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On facing perhaps the most difficult opponent -
Yes. It was clear that tempo was going to be real important for us. The fact that we missed layups and missed free throws led to run-outs for them in the first half. That’s the biggest difference in the ball game is that I thought we missed some opportunities and because of that it allowed them to push the ball up the floor and get some transition baskets. If we make those layups, then the transition goes away. So not only do you lose two points, but they’re gaining two points, so it was a four-point swing on a number of different occasions. And of course, they were only sending two guys to the defensive backboards and were able to get out with their wings. That’s something that they were having some success with the first time we played them. We were able to capitalize and get the rebound and put the ball back in the basket. Today we didn’t do it.
On Brandan Wright -
The thing is, obviously with his athleticism, there are not many guys in the country his size that can run as well as he does. He’s got good hands; he catches the ball well in transition which is unique for a lot of big players. That’s really what makes them go, because when he runs down the middle of the floor you have to be a little bit concerned about that. It allows the wings to get open.
On defensive strategy in the second half -
We made shots. We made shots and got them into a halfcourt. And then we turned around and turned the ball over two times in a row to stretch it back out again. The difference was that we came down and made some shots and were able to get to our halfcourt defense. That’s what we needed to do. There were small stretches of the game that we were able to play at our tempo. There were not enough stretches of the game that were played at our tempo. That clearly was the difference.
On North Carolina’s intensity -
They came out and played the same way. They try to deny everything. We just missed a lot of shots early on - little easy layups, missed free throws. But then you have to stop them in transition. We did a poor job of that and they kind of exploited that.
Was fatigue a factor?
I wouldn’t say that. I would say that we just missed shots. I had good looks. I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with missing layups. I felt like I was rushing my shots. Obviously 45 minutes is 45 minutes. We’re used to playing a lot of minutes. You’re playing back-to-back days. But in the second half I made a lot more shots than I did in the first half.
Are teammates finding ways to free him up more?
We’re doing the same thing we do every game throughout the whole season. It all depends, sometimes Tyrese [Rice] is shooting a lot more shots, sometimes it’s Sean [Marshall]. Whoever is open in the offense. I just made a concentrated effort in the second half to get my looks, to come off screens a little bit harder, be a little bit more aggressive. Some went in, some didn’t.
On rebounding -
It was a huge impact. That and transition was critical for us. We had to slow the tempo down, which we really didn’t do, and you’ve got to rebound. That team sends 12 men - ship them in, ship them out basically - and we tried to box out with athleticism and effort. They just got to us today.
On providing senior leadership -
Definitely. I know I left yesterday’s game a little upset with myself. I kind of let my emotions take over the game, so I just tried to bring a better effort to today’s game. We got down early and we kept fighting, but made too many mental mistakes and missed layups early.