HEAD COACH BILLY KENNEDY
“I’m very proud of our work our team did this Saturday, and what we were able to accomplish with eight scholarship guys. I think we can build off this. We’re going to need a great performance against a good Baylor team. With Quincy Miller playing so well right now, they’re very difficult to beat.”
Do you have any injury updates on your guys?
“We’ll know a little more about Dash today. I don’t anticipate Khris being ready for Wednesday and Kourtney is not going to be ready. Dash is day-to-day, we’re hoping he can practice today but we don’t know to what extent yet.”
Will you be looking for your role-playing guys to step up again like they did on Saturday?
“Yeah. We don’t know what the lineup will be like, we’ll evaluate it in practice and see who gives us the best chance at the best start against Baylor. But the positive thing is all those guys have a lot more confidence than they had a couple of weeks ago. We’re going to need all that against Baylor.”
You talk about intensity in practice a lot…do you think an outing like you had will help that because those guys know now they have a shot of getting in there?
“Yeah. They’ve been better the last few weeks. Our practice habits have been a lot better—I don’t know if it’s because we have fewer guys or the guys that we have practicing have just raised their level of intensity up. The culture of what we’re trying to develop here as a program has been much better the last two weeks because of our practice habits, guys paying attention to detail and probably more than anything developing a relationship with me and my coaches. We’re just getting to know each other a little bit more.”
Do you feel like they had a better comfort level in that game? Was that what was showing out there?
“Yeah. At shootaround that morning there was great intensity and enthusiasm, which you have to have on a day-to-day basis. That’s what we were trying to create, that kind of environment. We had that. Now, can we continue it? We’ll find out. But I expect them to continue it, especially this week.”
Talk about having a guy who scores no points essentially being player of the game (Alex Baird)…
“That’s what winning, championship play is all about, when you have that kind of attitude and get that kind of performance. The reality on the other side of it is you’ve got to be able to do it every day, day in and day out, against a high level of competition. So we know where it helped us against Oklahoma State it may not always help us in the next game, so we are going to have to rely on everyone again, and Elston’s going to have to have a big game, and Loubeau’s going to have to have a big game, and we’re going to have to get a third guy to step up. Or, everyone else is going to have to get 6 or 8 points like we had last game.”
With as big as Baylor is down low, how big will it be for Loubeau to have a big game?
“You know, he got going the second half when we played Baylor last time. In the first half, I thought we were a little intimidated against Baylor—but I think we’re past being afraid. It’s very important that we get some post production, either on the offensive glass—because the zone presents offensive rebound opportunities—or he’s got to make himself available in other ways, like catching it on the block. Because that zone is so big and so wide it’s hard to get guys the ball inside. I watched the Texas game, and their post guys had a hard time getting it inside against them. In the first half, we had a hard time. You’ve got to get second chances, you’ve got to get transition buckets. And that’s what we’re going to have to get David to do.”
Jordan Green has gotten sort of lost in the shuffle in terms of media exposure, but he played a good game against Oklahoma State. Where is he in terms of his confidence level?
“Hopefully that’s helping him define his role. Defensively he did a real good job on Keiton Page, and then he was running through passing lanes and scoring off our defense—which athletically he can do. That’s where most of his points came from. He’s been consistent with his effort and attitude all year. He’s going to be a guy we can build this program around because of his character and his toughness and the defensive abilities that he has. At some point his shooting will catch up, because he’s working on it. He’s just not making any shots right now, but he’s doing other things to help us win and if he can continue to do that then he’ll be on the floor.”
Is Jordan a guy like Daniel Alexander that maybe was pressing a little bit but is now playing more relaxed?
“Yeah, and it’s just an adjustment to Big 12 play when you don’t have that much experience. It doesn’t always have to be offense. Those guys want it to happen real quick offensively, but when they buy in and think, ‘Hey, if I play defense and I play hard, Coach is going to play me and I’ll get the opportunity on offense’, I think they’re starting to understand that a little more now.
Can you elaborate more on Khris Middleton?
“He’s had swelling in his knee after a workout, and it’s stiff or sore the next day. Every day it’s getting a little less sore with a little less swelling. We want him to get to where he can have back to back days and be good. I think he could play tomorrow, but then he may not be good in practice the next day. I want him to be good in practice before he gets to games, because I think that’s how it should be.”
With Kourtney, the original prognosis was about 4 to 6 weeks…what’s the latest?
“Well, we have to re-evaluate what we want to do with Kourtney since we only have 10 games left in the regular season. Is it worth bringing him back for 5 or 6 games, or possibly medical redshirt? We’ll wait and see how quick he can come back before we make that decision, but this week is a big week for him to see if we can get him on the floor in practice first.”
Do you put any extra emphasis with your guys on this being the last scheduled game with Baylor?
“No, I really haven’t thought about that, but that’s something if we need to use it for motivation it would be good to use (laughing). I hope to be playing Baylor or Texas sometime soon, if they’d agree to play us, in Dallas or Houston, a one-game deal. I’d love to continue to play another Texas school with the success and tradition that those programs have and the relationships we’ve had over the years. I think it’s good for basketball, good for Texas and good for both programs.”
Is that something you’ve talked with Coach Barnes or Coach Drew about?
“I’ve talked to one of Coach Barnes’ assistants about it, but we haven’t really gotten to talk any more in depth about it. The last time we were up there we were talking about how it’s a shame we’re not coming back any time soon and we need to change that. But we both agreed it’s out of our hands.”
Is it tough to defend Baylor with the guard play that they have and the big inside game?
“Yeah. They put 5 guys on the court that are averaging 12 and a half to 13 points a game, so you can’t just take one guy away. Or if you do, like last game, if you look at Pierre Jackson—I don’t know if he scored against us. Heslip, he may have had 2 points. So we did a good job on their guards but the other three guys and their bench beat us. So that’s what makes them so difficult to guard, because they’re so balanced offensively. Perry Jones is obviously one of the best players in the country—and he’s a tough matchup for anyone—but their guards have made them a tough matchup, no question.”
You’ve had great student crowds the last two home games, how much would a big student crowd help against Baylor?
“Oh, it’s an incredible environment when our students are involved. Even at yesterday’s women’s game, at the end—I had a chance to be at that game—that was the difference in them winning. The girl didn’t get a shot off. We need Baylor to not get a shot off (laughing). It’s important. Everyone says home-court advantage is 10 points a game. We need those 10 points.”
If Elston hadn’t gotten two early fouls, would you have brought Alex Baird in as quick as you did?
“Yeah. Part of the game plan was to play him early. I was really concerned about Elston playing the 1, and how the balance of our team would be offensively, and whether it would be thrown off a bit. And it was. Elston forced some shots, got two quick fouls, almost had three which would have been terrible. We made a decision to play Alex and you’ll probably see him again sometime.”
When you’re preparing to play Baylor for the second time, how much have they changed since the first time you saw them, and how much have y’all changed?
“You know, I don’t think they’ve changed a whole lot. I know we’ve changed. I said in the beginning when I came back that this team would get better later than earlier because of what we’ve been through—injuries, me missing a few weeks, and just things that have happened to us that we couldn’t control that put us behind. Now I think we’re catching up to where we need to be.”