URI coach David Cox and junior Jeff Dowtin met with the media Thursday to preview tonight's game against Davidson.
On the message: The message to the team is pretty simple. If this is the toughest thing in life you’ve ever had to go through, you’ve lived a blessed, blessed life. We’ve got to pick ourselves off the mat right now. We’ve got to continue to swing until we knock that wall down. It’s that simple. We’ve been working really hard the past few weeks. It just hasn’t come to fruition in the games yet. We’ve got to continue to work, continue to get up every day and battle and, at some point, we’re going to knock that wall over. I feel very confident about this group, so I’m excited about the game tomorrow against obviously a very talented Davidson team that beat us pretty good down there. I’m excited to see how these guys respond right now.
On confidence: In sports in general, confidence is a huge piece of the pie. Whether you’re a quarterback, whether you’re a pitcher, whether you’re a basketball player trying to make free throws or knock down 3s, confidence is huge just in general in sports. With these younger guys, with all they’ve experienced for the last four or five years of their lives - particularly our freshmen with their outstanding careers and our sophomores and juniors have experienced championships - we’ve had a lot of success and we haven’t had this type of rough patch, this type of drought. Fortunately they’re dealing with a man who has had these types of rough patches just in life, whether as a career person or what have you. I think I’m the guy right about now that they can talk to, that they can get some good advice from about how to attack this thing. That’s what we’re doing. We’re going to attack it.
On Davidson losing its last game: That doesn’t help. That was a great game. I got a chance to watch it the other night. They were down big and just being Davidson - a veteran crew, a well-coached crew - they just kind of fought their way back. They’re so smart and offensively, they’re so efficient. They have a lot of ways they can attack us. We definitely didn’t need them to be angry, but regardless of what their mindset is, our mindset is we have to come out here and fight and swing and get out of here with a victory.
On defending the Wildcats: We will attempt to thwart their perimeter players, specifically Frampton and Gudmundsson - who ended up with 20 against us, but he shot a lot of free throws. They shoot the 3 at such an efficient rate. A lead can go from two to 10 just like that. That’s going to be our main focus, but you remember last game. Their big fella was pretty effective down there, as was Pritchett in the paint. Our post players are going to have to do a good job of guarding these guys. We’ll probably show them some different looks.
On how much the mental aspect of the game has been discussed: A lot. It’s been that way for a few weeks, just trying to keep these guys upbeat, making sure they’re locked in to the next game and that they’re going to continue to come out here and swing. Going through these tough patches is hard. It’s hard as an adult. As a 19- or 20-year-old, it’s really hard, particularly in today’s social media age. I’m sure they aren’t getting a whole lot of likes right about now. But it’s part of it. This is part of life, this is part of this process right here, rebuilding a championship caliber team. We’re going through it right now. We will come out of it, and tomorrow we’re going to give it our best shot to come out of it.
On whether fatigue is a factor: Had we been on a six or seven-game win streak, perhaps I’d say so. But after you lose five or six games, fatigue is out the window. You’ve got to come out here, suck it up and play as hard as you possibly can. If you need an extra blow during the game, you can call out of the game, but we’re not fielding any fatigue excuses or anything like that. Everybody at this point has played 25 games. Everybody’s in the same boat. Yes, we play seven, but I think Dayton plays seven or eight guys. You could probably go down the list right now of teams with short rotations.
On leadership from the veteran players: Those guys are with each other a lot more than they’re with me. They’re in the locker room together, they’re in class together, they’re in study hall, they’re back at the dorms together. The way they interact with each other, the message that’s being received and sent by those upperclassmen is very important. Right now, they haven’t been through this themselves, but they have to rely on their experience and their championship pedigree. That is to come out here and fight, play disciplined basketball, be efficient on the offensive end and just to keep swinging. They’ve got to continue to relay that message to those young guys, they have to show it in their effort, their intensity and their urgency throughout practice and the games, they have to produce and play at a high level. It’s a huge responsibility they have.
On what's been going wrong: Just confidence and playing together. There have been a couple of times on defense and at the offensive end where we haven’t been playing with enough confidence and haven’t been trusting each other. That’s one of the main things.
On reacting to it: It’s definitely frustrating. When teams go through this kind of slide, a lot of teams kind of branch away from each other and blame things on one another instead of taking ownership. I think one of the things we’ve been doing well is understanding what we’re doing wrong and trying to learn from our mistakes, trying to get better individually. The more we get better individually, the more we collectively as a group come together.
On the last time he was part of a skid like this: It would have to be elementary school. My middle school team, we won our championship. High school, junior and senior year, we won our conference and state championship. The last two years, we went to the NCAA Tournament. It’s definitely an adjustment. But God gives his toughest battles to his toughest soldiers. Just got to find a way to get through this.
On his approach: Leadership. Being a vocal leader. This is a tough stretch we’ve been going through. You don’t want your teammates to get down on each other, so I’m trying to pick those guys up no matter what. I’ve been through a lot of tough battles throughout my career. Along with these freshmen, coming from different high schools and coming to this program, it’s definitely a tough adjustment period. I just tell all my guys, ‘Keep your head up. Don’t lose confidence. Things are bound to change.’
On what he told the team: After practice, coach always asks me, Fatts, Christion and Cyril to give a few words of wisdom, just to kind of keep guys’ head on strong and give that positive encouragement. One of my messages for our teammates was just to focus on one thing that can help our guys win and focus on one thing they can improve on in their game. I feel like, if they can do that, then collectively as a group, we can play a lot better.
On getting a win: It definitely would be a good win for us. Last year, we played them here at home and we were able to get that win, so that’s a confidence booster for us. We’re desperate for it. We’re going to be a desperate team. We’re going to go out there and fight, we’re going to come out strong and see where the chips fall.
On fatigue: There’s definitely fatigue, but I’ve been taking care of my body and getting a lot of treatment with our trainer - more stretching, cold tub, heat. I knew I was going to have to play a lot of minutes. I’ve been preparing for it.