Jan. 3, 2012
COACH BLUDER: Obviously a big week for us with three Big Ten games within a week's period. We have two at home now, and we're excited about playing back at home again, facing Illinois, a team that almost beat Purdue yesterday. It came down to a last shot with Purdue winning that game. Illinois is obviously playing better, a team that's very athletic, quick, a good defensive team, Karisma Penn considered one of the best posts in the Big Ten conference, although I would have to contend that Morgan Johnson is playing as one of the best posts in the Big Ten conference right now. She is just really playing outstanding. I think she is the best back to the basket post player there is in the Big Ten conference. Karisma Penn comes out a little bit, can face up, shoot that 17 footer. She's really probably a power forward playing in the center position.
But they have a good shooter in Amber Moore. We have to keep track of her. And their power forward is also doing a very nice job. So their top two scorers are their inside players. We're going to have to ask a lot of our inside players tomorrow, on Thursday. We're anxious to get home again. I think the Ohio State game we played so well for the first 15 minutes of that game, although it's a 40 minute game. Our defense let down, and we really got away from our offense and what we were doing well in the first 15 minutes in scoring and we kind of got away from that, and we have to get back to just following the basics of what our offensive scheme are all about so we get those high percentage shots.
Q. What's Melissa Dixon's status?
COACH BLUDER: I don't know yet. Not feeling very good about it right now. She did something to her knee in the first seconds that she was in the game against Ohio State. She went to try to contain a drive, pushed off, and her knee kind of well, it gave out a little bit. Right now she's had an MRI and we're waiting for the results. Hopefully we should hear from them this afternoon.
Q. Seemed like at least I thought Illinois was going to be kind of a dark horse in the Big Ten race. It really hasn't turned out that way. Have you seen anything on tape that has kind of slowed them down?
COACH BLUDER: More I think inconsistency shooting the ball than anything. You know, again, they have some good nights, some bad nights, but consistently overall just having that good offensive performance day in, day out, you know, Amber Moore is a very good three point shooter. They don't have a lot of depth at the three point shot area, but again, they can push the ball very well. They did have one injury to one of their starters earlier in the year since Centrese McGee tore her ACL earlier in the year, and they were probably counting on her to play well for them this year, as well. But this is a team that Illinois last year got better and better as the season went on. They're a good defensive team. They can get in the passing lanes, they're athletic. They jump real well. They just have they're very long limbed and it makes it hard to run your offense against them.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Morgan Johnson's production and her growth from last year to this year?
COACH BLUDER: I think she's playing with really a good level of confidence right now. She's making excellent reads on when to cut back door to get high percentage shots. I just think she's playing at a different level this year, and I think her teammates are doing a better job of finding her this year. I think they're doing a really good job of locating her when her help defense picks them up, and they're able to give her the ball for some high percentage scores. So that's been really nice to see. I think we can still get the ball inside even more. But what I enjoyed also in the Ohio State game is seeing Morgan Johnson run the floor and get an open, uncontested lay up out of the fast break. That was really fun to see, as well.
Q. She's doing it well two bad knees, too. Does that kind of make it a little bit more impressive to you?
COACH BLUDER: It really does. Just because I know how much pain the kid is in all the time. I admire her so much for that. Your heart aches for her when you see her cringe and you see her grabbing her knees, and I can't imagine how bad they must hurt her. And so if anybody deserves it, I guess she deserves to have this success.
Q. So are you assured that she's not doing further damage to her knees; it's just a pain situation?
COACH BLUDER: That's correct. That's what we've been told is that there won't be further damage to her knees, but it certainly bothers her. This bothered her a lot her freshman year and it kind of wasn't as bad her sophomore year, and now this is the worst it's been this year.
Q. She said she was really scared when she went down at Ohio State.
COACH BLUDER: It looked awkward, and the official kind of gave me the wave right away to come out, and that usually is not a good sign when they do that. But I was impressed with how fast she came back in that game. When Jan told me she's ready to go, I was very, very surprised.
Q. Do you see that more with big tall kids than you do the rest of us?
COACH BLUDER: You mean big tall kids with tendonitis or the going down strange part?
Q. Tendonitis, stiff in the joints.
COACH BLUDER: Yeah, I mean, a lot of players I feel like you do see it a little bit more in big kids. In big kids, when you think about it, they have farther to run than everybody else. They're playing basket to basket, and also when she came down wrong, she came down on another post foot, and there's more of that that goes on in the post area, too. They're down posting up with their knees bent a lot more, calling for the ball and sealing, and I think that all takes its toll on the knees. But I think lifting and all those, when you're tall like that, it's a tougher battle.
Q. I know last week you talked about Virginia Johnson. We weren't here. I wonder if you could give us an update on her situation a little bit.
COACH BLUDER: They have all these new concussion tests that the NCAA are mandating that we do before they can come back, and I think she's been cleared three days now in a row, which is really good. It's five days in a row before they can come back to any kind of practice situation. Today I believe was day three that she's passed, so we're hopeful now that we're moving in the right direction and that she'll be back for us at least in practice by the end of the week.
Q. Kamille said she had a concussion a couple years ago. Have there been other concussions that you remember? I don't remember that many over the years.
