Q & A with Pack Coach Sidney Lowe

During his weekly press conference, NC State coach Sidney Lowe discussed tomorrow's matchup with Winston-Salem State, his team's energy level, and the injury statuses of Courtney Fells, Tracy Smith and Farnold Degand.

Can you give us an injury update Tracy Smith and Courtney Fells?
"Tracy is OK. He could have practiced, actually, yesterday, but Doc wanted him to sit out one more day. He'll be OK; he'll go today.
"Courtney is still going to be a game-time decision, I think. He didn't practice yesterday, so we'll see what he can do today. And that will probably determine if he plays tomorrow or not."

Can you tell us exactly what those injuries have been diagnosed as?
"Tracy actually pulled something in the back of his knee, the back of his leg behind the knee. And his was just going in there after an offensive rebound.
"Courtney has a bruise; it's not a sprained ankle, it's a bruise. Because you watch the film, it wasn't … he didn't twist anything. He just got hit from behind and it's just a bruise on his ankle, but I guess it's a little more severe than we anticipated."

Who would start if Courtney can't play?
"I'm not sure yet; we're not sure yet. We were actually just talking about that, and trying to make sure we keep good combinations together. And it could also be based on the team that we're playing and what they might do against us. Whether they play man or zone could dictate who we start. But we want to make sure that we still try to keep a balance of guys that are coming off the bench, that we still have players that can complement one another, you know, in that aspect."

With Courtney's injury, is it a pain thing, a limited mobility thing, or all the above?
"I think it's more of a pain thing, yeah; I think it's more of a pain thing. And there's still a little swelling there. He tried to do a little bit yesterday, not practice but just doing some therapy things, and it was still a little sore."

You never want to see any of your players get hurt, but as you're trying to develop a young team, how important is to get your freshmen some playing time in these situations?
"Well, it's always important to get them experience, but as you said, you'd like for it to be done in the right way, you know. But this is an opportunity; it's an opportunity for some guys to get more playing time, for some young guys to step in and help carry the load a little. And I don't mean in terms of just coming in and scoring, [but] just being a part—being able to play the defense the way we need to and execute the way we need to. So there's definitely an opportunity there and hopefully—and I think they will—somebody will take advantage of it."

You've had a chance to break down the Davidson film. What are some positives and negatives you saw in watching that?
"You know, I thought we did a lot of things, a lot of positive things, in that ballgame. The energy when we came out at the start, I thought it was excellent. We executed, we got shots that we wanted. I thought our attitude … I just thought we played well; I thought we played a good ballgame. We were up one with 2:38 to go against the No. 22-ranked team in the country, with a shot, a three-point shot to go up four. And we missed that shot, so … I thought we put ourselves in position.
"The things that I didn't like, obviously, was the offensive rebounding, or the defensive rebounding. That I didn't like. We gave them too many opportunities. I thought that we allowed a couple of players to hurt us with their strengths, and that was an area that we didn't count on; we didn't want that to happen. We didn't want Lovedale and those guys to get those offensive rebounds the way they did; we know that's what they do. But they're a good ballclub, again; they play their roles.
"But for the most part, I was very, very happy with our effort, first of all, and then putting ourselves into position; we were in position to win that game."

You have two guys pass up open shots at the end there. Is that just a matter of them not having been in that situation enough times?
"Yeah, you know, that's … it's a basketball player's decision. If a guy is not comfortable shooting it, it's hard for me to say, 'You should've taken that shot, you should've taken that shot.' At the same time, you tell guys, 'If you 're not comfortable, if you're not ready, don't shoot it.' Now, that situation, you've gotta do it. Take the shot. One of two things will happen: you're going to make it or you're going to miss it. And that's it. And no one's going to look at you and say, 'You know, you missed a big-time shot,' or anything like that. But that's their decision.
"Again, I thought, everything we did, I thought we played well in that ballgame. It was a tough game and we played against a very good team, but I was very, very happy with our guys' effort."

If Courtney can't go tomorrow, do you anticipate him being back for the East Carolina game on Wednesday?
"I do. I do, yes. It will be … Basically, tomorrow will be a week, pretty much, that he's been out. So I'm hoping that that bruise can soften up a little bit and he'll be ready to go. Hopefully he'll be ready to go tomorrow, but if not, I think, for sure, by Wednesday."

How is Farnold Degand doing, and is he in the same situation?
"No, you know, Farnold is getting better. He's getting better, and again, his thing has all been timing and, I think, confidence, not just in his ability, but confidence in playing with that brace on and confidence in doing certain things. Again, he still has to take his time, though; it's not all going to come back, and that's the frustrating thing for him, is to try to tone down a little in terms of his aggressiveness and the things that he's trying to do. The things that he can do normally when he's healthy, he can't do right now. But he's still quick enough and can handle the ball well enough that if he just takes his time and can be patient with it, it'll come."

It was easy to see a real edge that Brandon Costner had against Davidson from the tipoff. What can a Costner playing with that sort of edge mean to this team?
"Well, I mean, it's obvious. It's obvious that if Brandon plays well, it really helps us, obviously. He's certainly capable, and as you said, he came out, he was focused and ready to play that ballgame, in all aspects. Defensively, he was helping, talking, rebounding, he was inside, scoring inside. And when we have that energy from him, we are different; we're a different ballclub. Not to say that we don't need it from everybody else, but he's involved so much with what we're doing, that yeah, when he's going well, we're OK. And he did; he brought it in that ballgame."

