The Big East coaches held their weekly Big East conference call with members of the media yesterday afternoon. Kevin Willard made an opening statement and then answered five questions from local beat writers Jerry Carino, JP Pelzman and Brendan Prunty.
"We played a pretty decent first half against Marquette, then I thought Marquette did a great job of pressuring us and forcing some turnovers and getting some easy buckets. I think Buzz [Williams] is doing a great job with his team, I love the way they play.
As far as Louisville, obviously another big challenge ahead of us. I think they're playing as good as any team in the league. You take away the five-overtime loss against Notre Dame, which was a fantastic game, they won a ton of games in a row ... Always a challenge going down there, great crowd, great atmosphere and obviously as well coached a team in the league as there is."
On Fuquan growing into leadership role: "The leadership role is evolving. I don't think you ever just step into it. I think he's doing a good job so far but I think he's also still learning what it takes and that's always a process. I think he'll do better job next year than he's doing this year. But he's doing a good job so far for us."
On Sterling Gibbs and the benefits to sitting out for a season: "I think it'll help him two ways. The tough thing about sitting out, as much as you want them to be involved in practice, and unfortunately we haven't practiced that much because of our injuries, sometimes you're just doing so much game planning. What I think has helped Sterling hes really improved his body, he's gotten much stronger than he was at the beginning of the year and he'll have a whole 'nother summer with us and preseason next year. I think he's really worked, individual instruction wise, he's gotten his skills much better. So I think from that standpoint I think he's really improved and I think that he'll be ready to help us that much more. So I think that's what the time off has benefited him most."
Is there a benefit to playing on the road -- to switch things up? "I might say yes if we weren't going to play Louisville. I don't know that answer, last time we played at Pitt we played pretty well, Rutgers we played decently on the road. We only played 1, 2, bad road games this year and that was at Georgetown and at Notre Dame and both times we were severely undermanned. Yeah, I think sometimes getting away is not a bad thing, the only thing that will really heal our wounds is time and time off."
The response of the players off the court to recent results: "Yeah the guys were great yesterday, they really were. We had study halls, we lifted and we did some stuff and the guys were all in good attitudes and good spirits. They've been good all year, they continue to work hard and continue to do stuff, we just haven't handled when things haven't gone our way well. Obviously I didn't handle things well, my technical the other night wasn't the best timed technical, we were only down 7 at the time, that doesn't help the cause.
These guys have given their all, Haralds [Karlis] is playing with a torn something in his groin. Gene [Teague] is still battling, Fuquan [Edwin] is still battling his ankle, Brian [Oliver] is gutting it out. I think its more a matter of really nothing is going to heal this team's psyche right now besides getting healthy and unfortunately that's not going to happen any time soon."
Elaborating on the Karlis injury: "He can play through it, it's a hernia, he's going to have surgery at the end of the year to replace it, it's not major surgery, they just have to put that mesh in there so that it doesn't pop out. As long as it doesn't pop out dramatically he'll be okay, he gets treatment for it and he wears a special brace during the game now. It's just one of those things that we have to watch every once in a while, as hard as he plays and as undersized as he is, playing the 4-spot now, we just have to monitor it a little bit more than if he wasn't hurt."