“We feel very fortunate; it was a weird game. They shoot 40 percent, we shoot 38 percent, but it’s a very hard-fought game. I thought, in the first half, that Mark’s club was the aggressor. I thought they were first to the loose balls, they killed us on the offensive backboards the first six minutes of the game, and then after that, the first half was very even. We ended up outrebounding them by one. The story of the first half was Nate Britt was the only guy that gave us a chance. I thought he really picked us up defensively. In the second half, I thought Nate and Joel (Berry), defensively, and Kennedy (Meeks) on the offensive end… plus, Kennedy had two or three blocks in the second half, too. So defensively, we were much better in the second half. They shoot 46 in the first half and 33 in the second half, but like I said, it was a weird game, and Brice (Johnson) is 3-for-6, only plays 18 minutes because he’s got four fouls.
“Marcus (Paige) is 1-for-9, some strange things going on. Joel Berry, I think was 5-for-9, everybody else on the perimeter was 4-for-28. We’re going shoot the ball in the basket some games. We really will. I keep saying that, but we’re going do it before I die. And then Kennedy was 10-for-16, 10-for-14 in the second half, and everybody else was less than 30 percent, so for us, our depth has always been a positive. I think Isaiah (Hicks) and Nate really kept us in the game in the first half, and then Kennedy really was much, much better in the second half. We’ve got to rebound the defensive board a lot better. There’s no question about that, but you look down there, points off turnovers, we had 17 to their four. They had 18 turnovers, we had nine, so that was good for us as well. But it wasn’t the prettiest basketball game I’ve ever coached, to say the least.”
When your marquee guys are off, what does a win like this mean for your depth?
“I told them on the locker room that that’s a good thing for our team. Marcus 1-for-9, Brice 3-for-6, Theo (Pinson) 0-for-5. You got some guys that can’t throw it in the ocean from the beach, and you still are able to squeeze out a win, so I do think that I always try to recruit for and coach with as much depth as I can try to build. You know, Luke (Maye) gave us a couple of good minutes. Luke had two or three offensive rebounds. Luke had four rebounds in seven minutes, so he gave us a lift in the first half, too. I didn’t necessarily fall in love with his jump-shot when both of their big guys were in foul trouble, but that’s part of coaching.”
What did Kennedy Meeks do better in the second half?
“I think it was just total effort. I mean, you saw it yourself. I asked him, did you really dive those three times, or did somebody trip you. He said nah, he really did dive. But I think that was as important as blocked shots. In the first half, he’s just sort of tip-toeing up there, in the second half, I think it was Isaiah, I’m not sure, it was either Isaiah or Justin going out of bounds and threw it to him and he caught it and he exploded up. He can do that now. Sixty pounds ago, he couldn’t do that. But he can do it now. In the first half, I don’t think he was getting good lift on his shot, and they were playing patty cake with him.”
What was the defensive strategy on Cat Barber and how do you think you guys did there?
“(Late in the first half he made a three) right in front of our bench. We tried to keep him contained. Nate, in the first half, was good defensively on him. I thought Joel was good. Joel almost blocked a shot Cat didn’t even take it from the corner, and he ended up driving or dropping the ball. I think just keeping him in front of it, I think the big guys did a better job on the screen on the ball, too.”
You mentioned on Friday that you weren’t sure what Kennedy Meeks was going to look like. Did you have any indication that he’d have such a big game?
“Well, he played okay in practice. He didn’t play great, but he did play okay and I’ve always said if a guy is injured and he loses his spot that way, if he’s ready to play I’ll start him. The other thing is he gave Joel (James) a couple minutes. Joel’s Achilles is bothering him, that’s the reason I don’t think I even played Joel in the second half. He’s been having some problems, we’ve been trying to get a little practice out of him, but not many. First half, he didn’t deserve to play anymore, Kennedy. In the second half, he really did deserve to keep playing. I told him at halftime, everybody, you’re always concerned about yourself. You want to play more? Play better. It’s a pretty easy deal. Head coaches have no favorites. I do not like one guy better than I do the other, and I do not dislike anybody. If you’re freakin’ playing, you get more minutes. In the second half, Kennedy was playing.”
Kennedy kind of limped off the court at the end, is he okay?
“Yeah, it’s his other knee that he’s banged knees. It’s not the knee that was bothering him. Banged knees are always very painful right at the start, but a few minutes later, you’re fine. I think he made - yeah, he’s fine, he made the free throws.”
After what happened against N.C. State in the Smith Center last year, were you surprised your team started so slow?
“I was surprised that they had more effort than we did in the first half, there’s no question about that. Our guys really wanted to play well, it’s strange because they kept getting offensive rebound and offensive rebound and offensive rebound, and you don’t realize they’re number one in our league on offensive rebounds for a reason. They’re athletic, they’re big, they’re strong and they go for it. They bid on every shot. I think that sort of shocked us a little bit, how they rebounded the ball against us. I thought we would come out more fired up. But again, we didn’t get everybody in a little huddle and have a little séance, talking about what the score was last year, but we did remind them of it. And I told them, I said this in the locker room before the game, last year’s game has absolutely nothing to do with today’s game. If it motivates you to play harder, that’s great. But other than that, today’s game’s got to be played by you guys, and it’s got to be played today.”
Do you like having a week off?
“It depends on the team, it’s good for us a little bit, because we’re trying to let guys heal. If everybody’s healthy, I’d rather just keep playing every three or four days. I’d like that much better. But today, this week, we needed a little time because guys needed to get healed.”