Hawks Talk: Alford, Pierce & DeWitz

"We've had two games now. We were very efficient offensively in Game One and didn't do a lot of the things that we wanted to do defensively. This game, we did some good things offensively. We just turned the ball over way too much. But defensively, we were very efficient. Now, playing a top-ranked team in Louisville (on Saturday), and a very good team as I've seen on tape, we've got to put it all together." -- Steve Alford. For all of coach Alford's quotes and player quotes, read on.

STEVE ALFORD

OPENING STATEMENT:

Well, I'm glad that's over. (Laughter)

We've had two games now. We were very efficient offensively in Game One and didn't do a lot of the things that we wanted to do defensively. This game, we did some good things offensively. We just turned the ball over way too much. But defensively, we were very efficient. Now, playing a top-ranked team in Louisville (on Saturday), and a very good team as I've seen on tape, we've got to put it all together. So, this is behind us. We've been able to go through this stretch of winning two games in three days. The guys have done some good things to open the season. We've got some solid play out of a lot of individuals. Now we know what we've got to work on. We've got about three days to work on that before we play an outstanding team.

Did you guys fall into the emotional trap of Coach Davis' return early in the game?

When it's Coach Davis and it's his return and a lot is made out of press and zone...We tried to downplay it as much as possible and we only had one day to get ready for it. The guys probably sensed it a little bit. And we don't face that a lot. I didn't think we handled it real well in the first half. You look at our efficiency in the second half, we're 15 for 28 (shooting from the floor). We handled that a lot better. We scored 38 points in the second half. We know we're not going to score a 100 every night. The thing they did a nice job on, they didn't (put) us on the foul line. You've got to credit their defense because a big weapon we usually have is we get to the line.

Did playing against the press prepare you for down the road?

Well, we're going to see it about five-fold on Saturday. It is a good prep game for that. I told the guys that there will be nights where the ball just doesn't go in. Without looking at the tape, I bet there were about six or seven shots at the rim that we just missed. But what's got to be consistent is guarding. Some nights it's got to be a grind out win. I was glad to see our team be able to do that because there was obviously a lot of pressure on them at halftime only being up two possessions.

What was the difference in the second half?

We calmed down a little bit. We were a little anxious. You've got to give their press credit. It made us play really fast. We took some ill-advised shots. We threw the ball all over the place. And in the second half, we really guarded. We held them to 29 percent shooting and 24 points.

Are you disappointed that they looked to be getting around Pierre, one of your best defenders? He also had nine turnovers. Did he get to playing to fast?

He was much more out of control this game. But he guarded Randolph. Randolph had 16 or 18 against Simpson. When the season is over, Randolph is probably going to be one of their leading scorers. Pierre holds him to one field goal, four points and seven turnovers. I wasn't as concerned Pierre's defense as I was with what he was doing offensively. Nine turnovers is about eight more than we want him having in a game. That's something that he has to continue to work on. But in saying that, he was near a triple-double. One more turnover and one more rebound and Pierre's got his first triple-double. (laughter)

You had some nice minutes from DeWitz.

Yeah. Nick really had some solid play. We had some inside guys not finishing in the first half. We had a lot of good looks. Nick gave us a good shot in the arm. All 10 of his points were in the first half. That's the half that Brody didn't make his shots. Nick was able to carry us a little there offensively. In the second half, Mike Henderson was terrific. He's able to do some things defensively that as the year goes along with him and Pierre out there together it could be a special defensive backcourt.

In the first half, when they took the lead 25-24, were you thinking that your worst nightmare might come true, Tom Davis comes in and beats you?

No. I was more upset with just the way we were playing. I don't think I ever thought that because there was so much time left in the game. I give my guys a lot more credit than that. I've got good faith in them. I'm not happy with our turnovers. I'm not happy with what we did offensively. But I am happy that in a kind of ugly game they grinded out almost a 20-point win. There was a lot of time left, and I'm going to be one of the last guys to jump ship on them. I'll go down with them.

PIERRE PIERCE

Did you guys get caught going to fast early in the game?

I think so. Coaches warned us, but we turned it over. We did a better job of handling it in the second half. But come Saturday, it's going to be much better.

Did you guys get a little lost in the pregame stuff tonight?

Definitely. Dr. Tom was a great coach here and did a lot of great things here. It was emotional for his team to come out real hard and try to beat us. But we calmed down in the second half and did a better job.

Were you a little to quick?

That's what the press does. Coaches talked to me about gambling a little too much on defense and I was rushing things offensively. With the press, you have to slow down and take what they give you. You can't let the defense dictate our offense.

Was there an effort to drive to the basket more in the second half?

Definitely. That was something he wanted us to do instead of shooting the jump shots like we did in the first half. We wanted to go to the hole and get to the free throw line.

NICK DEWITZ

What did you learn from the press tonight, maybe the do's and don't's for Saturday?

Don't play passive. We've got to attack it. We weren't executing our offense at all in the first half. In the second half, that's what we started doing. Once we got through the press, we just started playing our offense.

Was there an effort to get to the basket?

At first, we were taking a lot of quick shots; one or two passes and putting it up. And coach wanted us to move the ball. That's what we did in the second half. We moved the ball around and got what we wanted.

Did you guys get caught up in the emotion at the beginning of the game?

I'm from the West. So I don't know much about the Dr. Tom situation.

But could you kind of feel it out there?

Definitely. When we were warming up and everyone was cheering, I was like "What's going on?" Then I realized it was Dr. Tom's return. But for me, I was just trying to play. I was not trying to worry about his return or the press. I was just trying to play basketball.


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