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Opening Statement –
Needless to say we’re very pleased. I think we caught Vermont on a night when things didn’t go as well for them. We were really active defensively. We talked to the guys about trying to challenge them to do the job defensively and I think we’ve gotten better and better since the season started. In the first half, the first six or seven minutes I was not pleased with the way we played. I called a timeout and jumped them a little bit and after that I thought we were really good. We were very active on the ball, cut off the passing lanes, tried to pay special attention to [Taylor] Coppenrath and I think our big guys got some help but also Jawad and Sean and Marvin did a nice job. On [T.J.] Sorrentine I thought Raymond was sensational. Defensively we were just extremely active. We didn’t shoot the ball very well, particularly in the first half – didn’t make as many shots as we’d like – but I’ve always talked about the defensive end of the floor, the intensity and urgency should be there every night and I thought that was the key to the game.
And let’s not make this a big deal – Rashad got to the gym later than he was supposed to. I didn’t start him – he missed his first turn – but he still played 24 minutes, 19 points. I told him his freshman year and last year I don’t think he would have reacted as well as he did this time. I was very pleased with how mature he was and how he handled himself. I sent him out on the court for warm-ups and Coach Holladay reminded me that he had heard one time about a guy also getting caught in traffic and didn’t start the game and that was Michael Jordan in New York City at the Holiday Festival. So we didn’t start him that night and I told him that during warm-ups and I think that made him feel better. He was very disappointed, there’s no question about that.
The importance of Quentin Thomas getting serious minutes right now –
I want to play him a little bit more. He’s the only one of the top nine playing less than 10 minutes a game and I’d like to be able to get him to that point where he’d play at least in double figures. I think he’s getting better, though I got mad at him during that first half stretch because I thought he had a casual approach on one of his turnovers. But he’s getting better and it’s extremely important for us to get him playing time because I think he can be a big time player for us.
Jawad Williams’ defensive performance tonight –
Jawad is a good defender and has worked extremely hard at it. He wanted the challenge. You have to give him help with Coppenrath because he’s such a focal point of their offense. I did think he did a good job of fronting him and when they did swing it side to side he didn’t get caught behind.
Is there an area or two you want to see this game improve on?
Every area of the game we can get a heck of a lot better. We’re nowhere near where I think we can be defensively. Offensively we need to make plays instinctively. I think we can really get a lot better.
On team chemistry –
There have been some commentators that have said our team chemistry is really bad and that’s why they’ve had doubts about this club. Team chemistry depends on how important the team wants to make it. I think this group has chosen to make it really important. [With] Rashad being late and not starting, the team came together and said, ‘We’re going to play.’ Rashad was cheering for the guys from the sideline. He had a tough day with the officials, but very positive on the defensive end of the floor. Losing the first game and bouncing back after that, I’d say [this team] has done a nice job.
Melvin Scott’s role this season –
Melvin has been fine. His ankle was hurting him tonight. He hurt it early in the game and tried to play through it. At the end, he showed he couldn’t go and took himself out of the game. But I think in Maui he played great basketball for us. The Southern Cal game was the only game that I was disappointed in the way he played. I’m not into individual things – I’m into what is best for the team. Jackie was our best defender last year and I said if it’s even this year in preseason practices I’m going to start Jackie. And Jackie had a great preseason and that’s the reason he’s starting. But I think Melvin is extremely important to us.