March 10, 2007
COACH BO RYAN: Well, I know these guys need to get back and get some rest because these have been two pretty tough physical games. I'll keep my remarks short and say I'm happy we're playing in the championship game. This is good stuff, being able to play the No. 1 team in the country and getting a chance to get back on the floor. We're definitely excited about that.
Q. At the under 16 time out in the second half, Alando sat down for rest and the rest of you guys scored seven straight with him on the bench, I think 10 of the next 12 overall. How important are stretches like that for you guys as a team when you can produce when he's not on the floor?
KAMMRON TAYLOR: I think it's very important. It gives the other guys on the team confidence in themselves. When your best player is well, he wasn't struggling, he just needed a break. He needed a rest. It was just good to see that we had other guys step up and make plays for the team with our best player on the bench.
Q. Alando, can you talk about the job you guys did offensively, Warren Carter 14 points but other than that no one else scored in double figures?
ALANDO TUCKER: Well, they're a team that likes to work it in. As a team they've been working it in more and not shooting threes. We knew if we contained Shaun Pruitt for most of the game that we would force them to find other ways to score. That was our plan coming in. That was a great team defensive effort. That's what we have to keep looking forward to going down the stretch.
Q. Alando, you've now scored more points than any person to ever wear a Wisconsin uniform. Can you just talk about that? And also, doing it in this season with all the success you guys have had?
ALANDO TUCKER: That's a great feat, a great accomplishment. It's one of those things that the team has been so successful this year. It's one of those things that it's helped me out, confidence wise, the way everybody has been playing. Our coaching staff keeps us on it, and it's been one of those things where it happened unselfishly, and that's what in the manner we've been doing it, we've been winning. It always feels good when you're successful, and everything else comes. It seems like everything is falling in place. It's great. It's great for the whole team.
Q. Alando, can you talk about looking forward, if you are, to the rubber match with Ohio State tomorrow? I'm sure there's so much on the line.
ALANDO TUCKER: You have to look forward to it. As a player, a competitor, you look forward to playing the best teams, and they're one of the better teams in the nation. This is the third time we'll see them, and it's going to be a tough game. There were two tough battles, one in Wisconsin and one in Ohio. It's going to be a tough game. We're definitely looking forward to it. It's the Big Ten championship game. I know the atmosphere is going to be tough. We're prepared, though.
Q. Marcus, in the first game Shaun Pruitt was the guy that gave you guys a lot of trouble. Just can you talk about the strategy against him today?
MARCUS LANDRY: Well, one of our biggest strategies was sticking to our rules and trying to maintain him and get around him and in front of him, and it worked out in our favor today.
Q. Can you talk about the defensive effort and all the little things you guys do, whether it's patience or what have you, to be successful?
KAMMRON TAYLOR: I just think we work well together as a team. We have a lot of good defenders on this team, and I just think we do a good job of moving our feet. And at times when we're not moving our feet, that's when we get ourselves in trouble. But for the most part, I think we do a pretty good job of working as a whole.
Q. For any of you guys, do you think regardless of what happens tomorrow you've done enough to earn a No. 1 seed?
ALANDO TUCKER: We're not really saying that we want a No. 1 seed right now. A lot of teams get hurt doing that. Our focus is to win this game tomorrow, and everything else will play itself out once we take care of business.
We're not going out there and saying, okay, we're not going to lose this game, and if we do lose it we've put ourselves in the position. We're going out there with the idea that we're going to win this game, and that's the way we approach every game. We can't get caught up in worrying about seeds because then we'll lose focus on the task at hand.
Q. You talked about after the Ohio State game that it kind of hurt how that game ended. For you are you looking forward tomorrow to having another crack at Ohio State?
KAMMRON TAYLOR: (Laughing) I'm just happy to be in the championship game. It is an added bonus that we get a chance to go against Ohio State again, but I can't get caught up in stuff like that.
Q. Kammron, you had ten points in a four minute stretch during the second half. Why offensively did things suddenly start to come together?