Are there any corrections you can make in terms of offensive rebounding?
"With our offensive rebounding? Defensive rebounding? Well, it was just a matter of blocking out. You know, this was the first ballgame, really, I think that we really got hurt as bad as we did. We'd been doing a pretty good job of it, and we just have to continue to concentrate on it. You know, we work on it; we have a defensive rebounding drill every day that we run.
"But again, it's one of those things where, when you're playing against a player that that's his strength, that's his talent … You talk about a guy that has a talent; Lovedale, for example, his talent is, No. 1, is he plays hard. That's a talent; people think that that's not a talent. Playing hard is a talent; if it wasn't, everybody would do it. So that's one of his talents; the other is, you know, he rebounds. So when you're playing against someone that that's their talent, then you have to block him out every single time. And I think we missed that, and not understanding that you can't just turn and go in and get the rebound.
"We were going in, but we were going in without looking at those guys and blocking them out. We were going to get it, but they would come around us, or the long rebounds because of the three-point shots taken, and we know long shots mean long rebounds, but we were going in and getting pinned underneath.
"So I think we just have to think a little more in terms of who we're playing against again, and again, reading the shot, so that if it's a long shot, it's probably going to be a long rebound, so you have to block out even a little further. But I'm hoping that we don't find a situation like that again; certainly we're going to play against guys that rebounding is their strength, but I think we'll be better prepared for it."

Can you give us a brief scouting report on Winston-Salem State?
"They're probably going to play, they might play three guards, from what we've seen them do. They're going to run the ball up and down the floor. They have a pretty good player in Jamal Durham, about 6-4, 6-5, 6-6, in that area, shoots the ball, shoots the three, puts it on the floor; they run a lot of stuff through him. [Brian] Fisher, guard, can score the ball as well, will shoot it from anywhere and also can penetrate. But I think you'll see them really try to use their quickness, and we anticipate maybe them playing some zone; we've seen them play quite a bit of zone.
"We have to be ready to play, we can't … we have to make sure that we focus in on our strengths and things that we can take advantage of, and I think it's going to be a good test for us."

In watching film of all your guys who guarded Stephen Curry, did you see anyone who defended him well that you think they could develop into a strong perimeter defender?
"I think a couple of guys. Trevor [Ferguson], obviously, Trevor really stands out because of one, his knowledge and understanding the gameplan and how to guard guys. I think he may have made one mistake guarding Curry and allowed him to do something that we didn't want him to do—I won't say what it was. But other than that, Trevor chased him hard, he chased him hard, he tried to deny at times.
"I thought C.J. [Williams] did a decent job on him; I thought C.J. did a very nice job on him. I thought our guys, for the most part—and I mean, it sounds crazy because he scored 44 points—but I thought our guys made him score in a different way. We made him score in a way that … you know, he made four threes. And he's normally making a few more of those and normally getting up a few more … but he shot 33 times. So that's kind of tough; that's tough when you're guarding somebody shooting 30 times, and a pretty good shooter, [so] he's going to score the basketball.
"So I thought both … I thought C.J., first of all, gained great experience in guarding someone like that, and I thought he did a very nice job on him. And I thought Trevor also did a nice job."

Ben McCauley has three straight double-doubles and has probably been your most consistent player. What do you like about the way he's playing right now?
"I think the fact that he's just playing, he's just playing hard. He's playing basketball, he's playing it the right way, he's listening. This year, he's been on … everything that I've said to him this year, he's hanging his hat on, he's going with it. And I think that's the difference. He's just playing and not worrying about anything else. He's trying to play as hard as he can and, in turn, he's playing well. If he has to pass it out, he's passing out, and defensively, he's always solid; he's always been solid.
"But I think right now, it's just that he's playing so hard, and he understood, last year, that he didn't rebound the ball the way he should, and this year he's concentrating on that, and you see the result. But it's all about [how] he's thinking about it, he's focused. Ben has just really been into it.
"If I had to sum it all up, he's really into winning and doing his part. He's not worried about anyone else, just trying to do his part, and that's what he's doing."

Through this point in the season, is there one thing that you can hang your hat on as a team?
"I would say our effort. Our effort. Just the way, our energy and the way we're coming out and playing. And that's what you want. If you can get your team to play hard, really hard, every single second out there on the floor, you're always going to have a chance to win.
"Now, you have to play smart, too, and that's what we talk about: playing hard and playing smart. But I think the first thing is you've got to play hard, and I like that. I'm very happy with our effort, I'm very happy with our energy. And that's what we're going to try to build on: just continue to play hard every single night. Whoever comes in the game, it doesn't matter how many minutes you play, you know, just play hard. And I think that's what we have right now, is we're playing hard."

Are you willing to talk about East Carolina right now, or should we save that for next week?
[shaking head] "I'm not thinking about those guys right now … but you already knew that, didn't you? We have to take it one at a time; one at a time."

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