A big sigh of relief, there. It wasn't pretty, but I think this game represents the character of this team. We fought through it, as we've been fighting through the last few weeks. Haven't given up and I think that shows the character of the kids in that locker room. They had to grind it out, could have dropped their heads a couple of times but didn't. I'm proud of them.
I was concerned that after we invested a lot emotionally [against Duke] that there would be a little bit of a letdown – only one day to prepare – I think there was a little bit where emotionally we weren't where we were the last two games, but that's tough to be there every game. I thought we had enough. We came out great … and dropped our lead.
David made the big play … Jackie … Jawad …. Melvin diving on two loose balls. Those are the little thing I want Melvin to do and he did them today. I don't care if his shots don't go down, I just want him to take good shots.
On David Noel's big plays –
The offensive rebound off the missed foul shot, the steal and making the foul shot. That's not an easy situation. I believe in the kid and he thanked me for that after the game. He said ‘thanks for believing in me.' I said, ‘Heck, I believe in you, that's why I offered you a scholarship for next year. It's great to see young men like that grow, blossom and it's very rewarding.
On team defense/offense-
I thought we did a good job against their set offense. When we were set on [offense], we took bad shots. It's frustrating to see us take bad shots because we didn't do that in practice. All of a sudden you put 21,000 people in stands, and tv, and you end up losing your focus a little bit. You take bad shots and you turn the ball over, they get to go against an un-set defense. When our defense is set, we're pretty darn good. And Jackie's a great defender and he makes life tough for a lot of kids.
Is Jackie becoming a better interior defender?
Oh, he could always block shots. Jackie's blocked jump shots, which is hard to do and you don't encourage a lot, but he can block from the weak side when guys are going to the basket. He's so long – you look at his arms – look how long his arms are, how quick he is and his commitment to the defensive end.
How's Rashad's back?
His back's not 100%. His back is better than it was the other day. It is a very tough time and only he knows what he's going through. I can relate – I've been there as a player, where you don't think you can do anything right. I remember my freshman year going into the ACC Tournament I hardly played. I was confused and almost wrote off the entire season and then all of a sudden I caught a little spark in a game in the NCAA Tournament. It's hard, I told him in the locker room that Michael Jordan went through a tough time – I think it was Michael's sophomore or junior year we were playing in New York and Michael didn't make all-tournament team in either tournament and was going through a tough time. And that happens. We just have to help him get through it.
I think it's just something you have to tough it out, work through and just keep encouraging him – teammates have to keep encouraging him, coaching staff needs to keep encouraging him. We need Rashad. He's one of the most talented players in the country. And when he snaps out of it and we're all operating on the same cylinders, we can be pretty good. We need Rashad and I hope it's just a jumpshot away.
He was at warm-ups and wasn't hitting his shots at halftime. I could see the frustration so I let him stay out there to keep shooting until he hit a couple of them. You know, I feel for him because it's a tough thing to go through. You only know if you've gone through it as a player.
On the importance of ending the losing streak -
It's a big relief. It's like a big balloon that you get to untie the knot at the bottom and let the air out. That's the way I think we feel. Again, I'm so proud of these kids. We have invested so much emotionally, to go over to Duke and have a chance to beat Duke at Duke, then to come back and practice one time and play a game. It's hard to do. To get that energy up. Raymond was tired – and it's not as much mentally as it was physically.