We watched the clips that we made from the Maryland game and I think the guys realize that our biggest problem was that we dsdn't execute, we didn't take great care of the basketball and our transition defense, as a result of bad shots and turnovers, led to some fast break opportunities for Maryland. It certainly is disappointing, but we have to move on and learn from it. I think that we did learn from it. This is a very young group that is going through some things for the first time. I look at some scores throughout the country that surprise you – Michigan State losing by 30 to Illinois. That's a surprise to me. I told some of the guys I remember when Johnny Dawkins was a freshman [at Duke] and they lost by 40-something to Virginia and 2 years later they were in the national championship game.
That's going to happen to a young group, you don't like it, you don't want it to happen, but they didn't know how to stop it. It's going to be an experience that will be with them for a long time and next time we'll handle it better. I looked at the Kansas game last night, they're down 30-something points in the second half, but they had some talented seniors that know how to stop it and we didn't handle that real well. I was pretty proud where we were with 16:40 to go and Blake hits that contested three, then we get the ball stolen and Blake goes down and scores again. We hung around for another minute and then the floodgates open and we didn't handle that real well.
Right after the game on the bus ride, are you immediate looking at the film or what's going through your mind?
I started watching the film at that point because you want to know why – that's the biggest thing – and the players want to know why. And I think they saw why. We didn't take good care of the basketball, we didn't help each other, we didn't set good screens for each other, we didn't execute our offense and then at the end it was a total breakdown. That's, again, an experience for these guys that we'll hopefully remember and you're talking about the most experienced teams in the country against one of the least experienced teams in the country. They played well, we didn't. That was the result and it wasn't pretty. We're all disappointed with it, but if we learn from it, then something's gained.
How do you handle the team after a game like that?
There's a balance. I didn't yell at them or berate them. If this was a senior-laden group, I probably would have been harder on them. But since it's such a young group, I wanted them to learn from it – learn some lessons. Yeah, I'm disappointed and I was firm with them – I said ‘This is disappointing, we've got to move on, we can't let this affect us for Tuesday night' and I did tell them the story about Duke losing by 40-something to Virginia when Ralph Sampson was a senior and two years later they're in the national championship game. So, this is a young group that's got to grow from it and then we watched film and showed them where there were breakdowns. I said, ‘Here's 40 clips – we fix 20 of these mental errors and it'd be a different story and maybe we'd be up with 15 minutes to go instead of down ten.' We've got to learn from these mistakes. The guys saw the tape and I think realize ‘I should have done this' or ‘I should have done that.' These are things we went over, but when you're playing in that situation for the first time and things aren't going your way, there are breakdowns, especially with a young team, and we have to learn from it. And I hope it makes us stronger for Tuesday night.
Is the flip side possibly that maybe a young team wouldn't carry the loss as hard as a senior might?
Maybe, and sometimes maybe that's not a bad thing. I think the coaches always take it harder than the players. We think about it 24 hours a day. The kids, they think about it but then move on to other things. I think that a young team, yeah, hopefully they can brush it aside a little quicker and move on. But it's got to hurt. I told them, ‘We, players and coaches, are part of the worst loss in Carolina history in the ACC – now we've got to learn from it and move on.' No one's proud of it, but if we learn from it, then that's all we can do. If we don't learn from it, then we're stupid.
Is there something to be said for losing while playing well as opposed to what happened Saturday?
Would we feel better if we played hard and lost by eight? Yeah, we'd feel better, I guess. I told them a loss is a loss, so let's not have it impact us for Tuesday. Let's learn from it. Maybe we as coaches have their attention better since we lost by such a big margin, as opposed to playing well and being overconfident. Maybe they'll listen better, I don't know. No one wants to go in there and lose the way we lost. Is there a silver lining? We'll see Tuesday night.
You've got four games left – have you talked to the players about closing the ACC season strong?
I think one thing we've got to just focus on is one game. We can't look at four games – we've got to look at one game. We've got to beat State. We've got to play well and we've got to beat State. That's got to be our focus. We have to pour everything we have into that game and then we'll worry about the next game.
Jackie Manuel has said his defense is ahead of his offense, is that rare with college underclassmen?
Probably. Growing up you focus on offense, you don't focus on defense. As a coach, you want them to focus on defense more and that's why it's such a pleasure to coach Jackie because he does such a good job on the defensive end.
As far as his penetration on offense and getting to the line, is that something you're pleased with?
I'm pleased when he does it when there's an opening. Jackie and I have talked that he needs to pick his spots and be a little bit more patient when he does drive it. You're better off driving it when the ball's reversed and the middle's open. Sometimes, and it's not just Jackie, we have the tendency to drive it into a crowd and that creates a turnover or bad shot.
Could you talk about State and how they've struggled on the road?
I think most teams in this league have struggled on the road and that's just the way it is. With young players, there are going to be teams that do struggle on the road. They're a talented team – Hodge is such a talented player and Marcus Melvin. And then the way they run their offense you have to prepare different for them differently than you do other people. But I can't really speak for them playing on the road or playing at home.
Are they pretty much the same team you played in Raleigh?
I don't see a whole lot different. There are probably some new wrinkles that Herb put in there. There are subtle things in that offense that are pretty effective and that we need to be atune to and if we're not we're going to get exposed. If you make mistakes defensively against NC State you're going to get exposed.
Have you been able to judge the team's mood yet? Have they been able to put Maryland behind them?
I think they're disappointed, but I also think they want to do something about it. I don't think they're going to fold the tents – they're ready to move forward. And realize we have a great opportunity tomorrow night and do a better job – execution and taking care of the basketball, that will help our defense. This may sound crazy but our defense against Maryland when we were set was pretty good. Unfortunately a big part of Maryland's offense is transition and when they got going we weren't set and didn't do a good job there. I was pretty pleased with our halfcourt defense.
Last week you said you still felt in control of your destiny. Do you still feel that way?
I think so. We've got an opportunity Tuesday, and if we take advantage of it then we've got a couple more opportunities, so yes, I feel like we're still in control. It would help if other teams in the league would help us out, it's so complicated that you can only control what you can control – and that's us getting better today in practice.