While the recent balanced scoring is a good thing, is there any concern over not having a go-to guy if the need arises?
“I’ve had teams where there definitely was a go-to guy, but in ’09, for example, who was our go-to guy?”
“But down the stretch, who was our leading scorer? Ty Lawson. And who was the MVP of the Final Four. Wayne Ellington. So I like it when everybody’s the go-to guy. That’s what I like. In ’05, Sean May was the MVP of the tournament, but who made the big baskets? Marvin Williams tipped it in and Raymond Felton made a big three at that time as well, so I don’t think you have to have just one guy to go to. Depending on what the situation is…
"Against Texas, we’re down three and we run a set play for Harrison [Barnes] off the ball and he made it. There was another time against Texas where we tried to go inside to ‘Z’ as we were going down the stretch. But if you’ve got one guy who is head and shoulders above everyone else, he’s the guy you want to go to.
“In the national championship game in 1982, who was our go-to guy? Everybody will say Michael because he made the shot, but Big James was the stud of the whole game. What I love is balanced scoring. I love everybody being able to put the ball in the basket. And, some guys are better at scoring than others. Some guys can score against a defense. Some guys have to be wide open, so I think your team has to go through a procedure all of the time to find out who can make shots in what situations. But I’ve never thought that it was great to have one guy you’re going to go to down the stretch on every possession… I don’t worry about having a go-to guy right now, because what we want to do is for everyone to do the best they can.”
On the season thus far:
“We’re 10-4 right now. The teams that have beat us have been good basketball teams. Still, I feel like we were right in position to take the Texas game, but we didn’t close the game. And that’s the one that’s discouraging right now. Each year there are games that you look back on and just hate because you have an opportunity to win and you’ve just got to take advantage of that. We could have won [against] Minnesota, we could have won [against] Vandy, but yet they played better than we did.
"Illinois was going to be hard to win. They played great. It was hard going in there – that was one of the loudest crowds that I’ve ever been around. Actually, I’d like to be 14-0, but realistically, the Texas game is the one that hurts the most because we were in position to win and we didn’t win. But it is what it is… I think we’re getting better.”
Do you think this team is tough enough defensively to challenge in the ACC?
“We’re not as tough as I want us to be defensively, there’s no question. I spend a lot of time talking about toughness, and not just diving on the floor and taking charges, but sticking your nose in there with the loose ball. I don’t think there’s any question that Tyler Zeller stands in there and takes some big time charges. He is tough enough in that phase of the game. Is he tough enough to handle a double team in the post where they’re slapping him and the referees are not calling it or whatever? There’s different phases of that. And I think it’s something that we’re talking about [and] we’re working on it. It’s hard to make a guy tougher, it is, but there’s no question that you can give 100 percent effort and stick your nose in and come up with some loose balls.
“And there’s another part of being tough. Yesterday, Dexter [Strickland] slaps the ball loose and runs it down in front of the scorer’s table… There’s only two players that I’ve ever coached that could have gotten that ball, and it’s Ty Lawson and Dexter Strickland. In some ways that’s toughness in that you don’t just give in and say, ‘Well, I can’t get that.’ But there’s no question that we need to do a better job of that and that I want some more of that.”
How concerned are you about poor free throw shooting coming down the stretch in a close ball game?
“Well, I am concerned about it. In the Kentucky game, we made a bunch of free throws down the stretch, so it hasn’t bitten us yet. Our percentage is not that bad except for John [Henson]. John is really struggling, to say the least, and it hurts us at the end of the game because you have to make the decision of do you have your best shot blocker in the game and know that they’ll probably foul him when you go to the offensive end.
“We are concerned about it and we change the line up at the end of games, which we’ve done for years. I always think it’s best to have your best free throw shooters in the game at the end, and if they’re not your best defensive players, then you hope that you can do some platoon work. We’re concerned about it. We shoot them every day….
“I can’t remember if it was last week or the week before, but we did a special period where we shot 100 free throws. John made 74 out of 100. And he’s been doing that all of the time, but it’s just one of those mental things that he’s got to get past. And I tell you what – [on Sunday], he was 3-of-6 and the last two that he shot, both of them looked great. One went in and one didn’t. What you’re trying to do is to get his technique and his form [right], and then at the same time, trying to relieve some of that pressure for him.”
The majority of them look good when he shoots them. I know he’s had a few that come up short, but most of them look good when he releases them –
“Well, some of them do, but some of them look God awful, too. That’s the bottom line. If you’re short and right and both long and left, you stink, that kind of thing. But he’s working on it. He’s shooting extra. We’re trying not to make too big of a thing about it, because it just gets worse.”
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