Feb. 23, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Before taking off with the team for Michigan State, head coach Kelvin Sampson sat down with members of the media to discuss the upcoming game.
On the team:
"We are a very capable team that needs to have all our parts. This team is a part dependant team and if we have our parts then we are capable. The team that beat Southern Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan State had all its parts. I wish I could have had Earl for thirty plus minutes against Michigan and I wish D.J. hadn't gotten into foul trouble, but a lot of teams are in that situation. If you look at Michigan State earlier in the year when they didn't have Raymar Morgan they struggled without him. Drew Neitzel has been great all year, but Morgan is healthy now and injuries are not something that you can be discouraged by, you just need to toughen up and go out and compete. Our goal for Saturday, for whoever plays, is to go out there, compete and be tough as nails. Playing hard isn't good enough, we have to compete."
On the team's road schedule:
"You have to be tough as nails to win on the road or you just have to have a really great team. Wisconsin and Ohio State can win on the road, but it seems like everybody else is able to beat each other at home. I don't remember being in a conference where the home court advantage was so huge. Every program in this league is in a different stage right now. You can tell Wisconsin is a veteran team by the way they play, but the other teams are in a state of flux. The thing that I have been encouraged by on the road is that we have given ourselves the chance to win at some point. In the Michigan game, with Earl out and D.J. in foul trouble, those were factors. Our margin of error is important and we can't win on the road with strikes against us. We have to play good and that means out best players have to be good. We have played good enough to be in games, but we haven't played good enough to win."
On the team's play in the victory over Minnesota:
"Offensive rebounds were the key, and we had fifteen. That is a part of our identity. We work to establish an identity and as the years go by that has to become our identity. Offensive and defensive rebounds are crucial. It's hard for us to be a great offensive rebounding team without our best rebounders going to the boards. The other night I was encouraged by Joey (Shaw) and Ben's (Allen) play. Lance (Stemler) didn't make any shots, but there is a reason he played as many minutes as he did. Minnesota has played a lot of people tough. I want to win the game first and foremost. I saw a lot of kids that I thought played better."
On Armon Bassett's experience at point guard:
"It is just something that Armon has to deal with as the season continues. Freshman are a lot more comfortable at home as they are a insulated by their coaches, teammates and fans. On the road they are on an island. Experience helps and that is where Earl is important for us. Earl is playing pretty good and was comfortable at the one with Armon at the two. They both played their roles. Now Armon has to change gears and be the floor leader. Instead of looking to score within what we are doing, he has to set it up. All of the sudden he has to change who he is and really it's adversity. You have to deal with adversity and its not life or death. Armon is a point guard and if you look at Drew Neitzel last year, his role has been altered with Travis Walton being there. Everybody has to change roles sometime. Armon's area of improvement is leadership, and it is hard for a freshman to look at their elders when he is used to being one of the guys, especially at this time of the year. Errek Suhr is probably more comfortable as the leader, I just think we are better with Armon as the point guard and Errek coming off the bench playing his role."
On the team's win and loss record:
"I am a big picture type of guy. We are 8-5 in the league and if you look at the second half of many of our games, we have been in there. There hasn't been a game yet we haven't been there. We're 18-8 and in every game we have played we have had a chance to win. We have to find a way to keep our core together. I look at our team and how we have won all of our home games. We have been in every single game on the road. I am proud of this team, I have nothing to complain about. I wish we could have been tough enough to pull out one or two more wins on the road, but we weren't. We have three games left and we are going to try like heck to win the next three. There isn't a game we have left that we can't win."