Previewing Clemson

The streak is on the line, as Clemson (0-48 in Chapel Hill) comes to town. Tip-off tonight is at 7:00 p.m. at the Smith Center on RSN. <br><center> (<a target=new href="">INTERNET BROADCAST</a>) - <a href="'','GameTrackermbaskbl','toolbar=no,resizeable=no,scrollbars=no,width=780,height=540'); void('');">LIVE STATS</a>

North Carolina (9-5, 1-1) vs. Clemson (10-1, 0-1)
Smith Center, Chapel Hill
7:00 p.m., RSN (Mike Hogwood, Bobby Cremins)

Matt Doherty Pregame Q&A

Clemson is know for having a pretty good interior. Are there similarities between them and Virginia?

I think there are a lot of similarities between Clemson and Virginia. A concern of ours is their size. They are a big team, a physical team, a very good rebounding team, and we have to go in and battle like we did the second half of the Virginia team.

Did you show the team what you can do in terms of rebounding in the second half of the Virginia game?

I think so, but a lot of that had a lot to do with Virginia's zone defense. It's hard to box out of a zone sometimes, and I think that gave us lanes to the basket.

Offensive rebounding is something that we talk about a lot. We're not a big team, but we are fairly quick, and we have some guys with long arms. I thought we did a good job of battling. Byron Sanders had five offensive rebounds against Virginia. Rashad McCants is going to the boards, Jawad has done a good job the last month of getting to the offensive glass, and Jackie is a great offensive rebounder. It's something we've tried to work on, and Byron knows that's a big part of his role. Rashad is really improved in that area, and, by the way we keep stats, he was our leading offensive rebounder [against Virginia].

Have you gotten a feel for if Damion Grant will be able to give you 10 minutes or more against Clemson?

I think so, knock on wood. I hope he can. We practiced [Sunday] and hour and a half, and he did most of practice. The biggest thing with Damion. Is running the floor--can he do that for an extended period of time? Right now, he can not because of his knees and general conditioning. The healthier he gets, the better we'll be. As we play each day without Sean May, Byron is getting better. Hopefully, Damion gets better. We hope we have Sean at some point in the season, and we think we'll be that much better as a team, if and when Sean does come back.

Can you go into the game with a definite plan to play Damion, or is this a feel for the game and how his knees are doing?

First of all, everyday we get an injury report from our trainers. Once I see that, I see and talk to [trainer] Mark [Davis] once the player shows up at practice, and then I talk to the player. "How much can you do today?" Then I have a sense of how much he can play.

I think, against Clemson, it would be a perfect opportunity for him to play if he's feeling as well or better than he did against Virginia, because of Clemson's size.

How have the freshmen adjusted to this point in the season?

I think they've adjusted as well as you can as freshmen. I was talking to one of them about that [on Sunday]. It is a lot for them to handle: the travel, the interviews, the school work, final exams, the comments on campus--good and bad. All that takes energy. Living away from home. Trying to get them to eat breakfast. I don't know if they always eat breakfast. Those things are a lot, the general intensity of practice, the pace of the season--it's a lot for them to handle. They've handled it as well as they can, but it's a little bit of a roler coaster. You try to be sensitive to that with your practice times and your overall attitudes.

After the Virginia game I was very upbeat with them, and, hopefully, that will help us as we go into the game with Clemson.

Do you have to monitor how upbeat or how down on them you are because they are so young?

I think so. The one thing I learned, I think after the Kentucky game, was that they need to see [the tape] after games. They need to see the good things they do, and they also need to see their mistakes because they don't know that. There is some confusion, sometimes, after games, why we lost. Then you show them 30 clips, and say that if we fixed five of these, we would have won the basketball game. I think that really is a good lesson for these guys. They are so young.

I think after that Kentucky game I realized that they need to see--they need to see where they are making mistakes. Otherwise, they don't know and they don't understand. They can learn from their mistakes because they are smart kids.

What do you think of Ed Scott and what can you say of his matchup with Felton?

It's our team against their team, not so much one player against another. Edward Scott--I felt this last year--was one of the best point guards in the league, if not one of the best players in the league. There's not much he can't do. He can pass, score, shoot, defend. He's one of my favorite players in the league.

Do you think, from what you've observed on tape, that Clemson is significantly improved from last year?

I think so. They don't have Stockman, but Christie is a very good basketball player. They have everybody else back, a year older, so they are going to be better. I think they are a better team than last year, and Larry's done a good job of coaching them. That was a big win they had against Cincinatti. I thought they did a lot of good things against Duke. Duke is a good team--they beat a good Wake Forest team last night. They are going to do that to a lot of people. Clemson is a better team this year, yes.

Is the Clemson streak important, and will you address that with the team?

The importance is this game, not the streak. The importance is our kids going out and playing and giving great effort, great intelligence, and playing together. Hopefully, we'll win and a by-product is that the streak will continue. But the streak is not the focus, I promise you. It's us playing well for 40 minutes against Clemson. If we happen to play well, there's a chance that streak will continue.

Was winning that game a consolation last year, having all the other streaks end?

Not really. I would trade that Clemson Streak for 25 wins last year and an NCAA berth. It's just a by-product, over the years, of the Carolina teams playing better than the Clemson teams in Chapel Hill. It's an interesting phenomenon, but our focus is playing well for 40 minutes, and that was really no consolation last year, to be honest.

You and Coach Shyatt have had some friction in the past, but how did you two come to an understanding over the summer?

We've talked. It's part of athletics. The very tough thing is that in the middle of a heated game things happen and the whole world gets to see it. Then you calm down and realize that Larry's a pretty good guy. I like to think I'm a pretty good guy. Let's just be men about it and move on--apologize and talk through it.

Sometimes it's fun for the fans to talk about. Maybe we should do it and create a professional wrestling atmosphere about it. Maybe we could get higher ratings for TV.

It's just one of those things that happened. It's not the first time it's happened in college basketball, and it won't be the last. You just try to handle things with class, dignity, and respect. We are leaders, and we have to set a good example for our young players.

Probable Starting Lineup: 
   Edward Scott (6-0, G, Sr.) – 18.4 ppg, 6.5 apg
   Chey Christie (6-4, G, So.) – 11.5 ppg, 3.0 apg
   Olu Babalola (6-6, F, So.) – 8.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg
   Chris Hobbs (6-7, F, Jr.) – 8.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg
   Sherrod Ford (6-9, C, So.) – 10.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg
Key Reserves: 
   Ray Henderson (6-8, C, Sr.) – 8.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg
   Tomas Nagys (6-10, F, Sr.) – 8.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg
   Shawan Robinson (6-2, G, Fr.) – 4.1 ppg
   Julian Betko  (6-5, G, Fr.) – 2.9 ppg

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