Why do you think your team is attempting fewer free throws than your opponents?
“We don’t attack the basket with our post players as much as we have in the past. We shoot turnaround jump shots and fadeaways sometimes. We don’t attack the basket off the dribble as much as I would like, and then on the defensive end, we’re the world’s best at reaching in and slapping you on the little finger as you lay the ball up. It’s been an issue for us. It’s been something that we’ve talked about all year and I think it’s really hurt us. I really do.”
Justin Jackson and Joel Berry had stretches in the ACC Tournament where they played really well and then stretches where they struggled a bit. Which one of those stands out more to you?
“I think it is progress. Justin’s good games are at this level [motions to shoulder high], but his good game in the ACC Tournament was at a different level, so I think you like that. The peaks have been higher, and there have been more peaks than there have been valleys, and the valleys haven’t been as low. But it’s so strange because he’s on top of the world going 4-for-5 [from 3] and then 24 hours later he’s 0-for-7. But No. 1, it’s basketball, it’s tournament basketball, and he is still a freshman.”
Do you feel like you’ve made Coach Smith proud with the way your team is peaking right now?
“I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Roy, you’ve done a great job.’ I’m never going to say that. I mean, jiminy Christmas. Steve [Kirschner] called me and told me I was coach of the decade and I went and got an extra scoop of ice cream. I was at a buffet. I didn’t call anybody. I didn’t get an ornament put on the hood of the car and drive it around the state… I’ll put it to you this way: I must be okay or I wouldn’t have the job I’ve got. That’s a simple way to put it, but you’ve never heard me say, ‘I’ve gone to seven Final Fours.’ You’ve never heard me say that because I’ve always said my players have taken me to seven Final Fours or we have gone to seven Final Fours. Your point was good… The best way to answer is to say that I’m 64 and every day I do try to do things that he would be proud of.”
Do you anticipate getting Theo Pinson back for the NCAA Tournament?
“I don’t know, guys. I really don’t. He practiced yesterday, but I have no idea. If you had asked me an hour before the Notre Dame if he was going to play, I would have said, ‘I don’t know,’ because I’ve put it with him that he’s got to feel comfortable… There was a point with about 15-16 minutes left in warmups and I’m sitting on the bench and Theo came down and sat beside of me. And that’s when we decided he wasn’t going to play. I’m not trying to hide anything from you.
“It’s just that he’s had a broken foot, it has healed, he has felt comfortable. He hurt it again. We’ve taken X-rays or MRIs or both, and it shows there is no other damage, but you have to feel comfortable. So his input is probably more than 50 percent of it, then I get to decide whether I think he’ll be effective or not. But he did practice yesterday… We’ve already made the decision that we’re going to do the surgery anyway, but if we can help him get a couple of more games in, then why wouldn’t you want to play a few more games? “
Now that Marcus Paige is healthy, what can he do that he couldn’t do three or four weeks ago?
“Well, I think practice is one thing that he can do now that he couldn’t do then. I think that helps him. Just the feeling to not be concerned as much about his foot and that it hurts. It’s hard to have 100 percent concentration when you’re not feeling good. I think his numbers have gone up in conference play compared to nonconference play, so his concentration has been better.
“I would think his numbers were probably up in the ACC Tournament as opposed to what they were in conference play, so I think when you’re feeling better, you don’t have distractions that you can play better and have the feeling that you can do more. When you jump off your foot and you don’t feel pain, you’re thinking about the rest of the technique of shooting the jump shot. When you jump off your foot to shoot and it hurts, you say, ‘Oww, what a minute, follow through.’ It’s pretty hard to do that kind of stuff all of the time, so I’m hoping that he can continue an upswing.”
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