Opening Statement: Any time you've been gone as long as we have, we knew that the first game would be difficult. We were playing a very confident team. We were a little sluggish offensively in the first half, but we really got things going in the second half. There were a lot of goof things. There were more assists than turnovers. We made more free throws than our opponents shoot. We outrebounded them and we really guarded. We made it really difficult on them to score. Those were positives. Our turnovers were down against a team that manned us for 40 minutes. When you haven't won for two weeks, winning becomes that much harder. Our guys hung in there and did a nice job. They get a chance to play for a championship tomorrow.
With that said, it still looked at times you were pretty frustrated.
Well, it's frustration but you have to keep going at it. We're early in the season and I'm not coaching the scoreboard, I'm coaching for them to get experiences. The only four-minute game we let get away from us was the last one that was 9-6. The only four-minute game of the 10 four-minute games that we didn't reach our defensive goal was the last one. That was very similar to what happened at Arizona State. We gave up 15 in the last four minutes. We get beat 15-4, so we lost. So, just because we're up 17 or 18 with four to play, I don't want them to think it's OK to give up nine in a four-minute frame. We've just got to keep teaching those things until it sinks in because we're got a lot of young guys.
What enabled you guys to put that run together to start the second half?
I thought Tony was awfully guard. He was as big as anybody this game. He handled the ball. He had a 5-1 assist to turnover ratio. He knocked down shots. He took god shots. He played unselfishly. He got into the ball defensively. We got some key stops and then we ran. We had both point guards in at the same time and we got down the floor. He hit Justin once and I can't remember who he hit the next time. But we got out in transition and got some easy baskets off of their misses.
Is there a chance we'll see Mike tomorrow night?
Yeah, I mean, I was wanting to put him in with four to play but he had already unwrapped his wrist (laughs). I don't really want next week to be the first minutes he gets. I know it may not be pretty and he may not be in game shape, but I'd like to get him some run anyway just to get him going again. He's ready. He started making free throws in practice today. It's like when you turn an ankle, you do your therapy and you're ready to go but in your mind you're saying I don't want to jump anymore because you remember how that hurt. His wrist hurts from be immobilized for four weeks. His therapy has gone very well. I hope he'll be ready for tomorrow. I don't know for how much.
With that said, can you talk about Justin Johnson's improvement?
He's getting better. At Virginia Tech he did some good things and tonight he did some good things. He was just solid. He took good shots. We've really been working with him in his shot fake, and his shot fake is getting better. He started the game defensively the way that we needed to start it. We really pushed them towards the timeline and a lot of that had to do with Justin.
How is Adam's ankle? Do you think it affected his shooting tonight?
I don't know if it's so much his shooting. His timing was off a little bit. He's done a heck of a job with our trainers just to get him ready to play tonight. He's really worked at it. Our training staff is super. You have to give Adam credit. He's done an awful lot of treatments in the last 48 hours just to get ready to play. We know it was tender. He's not a guy that likes to have a lot of stuff on his ankles, anyway. What I like is that he had a bad shooting night, but he rebounded, he had a 5-1 assist turnover, he had three steals. He really defended. Adam did a lot of the other things very, very good.
Do you worry about him playing back to back nights?
Yeah, there's no question. That's what we've got to do. We tried to sub as much as we could. Tomorrow, we might have to do the same thing, especially in the first half.
Are you feeling more comfortable with the rotation?
Oh yeah, and once Mike gets back in there it will get all messed up again. I really thought that this was the best that our four guards looked. When we had the four-guard lineup in there in the second half, that's when we made our run. That's encouraging because we feel like that could be a potent lineup for us. We just haven't had a lot of time to work on it. Early in the season, we thought that Mike was going to be a part of that. His injury has slowed the work progress of working in that four-guard lineup.