KAMMRON TAYLOR: I was just making better decisions with the ball. I wasn't trying to force things like I was in the first half and, you know, when shots are going down, everything looks good. And when they're not, you know, that's when things look bad. So I just tried to make a conscious effort at making better decisions.
Q. Alando, when you speak to the public, the media, you sound so much like a coach. Where does that come from; just your leadership abilities?
ALANDO TUCKER: This guy on the far left of us. I've been around him for five years (laughter). I can't do anything but learn from him. I knew leaving here I'd have to pick up something (laughter).
COACH BO RYAN: I hope you picked up more than that (laughter).
Q. For Marcus and Kammron, if you could describe what it's like to play with not only a player with the special gifts of Alando Tucker all around but also the special person he is, too?
MARCUS LANDRY: Well, he's a wonderful person. I have the chance to be his roommate and things like that so I see a lot of things that he does off the court that maybe some other people don't see. He's a very talented person and very caring. We hang out together and he's always making me laugh. Sometimes I get down and miss my family and things like that, but Tuck is always there. He's like a big brother. Just being around him and picking up some of the things he does, he's a very great leader, and I'm just ready to follow in his footsteps and get things done.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up with questions for Coach Ryan, please.
Q. Kind of what I asked Kammron and Marcus before about that second half when Alando was on the bench and you guys wound up stretching out your lead at that point. Can you put a level of importance on that? How important are those kind of stretches when Alando is not on the floor and the other guys are producing?
COACH BO RYAN: All teams go through that when you have somebody that puts up consistent numbers, and then you can maintain a lead or even gain in the lead. That obviously says a lot about the team and gives them some confidence so that if something happens where Alando goes down, has to come out, gets in foul trouble, whatever, then guys always feel they can still play.
Just like guys are trying to pick up for Brian Butch now. So it's basically the same thing. Just because somebody goes to the bench a lot of times it's mostly just for a rest, and to get refocused and be ready to go.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your post defense and particularly the job you guys did to get through it this time?
COACH BO RYAN: Well, guys moved their feet, between Jason, Marcus and Greg. I thought they did a pretty good job. There are still times where maybe on a catch we could have worked our feet just a little bit better. I mean, we know tomorrow night or tomorrow in the afternoon we're playing another guy that's got a pretty good post presence. So we'll just go back and try to do the same things tomorrow and keep working at it.
But it's good whenever you have guys that are willing to commit to the work ethic that it takes to guard the post against good post players. Pruitt is a better player and has become a better player through I'm sure the coaching of Bruce's staff and himself and the work ethic that Bruce has. So you'd better be ready to keep him under control because he's been doing some really good things because Illinois has played really well and Pruitt has been probably the biggest reason for that.
Q. What does it feel like for you for Alando to break the school's scoring record, your player, the type of person he is and the win?
COACH BO RYAN: I think it's really neat. I didn't even know. I haven't checked numbers. Nobody told me any numbers. I don't read the numbers. I'm happy for him. You know, I know what he's happy about. He's happy to be on the left hand side (the win column).
Like in the summer when I'm riding the waves at Sea Isle City on the Jersey Shore, right away, I'll come up for air, and I'll say, "boy, isn't that Tucker something, he broke the scoring record?" That's usually when things dawn on me, in the summer when I'm relaxed.
But those kind of numbers I don't look at. But I'm happy for him.
Q. What was the critical decisive segment today?
COACH BO RYAN: In a game like this I don't know if you can say there is. But just us getting some good looks and taking advantage of them, getting to the free throw line finally. We did not shoot a free throw in the first half because we didn't attack the rim as much as I'd like to see, and we did a better job of that in the second half.
There weren't a lot of free throw shots, but that's because both teams were protecting the rim. There weren't a lot of opportunities to get to the rim to get fouled. That was a good, physical game.
Q. From your perspective when you watch your kids not only pull for one another on the bench or make the right pass, be patient, play that kind of defense, play in your team concept, from your perspective and your staff, is that something that's satisfying in terms of the approach they're playing in the game?
COACH BO RYAN: What else would you do? I only know one way, so it's what you're willing to accept in life, and as coaches, we're willing to accept only certain things.
