"We got caught up in the locker room. Sam Perkins is here. He’s one of my favorite individuals of all time, and he had a chance to say something to the guys. I wanted to let him do that. Theo Pinson and Isaiah Hicks were huge for us coming off the bench.
"We didn’t get much out of Brice (Johnson) tonight and he’s been off the charts. I think he started reading his pub and thinking he was all-world and forgot the work part of it. We got by with Brice having one of the worst games that I’ve ever seen him, but he has been sensational recently. He really has. But, everybody’s trying to come up with reasons, it’s a reason he’s been really good is because he’s worked hard. He’s played hard, he’s worked harder in the course of the game, his defensive grades have been better, he’s got better low-post position. It was not because Kennedy (Meeks) was not in there, because the guy who replaced Kennedy is Joel (James), he’s a big dude too in case you haven’t looked, but Brice had just worked so much harder, and he’d gotten better, and he’d gotten better low position. Tonight, they fought him, and got him off the block a little farther, and he missed some open eight and 10 footers right off the goal. On the lob that he missed, it was because he wasn’t going hard. He didn’t think they were gonna throw it, and all of a sudden they threw it, and he didn’t have the bounce to jump up there and get it the way he usually does, so it was a tough night for Brice.
"But I think again, you look at Theo and Isaiah, what they did for us off the bench, we shoot 50 percent against a very good defensive team. We turn it over 12 times against a very good defensive team. But we were fortunate, we made some shots, and again, I look at those guys, 5-for-5 and 5-for-6, that was huge for us to say the least. Five guys in double figures again, and two of them, two of the guys that started, did not get double figures. It’s a weird game in some ways, we made 19 fouls, and they made 18. But yet, out of their 18 fouls, we got 14 free throws, and out of our 19 fouls they got 26. We’re making silly touch fouls while they’re shooting the basketball. So we’ve got to be more intelligent that way. They made two threes in a row because we made silly defensive errors, tried to stop the break high one time and just didn’t deny the pass to the corner. All of a sudden it went from 10 to six. I thought our guys came back and made a couple of big baskets for us after that."
What’s been instrumental in Isaiah Hicks gaining consistency over the last few games?
"He’s really been pretty consistent the entire year. You look at his field goal percentage, he’s shooting close to 70 percent. I don’t think, he had a bad game the other night, he was 5-for-8, so he’s been consistent since the first game of the year. Shooting the ball well, defensive grades have been good. Last year, he really took giant strides defensively, and I think he’s continued that. Needs to rebound the basketball more, I keep telling him. He had six rebounds tonight. But he’s been, in fact, one of our most consistent players since day one. Since the first day we started practice."
What was the reasoning behind going with the smaller lineup?
"I didn’t like what we were doing defensively. Joel (James) was not involved defensively, Brice and Isaiah, I was worried about foul trouble, I was gonna start Brice and Isaiah together in the second half, but they already had two fouls. I said I’ll put Joel in, because one of them is gonna get a foul, so it could be not Isaiah or Brice. So Brice got one immediately in the second half, so that didn’t work. Joel (James) has been really good defensively for us, but I didn’t think he was as good defensively tonight as we needed him to be. And their bigger guys, if he’s guarding the one post, he’s always setting that screen out there 25 or 30 feet from the basket. They set a double-screen and the second screener’s supposed to step out, and they made a couple of mistakes there, and then Brice wasn’t having a real good night, so Kennedy wasn’t there, Brice wasn’t having the best night in the world, Joel wasn’t having the best night in the world, so we decided to go small. I think at one point they decided to go small too with Blossomgame as the four man a couple times for them, so for us, we’re a little more consistent defensively on the perimeter. It’s not that they didn’t get some post-ups or anything, but it was more of a perimeter game, either shooting or driving to the basket. So being smaller for us is better."
Is this team shaping up to be one of the best offensive teams in school history? You guys are first in efficiency.
"A hundred years ago, we never had those stats, so we may have been 100th and then still thought we were best. I think we have some good parts. We haven’t shot the ball well. We really haven’t. I still think Justin Jackson, I said this all year last year, in the last 10 games, I think his stats were much better, if I’m not mistaken, his stats against the ACC were better than the nonconference. And that’s hard to do, because competition’s so much better. We’ve got the parts, we haven’t shot the ball as well. We’re still trying to get Brice, Isaiah, Joel (James), Kennedy to post up lower. Brice turned around and shot his jump hook one time tonight, and everybody starts smiling, but instead of shooting it from six or seven feet, it’s 10 or 11 feet. But we have some parts, and Marcus had zero assists tonight. I’ve never seen that from him, but when we start shooting the ball and still get the offensive rebound, we can be really good offensively."
Is there a certain element to this offense that you’ve particularly liked outside of the ball going into the basket?
"I think it is that, for sure. Isaiah got one really in close at that time, I think Marcus made a really difficult shot and made it look easy, but if I’m not mistaken, a couple of those we got on the break, too, because we did a better job defensively. For this team to really get where we want it to be, we’ve got to get better defensively. That’s the challenge for us every single day."
Was Kennedy Meeks able to do anything yesterday in practice?
"Hasn’t shot a lay-up yet. Hasn’t shot a lay-up. He’s done some nice work in the swimming pool they tell me, but he hasn’t shot a lay-up yet."