Belmont coach: “We like to chuck it from the cheap seats”

Here is part of what Belmont coach Cameron Newbauer had to say today about playing Kentucky Friday at noon in Memorial Coliseum in the NCAA Tournament.

Cameron Newbauer, Belmont Head Coach:

On if the team has the green light to shoot the 3 at any point and if that is this weekend’s strategy …
“I’m from Indiana and of course I love the movie Hoosiers. There’s a line that we’ve taken from the movie that we like to use a lot – we like to ‘chuck it from the cheap seats.’ If we’re open and our players feel good about it, then we can take it. I’d rather have a deep 3 that someone feels good about with a chance to go in, offensive rebound and make a play off of it as opposed to a silly turnover or something. They do have the confidence and the freedom to shoot pretty much whenever they want. I don’t know how many teams in the country where every player has made a 3-pointer. Seven games into our season, every player, except one, had made a 3 this year. That’s part of our program. One thing that we want to be able to do is spread the floor in so many different ways with so many different players and stretch the floor to where you have to guard everybody on the perimeter because if not, then we have a chance to hit the 3.” 

On what his biggest concern with Kentucky is …
“Obviously they’re an SEC team. They finished fourth in the SEC. You’re talking about a player in Evelyn Akhator, who if you don’t look at the numbers and you see that she’s second team All-SEC, it makes absolutely no sense. If you look at the numbers. This forward that they have averages, basically, 17 points per game, 11 rebounds per game, six free throws per game, four offensive rebounds per game, and that’s not the most impressive stat. The most impressive stat is 61 percent from the floor and she’s not a first-team All-SEC player. I completely disagree with that. I know the league is great, but this player is great. Don’t forget about Makayla Epps – one of the best, if not the best, point guards in the country. I have not seen another player – maybe Kelsey Plum – that can absolutely take over a game like she can, scoring in a multitude of ways. Inside out, and the way they play, is designed to really feed those two. Then you’re talking Maci Morris on the perimeter. You’re talking about the other guards on the perimeter. I wouldn’t say what the biggest fear is because we know what we have to do. We have to try to limit people and strengths, which will be very hard to do. We have to score. You heard Sally say that we need to focus on ourselves and that in large part is what we need to do. We need to take what we do and try to do it better than what (Kentucky) does. As opposed to just worrying about them, we need to make them worry about us. That comes back to your first question of being able to spread the floor. If they want to hug up on the perimeter, then we have some kids inside that can go to work inside. I’m really looking forward to this matchup. We know that it’s a 13 seed vs. a four. We’re not supposed to be in the game. We’re not supposed to have a chance.
“What does (Memorial Coliseum) hold? 7,500? We know Big Blue Nation is going to be here in full effect. We’re excited about that. We love the opportunity to be playing in the NCAA Tournament. As you heard Kylee say, we’re not satisfied. I believe our players are going to give it everything that they have and have a lot of fun giving it our best shot and seeing what we can do.” 

On nonconference scheduling and playing against high-level teams …
“It’s been great for us because you’re preparing for NCAA Tournament environments and that’s one thing we’re trying to do with scheduling. You look at the last four years, year-in and out – Western Kentucky, Chattanooga, Green Bay, Troy, and then you’re talking Louisville, Wake Forest, Minnesota, Georgia, Purdue, Kentucky. We played here three years ago and experienced this environment. One thing I like to do that’s kind of cultural was last year we played Green Bay. It’s a great crowd and they make a run to take the lead. I call a timeout. The first thing I did in the timeout was tell everyone to look around. ‘Look around and hear this. Hear this crowd and embrace this moment because this is an exciting opportunity. This year, in Minnesota, we did the same thing. The crowd is going nuts, their coach is getting the crowd in it, and all of the sudden our players come down and bang a 3. I think our players enjoy that moment where the opposing crowd is getting after it. I can say that I think we enjoy it because we’re second in the nation in road wins next to only UConn with 13. I think our players embrace the challenge. Now, this is a challenge unlike any that we’ve faced, but that’s what March is for. It’s Cinderella showing up at the ball, trusting the process and training from the last 120 practices that we’ve had, and knowing that we’re prepared for this moment because of what you said with the aggressive scheduling. We know we’re going to put ourselves in adverse situations in November and December to try and prepare for a moment like this if you’re fortunate enough to come out of your conference tournament. We were fortunate enough to do that this year, and we relish this moment for sure.”

On if took anything from his time coaching with Jeff Walz at Louisville…
“For sure. Michelle (Clark-Heard) was there. I actually replaced Michelle. She went on to Western Kentucky. Coach Walz – they want to say he’s the mad scientist. I learned a lot of offensive schemes and defensive things to do. You ask about our players and the freedom they play with, that was a big thing from Coach Walz is just letting your players play, stay loose, and have fun. You watch (Louisville) play, and that’s just how his team plays. I learned a lot from him in that regard. You look at the success that he’s had and it’s worked. That’s one of the things with our players is letting them have the freedom and trying different things throughout the course of a season to prepare for games like this. I got that from him. Obviously working for Andy Landers – what he did for me is incredible.”

On Taylor Murray being back and active for Kentucky and if they prepared for her …
“She is a competitor. I watched her years ago when I was at Louisville and Georgia. That kid is a fierce competitor, always has been. She took a hard fall with that concussion in the South Carolina game. You’re talking 13 or 14 days ago. I figured she would play because this is the NCAA Tournament and she’s a competitor. We’ve prepared for her because she doesn’t play all 40 minutes anyway. You prepare for how they play with her and without her because they do have different looks. I never once questioned whether she would play or not because how they play she’s needed, but also just because of the competitor that she is. You knew she was going to play.” 

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