You touched on this some last night, but can you talk more about the play of Melvin Scott and what he's been able to do the last few games?
I just think that Melvin has played so well. Obviously everyone knows about his shooting, but the fact that he has taken care of the basketball the way he has over the last couple of games has been remarkable. He's only had one turnover over the last 134 minutes. That's something that has been so important, taking care of the basketball. He's shooting 57 percent over the last six games, averaging 14 [points] over the last four [games] – and they're good shots. So now it really stretches the defense and I really like our movement and the way we're moving the ball and hitting the open man.
What got him going?
I think when Jackie's foot was bothering him against Maryland, Melvin went in and had such a great game. With Jackie's foot still bothering him, we kept [Melvin] in the lineup, beat Maryland, played well, so I just stuck with that lineup. I think he's playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of poise. He doesn't have to force it. He didn't know how many minutes he would get and the thing he does best besides defense is shoot the ball. So I think he was pressing a bit, but now he doesn't have to press because if he passes up a shot he knows he'll have another opportunity around the corner. He's really doing a better of taking good shots.
Could you talk about the crowd and atmosphere last night – it seemed so different from what we're used to at the Smith Center …
I am just in awe of the crowd. The support is a real compliment to the rich tradition of this program. From Coach McGuire to Coach Smith to Coach Guthridge and all the great players we've had here. A lot of people in this state and the surrounding areas love Carolina basketball and it provided them an opportunity to buy tickets where they don't have to pay a half-million dollars to get a seat. They just have to pay 15 bucks. So I think that they are excited about the opportunity to see a young and exciting play. I think they enjoy the way this team plays with the amount of heart and pride and hustle.
Is there any way to carry this over to next season?
There's only so much you can do as a coach. Coach Guthrdige did a great job in getting the students behind the basket near our bench. I think that has really helped. The last couple of years have really tested some of the Carolina fans and I think the true fans have stick with us and really shown their support. We've had some great crowds over the last two years and hopefully that'll continue next year. In terms of physically changing the seating at the Smith Center next year, that'd be a major, major undertaking and I don't see that happening. But I do see the donor seats and they've been very supportive and active and enthusiastic over the last two years.
[Note from the SID: "Last year we were No. 3 in the country in attendance and this year we're up over 1,000 and 18,902 is our average attendance."]
Mike Sweetney, how do you plan to deal with him?
He's such a good passer, he's a lot like Sean May for us. He's a load inside. He's got good feel, good balance, good hands, good touch. When people collapse he can find the open man and deliver the basketball. That's why he's one of the better big men in the country and one of the better players in the country. He's a heck of a player.
Do you think your backcourt can expose the Georgetown guards? They're backcourt has been outplayed all year …
I don't necessarily agree with you. Ashanti Cook had a great second half against Tennessee, [Tony] Bethel's a talented kid with a decent assist to error ratio, averaging 12 points a game and shooting 85 percent from the foul line. Riley is one of the bigger guards we'll face at 6-6 and 215, averaging 15 a game. So I hope that our guards play well but I'm concerned about their guards as well.
On the improved offensive production the last few games-
I think a couple of things. One, we're taking better care of the basketball. I think we're more patient and setting better screens and hitting the open man. Guys understand their roles better on who the shooters are and who the screeners should be. Defense has been creating some offense for us with turnovers and as a result we're getting layups in transition. And fourthly I think Melvin Scott has added a lot. His ability to shoot the ball when he's open, he's been knocking down shots. Those has been the biggest four keys in us being able to score more points.
To what extend does the improved offensive efficiency recently stem simply from Raymond's grasp of everything?
That's a big part of it. He had 14 assists and 2 turnovers last night. He understands the offense, the secondary break, the half court offense, he's picking his spots when to make the great passes, he's being patient letting the home run play come. I think overall the team is doing a better job of being patient, moving the ball, making the extra pass, screening better. Knowing who should shoot what shot. One of the hardest thing to coach is shot selection because everybody in high school when they had the ball it was a good shot. In college that's not the case. Guys like David Noel have passed up some shots he may have taken earlier in the year. Against DePaul he had an open jumper in front of their bench, passed it to Raymond. Raymond missed it but David Noel got the offensive rebound for the dunk. We'd rather have David on the offense boards and Raymond shooting it, then some people shooting three pointers and not having anyone on the offensive boards. That's one of the biggest adjustments high school players have to make when they get to college.
How would you assess the defense that David Noel has played?
I'd say nothing short of unbelievable what David Noel has done for this team. You go back to the Wake Forest game he starts off on Eric Williams then goes to Danelius then to Josh Howard. Against Duke at home he goes from guarding Shelden Williams to J.J. Redick. In this game here he graded out as our second best defender behind Raymond. Raymond was 55/5 to the way we grade good/bad defense plays. David was 48/3 and he doesn't complain – he goes in and battles. And on the offensive end he does the little things that we as coaches appreciate. Will Johnson got a wide open shot on the left hand corner because of David's screening. Jackie Manuel got a reverse layuup in the post because of David's post feed. He's a heck of a walk-on.
What is the status of Jackie's foot right now?
I don't think it's 100 percent, I don't think it's ever been 100 percent this year. Against St. John's, Jackie almost didn't play. I told him ‘Jackie, you at 50 percent is better than a lot of guys at 100 percent.' And he went in and did a very good job I thought defensively in that game. So it's not 100 percent, but I think that won't be 100 percent until after the season when he gets a lot of rest.