Paul Hewitt: Preparing for Wake

Protecting one's home court is always important but the way things are unfolding in this season's ACC standings, a win at home is even more important. Coach Paul Hewitt talked about the importance of defending the home court against Wake Forest before the team prepared for practice Wednesday.

How difficult of an opponent is Wake Forest?

"They're playing really well. There's a lot of parity in the league. Right now we're catching them at a particularly hot time. I think they beat Virginia by double figures and they went to (North) Carolina and won by double figures. The key to them is Ishmael Smith. He's playing probably as well as any guard in the league."

When was the last time you saw anyone as fast as Ishmael Smith?

"It would have to be Tywon Lawson. He's actually faster than Tywon Lawson with the ball."

Who would you put on him?

"I think Iman Shumpert will have him but it's going to be a group effort. He can't guard him by himself. Certainly we have to try and slow him down in transition."

How do you keep the young players from thinking about the negative side of things in the roller-coaster ACC?

"The older guys have been around so they know the value of holding home court. We're at home and we have to take care of business here at home. At the same time they have to realize that we're going through a tough stretch in the season. It seems like every time we look up we're playing against a team that is ranked or playing great. We know that we just have to weather through this and see what happens when we get to the back half of the league."

Can you talk about the impact of losing a close game on the road?

"We missed the free throws and they made the free throws. It was tough for the guys. We've had some really heart-breaking losses this year because of the effort the guys poured into it. That foul at the end; I put Glen Rice in a bad spot. He got a little over aggressive - the kid had the ball and he tried to strip it. I probably should have known better to put a freshman in that position."

I guess that makes this game even more important?

"Yes, as I said you have to protect your home court. I know these guys are going to play great defense even if we're not playing good offense. That last two minutes of the last game was a crystallizing moment for some of our guys to understand that we have to pay attention to detail on the offensive end. There were some things in the last two minutes of the game that we could have gotten easy baskets but we didn't execute. I didn't have to say anything. I got text messages Monday morning saying sorry Coach I'm really going to start paying attention to detail now."

The Charlottesville paper said that teams are starting to figure out Mfon Udofia on the offensive end. Anything to that?

"I think he's just having a tough time shooting the ball. Like most freshmen, when he's not shooting well he starts to press a little bit. I still think he plays as well defensively as anybody we have. He's a guy that gets loose balls and makes hustle plays. He has to get back to doing what he did earlier in the year and get back in the starting lineup. He just plays harder than anybody else. He would have played more against Florida State but Glen Rice and Brian Oliver played so well. What you saw at Florida State was a product of what those two guys were doing rather than what Mfon wasn't doing."

The team didn't shoot free throws well the last two games?

"If you look at it, there are certain guys that are getting fouled a lot. Gani Lawal is one of the guys in particular and he said, "Coach, I just have to do better." I think in the last few games he is 4-12. We know he is capable of doing better. He was 17-20 against Charlotte. He was back in the gym Monday and he feels he has it worked out. I think his lower body hasn't been relaxed enough. That's one of the things we talked about."


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