From The Locker Room: Quotes From The Pack

NC State coach Herb Sendek and a few Wolfpack players met with the media following last night's 81-62 win over visiting New Hampshire at the RBC Center. Here are a few of the things that the Pack had to say about the Wildcats, State's offense and defense, and Friday's matchup with 12th-ranked George Washington.

GAVIN GRANT

What happened in the second half that allowed New Hampshire to outscore you?
We have to work on playing in the second half as well as the first half.

Are you finding your role now on this team?
I don't know about finding my role, but this game, guys were looking for the ball a lot. I got a couple good passes in to Ced.

Was it nice to shoot some free throws after only shooting four at Alabama?
It was nice to get to the line. We went to the basket a little more. It's good to drive a little instead of jacking up threes all the time.

Have you seen George Washington play?
Yeah, I saw them play against Maryland. They've got really, really good guards and [Pops] Mensah-Bonsu is a real big force inside, and they just spread the floor and go to work.

How did UNH get so many open looks in the second half?
It was screens. We played really well in the first half, but once the screens hit us, we got hung upon screens, guys were open and they were able to knock them down.

ILIAN EVTIMOV

How far has Engin Atsur's English come since he got here?
He's gotten a lot better as he goes along … But sometimes he'll surprise you by saying or telling a joke, and you say, "Whoa. I never heard that from Engin before." It's remarkable how far he has come.

Is it tough to come back after a break, then prepare for a short turnaround?
The game tonight was a mental game, and we have to get ready for a very good team [in George Washington]. It was a battle. We had a couple days off and this was our first game after the Christmas break. Everybody ate a lot of ham and everybody was happy with their parents and all that stuff. Now we're back to work. The challenge was more mental than anything else.

What was the cause of the second-half defensive breakdowns?
I don't think we had a good second half, and I don't think Coach was very happy about it. We're going to watch film and we'll get better as we get ready for Friday.

The ball movement in the first half was so crisp. Was that about as good as this offense can look?
It was beautiful to watch. People were playing unselfishly and it seemed like everybody was in rhythm. We hit a lot of big threes, Cam hit two in a row, we had good rebounds, everybody was happy with each other. It's fun to play that way.

Is playing unselfishly contagious?
Definitely. When you play unselfishly, everybody is going to play unselfishly. You can spread it around as a team, and that's good. That's what we need.

Did the team just lose focus in the second half?
We just had a bad half, and, obviously, the other team came out and they were knocking down a lot of threes. They did pretty well for themselves and we just didn't stop them … We are a good defensive team and we just let them off the hook.

ANDREW BRACKMAN

What happened in the second half
It gets in your head that you can relax this play or take off this play and they can shoot this shot. But we have to learn that we can't do that, because that's just making us worse for when we come to play a bigger and better team.

With this offense and the players in it, do you feel like, if you just keep moving, eventually someone will find you for an easy look?
Yeah. If you get open, they'll get you the ball. That's the good part about this team, is that nobody is really selfish. It really showed in the first half, but in the second half, we kind of fell off. But I think if we can work out the kinks for next week.

Why do you think there was a letdown in the second half?
Probably the second half was just because we were up by so much and guys just think, "Oh, hey, I can take off this play or take off that play." Coach got on us for that—and he will not let us get away with that.

COACH HERB SENDEK

Do you feel your team lost focus in the second half?
I think, in fairness, you have to start by giving New Hampshire a great deal of credit. They had excellent motion in the second half, made their shots, did a great job of spacing, moving the ball, screening and reading defense. So I think that's where you have to start.

Then, from our standpoint, you're right. We were much better in the first half than we were in the second half. Our defense in the second half was certainly not up to standard.

You've been playing Andrew Brackman in the post more this year. How has he responded?
We play him all over the court, really, and we've done that since he came with us, because he is so versatile. Andrew is a terrific young player and I think he's gotten better in every way. Certainly, his strength right now is significantly better than it was a year ago, and I think that really helps him around the basket.

Do you think he can keep that up in the teeth of ACC play?
I think he's going to have a heckuva year, I really do. I have a lot of confidence in Andrew, and he had a fantastic freshman year.

What do you think Engin learned from the Iowa game, when he had five turnovers and no assists?
I don't know if there was any amazing lesson from the Iowa game that Engin learned. He was pretty advanced and savvy before that game, and had a lot of experience. He just had one of those games; he didn't play well. And he bounced back and has played very well.

It seemed like your team had terrific ball movement in the first half.
Yeah, we did. There was some possessions in the second half where we continued to do that—and I have a couple in mind where we didn't.

You had a lot of assists and a lot of unselfish play, though.
That's been a trademark of this team, and we have some good passers on the team. I was also very pleased that we only had five turnovers tonight. In any game, in any tempo, to only turn the ball over five times is really good. I think this team does have the capacity to be a low-turnover team, and the defenses will test that in different ways, though.

Did you know George Washington was going to be this good, this early, when you scheduled the game?
Well, sure. I mean, last year, they had good wins over teams like Maryland and Michigan State. They were an NCAA Tournament team a year ago and I think they returned just about everybody from that team. So I think most everybody thought GW was a preseason top-10 team in the country. So we're not surprised, no.

How much more difficult does the quick turnaround make things?
Ideally, we'd like to have some more time, but our fans are that important to us. We wanted to work things out so that they could see both the basketball game and the football game this weekend. George Washington obviously comes into the game with much more preparation time than we have, but that's the way it is. And we'll just rely on our fans for a great lift on Friday night.

It mirrors the NCAA Tournament in some ways.
It does. The only difference is both teams don't have the same set of circumstances. But for us, you're right: It's a quick turnaround where you have to get ready to play a terrific team.

They haven't played in two weeks. From a coaching perspective, is that good or bad?
I have many more things before I would get to that, that we'll focus on. Those are the things that you can't control. It doesn't matter whether you think it's an advantage or a disadvantage; nobody would ever be able to prove it one way or another, either way. You've just got to focus on getting ready for the game and playing as well as you can.

Engin gets his hands on a lot of passes and gets a lot of deflections. How important is that to your defense?
That's paramount to good defense. Engin plays hard and he plays smart.


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