Monday comments from Rod Barnes

Ole Miss men's basketball head coach Rod Barnes held his SEC season weekly news conference Monday afternoon. Here is what he had to say.

Opening comments from Coach Rod Barnes: I'm glad to be home. I feel good at 40 (his birthday was Sunday). This is an important week for us. Our guys are pretty healthy. We met Sunday and also shot around this morning. We'll have a full practice later today. South Carolina looked good Sunday (in a home loss to Tennessee). They played well but Tennessee caught fire down the stretch. It was a great win for us Saturday (at Alabama), but we've got a lot of games ahead of us. We have to stay focused. I told our guys we have to continue to get better. As we continue to move on, teams will continue to get better as well. We can't be satisfied with one victory. I'm excited to get back to the court and see how our young basketball team will respond to a huge win on the road. I thought we grew up some during the game, and hopefully this experience will help us gain more confidence and get more wins. It's important that we have a good crowd Wednesday. We need our fans. We've got a young team. Every advantage we can get here at Tad Smith Coliseum will help us. I congratulate Dwayne Curtis, the Player of the Week in the SEC. I'm happy for him.

Q: Was it also important to get a win in Tuscaloosa where your teams have struggled?

Barnes: We've made that trip back seven years in a row without a victory and really without playing many close games. So yes, it was a good feeling. But an even better feeling than winning at Alabama was to have this young team go on the road and win a game period. To go and do that against a quality team was a great thing. We still have a great upside. There's a lot of room for improvement. In the first half, we played hard. In the second half, we played hard and played well. We have to do that on a consistent basis to reach our potential.

Q: How do you make sure the young guys on this team come back down from a win like that?

Barnes: We set goals for this season. One of those is to defend our homecourt. We've done that so far besides the Memphis game. We want Tad Smith Coliseum to be a tough place to play again. Another goal is to have a winning season. Eleven wins is obviously not enough. Another goal is postseason. So to do that we have to continue to win. We have to continue to beat quality opponents. Our coaches continue to work. Our players continue to work. We continue to strive to develop team chemistry. We understand that if we stay healthy, we can make postseason play. But that's only if we get better. We have talked to our kids. We have told them we won the game but look at this mistake. Look at this pass. Look at this screen. We didn't communicate on this play. Look at the lack of execution on this play. Our kids know it was a good win, but Mike Smith didn't play much with a sprained ankle. Clarence Sanders had a bad game. Brandon Patterson hasn't shot the ball well yet. We've still got so much room for improvement and we can be a good team. Our guys realize that.

Q: What do you see from South Carolina?

Barnes: They're not quite as physical in the post. They don't have quite the post presence they've had in the past. They still have some guys who are really good basketball players. They are talented and athletic. They shoot the ball really well. They shoot free throws well, so we have to be careful guarding them. They get the ball up and down the floor. They're long and athletic. Their perimeter people are athletic and play at a high intensity level. We'll have to really be focused on defense and do a good job taking care of the basketball.

Q: How much has Londrick Nolen improved in the past couple of games since he was suspended?

Barnes: He's getting there. From the day he got back after being suspended, I've seen improvement. I have seen him start to gain confidence. He struggled and was frustrated. But he's taken his responsibility of being a leader now. He is encouraging our guys, and that's what we've needed. I'm happy to see him have some success. With Londrick, the better leader he is, the better our team will be. The harder he works, the better our team will be. That will spill over to our other players. We need him to lead, and it appears he is now.

Q: What was the difference offensively in the first and second halves at Alabama?

Barnes: The first half I thought we really rushed things. I thought we had several players, Londrick and Clarence being the main two, that really went out there trying to win the game too much. That means not very good team chemistry. I know they were trying. I applaud them for having the courage to do that on the road. I was glad to see that they were saying "Throw me the ball; I'm fixing to get a shot." I don't want to take away from them. I just want them to do it at the right time and do it within the team concept and with team chemistry. I thought Dwayne hurried in the post. I thought he caught the ball and would make quick moves and wasn't effective. I expected that as a young team. I went over there thinking if we could keep it close until the last five minutes, we'd have a chance to win it. But as it turned out, we grew up earlier than that, and after halftime things were better. That excites me.

Q: How's the team's health?

Barnes: We're OK. Mike Smith (turned ankle before the game Saturday) is OK. He will practice today. He shot around this morning. We're in very good shape, especially this time of year. Not many nagging injuries really.

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