“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m worn out. It was a fantastic effort I thought by both teams. I thought we played really, really hard. We didn’t play as intelligently as I like for us to play at times, first six minutes of the second half, they had four old-fashioned three-point plays, where we’re just reaching in and slapping the guy instead of staying in front of the basketball.
"Brice Johnson was off the charts. I’ve been on his case for four years, I’m still going to be on his case, but 39 points, 23 rebounds, that was a man’s night. We needed him to stay out of foul trouble, because Joel (James) got his third, Isaiah (Hicks) got his fourth, Joel Berry got four, Theo (Pinson) got four, I think, way too many fouls.
"They shot 34 free throws, but it was a heck of an athletic event out there with two very good basketball teams. (Xavier Rathan-Mayes) just went absolutely crazy on us in the first half and started out the second half the same way. We wanted to do a great job on him. He had six points, I think, in the first three possessions of the second half, so that shows how effective my halftime talk was.
"But again, Brice and Marcus (Paige) I thought were really big. They took a one-point lead, and I think it was only one possession, (assistant coach Steve Robinson) and I were talking down here, that’s when Brice missed the two free throws on the technical and then Marcus made two free throws and we got the ball out of bounds and we didn’t score then, so we only got two points out of it. But, from then on, we made some really big plays. Joel Berry made a really big three for us again. We’d missed some shots around the basket, and Brice was there chasing it down and putting it back in for us, but those guys were great.
"I thought their kids, again, Rathan-Mayes was something, and I thought (Malik) Beasley and (Dwayne) Bacon, in the second half, were the exact opposite of what they were in the first half. They were really effective with their athleticism, rebounding the ball on the offensive boards. I feel very fortunate and very lucky.”
Can you put Brice Johnson’s performance in perspective?
“I told him in the locker room, I tell our guys all the time, about some of the great performances I’ve had guys—Nick Collison against Duke one time had over 20 points, 20 rebounds, same thing against Texas. Sean May, last game of the regular season, over 20 points and rebounds, Tyler (Hansbrough) 40 one night, but this was about as good as any I’ve ever seen, particularly on the road. 39 points and 23 rebounds was really something, especially for Brice, because I’ve stayed on his case and Kennedy (Meeks’) case so much because their effort’s got to be at a higher level and more consistent, but he was there tonight.”
What led to such a giant game for Brice?
“Probably, with Brice, the stars and the moon were aligned properly, probably what it was.”
Did going small open up the interior for Brice?
“People think that, when Kennedy went out, but we’ve had Joel (James) in the game, and he’s more of a standstill guy than even Kennedy is. Isaiah was in there. I think Brice was just effective going to the boards, and you get more rebounds when you go there. Sometimes he doesn’t get the offensive board nearly as much. They pressure you a lot, and they pressured us into turnovers. We turned it over 16 times. We’re averaging 10-something like that a game. But also, they pressure you and it opens you up for drives more. When you drive, that breaks down the box-outs. If you miss the shots, then Brice is there to get the rebound. If you get five 7-footers, and still you’re able to drive the ball to the basket, it breaks down all the box-outs.”
How much do you attribute your offense’s efficiency to the rule changes added this season?
“Wow, uh, none. I don’t think it’s that big of a factor. I like everything, the idea of trying to open up the game more. They shot 34 free throws and we shot 32, so there’s a lot of foul shots, but we made 24, they made 24, so both teams shot a pretty good percentage. I don’t like not having a five second closely guarded rule, I think we need that if we truly want to promote team play and flowing action, because we allow one person to stand there and dribble the ball all day. I wish the coach still could call the timeout, but other than that, I like everything in the package. It’s harder on the officials, but the kids have got to learn to play without fouling. We’ve got to teach our guys to play defense without fouling. We didn’t do a very good job of teaching that early in the second half, particularly.”
What did you think of Florida State tonight and what’s the difference between the team you’ve seen tonight and teams you’ve seen in the past?
"I like the fast tempo that they play. (Head coach) Leonard (Hamilton)’s smart enough to figure out they he likes it or he wouldn’t be trying to play it. I mean, that guy’s won a few games. Beasley and Bacon are a really big threat for them, athletic big guys who can shoot the three, take it to the basket, follow their misses, put it in. Neither one of them had good first halves, I think one of them had two fouls, one of them was 1-for-8, but I thought the second half, I don’t have a halftime stat, but they end up with 15 and 18, and at the half, they didn’t have anything like that. And then Mayes, as I said, their strength is on the perimeter, and their speed and athleticism, so if I were coaching them, I’d do the same thing Leonard did. I’d try to run like crazy. It’s like us sometimes, we have some holes in our lineup, and tonight, they might have had some holes, but I’ll let him evaluate that.”
What have you liked out of your team in this five-day/three-game stretch?
“Well, it’s even four games in eight days, counting the nonconference game. It’s been tough on our guys. It’s tough on the coaching staff. But, I challenge them to play every game, at that day, it was the most important game on that day. In the huddle, I kept challenging them about being tougher, be more poised, be more competitive, because it was a dogfight out there. It really was.”
When your team can score 106 points on the road in ACC play, what does that say about your offense?
“It says something about our offense and theirs. They wanted a quick tempo as well. We couldn’t stop them early in the second half because they kept running right up our backs. Brice made a lay-up and Beasley lays it up on the other end and gets fouled even after a made basket. I think both teams like that tempo, and to be a really good team, I’ve said this many times, we need to be able to win in the 50’s and 60’s, but I like it a lot better when it’s in the 80’s and 90’s or 100’s. I think those are enjoyable games to watch. There’s more plays, more causes for heart attack for the coaches, I guess, but I like that tempo of the game.”
What are your thoughts on the depth around the ACC?
“I think it’s a fantastic year in the league, but other than the teams that we’re getting ready to play, I haven’t seen the rest of the league. I haven’t seen Miami play three possessions. I haven’t seen Duke. I haven’t seen Boston College..."
Brice Johnson enters the room
“Big fella, you wanna come up here and sit down? You guys think 39 and 23 is okay to let him wear warm-ups back? Let’s all vote, if you think they should wear warm-ups back, raise your hand. Brice, you got the victory, son. Tell them warm-ups, just because you came in and asked. That’s the first time I’ve been nice to you in four years.”