So players learn that in a hurry and then they try to give it to us. I don't think it's the other way around. "Hey, Coach, if I come to Wisconsin, can I have 25 shots, can I shoot from the perimeter, can I do this, can I do that?" We've probably lost some recruits because of that, because I say no.
Q. I know you talked a little bit about your post defense, but a day after holding Neitzel to 3-of-13 shooting you really shut down Illinois' guards. Can you just talk about your guard defense?
COACH BO RYAN: Our guys just work at it. The fact that Neitzel went 3 for 13, as I looked at the film this morning I've got to learn to say DVD. When I looked at the DVD (laughter) this morning, he had some looks. Sometimes a player as good as Neitzel, he's going to go on some streaks. We just happened to catch one of those streaks where he wasn't hitting, but Mike Flowers and Trevon Hughes chased him pretty hard and worked him hard. Same thing with McBride, but once McBride got open a couple times you see how good a shooter he is. So we missed a couple assignments there, but I thought overall our guys did a great job on trying to prevent the three point shooters from getting comfortable.
Q. I know you don't get caught up a lot of times in the hype and hoopla that a lot of media puts on games like tomorrow, but when you think about it you've played two games against this team that have been decided by a combined total of four points. Is this the kind of game with the preparation and the experience of playing in it that can help each of these teams as they go into the NCAA tournament to play tough regional games, regional finals if it comes to that?
COACH BO RYAN: I'm hoping you're right, but other people say, gosh, teams that get into those kind of battles at the end of the year, they wear themselves out. So I'm hoping what you said. I'm agreeing with you. What you said sounds good to me. I get excited about these kind of games tomorrow. What would make you think I don't get excited?
Q. Tucker didn't want to talk about being the No. 1 seed. Has your team done enough to be a No. 1 seed in your mind do you think or do you need to win tomorrow?
COACH BO RYAN: I wouldn't have any idea. I don't know the final determining factors of any of that. All I know is, as Tuck said, Tuck said what he said for a reason. He firmly believes that because he's been around me long enough. We're going to play tomorrow and we're going to try to get that done. So it's two good Big Ten teams going toe to toe and we'll see what happens. And whatever they do after that, we'll be watching. We'll be there and we'll be excited, one way or the other.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks for your time.
Illinois Fighting Illini
COACH BRUCE WEBER: Obviously we had a difficult task with the lateness of the game last night and how hard fought it was going into overtime and then coming back and playing one of the better teams in the country with one of the better players.
We just kept talking about grinding it out, keeping it close, keeping it within reach, and then you never know what happened.
(Alando) Tucker made some hellacious shots early. I thought we defended him pretty well. He just jumped up, and he contorts his body and still is able to have a good touch on some of those jump shots. And then Kam Taylor in the second half made a couple of big baskets that got them over the hump.
Overall they had 53, so we defended them halfway decent, but just didn't have enough offensively, turned it over too many times, empty possessions where we didn't get any shots. It's just probably not much legs, not much gas in the tank to kind of get it done.
With the score 27 25 I believe, Brian Randle threw it off (Rich) McBride's back on a transition, and then they went down and scored, I think, back to back, and that was it seemed like the breaking point in the game.
Q. Shaun, it looked like they were keying in on keeping the ball away from you tonight. Did it feel that way to you and is there anything else you could have done about it?
SHAUN PRUITT: Yeah, I think they did a good job of packing it in close and just trying to push me out as best they could. I had a pretty good game when we played them earlier in the season, so they definitely did a good job of limiting me tonight.
Q. Warren, I'm wondering how much do you think fatigue played a role and how much sleep did you guys get last night?
WARREN CARTER: There's no doubt about it, it did. I think we still got to bed at a decent hour and got to sleep, but just fatigue, legs, especially from playing a tough game in overtime with Indiana and then the Penn State game the day before, but we put ourselves in that situation. We came out here, we fought and we gave it all we had, but the better team won.
Q. Warren, you look kind of dejected up there, but you guys had two wins in two days and you put yourselves in a position to make the NCAA Tournament. Can you look at this as a success? Is it possible for you to do?
