Nov. 6, 2013
"We had some bad news come from the exhibition game with Nicole Smith being out for most of the year. She did suffer a meniscus tear during the game, and typically a meniscus tear requires 3-to-4 weeks before they are back on the court, but she has the five percent kind that has to be sutured and that means the recovery is a longer process. We are looking at 10-14 weeks recovery, which is most of the year; it is a blow to our program, a blow to our depth. She is the tallest player on our team, and what we are hurting most about is that we lost a really great kid.
"Nicole has worked extremely hard over the summer, as hard as anybody. She has worked very hard in the weight room, has worked hard on her shot. She made a drastic change in her game from last year to this year. What bothers me the most is seeing a kid who worked so hard in the offseason, I just want them to be rewarded, and she will not get the reward for all of the hard work she put in in the offseason. There was a complete change in her demeanor, her attitude, and her work ethic and it had paid dividends. Now, she won't get to reap the benefits of that. That is the thing that bothers me and the team the most. We are anticipating a Friday surgery for her.
"Shifting gear, we are excited about the games we have coming up and the two opponents we have coming in this weekend. UC Riverside is athletic, and has a very good player in Brittany Crain. She named Big West Freshman of the Year last season, and was a pre-season all-conference pick for them. They are a team that is very athletic and plays a different type of zone than we usually see. They play a 1-2-2 zone and early in the year, it's hard to scout and prepare for people because you aren't really sure what they are going to do. You can look at last year's film and get a sense for the style and assume that same coach, they are going to play a similar style. But you aren't ready for a whole variety of things, and we are probably not completely ready for a 1-2-2 zone. We would rather see a 2-3 zone or something we are little more familiar with at this point. So that is something that we will have to be ready for against Riverside.
"With Dayton, just with one day to prepare, we are playing a team that comes in ranked in polls as high as No. 14 and No. 16 in the country. They went 28-3 last year. They have been to the last four NCAA Tournaments. This is a team that is very well coached. They are winners; they know how to win. We are really challenging ourselves early in our schedule, playing such a good basketball program as Dayton."
How important is it to play a team of Dayton's caliber this early in the season?
COACH BLUDER: "Ideally, I would have liked to play a couple more teams before we played a team such as Dayton. But, sometimes in nonconference scheduling you take a team when you can get them. It's a hard jigsaw to put together with scheduling. It is nice to have a top-20 team on your home court. You usually don't get that outside of conference play or in-state rivalries, so that is nice. At the same time it is a veteran team, an experienced team. They are a lock to win the Atlantic-10 again this year. A team that is similar to us in that they like to run, are a very good 3-point shooting team, but they are much bigger than we are."
What does the injury to Nicole Smith do to the rotation?
COACH BLUDER: "Right now we are having Claire Till learn a lot of the 5 position for us. Obviously, that is not the big bulky body you like to see in the 5, but at the same time, Claire is tough. The kid is tough as nails. She is not scared to be physical. She is not going to back down from anybody. One of the things that I have always liked about Claire is that she kind of plays with a chip on her shoulder. You need that when you play as an undersized post. She is going to have to rely on that in this position. She will get a lot more minutes at the 5 and it opens up more minutes for Ally (Disterhoft) at the 3 and the 4."
What impressed you most about the freshmen in the exhibition, and how will they have to step up?
COACH BLUDER: "You always like when freshman come in and hit the ground running, and they did that. I don't think they held anything back in the exhibition game. They weren't playing like freshman. They didn't defer and give the ball to somebody else. They played like they belonged on the floor and that is what we have to have happen when we have nine scholarship players; we need everyone to contribute. We need both Ally (Disterhoft) and Alexa (Kastanek) to contribute for us."
Even with the injury to Nicole Smith, will you still play up-tempo?
COACH BLUDER: "We definitely are going to try and push the ball. In fact, I think we need to do it even more so now with Claire playing the 5. It gives us a real nice runner at that position. We need to get down and run our offense before the other team has time to set up in their defense. In my opinion we need to run even more."
Have you seen the consistency so far this year with Bethany Doolittle?
