April 21, 2024

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What Greg Gard said after the Badgers' 72-61 loss to James Madison

What Greg Gard said after the Badgers' 72-61 loss to James Madison

The Wisconsin Badgers lost to the James Madison Ducks 72-61 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, exiting early back in March.

After the game, coach Greg Gard spoke with the media and broke down his team's efforts in the disappointing loss.

Opening statement

Greg Gard: First, congratulations to James Madison. They were much more impressive in person than they were in the movie, and I really liked them in the movie. I think their pressing bothered us, especially in the first half, as they obviously attacked us with 13 passes. We didn't handle it very well, and when we did, we couldn't finish at times around the rim and missed some easy shots.

But how did this group fight back in the second half to get back to six. When you have 13 turnovers and shoot 26 percent in the first half, you've dug yourself a real hole, but this group hasn't given up all year. And, you know, to get it back to six twice, and make shots to get it closer, they gave it everything they had and left it there on the floor.

Very proud, and obviously Tyler is our only senior, with what he has brought to this program and these guys to my left, I've never had to coach effort, and when you don't have to coach effort, you can get a lot of good things to happen, which is what this group did. So it's going to hurt for a while because we felt like obviously we could play better, but we'll suck it up and keep moving forward.

Q: You talked about Tyler being a senior, but a lot of guys on this team are back from last year. How tough is this loss, especially considering the momentum you guys got Big Ten Championship?

Greg Gard: Well, any time you get to this point in the year, any loss is going to be tough because you're scratching and scratching, working all year to get into this tournament. And then, as we've seen in all the other games going, you have 40 minutes, and if you have a bad part of that 40 minutes like we had 20 minutes, then you play up like we did.

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Yes, it burns because you put so much into this. This wasn't just–she wasn't preparing for this for just four days after Selection Sunday. You've been working on this since last June. These guys have put so much into this and I've seen tears and emotion, because it means so much and they've committed and sacrificed so much to give this team.

Question: You talked about missing some shots at the rim. Do you think pressure leads to rushing those shots?

Greg Gard: This means the pressure of the game is real. You won't deny it. But I thought their physicality made us move the ball early, and then I felt like we were also rushing them sometimes when turnovers came because of the physicality. We made some unforced errors as we gained speed and threw the ball away.

And yes, we didn't end up around the edge. We had some nice looks and we didn't even shoot the free throw line as well as we did. I thought offensively, specifically in the first half – defensively, we held them under one point per possession in the first half. It was just 13 turnovers and 26 percent shooting. This is pretty useless when you're shooting at such a low level.

Usually, if you turn the ball over a lot, at least you'll hit it better because the shots that don't hit you, you throw them away so they don't count against you. But we got a double whammy in the first half.

Question: You said in your opening statement that you're digesting this and moving forward. What does that look like? When you can't make the tournament one year and don't win it the next, do you have to take a look in the mirror and try to figure out how you can get this program back to where you want it to be?

Greg Gard: Well, I mean you're playing through this and you're one playoff game away so anything can happen. This group wanted to win a Big Ten championship. We didn't get there. We got to the finish line last week in Minneapolis, and they didn't make it. And they wanted to win and advance in this.

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So, in a 40-minute game, if you don't play well, as I've said a hundred times, you go home. So for us, we've battled turnovers and picks all year, and those sins came back to set us back tonight, more turnovers than ever before. This might be our highest turnover game all year. Maybe it is.

But those things, that's why you fight all year long and you teach and you coach, so you don't have that situation where you don't turn the ball over and you don't take bad shots, and you use all those lessons during the year to get to that point so that doesn't happen.

Much of this is thanks to James Madison as well. Like those guys said, we've never seen a team really attack us and we knew they were going to do it. Everyone we spoke to who played with them said they will attack you, they will hurt you, it will be physical and they will reach out and grab. And you have to be able to handle it, which we didn't do at the beginning of the game.

Like I said, 13 turnovers on 36 possessions in the first half is a recipe for disaster, but this group found a way to get the ball back and found a way to take care of the ball better in the second half. The problem was that the hole we dug was too deep.

Question: In today's transfer portal era, you probably had to do a lot of re-recruiting last year. Do you expect to have a few more in the offseason and what is your offer for these guys to come back another year?

Greg Gard: We're 15 minutes away from the end of the game, so I don't know. They do not know. I mean we see the world we live in. We will have talks. A lot of guys, all of them except Tyler, have the option to come back, and there will be other options, I'm sure. If guys want to test the waters in the draft or get feedback. We haven't had those conversations yet. We are very raw after the end of the match.

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And like I said, just look at the landscape, that's the environment we live in. So you have to deal with it and be prepared. It could go a hundred different ways. But this kernel is really good. They're really tight. That locker room, it's very emotional right now and that's what he's telling me, or telling me – it's not the first time I've seen an emotional locker room, but that tells me they're here for the right reasons.

They're here for it, and they've done a really good job of representing the front of this shirt. But we are in a different era. There are a lot of individual choices that people have.

Question: This was your sixth appearance in the tournament. You've had two first-round exits, two second-round exits, and made it to the Sweet 16. Where does this loss fall, in terms of how impactful it is, given how well your team has played, and how does that rank? Compared to the rest?

Greg Gard: I don't compare years because every team is different. In 2013, we lost to Arizona and in the first round, and we turned it around and went to the Final Four the next year. I don't like to compare years because the players are different. The momentum during the season is different. Your season ebbs and flows differently. This stinks because this group put a lot of effort into this and they had really high goals and played really well.

You know, like I said, we didn't play well tonight, and this isn't a seven-game series. So, put your best out there, and if it's not good enough, go home.