Mark Gottfried's Monday Comments

A day after a very disappointing loss to Auburn and prior to the Crimson Tide's home basketball game against Arkansas, Alabama Men's Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried met with the media. Here are his comments:

Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried and the Crimson Tide will host Arkansas at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

On Arkansas:

"Number one, we've got to get re-grouped, obviously, from yesterday, and that starts today. We practice today at 3 and get ready to play a very good Arkansas team. I think when you look at the league and you look at just experience and talent level, I would say that Arkansas is probably at the top with the seniors. Those kids have done a great job over there. They've been to two straight NCAA tournaments. They've done a lot of good things. I have a lot of respect for them, all of those guys. I think that Sonny Weems is playing at a high, high level right now. And even though he's scoring more maybe right now than he was earlier, I still think that they are one of those teams that has a lot of weapons. They can beat you a lot of different ways. A lot of guys can step up and make some plays offensively for them so it's got to be a good collective effort with us."

What do you do practice wise, rest wise, with a game on Sunday (at Auburn), game on Wednesday (Arkansas) and game on Saturday (at Ole Miss)?

"Practice today. And we're going to get after it. We've got to correct some things from last night."

Rico Pickett played a good deal at Auburn yesterday. Is it something he's doing better now? Was there something he wasn't doing well?

"I think there was a period where he had struggled and I think that we've played Brandon (Hollinger) probably more at the point than we have wanted to. I thought last week Rico had a great week of practice, and even in the game yesterday, outside of making some shots, which anytime you make baskets you feel like you played better, but he took pretty good shots. I thought he did a good job handling the ball. He had five assists and two turnovers. So, outside of not making some shots, I thought he played pretty good both ends of the floor. So that's kind of where we are with that one."

Overall, how important is this final stretch of games as far as ending the season on a good note and also maybe setting yourself up for doing something in the SEC tournament?

"I want to end, and our players want to end—we all want to end—feeling good about something. This has been a tough year. It's been a difficult stretch. We know it. You really go back all the way to the beginning and go back to the Belmont game, and we've had our hands full all year long. Our players want to do a good job. Our coaching staff is working unbelievably hard. Our players have worked hard. I did think that in the second half yesterday that we let down just a little bit. I didn't like that. I haven't seen that a lot from our team. And I think there are just points in time where you do get a little frustrated. You're not making shots and not playing very well. But our guys have played really hard. And I know they want to finish well, and so we can start that on Wednesday."

Is the plan to start Senario Hillman again?

"I'm not sure. Demetrius (Jemison) didn't start just from a disciplinary situation. Nothing major. He had come late to a practice. We've done that throughout the year (with other players) two or three times. I think Demetrius should be back in there. I thought Senario played well though, to be real honest. He did a good job. He played aggressive both ends of the floor. I think we've seen that from Senario here a lot lately."

With Rico Pickett sitting out two games, was that anything disciplinary?


As far as like learning what you guys run in the offense and all that, where is Rico Pickett now?

"I think he's pretty good. He's always been pretty good there. I think he can pick it up. With Rico the things we've tried, as you're bringing him along and he's maturing and those things, is having an intensity level that's needed at this level, a consistent intensity level. I think he went through a stretch there, if you go back and I can't remember exactly which games, but that stretch at Arkansas, at Mississippi State here and there, there was a four or five game period where I don't think he played very well. And he knows that. So during that period we started playing Brandon (Hollinger) a little bit more at the point and then gave Mikhail Torrance some opportunities, too. So some off his playing time that dropped was his play. Some of it was; it's difficult if you're going to play Brandon some there or Mikhail, then to play three guys that play one position in a 40 minute game. That sometimes is hard because you want the other two guys to get in a rhythm and get in a flow. And so that's why it's been a little bit of a musical chairs in there. But I do think Rico has responded pretty well. I thought he came back last week and practiced (well). He had a good full week there. And then I thought even last night, like I said outside of not making some shots, I thought he played pretty good. If he jumps up there and knocks down two or three of those three's and then we walk out of there saying he played pretty well. He didn't, but he did some other things well for us, too."

What's the status update on Mykal Riley (left wrist)? Will he practice today?

"I don't know yet. I think that he will but don't hold me to that one just yet. We'll find out a little bit later."

