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January 31, 2012

Lisa Bluder

COACH BLUDER:  I know they're all important weeks, but two road games this week.  We're going into a situation at Wisconsin where they're playing their best basketball of the year.  They've won three in a row since losing to us here.  Had good wins at Minnesota to Northwestern, and then last night to Michigan.
So right now we're tied in the Big Ten with them.  Obviously they're playing very good basketball, confidence basketball right now.  They've got a nice inside outside combination with Taylor Wurtz leading the way.  But also Morgan Paige has stepped up and done a good job for them.
She's shooting the three very well in Big Ten play, very confidently.  And Anya Covington, their inside presence, has improved her numbers scoringwise and reboundingwise since the Big Ten play has gotten off.
Good defensive team.  They play hard.  They just look like they're playing loose and playing very confidently to me right now.  But we're looking forward to this week.  Coming off of a good win against Purdue.  I'm looking forward to practice today and getting back out on the floor with the team.  We had two days off, which is a rarity this time of year, and hopefully that will give them a little more pep in their step going into practice today and getting ready for the Wisconsin game.

Q.  Looking back on it, how important was Saturday's win for this team this year?
COACH BLUDER:  It's really important, not only that we got a top 25 win, but we got a win before going on the road for two road games.  So I think it was a tremendous win for us in a number of ways.  But to get that top 25 win is always something that the selection committee is looking for.  You've got that good win, and we got that good win now, but now we have a lot of unfinished business we need to take care of.

Q.  Virginia really hadn't done much for you all year.  What did she add for you Saturday?  What made you decide to put her in so early and so much?
COACH BLUDER:  Well, things weren't really clicking, so we went to Virginia.  She had actually been doing a good job in practice leading up to the game.  And that week, we gave her some minutes at Nebraska.
So she's been slowly gaining that confidence back and the feel for the game out there after missing so long.  It takes a while to recover from that, and we might see that with Melissa as well coming back hopefully this week.
But Virginia gives us an explosiveness off the dribble that we don't have.  She did a great job rebounding.  She had six rebounds including two offense in her minutes, but we really like the way she can attack the basket.

Q.  She's kind of limited to the five, does that limit the number of minutes you can give her?
COACH BLUDER:¬† We switched that a week and a half ago, and when Kalli Hansen went down, we moved Virginia back to the four position and she was really excited.¬† Again, we made the move back to the four position, and now she's filling in really nicely with those minutes that we need to back‑up Kalli.
I think the team has a lot of confidence in her coming in.  We like that she adds kind of a different dimension to our team.

Q.  Is that where she'll stay then regardless of when Hansen comes back?
COACH BLUDER:  I think so.  Never say never.  Nothing's ever written in stone.  Right now that would be the plan to leave her at the power forward position, and to let her get more and more comfortable at that position.  I just feel like Morgan and Bethany are doing a nice job at the five position, and right now our need is at the power forward.
Again, Virginia has kind of grasped on to that and gotten excited about playing that position again and facing the basket more than having her back to the basket.

Q.  She's been slowed by the concussion.  What else has slowed her development?  Has the defense been tougher to pick up or the offense?
COACH BLUDER:  No, I mean, I really think the biggest thing was that concussion.  She was out three weeks, and that is a long time in the middle of your season to be out that long.  So I think that was the biggest thing.

Q.  What does she provide athletically when she comes in?
COACH BLUDER:  Well, I think everybody can see in Carver, she's a different style of player than what we have as far as being able to get up around the rim and to be able to be explosive off the dribble.  She's hard to guard because of that.  Another power forward in our league has a little bit of a hard time guarding her because of that speed.

Q.¬† You've mentioned a struggle on the road this year.¬† Is there something going into this two‑game set that you guys need to do differently on the road or is it just going out and playing basketball?
COACH BLUDER:  No, we've struggled on the road, but when you think of where we played, I think you also have to look at that too.  Playing the best teams in the Big Ten Conference, most teams are going to struggle playing at Ohio State, at Purdue at Penn State, at Nebraska.
You feel like, again, sometimes your record can be deceiving because of your opponents.¬† But certainly we'd rather play in Carver‑Hawkeye Arena.¬† Certainly it's more difficult to go on the road.¬† But we've had some good success at the Kohl Center, and I think that gives our players a little more confidence knowing they have won in that environment before.
We need to get our freshmen educated on what it's like to go on the road.  When you have so many freshmen on your team, part of that process, that growing process is just getting them to understand what it's like to play in the Big Ten.  What it's like to play on the road.  What it's like to be in the tournament or have the pressure of trying to get in the tournament.
Our seniors and captains met with the freshmen to try to give them these kind of lessons ahead of time.

Q.  Is there a magic number of wins whether it's 18, 19, 20 RPI that you think you need to get to?
COACH BLUDER:¬† I would say the RPI, you need to be in the 40s, in my opinion‑‑ somewhere in the 40s.¬† I think that you have to have a winning record in your conference season.¬† I think those are the two things that we need to try to strive for at this point.

