Jan. 9, 2013
COACH BLUDER: Obviously, important game for us coming off of our first Big Ten loss, we need to bounce back and have a really good performance at Wisconsin. The last time we lost a game we reeled seven off in a row, so I know that our team can bounce back. I know that we're capable of bouncing back. But it is our first road game of the year. If you want to be successful in this league, you've got to do well on the road, and we have done well at Wisconsin in the past. Though some of them have been kind of thrilling overtime type victories, we’ve been able to pull out those victories and, ultimately, that's the main thing.
So I think our team is anxious to be able to go on the road. I think it's good that we are going to a place that we've had some success in the past. But I know they're anxious to get back on the floor and prove themselves after the game on Sunday.
Q. When you have a veteran team like this, when they go on the road can they kind of get together more and focus?
COACH BLUDER: I think this team, it's not like we need the time together on the road to build chemistry and something like that. We've had that opportunity. Over Christmas break they really don't have anything but basketball and team building to worry about. So I don't think that is really an issue but going on the road for the first time, that always is an issue. It's tougher to go on the road. We'd much rather play in Carver- Hawkeye Arena, and we didn't take advantage of that with Michigan. So now we've got to pick up a few extra road wins along the way to make up for that mishap against Michigan.
Q. Last time you went to Madison, Jaime went down. What are your recollections about that, and just tell me about her come back?
COACH BLUDER: Well, it was a close game. Jaime had kind of hurt her knee or tweaked her knee a little bit earlier in the game, so she was kind of favoring her knee. She went back into the game, and obviously it was towards the end going for a rebound. She went down on the far side of the court. I've talked with her about going there again, and we all know we're smart individuals. We know it wasn't the place that caused the issue, but obviously I want to get into her mind a little bit and find out if she's worried about that. So we're trying to talk through it and make sure that she's not nervous going into play there. Because, again, it wasn't the place that caused the injury, and we have to keep reminding ourselves of that. We've had some really good memories at Wisconsin, and we need to focus on those type of memories instead of that one.
But where she's come since that point in less than a year, I mean, basically in 11 months, is remarkable in my opinion. To think of how she's playing right now, I've seen very little hesitation in Jaime since she's come back. I think she completely trusts her knee. I think that mentally she's very strong. I don't know if I could have done what she's done and come back from two of these and go attack the basket as well and go as hard in practice as she does. I think it's remarkable where she's come from in 11 months. So I look forward to two more really good months out of Jaime Printy in basketball.
Q. Was it more the zone against Michigan or was Bethany just having an off day?
COACH BLUDER: I think Bethany struggled a little bit offensively in the last game. But you're going to have that. Not every player is going to be on every single night for the whole game. That's why you hope you have a team. You hope you have balance, and I think that's one of our assets to our basketball team is we don't rely on one person. We often win games with three or four people in double figures, and those people change constantly almost. So just because Bethany had an off night offensively isn't an excuse for us to lose a basketball game. We definitely have other people that can pick up in that situation, and that could be insert anybody's name in there, not just Bethany's.
Q. 16 games in the season, and she's only tried three free throws. Is that just kind of a fluke thing, or is that not being aggressive enough? Is it the way she plays on the court?
COACH BLUDER: It is kind of unusual. You look at Kate Thompson from Michigan, she was kind of in that same boat. But Kate Thompson, you think of just a perimeter shooter more. But Bethany, she has taken the ball to the hole. I mean, not all the time by any means, but she has some nice give and go. They hit her in some nice give and go cuts to the basket. I think it's pretty unusual that she only has three. But there is no doubt that she could be more aggressive and offensively minded. I think the team has a lot of confidence in her doing that. Really, I think her only hesitation comes within her own two ears of doing that. So I would like to see her be more aggressive offensively, because I think she can do it.
Q. Samantha came up strong last year and first part of this year maybe a few turnovers. But she seems to have really elevated her game?
