“Since we talked last, we've had a sensational first half score-wise over in Durham, and then an awful second half score-wise. But we did some good things in that first half that helped us. You have to congratulate Duke and what they did and made shots and outhustled us for the loose ball and the long rebounds and those kind of things. It was a great comeback for them. You have to congratulate them.
“At Clemson, we knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. I think both teams would have liked to have shot it better. Both teams would have liked to have handled it better, but you've got to give each other's teams defense a little credit for that. Not all of it, because both of us, and I think Brad would probably say the same thing, we turned it over unnecessarily sometimes.
“But we made some really nice plays down the stretch and got them to miss some shots. All of a sudden, when we got it up to 7 or 8 or whatever it was, they made three out of four threes in the last 23 seconds, so that wasn't very comfortable. I loved the way our guys did go to the free-throw line and knocked them in. Especially Kendall making 10 out of 11. It was a mixed week for us.”
Your team going into the Duke game had won five in a row, 10 out of 11. You mentioned what kind of great performance they had throughout the first 30 minutes of that game. Tough, heartbreaking loss. You come back and win in a very tough environment in Littlejohn at Clemson. What have you learned about your team winning 11 of the last 13 games?
“Well, I like the toughness part of it. I really do. That we haven't gotten frustrated and backed up you, we haven't gotten frustrated and gone belly-up. Even when things aren't going smoothly, they keep trying, keep trying, keep trying. And then we find somebody, some way, somehow to make some plays. That part has been the most positive thing about what our record is and what the results have been to date. It's just that kind of performance. But it was a tough scenario down there. After such a major disappointment over in Durham because we did some good things over there. But you have to congratulate Duke because they did them better.”
When you look going forward from this point, your Achilles’ heel at certain times in the second half against Duke was some outside shooting. What were you going to do to improve upon that? What guys will you look to to step up on the perimeter?
“Well, we did need to make some more shots, but we needed them to miss some on our defense. Limiting them to one shot was much more of a negative than our inability to shoot the ball. I think that we were 2-for-14 Saturday against Clemson. I've said all year I think we can be a good shooting team, and we haven't shot it that well in many games. We've had some big shots that we've made and we have a couple of games where we made some.
“But we're going to keep practicing it, and trying to make sure had they understand the difference between an average shot and a real good shot. If you take more of those real good shots, more of them go in.”
You were just saying the word toughness several times in response to an earlier question. I didn't hear you say much of that going into ACC play. I heard you talk about how you were worried about the passive nature of this team. That seems to have changed a lot in the past month. Was there a seminal moment when you noticed your team becoming more aggressive?
“I don't know what a seminal moment is (laughing). But I'll tell you that I talked to our guys when we got into ACC play we had to raise our level of play in every area. I think the Virginia game gave us the first opportunity to do that on the road and play and make plays down the stretch after it had been such an ugly game. It did give us some confidence, and we've been able to do that a couple more times.
“We didn't do it at Georgia Tech by any means, and Duke out-toughed us in the second half particularly over there in Durham. But I do think that we've shown some mental toughness. At Duke, I think their sense of urgency in the second half was so much bigger than ours. That's part of toughness too. I think since we got into ACC play, we have shown those qualities and traits, and I think it's something we have to have.”
There's only been one or two exceptions in your career where it doesn't seem like your team is a complete extension of you. Obviously, last year would be an example of that. I know you kept saying over and over again about how you would tell the team something and they'd still go up there and make a mistake. It seems like this team as the year has gone on has been more and more of an extension of you?
“One thing I thought was this team would get better as the season went on. I really believed that, and I believe we've had that happen. We've faced some significant adversity too. But they've still been mentally strong enough to get through those times and pull together even a little bit more. For the most part, our guys are improving. I think they're getting better. It's a steady process for us. I've felt this team would be that way, and so far they have done that, and I hope will continue it too.”
Last year obviously you were just overwhelmed with injuries. But there's been a good fortune this season for you. It hasn't been the case with a lot of places around the league. With Mike Scott, Lorenzo Hudson, obviously, Kyrie [Irving]. Can you recall a season where more prominent players have gone down with major injuries?
“Last year with us.”
Aside from that?
“It is college basketball. Even the year before last you think about it – Tyler Hansbrough was out, Ty Lawson was out and Marcus Ginyard missed basically the whole season. So it's part of college basketball. It's not a pleasant part by any means when your club is the one that's going through it so, so much. Last year as I said, we missed 48 games of our top eight guys. Those kind of things just wipe you out.
“There is no consistency. There is no dependability from one game to the next who you're going to have and what that teammate is going to do. So it is extremely difficult. The quality of the players we lost in the league this year has just been mind boggling too.”
It seems like it's been feast or famine lately with your team from the three-point line. Clemson and Duke 14.3%, FSU 40%. Do you like the shots your team is taking from out there? Are you surprised by the lack of consistency?
“I'm surprised by the lack of consistency, yes, because we make a lot of shots in practice. I think that Duke and Clemson both did a nice job of challenging those three-point shots. Florida State did a nice job of challenging the three-point shots. Florida State we had two three-point shots blocked, which means you shouldn't have been shooting them in the first place.
“So we've got to do a better job of choosing which ones to shoot. We've got to get better movement of the ball and the people, so when we do get that shot, it will be a little more open. It takes special players to make guarded threes. I mean, Wayne Ellington can make guarded threes. [Rashad] McCants was a tremendous shooter even when he was being guarded from deep. Right now we haven't shown many guys that can do that, so we've got to do a better job of getting even more open.
“I think in the Duke game Seth Curry made some shots where I thought we guarded him. Nolan made some shots where I thought we guarded him. So that's something that you'd like to be able to do, but you don't want to make a living on shooting those shots to begin with.”