We were much better in the second half. In the first half, our scrambles were good for them. Our double teams weren’t very good. We didn’t get a goaltender, and they mad the pass to the post-up area and got good shots out of it. The first half also, we didn’t shoot the ball well because we took bad shots. Three or four different times, or probably four or five different times, we had somebody shoot the ball when their teammate had a better shot. We talked about that at great length at halftime — about being more unselfish and getting a better shot and playing harder and doing a better job defensively. I think we did a much better job defensively in the second half. Our traps helped us as opposed to helping them. In the first half, as I said, I think it helped them. I thought James Michael was really efficient tonight, 11 for 14. That’s something you love having. Twenty-three points and 10 rebounds. Nate in the second half had six assists and zero turnovers. I thought Marcus was more effective in the second half. But really, you shoot 63 percent in the second half because you’re unselfish, you move yourself and you move the basketball. If you do those things, you’re going to get better shots. At halftime, they had 11 offensive rebounds, and they only ended up with 16. So I think we did a much better job on the backboards as well. It was a good night for us. We got some guys in the game. And my favorite play of the game was Wade. Wade had a chance to go down and lay it up, and he hadn’t scored all year. Instead, he didn’t hesitate, and he just passed it to Isaiah, and Isaiah dunked it. That was my favorite play of the game.
Heading into conference play, how do you feel about how prepared your freshmen are?
Well, you never know. I told them in the locker room that the level of intensity goes up about 10 levels, and you’d better be ready to go up with it, or just stay in the locker room. That’s what I just got finished telling them. It is a different level now, and the intensity, the level of play, the level of quickness, the level of strength, everything is so much higher now. I think they’ve done a decent job of preparing. I think their teammates have helped them get ready. We’ll have to wait and see what it looks like when we get over there on Sunday.
How do you feel about your team overall heading into conference play?
Well, you know, it’s strange because we really had two good practices before today’s game. We didn’t play like it in the first half. But I think this team understands that we’ve got to play better every day and work harder, and I think they’re doing that. You know, 10-3, we’d like to be 13-0. There’s no question. We had some really good wins and some tough losses. So it’s a time period that I think we’ve learned a great deal, and hopefully it will help us once we get into play. No coach is ever going to say that they’re satisfied with where they stand unless you’re 13-0 and beating everybody by a million.
Why did you start Kennedy Meeks at center?
Brice started the last two games and didn’t play well, so I decided to give Kennedy a shot. When Joel gets healthy, we might put Joel back in there. We could put Brice in there. I’m not married to any individual starting.
Are you comfortable with the development of Isaiah Hicks?
I’m not comfortable with it because I want everybody to be perfect, but I think he is progressing as we go along. He’s going to be a really, really good player. It’s similar somewhat to John Henson. We’re trying to allow him to play on the perimeter, and he’s not really a perimeter player. But yet he might be before it’s over. So long term, this might be something that’s really good for him. Right now, it’s not as comfortable. But I think we got him 12 minutes last game and 17 this game, so hopefully we’ll keep getting him some time and see if he can develop.
What are your thoughts on the passing of Coach Johnny Orr?
Johnny Orr. Boy, you guys missed something if you didn’t get to know him. He’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever coached against. He’s one of the funniest guys, one of the most sincere guys and cared about people. I think we’ve lost a guy who was great for coaches, was great for the Big 8 and the Big 12. He brought some excitement to Ames and Hilton Coliseum that was not there before. I loved him. He was a great mentor to me, and he was a great friend. I hate that it happened, and I hope everything is peaceful and OK with his family.
Is there an update on Stilman White and whether it’s possible for him to come back this season?
It’s really all up in the air right now because he just got in from his mission. I think he has some kind of injury to his foot. We don’t have a scholarship right now. So we’re trying to go through the motions ourselves to try to find out. We’re going to have conversations with Stilman. Eric Hoots already has had conversations with Stilman. Don’t make this out as I’m cutting anything. But if it’s hard for you to be on a mission because you have an injury, it seems to me like it would be fairly hard to be a basketball player. And I don’t know what all goes on with that. I haven’t had any conversations. Eric has had conversations. We’re trying to find out and make sure that we’re right in saying that we don’t have a scholarship for him because we don’t. But we do look into it and see what’s best for our program and best for Stilman. I love Stilman to death and feel that eventually he’ll be back as part of our basketball team. Whether it’s this year or not, I don’t know yet.
Given all the troubles recently, is it a good thing that 2013 is coming to an end?
If it changes. The last six or seven months haven’t been very pleasant for me. If things change and get pleasant, I’ll love 2014 a lot better than I did the end of 2013. But life throws you some adversity, and you’ve got to handle it. The new year has never been a big deal with me. One year when I was an assistant, the secretary asked me if I was going to go to any party or anything. I said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘Do you have any special thing planned?’ I said, ‘No.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Do you realize what day it is?’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ She said it was New Year’s Eve. With me, my grandson’s fourth birthday is tomorrow, and I’m going to enjoy the dickens out of that. The team is going to enjoy the dickens out of tomorrow because they don’t have to look at me. It’s an off day. So it’s going to be a wonderful start for 2014 for all of my players.
Comments about UNCW coach and former UNC player Buzz Peterson
Oh, and let me say one thing, too. What Buzz Peterson’s got is not an easy situation. He’s got 17 road games, and he’s got to try to make enough money to help their program, so he’s playing at Iowa, at Iowa State, at North Carolina. That’s a tough situation to be in. Buzz Peterson can really coach. I think his team was prepared tonight. In the first half, as I said, all of our scrambles were good for them and weren’t good for us because he did a nice job. But that situation there, when you have to play all of those guarantee games to help out your athletic department, is a very difficult thing to do. Buzz Peterson is a great friend, yes, but he can also coach, and that’s a hard situation. You’ve got 14 home games, 17 road games and all of those guarantee games to help out your athletic department.