Q.¬† Talk about defending teams with multiple three‑point shooters and threats?¬† I know getting out on people is difficult sometimes?
COACH BLUDER:¬† Yeah, we did a pretty good job in the Purdue game.¬† They had three, three‑point shooters to be aware of.¬† Now we're facing another team that has three three‑point shooters that we need to be aware of.¬† So that was good practice for the Purdue game.¬† But part of it, handling the screens, Wisconsin does a lot of good screen action to free up their three‑point shooters.¬† So handling those screens, communicating on those screens and being aware of it at all times.¬† I think we've gotten better.
I think our defense has gotten much better over the past three weeks.  Maybe we don't have the wins to show it, but even Nebraska scores 60 points on their home court against us.  We hold them below all their shooting numbers.  So I think we have made a vast improvement.
But you're right, going into the Wisconsin game, you have to know where the shooters are.

Q.  What have you seen out of Wisconsin?  They've obviously been playing better lately.  What's been the difference?
COACH BLUDER:¬† They were ahead of us at halftime here at Carver‑Hawkeye Arena.¬† Then we beat them in the second half.¬† They just have nice balance with their basketball team.¬† There is nobody that you can really not pay attention to.¬† There is nobody that you can spend a lot of time helping off of.¬† They're just all really good players that are really playing their roles well.¬† They play hard on defense, they run the ball very well.¬† They transition very well.
It just seems like they're having a lot of fun playing this year, and they're playing much more confidently than their record indicates.

Q.  As far as Jaime's concerned, I know it's kind of been a broken record, but she said 29% from three points.  Do you see anything mechanically?  Is it all between the ears for her right now with the outside shooting?
COACH BLUDER:¬† At any time, I feel like she can turn into a 50% three‑point shooter.¬† For that particular year.¬† I'm not saying for the year or anything like that, but I really believe that.¬† Any time Jaime could have that kind of breakout game for us.
I feel like she's trying to shoot from a little bit farther out than she has in the past.  She's reverse pivoting when she catches the ball to take her out farther away from the basket.  But we've all seen her hit those long range threes though.
Again, I think it's probably more of a confidence issue than anything else right now.

Q.  So repeating that surgery in the summer has nothing to do with it.  But you should need rest, that's a concern, isn't it?
COACH BLUDER:  It had to be taken care of.  It was unavoidable.  So whether that made a difference or not, there is nothing we can do about that.  But we've certainly had enough time now to adjust for anything that is different.  She was in a lot of pain last year with that wrist, so it needed to be taken care of.

Q.¬† Can you talk about the way‑‑ her scoring average was higher the last two years.¬† How has she been able to get her points at the free‑throw line, driving to the basket, even when the three‑point shooting hasn't been as good?
COACH BLUDER:¬† Yeah, she's had a lot of assisting games for us too.¬† Sometimes people forget about that.¬† She's still distributing the ball well for us.¬† Jaime, again, has the ability to‑‑ everybody is nervous to play against her.¬† Even though she's not shooting as well as she did last year or the year before from three‑point range, people are still respecting her and still worried about her.¬† They're still putting their defense around her, because they know how dangerous she can be.
She's dangerous because she‑‑ at any time, every coach in this league knows that he any time Jaime Printy can have 25 or 30 against you and shoot well from three‑point range, and obviously her ability to get to the rim off the dribble is important to us.
She's such a good free‑throw shooter when she gets to the line, it's great.¬† Last time against Wisconsin, she had nine free throws, she was nine for nine and had 25 points against them.¬† She had a nice game against them.

Q.  You said she's shooting from farther out this year.  Is that because their defense is kind of pushing her out a little bit or is that something designed in your offense?
COACH BLUDER:¬† No, I think it's something bad‑habitwise that she's stepping out farther than she needs to to take those threes.¬† We're trying to show it to her on film and trying to convince her that she can get a little bit closer, spot up closer.¬† Especially offensive rebounds or transition that she can get closer to that three‑point line than she is right now.

Q.  This week, you go on the road Sunday at Indiana.  They've been struggling, but how do you go in there with focus?
COACH BLUDER:  Yeah, they've been struggling.  Ironically, I haven't seen Indiana play once this year.  Usually when you're scouting opponents, you see a team play or you just catch them on the Big Ten Network sometimes.  I haven't seen them one iota this year, so I don't know anything about them or why they're struggling or anything like that.
But, obviously, any time you can pick up a road win, it's very, very important for your program.  Especially when we're sitting in a situation where we want to get to be .500 in a conference right now.  These two road games are really important for us.
So no matter what happens Thursday night, we need to refocus for that game.  Win or lose Thursday night, we need to refocus for that game on Sunday.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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