WARREN CARTER: Maybe tomorrow after the selection show if I see our team's name called, then we'll look at it as a success. But right now we still don't really know. We played hard, we came out here, won two games and won a great game yesterday. We're just going to wait and see what happens.
Q. Do either of you guys think you deserve the bid? You don't want to say that or are you sitting back and waiting to see?
WARREN CARTER: I think we deserve it. We've been playing very well here down the stretch once we've gotten our guys back. Coach called it, our body of work looks good. We haven't really had any bad losses.
We definitely would have been better if we would have had some of those key wins early. But as Coach was saying, with our body of work, it looks like we're in good shape, but you still never know.
THE MODERATOR: We'll finish up with questions for Coach Weber, please.
Q. You talked about last night that if you made it to the weekend that you should be in good shape, but will you still sweat it out until 5:00 o'clock tomorrow?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: Yeah, there's no doubt, until your name pops up. I got back in the locker room last night, and you find out Nevada lost and Xavier lost, so some of the leagues you probably anticipated one team, one bid leagues turned out to be two, two team leagues. So that means each somebody is knocked off that might have been potentially in there.
They keep saying we're one of the last five. You know, does that mean are we fifth, first there or are we fifth? Where are we in that bunch?
But at the same time, as they mentioned, when you look at it, all the things they talk about, your RPI, your schedule rating, your last ten games, you know, we played tough opponents. We have top 100 wins. And then if you include the X factor of the injuries and what we've gone through, I've got to believe we're going to be in.
But it's kind of ironic, some of these and I guess it's all the so called experts, and they don't really know. The committee only knows. But they're saying some of these other teams and we're ahead of them in all these categories, but they're saying they have doubts about us. We'll just have to wait and see.
Q. Defensively what were Wisconsin's guards doing to your guards that you guys really weren't able to get a rhythm from your guard play tonight?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: We've struggled scoring from the guard position actually this whole last stretch. We've kind of lived off of our forwards, Shaun (Pruitt) and Warren (Carter), and Brian Randle didn't get much done today, but they've been a little more effective. And then Chester gets a lay up, get a spot up three. Rich, at least he got back in rhythm a little bit, went three for six. Trent Meacham got a wide open look and didn't get it to go.
Wisconsin, they're just a sound team. They don't beat themselves. Actually 11 turnovers for them is quite a bit, and they really didn't get to the free throw line, and they lead the league in free throw attempts.
You know, we did some things well, but they're just a solid defensive team. They took Shaun away and just made it difficult for us to get easy looks, and we just never got in a rhythm.
Q. Regardless of what happens in the tournament or in the selection Sunday, looking at this season and comparing it with two years ago, what is more realistically the future of this program in your mind? Are you guys destined to be kind of a 20 ish win team struggling or are you getting back to the top?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: You know, when you say 20 win struggling, for a lot of programs that's pretty good. We're already at 23 and went through all we did. If you have Chester (Frazier), you have Brian Randle, you have a lot of the different guys at different times, you know, now you have 25 or 26. You know, that might be a record for some programs.
You know, I think we I'm proud of our kids. I'm proud of what they've done this year. A lot of programs wouldn't have fought through it, wouldn't have had the heart that these guys have had. I still think we have some things to I guess to solve and that, but at the same time, you've got Shaun back, you've got Brian Randle back, Chester Frazier back, you've got some people that have been pretty successful. We've got to add a couple into the mix and I think we can be a factor next year. How good will depend probably on who adds, how good are they right away, and how much these guys work at it to get better.
Q. Having seen how close Wisconsin and Ohio State's two games have been with the home team winning, I guess what would your prediction be for tomorrow's game?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: Probably a close game (laughter). Honestly, they just neither one seems to beat themselves. Ohio State seems to turn it on at the end of games when they need to and make the plays, whether it's the Michigan game, Purdue game. Wisconsin just seems more solid and consistent.
