|NOTE: Due to the set-up of the press conference, questions were inaudible.|
The thing I was so disappointed in Saturday is we didn't guard anybody. We didn't defend and we were selfish. Tonight, I thought we guarded people, and I thought we were unselfish. If we play like that, we have a chance.
I'm extremely proud of Jackie Manuel and Jawad Williams. Those guys were hurting. Both feel worn out right now, but they gave every single thing they had out there. Raymond, you could see the cramp that he had in his calf muscle, if you were close enough to the court, yet he stepped up and made the free throws. I thought Rashad [McCants] made some shots for us, and he probably played defense better than he's played except one possession late in the game. I thought Sean [May] was big for us inside. And you can go down the line. It was hard for us with only seven guys.
They ran more people out there, and I kept pleading with our kids that there's enough in the tank--'I promise you there's enough in the tank. You don't have to give in. You've worked too hard in the fall and you've worked too hard all your life to become a basketball player and play in games like this.' Fortunately for us, the ball did bounce our way the last couple of minutes.
Dee [Brown], the first half I don't think had a field goal, yet he made two big three's in the second half back-to-back. One time Raymond didn't shadow the screen well enough so he may still have made it, but we had a defensive error there. I think late in the game, Melvin and Jackie and Raymond did a much better job of shadowing around those screens, but Dee is really a load there. Deron [Williams] is really a load. I just think you are playing against a team that is going to compete every single possession.
I thought Roger Powell was significant for them the entire game. What I was talking about was Dee Brown and Deron Williams and [James] Augustine, but I thought Powell was sensational for them with his offensive rebounds and the steals down there. I think he was the guy who stole it from us twice and turned around and laid it up. It's a very, very good basketball team that's going to win a heck of a lot of games. I was just luckier than Bruce [Weber] was tonight because Bruce is a heck of a person and a heck of a coach.
We made some shots. I'm such a smart coach that on one of those steals, Rashad was going down--I looked up with about 26 seconds left--and I wanted to hold for the last shot. He pulled up and made the shot, and I think it might have been a three, so he was a lot smarter than I was. I do think you have flurries like that--and I've said it before--in the course of a game. If you can have a couple of turnovers and create some offense quickly in spurts, sometimes that's big enough to win the game. I did feel really good, yet I knew they would make a run and I knew they would come back. What I was pleased with is that when they took the lead we kept doing a nice job ourselves. Jawad came up with a couple of big offensive rebounds, and I think Rashad got a big offensive rebound after that point when they took the lead.
It's a basketball player; it's a basketball game. How do you explain Tiger woods shooting 80-something in the British Open a few years ago. Everybody is human. Dee, I love him to death and enjoy watching him. He didn't have his best night--perhaps our defense had something to do with it. I've played against guys with 40 who are awful; I've played against guys INAUDIBLE. A lot of it depends on if the moon is right.
The way I'd like to play, we have to have a threat inside. We want to try to throw the ball inside at every opportunity we can. Sean has great hands, can turn to either shoulder, and is a gamer. He makes shots in games that sometimes he doesn't make when he's standing around without anybody guarding him. I love that competitiveness that he has. He has as good a savvy as any big guy I've ever coached--I'm not saying better, because I've had some big guys who are really smart basketball players--but he has as good a savvy as anybody I've ever coached. If we can surround him with some threats from the outside, that have to be played, he is going to do a lot of damage to people inside.
I think that was the big thing--just to resolve that they had the toughness. I really did try to say something positive about Saturday's game, and the last six minutes is what I took from it--how we did compete at that time and try to make plays. I got on the guys for a lot of things, but I really did try to make sure they understood that was a huge positive for us, and I think that was the ball game. I think some lesser teams would have given in. With only seven guys running up and down, I think some lesser teams would have given in after Illinois came back and took the lead. I don't know what the lead was they got. I know it was one. Was it more than that? Four-point lead? I think the resolve, as you said, was our toughness. Our toughness is something that I think can take you a lot of places.
You look at the offensive stats at halftime: they only had five offensive rebounds to our four, and I think we had all four in one possession. I didn't think it was a huge negative for us in the first half. Then, on that one possession where we got four shots, it's just that they were bad shots. What you have to do is, when you get an offensive rebound make sure that you go back up strong or throw it out. That is going to be a concern for us all year long. I think you can look at our club--last year we weren't a very good rebounding team, and we haven't shown so far this year. But we work on it as hard as we can every single day, and we have to do the best we can.
I played a game with them on Sunday that put the first team, the white team, on offense--spotted the blue team 20 points and said that we'd play 10 possessions. So if you score every possession a two the game would be tied, but if the blue team stole it they had a good chance to go by themselves, but I was going to reward the team by giving them a point for every pass they made before they scored. All of a sudden, we had nine points on one possession; we had 10 points on one possession. What I was trying to get them to understand was the more we pass it, the better shot we're going to get because the defense will give in a little bit. So, the last part of the game, I told them that I wanted the offense just like we did on Sunday afternoon. I tell you what--I went from being as low as you could possibly be on Saturday night to feeling pretty dog-gone good on Sunday if I could get those guys to play like that. Just moving the ball, moving yourself, being unselfish, screening for people, helping each other, if you play intelligently, you have a chance.