On Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh:
“It was tough. I think all of those things pale in comparison to the sadness that we had around here with coach Smith’s passing. You heard me say that I thought I was prepared and I wasn’t. I tried to prepare myself and I still wasn’t. I think that so many people truly loved him felt the same way. It dominated the week. It’s a fact, but it is not an excuse because we didn’t play very well against Pitt. Yet, it wasn’t as bad as I thought when I watched it on tape. I said, ‘My gosh, that’s pretty good defense, and he still made the shot.’
“I think I’m right that they were last in the league in field goal percentage and maybe last in 3-point field goal percentage and yet they made everything they looked at. We didn’t do anything about it and we could have played much better defense, there is no question there. But some of those shots that they made I thought we did play pretty well on the defensive end of the floor when we challenged those shots and they still went in. But it made for a horrible afternoon, there is no question.”
Did you feel like your team played well offensively against Pitt?
“No. I was not pleased with the way we played. That’s two games in a row where we have come out and sort of gone through a daze the first six or eight minutes. At Boston College it was tied at half. In the Pitt game we are down 10-0. I’ve never felt like I’ve lost a game in the first four or five minutes of the game. We were down 10-0 or 12-0 in the Smith Center to N.C. State, but we came back and won fairly easily. We got it tied a couple a times so the first four minutes didn’t beat us, but the way we played them gave them confidence.
“You’ve heard me talk about golf, the more you make the more you make. I think they just said that they were going to make everything that night and they did that the entire game. Offensively, we could have played a little better. We had a stretch where it goes from a tied game and they stretch it out to eight or 10. We took three bad shots in four possessions. We guarded them a lot better in the second half, but they made seven baskets in a row, and five of the seven I felt that we guarded them pretty well, but you have to do a little bit more than that.”
On Marcus Paige’s ailments:
“He took a pretty good blow during the game and went down, but it was just the guy that hit him hard in the chest and knocked the wind out of him. The plantar fasciitis bothered him more on Sunday than it did the Sunday after the Boston College game, but it’s something he is dealing with very, very well. We have to hold him out of some things in practice, which we’ve done now for I guess three weeks. It’s been a long process but he has been a tough kid throughout all of this.”
On defending Duke:
“They are shooting 38 percent as a team from the 3-point line and Marcus is our best shooter and he’s not shooting 38 percent. They have a wonderful mix that we have had here several times. Sean May and the guys outside. Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson outside. With Jahlil Okafor shooting 66 percent from the floor and then they are shooting 38 percent from the 3-point line, it is quite a challenge. We have to stay in front of the basketball and be concerned about penetrating and pitch, but we also have to cover the big guy inside. Because when you have one guy shooting 66 percent, you have to try do the best you can to make sure he’s covered but Duke does have a great balance on the offensive end of the floor.”
How can your team force more turnovers than they are right now?
“It is really hard because we don’t have that depth to play people on the perimeter without Joel [Berry] for a long time and without Theo [Pinson] for a long time. It’s really hard to pressure as much as I would like to pressure. And then we are so young, our 32 and 42, which are our two scramble defenses, it takes guys a couple of years to really get comfortable doing that, but we have got to do a better job of it and it is something that I wish we did force more.”
Has Brice Johnson’s defense improved?
“It has improved. He’s getting better at it. He started at a very low point and we have known that and he has known that. He has put in more effort. Again, our defense wasn’t terrible at Pitt. They made a bunch of shots. They made some when we guarded them. But we only had two guys qualify for the defensive player of the game. And that was Marcus and Joel Berry. And the only way you qualify is if you have twice as many good defensive plays as you have bad. We’ve had some games where six or seven guys have qualified. Brice has only won the defensive player of the game once in his career. J.P. [Tokoto] has only won the defensive player of the game one time in his career. Those are two guys that we have to be much more sound defensively. Kennedy [Meeks] has got to get in the same scenario and do it with more consistency and intensity as well.”
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