Ivy Midseason Teleconference (audio)
PHILADELPHIA - At the midseason Ivy League women's basketball teleconference Wednesday morning, University of Pennsylvania head coach Mike McLaughlin answered questions about the current state of the program.
"Where we're at right now, we are 5-6 and making progress in the program all around. I think our players are very competitive. We've improved greatly from the start of last year to this year. We still have a very long way to go but I think progress is being made in terms of the effort and the commitment. I'm proud of the girls right now. In terms of on the court, we're scoring the ball a little bit better than we did last year. Defensively, I think we've been pretty good so far but we still have areas that we have to improve on.
I like our new freshmen, I think they're competing and they're playing in a tough environment where they have to play right away, but I think they're handling themselves well. I think our returning players came back a little bit bigger, stronger and more confident that they can help us out and help Penn be a better program.
So as of today, we have the difficult portion of our non-conference schedule remaining. We play three Big 5 schools, as you said, starting with Villanova tonight. We still have to play Temple and LaSalle, and we travel to Virginia this weekend. So we're going to be challenged, but I think it will help us as we get into the [Ivy season]."
On the difference between his firstseason in the Ivy League last year and this year:
"I think [the Penn] coaching staffs really have done a great job with any questions that I had for them. I really appreciate their help my first year, and I'm sure there's more to come. But I think everything was new for everyone, you know, and I think familiarity with things is always helpful for people. Every year is a different challenge, regardless of what situation you're in. We have six new players that we have on our team this year that we didn't have last year. Trying to get our freshmen acclimated to school, to the weight room, for the first time some of them, and then to come out and try to compete against some really good players is always a challenge. But I continue to say it, every day for us is important, every minute of practice is more important than the next because we have so much growth to be had. I'm proud of where we're at but we're going to work real hard to try to make this a better program every day."
On freshman Alyssa Baron's impact on the team:
"Alyssa has really contributed right away. I think she had an opportunity when we recruited her and one of her attractions to Penn was that she would have an opportunity to compete right away and she has taken advantage of that. She loves the game, she's extremely competitive. I think she has the ability to score the ball, and against whoever we played, she was able to get shots. I think she's improved on both ends of the court, she has work to do on the defensive end to be a full, complete player, but I do see strides in that direction. But she's been really great for us, through 11 games, she's been consistent. She competes, like I said, hard. It means a lot to be a Penn basketball player to her, and I think that's a great step for our program. I'm really proud where she's at today. I do think she will continue to improve as the season goes on. So I'm looking for bigger and better things from her as we go."
On Penn's impressive defense this season:
"Yeah, I think that's our main focus, defensively, because like I said earlier, we have scored the ball, to date, a little bit better than we had last year but I think defensively we can be consistently good. I think we just have to focus for what we're trying to do and I do see a great improvement in that area. I think with defense also comes rebounding and I think that's probably our best improvement to date so far. We've rebounded the ball much better than we did last year. I think it's just more of a commitment from the players to go rebound the ball. As I tell my players, if they're on the defensive end, 'go rebound the ball' and I'm really happy with where we're at with that. I think we have everyone more involved, consistently rebounding, and we are team rebounding the ball as well as we can at this point."