Gottfried: "We're Coming Together"

NC State head coach Mark Gottfried fielded questions from the media on his weekly teleconference.

After the North Carolina game, you talked about CJ Leslie and about how he needed to improve. Just his play, since you said that, and just some conversations you've had with him and how impressed were you with him down the stretch last night?
He's played better since the North Carolina game. He just needs to continue to play at a high level for our team. I think he understands it. I've talked to him about it.

When you're a good player like he is, you have a responsibility to play well every night.

This program for quite some time has been the hunter instead of the hunted. Talk about that adjustment this season and how in the last-- at least the last few games or the last few weeks you've seen progress with finishing the deal, especially on the road.
Well, I think we're getting better. I'm not sure we handled that early in the season, being in a different position than any of our players have ever been in, where we were the hunter and not the hunted.

I think you always want to stay aggressive and be the hunter. You know, really if you look at our season, we had the three games there in the middle there without Lorenzo and lost all three of those games. That set us back. We didn't handle that very well when he was hurt.

But I do think our team right now is playing with a lot of confidence. I think we're coming together as a unit. We're getting better defensively. I think we just need to keep going day by day.

The first time you played against Wake, Devin Thomas had a tremendous impact on the game. Now that you've-- of course you hadn't seen him before that other than watching him on tape. Now that you've seen him and your team has played against him, what do you think you could do a little bit differently against him this time?
Well, he's really good. Obviously he's left-handed and he was great over his right shoulder shooting the left-handed jump hook, and we gave him about six of those, so we've got to take that away.

But he's a good young player that is going to become one of the best interior players in this league over the next couple years. He's had a great freshman year, and he's big and strong. He's a good offensive rebounder. We've got to keep him on the backboard.

He manhandled us early. We can't let that happen again.

Maybe when you go back and watch the film rather than during the game itself, but do you have kind of a coach's appreciation for a battle between guys like Howell and Thomas going at it as hard as they do and both being productive, too?
Yeah, and I think Richard will have a lot of incentive for this game. But Jordan played a lot in that first game, and Devin Thomas just kept getting offensive rebounds. He just kept getting them and scoring them.

So I think that our guys will be very tuned in when it comes to guarding him this game.

You guys are locked in a tight battle with Virginia and North Carolina for three, four, five seed in the ACC tournament. Last year you were five and had to play on Thursday night. I just wonder how significant is that to get out of that fifth seed, to get the bye for the first round?
I don't really-- you know, you never know. Obviously you'd like to be in the top four. We would love to be in the top four.

But if not, if you don't get there, you've got to roll on and play. Maybe it helped us last year, you never know. We played a game, had a game under our belt, Virginia had not played a game. That may have actually been an advantage for us at that time, so you never actually know.

Certainly you want to be in the top four. That's where we're trying to get to, and so we'll see what happens.

I've been asking coaches about defensive players. We've got to pick an all-ACC defensive team and I need some help. I wonder if there are two or three guys around the league -- you've seen everybody. Have there been two or three players that have impressed you as defense players?
I'd have to stop and think about that one for a while. I haven't really thought that through.

I'd have to-- I'm going to pass on that one right now just because I haven't thought it through, and I'd hate to say somebody and then miss them.

Tell me about your own team then. Who anchors your defense? Are there two or three guys on your team that you see as defensive anchors?
I don't know that there is one on our team. Obviously Lorenzo does a great job as a point guard. He creates a lot of havoc. He gets his hands on a lot of passes and deflections and those type of things.

Quiet as it's kept, Scott Wood is not the most athletic guy, but he defends things so well with his intelligence. He's figures out how to guard and take away other people, their options.

I don't know that we have one guy that's just a standout guy right now. I think collectively we're all pretty good.

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