“It’s certainly a nice week for us, to say the least. We get killed at Pittsburgh. We cured all of their shooting woes in one day. They hadn’t shot it well all year and we solved all of their problems in one day and now we get to go play Duke at Duke. So it’s a fun week for us. Really, guys, we’ve got to play better. We didn’t play as poorly defensively as the score probably indicates. We guarded Pittsburgh at times – I want to emphasize at times – they took guarded shots, but they made them, so you just have to congratulate them. That’s behind us. We’ve got to go over to Duke and play Duke. In the last couple of games, Notre Dame and Syracuse at Syracuse, they’ve just annihilated people and we understand that.”
How do you feel like you’ve managed your limited roster over the last couple of weeks?
“Well, it has been difficult, but every team has got problems at this time of the year. I’ve never had a team to have this many guys over there in suits during a game. We started with 16 guys and five of them are out, period. So it is difficult, especially when you’re trying to be limited with two or three of the other guys. So it has made the practices more difficult. We’ve had Wade Moody come in a couple of times and then Spencer Dalton, one of our JV players, has come in sometimes. Coach [Steve] Robinson’s son, Denzel, has come in sometimes, so that’s the only way that we’ve been able to get much done. But as I said, every team has got problems at this time of the year.
“And I’ll say this, too, probably clearing up, I’m not saying that Duke annihilated Syracuse, because it was a 4-6-8 point game. They had a much bigger lead, but going to Syracuse and getting a bigger lead like that, and then Notre Dame, it was scary what they did there, so please don’t act like I was saying they annihilated Syracuse, too.”
Can you talk about your team’s willingness to share the ball at such a high level as you currently lead the nation in assists per game?
“Well, it’s strange, because I still think we can do it a lot better. Number of assists is sort of misleading in some ways because we play at a much faster pace than most people. We’d like to play even faster, but we do believe very strongly in sharing the ball. We do believe if your teammate is more open, give him the basketball because he’s going to have a better shot because he’s more open. We stress that every single day, and to not take bad shots, but we still do it, so we’re not doing it as well as it would seem to be No. 1 in the country. I think No. 1 in the country is based on our pace of play, probably more than anything. We’re not a selfish team, but we can be even more unselfish at times, I realize.”
Since you’ve been at UNC, how does the Duke-UNC rivalry look from your vantage point?
“I think it’s been a fantastic rivalry. In college sports, I think it’s the best rivalry there is. You’re talking about over one hundred years, and playing twice a year, every year, and being nine miles apart and having so much national media attention with so many times of the teams being ranked extremely high. That’s my opinion; other people can pick something else if they choose.
“Mike [Krzyzewski] has just done an unbelievable job – 1,000 wins is just off the charts. The number of trips to the Final Four and what he’s done with the program there. North Carolina and Duke was a pretty doggone good rivalry when guys named Smith and Bubbas were playing against each other, so it’s not just us, but when you ask about Mike, I just see somebody that’s done it better than anybody and done it for a longer period of time. You can’t do anything but respect a great deal what he has done…
“I feel like a very small part of the rivalry. At times, I’ve felt like we’ve upheld our end of it very well, and at other times, I don’t think we have held it up as well, so hopefully we can continue trying to be there.”
Do you have any opinion on what’s going on with J.P. Tokoto? Only three made field goals the last three games. He’s seemed a little bit out of it, especially offensively.
“I wish I could answer that question. It’s one of those kinds of deals where if I knew the answer, we would have already tried to fix it. He had two games in a row, I think, where he had six turnovers. I was really disappointed in that, and he was really disappointed in that. And then in the next game he had zero turnovers but was almost just not involved. This weekend he took eight shots in the Pittsburgh game, which that’s not a bad number, but two of his makes were off offensive rebounds for baskets, or at least one of them was a tip-in off a free throw. And both of them in the last three or four minutes. We’ve got to get him back into the flow. He has not turned it over the last couple of games like it was 12 in two games, because those were killers there, but I’m sure he’s trying to find the right way and so are we.”
You mentioned your defense was good at times against Pittsburgh. Where does the improvement need to come from coming off that loss?
“Well, you know, when I make that statement that our defense was good at times, it’s hard to believe that a coach is dumb enough to say that when the opponent shoots 66 percent or whatever it was for the game. So I understand that part. But my point in saying that was that they shot a great percentage, but they weren’t all wide open shots. We did get a hand up on several of those shots. It’s sort of like playing golf. I always have a saying, ‘The more you make, the more you make.’ They started making them early and everybody got involved. It’s like being in a foursome where everybody’s making birdies and it just sort of fuels everybody. I think that’s what happened Saturday. Our defense, at times, this year has been good. Our defensive field goal percentage is probably in the top-25 in the country, which is one measure. Forcing turnovers is another one, and we’re not doing as well there.
“We’ve got to continue to improve in every area defensively. The one area that’s bothered us all year long - it's probably the one that bothers everybody the most - is controlling dribble penetration. Kids with the ball nowadays can do anything with the ball and it’s hard to stay in front of them. We have to continue staying in front of the basketball. We’ve improved during the course of the year on our defensive rebounding and cutting down some second-shot opportunities for other teams, and yet at Louisville we were absolutely awful in the second half. So we’ve got to improve on everything.”
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