TRANSCRIPT | Northern Iowa coach says his experienced team is re - WDRB 41 Louisville News

TRANSCRIPT | Northern Iowa coach says his experienced team is ready for Louisville

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AP photo. AP photo.
SEATTLE (WDRB) — Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson is in his ninth year at the school and has led the Panthers to the NCAA Tournament for the third time.

In 2010, they reached the NCAA Sweet 16 and led Michigan State at the half before falling 59-52. That was their last tournament game before the 2015 senior-laden group pounded Wyoming 71-54 two nights ago.

It's a tournament run that has been a long time in the making. Northern Iowa has a school record 31 wins against only three losses, and finished just one game behind Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference standings.

The Panthers played Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas to open the 2013 season, which would result in a national title. U of L won the game 51-46, largely because they outrebounded the Panthers 46-28. Their rebounding leaders in that game: Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell. They also scored 25 points on 22 UNI turnovers.

Northern Iowa guard Matt Bohannon injured the index finger on his non-shooting hand in Friday night's win over Wyoming. He's listed as questionable, though Jacobson said he did go through the team's workout on Saturday.

The rest of Jacobson's pregame comments are here, provided by ASAP Sports. For a full version of this transcript, including quotes from UNI players, click here.

Q. An update on Bohannon's status?

JACOBSON:
Yeah. He went through our walk through today and seemed okay. Whatever that means for today. So we'll see how he's doing tomorrow. But he went through the walk through today.

Q. The stakes, obviously, are very high. His ability to shoot, obviously, wouldn't be greatly affected, but catching the ball. Is it just too high of stakes to take the risk that a pass could end up being dropped or something along those lines?

JACOBSON:
No, I'm not at all concerned about that part of it, if it end up kind of going that way. Bo's smart enough. He's not going to do something to hurt our team. So we'll see how he's doing tomorrow and take it as it comes, really.

Q. When you saw the Wyoming matchup, you immediately said your relationship with Larry Shyatt, do you have any previous experience with Rick Pitino or anything like that?

JACOBSON:
When we played them it would have been the first time that Coach and I would have met, I think down in the Bahamas, for that tournament. Then had a chance to talk yesterday, or two days, ago again at the tournament meeting. But that outside of that, no.

Q. How important is Seth's leadership been for this program throughout the season?

JACOBSON:
Yeah, it's been great. There's a couple things I've really enjoyed with Seth this year. Last year toward the end of the year he elevated his leadership. He kind of took on some more in terms of ownership and getting the guys rallied around each other and wanting to end our season last year on the right note. We did win five out of six. He had a lot to do that because he stepped forward. This year he's taken it up one more level. To have a guy playing -- he's more of a power forward, the body type. But playing center for us and doing a lot of what a point guard does and would do. Starting quarterback, starting pitcher, he's just got that kind of mentality and that kind of command of his teammates and of the situation. The thing I would tell you to go a long with it is, all of the good things that have come his way, all of the success that he's had individually and our team has had. He hasn't changed at all. I think that's probably his greatest attribute as a leader. He's, if anything, he's a small town kid. I think a lot of people have read about that by now. If anything, he's become more of the small town kid and even more humble and not gone the other way. That, to me, is really defining his leadership. That's made a huge difference for our team.

Q. What was it like watching one of your old students Dave Richman go against Gonzaga last night and can you talk about the days when he was living in your basement?

JACOBSON:
Yeah, we were together in Fargo at North Dakota State for that year. Then he made the trip down to Cedar Falls and did his student teaching in Cedar Falls. And it happened to be our first year of marriage and some of you probably can imagine what that's like. Dawn, we're going to have someone live with us starting out on our first year on this journey. But she had gotten to know David well when we were in town. And obviously, for Dawn and I both, it was fun for us. As he's shown, this year graduating the guys that they did a year ago, and coming back and putting together the season that they have. His, boy, his demeanor and the way in which he carries himself and how he is with his guys. I watched it in the game against South Dakota State for the championship and I think that was why last night they got back in the game. Their guys just kind of kept playing and played a little bit harder and a little bit tougher in the second half. And they just stayed with it and they kept playing and they found themselves down six to one of the best teams in the country. I think that says a lot about David.

Q. Sometimes the hallmark of a good to great program and a coach isn't just taking a team to somewhat of a mountain top like you did five years ago, but it's being able to rebuild it, sustain it and do it again. What were the challenges once you got past the 2010 era and building this team and getting it to the point where it is today?

JACOBSON:
I think that I would tell you probably the first thing is working with the guys from a mentality standpoint and an understanding that they don't have to be like the team in 2010. They have to take ownership of who they are. They have to do it the way that they -- that is going to work best for them. That's been a process for us. Obviously, because of how that all happened and playing Kansas and the No. 1 overall seed, and Ali firing that shot up. I mean that gets talked about every year. And it gets talked about a lot in our community and on our campus and it should and I'm glad it does. That was, and is, a terrific moment for our program and it raised the bar a little bit higher. So working with our guys to understand that they have got to find a way to take ownership and do this their own way. That's how the team in 2010 got to that point. But that can be easier said than done. That can be a very difficult thing when that's sitting there and you want to do the same thing and people are waiting for you to do the same thing. That can be a lot to handle when you're 18 to 22 years old. So I'm proud of our guys for taking ownership. Boy, Deon, the five seniors, Deon and Max, they were just up here. Those five guys, they have done a terrific job of changing some habits, getting a little more disciplined, getting a little bit tougher. And mostly as I've said, mostly taking ownership and doing this the way that fits them.

