Getting ready to take on a talented Wake Forest team that is very physical and the best rebounding team in the country – with one of the best players in the country in Josh Howard.
What lessons can you and the team take away from the Georgia Tech loss?
I think our defensive effort has to improve. That's where I was most disappointed. I think we did not play defense like we're capable of playing defense, and that needs to change.
You started the smaller lineup against NC State – have you thought about doing that on a more regular basis?
I have not thought about it, with Byron Sanders doing such a great job defensively – matter of fact he graded out as our best defender against Georgia Tech. And most of the teams we play have some size, so Byron needs to play. David Noel graded out our best defender versus NC State. I need to reward that. They need to play.
What's the game plan to deal with Howard, who had big games against UNC last year?
Just really be alert to him as a team. He's so fast down the court in transition, such a great offensive rebounder and over the last couple of years he's really improved his outside shooting. To me he's one of the best pro prospects in the country. That makes it tough for us, because he can post up, shoot the three, pass in transition, blocks shots, steals the ball – he's maybe the best all-around player in our league. You just hope he doesn't go for 40 and try to keep him off the offensive boards, as he's a very aggressive offensive rebounder.
As he's developed his outside shot, has that made you change your defensive plan on him?
The first year we played him as a driver only. Last year he started shooting the ball well and so you couldn't do that. He puts up pretty good [shooting] numbers for a guy who can post up, take it to the basket and the way he can rebound the basketball.
Has Josh Howard become a poster boy for the case of staying the extra year in college?
I think you can make a case for that, yeah. Last year I thought he was going to have a breakout year and he got hurt. This year he's playing very good basketball even though his shins are bothering him. He's kind of suffered what Kris Lang went though here. You see a kid who's not only developed his game, but obviously is more mature today than he was as a sophomore and that's just going to help him handle the grind and demands of the NBA and be prepared more fundamentally for the NBA.
What can you do in practice to get the defense back to where it was and where you want it to be?
Emphasize some things that we've done earlier in the year and go back to basics. Sometimes when you get in the flow of the season, you have so many games that there's a balancing out. With a young team it's so important to develop good habits and reward those habits that that's what we need to focus on more. Today we need to focus on North Carolina and our defense and make sure we're doing the things we did earlier in the year to limit team's from scoring so many points against us.
Did you see anything from Rashad McCants that would indicate he's in a slump, or was Wednesday just one of those nights where the ball won't go in the basket?
I don't think the team had the balance and energy it's had. Why? Is it the travel? Is it the grind? Is it other things? I don't know. It wasn't just Rashad – our team wasn't great defensively and we need to improve in that area.
Has the reaction of the players been better or worse than when you had a couple of losses in a row earlier in the season?
I think we don't like losing, don't accept losing, but we've handled it better. Sometimes people misintrept handling it well with accepting losing, but that's not the case at all. It's just that earlier in the year, with a young team, when they lost it was the end of the world and now we learn from our losses, we're sticking together – it's about being consistent emotionally. Not too high after wins and not too low after losses. Learn from it, move on and stick together. That's what we're seeing here over the last few games.