First of all I'd just like to congratulate coach Gillen and Virginia for their win, and, this may seem crazy to say it, but I'm as excited about my group as I've been. To be down 18 at the half against a good team like UVa against a very talented ballclub and cut it to six with a couple of minutes to go, as young as this team is, is encouraging.
You see (freshman) Damion Grant do some good things out there. That was exciting for me. We walk out of here disappointed we lost but we hold our heads high and excited about playing another basketball game. So it's an encouraging sign.
On starting the game in a zone
We had a choice to go zone. They struggled against East Tennessee State's zone. East Tennessee State was up four points at halftime playing mainly zone. They didn't shoot it well against N.C. State (last Sunday). They came out and shot well. Todd Billet's a terrific ballplayer and hit some big shots. We decided to go man-to-man and try to jam it a little bit in the second half and we held them to 37 percent in the second half from the field. And only had 10 turnovers on the road and 22 offensive rebounds against maybe the biggest team in the league. So, I'm really encouraged.
On the decision to stay in the zone even though UVa was hot from the perimeter
It's one of those things where you've got Travis Watson, I was joking with him before the game and think he's like 38 years old, the guy's been in the league so long, and he came back and said ‘No, Ed Cota was the oldest guy to play in the league.' So, you make decisions, And, again, East Tennessee State played zone, and we think our zone was pretty good at Miami, but they hit big shots and they got some offensive rebounds against it so we decided to make a change at halftime. Maybe we should have made it sooner, but you can say, ‘how can we play zone?' But those are the choices you make against good teams and they may figure out a way. Again, we cut it to six with two minutes to go. I'm not into moral victories, but with a young team and without Sean May to come in here and do that I am proud of the way our kids responded in the second half.
On getting Rashad McCants the ball more in the second half
Rashad McCants had only four shots at halftime. We ended up putting him inside the zone and tried to get the ball to him and let him attack. And I think that worked very well. Jawad's (Williams) a good enough shooter and passer outside that I felt we could get the ball to Rashad in and around the basket. I though Jackie (Manuel) did some good things in the second half attacking the zone. This is a learning process.
On some first half struggles on offense
Not getting the ball into the foul line area. Again, we are not the best low-post scoring team without Sean, and they are one of the biggest teams in the country, so I didn't know if it would have been productive for us to attack the block area, but I think we should attack the foul line area with guys flashing there or with dribble penetration.
On how the team was at halftime
I think they were obviously probably a little down at halftime. I walked in there at halftime and said, ‘Hey, hold your heads up. We made two runs on them in the first half. Last year we down 12 at halftime and came back and took a one-point lead, we can do it.'
We got back a lot quicker than I thought. We made a pretty good run to cut it to six or seven with 14 or 15 minutes to go, so we got back quicker than I hoped. And you know they (UVa) are going to respond, and they did. That's the way it goes, especially on th road in this league.'
On Damion Grant playing 10 minutes
He's felt better the last day or so. He didn't practice much before the Davidson game so I didn't think it was wise to put him in that game and didn't feel like we needed to use him in that ballgame. But I did feel we did need to use him against Virginia as big as they are if he was healthy enough to go. I joked in the huddle, ‘I'm mad at you. You don't practice, the you come out and block shots and dunking the ball and doing those things.'
Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.