I think the key to the game - and again this will be a stuck record - but I thought we were so much more intense with our defense in the second half. We forced 13 turnovers in the second half. I think they had seven turnovers in the first half and they end up with 20. We had eight steals in the second half and were able to turn that into something. We still didn't shoot it very well. I thought Raymond had a wide open three that he was gonna make and Jackie missed a dunk on a set play. Sean missed a couple inside. The defensive intensity I thought halfway through the second half was important to us. The 1-3-1 trap and half court zone were good to us. We got two or three turnovers on that.
They're a hard team to play with Hodge, Melvin, and everyone in their lineup that basically can go out on the floor and put the ball on the floor and drive it to the basket. It makes it difficult for Jawad, Sean, David, and those guys to play, because they're not used to playing 30 feet from the basket. Again I thought the defensive play was the key to the game. And we were 13 out of our first 14 free throws in the second half. Raymond's miss there at the end was only the second free throw we missed. David Noel made two big ones for us, and I thought David was important. When Jawad got the bloody nose again and I tried to play him, he missed one right inside and it looked like he didn't focus real well, and he didn't really go after the ball another time so we went with David more. A couple of times I even went small and played Jackie at the 4 man. But I feel fantastic. It's a win, and we'll take one win at a time and feel happy about it and go on to the next one."
Can you describe the play in which Rashad got the basket near the end and talk about what your options were?
"Well it was the same play we ran the other day. I thought it was too obvious so that nobody would think we'd run the same play again so we did it. That's just being honest. Rashad came off the screen this time and they were there so he penetrated to the basket. I told him I was a little upset with him because he'd missed the shot the play before. The guy had fouled him, I forget if it was Julius or Melvin who'd flicked him in the eye, and so I said, "If you can't see, then why shoot it?" But he drove the baseline and shot it and missed it that possession. I felt good about putting the basketball in his hands. I think he's working harder defensively. He's probably the most scrutinized player I've ever coached, but he's doing some nicer things for us. His shot's still not going in like he would like for it too, and like I think it can. I really was wanting him to drive people more tonight. One time he had Melvin guarding him 30 feet from the basket and he pulled up and shot a three. That's not using your quickness advantage so that's not playing intelligently. At the end though he took the ball to the basket and made a big play."
The same play that you did the other day, which game was that? "It was the Connecticut game I believe."
What did the 1-3-1 alignment in the half court do for you that maybe wasn't getting done defensively to that point.
"Well we weren't having very good luck in stopping them in almost anything. What it did was it slowed them down. They didn't feel very comfortable attacking it. They made one three on it because we made a mistake, but if I'm not mistaken we got two or three turnovers out of it too. Sometimes you try some things. I hate to just sit over there and not do anything. We've played that a couple times this year. The kids did a nice job with it and it more or less changed the tempo of the game a little bit and we were able to get some things going and got the lead going at that time."
Coach it sounds silly but you almost seem to play better without a big lead. The old cliché is to play not to lose, and guys seem to be playing to win.
"You guys have to sell papers, I think that's a bunch of B.S. myself. You gotta write things - old Roy's dumb, they lose a bunch of leads. I said the other day that the lead at Florida State wasn't anything. Last year we were up 20 on Arizona in the first half and lost by 17. That's a thirty seven point spread. But the last Monday night in college basketball we were playing so I didn't think a lot about the game (we lost to Arizona) at that point.
I like to have the lead. If I've got you in golf - I've got you five down. If I've got you five down I want you six down. If I've got you six down I want you seven. It's just my mentality. The one thing about is we have to be more aggressive defensively. I think in the Florida State game we were aggressive defensively, but we made stupid mistakes on the offensive end. We turned it over three times in the last 1:45 of the first half and they shoot layups. Raymond Felton got stripped twice, and that doesn't happen. I haven't talked to the guys about playing with a lead, I've talked to them about toughness. And I told them at halftime that if we're tough enough we'll come back and we'll feel comfortable in the locker room. I love to play golf and I'll play anybody anywhere. Most people can beat me, but God Almighty I love trying."