COACH BLUDER: Kamille missed the game at Indiana and we won that game at Indiana without Kamille in the starting lineup. Trisha Nesbitt filled in at that position. Basically somebody stepped on her head after she took a charge in a game. Abby Emmert actually had some concussions while she was here, and we had to take her out for some time, as well. But it's become more of a hot topic right now with the NCAA, and I think a lot of it has to do with football, but then obviously it goes across the board with all the athletes.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Morgan? She's taking a large academic load and her ability to manage both academics and athletic play.
COACH BLUDER: We have a couple players that are really challenging themselves academically as well as athletically, and Morgan is one, Kelly Krei is another one. Kelly is a biomedical engineer and premed major, as well. Morgan is a premed major. So obviously they have stress on keeping their grades up as well as their basketball competition, and they're competing against kids in the classroom that don't have a 20 hour a week job. They are not traveling, they're not missing classes. So they're kind of at a competitive disadvantage in the classroom right off the bat. And then also premed majors are asked to volunteer, and so Morgan is always looking for volunteer hours, as well. She has spent Friday nights in the Ronald McDonald House helping out there. She is a person that actually really enjoys volunteering, though. She enjoys being in those situations. She is job shadowed at times. She really is pulled thin, there's no doubt. But she's a smart kid, and she's able to manage her time pretty well. Does she get stressed about it sometimes? Absolutely. She gets a little stressed about and it's nice for her when she has that break in the summer, and like right now when she can have a little bit of break from the academic side of things.
Q. With the defense, it's been an on again, off again
COACH BLUDER: Absolutely, but if we follow the pattern, this should be a good defensive game for us against Illinois. It seems like it is on again, off again, every other game.
Q. What can you do to make that more consistent?
COACH BLUDER: I wish I had the answer to that. I keep stressing to them defense. We keep working on fundamentals in practice. We're going to keep drilling it. We're going to keep preaching it and keep doing repetitions. You know, I don't know of any other way than that. I've got to convince them and sell them how important defense is, and hopefully we can get a consistent effort there, because we can't be expected to score 85 points every game and win games. I thought we scored enough to win at Ohio State. We just we have to do a better job on the defensive end. We actually out rebounded Ohio State, too, and we only had 15 turnovers, too, which isn't bad for us on the road. So we did a lot of things pretty well in that area, but we just have got to play better defense.
Q. Have you talked about injury updates?
COACH BLUDER: I don't know anything yet on Melissa. I'm hoping to hear really before the end of the day. And so she had an MRI done this morning. They're just waiting to read it. I don't feel really good about it. Nothing like super severe, though. We're probably talking meniscus more than they do not believe it's like ACL or MCL, it's meniscus.
Q. What would the meniscus mean?
COACH BLUDER: Four to six weeks is usually what's typical, which this time of year is a long time.
Q. What would best case scenario be if it's not that? Would it just be a sprained knee?
COACH BLUDER: Yeah, I believe that would be the best case scenario, so then we're probably looking a week. I don't know. I don't feel real good about it, and we'll just have to wait and see when the doctor reads the MRI.
Q. Depth wise, the bench now is getting eroded.
COACH BLUDER: It's dwindling. Yeah, considering we have 15 kids on scholarship, our numbers are down pretty low right now. But the good news thankfully is Trisha Nesbitt is going to come back. She practiced really well today, practiced really hard and got through the whole practice. That's a positive. Virginia, you weren't here yet, we talked about Virginia three days out of the five into the clear for the concussion, so hopefully by the end of the week we can start looking at practicing with Virge again. So those are some bright spots.
Q. Did you guys talk about perimeter defense?
COACH BLUDER: We were just kind of talking about that when you walked in. It's got to get better. The pattern for us has been good game, bad game. Going back to the Iowa State game. We need some more consistency in that area. You know, our ability to contain a drive and play help side defense and stay in a stance, we've just got to do a better job at that.
Q. I know some of the reserves, you didn't throw them in there as much yesterday. Just not as much faith defensively or offensively or you wanted your top players out there?
COACH BLUDER: It was a situation of we're in the Big Ten now, we're playing our top players, and Melissa Dixon had been getting quite a few minutes for us, and that was a loss when we lost her. Kalli Hansen has had a pulled groin for a long time, so she's been slowed with that. So those are our first subs off the bench, typically Melissa and Kalli. I think Theairra is getting more and more confident. We have to keep going with that course, too, because we all can see how talented she is and what she can bring to the table. Hopefully in time before too long she's going to be a real factor for us, as well. Q. I think it was the Virginia Tech game, if I remember right, that Morgan started so bad and then came on and had a great
COACH BLUDER: Exactly.
Q. Was that kind of a turning point for her because it seems like since then she's really been consistent scoring wise for you.
COACH BLUDER: Yeah, I think you're probably right. That was a strange game. She started out just horrifically and ended unbelievably well. Again, I don't think Morgan maybe would have been able to do that a year ago or certainly not her freshman year, to be able to bounce back like that. But again, I think maturity wise and believing in yourself more as a junior, having more confidence helps you come back from those things a little bit easier. But you're probably right, that's probably where she kind of really has made a big, big jump.