Q. You've had a lot of success in your career but is there a post-season loss whether as a player or coach that still eats at you years later that's hard to digest?

JACOBSON:
Yeah, the Michigan State game does a little bit. Just because we were up at halftime and we had a team that obviously, I guess if you're that far. If you're in the Sweet 16, we all feel like we're going to get to the Final Four once you get to that point. But that team, boy, that team felt like we were going to the Final Four. It was, man, they -- nothing was enough for that team. So that was a hard one because we had the right pieces, we had size at center, and we had a great defender at power forward, we had a terrific point guard. Couple shooters to go with it. And we had a good bench. So we had what you needed. So that one, because you're that close, right, that one sticks with me. No doubt.

Q. In simple terms, Louisville, what do you have to do against these guys and from you looking at them now closely, what do you see?

JACOBSON:
Yeah, I think it's got to start with handling the different presses. You've got to be able to -- one, you got to start and get the basketball in bounds. I say that, I know how simple that maybe comes out, but they have got a couple different presses and with them they're going to work hard to deny it sometimes. Sometimes they will trap the first pass and then other times, they're going to let you get it in and then trap you somewhere else on the floor. So that part of it is important. Our experience and our ball handling and Deon and Wes become very valuable, of course, in that situation. Once you get through that, you got to have the confidence and, which our team does, to attack. Sometimes that would lend itself to playing into their hands, because they want the game to go up-and-down and use their press to do that. But we have got experienced guys, we've got good ball handlers, we've got guys that can shoot the basketball. So you got to be able to attack at the back half of it. Once you get into the half court you're going to see, and it's -- they're really good defensively in the half court. Some teams that press are not that good defensively in the half court. Louisville is. They're terrific in the half court with their defense. They make it really hard for you to get into any kind of rhythm. So you've got to rely on your guys making plays. And as opposed to being able to run a bunch of stuff and get into a great rhythm, you got to be able to make some plays. Again, that's where our experience and our ball handling and having some guys that can shoot it, that's going to have to help us tomorrow. And I don't know how much -- if we had another half hour I could talk about their offense and their guys and their coach and their tradition and everything else, right?

Q. Can you describe how big a deal it is back home to have three teams from the state in the tournament?

JACOBSON:
Yeah, I think it's great for the state of Iowa to have this level of interest. And in large part due to what the three teams have done this year. But it's been really good now for a number of years. What Fran and Fred are doing and Ray Giacoletti is just getting started at Drake and he's building it the right way and he's good shots a bunch of good young players in there. We have been good for awhile now, too. I just think it's great. As a basketball guy, to have this level of interest in our state and have young kids coming up wanting to be at Northern Iowa or wanting to be at one of the other places, I just think that's terrific.

Q. Ali was at the site where Kansas is playing in Omaha and asked some of the Kansas fans about that shot and did you read what he had to say?

JACOBSON:
I did, I read the article and I watched the video. My favorite part of the video was the student that he was in class with that didn't know him at the time five years ago and he didn't know him yesterday. That was my favorite part of that whole deal.

Q. From the thing -- from the department of things that are really important what's the status of the black uniforms?

JACOBSON:
I don't know. We won't be wearing them tomorrow. Outside of that, I don't know. I don't even know if we have them with us. We might. But we won't be wearing them tomorrow.

Q. You get to the tournament, you win a game, obviously the stakes get higher. Can you talk about, do you talk any differently to the kids at each round or is it just treat it like any game, even though the stakes obviously are much higher?

JACOBSON:
We're headed down the same track yesterday and today as we were getting ready for Wyoming. Obviously, two very different styles of play and some tremendous challenges now with Louisville and what we're going to have to do. So some different things in film and X's and O's, okay? But the other part, the mentality part, no, we're headed down the same track. These guys, as I said, they have taken ownership of who they are, they understand what we do well, they understand why we are here, they're loose and their confident. We have had the good fortunate of having Kurt Warner and some of his family join us and man Kurt has just been awesome with the guys. He's had a great message. Basically it's been, man, go out and you're on the big stage and this is the best time to be great.

Q. If Bohannon can't go who would be the starting five could you share that with us?

JACOBSON:
Yeah, if Bo isn't able to go tomorrow, it will be Paul.

Q. There's always a discussion about 2010. We have asked questions about it, you hear it almost every day now. At what point does that become a burden to your team or almost where they're getting kind of tired of it versus -- because they have clearly established their own identity but they keep getting asked about it and their identity is about the equal of that one.

JACOBSON:
Right. That maybe, maybe you asked the guys this, it isn't something that I've talked a lot with them about. Outside of in the fall we talk about our tradition and how important that is and where the bar is set. We talk about some of the things that have helped those teams get to certain places and why we have had success. So we do go through that and we talk about it in those terms. But I haven't really sat down with them and talked about it on the other side of are you guys okay with this? Are you, is it starting to bother you? I mean, I haven't had those conversations with them. What I would tell you is I'm really happy for them, because this is the team that's had to, as I mentioned a little bit ago, this is the group of guys that had to come after it. And as much fun as that sounds like, when you're a sophomore, junior, senior in high school and being recruited and that's what you want to do is play in the NCAA Tournament and go to the Sweet 16 and go to the Final Four and you feel like, if they just did it, okay, we're going to do it. When you're there, you start to understand how hard it is. On top of it being really hard, you're the ones that are supposed to do it. So there's a lot to that. And that's why I'm so happy for these guys. They have established themselves as one of the best teams to ever come through our program. I'm really happy for our guys.

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