Well, a couple of things first. It’s a Thursday night, a couple of days before New Years, and a bowl game in Charlotte this afternoon—a lot of people there, like there should be—and I was very pleased that a lot of people made it back for the game tonight. I was really pleased, and if you’ll pass it along, maybe the word will get back to them, that the band was able to fight and get back here and get involved in it tonight, too. They had big time duties, and I’ve got to think if I’m a band member, going to a bowl game’s got to be a pretty big deal. For those kids to make it back to be here tonight I thought was great.
It was a little sloppy at times…. I think that one thing in the first half, I was really disappointed with the fact that we weren’t running back on the defensive end. They were getting too many open looks by just outrunning us going back. I always felt like my team ought to run hard in both directions, not just on the offensive but the defensive end. We got them to turn it over 22 times in the first half, but if they didn’t turn it over they were making shots. They shot 62%. So in the second half we talked about let’s still try to create turnovers, but if they don’t turn it over, let’s make them shoot a contested shot. They still had some looks for sure, but they didn’t shoot nearly as well the second half. They didn’t get as many open looks as they did the first half.
I’m pleased with the fact that we got six guys in double figures. That’s great. We like that. It wasn’t a typical game for Raymond to say the least, 8 assists and 7 turnovers, but he had 6 turnovers in the first half. It’s an up and down tempo game, and we’re going to turn the ball over, but I thought so many of them were unforced and bad decisions. But I’m really pleased with the way we tried to continue to play in the second half and do a better job on the defensive end of the floor. Six guys again, from 12 to 16 [points], means good balance, and I think you have to have that to be a very good team. Looking at it, one way to look at it, and probably the way I choose to, is we’ve got 11 wins. Eleven wins in December’s not bad. Eleven wins and it’s still December. But we’ve got to get a heck of a lot better. I know we have a game Sunday, and then the real fun starts with league play.
Can you comment on Raymond’s shooting?
Well, I think a couple of things. Last year he really had a bad year shooting the basketball. He’s such a strong willed person, he thought he could will it in. I used to talk with him about how Arnold Palmer would will his putts to go in, but Raymond couldn’t will it in because he had bad technique. But he believed it, and he convinced me to believe that it would start going in. But they didn’t. So we talked in the offseason about really working on his shot. He was getting his right elbow flying way out so he was almost shooting the ball from the left side of his face instead of the right side, so he worked extremely hard to get his right elbow underneath and to shoot from the right side of his head. Needless to say, knock on wood, because he’ll probably miss his next seven now that we’re talking about it. But I think his hard work is definitely paying off right now, and he’s also making great decisions about when to take his shot. He’s getting his feet set. So you’ve got two things in mind there. Great, great, great hard work has improved his technique, and he’s got good judgment to get his feet set and making sure it’s fundamentally sound when he shoots it right now.
How much does it help to have a point guard that other teams have to respect from the outside?
Well, it helps, there’s no question about that, but the most important thing is for the point guard to push the tempo at both ends of the floor. I’ve had some point guards that shot it very well like Kirk Heinrich who shot it really well and it made it difficult to match, and I’ve had some guys who didn’t shoot it really well. It is extremely important, but it’s not as important as those other two things.
Can you talk a little about how well Jawad Williams is playing?
Well, I feel like I’ve said it every time we get together. I went through the preseason and said he was the most consistent performer we had. He came to work every single day. I remember one day he had a hip flexor problem, and the trainer said he couldn’t practice. He came on the court and said to heck with it, I’m practicing today, and he went through the whole practice. Needless to say he’s a very good security blanket. He’s a guy that I can depend on. He’s a guy I’m very happy for, because he’s had one of those guys who’s gone through some tough times. But his play has been so consistent that it’s almost been spectacular, the level of consistency he’s had. And he’s done a much better job on the defensive end as well, not just shooting the ball.
On his level of displeasure with the play at the end of the first half:
You’re being kind. I was really ticked off, and you can add another word in there if you want to. You know, we weren’t sprinting back, and they were getting shots, and we were being dumb on the offensive end. I’d just put four fresh guys in less than a minute before, and we didn’t sprint back down the court. So I took them out. And those guys that came in would have been great if they’d made their free throws. They had four possibilities to get four points from the foul line and didn’t make but one of them. But at least they ran back on defense. And I was mad at Wes [Miller] too, because you don’t stand there and get a five-second closely guarded. You’ve got to play with better savvy than that. But still, they came back and guarded the last possession. I don’t think they were scored on in that time period. But I was a little upset at the other guys.
About the play of Melvin Scott of late:
Well, he made a couple of them in the first half, and he struggled a little in the second half. He got more shots up than anybody. Twelve shots in sixteen minutes, that’s a pretty good ratio. But Melvin at times has played really well, and I think the success of this team has been because of Melvin and David and Marvin and Quentin and those guys coming off the bench. Our play hasn’t gone down when they come in. Melvin in the preseason was working harder to do better things on the defensive end of the floor, but he couldn’t make a shot. I told him I wasn’t concerned about his shot, and yet Jackie was doing those same things, working extremely hard and playing great defense, and making shots and getting offensive rebounds. So I chose to put Jackie in the starting lineup over Melvin, and I think that’s been good, because teams do respect Melvin’s three point shooting ability, so it spreads the defense for us a little more. I’m pleased, you know, I’d like him to make every shot, but he’s really helping us.