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Men's Basketball Weekly Press Conference

Raiders preparing for Big XII Tournament.

March 2, 1998

Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament
First Round: #10 Texas vs. #7 Texas Tech 6:00 p.m., Thursday, March 5, 1998
Kansas City, Mo., Kemper Arena

James Dickey Opening Comments:
I hope that we can find some emotion going into Kansas City, some enthusiasm for the Big 12 Tournament. The question that many of you have asked, I've asked myself, we've talked about it as a staff, what's it going to take.

We are a little bit fragile mentally, and at times, have been fragile physically. We need to be a little bit stronger in both aspects to where we become a tougher basketball team.

We always talk about the non-conference portion of our schedule and the intensity level rising in conference play. Then we go to the tournament, it's going to rise again. Everybody has renewed life. Texas will be a difficult challenge in Kansas City. But we are going to go there and try to get in the best frame of mind we can so that emotionally we're ready to play. Id don't think we had a lot of emotion on Saturday. What little emotion we had I drained it out of them when I got the technical foul. I just didn't feel like we competed the rest of the game and they really buried us. So that was disappointing. I was disappointed for the seniors and for our fans the way we ended up. We've got new life. We are going to go up there with the best frame of mind that we can get in and hopefully play well on Thursday evening.

Do you like playing Texas:
I don't know. I felt like when we played Texas at home in the regular season, of the seven years that I've been here, it was the least emotion that I had seen from one of my teams against a Texas ball club. That was a little bit disappointing. That's always been a special game for us. They were the people we were trying to catch a few years ago in order to get where we wanted to be. I hope that they would get ready for two reasons. One, because we have new opportunity. It is the tournament. And two, that they would get excited for whoever we are playing. It just happens to be Texas.

I really feel like we will play better than we have. It think it will be a good atmosphere. I think it's a good prelude to the NCAA Tournament as far as atmosphere. It helps teams get ready. They conduct it in a professional way. There is a lot of electricity. There is a lot of interest there. There will be a lot of fans. I hope that will help our ball club.

On the mind set of the team. What do you: I don't know. Maybe, I've forgot. I've thought in the past few years we've found the right thing, but this year we haven't quite got focused. You have to have your entire team ready to play. It's like that chain theory, 'you're weakest link has to be strong.' Everybody has got to be focused. I didn't think, in talking to my coaches.... I don't come out and watch guys warm up because I get frustrated and felt like I took the edge of them because they didn't warm up well.

So, I've always let the assistants come out. I didn't think we warmed up well against Oklahoma. So, we've got to get some emotion back. We've got to get some feeling in ourselves that they feel good about themselves and each other. It's that elusive word chemistry. We are going to try to mix up some potion between now and Thursday night to get it going. I think everybody has got to be on the same page. We've got to be positive. We've got to try to have a good structure between now and Thursday to give our team the best focus and the best opportunity to win.

On having Cory Carr 100 percent:
I don't want to make excuses. I really think Oklahoma did a good job defensively. But, I think not be able to shoot for two days probably affected Cory as much as anything, because he wasn't even on the floor. You can talk about your defensive game plan all you want, you can talk about defending the three-point line, but the bottom line is he didn't shoot the ball the previous two days. Here is a guy who has averaged almost 25 points a game and has faced all types of defenses. Certainly, we would like to have him. But, that's part of a season. That's part of going through a conference stretch that you have to adjust to injuries and other people have to step up.

I do think he feels much better. I talk to Jon (Murray), our trainer, this morning. He thinks Cory is a lot better. We'll be better with a healthy Cory Carr.

On rebounding:
Rebounding has really hurt us all year. We went to a zone. They missed three straight shots and got two of them back and just put them back in. Then Johnson hits three two 3's from the corner. You get your job done partially, but you don't rebound the basketball. There's some things you have to do in a tournament. You have to play with some emotion. It helps when you shoot the ball well. But you certainly got to play solid defense, you've got to rebound, you've got to minimize turnovers.

Two things that has killed us in my opinion since the Colorado game has been offensive boards and turnovers. We've turned the ball over. We've been really careless with the ball. I think that comes from a mind set, from your mental state.

