The first time you played Pittsburgh, they used the 3-point shot as an equalizer. What can your team do better tomorrow?
“We’ve got to defend the three point line with more of a sense of urgency. It’s a hard matchup because Jamel (Artis) and Michael Young… they’re two of their biggest players and they shoot a lot of threes. Cameron Johnson made six of them here. The (Chris) Jones youngster who made three in conference season up until our game makes two in our game. It was a big part of their offense. The games that they’ve won and played really well in they’ve made a lot of threes. We’ve got to have a greater sense of urgency to get to the three point line. Try to do a better job guarding the ball ourselves so we don’t have to help. It is a tough matchup for us… we’ve got Isaiah (Hicks) or Kennedy (Meeks) out there guarding somebody that’s going to shoot some threes.”
Opposing teams are 7-40 in the past couple games against you from the three point line. Is that because you’ve done a better job or is it a matter of them missing shots?
“Probably a little bit of both. I think we’ve worked on it a lot the last two or three weeks, but I feel like we worked on it a ton the whole season. In the Virginia game I really felt like they had a lot of open shots and I looked at it on the game tape and they did have a lot of open shots, just not as many as I thought…. I’d like to take 7-40 over the next couple of games.”
Besides from shooting the three, what is Pitt doing better since they played you last time?
“They do some things really well. They’re defending their zones… I think when they played us it was the first game where they played a lot of zone. That’s helped them. They do a great job of shooting the three point shot… They also do a great job of getting to the free throw line and they’re a great free throw shooting team. Against us, one of our cleanest games defensively… maybe we weren’t even close to them when they had so many open threes, but they only shot five or six free throws against us. It’s just a matter of time. Four starters back from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament last year. It was just a transition from one coach to a new coach...”
Do coaches have an avenue to express their opinions on playing two games in three days like your team will be this weekend?
“I don’t think we have an avenue to say anything at any time. You’re talking to the wrong guy there. I think we’re like the mushrooms, just keep them in the dark and throw the crap on ‘em and hope it grows.”
Knowing that it’s a difficult next two games over the next couple of days, is there any benefit knowing that down the road in the NCAA Tournament you know you’ll be playing three weekends in a row with two games in three days?
“The one difference is you’re in the same location so you’re not traveling back and forth. You do get them ready for tournament play and build your momentum once you get in the tournament, so you can make a case for it that it is preparation and that’s the reason we do try to play an exempt event and get some preparation for tournaments there. But it’s different, you’re playing conference games and yeah, we could go to Pittsburgh and then stay up there or go to Charlottesville, but we like to go back home. You’re still not in your home scenario, and that’s the toughest thing for me. Conference play gets you ready for tournament play. I’ve said that all along, but I do think the Saturday-Monday turnaround is difficult.”
Is there a March mindset and do you think your team is trending towards that right now?
“I think there is but I don’t think we’re there right now. We talk about how important the regular season is to our team all the time. Lets play right now and not be looking down the road. If you look down the road too much that’s where you’re going - down the road back home. You don’t take care of your business. The ACC regular season is incredibly important to us and we start talking about postseason play after we play the last home game… I think the regular season is pretty important."
With senior night next week, it will be the final home game for Stilman White. Have you ever had another guy in your program for six years?
“No. Never had to take a Mormon mission. Scot Pollard put off his Mormon mission and played for us the whole time as Kansas, but I’ve never had a guy for six years. I’ve had a few guys for five, but not many. (Stilman)’s been around a while. We get senior day tomorrow (at Pitt), that’s what I’m worried about. I’m not thinking about our senior day.”
Does it feel like forever ago when he started that game against Kansas in 2012?
“That was a long, long time ago. Five seasons, I guess. That was a tough situation for him and I would have liked our chances if Kendall (Marshall) hadn’t gotten hurt and he did some nice things, but at that point he didn’t make that many plays for other people. But he didn’t hurt us, so I thought he could have been one of those great stories if we kept going.”
For so long there was the New York pipeline in recruiting. What is it about New York basketball now? It doesn’t seem like as many kids are being produced from there.
“We haven’t recruited New York a ton like North Carolina did in the old days by any means… but there’s so many good players still in New York. There’s really good players there but really good players some other places as well... Coach Smith had so many tremendous contacts that you kept recruiting there, but we haven’t done much of it. We’ve done some for guys that we really, really liked, but I haven’t limited myself to any area. When I was at Kansas I felt like we had trouble coming east, so I went to California a lot and we had a lot of success there so we kept going. Kansas we had a lot of success in Iowa too… and part of that is continued here. There’s still a ton of good players in New York, but there’s a ton of good players in North Carolina, too.”
When you first got here you recruited a lot from Los Angeles, are you still recruiting quite as much or has that gone down?
“Not as much. We’re not limited geographically, but we had four transfers here and they’re all from Los Angeles, so maybe it’s not as good as I thought it was. I would still go there if it’s right, I still have a lot of good friends that would see kids and give a lot of good recommendations…. But I want to recruit North Carolina more than anywhere.”