Jan. 30, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson met with the media on Tuesday, Jan. 30 to discuss the upcoming game against Wisconsin on Jan. 31. Sampson was joined by senior Roderick Wilmont and junior D.J. White.
On what to expect from Wisconsin:
"The thing I like about Wisconsin's team is that they have a lot of ways to beat you, but they don't beat themselves. For a team to beat Wisconsin, you're going to have to beat them. They're not going to miss block-out assignments, they're not going to turn it over. The way their team is set up, they play through their best player, Alando Tucker, a senior. They have veteran guards and they're really set up well. They have great size and are really good off the bench. The word bench is a relative term - [Marcus] Landry would start for just about anybody - and they've been there a long time with Bo [Ryan]. They really, really know how to play."
On having to focus for such a big game:
"We tell our kids that every game. It's not like we're going to tell them we have to really be dialed in for this game. We just have to play. It comes down to making shots, staying out of foul trouble, keeping them off the free throw line. That becomes more important than the psycho-babble you're talking about. We've got another game Saturday against Iowa. We're going to prepare for this game very similar to the way we prepared for the Michigan game. We're not trumpeting this up to our kids that it's Curt Schilling in the World Series."
On the best way to defend Alando Tucker:
"I watched the Marquette game and to be honest with you, I thought Marquette really defended him well and he had 28. Pittsburgh has a pretty good team and he had 32 on them, so I don't know."
On the tempo of the game:
"We just take good shots. If we have a chance to get it in transition, we'll do that. I think the things I mentioned earlier are more important than the tempo of the game, though. It's a lot easier to slow a team down than it is to speed them up. You're not going to speed Wisconsin up. If we want to play at a certain tempo, you're not going to speed us up either. I apologize for always harkening back to Oklahoma, but I remember playing Kansas in the Big 12 Championship game and they were leading the nation in scoring, and I think we beat them 47-43. You're not going to speed Wisconsin up. If you say, `we're going to try to push the pace,' you can't do that. You have to take good shots, if you're in transition, take it. If not, you better be able to execute in the half court."
On Kammron Taylor:
"He plays like a senior. I think he embraces his role on that team. He can get 20 like he did against Ohio State, and then in the Iowa game he ran the offense, very unselfish. We recruited a kid out of high school in Minnesota named Lawrence McKenzie, so I remember watching Kammron play a lot. The thing that's impressed me a lot about him is how much he's improved. I think Bo's really helped Kammron. He can play fast or he can play slow. I think the Pittsburgh game was a high-scoring game, so they can play at multiple speeds. Coaches don't sit down and think about what pace we're going to play at."
On the feeling in practice of playing the number two team:
"I think it would be less than honest if you think this is not a big game, but these kids have all played in big games. I've coached in a lot of big games. But you can't make it more than what it is. We've got new guys in this press conference, so I know you guys think this is a big game. Wisconsin's really, really good. There's a lot of teams ranked high in the nation early in the polls that might be there because of the year before and what they have returning, and they may not be playing very good, but as the season goes on, you separate people. Look at the teams in the polls now - we're a good example of that, I don't think anybody anticipated us breaking any polls in November or December or any time soon - but Wisconsin's steady. They play the same way every single game. You watch them against Pittsburgh early, Marquette early, Ohio State, Iowa, they're consistent in what they do. They're not a hard team to prepare for - if you look at their stuff, it is what it is, they don't deviate, they run the same offense - it's just difficult to stop. So that's our challenge. They lead the league in free throw attempts. Tucker and Taylor, they both get to the free throw line a lot. That's the part of the game that we have to be really good in. You're not going to stop Tucker. It's what we're going to have to figure out today. We worked on some things yesterday, we'll work on some things today, and then we'll go play tomorrow night."
On the similar philosophies between the two teams:
"I've never coached against Bo's team. I know Bo and I consider him a friend, but I've always admired him from afar. There's a lot of definitions on the right way to play. It depends on your personality and how you like your teams to play. I think North Carolina plays the right way. I'm not sure we could ever get to that point with this team, the way they play, but everybody has to play the way that's right for them. I think a lot of how you coach has to do with where you coach. If you look at the kids that Bo recruits - anybody can recruit at a North Carolina, per se - but Bo get kids that buy into his system and they don't deviate. You're not going to get them out of what they do. You just have to be tough-minded in a game like this. If you play a Connecticut, you know how they're going to play. There's a lot of teams that are what they are. Wisconsin has a huge advantage in every game they play because they'll always have the best player on the floor and he's a senior. And I think that's a lot different from having a really good team. I think we have a good team. Win or lose tomorrow night, we're going to have a good team on Thursday. But we're playing against a team that's very deserving of their ranking and they have a great, great player. And if they get into trouble coming out of timeouts and dead balls, you know where the ball is going to go. The easy way of saying it is we have to limit their touches. I've heard that a couple of times. I think Marquette had the same game plan. I think Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh had the same plan too. But he's good. He doesn't shoot a lot of 3s, that's just not his style. But he dominates 15 feet and in as good as any college player I've seen in a long, long time. The reason I say 15 feet is that free throw line. He gets to the free throw line, he's an amazing athlete. I don't know if he's a great shooter, but he can score 30 or 25. He does what he needs to for his team to win."