They've got to be active. You watch other teams play and we watch film. Guys are crashing the boards, they are going hard to the glass. We are not as active. We do too much standing around. You can talk about defensive rebounding, but look how poor an offensive rebounding team we are. We are just not active. If you go hard enough every time, you are going to get some offensive rebounds. We haven't done that. We haven't been quite as active on the boards. That's something we'll need to do. Teams have really taken advantage of us in a couple of areas. One has been the points off turnovers and points off offensive rebounds. That's demoralizing to your defense. Someone shoots a marginal shot, misses, and you don't get the ball back and they score. It happens a large percentage of the time to us when they get the ball back.

I expect Kris to be there, I expect Vazquez to be there, I expect Axtell to play. I hope they are not hurt and I don't buy in to any of that. They're really much better when they have those guys. We are going to prepare that they'll be at full speed. We got beat at Texas. No one expected Kris Clack to play. I kept telling our players, 'you better be ready, you better be ready.' We get beat by nine, he scores nine points in the ballgame. Being the warrior that he is, unless he has got it in a sling when they tip it off, I bet you he plays.

I think we should have been better. Patchwork, stopgap some things. I really think our biggest our problem in analyzing this...I was concerned about it going into it...I felt that way at the midpoint...I felt that way now and I think I'll feel that for years to come. I think the biggest thing is our mental state. We've had that problem for almost a year now. That's going to be part of our job is getting that mental confidence back. People have an edge. We have not been able to capture that this year. That's something that I think we've fought quite a bit. Certainly, losing Tony hurt, but I think that just compounded the feeling of being somewhat negative and not as positive and expecting good things to happen. In most of our guys minds, they still really do not understand what happened to them in Kansas City last year. I think we understand, we obviously had some problems that need to be corrected. It's hard to explain to those guys that it's nothing that they did. Yet, they serve a severe punishment. I think mentally that has been really hard for this basketball team.

Do you like the bracket:
I don't know. I was looking at that this morning. Everybody wants to stay away Kansas, but you've got to get to the finals to play Kansas if you are on our side. You look at some teams in there. Missouri went to the finals last year. They've been traditionally tough there. Oklahoma State is good. Oklahoma has been really good. They just pounded us on Saturday.

I think everybody, if you picked two teams, other than Kansas, that you wanted to stay away from would probably be Texas and Missouri. Texas is really talented. They are scary when they play. They are capable of putting up big numbers. They are good at every position. They've got a lot of guys on the bench. If some of those guys don't play, you look at a guy like Ira Clark coming in. He is really tough. Ivan Wagner started early in the year. They still got Bernard Smith. I hope no one's hurt, but I'm not going to be feeling sorry for my good friend Tom.

How do you not think about winning the Big 12 Tournament to get to the NCAAs: I think the guys know that for us to get to the NCAA Tournament, you've got to win the Big 12 championship. A lot of people speculate about getting to the NIT. I don't ever think about that - don't even know if I want to go if we win enough games. I want to be in the NCAA Tournament. I want our players to expect to be in the NCAA Tournament. That's no disrespect to the NIT. I don't think it's much of a reward to say, 'Well you win 16 or 17 games, now you get a chance to go to the NIT.' Postseason is important, but NCAA is more important.

The way we will approach that is, I think our players know where we are. You can't even think about getting into any tournament we want to be in unless you win the first game. I think it's a mistake if you look past the first ballgame. I even felt like when we had the good teams going into the conference tournament, that you could get upset if you weren't ready to play. I really think the key to winning any tournament is winning the first game. We won't talk about anybody else.

For us, it's a matter of emotion, enthusiasm, a positive feeling about yourself, in getting the energy and excitement in getting ready for the tournament. And not get the feeling that you are looking forward to spring break and hanging up the sneakers.

Junior Guard Stan Bonewitz

On the injury to Kris Clack:
I don't know. I heard he was hurt. I was watching the news last night and I saw where he separated his shoulder in practice. So, he might be. When we play teams and they have hurt players, they always seem to come back and play against us. We are going to practice for them like he is there and prepare just as though he was playing against us come Thursday night.

What difference would it make for Texas without Clack: Anytime you lose a player of that magnitude, it definitely does hurt the team. He is a great player, a superb athlete, just a guy that they really feed off of. So not having him would make a difference in the game. But I think also when you lose a key player or somebody of that caliber goes down, everybody else steps up and everybody else plays above themselves. They'll make up for it. They'll play even harder if he is not able to play.

