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"I'm hoping again we'll start playing some of our best basketball. There's no question we are playing at a higher level than we were at this time last year. I can't imagine anyone else in the country with a tougher stretch of games than we have."
On playing with a long layoff:
"Sometimes we play great with a little time and sometimes we play great with time. If I had my choice I'd take time – to give time to heal. But I think it makes almost no difference. It just gives you folks something to talk about. Everybody seems to be a little fresher."
On the importance of Jackie Manuel:
"You've got to have a guy whose value is not just about his number of points he gets. It's good to have 5-7 guys who could score 20 on a given night. Everybody always remembers the first time they were really guarded. That's the way you want to guard people – the way you wouldn't want to be guarded. The way Jackie comes off of screens and gets to loose balls is infectious. He helps you win. I've always believed the best defensive player on my team should start."
Have you been using more "scramble" defense this year?
"We've used it a little more than last year, more at home than on the road. Sometimes you get a steal at home and it gets the crowd into it. But you have to be able to beat our bread and butter, and that's our straight man-to-man."
Does Raymond always make the defensive call
"We tell them beforehand what we want. Most point guards tend to call scrambles too much, so we have to pull him in a little bit."
On catching Virginia while its struggling:
"It always concerns you when a team is going through a difficult time. You know Virginia beat Arizona earlier this year by…
On what the team accomplished during the week off:
"Hopefully we've allowed some of the aches and bruises to get a little better. The first 10 minutes (of Wednesday's practice) I was very concerned because it looked like it was going to be one of those soft practices. But after that, they picked it up and we got a few things accomplished."
On how close the team has come to doing what he would like:
"Every season has its ups and downs. We had a stretch with Maryland and Georgia Tech where we had some games that we played pretty well. Wake Forest kicked us pretty good; we didn't play very well for a huge portion of that game. At Clemson, we were awful in the first half and then played pretty doggone good in the second half. Then we came here and some of those peaks and valleys in the course of the game that sort of simulated what we've done the whole season. I think that there have been times that we've played pretty doggone well.
"As I said, during the course of the season you are going to have your ups and downs and I'm hopeful that we've gone through one of those down stretches and we'll start playing a little more consistently and taking care of the basketball has been a huge concern recently. At Clemson, it was just a toughness issue. If someone hits you in the mouth, it doesn't mean that you just keep backing up. I know that's a bunch of clichés you guys might not like to use but that's exactly the way I felt it was going. I'm hoping again that we'll start playing some of our best basketball and we need to these next two or three weeks because this is about as tough a challenge as I can imagine. I can't imagine anyone else in the country having a tougher challenge than what we have these next five games."
On playing Virginia on a short turnaround:
"You have mixed emotions but if it's going to benefit us, then I don't hate to see it for anybody else. It's part of the deal and last year we had three different times where teams had a full week to prepare for us on three different occasions but you can't tell in college basketball. Wasn't it Sunday and Wednesday this past week for Maryland? That's college basketball.
"Maryland was down, what, 26 at half at their place? Then they turn around and beat Duke at Duke, so one game to the next, you are not sure what's going to show up and I just think that's college basketball. Sometimes we play great with very little turn around, and sometimes we play great with a lot of time. If I had my preference, I would always take time just to give your guys a chance to heal, but I think it makes almost no difference."