On the positives or negatives of Roderick Wilmont:
"I think Rod has really improved. When you get late in the season and you have kids that are still getting better, that's a positive. If you're just a one-trick pony, you're usually guardable. We've been encouraging Rod to shot fake and put the ball on the floor. Remember the play at the end of the Connecticut game? Everybody remembers his 3, but I thought the best play he made was the in-between shot, when he got by the guy and drove it. He did it a couple times against Michigan. It's something that we've been encouraging him to do. If all you can do is shoot 3-pointers, they'll figure that out. It's the guys that can play around the rim and off the dribble that are difficult to match up with. Rod's just getting better."
On the difference in his relationship with Rod from September to now:
"I have a lot of respect for Rod. It's hard to go back to September or October. September was an eye-opener for all of them in terms of how hard you work. That's an answer to a lot of kids problems. Just because you work hard does not guarantee success, but if you don't work hard you're guaranteed not to succeed is how I've always approached hard work. If we have a calling card with this team, it is we've put ourselves in position to be successful. We haven't really struggled on the road - we've played good - we just weren't good enough to beat the other team the night we played them. You can't put a kid like Rod in a category and say, `here's the way you have to play.' Rod plays hard. He's learned to rebound. He's learned to be a more solid defender. It's hard to have a relationship with a young man unless they trust the coach, that he's doing the right thing for him. And I think Rod and I trust each other."
On Rod's passion and the role it plays:
"I think we get our identity from Rod. It's always easier if one of the kids you're counting on has a little fire in his belly, and Rod does. I think this program's a great fit for Rod because he plays with such passion and he's very coachable. He took some 3s the other day, but not one of them was off the dribble. As long as Rod catches and shoots 3s he can shoot all he wants. I don't like 3s off the dribble, I like catch-and-shoot 3s. And I've had to adjust to this team in that way too. If we didn't shoot 3s, we'd be in trouble. We have to be able to shoot 3s, that's the way this team is set up. Now, that's not to say as we go along with this and years go by, I don't know that that will be our primary source of attack, but with this team, Lance Stemler's not Alando Tucker - maybe somebody else could make him that, but I can't."
On why it's hard to monster Wisconsin defensively:
"It's hard to monster them because they don't really go to the post that much. It's much easier to monster a team that has a low-post attack. We're a pretty easy team to monster. Tucker's good in space and can score so many different ways. If you look at their big guys, [Jason] Chappell, [Brian] Butch, Landry. Butch is a little bit of an enigma in that he's 6-11 and he scores outside and inside. He doesn't do a lot of posting up. This isn't an easy team to guard, they're really, really well put together. There's lots of teams that have good players, but they may all be at the same position. If you look at them - one through seven or one through eight - they all fit, their team really fits well. I've coached against a lot of these teams in the past, and the common denominator is that they've all been veteran teams, the best players were seniors and juniors. That means they've been there a while."
On whether the team's success has had to do with players adapting to him or him adapting to players:
"Both are true. There has to be adjustment. But that's true with any coach in any year. Every year you're going to have incoming players, you're always going to have new guys. Wisconsin has the same team, so there's not a lot of adjustments for Bo, he knew what he had in October. I didn't know what we had in October and I was still trying to figure it out in November and December. Lineups don't matter in November and December. Once you hit January, you have a better idea of who can do what, but I'd say your assessment is accurate both ways."
On when he and D.J. White gained trust for each other:
"D.J.'s an easy kid to coach. There's not a lot of problems with him. I get on D.J. hard, but I get on him hard because I don't want him to settle. Just because someone says you're a good player, I could care less, that doesn't enter into the way I look at it. The difference in someone telling you a good player versus a coach - I see him every day, a lot of people only see him on game nights. You're only a good player if you learn how to practice and you learn how to prepare. I think that's where D.J.'s made his greatest improvements this year. If you have two days to prepare for a game, you have to use one of those days for you. D.J.'s really improved on how to prepare. There's a lot of teams this time of the year that don't have a whole lot to play for, and it's hard to take a team like that and try to get players better individually. We're in February now, it's our last month. March is not a guarantee. I know for sure we have 10 more games - nine regular season games and the first game of the Big Ten Tournament - the trick for our coaches is to get kids to believe that you can still improve and get better and that's the way we approach our practices, and D.J. is still improving. Look how many jump shots he's made - I don't think he made a jump shot in November. He's learned to step away from the basket, he's become a better passer, I don't think there's an area that he hasn't improved in this year - and by this year, I mean January. He's a better player today than he was two weeks ago. The trick is, how do you keep getting better? That comes down to your work ethic and your attitude and want-to, and I see that in that kid."
