NU's Basketball Coach talked with the Big 10 Media earlier in the week.
Topics: The NU's problems in the last few games, T.J.'s wrist, changing season expectations, what NU might work on this week in practice, what happened to NU's defense, how good is Illinois, Mike Thompson and Michael Jenkins' development as players, Vedran Vukusic contributions, and starting the Big 10 Schedule with the power house teams.
Starting off with NU Coach Bill Carmody's opening statement...
BC: Well, we've had a tough last 10 days - highlighted by our loss at home to Illinois, who we all know is a good team, and we did some nice things, just were not able to really hang with them over the course of a game - gave up too many points and turned the ball over a lot.
Questions? [From various Big 10 Media Members]
We're off on Wednesday - I'd just as soon play to tell you the truth. Then we go out to Penn State on a road game.
We have some things we have to take care of, because teams are just shooting the ball too well against us so we'll have to work on defense.
How's T.J.'s wrist doing?
BC: I haven't heard anything [Monday] - so he's fine. I just think its sore, very sore, but I think there's no problem with it
Have you scaled back your expectations for this season?
BC: We've been disappointed with our play for the year - before the conference started and even now, I just don't think
we're playing up to our potential and abilities. So you know, its that old coach stuff - you just have to take it one game at a time, see if
you can get better.
We have a whole week of practice before we play Penn State. Want to see if we can get back to just basic, some fundamentals. We turn the ball over an awful lot, and I think a lot of that is unnecessary.
I'd just as soon play Wednesday, but now that we have 4 or 5 days and we'll work hard at trying to take better care of the Basketball.
Is there a difference between the defense in the non-conference schedule and the one you're playing now given the scoring by opponents?
BC: I don't know - clearly the competition has something to do with it. We've played some pretty decent teams, and we kept them
down. I'm not too sure exactly what the story is but I know just generally speaking, we're not keeping our bodies in front of our men - its as simple as that.
There's too much penetration, and when that happens everyone's rotating around you leave yourself open, and when you're playing good teams, they take advantage of that. That's what's going on.
That's what I see in the film.
Is Illinois more of an offensive problem or a defensive problem?
BC: Well, we have a hard time stopping them, that's for sure. You know we shot 57% so you say, OK offensively, but we turned the ball over 16 times and they had something to do with that, and so -
They're fast, they're very, very fast, and quick and so that shows up at both ends of the court.
In our particular game, I think some of our turnovers were unforced, a number of them so I would say we have a harder time scoring - their
speed shows up at both ends.
Does that allow them to get through a game when their shots won't fall if that ever happens?
BC: Defensively? Of course.
They played us very hard for about the first 6 minutes of the game and then they just - they wanted to come out an jump on us a little bit,
they did that, they set the tone, and then they eased off after that, but I don't doubt that they could continue that, maybe not for 40
minutes but if shots weren't going they could keep that pressure going against other teams, and that would help them an awful lot on their
Was the 57% shooting a statistical oddity, or is it something you could exploit in the future against Illinois.
BC: I don't know, to tell you the truth. We shot over 50% the last three games, and we lost all our games. We played Seton Hall and DePaul earlier in the year - didn't shoot that well, but we won.
But the games were lower - they were in the 50's and 40's - played Virginia close, it was a low scoring game . It might be something like that - some kind of statistical thing but all I know is the other team had something to do with it. We also had something to do with it - we've just been careless with the basketball.
For the last few games I think we had 19 turnovers - the last few games have been 19, 13 and 16 turnovers and last year we averaged under
10 turnovers per game - that really hurts us.
What about Mike Thompson's struggles to play the post for NU?
BC: I think we're getting the ball down to him and we just have to develop things. Right now he's a guy who gets the ball down
there - wants to power everything up, which is good, but some guys you can't power up.
You can't always do that - you have to have a particular shot for a particular situation so we just have to keep working on his skill level. Little jump hooks, either hand, getting from one side of the basket to the other, making a little turn around jump shot. So we just have to continue to work on his skills down there because usually he presents a problem.
I think just, I mentioned before, we've been shooting the ball decently, turn it over a lot, but more of that has to do with Mike because he's drawing a lot of attention. There's always weak side help, there's always two guys on him.
Now we're throwing the ball to people but they have to knock down shots - we're not knocking down as much as we should.
I guess to answer your question, he just has to keep working and we have to work with him to become more skillful down there once he does
get it. [the ball inside]
What about his Free Throw shooting?
BC: I think he just has to do it a lot. I told him this summer, you're going to get on the foul line 8 to 12 times a game, so lets make sure we take care of that - spend some time on it.
I don't know if he did, but now he's shooting a lot of foul shots after practice. I think there's a little bit of mechanical problem there,
which we can straighten out, but it takes time. The way he's shooting right now, I think he's snapping his wrist a little too much.
But you have 10 years of doing that, its hard to change in a week or two. But we're going to continue to work on it.
What do you like about Michael Jenkins?
BC: Mike is a senior, and he's a walk-on, he's been with the team for a few years. He's just looks so much better in practice from day one this year but I still didn't go to him because T.J. was in there starting and playing a lot of minutes.
When T.J. went down with the flu for a couple of games, Mike came in and played extremely well. He's always been an extremely good sender -
he's small but very strong - keeps his body in front of his guy and he's smart. He has a high basketball IQ and he gets us into our offense
and runs the team as well as T.J., maybe better.
I probably should have gotten him in there earlier, but right now he's doing a nice job for us.
And the play of Vedran Vukusic?
BC: Vedran is our best player, he does everything decently. He's a tough matchup, I think, for a lot of teams. I think he has been
- when we started the year up in Alaska, he didn't play well, but since then he's been very consistent and he helps a lot of guys.
He throws the ball to the right guy, for the most part and he's shooting well. He has to work defensively playing guys on the perimeter - get better at that.
And the only other thing is he has to get more than 8, 9 , 10 shots. He probably has to get closer to 15 shots and he's a very unselfish kid - that's hard for him but we have to force him to do that.
Would you rather have the difficult games together and early in the conference season?
BC: Tough stretch with the schedule? I'd always prefer to start off not playing the number one team, and maybe get your guys
feeling pretty good. If you could be 3-1 instead of 1 and 3, but who are you going to be 3 and 1 against?
There are a lot of decent teams out there so, who are you going to pick to play. Certainly Illinois and Michigan State are toughies, but you want to play Wisconsin in there?
Who do you want to play, Iowa? its hard.
You play 16 games whatever order it is you have to do it. Right now, like I said we just have to see if we can get better because we're not
playing well at all.
That was all the questions about NU and its games so far - next up is Penn State, Saturday on ESPN2. We'll have the pregame Intel on the Lions up Friday afternoon.
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