Mid-Major Madness: If you could pinpoint one major reason as to why the season went the way it did, what would it be?
Bruiser Flint: "We just didn't play well at the ends of games, you know? And that's the bottom line, we didn't make plays at the ends of games. We've got a lot of other reasons, but honestly, most of our games came down to the last two or three minutes, and we just didn't pull it out. We didn't make plays on either end of the floor, whether it was defense, offense, foul shots, you know what I mean? We just didn't make plays."
MMM: What's the biggest lesson your team can take away from this season?
BF: "We've gotta be tougher, we've gotta be mentally tougher in what we do. That was a big reason we didn't play well at the end of the games. We just weren't mentally tough enough to get over the hump. We have to understand that a little bit, and then another thing that we learned is we have to prepare better. I don't know if we were prepared, mentally or physically, for what was in store for this season. I think in a lot of ways we just thought it was gonna happen like the season before, and it didn't. It's a different type of pressure, and we didn't handle it well."
MMM: We've heard complaints about your team's defensive drop-off this year. It wasn't huge, but what do you make of it, if anything at all?
BF: "Everybody talks about our defense, but I mean, teams really still only score 60 points on us [it was actually 63.3 points per game, but we'll give Bruiser some wiggle room]. We're not gonna hold everybody to 50 points per game. But some of our defensive woes were because of the things we did on offense, and I think that once we got into league play, we got a little better in that way. I think any team will take holding teams to 60 points per game, that wasn't our problem. We weren't as good as we were last year, without question. But a lot of our issues were on the offensive end, not the defensive end."
MMM: Switching gears, let's talk about Damion Lee for a second. What did you make of his inconsistency this year, and how can he improve for next year?
BF: "One of the things with Damion was that he was injured and he was sick at different times during the year, so he had one stretch where he was really good, and the next stretch he wasn't really good. He had an illness where he lost 10 pounds and I didn't think he ever recovered from that point. And of course there was his bothersome knee.
But again, he has to realize that when you're playing at that caliber, he and [junior guard Frantz Massenat], they have to realize there's a different type of mentality coming at you after [Lee] was Freshman of the Year, and [Massenat] was Preseason Player of the Year, and so I told them that you've become circle players. They circle you because they know what types of players that you are. At times I don't think those two handled that well, but you know, you learn from it. [Lee] is only a sophomore. As much as we want to complain about it, he's still the third-leading scorer in the conference as a sophomore. So he was a little inconsistent, but you have some bumps and some injuries, but he's got a bright future."
MMM: Can you give us word on the potential return of Chris Fouch?
BF: "We've put the paperwork in, and we'll find out after that goes through, but the people here don't feel that it should be a problem. But you never know."
MMM: If/when Fouch returns, how much confidence do you have going forward for next season?
BF: "We've still got a lot of guys returning. The one we struggled to do this year is score, and the one thing that [Fouch] does well is score. But I actually thought [Kazembe Abif] had a pretty good season, and he was probably our most improved player over the season, so we'll look for good things from him. Hopefully [freshman guard Tavon Allen] can do a little better after he was thrown into the fire a little bit. I don't think he was really ready, but now he's got a taste of it, and if you watch him, you see he's got a lot of talent. I think [Seton Hall transfer] Freddie Wilson will add something as he gives us a different type of player. And then we'll need probably our young guys to step in because we did lose [senior forward Daryl McCoy], so our freshmen bigs will have to come in and give us some minutes. But we do return a pretty good nucleus, and like I said, I think the biggest lesson we had to learn this year is how prepare. And not just physically, but how we prepare mentally to take on the challenges we're gonna have in front of us."