COACH BLUDER: "Yeah, it was a great first exhibition game for Bethany. I hope we get the consistent Beth. You know she is a year older; her second season in the starting lineup. That is when you begin to see more consistent play out of kids. Hopefully that is over for us, and we are ready to have a consistent Beth the rest of this year.
Is Samantha Logic taking on an increased leadership role this year?
COACH BLUDER: "I trust Sam doing just about anything. If I needed my oil changed, I would trust Sam and I have never seen her do anything like that. In my opinion, Sam can really accomplish anything. When I told her that we were going to try to be more of an up-tempo team this year, her eyes got big... big smile on her face and she is ready to go. This is Sam's type of game, but Sam is definitely being asked to be more of a leader. Sam and Theairra (Taylor) are our captains. We lost three captains from last year to graduation, two very strong personalities, and two, four-year starters. They have big shoes to fill and they are doing a terrific job with it. I think they understand that this is their team and they are leading it and doing a very good job of it."
Did you like how the team handled the up-tempo style during the exhibition on Sunday?
COACH BLUDER: "I did. I felt that we did a very good job of that. We had 17 turnovers, so we would like to get that number down. A few of them are because of the push, but as I explained to the team, you are going to have a few more of those. When you are trying to up tempo, you are going to have a few more turnovers and you have to live with those. You have to get a little more control so you don't have an overabundance of turnovers in those situations.
How do you feel this team can be with contributions from a number of different players sharing the ball?
COACH BLUDER: "We were a top-20 team in assists last year, and that is a statistic I love. It shows unselfish play. Usually, when you have that that many assists, it is going to lead to a higher field goal percentage because it shows that you understand what a good shot is from a bad shot. Our players know. They are going to pass up an average shot to get a better shot by making one more pass. You will hear that term a lot from our team: one more. You will hear the kids on the floor with their target hands ready and yelling one more because they know one more pass and they will have a wide open shot. Our players understand that concept very well."
Kathryn Reynolds, what is your plan for her moving forward?
COACH BLUDER: "It's kind of a day-by-day, game-by-game thing. If we need Kathryn we are going to use her. She probably got a few more minutes in that exhibition game. Part of that was the foul situation. Moving forward, we may have to expect that to happen with the fouls and the way it is going to be called this year. Kathryn may be asked earlier than expected to contribute."
Is the new foul situation (officiating changes) different for this team?
COACH BLUDER: "It is different for us. For 30 years, we have been coaching one way and instructing in practice one way and now to have to go back and make that adjustment is big. It's big for the coaches when we are officiating in practice. It is big for the players to break habits, so it does change the way we are going to have to substitute.
"In my opinion we are going to have to take people to the bench quicker if they have one foul. We could wait until they had two before. We are going to have to use the bench to help them learn new skills. To help them learn to defend. My problem is we are going to have three new officials that we didn't have in our exhibition game in this upcoming game, and three different ones in the game on Sunday. That is what is hard. The inconsistency of human nature. You aren't going to call the game the same way this person does, and that is what is going to get difficult moving forward. It is not the same three people every time out."
Do you try more zone with the fouls picking up?
COACH BLUDER: "Absolutely. We have been working very hard on our zone defense. One of the things I was pleased about other than the assists in the first game was I thought we zoned pretty well and did a nice job creating offense out of that defense. We are going to keep working hard on the zone."
How does Nicole Smith's injury impact the 4 and 5 spots (in the lineup)?
COACH BLUDER: "It takes Claire (Till) out of the mix of working at the 4 and really focusing more on the 5. Will she play the 4? Yes, but her number one role is backing up the 5 now. What the means, instead of having Kali (Peschel), Claire, and Ally (Disterhoft) playing at the 4, it comes down to Kali and Ally more, so it gives more minutes to Ally."
How important is points off opponent turnovers for this team?
COACH BLUDER: "A lot of them came in our zone (in the exhibition) and zone traps, so I thought that was good. I like the players getting the feeling that they are getting rewarded for playing good defense. You get rewarded with an assist, a high percentage shot, maybe even a lay-up by playing good defense. So that is the best coaching that can happen, really. I hope we continue that. Obviously, we were playing a Division II opponent, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. We know the competition will improve a lot come Friday."