MADISON - Wisconsin assistant coach Greg Gard didn't go as far as to say UW's win over Purdue Thursday night changed the course of the season, but he did talk about the improved play that helped the squad squash it's three-game losing streak.
Following a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com, along with a handful of other reporters, interviewed Gard. The following are five questions with coach Gard.
Mike Bruesewitz was quoted after the game saying he was telling the guys to stay mentally strong when they were making their run during the second half and not to let this game slip away. Was there ever a concern that your guys weren't mentally strong at any point during the losing streak?
Gard: No, I think it was just a matter of growing and maturing. Mike is really a very emotional kid anyway. He talks a lot, which is good. Leaders can always assume their roles in different areas. Some do it by actions. Alando Tucker didn't say a whole lot, but when he did speak a few words everybody listened. Jordan Taylor doesn't say a whole lot, but he does it by action.
Different guys, as they grow into their roles, do it different ways. Anytime you can have somebody step up that's an underclassman and can help out, especially with our small senior class of Rob Wilson and Jordan, it's good to see those guys getting more experience growing into their role. We can use help from a lot of different areas. If it's from Mike being vocal, that's good. That spark is what we need.
I know it's early in the league season, but could you talk a little bit about the parity? Ohio State lost this week, Indiana lost. It just seems like there's a lot of parity.
Gard: There is. I think we lost a lot of experience last year throughout the league from a lot of different teams. Now you've got kind of a new wave of players coming through. Obviously there are a lot of good coaches in this league that are going to try to pick you apart. As we've found out, whether it's been here, or with other teams you've seen taking bumps at home.
You have to come to play every single night. It doesn't appear to me that there are any get well games from what I've seen. I haven't seen quite everybody yet in a full game, but I think our RPI shows that, in terms of where we're ranked. I believe we're still the No. 1 league in the country. I think it's a combination of good players, tough venues to play in and obviously some very good coaches.
What was the reaction of your assistants when your team kept hitting shots? We could see the players reaction, but you guys haven't seen that for a while.
Gard: We know what they're capable of because they've done it in practice. We've shot it well in practice at times. Then we get in the game and for whatever reason we get out of sync. I think the biggest thing was just to continue maintaining composure without getting too emotional. The players obviously aren't because they're blowing off some steam and some bottled up frustration. Knowing you've been in enough of those situations you're not going to continue to shoot at 68 percent or whatever clip we started with. We knew Purdue would make a run. It was great to continue seeing those guys battle and withstand the runs. We never relinquished the lead in a place that has been the toughest place to play in the league, at least for this program. Hopefully we've taken some steps forward, we're maturing and hopefully we can grow from it.
When Josh Gasser attacks the lane like he did that game, how does it open things up for the rest of the offense. It seemed like it was just a good aggressive attitude that he played with.
Gard: Yeah, I think everybody did. I think everybody was aggressive and we moved much better without the ball. We were more aggressive with the ball. Obviously I think when you make shots early it helps and feeds that. When you knock down some shots you can stay as aggressive. It shows what those guys are capable of and what Josh is capable of.
Confidence can do a lot of things. It can make you appear much better than you really are and it can make you appear much worse than you really are. That's something, like I said before, if you can figure out how to bottle that and distribute confidence when they need it… It's usually self given. You want to continue to grind and fight through it and pull it out from each other. They did a good job of that.
What kind of crowd are you expecting Sunday knowing that the Packers play at the same time?
Gard: I don't know. I'm a Packer fan, too. I'm sure we'll have it on in the locker room. It is what it is. You can't control it. They tried to move the game. It's probably a good problem to have. We're in our regular season, but at least it still means the Packers are still going in the playoff and those kind of things. I've lived through enough years when the Packers weren't in the playoffs so I'm not going to complain too much. The fans, maybe they'll have it on in the hallway up there. Or maybe they can catch part of it and head over for our game. Maybe they can jump out to a big enough lead that it will be over before we tip off. That would be a great thing to have happen.