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February 27, 2012

Tony Bennett

COACH BENNETT:  Getting ready for senior night, coming off a hard fought game against Carolina.  Know that two games remaining you're going to play a Florida State team that's tough.  They're coming off a hard loss, so they make you earn it.
When we played them at their place, they really chased us into a lot of turnovers.  Some of them were unforced on our part.  So obviously, you're going to have to do a lot of things well.  Then again, looking forward to the opportunity just to get out there, and hopefully it will be a very good senior night.

Q.  The original timetable for Assane coming back, I guess, was in the next couple days here.  Is it safe to say he's no longer on that timetable?  Also, just another injury question would be about Malcolm and how he made it through Saturday's game, and how his foot kind of came through that.
COACH BENNETT:  Well, with Malcolm, we'll see.  Obviously we were off yesterday, and we'll see where he's at.  He got through it, and that's kind of just I'll talk with Ethan and see where things are at.
Regarding Assane, I'm getting asked a lot of questions about him, and I'm just going to focus on the last two games and at the appropriate time or right time I'll discuss his status where he's at.  That's kind of where we're at there.  Joe's hand, he made it through, and it seems like he's getting more functional with it.  Not ideal, but we'll keep plugging, for sure.

Q.  To what do you attribute Jontel's offensive turnaround?  Was it some insightful tip from the coach?
COACH BENNETT:  He's tough.  He's very explosive and quick with the ball.  So he has an ability to get to the paint with him being an upperclassman, I think he's matured and has improved.  He still has some room for that at his touch around the basket.  He worked hard in the off‑season on his floaters, his drives, his touch shots because he knew he was going to get those.  And he's worked hard on his one dribble pull‑up and those kind of things.
He seemed to have a somewhat better decision going in there and take advantage of mismatches.  He's done a nice job and certainly made an improvement.  I wish I could say it's this catch phrase that I used with him or gave him this confidence.  But I think he's gotten better and let the game come at times and known when to be aggressive.  Because of his strength and quickness, he is really hard to keep out of the lane.  He made some good passes against Carolina and some finishes.  When he can mix those together, that really helps us.

Q.  I think he got a couple shots blocked.  I'm not sure whether any of them were on the break.  But he's had some issues on the break.  What have you told him about that to keep the ball from getting blocked from behind?
COACH BENNETT:  Yeah, we work on a little drill in practice.  It's trying to get the defense to commit to you.  Whether it's to drop it at the right time and make that defense commit or if you can get it up quick before they have a chance, those are the ideas.  He made one in the Carolina game, and one he got‑‑ I don't know if they blocked it‑‑ but the one that he missed, he was sort of in front of the pack.
But, again, that's touch, that's finishing, that's making the right decision.  When you're a little smaller, those guys have a tendency you either got to get it up quick before they can react to it, or you've got to get it up high whether it's a floater or rolling hook and get it up high to a spot where they can't get it.
When you've got a guy like Henson and some of those long guys in there, that becomes challenging.  You've got to almost have both options in your arsenal or you've got to draw and kick it and get it to your teammates.  So with that, it's trying to make the right decision to get there quick, get it on the glass, or draw that defense and make the right decision.

Q.  Joe said after the game the other day he thought the first three games after the injury he was using the hand as an excuse.  He just had to put it out of his mind.  Did you feel that way?  If so, did you say something to him?  Because he certainly seemed to play better on Saturday.
COACH BENNETT:  I mean, if there's any indication, it was swelled up after games.  Some guys were taking some whacks at it intentionally grabbing at it.  I shouldn't say some, there were a couple of incidences there that were probably not‑‑ well, I'll leave that alone.  But he had some issues.  I think the further away now at the two week and beyond it is noticeably going to feel better, less swelling, even with the X‑ray, you'll see healing in it.  So those things helped.
You trim down the protective shell, all of those things help.  But there is a mental aspect to it, for sure, where you fracture your hand, it's sore.  You're playing with it and you're not used to it, and your initial or first instinct is going to be to pull it away and not stick it in there.  I think you just get more used to playing with that.  That's generally the case.
I love that about Joe that he says that, because he's one of our tougher guys.  I think he is more mentally comfortable with it now, but I also think it is physically feeling better because of the time that has elapsed since he injured it originally.

Q.  To follow up on Jontel's offense.  On the flip side, he seems to be as good as ever defensively on the ball.  Is it again that toughness and quickness that make him so effective?
COACH BENNETT:  He's got a unique combination of speed or quickness and explosiveness with strength.  I go back a long time ago when I'd watch Mugsy.  He was so quick, but he was so strong.  His nickname was Pocket Hercules.  I remember that, because he was so‑‑ you really couldn't appreciate how powerful he was.
Sometimes you don't think of that, but I think when you have both of those things present, it makes you really effective as an on‑ball defender.  As I said, when Jontel is really focused at keeping a guy in front or just working, he has the ability to do that because of that combination.
Unlike other guys, sometimes if they get out of position or something happens where they're a little late, they're usually quick enough to cover up a mistake and they get back in position.
The only thing with Jontel is sometimes guys can shoot it over him because he's smaller.  But when he's in position, that combination I think makes him really effective on being an on‑ball defender, certainly.

Q.  Senior Day Thursday.  It's a class that hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament.  They were there when you got here.  What can you say about those guys and the possibility that they will finally get there in their last year?
COACH BENNETT:  I actually heard the tail end of Mark's comments just about when a coach comes in.  It's kind of a clean slate.  You see what you have, and the fact that I've been here now three years and getting to work with them.
First I'm thankful to Coach Leitao for bringing those guys in because I think he did a good job getting them here, evaluating them, and being the right kind of guys, all those sorts of things.  So to be able to come in and have the majority of their career with them and see, as any coach will tell you, to see them grow as players on the court, see their games improve, and then to see them mature off the court going from young men to men or boys to men, however you want to say it, that's rewarding.  I've seen that a lot.
Those guys, particularly, have not really tasted success in their time here.  There's been incremental and slow progress.  I know they have said it before, they want to leave the program in a really good spot their desire to finish strong and hopefully push us into postseason play would really be a great thing for them, and that's why going into senior night we play with the right passion and focus, and all of the things needed to be successful.
They're a big reason why this year there's no question, obviously Assane hasn't played, but up until then his contribution on the court has been significant.  And Mike speaks for himself this year and Sammy and what they've done is the reason we're in the spot that we're in right now.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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