“It was a really nice second half for us yesterday at Wake Forest. We didn’t play exceptionally well in the first half. In the second half we played better on defense and we mixed up our defenses some and that helped us. We made some shots and didn’t turn it over as much. You put all of those together and it made for a better second half for us. We’re really pleased and really fortunate to get out of there with a win. Now we’ll go over to Raleigh and play a team that is second in the league, so we know that assignment will be very difficult as well.”
What do you tell your team at halftime to get them to play so well in the second half?
“I think what that does is give coaches too much credit. Against Georgia Tech, David Noel said I’m a little like the Tazmanian Devil, because I was really fired up at that point and disappointed. Yesterday I challenged them more; I don’t think it was ‘Tazmanian Devil level’ by any means. But I didn’t think we came out focused enough in either game. We need to help the kids regain their focus and what they need to change. And if we change those things, will they be successful? That’s what you’re supposed to do as a coach. But don’t try to give the coach too much credit. The kids had to change and had to believe in what we were saying, and I thought in both games our intensity level was better in the second half. Our attention to detail and our taking care of the basketball – all of those things were much better in the second half.”
Are you as proud of this team as any you’ve coached?
“Well, I don’t really try to look at those kinds of things, and worry too much about the day-to-day things. I’ve always been old fashioned, ‘Work as hard as you can every single day,’ and that’s the way you’re going to get better and reach your potential. So I don’t try to give us too many grades throughout the course of the season. I don’t ever try to evaluate how we did in the conference race until it’s over. We have four more games to play. But I love coaching this team – I’ll say that. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of coaching this team.”
Where has Tyler Hansbrough made the biggest strides between now and when he arrived last summer?
“I think the biggest thing is he worked extremely hard during that five-week period last summer when the guys were here for one semester of summer school. I thought he got in the weight room with the rest of the freshmen and worked exceptionally hard in there. I’ll give you an example. He gets 40 the other night, we give him the next day off and by the afternoon he’s in the gym working on his free throws. I think that his work ethic has been one that has enabled him to improve in every area of the game.”
How do you compare Reynolds Coliseum and RBC Center with regard to home court advantages?
“I think both of them were very good home courts. I was very fortunate; I coached two Kansas teams that played in Reynolds. And it was so loud it was unbelievable. But the last two years at the RBC Center… Last year they made a run at us and it got as loud as could be at that point. I think they’re both very good home courts for them, and I think what you have to do is focus on what’s going on the court and block out all that stuff. But I think the home court advantage is always a lot better when your team is better also. I think that always helps; and State’s having a great, great year. When you’ve already got 21 wins and there’s still four games left in the regular season, you ought to be proud of what you’ve got.”
Have you ever coached a player as advanced in his footwork as a freshman as Hansbrough?
“Nick Collison was the most fundamentally sound player I ever coached. When someone called traveling on Nick, I knew it was a mistake. I think Tyler would have had 42, but they called walk on him. It looked funny to me, but I don’t think he did walk. He hasn’t walked very often, and he’s had a couple called on him even when he didn’t walk. But he really does have good footwork. But Nick Collison made the mold on that one. What Tyler does is a great job of keeping that pivot foot down while there’s some banging and shoving going on. He’s able to handle the contact without giving up his position, and I think that’s the most impressive thing.”