Jan. 2, 2013
COACH BLUDER: We talked to the team about the nonconference season and it was really good. We enjoyed it. It's over. Now everybody is 0 0. Everybody starts all over again. Ohio State comes in here ranked in the top 25. We should be ready for that. We faced numerous teams in the top 25. We've done well against them. I think our team is excited to start Big Ten play and get going with this season.
But, of course, Ohio State, we only play them one time all year. This is it, the first game, which is strange, out of the gates. Last year we only got to play them one time, at their place. We're looking forward to having them on our home court again. Tayler Hill is a heck of a player. She can score at will. She's a three point shooter, driver, free throw shooter. She is the key to their basketball team. Ashley Adams at 6'5", has a little girth to her, can really post up. The thing that's impressive about her is how well she passes the ball. She's an extraordinary passer. She can find anybody out of a trap. She can find anybody from the high post. She's deadly at hitting people. She's a strong passer, makes great outlet passes to get their fast break going. She does some things that don't show up in the box scores that are very good.
Of course, Amber Stokes. She's a senior, great defensive player, has been around, I'm sure is kind of a leader for their basketball team.
A team that I don't feel like they have challenged themselves as much as we have in the non conference season.
Q. You usually have good Februarys in the Big Ten. Chance to start with two home games. Does that set you up to start Big Ten off on the right foot?
COACH BLUDER: I think so. We know from experience that if you want to do well in the Big Ten, you have to do well at home. If you want to finish in the top four or five teams in this conference, you have to take care of home court. Right away these two games are pretty important for us. Okay, Ohio State, big game. Every game is big in the Big Ten because they all count the same. When you're only playing against a team one time, you want to have that win in head to head competition.
Q. Big Ten look a little different now or pretty much the same as it did as far as who is good or...
COACH BLUDER: This probably sounds silly. I've watched Ohio State. I haven't watched anybody else. I am not a person that sits around and watches basketball games unless I'm cooking dinner and Purdue might have been on, I'm watching them halfheartedly. I don't really look ahead that much. Maybe I'm not smart enough. I have to focus one game and one team at a time. I just have to fully concentrate on that. I haven't looked ahead a whole lot.
Q. Players said they reset some goals today. Were coaches part of that?
COACH BLUDER: We didn't firmly put them down. We kind of brainstormed today, put on the board some things we'd like to achieve. We set goals for the non conference season, now we're setting goals for the Big Ten season. When the Big Ten season is over, we'll set them for the Big Ten tournament season and beyond. Right now we put a lot up there, but we haven't isolated which ones we want to go after. But I think we needed to. We needed to refocus and reset these goals again for the next season.
Q. This rivalry with Ohio State, seems like the last four years these guys and you have been the rivalry of the Big Ten.
COACH BLUDER: I think it goes back farther than that. Goes back to Vivian when there were 22,000 people here against Ohio State. I think there's always been a strong rivalry. Ever since I've gotten here, it's been that way with Ohio State. Certainly when we made it to the championship game in 2010, that kind of brought it to the forefront again. But even Jim Foster said one time when he came into the league, he was kind of surprised because he thought that Michigan might be a natural rivalry for them. Then he said when Iowa came to town, that was our biggest crowd. He was surprised by it. I think it goes back to that game, Iowa and Ohio State playing in the Final Four in 1993.
Q. What's changed offensively? Seems you're scoring at will at times. You put so much emphasis on the defense.
COACH BLUDER: No doubt, our offense has caught up. One thing is we're taking care of the ball a lot better than we were earlier in the year. We're being smarter with assists. Every game you look at, we have high assist numbers. We've become very good at finding the open person and understanding a high percentage shot. That takes time. I think the light bulb turned on for us.
Q. How important was the road trip to San Diego?
COACH BLUDER: It was a really good tournament. It was a good six days. Sometimes you go on the road and you worry about a lot of things, flight schedules, a lot of parents had the flu, we were worried about the kids getting the flu. Nobody got it and that was nice. We also had some good times off the court. We won two games, got to go to the zoo, went to Coronado Beach, got time to relax and enjoy each other's company. It was a really good trip all around, good for team chemistry. But the highlight is the two Ws, to win a championship. We hadn't won a championship yet so that was important for us.
Q. Should your team be ranked right now?
COACH BLUDER: My opinion, we should be. The last time I looked, our RPI was 19 in the country. We don't have any control over that. So all we have to do, all we can do, is to go after the next game, win the next game, win the next game. Sometimes people get put up into the top 25 and never come out, seems like they can do no wrong once you get anointed up there. Other teams like us, seems like we have a hard time doing that. Maybe we're the Rodney Dangerfield of women's basketball. It's too bad for the fact that I think our players deserve that notoriety and recognition. But, on the other hand, it really means nothing because at the end of the year, when they're making the NCAA tournament, they don't look at national rankings, they look at the RPIs. That's the most crucial number.
Q. For four or five years you finished in the top three in the Big Ten; never picked to contend for the title. Why is that?
COACH BLUDER: We don't have the All Americans that some schools do. Tayler Hill, Amber Stokes, All Americans coming out of high school. Ashley Adams. Penn State has All Americans dotting their roster. I really think it's because we don't have those All American names on our roster, so we're not kind of picked in those situations. But our team's always kind of been a blue collar team, works hard, works smart, so we win games. We haven't challenged for that Big Ten title for, what, four years. 2008 was our last one.
Q. Do you talk about that or avoid talking about that?
COACH BLUDER: Wanting to get it?
COACH BLUDER: Right now, that's not one of our goals. But certainly goals can change and be modified as the year goes on. Right now we want to be in that top group again in the Big Ten, but certainly if we're poised to be in that championship spot, we'll reevaluate and redo those goals. We're talking minimally, we don't say one spot, but if we take like top three in the Big Ten, we're happy with one, two or three.
Q. Seems like the last three or four years have been the same, hurt or banged up at this point in the year. You're healthy. Do you feel this team is equipped to get out fast?
COACH BLUDER: I do feel that way. Knock on wood. We haven't had any major injuries this year. Knock on wood that that continues. We can all see how impressive Jaime Printy has played for us lately. I think we just have an unbelievable trio with Jaime, Morgan Johnson and Sam Logic. They're playing well. We have weapons like Melissa Dixon coming off the bench. I think we have the pieces for a really good Big Ten season. I do think the schedule kind of allows us to start the Big Ten season on a positive note, just having the home games, our first road game at Wisconsin, a place we've been fairly successful.
Q. After four years, does Jaime still surprise you with what she's able to do?
COACH BLUDER: Going six for seven from three point range in the second half in San Diego, you just shake your head sometimes. That was pretty amazing. She had a career high with 33 points. Yeah, there's still times she does, especially coming off the ACL injury, thinking of what she's battled back to. She deserves to be able to do that. Sam's numbers in that first game, I don't think in 28 years of coaching I've ever had a point guard with those kind of numbers, 15 rebounds, 14 assists, having a double double, I don't think I've ever seen that before. That was pretty impressive. She was very impressive in that game.
Q. They say football drives the truck as far as conference realignment. How much better is the Big Ten going to be in two years?
COACH BLUDER: This is going to be I think one of the most powerful leagues. It already is, and now we're adding Rutgers and Maryland to it. It's going to be incredibly difficult. To see us being with those teams that send 10 teams to the NCAA tournament, we have that many quality teams in this conference. It's going to be unbelievably difficult. I hope they do an east/west type of thing because playing all these schools would be really tough, and the travel.