Q: Several of the players seemed very angry after the loss to Maryland. What is the mood of this team going into tomorrow?
A: I think that they are very disappointed and I think they are somewhat angry, I am as well. We go to Kentucky and we didn't defend, we didn't box out and do those things and we got embarrassed. Then two games after that, we did try and defend. We did try and rebound, we did try and box out. And then to go up there and defend like that is not what we want to do...If we are still thinking about Maryland, we are going to get beat by a thousand tomorrow.
Q: What is the latest on Jawad? Would you like to get him back into the lineup?
A: I would like to but he has got to be able to play and not be tentative. He has got to be effective. He doesn't miss too many two-footers and the other night he missed two of them. The mask is a problem for him and it takes awhile to get used to it. So we just got to wait and see. We didn't practice yesterday, they had the day off. I have seen some of the kids but I haven't talked to all of them and I haven't seen them on the court since the other night at Maryland. Q: Talk about Emeka Okafor's shot-blocking ability and what it allows them to do on defense.
A: I don't know every shot-blocker by any means, but he has to be one of the best, if not the best shot blocker of the past 10 or 12 years in college basketball. He knows which ones to go after and so he doesn't pick up needless fouls by bidding on everything. He has great timing, he can block the shot of the guy he is guarding, much less the player's his teammates are guarding. He gives you a guy with a tennis racket back there, so you can gamble more than you normally would and you don't get discouraged if you get beat backdoor because he is back there ready for your mistakes. You don't get too many easy ones. You don't get too many offensive stick backs against him because he also does a great job of boxing out. His teammates, when he goes for some of those blocks, they get back and box out the man he is guarding. It is really a team defense, but he is important to it to say the least.
Q: Do you guys have to adjust offensively knowing he is there?
A: I think you always have to adjust against a great shot blocker, but you can't sit there and make 77 fakes or they'll call walking on you every time. The biggest thing we have to do is we have to decide to guard them. I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but if you want to be good you have to guard people. You can talk about Connecticut's fast break and it is unbelievable. You can talk about anything you want to, but you look down there and their opponent's are shooting 36 percent and that is the reason they are 14-1.
Q: Talk about Raymond Felton's struggles against Maryland and do you expect him to bounce back?
A: Well, I hope he bounces back and I think he will bounce back very, very well. We are still talking about a guy who is 13 games into his sophomore year. There is a lot of different styles from last year and this year. I give him a lot of freedom, they ran a lot of set plays last year. We are trying to play at a faster pace, so I think that is part of it. You also have to give credit to Maryland's defense. On one of the turnovers they made a fantastic switch, a guy goes down and we have a guy coming off a screen. Their guy decoyed it, turned around and made the steal. So you have to give Maryland credit as well because they made a good defensive play. We got it tied and Raymond missed a wide-open three and then we are down one, and Raymond over-penetrated a little bit and missed an open shot and then there was a wild scramble and we didn't get back and they laid it up on the other end. There was a multitude of errors there at the end of the game that sometimes doesn't happen at home and most times doesn't happen to experienced teams. But, Raymond had a marvelous game last Sunday night and I fully expect him to have a marvelous game again.
Q: Does this Connecticut team remind you of some of the best you have ever seen?
A: For this early in the season to have the team playing together as a team at that high of a level on both ends of the court, makes me think this is one of the strongest teams I have seen in the last 8 to 12 years. They really get down. You watch them play and everyone is down in a defensive stance. Then the ball goes off the board and five guys are running like crazy to the other end. Emeka comes running down there and he looks like this Hawaiian God standing there. Every time somebody comes close he swats it away. And then Ben Gordon can shoot it....But at this time of year to be playing that well as a team makes me think 'boy they are good.'
Q: What makes Emeka Okafor such a good shot blocker?
A: Shot blocking is kind of an art and he has such great timing that you can't teach people. It is something he does and it is something he has done ever since he's played basketball. You know, he has always been a great shot blocker. His presence alone sometimes intimidates players and that gives him a little advantage going into the game. I think the past few years he has really worked on his game and come on as a complete player. Right now he is the best big man in college basketball.
Q: Do you have to change what you do on the offensive end because he is such a good shot blocker?
A: No, I think you have to be aware where he is at all times, but you can't change what you do. I feel like I have to play my game and bring it to another level because he is such a good player. It is really a great challenge to play against a guy like him. It really tests myself to see where I am at. I just think I have to do what I have always done.
RAYMOND FELTON Q: Did you guys as a team take a step back defensively against Maryland?
A: No, it wasn't a step back, just a lot of mental mistakes. We didn't box out like we should have, just different things like taking care of the ball at certain points. I think the main thing that hurt us was the rebounds.
Q: Sean took a lot of responsibility for the defensive breakdowns and even the loss to Maryland. What does that mean to the team? That didn't seem to happen a lot last year, people taking responsibility.
A: Sean is a great player and he is a great guy on and off the court, but I'm not going to put it on him. I'll put it on myself more than anybody because I am the point guard, I am the floor leader and the coach on the court. So I'll put it on myself. I didn 't get the guys together at the end to pull that game out. It is great for Sean to say that, but I'm not going to put it on him, I'll put it on myself.