You know, Wisconsin had a chance at Ohio State, they just didn't finish it. Free throws, I'm sure Kam Taylor is going to remember that. If Tucker can play like he did today, they've still probably got to get a little more production. Flowers has nothing and Chappell has nothing, they were still able to beat us, but I think Ohio State can score more points so at least I think they can. The one game at Columbus was pretty low scoring. I think it'll be a close, hard fought game just like the other two have been.
Q. The assists to turnovers tonight, is that part of being tired?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: Well, number one, you don't make shots, you don't get any assists, so that's part of it. We had too many empty possessions.
It was 27 25, I'm not positive. But Brian throws it off of Rich's back, then we have the breakout, Brian tries to go to the basket, maybe bump, maybe goaltending, goes our way, they get a couple possessions, then Brian turns it over again, just a bad stretch, trying to feed the post.
When you're playing against them, a team that is so efficient, you cannot have empty possessions. That was probably the difference in the game.
Q. If I could, just what were your thoughts on Marcus Landry and what was his play out there tonight?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: Well, he gives a different element to them. He gives them athleticism. Obviously when Steimsma and Landry went out last year they were a different team. Now Landry, he's not (Brian) Butch, but he still gives them some athleticism. He goes one for five on threes, but the one he made was huge and was a back breaker for us. You're hanging in there, hanging in there, and all of a sudden that thing swishes and it lets the wind out of our guys.
You've got to give up something. Shaun comes to the bench frustrated, how are you going to stop Tucker, how are you going to stop Taylor, you've got to give up something to help out those guys. But it was a big bucket. He is definitely a difference maker for them because of his athleticism.
Q. You kind of mentioned it, but just to reiterate, did you guys get done what you wanted to get done here in sort of the realistic sense?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: Well, I told our kids, I was going to bring four suits. I wanted to get to Sunday. You know, I thought we were capable of it. I knew it would be very difficult. The Penn State game was probably a harder fought game than maybe you would have hoped. Then last night obviously that thing was a hard fought game, maybe one of the most intense games I've been around for 45 minutes. So it took a lot out of us. And then we said to get to Saturday, we thought we'd be in pretty good position.
Again, you don't know all the other leagues. That's the X factor. And I don't know what's in the committee's mind, but I feel we have a pretty good case, and I just hope we're not the first Big Ten team with over 20 wins and finished over .500 in the league not to get in. I hope we don't leave a legacy as far as that goes.
Q. Alando Tucker just became Wisconsin's all time leading scorer. Have you seen him the last few years? I guess where does he stack up in terms of the some of the best?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: I think the big thing is he's made improvement. He came in, I recruited him, SIU watched him a lot, he was a player that scored around the basket, very athletic, very gifted, and he just kept his game has just improved and improved and improved. He's a three point threat, he can handle the ball, he just can do a lot of things.
I like it because, one, he stayed, and he's done what in this society now, no one wants to do, keep working at it and getting better. Everybody wants instant gratification, one year, go pro. I think they should be very proud, he should be very proud, and he's a great example for kids that you can make I hope he has great success in the NBA. I think it would be a good story.
Q. In the second half did you do anything defensively against Tucker that was giving Taylor clearer looks?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: I just think they spread us out. Our guards probably got tired. You know, they got it to Tucker and then we held and we miscommunicated, he got an open look. I just think what goes before the legs probably is the mental part, and we didn't communicate, couldn't score. We've talked all year about we can't let scoring affect our defense, but it just seemed like we just didn't have that extra zip, that extra fire.
And now all of a sudden he gets one down, gets another one down because those early shots, they weren't going. He was way off early. But he made big ones when they needed it.
Q. You have enough going on tomorrow with the selection show, but does this league deserve two No. 1s do you think, two No. 1 seeds?
COACH BRUCE WEBER: I think it's close. I think one 1 and at least a 2. They've got to be in at least the top eight and get an opportunity to play close to home I would anticipate. They're both very good. They've been very consistent. They've played pretty good schedules. So I think it wouldn't surprise me if they both got 1s, but I would think at least a 1 and a 2 at worst.
THE MODERATOR: Appreciate your time, Coach. Thanks.
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