Needless to say, it wasn’t very pretty until the overtime part, but during the overtime it was pretty. We feel very fortunate. We didn’t play nearly as well as we wanted to play, but in the overtime I thought everything we did ended up being OK for us.
We got such a terrible start; I didn’t think we were into the game, and then we get it back and get it tied and make two huge defensive errors the last two possessions of the first half and give them a three and a two. At halftime I think they had scored 11 points off of our turnovers, we scored five off of theirs, and it was a six-point game. We just had some silly turnovers and just two or three terrible defensive possessions.
I thought in the second half that we were much better defensively. James Michael really got on the backboards and every miss he was coming down with the rebound for us on the defensive board and then making some shots on the other end. You have got to win when some of your guys aren’t playing well and you don’t have everybody. We didn’t have P.J. (Hairston), and Reggie (Bullock) and Leslie (McDonald) were 1-13 from the three-point line, and we still had some guys to step up.
I thought Marcus (Paige) stepped up and made some big baskets for us. I was frustrated at the end because we missed both shots of a two-shot foul, James turns it over, Marcus turns it over. That was three of our last four possessions, so to be honest with you I felt lucky to be in the overtime.
I told the team: ‘This will be good for us, and I really believe that we can focus now for five minutes and everybody do your best.’ It worked out that Desmond got a big tip for us and then got a big block on the other end but we didn’t come up with the ball so they still had the possession.
I thought Dexter (Strickland), Reggie, Leslie and Marcus, all four of those guys worked really hard against Erik Green, and he is such a load. I thought Jarrell (Eddie) played very well—or shot the ball very well. I guess Coach (James Johnson) would have a better determination of how he played. Still we feel very lucky, but we feel good ‘cause it’s a ‘W.’ If they ever stop keeping score then I won’t care about who wins.
Can you talk about Marcus’s performance in overtime?
A couple of times during the course of the game—one time in the first half he had already made two three’s and Reggie turned down and open himself a three himself to pass it to Marcus. That’s when Marcus made his third. I’ve said all along that I think he’s going to be a really good shooter—he just hasn’t done it yet—and I still believe that. He made some big shots for us—made free throws for us, I think 3-4 from the free throw line, but in the overtime he was the most important player on the court for us.
Specifically against Green, what work the best, especially in the second half?
Well, we tried to keep fresh guys on him. Nothing works against him because he’s really, really good, and they set a lot of screens. They are legal screens, they are just hard to get through. I thought that Dexter and Leslie and Reggie—Reggie has a little more size that can bother him. When Marcus guarded him I thought he did a good job, but everybody had to be aware of him. Our big guys, when guarding a screener, they had to be alert and be in a stance. I think we got one foul where he dribbled off and attacked one of our big guys; other than that, the guys were always down in a stance. We were lucky to because he missed some shots that he makes, normally. Sixteen points for him—that’s not his average. But I feel good about the job we did; he is hard, hard to guard. I think he’s an elite player.
Were you please with some of the discipline that James Michael showed in the zone offense in the second half, not putting the ball on the floor and going straight up with the shot?
He showed a lot of discipline and a lot of maturity the whole game because I was so mad at him in the first five minutes of the game. I took him out and let him sit there for a while because he tried to dribble through a crowd when he’s got Marcus wide open on the edge over there. Another time he did the same kind of thing. We talked yesterday about everybody taking great shots, and great shots are ones where you are balanced, you have a good, solid foundation, then you have a better chance to make it. But I after the first five minutes I thought James Michael—you look and see five turnovers (for the game). I remember when he fumbled the ball trying to pass it when I was trying to get them to slow down, but I thought he was sensational for us after that first five or six minutes. That facing jump shot, he can shoot the ball. His biggest problem is that a lot of times he really rushes it. But you look down the line and we shoot 37 percent and he’s 8-12, so that means that he carried us for a long stretch.
He likes to put it on the floor, and there were several times where he didn’t—he went straight up and shot.
I like for him to take it on the floor until he loses it. If he takes it on the floor and drives in and dunks it that is fine, but he’s got to cut down on his turnovers and he knows that.
What went wrong with the 12-0 start for them?
I didn’t think we were as alert and into the game as we were. We miss a dunk on the first play, and then they make a layup. Then I think, Jarrell Eddie, we didn’t get out to him, and then on time there was a mix-up between Dexter and Reggie on a switch and the guy gets a wide open three. It just wasn’t very good basketball. I started just to stay there and leave it to see how many they could score in a row against us. I don’t ever think you lose or win in the first two or three minutes of the game. We were down here 10-0 one year to North Carolina State and came back and won. It was 12-0 and it was tied at 26 or 23 or something like that. We didn’t get off to a very good start, we did everything wrong.