Dec. 3, 2001
"After having an opportunity to look at tapes from Saturday's game versus Kansas, they (Kansas) rocked us back on our heels in the first half. They were much more aggressive with their offense pushing the break and doing some things that we just had a hard time adjusting to on the fly. Once we had the opportunity at halftime to get some things changed, I thought our second half was excellent. We were more aggressive defensively, we got back better and we did a lot of things better. We never did shoot the ball well, but we attacked the glass hard. I personally think we got a lot out of that game. Kansas was very efficient in what they did. You can just tell the difference between the experienced team and inexperienced team. The reason we always play schedules this tough is to help us learn now so we can get something straightened out before we get to league play."
"In Illinois we are facing kind of the same team as Kansas except I don't think Illinois is nearly as quick. They are going to be more physical. They return the core of last year's ball club starting with (junior point guard Frank) Williams, (senior guard Cory) Bradford, a great three point shooter, as is Sean Harrington off the bench, and three big guys up front that are awfully good, including two excellent three-point shooters, which forces you to spread your defense a little. It means our four man is going to have to be able to do a good job of picking up out on the floor. (Junior forward Brian) Cook loves to run the trail post position and shoot it from the top. That will be a definite concern for us."
"We will start with (freshman) Channing Frye at the five position and that is based on the fact that he did far and away the best job defensively for us against Kansas. That isn't to say that there weren't some mistakes made by him as well, but I think he's shown in practice as well that he deserves to be in the starting lineup."
How are the freshmen doing after Saturday's loss?
"They're fine. It's a case of where we make this point to them from the very start that this is a difficult schedule and difficult for a reason. That is for the opportunity to learn now before we get to the Oregon games before Christmas. They've handled it fine. I'm very impressed with Kansas, I don't think there is any question that they are the best team we have played to this point."
"There isn't any way to get them ready for high caliber teams unless you have experienced depth that you are using in practice and then the freshmen find out in a hurry. The problem is we have freshmen going against freshmen. You can talk until you are blue in the face and work until you are blue in the face, but we could not duplicate a (Kansas forward Drew) Gooden- (Kansas forward) Collison combination in practice. We are on our perimeter guys pretty hard in practice about sprinting the lanes, but they found out exactly what we meant when we talked about sprinting. The Kansas people were just blowing by us with or without the ball. That's the problem you face when we have as little experience as we do. It's not just in the game that hurts you, but in practice situations as well."
Illinois head coach Bill Self said his team doesn't have an identity yet. Aside from Jason Gardner and your junior leadership, do you think you have one?
"If he doesn't know what his is, you can imagine what we are looking at. They're starting four very experienced players and come off the bench with some great experience also. I think it has been very obvious that (junior point guard) Jason (Gardner) has been running this club, but also you are seeing a tremendous amount of on-the-court leadership from (junior forward) Luke (Walton). (junior forward) Ricky (Anderson) is still finding his place because of having sat out last year. At this point, there is no question that it is Jason and Luke really running things from the court once we get started."
"These freshmen are getting a lot of game-time experience. I don't think you can expect them to be experienced players after six or eight games. I think the biggest things now for us is finding out our best rotation, best starting lineup, and what I've said in the past, that I'm less concerned about the starting lineup than about the finishing lineup. We're still unsure of what the best combination is."
Comment on the play of freshman forward Dennis Latimore:
"I was really pleased with the way he competed. Against Kansas you can see why we are so high on him. He is strong enough and athletic enough to go up high in a crowd.
Comment on the match-up against Illinois:
"You have to remember that we beat Illinois two out of three times last year and the one we lost was a real slugfest. I doubt you are going to see that work in Phoenix. There's no question they miss Lucas Johnson. He was a real sparkplug coming off the bench and he really plays hard. Anytime you have a guy like that, it tends to rub off on everybody else."