What is the mind set of this team going into the Big 12: I think the mind set is that just anything can happen. You want to go up there with the right attitude, with a positive attitude and the attitude that it's a new season. You get up there and everybody has a second chance basically. We are going to go up there with an optimistic attitude and the attitude of 'who knows." Maybe, we could sneak a couple here and there and end up in the finals and you never know. In order to get there, you have to win that first game. Right now our focus is on Texas. They've beaten us both times this year. They've really played well against us, really controlled both games. So we have to make sure we go up there ready to work, ready to get after Texas come Thursday night.

What do you have to do different against Texas in this game: As always, you've got to play a 40-minute game. I don't think we've done that against them. We've played in spurts. Against a team like Texas you have to at least play a complete game, you have to play the complete 40 minutes. Probably the biggest key against Texas is box them out. They go to the boards harder than anybody in the Big 12. They get a majority of their points off of offensive rebounds and off of putbacks. So, if we can do a good job of boxing them out, getting to their shooters, they have some great shooters, just some great players. We have to make sure we box out. Do well defensively.

They get after you defensively. They pressure the ball. We have to make sure we are patient and that we execute and do the things that we are supposed to do. Just stay within our game plan basically.

Are teams playing Texas Tech different defensively: Maybe so. That's been the case most of the year. They've kind of pressured us out. They've tried to make us run our offense, basically, out by the 28-foot line it seems like. Anytime you have pressure defense like that, the main thing you have to do is back cut, you have to penetrate, you have to find a way to get the defensive pressure off of you. We didn't do a good job of that against Oklahoma. I think Oklahoma came out and pressured us and we just kind of played in their hands. We didn't back cut, we didn't move offensively. We were kind of lackadaisical on the offensive end. If Texas comes out and pressures us like we feel they well, we are going to have to make sure we are patient, we move the ball, and we back cut and try to find different ways to get some of that pressure off of us.

Do you think of anything beyond the Big 12 Tournament (Postseason): No, you definitely don't. If you think about that, that puts more pressure on you. You just want to take it one game at a time. Realize that in order to get anywhere, you are going to have to win that first game. We are going to have to do that come Thursday night. We are going to have to make sure we are ready for Texas and that we are not looking beyond them and we are not looking at anything in the future. We are just looking at that game and preparing for that game.

Freshman center Johnny Phillips

What do you have to do against Texas: Play hard for 40 minutes. Definitely boxing out. I think we have to minimize our turnovers. I think they feed off turnovers, they are a fast break team. If you let them get out in transition and run, they will beat you.

What do you have to do against Chris Mihm: Force him off the block in the interior. Don't let him have anything easy under the basket. When his confidence gets up, he tends to have good games.

Is it hard not to think about the 'what ifs' of this season: I think right now we need to focus on one game at a time. Like they said, anything is possible right now. You just have to take it one game at a time. Go out and play hard every night. We can't go out feeling sorry that it's been a disappointing season. We need to try to make amends as far as right now.

Is this a team that can get on a roll in Kansas City: Yeah. I really think we can. We haven't been playing well the past couple of games. The games we did play well, I think the team was a lot closer when we were winning. When we started losing, we started pointing fingers at each other, blaming each other, instead of taking the blame for yourself.

What do you and Ross Carmichael have to do to be better on the boards: We have to concentrate more on boxing out and going to get the rebound, instead of just boxing out. (Instead) of standing around, watch the ball go up and watch it fall. We don't actually have the mind frame to go get the ball. We need to concentrate more on that.

What are the plusses and minuses of playing Texas (a team you've played twice relatively close): It means a lot to the University if we beat Texas. It's a big rivalry. Anytime we have a chance to play them, it's a big game in any situation. It's definitely big game for us now. We need to win so we can advance to the next round. Hopefully, good things will happen.

On the injury to Clack: I don't know. I hadn't heard about it. If he's down, the other players will step up and have a bigger game against us. We'll prepare for them like we always prepare for them, just go out and play hard. Texas has a lot of weapons. They can hurt you in a lot of different ways. You better be prepared for them.

He will probably be there. He likes to play us as much as we like to play them. By it being the tournament, they want to go up there and win also so they can get into the NCAA Tournament. I think he is going to play.

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