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Opening Comments -
"From my viewpoint that was a big time game. You've got to give Clemson credit, it was an eight-point lead and we weren't doing much offensively and when the score got tied, that was a big three that Harrison made in front of our bench. Stitt goes down and scores and we come down, Kendall makes, two then we get a stop and then the tip by Henson was a big basket as well because it made it more than a one possession game.
"For us, Dexter and Larry really did a nice job defensively. It was a little lean out there. Yesterday the starting lineup in practice was Kendall, Leslie, Harrison, John and Justin Knox. I was changing three guys, and then when we found out that Leslie couldn't play we put Dexter back in the lineup and without Leslie's firepower I wanted to go with more offense so I kept Z in there. Z's played really good basketball for us all year long and I'm trying to push him to do even more. He responded tonight, stepped up and made some big free throws, got some big rebounds down the stretch.
"If you take away the silly turnovers and the fact that we were 0-for our first-7 from three in the second half, it was a hard fought win and we're as happy as can possibly be with it."
Could you talk about the defensive intensity the team had from the get-go tonight?
"I thought we were much more intense, to say the least. We didn't get back and pick up as cleanly as I would like, but we had so much more emotion and enthusiasm, so much more want-to. You've got to play the game of basketball with a sense of urgency. I didn't feel like we played the game of basketball the last three games with the sense of urgency except the last five minutes of the Virginia and Virginia Tech games. We had that emotional feeling out there today. I told them at yesterday's practice that you can change your way of thinking and attitude by changing your attitude. We've got to be more aggressive, we've got to be more into it on the defensive end of the floor. I think in the first half we had (12) points off turnovers..."
What were you looking for from Kendall Marshall in starting him tonight and what did he give you?
"Smoother on the offensive end. Our assist to error ratio in conference play was 33-43, Kendall was 17-4. So if you take that away it's (even worse). I wanted us to do a better job taking care of the basketball and if you take away Kendall's three turnovers in the second half against Georgia Tech and his assist-error ratio in conference play has been really good. Offensively he's done some really nice things. Larry's been sensational defensively. Larry's the only guy who had a bit of success at all guarding Iman the other night, so I knew he was going to play. Same thing with Dexter, we need to get more production - his defense has fallen some and his offense hasn't been what he wants either - but he works so hard and tries to do the things you want him to do. Even if those guys weren't starting, they were going to play a lot... Larry knew he was going to play, he knew he was going to be important to the team, I just didn't want to watch the same thing I watched the other night."
With Leslie McDonald out tonight, how important were Reggie Bullock's 18 points?
"It was extremely important ... I asked the guys last week 'Who's been shooting it best' and they said 'Leslie.' I said 'Who's been shooting it second best' and they said 'Reggie.' We needed somebody to step up and make some outside shots. They went zone in the second half and we didn't knock any shots in at that point, Reggie gave us a huge lift in the first half."
You set your career-high in the first half - how'd you get things rolling for you?
"Coach basically said to get in the passing lanes and I started my game off by getting into passing lanes, getting easy buckets and getting myself on a good pace and knocking down shots when my teammates found me. That was the key to the game to get me going ... My confidence was rising..."
With Leslie out, did you know you needed to step up?
"I knew I had to pick up the slack for Leslie because he wasn't out there tonight. He knocks down shots, so I knew I had to be knocking down shots, getting to the boards, playing defense the way he does when he's out there. I just did that tonight."
What has this freshman season been like for you as a learning experience?
"It's been a real learning experience. With all the hype coming in as a freshman, I haven't played all that well, but I'm just starting to build my confidence, playing within the team, listening to what Coach tells me and I'll be good throughout the season."
When did you find out you were going to start tonight?
"Coach yesterday in practice started going through the lineups and said then I was in the lineup, but I was still skeptical, so I guess when it was official was at the pregame meal when he said who I was guarding."
Did Coach Williams say anything to you about it?
"He pulled me aside before shootaround today and told me 'I don't want you to be anybody but Kendall - go out there and do the things you do well' and I tried to follow through with that."
For the first time this season, you and Larry played extensive minutes in the backcourt together. What was that like?
"I think it was great. The first time we did it was in the Georgia Tech game maybe for a two-minute span. Me and him, we're like a two-headed monster. We can both make plays with the ball, he's a great decision-maker as well as I am, and he's a great defender. When you have us both out there, it can throw teams for a loop."
Did you find out yesterday that you weren't going to start?
"I found out today. I just try to go about everything in a very professional manner - I try to handle everything as professional as I can. I just want to win. As far as who goes out first, that's coach's decision but I'm just as much a part of the team as anybody else. Whenever I'm in the game I try to give whatever I can give ... I've just got to work harder. But I'm just glad we got the win tonight."
Late in the game, Coach Williams was rotating you and Kendall on offense/defense to play to your strengths ...
"I was out there telling myself 'Don't let Demontez get an easy shot and don't let him score' and just stop him. I felt the more stops we were going to get toward the end of the game, we'd probably win ... I honestly feel I owe my defense to playing against Ty (Lawson) every day (my freshman year) in practice. Because in high school I wasn't known as a defensive stopper and when I get here going against Ty every day really helped my defense and I felt like if I could guard Ty I could guard anybody."
Several of your teammates thought it lit a fire under you to come off the bench ...
"Yeah, I can say that ... I just try to use everything I can as motivation."
Coach Williams talked about how you guys came out with more energy and enthusiasm tonight. Is that attributable to The Streak, or was it because of the last few performances?
"I'm pretty sure (The Streak) is in the back of everybody's minds. But coming out and playing hard isn't something we'd done in the ACC - playing hard and not getting down by a lot. We did that today and fortunately we kept it up to the end."
Do you think the shakeup in the lineup gave you all a boost?
"Naturally when someone loses their spot, they're going to play harder, play with more fire and play smarter and that's what Larry did today. That's great for him, coming out and playing hard. I thought him and Kendall had the best game collectively that they've played together."
Jerai Grant came in shooting a very high percentage for Clemson and he was held to 1-for-12 ...
"I think my length bothered him and he was trying to force some things too much, so I'm glad he didn't have a good game against us and our length affected him ... I like to block a lot of shots, it's something I'm real good at, and it's more of a mental thing than anything, I believe, making guys change their shots. It's a good thing to have me and Z down there - he can block shots too."