"We had a really big game last night. I thought N.C. State played outstanding basketball and kind of knocked us back in the first half. We came back in the second half and put ourselves in the position where we had a chance to win the game. We needed a better 40-minute effort because State played so well. I was really impressed with State's veterans and (Marcus) Melvin got them off to an excellent start in the first half - he hit three 3s and (Julius) Hodge played well, (Scooter) Sherrill played well. And after watching the tape of the game - I knew he played well but I would have mentioned his name even more in the press conference afterwards - but (Ilian) Evtimov played a great game against us. So we've got to learn from it, go on. In this league you can lose any game and you have a chance to win any game.
For the most part we've been winning, but we understand there's not much that separates anybody in this league, and that was evident last night - teams get better and teams are hungry. Our conference has been great all year, but we're going to see some amazingly hungry teams these last couple of weeks."
Could you talk about specific things about N.C. State's defense that really impressed you?
"Well they've played good defense since Herb's (Sendek) been there. So they have a base of belief in having defense as a foundation for what they do. They play really good man-to-man defense, they move well as the ball moves so that when the ball gets to a certain area, they're not making sudden adjustments; they're making quick gradual adjustments. They play as a unit, and they believe in it. They're a really good defensive basketball team."
You and Tom Izzo have been very successful in March. Talk about what it takes to win in March.
"You could probably search the rosters of Tom's (Izzo) teams and my teams and find out that we had really good players to get us there. Part of it is just being fortunate to be in really good health because it's a one-shot deal. Sometimes it's match-ups - you get a more favorable match-up than someone else. But for the most part, you just have to do the things that you can control - not being tight, being aggressive, being in an attack mode, and play the game you're playing - not to envision playing after that game because sometimes you never get to the game you think you're going to be playing in."
Do you go over intangibles, like pressure with the team?
"Our team is under pressure every game, every day of the year, because of where we've been, so we just learn to live with that. For us, we live in a constant state of that, so I think that helps us when we get to the tournament because we're kind of accustomed to that."
On the hunger of the team
"I think our team is hungry, I think they were hungry last night. You just look at it as what motivation do you have in regards to winning games, and I want our team to be motivated to get better. So the game last night will help us get better, we just have to use it accordingly. People have different goals, and sometimes during this time of the year, you've got to be careful that you don't push the button that says that we're going to give everything...it's kind of a play on words, because we are giving everything, but it's not the end-all. We get in March, that's the end-all. You have to position your team, I guess it's kind of looking at it globally and not locally, and you've got to do both, and that's what I've tried to do through the years, and that's what I'm still trying to do. Last night, I thought we were ready to play, but State played better than we did, especially in the first half. I thought the second half, we were right there, but we've got to work how to do that and still have an opportunity to win, especially when we're away from home these last few weeks of the season."
On the dynamic of the league race
"We think it's important, but we're still always going to be judged here by how we finish the year, and not the regular season. What we want to do is play the regular season as well as we can, and hopefully win the conference, but we want to make sure that we're prepared for what happens in March."
On Wake Forest
"They're very deep, I think they're as deep, maybe deeper, than anybody in the conference. They're very explosive offensively; they can really put points on the board. They're one of the best teams in the country. (Justin) Gray's always been good, but he's stepping up, and of course (Chris) Paul had a great game (against Cincinnati), and their depth and their explosiveness offensively is what scares me the most."
On Chris Paul
"He's an outstanding player who, as a youngster, is not just talented, but he has a maturity about him. He has great poise for a first year player -- he has excellent poise for just a player -- and when you see that in a freshman, you know that the kid's special and that he's only going to get better, and he has, throughout the year. He appears to be a great kid who has the whole package. It looks like Skip (Prosser) has given him the confidence to follow his instincts, and that really helps a point guard if your coach allows you to do that."
"I think it's a glamorous role. I think it would be unglamorous if the kid was an all-stater and doesn't play, but if you're a walk-on, it means that you weren't really expected to be on a team, and now you're part of one, especially in the ACC. You've got a chance to represent Duke, Wake, Carolina, all these schools; I think it's very glamorous. But you have to keep it in perspective, like what is your role as a walk-on, and as a walk-on you need a decent amount of ability. He's not going to be a starter, or maybe a playing contributor on your team, but he has to have the ability to compete, so a competitor is what you look for, a pretty tough kid. Does he want to be a part of something bigger than him, does he have a really good attitude? Our guys do, and they're very valuable to us, and as long as they know that, it's not going to be rewarded by playing time, but it's rewarded by the fact that they're a part of a really good unit."
On Justin Gray
"He's so explosive, his confidence makes his team better. I would love to have him on my team, he's one of those guys that you know is going to play well against you, you just hope that he doesn't play great against you. When you have a kid like that going on the court with your team, you've got a chance for other guys to be more confident because they're playing with that kid. When people talk about guys making other guys better, a lot of times you just think of that guy as being the point guard, because he distributes the ball, but I think that Justin makes his teammates better because he's a winner. He knows what it takes and he's not afraid to assert himself, and when he does that his teammates can follow. I really like him a lot. I respect Justin a lot."