“We were extremely excited in that locker room. Two years ago we came up here and they beat us by, I think I said this week, 806 or whatever it was, but we made some mistakes, we did some dumb things, but we also made some very good basketball plays, trying to get in the middle, trying to go high-low, trying to get the ball in the middle and pitching it back out. To win that game, and to score 84 points with Marcus (Paige) only getting three, if you told me that before the game, I’d say we have no chance of winning. But he realized he wasn’t shooting the ball in the hole and he had eight assists, and he was our best defensive player out there. Isaiah (Hicks) was big-time for us, there’s no question about that. 5-for-5 from the floor and 11-for-13 from the foul line. And then I thought one other big key for us in the second half was our rebounding. At halftime, they had 11 points on second shots, and we had six. At the end of the game, for us, we had 15 and them, they had 13, so we held them to one basket after a second chance opportunities in the second half. The last six or seven minutes, other than Brice (Johnson)’s turnover, I don’t think we turned it over any, and the last six or seven minutes we got great shots. We shot 65 percent in the second half against a very good zone, it’s tough for a lot of people to handle.”
Brice had eight assists. What was the key for the high-low?
“Well, the other night when Clemson played them, I watched that game, they were effective with the ball inside. And so we did try to focus getting it inside. And we always try to keep one guy below the defense against the zone. We were able to get some, there were good passes by Brice, there’s no question about that. But, Trevor (Cooney), I think, the shots he made, some really, really tough shots. But you’ve got to congratulate them. They went to the trap one possession, they got a second chance off an offensive rebound, they deflected it out two times, he makes a three right over Marcus. They’re hard to guard because (Michael) Gbinije and Cooney just attack you so much, it’s a good day for us, because some of their other guys didn’t make as many shots as they normally make. Roberson was really good, 5-for-5 himself.”
How significant was that three point play in the second half?
“I think every play is important, but what you don’t want to do is you don’t want to get behind two or three or four or five possessions. As long as we’re within a couple possessions, I’m comfortable. I don’t really look at the clock that much, that may have been the one they were talking about in the locker room where it was 50-60. It was a good play for us, and then we got a stop on the other end, and kicked out and scored again.”
Talk about the atmosphere in the Carrier Dome tonight.
“I was glad to see Jimmy back, no question, I thought their crowd was a huge emotional lift and his team as well. We were lucky the ball went in for us. When I saw that his first game back was gonna be the Univeristy of North Carolina, I wasn’t the happiest guy in the world, there’s no question about that. He’s a great coach, and a great person, and he’s been great, not just for Syracuse basketball, but he’s been great for the entire world of college basketball for a long time.”
What did you say to Jim Boeheim?
“I just said I was glad to see him back.”
This team seems to have an ability to pull away or take it another notch at the end of games.
“I think our depth helps us too, because we can play fresh people. I don’t know how many guys they played, six guys over 20 minutes, and we played 10, so I think the depth, over the course of the game we always think that might help us down the stretch. Late, I decided to just go with Brice and Isaiah, and we had not played them over long stretches together. We’ve played them together with all of our big guys. But, I liked the line-up that we had in there, I was worried about Justin (Jackson), Justin this morning had a temperature of 101.3, and didn’t go pregame meal, didn’t go to shootaround. Not that you should watch me, but I walked out on the court before the game started in warmups, and asked him if he felt like going. His temperature was back down to 98.5, he’d been able to keep his feet down, and he felt like he could do it, and he was nice for us, too, but I think the depth is part of it.”
What’s the key to the evolution of Isaiah Hicks being more aggressive?
“If you’re that big, and you can jump that high, you shouldn’t do anything but dunk it when you’re that close. 5-for-5, I think he made one, but he got an opportunity for a 3-point play, but the other four were dunks. He’s probably our most creative dunker, but the strongest dunker too, he and Brice.”
What does 4-0 in the ACC mean to you?
“That we’re 4-0 this year with this year’s team. That’s what it means. All that other stuff is nice, and it gives (Steve Kirschner) something to do to make his living like that, bringing up those kind of things, but the players noticed it. They said something about it in the locker room, and I didn’t realize that this was the first time any of our teams have been 4-0. It feels good. I like it.”
Did you see a lot of toughness out of the team tonight?
“The timeout around the seven minute mark, I said we’d been here before. But, let’s do it with our brain and our heart, both. I think that’s what we did at Tallahassee the other night, and I think that’s what happened to us tonight, as well. We just kept playing. Even when we’d make a mistake, or even with Trevor (Cooney) knocking in a big shot like he did over Marcus, we kept playing, and I think that’s an important quality to have, and hopefully we’ll keep it the whole year.”
Kennedy Meeks gave you a good boost early. What did you think of his play?
“Just what you said, he was able to do some things scoring inside, their line-up there at the end made us want to go with two guys on the court who were a little more athletic defensively, but we were glad to have Kennedy back, I don’t know what he ended up with - 14 minutes, eight points, 4-for-8, two offensive rebounds. He’ll get some more minutes as long as he stays healthy, but he’s got to manage his minutes quite a bit for the next couple of weeks.”
Did it feel any different with the crowd tonight?
“Again, I think it gives them a huge emotional lift. You still have to be able to do things on the court. In the second half, you know, we shot 65 percent. And we’re not bad ourselves. I’m not saying we’re the best, by any means, but they’re good. They’ve gotten off to a rocky start here, I guess you could call it that, but we’ve still got to play them again, and we’ll have to play our butts off when we get them the next time, too.”