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Listen to Audio (5:09)
That was a widely different performance in both halves. First half, they are 3-16 from the three-point line, and we shoot 56 percent; second half, they shoot 47 (percent) and we shoot 28. I was disappointed in our defense; we have been living off of our defense the past four or five games. If you've watched the games and know anything about basketball you would agree with that.
We haven't shot the ball very well. Today in the first half we made a bunch of shots—probably emphasized the three too much. Never got them in foul trouble; never got 'Z' involved and things like that inside. In the second half defensively we were not very good. They made shots—you have to congratulate them. T.J. Robinson was 3-4 from three-point line and he had made four all year long. They shoot it and you say 'OK' because it's him, but he made them and you have to congratulate the young man there.
Two things that killed us. T.J. was really a tough match-up for us. He was preseason all-conference for them so he is a good player. He averaged double figures rebounds for the entire year last year. He was a heck of a scoring machine for them today. The other thing is that we had a difficult time keeping Casper (Ware) out of the lane. They got way too many points in the lane.
It is unusual for us with the kind of team we have to go an entire team and not block any shots. I think, in fact, we were going for too many blocked shots, and then that was opening up the offensive board. A lot of times John may go for a block and Z would go for a block on the same shot, and it would leave the weak side rebounder open, so we talked about that. Put J. Knox in the very next play and he did the same thing.
You have to congratulate them. This morning I watched the tape of their game against Boise State at Boise state. Eight minutes to go in the game, they are down 10, (and) 4:29 to go in the game they are up five, so they have some toughness, they have some experience, they can make shots, and they did it against us.
Other than our defense, the other big thought in my mind is how pleased I was with our poise and toughness on the offensive end. We made shots. You stop somebody's run by making shots. Larry (Drew) made shots, and Harrison made shots. I think both of those guys were big for us offensively. They cut it to two, I think Larry made the first one. They go back down and cut it to two again, and then Harrison made one after that. We got some good execution, a couple set plays that got us a dunk and a layup.
Again, I was please with their poise down the stretch on the offensive end. We just didn't have it defensively today. We've been studying very, very hard for exams. We had six guys that had exams today; we had a bunch of guys that had exams yesterday. That's no excuse. I've always said during exam period (that) it's harder to be the home team because there is more stress and pressure on you than there is the road team because they don't have exams four hours before the game, and they don't have one the next day also. That's true, you can use it as an excuse, it's up to you. We didn't play very well defensively, and I was please with what we did offensively, which is, needless to say, a change.
Listen to Audio (2:40)
It looked like your teammates were looking for you in the first half, and you were just pumping them in.
(Laughing) I mean, well, I was knocking down shots, so I guess they realized that the next shot would fall in. I guess they were looking for me.
Were you just feeling it, were you calling for the ball, or was it just kind of how the offense was going?
Just how the offense went. I was finding the holes, the open holes, they were playing zone, and my teammates just found me.
Can you talk about the difference in you as a player at this point in the year, versus last year, when you admitted to us that you were pretty confused and it was tough.
For once, I'm more confident now, more confident in my shot. Last year, I wasn't really that confident. I was brought into a new environment, of course the college level, but this year, being a sophomore, I'm more confident in my shot, in the things I do, and my role on the team.
Do you feel loose out there, reacting a lot more?
Yeah, my main thing is to come out there and play defense and give it everything I got. I can't worry about being nervous.
Listen to Audio (3:41)
It looked like you were in a slump (offensively) at times in the early part of the season. Did you feel like you had to do more scoring since things weren't happening inside as much, especially late?
Ummm, I mean, yeah. I always want to stay aggressive and look for my shot. Coming into the second half, I think I had only scored two points, but we were up 14. They started making a run, and it didn't really seem like our inside game was where it has been the past couple of games. We were trying to get the ball into Z and to Justin Knox, but they were doubling down. The perimeter players, I just took it upon myself to be more aggressive.
You guys got 34 points off the bench tonight. That's got to be huge if you can get that kind of production.
Yeah, my boy Leslie.
He had half of them.
He had half of them?
Great. I mean, it's always good when guys are coming in—it seems like the past couple of games defense has been our strong point. Coach said they shot like 54 percent in the second half, and that's pretty disappointing to somebody like me who prides himself on defense. Our offense seems like it really hasn't been there, and it was the opposite tonight. But it's like that sometimes; that's why it's a game.
Has your confidence the last week—you played well down the stretch against Kentucky, and the second half you had a really strong game today. Has it been better the last couple games, or is it that shots are falling that weren't falling early on?
Yeah, I've been telling people (that) the shots I have been missing, I felt like they were all good leaving my hands. It's just—I felt like it was just a matter of time until I started shooting more and they started falling. I tried to listen to my dad; he told me to be more aggressive getting to the hole and looking for the mid-range game. The first shot I shot tonight was a three-pointer, and that's the shot I missed. He's right—I've got to start taking it to the basket more and looking for my mid-range game.
Listen to Audio (3:14)
Down the stretch it looked like you and Larry really took it on your back and made the offense click. What was the focus there toward the end?
Larry runs the show. He has the ball in his hands, he's the point guard, so we just go on his call. He got me involved, he got Leslie involved, he got Tyler Zeller involved at the end there, so he did a good job of finding people and creating his own shot.
Were you guys trying to go more into Z after he had a quiet first half?
Yeah, because you always need a post presence down low, and we didn't have that really in the first half. We just relied a lot on our outside shooting, so we definitely wanted to try to get it inside to Tyler, Justin Knox, and John Henson.
As far as numbers go, this was your best game of the year. Are things coming along the way you'd like them to?
Yeah, I'd say so. Right now we are 7-3, is that correct? The three losses, we definitely learned a lot from those, and we have a big game coming up here against Texas. I think we learned a lot, and I've learned a lot about myself.
What have you learned about yourself?
You have to stay positive, you have to keep working, there is always room for improvement, and the more work you put in will pay off.