I’m really proud of our team. It was a great team effort for us tonight to beat a team that I thought coming into this game was playing as hot as anybody in the country. It was a terrific team effort. Dennis [Smith] I thought played sensational in every phase of the game, Malik [Abu] gave us a great effort off the glass, Maverick [Rowan] gave us a great boost off the bench, and Terry [Henderson] was great scoring.
Outside of that, everyone that played contributed, everybody did something positive. Great team effort for us.
I watched a lot of their games and I watched the way they man-handled Duke the other day so that makes me feel good about our team tonight.
On the team’s response after the Miami game…
We had two great practices, they were competitive, hard, get your attention type of practices. A group of players that have not played a lot at this level have to learn what it takes to win.
Tonight, I thought they came out with great urgency. Our attention to detail the last two days was better, and we made fewer mistakes on both ends of the floor. It was a completely different approach to the game for our team, and hopefully our guys are going to understand now what it takes to have a chance in this league.
On the team’s offensive play…
It was a lot of different things; it wasn’t just one thing. It was a point of emphasis for us, we wanted the ball in the paint. That was something we talked about, and we felt with our size we could go in there some and then I thought once we got a lead they started pressing us and we had some fast break opportunities, and we were able to get to the rim.
There were a lot of different ways that we ended up there, but we did one way or another get the ball around the basket. And I thought that was the biggest thing for us.
On the maturity of the team during the game…
When you play better, you feel better. I think it’s not just that they are young, they have just never been in this league before and there are a lot of them on our team. We learned a lesson, and hopefully that lesson resonates for a while and it’s not just a one-time thing. We took our cool jacket off, and we played better, tougher, stronger, and we played together, and we played pretty well. That was important for us.
Did you feel like you guys were pitching a perfect game in the first half on offense...
For a while... it was pretty good. We were doing a lot of things right. Our defense was good... the way we scored the ball eliminated their opportunity to run a lot too. We were scoring at such a good rate it eliminated some of that for them.
That was good for us.
You have Carolina next... how do you take the hype from around that game?
Personally, I won't talk much about the hype around the game... for us it's about execution.
We took a big step tonight... we had so many individual errors defensively at Miami... for our team more than anything, they'll be excited about playing North Carolina... excited about going over there... but we have to stay focused on what needs to happen for us and how we need to play. That's the most important thing for our guys, and we'll go from there.
Now that you've been to Miami, do you think your guys are prepared?
I think they know now because we've been on the road, but eventually you need success on the road, and we haven't had that yet. We need to find out how to have some success too on the road.
Abu went through a tough stretch... how important is it for this team to have him playing well?
It's important for our team. We walk through with our players the other day and talked about everybody's role, and we need him to play well. He needs to be a guy to get double-doubles for us. He's capable of doing that.
Scored the ball around the rim... I thought he was terrific tonight. He rebounded the ball well. Our team needs him to play at a high level. We're a much better team when he does that.
Have you had a player record a triple-double in your career?
Someone else asked me that. I don't know that I have... I'm not sure that I have. That was fun to watch.
Your general assessment of what Smith did tonight...
He's such an electric player and tonight he did just about everything. He handled the ball against the press, rebounded the ball, created shots for other people, scored the ball. He has 27 points and he'll probably tell you he's mad at himself for missing foul shots. He could have easily had 30 and within the framework of what we're trying to do.
He's learning all that, and he's such a good player. Every game is an opportunity for him to take a step forward. Tonight I thought he took a huge step forward.
How have the players come together as a team?
We're getting there... the strength of our team is all of us. They need to understand that. It's not one guy, and we have a special player in Dennis. It's not about him either, it's about all of us. He knows that, they all know that.
For us to become a great team it has to be about all of us. Tonight was the best game we've played where it was a total team effort.