VIDEO: Muhammad on Defense

Shabazz Muhammad talks about the team's defense this year, how the lack of an interior presence has hurt them, and how much the team needs Larry Drew to shoot...

Shabazz Muhammad on Tuesday:


Q: … kind of figure out why you play so well at some times and then you have games like the last game.

Shabazz Muhammad: yeah, I just think it's all about our team. Coming together as a team. I think the last game we had, we really didn't play together as a group. So we just have to look forward to doing that Washington on Thursday.

Q: Shabazz, can you talk about what it's like… you guys have one senior on the team. How has Larry [Drew II] been as far as a leader on the court and off?

SM: yeah, he's been great. We really need him. He's the oldest guy on our team. And we really need him to really guide us throughout the games and especially as freshmen coming in here, it's really hard to play college basketball. So he's really helping us a lot, and he's been through a lot so he's just sharing his experiences with us.

Q: do you think that he's… obviously, he transferred here, and he'll talk about how difficult it was for him at UNC and all that, but do you think that that's made him a stronger person on and off the court?

SM: yeah, I think it really has. The transferring in to play here and be really successful is a really good thing. So I think it's a really hard thing for him, and I think it's really helped him out a lot and it's gotten his mental toughness really good.

Q: the last two games, they kind of played you guys in a very similar way where they would sag off and clog the paint and take away your midrange game. What kind of adjustment do you need to make to combat that?

SM: I just think it's about our spacing. To unclog the paint, we have to really space the floor out so they really can't clog it as much. And we just have to shoot the ball better. If we shoot the ball better and space the floor out, they really can't do anything about clogging it.

Q: do you guys tell Larry to shoot more or do you try to find ways…

SM: yeah, we're trying to tell Larry to shoot more. They give him a really big gap, and I think Larry's a real good shooter especially if he's confident to knock it down so that's one thing we've been telling him: to really start shooting the ball. Because when the team sags on him, they really need a guy to help throughout the penetration.

Q: when did you get clear of the flu?

SM: I'm still coming down from it. I got cleared to play about two days ago. So it's really been hard. Just making sure I'm eating right and staying healthy.

Q: how do you think you've progressed defensively this year?

SM: I think I've progressed a lot. Like I said, in high school, I really wasn't stressed on defense and now I'm coming in and guarding guys who are really good in the PAC-12. And coming up, I have a really hard assignment against Washington. Their guards are really good. It's really a test, and Coach Howland has really been stressing it on us… for me to play defense. So I think I'm doing a good job of doing it.

Q: where do you see yourself needing to improve the most on that end?

SM: I say I can rebound more. I got 6 rebounds last game. I think I can average about 10 rebounds. We really need to step it up on the rebounding. So I think I need to really take the initiative and [start] doing that.

Q: how do you keep that? It seems to come up as a problem from time to time.

SM: yeah, it's just a habit. You have to try to go for the rebound every time. And sometimes I find myself trying to get out on the break when we don't have the ball. So that's one thing I have to really concentrate on which is going to try to grab that rebound.

Q: when you look at the PAC-12 race, did you guys kind of… eyes light up when you saw Oregon lost 2 games last weekend?

SM: oh, absolutely. We're right back in there. The ‘SC loss was so disappointing for us. And we were all down. And then we started seeing all these teams starting to lose, we're like, "we can be right back in first place." So we're really going to try to win these 2 Washington games and play hard as a team.

Q: how much does it hurt you guys on both ends not to have that kind of prototypical inside presence?

SM: yeah, it hurts us a lot. That's why teams are really getting on us right now. Especially against a guy from Arizona State. Really, they're watching that film and thinking that we have nobody inside so they're pounding the ball inside every the time. That's one thing that, like I said, I have to get rebounds more because they're just thinking they can pound us inside and get rebounds over us.

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