COACH BLUDER: Yeah, I think of the Wisconsin game last year, and in my opinion, that was kind of her breakout game. That's when she really took off. Now half the team was probably there last year, and half of her team might be there tomorrow night. But I think Sam has played pretty consistently since that point except maybe some turnover issues at the beginning of the year. I think she's gotten those under control. She's doing a great job passing the ball. She's shooting the ball more confidently. Her energy is what kept us in and brought us back into that game against Michigan in my opinion, at the end of the game, her defensive energy.
So, again, I think Sam is doing terrific for us. I expect her you know, I don't want her to go into the Wisconsin game and have to prove herself. Because she's going back to her home state and she's going to have a lot of people there, and I expect maybe the first couple of minutes she might press. But after she gets into the flow of the game, I hope that she just relaxes because the girl has nothing to prove. She's already proven it, so she doesn't have to go in there and feel like she has to have this performance against Wisconsin for us to win or show everybody in Ray seen how good she is because everybody knows how good she is.
Q. Do you see a reason why you've been so successful up there?
COACH BLUDER: We've had some good Hawkeye support up there. We've had some good, loud crowds that have come up there and supported us, and that's been really nice, but our team plays good playing there. You get a feel for arenas sometimes when you like playing in certain arenas, and it's a nice play. Our team feels really good. Since we've had success, it kind of snowballs, and it's amazing how much confidence can do for a team and mental aspects can do for a team. I think mentally they feel good playing there. That may sound trivial, but I don't think it is. Like when you put on your most favorite pair of jeans, you feel better. It's kind of like going there, we feel pretty good there.
Q. Theairra talked about doing some meditation before the game because she was getting so psyched up, she would almost get sick. Has that been the reason she's been so consistent all year so far?
COACH BLUDER: Theairra had a lot of anxiety after her knees and understandably so. I think all of us can imagine what that would be like and think that, you know, having that anxiety ourselves. So she's, I think, worked really hard on trying to relax, and I think team is a good healer. The more removed you are away from something, it becomes less prevalent in your mind. So I think time has helped her. But I think also she's become more aware of relaxing and how to relax when she feels anxious good I think that's helped her a lot. I don't know if she's gotten sick a whole lot this year before practice.
Q. What is your scouting report on Morgan Paige?
COACH BLUDER: She loves shooting the ball and she is a good shooter, a productive shooter. As she goes, a lot of times Wisconsin goes. She is excellent from transition. She gets to the three an awful lot. We'll have to do a good job on her defensively. I think, again, we can provide some help, because I don't think she does give up the ball a whole lot. So, you know, she's really taken on the burden of this team, the Wisconsin team, with all the injuries that they've had. So that's a big responsibility, and she's stepped up and had a great career at Wisconsin. We're going to have to do a good job defensively on her. I think that is the key to the game.
And on Jacki, too. I'm not even going to try to pronounce Jacki's last name. She's done a really good job too and really elevated her game in the last couple of games in conference, averaging 16 points a game in conference. She's a hard match up for us because she's a power forward that plays like an off guard. So that's a little bit of a tricky match up for us there.
Q. Kali and Kayla, are they getting a little bit more into the flow? Do you feel more comfortable putting them in there?
COACH BLUDER: Yeah, you know, and that really is a timing issue. We had a good group coming back. So in the past we've had to have freshmen step in and play important roles out of necessity because of injuries or because of lack of depth, and this year we don't have those situations, so it's a good thing. But also, your freshmen are not getting some of that playing experience that a Jaime and a Morgan got when they were freshmen that have helped make them great seniors.
So, you know, hopefully it won't hurt us too much in the future that they're not getting as much playing time. You've got to remember though. They're getting all the practice time, film sessions and all of that. But they're not getting the game minutes that some of our freshmen have gotten if the past.
Q. How about Claire? Is she day to day?
COACH BLUDER: Claire, that stress reaction flared up again, so we had to back her off again and hold her out of practice and games. So I hope we're not dealing with all year. But I don't like the way it's headed right now just with her being out for three weeks and then coming back for 10 days and having it flare up again and now she's out again. It makes me nervous that we might be looking at a year long up and down thing with that. So I hope not because I think Claire can help us. It would be really nice to have her getting some extra time too because now she's missing out on practices. You get behind when you miss out on practices. So hopefully she'll come back and it will heal soon.