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Lisa, you split with Penn State this year. What would you say are keys to defeating them?
"Well, certainly it's to continue what we've been doing well the last couple of weeks, again, understanding the roles, composure down the stretch, making some free throws, getting a balanced attack. We didn't have that last night and that's what hurt us. But, again, we go into Conseco Field House. It's a brand-new season. We're playing good basketball right now and we've got to carry that in."
You are playing your best right now, aren't you? Even despite that loss yesterday?
"We really are. I mean, we've got a one-point lead at the half and we're playing for a seventh seed. Katie Gearlds make a tough shot, just a tough shot. She's a big-time player, makes a big-time play. And we come down, we get to the free throw line like we wanted to, but didn't capitalize. You can go back and look at a lot of things. Our defense is at its best right now. We're rebounding. We out-rebound a great Purdue team by 14. A couple costly turnovers inside the last waning minutes, but that's a game that you look back even maybe a month ago, it could have been different. The kids are playing with a new level of confidence. The turn is happening, and we're excited about it. We like the momentum. We like the confidence going into the Big Ten Tournament."
Jolene Anderson is closing in on 1,000 points in 57 games in her career. Isn't that remarkable when you think of it?
"It's amazing. And, you know, Jolene is, it's truly amazing. I mean, the way she played yesterday, you can't ask any more out of a young woman to do what she's doing and to log the minutes. And her body is beat up and banged up just like everybody else, and she still brings it every game and feels badly we didn't win the game. But certainly a remarkable player, and she's going to get to that 1,000 points pretty quick. And if it happens against Penn State, fine. If not, we get the W and we move on to the next game, that's just as well."
Jolene continues to show that she is a great scorer. But how would you say her game has become more well-rounded this year?
"If you look at it statistically, she's our best defensive player also; leader in assists, deflections, charges taken, blocked shots, outside of Danielle Ward. I mean, her weak-side defense is amazing. She's great on the double team. Her perimeter defense and lateral movement has improved this year. A lot has to do with obviously her conditioning and her maturity as a young player. Her all-around game has elevated. She's a completely different player than last year. And I think the defensive side of her game is an amazing difference from one year to the next."
As a coach, always looking for any motivating tool with your team that you can. How helpful is it to play a team that you just beat not that long ago in this stretch where your team is playing its best basketball?
"I think it's great. I also think it's noteworthy to note that both Penn State and Wisconsin took the top two in the league to the buzzer yesterday. And Penn State is playing well. They've got good balance. Amanda Brown will be in her last Big Ten Tournament herself, she's a great player. But I think, again, if you look on Thursday, it'll be two weeks ago we beat Penn State here in a great team effort, again, remembering what has gotten us to be successful right now. It's balanced scoring, identification of roles, composure, the breakthrough of finding ways to win. And we're excited. The environment at Conseco Field House is amazing and we certainly hope that we can go in there and come out with some good results." [Editor's note: Amanda Brown is a junior at Penn State.]
The winner of your game does play the top seed. Would you say Ohio State is the clear-cut favorite to win the Big Ten Tournament?
"I would say so. I mean, going in, obviously their seed as well as (the fact) they just won 16 straight, if I'm not mistaken. The paper proves it. And they've got a great player in Jessica Davenport, obviously. We're just going to take care of Penn State. I told our team after the game, get excited now, a brand-new season begins. We're playing good basketball, we're relatively healthy, and as we go in there, we look at who's in front of us, not what's waiting. We need to take care of business first on Thursday. And I plan on taking four suits. That's my goal. And we want to go and stay and win and survive and move on."
That kind of leads into my question as well. I mean, with how you played against some of these top opponents in the Big Ten, all these close games, is there a true belief that you can really make a run at this thing?
"Without question, without question. But it's, again, we don't want to get too excited about Monday (finals). We've got to take care of Thursday. It's like, the famous cliché of one game at a time, really truly that is. And Penn State is all that'll be on our mind. I told the players not even look at the rest of the bracket and who plays what and what's going to happen and all that see-saw. We've got to stay focused. Our team is together. They're smiling. There is a level of confidence, and there should be. I mean, a week ago today we were celebrating the jubilation of beating Minnesota, a great team. A kid made a big play yesterday but it was nearly that again yesterday. All of that momentum, we've got to take that confidence into the Big Ten Tournament and play our best."
With Penn State, do you have to worry more about their three-point shooters or Brown, who you mentioned earlier?
"I think it's their transition, actually. Brianne O'Rourke is a great point guard and has started every game for them. (Kamela) Gissendanner is up for some post-season awards, etc. I mean, they've got nice balance. Their depth and our depth is similar. Amanda Brown is a great senior (junior) post player that can get up and down the floor. The post is a challenge for us. Our defensive transition will be huge in this game. Our rebounding is strong, and maybe our changes of defenses will be something that we continue to work on, as well as scoring. Penn State is a good team. They're well-coached. And we certainly need to play our game. It's more about us, I think, on Thursday than anything else."
Lisa, how sure are you that your team has really kind of truly turned a corner here in the last couple of weeks?
"The look in their eyes, really. The look in their eyes, the level of confidence, the locker room, the way they practice. You know, we're working very hard right now, and we have all year, but the coming together, the switch went on. Granted beating a Penn State and a Minnesota helps, you know, reiterate all of that, and for that I'm pleased. Having a week off was good for us to get ready. And there's not a doubt in anybody's mind going into that locker room yesterday that we were going to challenge and play to beat Purdue. So the look, the composure, balance, it's just we're doing things better right now and I'm excited about that."