January 22, 2011

Gard breaks down Northwestern

MADISON - Greg Gard sheepishly told reporters before Friday's practice that two days of prep just wasn't enough time to fully learn the nuances of Northwestern's Princeton style offense.

That doesn't mean he's not going to try.

The veteran assistant coach took some time to discuss UW's upcoming matchup with the Wildcats with a handful of local reporters. The following is the transcript of that conversation.

You've got a much-improved team and you've got two days to get ready for them. What's the task like this time for you guys?

Gard: I think No. 1 we never change our rules based on who we play. Hopefully that will help us in preparation. But we've seen a lot of film of them and they're really good. When things are clicking they've got a lot of weapons. Five guys are averaging in double figures here in league play so it's not like you can concentrate on one or two. They've got guys in all positions that can really hurt you.

I think the biggest thing is not to deviate from our rules, that's the big thing. Our discipline and focus will get tested. Our alertness in terms of things away from the ball and how we handle screen situations and all the action they do (will get tested). It won't be any different than any other game, we just have to be on high alert probably all the time more so than ever in terms of the teams you play in this league. Especially away from the ball because they can burn you so many ways.

Thursday night were there some missed opportunities to feed the post from perimeter guys to big guys that had people kind of on their back? Were there missed passing lanes there?

Gard: Sometimes they look open but maybe the defender is on the ball splitting the difference in between. Every game we can go through and find guys that are open off cuts and things that we can feed. I thought we did a much better job the second half of being aggressive and obviously the foul line stat showed that. I think we're getting better at finding guys and trying to make things happen in there. It's still a matter of doing it for 40 minutes instead of 20 like we did last night.

You have to be patient with the kids like Josh Gasser and Mike Bruesewitz who's shot looks so good in practice most of the time and they just can't buy one in the game. You just have to make sure they stay patient and don't get down about it?

Gard: Yeah, you can't get frustrated or you can't yell at them when they're missing shots. Some of the things too is that their sample isn't as high as Jordan Taylor, Jon Leuer or Keaton Nankivil. So if they're shooting 1-for-3 they're not getting nearly as many attempts. That will come as they get more experience and get older and deeper into the program. They'll graduate into bigger roles just like those three guys in front of them have.

I know Jon Shurna has been banged up, but who has really picked up the slack since he's been hobbled?

Gard: Well, he's still played. They sat him last night (Thursday) and they rested him and Michael Thompson the whole second half, but Drew Crawford has gotten a lot better and they've been getting a little more bits and pieces out of Luka Mirkovic inside which I think has helped them. The freshman, JerShon Cobb has played pretty well at times. Thompson is doing what he's doing. He never comes out of the game, at least it seems like that. That's why they rested him in the second half when they could. I don't know if there's been….maybe he's not as springy or bouncy as he was earlier in the year when he was healthy, but I think the last couple of games I've seen him trend back more to what he was when he was healthy. I'm sure if you ask him (Shurna) it's not back to 100 percent but he looks than he did two weeks ago.

Are they predominantly 1-3-1?

Gard: No, they still do some matchup and some switching and confusing where it looks like a zone and they'll switch into a man. They'll switch into areas. You have to make good decisions, you have to be patient and you can't get frustrated with it. You can't try to force things, but you can't be too hesitant and so passive that you can't make things happen. I think that's a fine line that you have to ride. Some teams get too aggressive and end up turning it over. If you stay passive they'll keep attacking you while you're offense marries and make it hard to change sides of the floor.

You had the scout team out yesterday (Thursday) I understand, already working on this to get them prepared.

Gard: Just because of the timing with the turnaround and with ice down and when we're practicing, all the things that are factored in and their class schedule going right up until we practice. I could use a week and still couldn't….they do a great job of picking it up but to try to put it in in 45 minutes doesn't do it justice in terms of these guys that have run it and been in the system for two, three or four years. That half hour yesterday went by.

Jordan Taylor could be said as flying under the radar for some time. I don't think he is anymore, but Juice Thompson certainly has. That's a real quality point guard isn't it?

Gard: He is. He leads the league in minutes played and I think he's second in steals. Just looking at conference stats there's quite a few categories that he's up at the top. He makes them go. He's a senior, he's paid his dues in this league and he's been a very good player for a few years now. He makes them better because he adds and extra dimension. Normally when you think of Princeton offense you think of slower, lower possessions and those types of things. The nickname Juice is also what he provides to what they do. He can really push things in transition. They'll run and they've scored. They've hit 90 a few times and hit 98 last night (Thursday). They held the ball on the last possession to let the shot clock expire not to hit 100. They can score points in a hurry. Scoring has not been their issue at all this year.

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