Jeff Lebo Practice Comments

IES was at ECU basketball practice Friday and caught up with Head Coach Jeff Lebo to discuss the Pirates' upcoming road trip.

You have a business trip in Florida this week. That is not a bad place to be in January is it?

"It's good, especially in South Florida. So hopefully we'll go down there and get a chance to play and hopefully improve upon our performance in our last game. I think our guys will go down there and play well."

Have the players responded well after Saturday's loss to Old Dominion?

"We've got good guys. They come back and they learn from their mistakes. I think there are four areas, when we look at our team this year, that have been consistent of what we need to fix and that's guarding the ball, having some ball-defense … toughness and then being able to stop the ball in transition. The ball got to the front of the rim too easily and that's been a problem when we've played against good guards all season. When we've played against the higher level teams, tying to keep them away from the rim area has been difficult. Our kids have been afraid to foul them because of the new rules and I tell them we can't watch that anymore. Foul them! By any means necessary, keep them away from the rim area and we've got to be better at that."

How much zone defense do you expect to run against Florida Atlantic?

"We'll play some, but we have some limitations in our zone. We played zone against Campbell and gave up about 20 offensive rebounds. It's very hard to rebound with a lack of size in the zone because you don't have block-out responsibilities. That's an area we'll try to mix and try to still do those same things you do in a zone that you have to deal with in man(-to-man). You still have to guard the ball. You still have to guard ball screens. Those things won't go away just because you play zone.

"We got to have toughness and we got to have accountability amongst our players. I think that is one thing we had last year. Other guys on the team held each other accountable with a young, inexperienced team and with the leadership not where I want it to be. That's an issue with this team and we've got to be able to fix that right now and if that's a senior being held accountable by a freshman, then that's the way it has to be. And that is something for the growth of our team and something that we really had last year and hasn't surfaced as much as I'd like this year."

What have you learned about your team in order to compete with bigger teams?

"It's hard. They will throw it in there a lot to post-guys. What's kind of been unique, we haven't really played against anybody besides maybe N.C. State that has a legitimate, low-post, back-to-basket player that they throw it to a lot. So we have been fortunate from that standpoint, but there are not a lot of guys in college basketball who can score consistently with their back to the basket. But we're going to have to try and disguise it as much as we can. We're not real big there (and) we don't have a lot of weight there either. We're not shot-blockers there, so we'll try and hide it and mix our defenses and hope they don't throw it in there too much."

You said you worked almost exclusively on defense leading up to the ODU game. After that performance, what has practice been like up until now?

"Three more straight days of defense. The one thing that we try to pride ourselves is trying to guard. There's no one defense that I can come up with as a coach that does not guard the ball. We've had a hard time defending the ball this year. It's been frustrating. It's frustrating to watch. It's frustrating to coach. They come out every day and do the one-on-one drills, we make it competitive, we make them run, we do everything known to mankind there, but they have to have pride in stopping their man.

"We guard all the actions pretty well, but then the action breaks down and it becomes one on one and their men are better than ours at that point. So that's the frustrating thing that we got to be able to fix and they are going to score on us some. We know that, but we can't give them as many lay-ups as we did. I think we gave 40 points to Old Dominion on lay-ups in the last game. So we got to be able to fix that. I think some of them are a little bit afraid because of the body contact and with the fouling. When the guy sticks his head down, you have to find a way to get in front of him and if it's a foul, it's a foul."

How do you expect freshmen Brandan Stith and Caleb White to bounce back?

"They're good at bouncing back. I think they have watched the tape and we talked about some of the things that I think they can fix. Freshmen aren't consistent. Caleb has been surprisingly consistent up to that point, at least scoring the ball for us. But he's played the last 72 minutes without a rebound and we've got to be able to fix that … He can do better than that and that's an area that we've talked to him about and he knows it and he's trying to focus on that and he's trying to fix that."

Has Petar Torlak approached you asking for more minutes after his career night against ODU?

"He's been great. He played great, he's never complained, he's a competitive kid, he knows what we want defensively, (and) he's got some toughness about him. His limitation is his athleticism, but he knows what we want out there so I put him out there … I thought he did really, really well stepping in and looked like he wasn't afraid, looked like he had been playing all year and showed some toughness out there. Not only physical toughness, but mental toughness."

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