win yesterday at Michigan on the road to build some confidence?
"Well, a little bit of an understatement, certainly, but we needed one. And it was one that hopefully will start the course that we're wanting to make.
"I think a key thing to make note of is the fact that Banks is back. And when you can have another perimeter player on the floor, and Janese was one away from a double-double yesterday, her presence defensively, ball handling, etc. can take a lot of pressure of Jolene. I mean, if you watched the game on TV at all and you got any looks at that, I mean, Jolene has to expend a ton of energy. And you've got to be, you know, throw caution to the wind in some regard that as you're in this part of the season, you'd make this push, you want to have a healthy body.
"And now a complementary player to Jolene will help spread the wealth a little bit as well, and if Ashley Josephson can continue on her streak. Our guards were tremendous yesterday, not only knocking down shots, but handling the ball pretty decent, get our post game going a little bit here. And what we hope can happen, the mid-season goals that we had reassessed to get to where we want to for the Big Ten Tournament still can happen. But we've got a tough task in Indiana here at home.
"I'm glad we're at home. I'm glad we don't go to Indiana this year. They're very tough at home. And we're going to have to break some things down. We're going to have to shoot the ball well against that defense, and we're going to have to do our best to contain both DeMuth and Valentin."
Coach, do you ever sense any disappointment from some of your older players in terms of not having had much success with your record over the past few years?
"You know, they're great kids. I mean, those four seniors are just quality people, both on the court and in the classroom, in the community, their service, etc. And this is the season that they want what they've been looking for all four years. And, you know, whether they're on the court or not, they're trying to provide as much leadership and find ways, I tell you, the people that were smiling the most yesterday after our win were the seniors. You know, and here I'm reassessing, thinking we can play a whole lot better and be happy with the win. But for me, just there's more we need to work on to taste success and make a push and have this be the year to break through. That's what those seniors want to be remembered by, and we've got a couple banged up. Bakke is sore and injured, and Annie hasn't played, and Jordan had a better game yesterday, and Ashley had a good game, that we can go on some of the good.
"But, you know, disappointment, I think, is that they feel bad. They want to go out with a memorable record, and we still can, but we have to make a push and we're going to have to beat some tough teams, some ranked teams here at home. The Big Ten, there's certain parity, and look what Indiana is doing, is certainly notable. And we want our seniors to help lead us as we try to make this late push and the charge into the Big Ten Tournament."
You mentioned the post production. What do Caitlin and Danielle have to do to give you that production or what aren't they doing?
"Just reassurance that they can do it. I mean, I looked at Danielle. We put her in the starting lineup yesterday, and it's the first time, I believe, since we were in Hawaii, and just to get out to a quick start. Danielle is quick and athletic and is playing better and smarter as far as fouls go. And we wanted to get off to a good start. We missed some easy buckets inside. And it's just the reassurance that they're doing the right things. We're getting good looks inside. Caitlin has got to take more than one shot. We've got to go inside to draw people. And that's things that we're going to look at. Both Danielle and Caitlin meet with Donna today and it's just the reassurance of confidence. You can't beat kids down for missing shots. We're getting good looks at the basket. We simply have to finish.
"And when we're playing against bigger players, like last week against Jessica Davenport, that was probably most noteworthy where our vacancy was in the post. When you're going at somebody 6-5 to 6-7, you can't shoot over the top of them. I mean, we talk about that before the game. You need counter moves. You need to take it at teams and get to the foul line.
"And there's just, again, continued repetition in practice, and, you know, if we have to get a broomstick out or a noodle or some tall thing to swat at, we certainly will. But they're growing. Both Danielle and Caitlin, you'll see them on the floor a lot more together as we try to make this push. I like the presence together. But when they're 6-4 and 6-5, they need to play 6-7 to 6-10, not 5-8 to 5-10. And the difference there is simply scoring inside, being a presence, running the floor, and taking some, relieving our perimeter just a little bit."
Lisa, Jordan played a lot of minutes yesterday, maybe the most that she's played all year and was pretty consistent. Can you just talk about her progress?
"I think my comment was feisty after the game yesterday. Jordan likes to hit people. She does. I mean, if Mike needs her to check somebody, I think we could put her on the ice a little bit. But she does, she likes to hit people. She's physical. She's an undersized post player, always has been. We'd like Jordan to break out right now. Obviously she's had some trouble scoring and short-ironing some shots here and there throughout some games, but had a look, she's got that aggressive look in her eye.
"She's got a Big Ten competitive look in her eye. We need that right now big time. And the rest of the team will hopefully follow on that. But it gives us a presence inside. She also needs to knock that 10- to 15-foot shot down at the free throw line to take pressure off when we're posting up our guards. And the offense that we're using demonstrates that.
"And if people aren't going to guard our ‘4s' out there, we're going to have to shoot that, knock that shot down. So Jordan's understanding that. She's done everything we've asked her to do. Defensively we're challenging her to run the floor and get on the boards and be that aggressor, because Jordan is an aggressive player and we need that when we're lacking in some other areas."
You said Kjersten is sore and injured. Is this a new injury?
"It's just being a senior and having to weather the storm and coming off a knee injury of last year. Bakke will play every game and she'll give you everything she can. It's just. It's the wear and tear of a body over four years."