“Needless to say, I feel a heck of a lot better today than I did last Monday after we got kicked so badly at Florida State. We did some really nice things, particularly in the second half, against Virginia Tech. I thought it was the best defense that we’ve played all year, the most active we were around the basket defending the goal. I thought that was directly related to our better play on the offensive end as well. Now we’re getting ready to play North Carolina State, who is a hot basketball team. They had a great road win at Miami. This was our bye weekend, we didn’t play anyone over the weekend as you know, so we tried to give our guys a couple of days to try to let them get their legs back because after the Florida State game we worked them really hard.”
Have you decided how you’re going to handle the starting lineup?
“We haven’t even talked about it very much, but yesterday in practice we put Reggie [Bullock] in there and I would assume that’s the way it would stay, unless something weird happens in practice. Reggie’s gotten better defensively and he’s really started giving us a lift rebounding the basketball on the offensive board and the defensive board I think that he deserves it and knows more about what’s going on that P.J. [Hairston], for example. But I know that there’s 25-30 minutes a game there that somebody’s going to have to pick up and my guess is that it will be a combination of a lot of guys. But unless something strange happens, we will start Reggie.”
Was there any consideration to Leslie McDonald pulling off his red-shirt? Was that even considered?
“It really wasn’t. I grabbed Leslie last night and told him as far as I was concerned, it didn’t change his situation. Where it hurts the most with Dexter is having that backup point guard. That’s where it hurts the most. We’ve had Reggie playing and Harrison [Barnes] and P.J., those three guys have spent a lot of time at the wing spots with Dexter, so we still have three of the four, but where it really becomes harmful is that backup point guard role.”
How much more playing time do you anticipate Kendall Marshall having to play?
“It remains to be seen. We’re going to try to give Stilman [White] some time there. We’re going to try to do a little more work on the passing game not having a true point guard and see how that works out. We’ll try to see what John Henson or Tyler Zeller look like out there – you never can tell. But right now, Dexter probably has been giving us three minutes or so each half, and that’s just a guesstimate kind of thing, at the point guard spot. And Kendall’s played the rest, so we’ve got to find a way to get Kendall a little bit of a break each half. Stilman White will be asked to do it and then again we’ll be looking to see what else we can possibly have.”
Did it help having the bye weekend to figure out how to replace Strickland?
“I’m sure it does, but we really haven’t practiced that much. We came back and we’re getting in here at the Smith Center at 2:30 in the morning on Friday and so we gave them Friday off. And then Saturday we just had a shooting period, so [Sunday] was the first practice that we had. Now, there’s no question that you’d rather have it this way as opposed to playing Thursday night at Virginia Tech and then playing Saturday, but it’s something that we’ve got to work on and keep working on. Having these extra couple of days here will hopefully help us.”
On the significance of Strickland’s loss:
“People say, ‘Oh, he was only averaging six points a game,’ but that’s a big-time loss for us. He was our best perimeter defender. He gave us some minutes at the backup point guard spot He could really run to help our break. He’s a big-time loss for us and hopefully somebody will step up and be able to do a much better job defensively each and every night to make up for Dexter.”
Is there anybody else that can run the point other than Stilman White? Is he your first option at trying to fill those three minutes per half?
“Yes, there’s no question. We’ve had this before. Every team goes through some spots where you lose a key backup or even worse, a key starter. You just have to prepare for it. Larry Drew leaving last year left a big gap in our program because it’s hard to find a point guard in the spring. We knew that this could happen; it has happened. Now we have to deal with it. I may just decide to play a 2-3 zone the whole game and put Kendall in the middle and tell him never to foul. We’ll try to make sure he stays in the game without foul trouble.”