Back To Basics

N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe discussed his basketball team during his weekly teleconference. Lowe discusses the challenge of facing Duke, how he has been working with freshman point guard Ryan Harrow, and much more.

Opening Statement
We just came off a loss at Florida State where I don't think wee played defensively as well as we are capable of. We definitely have to play better defense in our next ballgame against Duke.

Can you talk about last year... you played one of your best games against Duke. What did you guys do to be successful against them, and do you think you can do it again?
I hope we can do it again. Last year we really executed well offensively. We set good screens and were very efficient with what we were doing. We didn't take a lot of bad shots. When they switched we were able to at times take advantage of a mismatch or something like that.

Our defense was decent, we played some zone. We played a good ballgame, and we needed to against them.

It's going to take an even better effort this year... concentration from everybody. Even our young guys. It's a big adjustment for them coming from a defensive standpoint and offensively, but that's what we did last year... really executed well.

What makes Duke hard to beat?
I think it's a couple of things. They really push each other to play hard. They are smart, they don't make a lot of mistakes. They have four guys that can make shots, and sometimes five when you put Ryan Kelly in there. They just know how to play. They play good, sound basketball and they are constantly moving.

They are constantly pushing each other. I think they are probably one of the best teams at challenging each other on the floor to do the right things, and that says a lot for your team.

I think Ryan, C.J., and Lorenzo were at the game last year. Is there a value to them having see that win first hand?
I don't know, other than that they know it's a great matchup in terms of the history and tradition.

I don't think them watching those guys play can do them any justice in terms of helping them on the floor now. It's a totally different animal now. Now they are out there and get to see and get to experience the atmosphere and toughness.

We're playing against some great players on Wednesday. No, I don't think it helps them in terms of how they are playing on the floor.

I know you've mentioned working with Ryan [Harrow] defensively. Specifically what are the areas you need him to work on more?
Sometimes it's not just on the ball, it's off the ball, being in the right position. That's very different for these young guys. They are used to roaming around and at times not playing any defense for fear of getting fouls.

Right now I'm trying to get him to understand how important it is from that position to defend. That's the head of the defense right there, and if you break down and are not in position up top than it really hurts the team defense. It's always a constant, and it doesn't end until we get a rebound. I'm just trying to get him to understand that and how important it is to keep his guy in front and not allow them into the paint.

Do you know why the ACC is struggling this year, and is it a concern that the ACC could be on the decline?
I think everything is perception really. I don't think it's a decline, I think that when we don't have some of the teams that are normally ranked in the top five or top ten then people tend to think the ACC is down.

I wouldn't say we're down. Now, when you talk about ranked teams, we may not be in there, but I'll still take the teams in the ACC, with time and experience, against anyone else in the country.

That's just my personal opinion on that, but there's no question when you look at our conference anybody on any given night can beat the other team. I wouldn't say that's something to say the league is down. We don't have the ranked teams, but we do have some young teams in our conference, new situations, but I think in time with the experience factor, I think still the ACC can play with anybody.

So you think youth is a key to why it hasn't been the kind of beginning to what the ACC might have hoped?
No question it has something to do with it... it really does. I don't mean that as an excuse, but with experienced players they just have an edge. I think it's something that happens all the time with teams when they are young. They have to make a lot of adjustments, and they don't play as well, especially early, as they might later.

How is your team's morale after these two losses?
We've been going through practice this morning, and we're having a great practice. The morale is good, the effort is good, the energy is good. We're certainly disappointed in the loss, and they were, but they understand that we still have a lot of games to go and things can happen.

There are going to be moves made with other teams, and we just need to get us a win. We need to get us a win and see what else happens around the conference, but the morale is good.

Similar challenge in Nolan Smith to Reggie Jackson. How do you approach him?
It's a tough matchup for anybody around the country. Nolan is an excellent player, and we have to make it tough for him. We can't allow him to run around and get open shots and create shots for other people.

We have to try and control him. It's not an easy thing to do, but there is no question about it, when he's going they are going. When he and Single are going they are going.

We have to try and handle him first and Singler, and then the other guys. There's no question, when Nolan is going he makes them a better team.

One of the issues with Reggie was switching off or staying with him, but what will be the point of emphasis there?
The point of emphasis is to never leave him. Communication is what it is. If there is a situation where there is a switch then he is now your man. We got confused a couple of times and it's all about communication.

We didn't talk on those deals and allowed [Jackson] to get open. That's against anybody. If you don't talk then anybody can burn you.

Certainly Nolan is one of the best in the country, and we can't allow him to be free.

Halfway through the season, where do you think the freshmen are to what you expected and what do you think they have to do in the second half of the schedule?
I wasn't sure where they would be. I knew they would have to make a lot of adjustments, and they are still making them.

You can see it with some of the things that are happening, whether it's mistakes they are making on defense... I was just talking with Ryan about starting our offense and I was showing him on film how h e was starting our offense at the 28-foot marker when he's got to get the ball down lower. Teaching him how to do that again, take the ball one way and get the ball to his spot quick.

It's the learning now with the pressure on. They just have to continue to learn how to play the game on this level and the things they have to do. It's not as easy as it used to be for them, and they are not there yet. We are going to need them to get there soon and be a factor.

I'm still pretty much pleased with the way they have played so far, but I know they are going to get better. It's all the learning and understanding of how they have to play on this level. You can't relax on guys on defense or they will burn you.

With two tough teams coming up this week with Duke and Miami, is there anything special you'll do to prepare for them or normal practice preparation?
The things we didn't do well were some fundamental issues, not talking, weakside help, not getting off. That's really where we struggled... setting screens.

We're back to the basics, that's really the first thing we have to do. As far as strategy is concerned we have some things that we want to do, but I think the first thing we have to do with a young team is get the fundamentals down again and understand that as the competition gets tougher you have to execute better.

You have to set harder screens, you have to play tougher defense. You have to block out more... tougher, harder, aggressive. That's the adjustment that we're trying to make and get back to for 40 minutes. Not when we're down, but at the start.

It's really more just the fundamentals, getting back to the basics.

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