Coach, against Auburn and also against South Carolina, it looks like people are fronting defensively Richard Hendrix a little bit more. Is that a function of those two teams being smaller?

"Everybody's going to guard Richard differently. I think that both teams have done that a lot. Last night at Auburn, they played the majority of the game in a triangle-and-two. They put three guys in a little triangle, so they had guys on both blocks. They covered Brandon and Mykal, and they said everybody else can shoot away. I mean literally, it's like standing in a gym by yourself. We were never able to make enough shots to pull them out of that. And really, that was kind of the mop-squeezer to be real honest. We've got to do well enough to make someone adjust. So Richard was getting fronted, but he also had someone behind him. And he also had somebody two steps above him. So there was just not a lot of room for him at all. But you've got to be good enough to get somebody out of that and until you do, they will stay with what they are doing. They did the exact same thing in here to us (the January 26 game in Tuscaloosa). We knocked down a bunch of shots, they were out of that, played a straight man, went inside. All of a sudden it's a different game. Last night you sit up there and you can watch the tape, you can't get any more wide open sometimes than we were. We just weren't able to make them. That was frustrating."

Looking a little ahead to this weekend, what do you think of Ole Miss?

"We played awfully well against them in here, one of our better games, I thought. And they've come back and played very well since that time. I think what they're doing a little bit more now is they're going back with (Chris) Warren being a lot more aggressive shooting the ball. I think there was a period where they kind of got away from that and I think now they've kind of given the ball back to him and given him the green light. So they've been a little bit different team for them when he has scored well. So that will be a little bit different type game if they play that way."

How much do you have to keep your team positive and keep them from giving up?

"I don't think they are mentally going to go anywhere. I've been pretty impressed with them all year long. Like I said, it's a difficult year. But I don't anticipate that at all. There are some things that we just need to improve upon. Last night, whether it was how we defended ball screens on post defense—we had four of five opportunities last night where we're in the break with the ball, in a fast break, and we either fumble it, we either miss lay up, turn it over, and in just about every one of those, they went the other way and got a dunk. We had opportunities in the fast break (where) we didn't do very well. We had defensive situations where we didn't do very well. So we're going to correct those and then move on and get ready to play Arkansas from there."

Richard Hendrix appeared to be playing not as effectively as we've seen him. Is that because he may still be feeling some lingering effects from the illness that kept him out of the Kentucky game?

"I think he's 100 percent. I just think in that particular game I think with the traffic around him the whole night, that kind of wears you down. And I think probably therein lies why maybe why he may have looked that way. Just weren't a lot of opportunities for him. Again, our inability to make some shots and force somebody to change a defense a little bit made it probably a little more frustrating for him. I think that's just kind of the way the game played out. He went to the foul line and made four for five. I liked that. So that was a positive."

What kind of adjustments do you make to make sure Hendrix doesn't have those kind of problems? "This is not brain surgery. If you defend him and take three or five guys and all stand within a foot of him, and you leave some other guys wide open, at some point you have to make some shots. There's not a lot of things you can design. That's basketball. If we went out down to the YMCA tonight and did the same thing, at some point somebody would have to make a basket, or two or three, to get you to adjust. Otherwise you just hang in there, jump inside his jersey with him until you do that. I think at times we've done a very good job of that. Last time we played Auburn I thought was one of the better times. But you've got to force people to adjust and you're going to do that with how you play. I know it sounds simple but it's not really that complicated."

Are you happy to be playing a team that doesn't play five guards for once?

"Yes. That will be good. But the guys they have are pretty good, too, at Arkansas. It's a different style game. Even with (Justin) Knox and Yamene (Coleman), it's difficult with Richard if Richard is going to play some significant minutes sometimes it's difficult to play our bigs against the guard-oriented teams, so that may give our interior guys better opportunity Wednesday night."

What did you guys do well against Arkansas last time?

"I watched that tape this morning. Riley had some foul trouble. He ended up fouling out in overtime. But we got the ball inside well, I thought, against them. I thought we made some big shots at some big times. I thought defensively we were good at times. You have to remember that game, late in the game, Riley came off a double screen there and hit his shot. Sent us to overtime. Ervin, Gary, hit a jump shot over there in the far side that might have been the coup de gras of the game. But I thought we played really hard. Did a lot of things well. They did, too. It was a heck of a game. When you watch the tape even, it was a heck of a basketball game."

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