On the key factor of Sunday’s win over Louisville:
“I told one of the writers before the game that it was going to be a battle, it was going to be two separate battles. One, who was going to win the full court battle? Were they going to make us turn it over or were we going to be able to get it down the court? And if we could get it down the court, then our inside play was going to be an advantage for us. The bad thing was you had to get through their advantage to get to our advantage, but we did. I think in the first half we had 24 points in the paint to their 12 and in the second half I think it was even more than that. But for us to win, we had to get it through that press to get it down to where we had the little advantage of the inside play.”
Did you think Marcus Paige was capable of scoring to that level?
“Yes. Everybody last year thought I was a freakin’ idiot because I said it all year long, but I said last year that he can really shoot the basketball. We called him the king of the in and out because it keeping going in and coming out. And I said that he’s going to be able to shoot the basketball. He was a scorer in high school. He scored 18 points in three minutes one time in high school. If you can shoot, you can shoot. It’s still 15 feet from the foul line, it’s still a 10-foot goal and that kind of thing.
“Athletically it would be great if he was a speed burner and all of that kind of stuff, but that’s who he is. Now, is he going to go 9-for-12? I’m not saying that. But I did think he can shoot the ball and I do think he can shoot the ball.”
It seems like Marcus has grabbed a leadership role with this team if he didn’t already have it.
“Well, this summer I gave it to him in front of everybody. I said: 'The leaders of this team are Marcus and James Michael [McAdoo]. You know why? Because I never have to talk to them about bad things. I’m tired of talking to the rest of you idiots. Those are going to be the leaders. I don’t care what class they are or anything. Everybody’s just got to accept it. It’s not going to change. So you can accept it or you can fight it, and you’re going to lose.'
“So it was a good thing for Marcus and James Michael. And then you have to credit everybody else because they’ve done a great job of falling in line. Even Leslie and P.J. in practice, they’ve backed off. They haven’t shown one time that they were jealous or one time that they were mad. They’ve been fantastic teammates.
“But Marcus and James Michael have accepted it. Marcus is getting a little cocky, though. Last night after the game James Michael had gone out to see his parents, and I said, ‘Alright, Marcus, you and James Michael talk and see if you want to wear coats and ties back or just warm-ups.’ He said, ‘I think we’ll go with warm-ups.’ And I said, ‘Don’t you think you should wait and talk to James Michael?’ He said, ‘I think James will agree with me.’ So now he’s decided to do it all by himself.”
Was the zone you ran against Louisville a 3-2 or a 1-2-2?
“I wanted something different because we weren’t stopping the dribble penetration and [Russ] Smith and [Chris] Jones are just so hard to keep in front of you. You have to back off of them and then they’re making their 3-point shots, so it’s almost impossible to try to guard by yourself. It is a 3-2 zone. We call it a 3-2 drop because the point man has to drop back in front of the low post when the ball is in the corner. When you start out and the ball’s out front, you’ve got three guys across the front line, two across the back. We have practiced it more this year probably the last two weeks than any two-week period in my entire coaching career. It’s just something that I thought we were going to need before the season really got going.”
Do you see the zone as a long-term plan for you?
“Well, it has to be right now because we’re still so short on personnel on the wings. We [gave] James Michael about as many minutes at the 3-spot yesterday as he did at the four. Personnel dictates it a lot. The personnel on the other team dictates it a lot. I have no idea how much we’re going to play it. I know we’re going to keep practicing it because we’ve got to get a lot better at it.”
What did you like about Brice Johnson’s play this weekend?
“Well, he shot the ball in the hole. Brice gives us that ability to score inside. He’s a good finisher around the basket. He’s got to be stronger and he’s got to have a great more intensity on the defensive end of the floor because if he’ll really get into a stance and do the things on the defensive end of the floor, then he’s even going to play more. But right now that’s where he needs to get the improvement going. At the same time, it is a scoreboard. You’ve got to have people to score. And Brice can score and he’s a good rebounder as well… Brice is really doing some good things for us and if we can get him to become a better defensive player, then it’s going to be even better.”
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