Dec. 13, 2006
Head men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson sat down with the media on Wednesday, Dec. 13 to preview the upcoming game against Southern Illinois.
On the injury update to Ben Allen:
"He has mononucleosis and is out. I do not know how long he will be out."
On finals week and having a week between games headed into Southern Illinois:
"I've kind of done it every year. It's a bit different because it's a Sunday game and not a Saturday game. We still have to give them a mandatory day off and we did that Sunday. Came back and practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. A lot of guys have Thursday and Friday finals. Thursday we'll schedule individual workouts around their finals. We'll come back Friday and Saturday and play Sunday. It's important to make sure they understand that these finals are more important than a basketball game right now. Your length of practice isn't as long. This time of year you also don't have seven straight days of two hour practices."
On the focus in practice following the Kentucky game:
"Looking back at the Kentucky game, I thought we played ok. The toughest thing to control in basketball is made shots. I remember in 2002 we won the Big 12 Championship beating Kansas, and we shot about 33-percent from floor. Both teams went to the Final Four. It was very similar to our game with them. Kentucky guards you pretty good. When you look at everything we did in that game, other than make shots, what didn't we do good? We rebounded, we defended, got loose balls, hustle plays. I thought we played good. Don't ever confuse playing good with shooting good. Sometimes you can shoot good and you play poorly, but nobody knows that because you shot good. Basketball is game that is externally driven. I looked at the tape. I thought our offense was pretty good. I just don't think we made many shots."
On the improved ball handling:
"We had 11 turnovers against Kentucky, which is great. If you average 11 turnovers a game you may lead your conference. We don't have a set number, our goal is to take care of the ball. If it happens to be 11, that is pretty good. The three turnovers we had the other night, I've never had that before. I'm sure I've had teams in single digits. I've never heard of a team playing a 40-minute game with only three turnovers. That might have been an aberration. I haven't looked at the Big Ten stats, but if you look at those stats, and I'm just going on experience, but look at teams that turn the ball over the fewest. It's going to be around 11. Eleven is great. Three is an aberration."
On the half-court defense:
"The biggest difference we've made is pressure on ball and getting up in the passing lanes more. Look at the difference in our defense now than the last five minutes of Indiana State and Chicago State. I remember those games. That's why I never overreact to that stuff. These guys had to learn. We can practice every day and still be a bad defensive team. You learn more from mistakes than you learn from doing good. That's why playing on the road at Kentucky and Duke has helped us. There may not be another team in the country that's had to do that thus far. Our record could be 8-0 with a different schedule. That's why I don't worry about what our record is. I know who we've played. A lot of teams that are 7-0 or 8-0, they haven't played at a Duke or at a Kentucky. For me, instead of looking at our record, I look at what we have improved on. We've been exposed in some areas that we have to improve on. For instance, we're learning to play hard on defense, but I think we play harder on defense than we do on offense. We've got to learn to play just as hard offensively. Our team is a little bit of a dichotomy too in that D.J. is not a guy who is going to run and get a lot of easy baskets. One of things I've seen in him from his freshman year to now is that he runs the floor better than he did then. If D.J. is going to be the focus of your offense, then we become a half court offensive team. The improvement that I'd like to see us make is to get easier baskets. Don't feel like we need to wait on D.J. every possession. The thing that I thought we were the best at all year, and we didn't score on some of them, but I thought we executed really well out of timeouts. We take every possession out of a timeout and put it on one edit and show our kids. After every timeout, we got a good shot off of something we ran. But in the flow of the game from offense to defense and back to offense, we need to speed up a little more and get easier baskets. If every possession is a half court set or a half court offense, then the game becomes a grind. Look at the Duke game. Look at the Kentucky game. It is easier to speed up at home than it is on the on the road. When you're on the road, especially in environments like that, the Kentucky environment was tough. Think about Lance, he's going from Bellville, Ill., to that. He didn't play in the Duke game, and you could tell he was a little bit rattled. Not his effort. Lance played great in that game. Look at how many deflections he had off lobs into Randolph Morris. If you take away his shot attempts, Lance Stemler played great. Shot attempts, that's where we didn't play very good. If everyone one of our shot attempts is going to come from a half court offense, then our shooting percentage isn't going to be very high. Look at what teams shoot against us. Duke didn't shoot against us very well in the second half. I think Coach K runs a pretty good offense. But they had to run half court every possession, and you're not going to shoot a very high percentage. You've got to go get a steal and get a layup. Give us a 3-point attempt and if we can get a long rebound and go score on that. All of a sudden you look up and you've got five layups, well that's 5-for-5. If somebody contests of your shots and you're 0-for-5 in the half court offense, your shooting percentage is 50 percent. We've got to get easier baskets. That's where I think Earl can help us and get us to run ahead of the ball and find a way to get D.J. down there faster."
On Southern Illinois:
"Up to that point in the season, Southern Illinois will have been arguably the best team we play. I think they're good. Southern Illinois went in and beat Western Kentucky, and they're good. The only game they've lost is against Arkansas, and Arkansas is good. SIU has all their starters back. Duke has a bunch of freshmen, and I think they'll be really good in January and February. Right now, today, the thing that makes Southern Illinois so good is that they have five starters back. And they have the same coach. There is no game-to-game where they try to get better each game. They're good now. They play man to man, and are a great defensive team. Duke and Kentucky are probably the two best defenses that we've seen so far. Southern Illinois extends and pressures. They trap every ball screen, they trap every handoff, they're good at playing gaps. Those kids are veterans."
On Joey Shaw on defense:
"He needs to get a lot better. Joey is getting better. I think we're all getting better off the ball. We're shutting down driving lanes better, but we've got to guard the ball better. Remember when Derrick Jasper penetrated and they got a couple of baskets off his penetration? He's a right-hander going right. One of the things we talk about in our scouting reports is - don't get beat to dominate side. Errek (Surr) got beat one time, Earl (Calloway) got beat. Joe Crawford is a good 1-on-1 player. He can get to your side. You've just got to fight and recover. Jasper isn't bad at that. We're not making multiple mistakes like we did before. You're going to get beat occasionally. Look at how many times Earl got to the rim. Joey's biggest improvement needs to come in containing the dribble. He doesn't need to pressure as much as Earl would because of his length. Joey can take a step back and contain you. If you pull up to shoot, he's long enough to go contest from a foot and a half back because of length. Whereas we want Earl to pressure as much as he can intelligently. The toughest thing in basketball is to guard the dribble. As good as Randolph Morris is, he got 16 points the other day. He went 6-for-12. A big guy's not going to go crazy unless you play him 1-on-1. It's a lot easer for a guard to control the game than a post guy because of penetration. He can go create too. That's why one of the things I really want to improve on in our offense is getting guards who can create off the dribble."
On D.J.'s attitude and swagger:
"Yeah, he's a lot better. I give D.J. all the credit for that. The way he's playing in games, he's playing like that in practice. Since that exhibition game last year, he's never been healthy. When you're playing without thinking about an injury. It's just like our kids on defense. You've got them doing a couple of different things. Running an offense or running a set, if you're thinking about three or more things, you're thinking about nothing. I think that's what D.J.'s doing, he's just playing and isn't thinking about his foot. He's playing. No one detests losing more than I. Look at all the positives that we did well. I thought we played really well, we just didn't make shots. I thought D.J. was by far the best from half to half. He's had some good halves, but you haven't seen him coming out of the locker room out of the second half with his motor going too much."