“Everybody gets to beat up college athletics a little bit about money and all of that kind of stuff, but that was a pretty neat thing, what those kids did out there. They gave me a card that was signed by a bunch of kids sharing their condolences over the loss of Coach Smith. They also gave me the banner that they held up before the game. You know, college athletics is not all bad. There’s some darn good things that go on there. I told those kids that I would keep those. They will never be tossed. I’ll always have those.
“It has been a tough week. It had nothing to do with the game today. Pittsburgh played fantastic. Jamie’s club was so much more well prepared than we were. They shot the ball better than they’ve shot it all year long. Our defense really helped them do that, but you have to give them the credit for making the shots. It was a weird game. I was not concerned at all when it was 10-0 because I’ve never lost a game in the first three minutes. I know we got it tied two or three times and then we went and had another dry spell and they made a bunch of shots. I think they made more threes in the first half than their average for the year, but we helped them because we didn’t guard them very effectively. Their looks were open looks. Still, you don’t have to make them all. They made a bunch of shots and they should be congratulated for that.
“You look at the 25 assists and four turnovers for us, shoot 49 percent, outrebound them, particularly in the second half, so you’d think that would be a win for us. But they were sensational shooting the ball and you look down and their assist-error ratio was 30:5. I thought Cameron Wright was sensational for them, and I know he missed a couple of free throws there at the end, but I thought he was sensational and I had no idea he was going to end up 10-0 in assist-error ratio. The best team won the game today.
“I’m very disappointed. Even on the first play of the game, we were standing there flatfooted and they make a nice play and steal the tap and lay it up. We have a guy back as defensive safety, so you shouldn’t have those kinds of things happen. But that’s the coach’s fault. They were so much more aggressive than us early and so much more positive than everything we did. And then I think we got it tied – I don’t think we ever had the lead – and then they went on a tremendous run again.
“Early in the second half, I thought it was still any man’s ball game and then they make their first seven shots. So am I disappointed and upset with my team? In several ways, yes. But I think you also have to understand that Pittsburgh had a lot to do with the outcome of the game.”
“When a team is shooting that well, what can you do?
“You can guard them better. Justin Jackson really got a hand up right in a guy’s face right in front of their bench early in the second half and that might have been their seventh out of their seven in a row. And that’s the first one we really did a nice job of guarding them. There was a timeout right then and I told our club, ‘If they’re making shots like that, I can live with that.’ Even their first or second possession, we got the guy almost in a double team on the block and he steps and we jump up in the air, and there’s no reason to do that. So now, all of a sudden, he’s got an open layup. What you can do is guard them better. I really believe that the better you guard them, the less likely that they’re going to shoot 65 percent for the game.”
What did Pitt do today to shut down Marcus Paige?
“I think that James is really good defensively. I think Cameron is really good defensively. When our big guys set a screen, I think their big guys were there to help. I think their team defense was just so much stronger than our team offense. I’m sure they had a focus on Marcus because he played very well against them last year. I don’t know what the stat sheet was in the first game at our place that we won, but in the [ACC] Tournament, he had 27. He was 9-for-20 in that game. I think they made him an emphasis but I don’t think it was any one guy in particular. We run an out of bounds play that we think we’re going to get Marcus a great shot and James Robinson came out and denied the pass to our feeder, and so we couldn’t even get into it. So there were a lot of simple things like that, but I can’t grade his team defensively because I don’t know what he wants them to do, but my guess is that Jamie will feel like his defense was pretty good.”
I know you always want your guys to get out on the shooters, but it seems as though you have even less tolerance for shots in the paint.
“It’s easier to guard a smaller area because you’ve got all kinds of people, but they did spread us very well. They run the ball screens, they run the dribble handoffs, they come out and the big guys screen. The last possession of the first half, I mean, there’s a timeout. And we said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this’ and we decided to double. ‘If I send somebody at them, let’s make sure we get a good double team and make sure we get a goaltender.’ We weren’t really going to go run off somebody, but it was situation where we got a reset of the clock and now it gets down inside of 10 [seconds] and we decided to double. And so we double and we don’t get a tight double so the guy steps right through it and throws and they go straight to the basket and get a layup. I can assure you that was not our plan. But that’s bad coaching. You’ve got to be able to get guys to do what you want them to do on game day.”
What kind of issues did he pose for you offensively?
“Are you sure it was his first start? I thought he started the last game.”
You’re right, he did start last game. I apologize.
“You don’t have to apologize. I just like that’s the first damn time I’ve been right all day. You know, 10-of-14, only two turnovers in 35 minutes. That’s a pretty impressive line. Was it against Syracuse that he had 16 or 18? I’ve always told all of our guys that when you come off the bench, add something. Give us something that’s a positive. And they made a change in their starting lineup. They put him in there two games ago, or maybe it was just last game and this one, but he did some good things. He made a bunch of shots, but I think he’s a scorer. That’s at least what he showed me in the Syracuse game and in today’s game.”
What did you guys do differently in the second half to limit threes?
“If they’re getting four-footers, why shoot a 20-footer? Especially early in the second half where they were getting four-footers and 10-footers.I used to think a lot of times when they had teams that had players who didn’t shoot it very well who made a lot of shots in the first half, sometimes it was fool’s gold, because they wouldn’t shoot as many in the second half. You count your blessings that you made those.
“They have one play that’s almost an identical play that we ran when I was on the freshman team 100 years ago. We ran it every year with Coach Smith, and they ran the same play and kept getting the ball with a free look at the basket on that. It was probably the fact that they were getting more than they wanted. They didn’t have to shoot the three."
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