Do you feel your team is more comfortable facing zone defenses at this point in the season opposed to earlier in the year?
“Well, at this time of year you should be more comfortable with everything because we’ve had 75 practices. We have been practicing a great deal against the zone because we haven’t shot the ball very well. We don’t have a team full of Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson shooters so you do need to work on it more and we do work on it more. We’ve added a few more set plays this year than we’ve had in the past and I think that the kids are getting a little bit better at understanding what is a good shot and what’s not a good shot against a zone. I think it’s really just practice and working on it and them understanding a little bit more about what we want to do.”
Do you limit this team to taking jumpers in the fast break and what kind of board coverage do you expect when that takes place?
“Well, it depends, I used to say all the time on a pitch ahead that nobody should pull up and shoot a three until we had Wayne Ellington. I said ‘Wayne you can go ahead and do it’ because he can shoot the basketball. We have that philosophy now on the pitch ahead that we should not pull up and shoot a three. We should try to take the ball to the basket on a pitch ahead. If it’s two on one then we should get a layup. Right now, this year’s team, last year’s team, the first team I ever coached, if it’s two on one and a guy pulls up and shoots a jump shot then I am not happy. Two on one you should get a layup. Three on two you should get a shot within two passes, so we do have rules and philosophies and principles that we follow. The guys who can really shoot, I give them a little more leeway. The guys who can’t shoot, C.B. McGrath has a great line that we don’t like to recruit shooters we like to recruit makers. Everybody in here can shoot but I like guys who can make them. It depends on who it is...We chart every shot in every practice, so we get these statistics all the time. I know who can shoot, so if a guy who is not a good shooter shoots the ball, the next horn means he’s probably coming out of the game.”
On possible weather issues Wednesday night for the Duke game:
“I’ve been a head coach for 26 years, an assistant for 10 and I’ve never had one cancelled. We played at Maryland a couple of years back when they had 44 feet or maybe it was 44 inches of snow. We played down in Atlanta when it was gridlock for 24 hours on the interstate. We went to New York a couple of years back when we couldn’t go up the day we wanted to go and had to go the next day. We’re going to play the game, bottom line, we’re going to play the game. My guess is they’ll get their butts there for TV.”
On Marcus Paige’s status after taking a spill during the Notre Dame game:
“Marcus was fine at practice today. We watched that play, we ran it back and forth and watched it in slow motion. It was really unusual because he just took a bad step. He banged a little bit with J.P. (Tokoto) and then he took a false step and then he sort of took another one and then he banged into a photographer’s knee on the end. He got up pretty quickly and they stopped play for a second and I asked if he was all right and he said he was fine. It didn’t bother him. He got treatment yesterday and he felt fine today at practice. The funniest thing is when he made one of those turnovers I said, ‘What are you doing?’ and then all of a sudden I realized there’s this lady saying, ‘What are you doing?’ and it was his mother yelling at him from behind the bench. She’s the best and Marcus is in good shape.”
Do you have an opinion on what you’d like to see happen with possible Smith Center renovations?
“Well, we’re just beginning the process. We’re looking into it to see about renovations and how much it would cost or a new building and how much that would cost. The Smith Center has been absolutely fantastic. There’s some things that need to be tweaked in there and I’d like to think we’re looking at it in a productive manner and trying to decide what is best for the whole university and I think we will do that. It’s not going to be anything that’s done by the end of next season -- that’s for sure -- but we are looking to see what we can do to improve a great arena or change. I think those discussions are a long way from being at the end.”
Do you have a set rotation with your big men or do you just go with the flow of the game?
“Mostly you go with the flow of the game. Coach Smith used to say a game plan was good for the first six minutes and then you have to go by the seat of your pants. When Kennedy starts, I don’t play him eight or nine minutes without getting him a rest. I try to get Brice in there and if he’s making shots then he’s more valuable. Joel, with his size … And Desmond is one I didn’t play in the first half (against Notre Dame) but then we were having trouble with (Garrick) Sherman in the second half so I put in Desmond to see if he could help us with that. It depends on the flow of the game and really depends on the offense the other team runs. If they have a low post player, that gives Kennedy, Joel, Desmond more of an opportunity to play. If they take their low post player out to the three-point line, then it’s hard for our guys to get out there. You don’t want to take away your advantage on the offensive end, but you’ve also got to match up with people.”
How do you slow down Duke’s three-point shooting (they come in shooting 42 percent as a team)?
"Well, 42 percent is really impressive. We have nobody on our team, no individual, shooting 42 percent. Marcus Paige has done a nice job from the three-point line, but he's nowhere close to that. But the real problem is what you said secondly that they have four, five and six guys. If the team's shooting 42 percent from three but only two guys are doing it you can do some things defensively, but they really spread the floor, have a lot of guys shooting three-point shots and it does make it difficult. The first thing you have to do is you have to do a good job guarding the ball so you don't have to help because that's what they do - they dribble penetrate, it sucks you in and then they throw it out to a three-point shooter. The second thing you've got to do is you've got to close out on the shooters and be able to challenge the shot and some of your bigger guys have to get out on the floor too. It's a very difficult situation. They're really a big time club and that's the biggest problem they present but they do present a lot of them."
How can you take advantage of your size against the Blue Devils (the Tar Heels are, at least on paper, the bigger of the two teams)?
“Size is a real advantage if it’s a scoring size. … Other than Kennedy, we don’t have the good low post scorer. Brice is a mid-range, James Michael takes it to the basket. … Size is not as big a deal there. Now, you’ve got to be able to get out on the floor with them and they’re a perimeter-oriented team.”
What’s most important for your team to beat Duke?
“We’ve got to make shots – it’s a pretty simple game. We’ve got to put the ball in the basket. We hope that we can do a great job rebounding to get multiple shot opportunities. We hope we can play without turning it over. And we need them to shoot a lower percentage than they normally do. They’re a very, very good basketball team. I’m not just saying it - we need to play our best basketball game of the year to have a chance and hopefully that’s what we’ll do.”
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