On how to take advantage of Wisconsin's short turnaround:
"Wisconsin has an advantage on everybody because of how veteran they are. They're not playing an Armon Bassett or Joey Shaw - we've got freshmen that haven't been down this road before. Those kids know exactly what Bo's going to do today and they know how to prepare for this game. They've played probably the last two months with a bull's eye on their back and they're comfortable with it. At Oklahoma, we had a couple years there where we were a one seed and a two seed, and I think back to how those kids handled it, and they handled it great because of maturity. And there's usually one or two guys that set the tone for you. As an outsider, it would seem to me that Alando and Kammron drive that team. Look at the way they play. Look at their assist-to-turnover ratio. Look at how Alando plays every game. So for us, we've got some veterans that are playing in roles they never played in. Look at A.J. Ratliff's first two years here. Look at Rod's. So there's guys that haven't been in the roles they're going to be in tomorrow night, whereas Wisconsin's kids, this is just another game for them."
On how to keep Wisconsin off the line:
"I think that's a big key for us. It also has to do with the whistle too. If it's a tight whistle, if they play it close. My wife was watching Pittsburgh-Villanova - when you're watching another game it's a lot different than coaching in it. You could have called a foul every time under the basket, it depends on who's down there. It's not like we played any different [against Michigan] than we did in other games. You always like to see a veteran crew, I'll tell you that. We just have to play smart and do a better job adjusting."
On watching film:
"It's 50 percent of what coaches do this time of year. The best time to watch film with players is on road trips because you have time. I haven't seen our players today - they have classes. The Big Ten has a rule that you have to be on-site the night before. When I was in Oklahoma I didn't like to go the night before. If we had a game in Manhattan, Kan., a 7 p.m. game, we'd leave at 10:30 a.m. We'd jump on our charter, be there in 1:30, go right to the gym. Here we have to be there before, so it gives you time to watch film. Players have to volunteer [to go in on their own] because we're on a time limit. Twenty hours a week is only a factor in November and December, it's not a factor once you get to January and February. Once you get to January, there's so many factors involved - keeping them fresh, not wearing them out. Assistant coaches have positions that they're responsible for. Coach Senderoff watches a lot of tape. I watched tape yesterday with just the post guys on certain things. Today we'll watch tape twice, before practice and tonight at my house."
Junior forward D.J. White
On Alando Tucker:
"He is one of the top players in the country, and that is proven by the way he has been playing all year. He is just leading his team in different ways."
On playing ranked teams:
"I think it helps in big games. This is a big game. Probably the biggest game for us so far. Knowing that we have been in those types of games and environments like at Duke Kentucky, I feel like those should help us."
On Brian Butch:
"Butch is a very versatile player. We are going to mix up our defense with him and make him do things he's not comfortable doing."
On Wisconsin's guards:
"I am going to have to help a lot. Our defense is a style where we pressure, but we stay out to help each other. I may be in a position tomorrow night where I have to stay out and help a little more, but I just have to be smart and not get into foul trouble."
On the adjustment to Coach Sampson:
"We play his style, and he has done a great job so far. Look at what he has done with this team. We feel good right now and are confident as a unit."
Senior guard Roderick Wilmont
On helping the young guys get prepared for the No. 2 team in the country:
"Come tomorrow night, they will be a little bit anxious. I know I was when I was in their position. Now, since I have been here, I just tell them to come ready to play and to calm down."
On Alando Tucker:
"Coach wants A.J. (Ratliff) and I on Tucker tomorrow night. Tucker is more aggressive. He's a lot like (Geary) Claxton from Penn State. They post a lot. So for me to guard Claxton at Penn State actually helped me get ready for the Wisconsin game. The only difference between Claxton and Tucker is Tucker is more aggressive and wants the ball little bit more."
On the matchup with Tucker:
"Tucker is a good player. I just have to go out there and compete. He's going to get touches regardless. The only thing you can do is front him and make him take tough shots. He's going to hit a couple because he is a good player and that's what good players do. He wants to win, I want to win and it's going to be a good matchup tomorrow. Both of us and both teams are going to play hard."
On the offense tomorrow night:
"Tomorrow on the offensive end, we have to execute our plays and play our game by running and getting easy points in transition. Like Coach said, whoever gets the most 50/50 balls is going to win the game. We need to go out and compete and play hard."