Well, it was a weird game about going into shoot-around today and finding out that I’m not going to have Marcus (Paige)—it was a shock to say the least. And when you go to the shoot-around and you find out you don’t have Marcus and Dexter (Strickland) is not at the shoot-around because he had a class assignment, a performance for a children’s literature class—that is a good class, understand that. You do that and Dexter have about a six-hour class thing today and then come over and find out that Marcus is hurt and [Dexter] finds out he is going to be the starting point guard it is a shock to him.
Then their lineup was hard for Brice (Johnson) and Joel (James) to get out and guard people on the floor. They are freshmen, they are going to get better. I told them they came here at 18; they’ll probably be here until they are 55, but sometime between now and then they’ll be able to guard guys out on the floor. But that is what made us go small. We did that in the Butler game, it helped us. We didn’t have P.J. against Indiana—it probably wouldn’t have helped us there the way we did some other things.
Offensively, we did some nice things, we have guys who can shoot the ball. James Michael (McAdoo) was making baskets inside, we are stretching the defense, we get Dexter a couple of drives for layup, P.J. (Hairston) a couple of drives for layup, and a bunch of 3-point shots.
Defensively, we weren’t very good, but we’ve got to continue working on it. Everything looks pretty when the ball goes in the basket, except when the other team’s got it and we keep giving up good shots to them.
Jerod (Haase) did a great job. His team was ready to play. One kid, #44, was it Jordan Swing? We are trying to guard him like crazy and he is 5-5 from the 3-point line. That team worked their tails off, and that doesn’t surprise me because I knew that’s the way that Jerod would coach them.
For us, looking down and having six guys in double figures. Brice kept us in the offense in the first half. He was our offense in the first half, and then the 3-point shooters started making shots in the second half. To shoot 72 percent basically and shoot 11 three-point shots, that’s pretty impressive on the offensive end, but we’ve got to get a lot better.
What changed during the stretch in the second half when the lead was bouncing back and forth between five and nine and then you stretched it out?
I’d like to give you a better answer, but when say this I think you’ll understand: I don’t ever look at the score unless it gets to be the last four minutes, I really don’t. I don’t know which stage you are talking about, but I know during that stretch they went zone and we went small. I think for the first two or three possessions they were in zone we made 3-point shots. But again, I don’t really look (at the scoreboard). If you see me I am looking at the backboard because it shows how much time is left in the game. That’s what I look at, but I think that’s probably when you are talking about because I felt like we were really doing well at that time. And sometimes during a timeout, 12-8, I might look at the score at that point, but I couldn’t pinpoint it down exactly when it was.
During that moment when you became really upset and lost the jacket and the clipboard, that kind of thing, what was the main thing that bothered you?
If I say, ‘Pick up the other team’s point guard at the 10-second line,’ that’s what I mean. It’s an easy deal. If I tell my three-year-old grandson to pick that cup up (picks up cup and sets it down), my guess is he will probably pick it up. And that’s all the crap it is just do what I tell you to do. (Sarcastically)And besides I was really hot and wanted my coat off.
Do you see yourself going small more and more, or is that strictly a matchup thing?
Well, you think about it—when teams went small against us in the past we had John or somebody experienced to slide his feet, going all the way back to Tyler Hansbrough. Tyler had the best feet of any big guy I’ve ever coached, and right now it’s more difficult for Joel, Brice, those guys to get out there. They are going to get better at it, but I hope we don’t have to go small by necessity like we did against Butler. Today we went small because I thought it would help us. We’ll play that lineup; it’s hard to guard, but we’ve got to do a better job on the defensive end to protect the goal.
What did Dexter do well at the point tonight that you liked?
Nine assists—I think that was good for him. It wasn’t very smooth, particularly early. It got a lot smoother in the second half as we got into the game, and I thought he did a nice job defensively. No one did a very good job at particularly picking up and building outer ball pressure. Nine assists for Dexter. And again, when we move the ball and all of a sudden we’ve got a little spacing, Dexter has the ability to take the ball to the basket. That was something that helped us tonight too. It’s a hard thing to all of a sudden to find out you are going to play, instead of six-to-eight minutes at the point you are going to play 25 minutes or whatever it was, twenty-nine.
Overall, is this the kind of response you wanted after the other night at Indiana?
Yes, except for the defensive end of the floor. Fans were even wondering why they were getting six shots and that kind of stuff. We’ve got to get better.
What is Marcus’s prognosis?
I really have no idea. I mean I just know that he couldn’t dribble and cross-over dribble because he couldn’t take his arm that way, and he couldn’t pass, so he couldn’t make a chest pass, and I’ve never really liked point guards that couldn’t dribble or couldn’t pass. Only thing he could do is shoot. But I really don’t—go talk to the doctors after you leave here.
What did you think of Leslie’s play tonight?
Made some shots in the second half. I don’t remember what he was at halftime, but 5-8 from the three-point line, five assists, one turnover—I think Steve (Kirschner) told me that was a career-high assists for Dexter and a career-high for assists for Leslie too.
Joel (James) got his first career start tonight. Is he coming along at the pace that you thought he would?
You never know. I don’t think I’ve ever said that so-and-so would be ‘here’ or ‘here’ at different points. Brice has had good moments, Joel has had good moments, Des(mond) Hubert has had good moments. I think now all three of those guys have started. If we had to play a game right now and start another game, I really don’t know who I would start at that spot. Joel is a big youngster who is going to be a very, very good player for us down the line.