After reviewing the film, what were the issues with rebounding against UAB and did you anything to fix moving forward?
“A little bit of everything. They were just so much more active. That would be the major part of it. We have some size. They have some quickness. If it’s going to be a tip, the size guy is going to get it but if it’s just coming off of the board the first time the guy with the quickness and explosiveness then the quicker reaction time is going to get it. I think it was that they were so intense and that’s been a huge part of their game. You look at their totals. It was something that we wanted emphasis on and I thought we did emphasize it but it didn’t carry over to the game.”
Comments on inability to get to the free throw line:
“They really did a nice job defensively. It’s always a two way street. It’s never just what we did. You’ve heard me say that many of times, you’ve got to give the other team credit. We weren’t able to establish an inside game. Then also, they really did a nice job of shadowing the people on the perimeter and making it hard for those guys to get shots. Then is not an indictment on the officiating by any means but to play 17 minutes with one foul is pretty remarkable. Again, it’s not an indictment on the officiating. It was just one of those days that I felt like we were battling uphill after two and half minutes of the game. I felt like I was battling uphill the whole game.”
Do you think we’re looking at the end of the semester type resolution in the cases of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald?
“You can answer that one yourself. I haven’t had a clue since June. There’s no way I’m going to have a clue now. What I say doesn’t make any difference. Nothing has changed.”
What happens if a game suspension is sentenced to McDonald and Hairston that exceeds the games they’ve already missed?
“My guess is we would not be able to have those games played. No, there’s nothing you can do. It’s just a process that’s still ongoing. I guess that’s our general statement.”
Comments on reaction towards the team following the losses suffered this season:
“They’ve been some times when I thought we stunk it up but Coach Smith always said, ‘Be careful what you say because you don’t know yourself until you watch it on tape.’ I have taken that to heart. I’ll give an example. After the Belmont, I’m like you guys. What were you thinking about that cost us the game after the Belmont game? Free throws. I was sitting here thinking the same thing. There was one possession at the end that we wished we’d coached it better but that was not what it was. It was a darn big thing. There’s no question about that but we were really bad defensively.
"I didn’t feel like we were good defensively but when I looked at the tape that was the big focus. That’s the reason too. I did say it but I meant two or three games in 20 years that I’ve really jumped them. I’ve jumped them in the locker room after wins hundreds of times. Jawad Williams had a great line in one his articles. He said, ‘Coach Williams had a way of making you feel terrible after wins.’ He realized later that I was pushing. I’ve been hard on them hundreds of times after wins but I think in the locker room itself right immediately after the game two or three times.”
Is there anything apparent that shows the difference in your team’s play between the Louisville win and the losses to UAB and Belmont?
“Not really. I go back to what every coach says and say if I knew what it was then I would’ve already changed it kind of thing. Our margin is really small. In ’09, we could play really poorly and still win a lot of games. We could play without Ty Lawson. We could play without Tyler Hansbrough and some of those guys against pretty good teams and still win. We don’t have that margin. As a coach what you’d like to have is that you could win by 30 or lose by two. That’s the margin that you’d like to have. Right now, our margin is not really big and it’s not really good on the positive side. We have to play really well.
"That being the case, it’s like golf. You can’t just think you’re going to shoot 75 and nobody’s going to pass you. You’ve got to shoot 65 if you don’t want people to pass you on the PGA Tour. I think that’s a little bit of it right there. We’ve got to play really well right now. We did that in a lot of ways against Louisville. I would think that Rick (Pitino) would probably say he was a little disappointed in some of the things that his team did. I don’t want to speak for him but it’s always a two way street. The other team has to help a little bit. Belmont just defensively was what it was. Yet if we made free throws we still would’ve won the game but we didn’t play well. UAB was a lot of different things.”
What do you think the margin is between your team and Michigan State heading into Wednesday night?
“There’s no question they have more experience and more experienced talent but you still get to play the game. They have I don’t how many guys on their team that were on the team for the aircraft carrier and many of them played significant roles in that game. We had two or three or four or five or six points still on our team but they’re really good. Tom Izzo does a great job. He’s a good as a person as you can be. He’s a tough guy. I love watching his teams play. I love everything about the way he coaches, the way he controls himself and the way he conducts himself.
"I just think he’s the epitome of what a great college basketball coach should be like. It starts right there. He works extremely hard in recruiting. I think I try to work harder than everybody and I go to a lot of places and Tommy’s sitting there with me so you have the greatest respect for him and their program. What Tommy’s done with that club in the past 15 years or however long he’s coached has just been incredible. There’s a margin now in their favor. There’s no question but you still get to play.”
How can you simulate the physicality and the play of Michigan State before going on the road to face the Spartans?
“You can’t. That’s the bottom line. James Manor is a great kid but he’s not (Keith) Payne. Wade Moody’s not Gary Harris. You can’t simulate it. You can talk about it and explain it and make sure they’re not surprised by it. I tell you one thing that we do have right now hasn’t shown up in games yet but we’ve had pretty good practice against two guys who can really shoot the daggum basketball. Just make us look silly and so we’ve had some experience in practice with that about as good as anybody we’re going to face. I think that’s the bottom of it.”