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We feel very fortunate to win. It was one of those games that you could probably classify as a tough game--not necessarily a pretty game--but we did feel fortunate to win. I thought we got some great performances from some guys trying to make up for Rashad not being there.
Melvin came in and started the game. He hadn't started a game the entire season and made four three's four us, [which] was big. David Noel played 19 minutes by that stat sheet and didn't even attempt a shot, but I thought he was good for us on the defensive end of the floor, especially when Jackie got the three fouls in the first half. Raymond had seven assists and zero turnovers, Sean a double-double, and Marvin going to the free throw line and making those shots.
I think the key point in the game, to me, was when it was like 53-50 and we made two three's in a row and then we also got an offensive rebound in that stretch and put it back in.
It is difficult to play without Rashad because not only is he your leading scorer, [but] he's such a threat that everybody else has to stay on him and so he lets other guys get more open shots because they have to honor him so much.
But it is extremely important for us to feel good about it and know that [NC] State the last couple of games has really played well and we knew we'd have to play very well to win.
Why start Melvin, versus some of the other guys?
Melvin is the most experienced. To start Reyshawn on the road or David Noel, you know, Rashad is our two-man, so usually in normal situations, Melvin is the first guy that comes in for him. And again, I think the experience factor. And I thought it was important for us to have somebody who can make some shots. Melvin has really been struggling lately with shooting the basketball. I think he had gone three or four straight games without making a three, but that was the biggest reason right there. And down the stretch, we just had our most experienced team in the game too.
It seemed like you were extending your defense a little bit to deny the three-point shot.
Yeah, we didn't do a very good job of it down the stretch. We tried to pick up in the backcourt and get them into a scenario where they would use some time coming up. You know Julius [Hodge]--I may miss it--was 4-20 for the year in conference play from three's, so we decided on him to screen on the ball and go behind. And that was really smart coaching because he made four of them, I think. We changed at the end, but by that time we had already allowed to make four--we did want to try to switch a little bit more on the perimeter, take away the three's down the stretch.
When was it determined that Rashad couldn't play--early this afternoon?
I got word probably 1:15, something like that. I didn't think that he was going to play, anyway, just because of the way he felt yesterday and the way he felt Sunday. He's really been bothered by this since the night of the Duke game. He's tried to fight through it and it is just uncomfortable--an intestinal disorder, whatever that is. Hopefully, we'll get him back pretty soon. If we find out anything different, we'll let you know. You didn't hear much later than I did, myself.
Have you come to expect a double-double from Sean May?
I expect triple-triples, but you don't usually get that. But he's played very well down the stretch for us. He's got such great hands rebounding the basketball. The problem we have is the other guys standing around thinking he is going to be the one to get every rebound for them, instead of trying to get the rebound themselves.
Zero turnovers on the road for Raymond. Can you remember him playing as well since you've been here?
You know at Duke he had eight turnovers, and since then he's been pretty special. He really has.
There are two things we need to continue to fight all the time. We need to get shots, not turn the ball over, and we need to a great job on the defensive end, control that dribble penetration. I don't know how many turnovers we had in the second half today, but we did a pretty good job of taking care of the basketball.
You mentioned a key point at 53-50, you went on an 8-0 run.
I was pretty sure we made two three's and had an inside basket that I think was on a put-back. Jawad Williams got the best offensive rebound tonight that I've ever seen him get in his career. We need him to do that because when Sean is not getting rebounds, somebody has to get them. Marvin didn't have a great night, looking at the two rebounds.
There were not a lot of shots out there, and they are controlling the tempo. It's extremely hard to play that way--defense with a team that is going to play that way the majority of the game.
Without Rashad playing, did you ask Melvin to carry the scoring load?
No. I never talk to kids about, 'You've got to score, you've got to shoot.' I've never done that in my entire life. I talked about that we didn't have Rashad so everbody has got to pick up a little bit of the load for him. 'There are going to be some more minutes there, and I expect you to play well.' We put up on the board, 'Everybody is responsible for your man on the defensive end, and we've got to execute and do what we are supposed to do offensively.
Do you think Raymond realized that he needed to step up his play tonight?
I think he realizes it, and I think he has played well--as I said a moment ago--since that game, his assist/error ratio has been the best it's been all year. Because it hasn't been a great year for him. As far as assist/error ratio, I think it's [an area] where he expects great things out of himself, and so do I, but he's been pretty doggone impressive the last couple of games.
How good are you?
How good are we? I think that we are one of those teams that has a chance to make it to St. Louis and to win, but there are probably about 20-24 of those. We have to continue improving on the defensive end of the floor, number one, and we have to continue trying to make sure that we stay alive in the rebounding battle, and take care of the basketball and not turn it over. Then, more importantly, we need to get healthy. We've been, for about three weeks here, guys banged up or sick or something like that. I'm hoping all this will end so we can have a great stretch run and have everybody healthy. And that's not only a key for us, it's a key for everybody.