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February 4, 2013

Tony Bennett

TONY BENNETT:  Just getting ready to play a tough Clemson team, a physical Clemson team.  Both of us are coming off some tough losses, and we have today off because of the way the schedule falls, so we'll have two days to prepare, and hopefully we'll make some improvements in a game that we played well enough to come away with a win at Georgia Tech but the last six or seven minutes had too many empty possessions because of whether it be missed shots, a turnover or breakdown that really cost us in that game.

Q.  There was some discussion after the game about some of your defensive possessions and the fact that you would stop the first shot, either give up an offensive rebound or a ball would be tipped outside or you'd turn it over immediately.  You said you've been watching film.  Have you watched the film yet?
TONY BENNETT:  Yeah, there was a crucial‑‑ there was like seven‑‑ around the eight‑minute mark, somewhere in there, we were up nine and played a pretty good defensive stand, and then they missed a shot and got the offensive rebound and got a three out of it.  That one I looked at, I thought, boy, that could have been a big swing.  That was just kind of one of those shots where it was a tough bounce to get to and they made the play.
But there were a couple that were close that I thought either we should have had or that were in our hands.  But that was part of it, but I don't know if you could point to‑‑ it was a few of the empty possessions in the last six, seven minutes that a couple of breakdowns defensively like maybe they spun baseline, we fouled, or we came down and missed a lay‑up or we turned it over, that just sort of‑‑ we missed, again, some good looks that cost us.
But as far as those hustle plays, yeah, there are a few I think we should have gotten, and then there were a couple good efforts by them or bounces that they just got to.  So it wasn't just that.  But I do think there's got to be an incredible sense of urgency for those balls, though.  You mentioned the 50/50 balls, that they were a little quicker to than we were the majority of the game on those.

Q.  In a few of the games this year you've had stretches where you go five, six, seven minutes without hitting a shot.  As you review those, is there anything that you guys are doing or not doing during those stretches?
TONY BENNETT:  You know, I think I looked‑‑ in the second half we had 15 shots that were either, when you look at the shot chart, in the paint or kind of recorded as lay‑ups.  So we got some inside looks, got some pretty clean, uncontested looks, and there's times maybe you get later in the game and either if you have a lead or it's big possessions, sometimes you can get a little stagnant so you always watch for that, and that's whether you call a set or make sure you're getting the right guys looks.  And then we had some costly turnovers in this last stretch, one was an offensive pull on a hook, and then one was just a turnover.  Again, just those empty possessions, whether it's a forced shot, we had a couple forced shots in there, but besides those, the quality of the shots as I watched that, I can't complain about it.  I thought there were some good looks, again, some offensive rebounds, some point‑blank ones that they either made a heck of a block or we just missed.
As far as a pattern, I just think you keep looking at quality of shots and try not to have empty possessions, and empty possessions are, again, a forced shot, a silly turnover, or the wrong kind of guy shooting it at the wrong place.  Those are the ones that you try to eliminate, and then you live with the quality shots and you've just got to stick them and make some plays.

Q.  To follow up briefly if you don't mind, when you've got a young team can those things snowball a little quicker than with a veteran team?
TONY BENNETT:  Yeah, I think so.  It wasn't just, A, that those freshmen out there didn't do‑‑ we had some freshmen who made some nice plays against Georgia Tech.  Robert Carter made some really big plays and Bolden did for them, and a lot of times the game comes down to making some plays, when it's a tight game down the stretch and you just hopefully have the good spacing.
But certainly the inconsistencies or dealing with those things I think can sometimes affect younger players more.  But there's a lot of young players out on the floor on both teams, so you just try to, again, work through that, and it's not always young guys.  It kind of affects everybody in different ways.
But there are times we had four freshmen on the floor with Joe or one of our guys, and I think they had two or three, and you'll see with younger players, you'll see some things that make you scratch your head maybe more often than you do with veterans, but that's part of building it.  There's a lot of good young players in this league when you look around.  I don't mean to talk so much, but the league is in a healthy spot with the teams coming in and the youth in the league that are quality players.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about a guy that's not a young player.  You played Virginia Tech a couple weeks ago and had the match‑up with Erick Green.  He's having an unbelievable year statistically for a team that's struggling.  We've only had one guy that was not a first division player be the ACC Player of the Year.  Could he be that kind of player, even in a bad year?
TONY BENNETT:  Well, I mean, when you say a bad year, there's still a lot of games left in the ACC.  He certainly is‑‑ the numbers he's putting up, the impact he's having on his team, they played very close.  They lost in overtime and were in some games.  So absolutely, very talented player, because he's complete.  I know you've got to wait until the ACC season is complete and see how teams fare, his continued impact on it, but his ability and his impact on the game is certainly worthy of that consideration.  But of course it'll depend on the end of the year and where things stand and obviously where his team finishes.

Q.  When you go up against them, he carries so much of the load.  How much special attention or focus does he get in your pregame preparations?
TONY BENNETT:  Well, just look at our box score.  I think he had 35.  He torched up and we tried‑‑ I thought we did an okay job and made him earn most of his shots, and he still had that many, and we just tried to do a good job on the others.  But of course you're aware of him, and that's‑‑ I'm sure he gets a lot of attention.  Not that it's the same, but Joe Harris picks up a lot of attention for our team, too, and you just have to try to adjust, and that's where other guys have to step up at certain times.

Q.  Most teams play better at home than on the road.  This year I think you've got the big home winning streak, but some of your poorer performances were on the road.  Do you just chalk that up to that's the way basketball is, or is your team's road performance disturbing to you?
TONY BENNETT:  Yeah, again, we missed a couple of big free throws in our game down the stretch.  You know, good question, because there were some‑‑ we talked about those loose balls, and just the‑‑ I wouldn't say it wasn't that we weren't giving the effort, but you could see their effort, their play, maybe a great blocked shot or chasing down a loose ball with a reckless abandon, Georgia Tech, and we didn't quite have‑‑ didn't match maybe that kind of intensity or that kind of ruggedness defensively when you needed a stop that you feel the crowd give you that lift, at least I've seen that in some of our recent close wins at home, and we weren't able to come up big in that game down the stretch.
I think you feed off your crowd and the energy it can give you, but the good teams, when you go on the road you can't rely on those kind of momentum swings, those kind of energy swings from the crowd.  You've got to be able to have that in yourself, manufacture that and be so sound, and that's what hasn't happened for us on the road, and it is certainly hard enough at home, but it's challenging‑‑ it's tougher on the road because of those instances, and I think that's showed in us, and we've got to be‑‑ try to finish our games or be stronger.  But yeah, the road is tough in conference play for sure.

Q.  The box score number that really pops out from the first Clemson game was them shooting almost 77 percent in the second half.  When you look at that, that's extraordinary against anyone, especially against your defense.  Were there some flukey shots there?  I know Jennings hit a couple that maybe left you scratching your head, but how would you evaluate your second half defense against them?
TONY BENNETT:  No, they played well.  We did not do a great job.  I think they had a lot of point‑blank shots.  Booker, he's hard to handle, and Jennings was stretching you from three, so they had you both ways.  And again, they were more physical than us and got the ball to the spots they needed.  I think they blocked a bunch of shots in that game if I'm not mistaken.

Q.  Six.
TONY BENNETT:  Yeah, they've got terrific shot blockers with the two guys, a couple few guys.  Yeah, they got what they wanted in the second half, and they did hit some fairly tough shots, but they really did in terms of in the lane, hard post‑ups, getting some rhythm shots, and that's‑‑ I think Brad does a very good job, and I think those guys, when they get going with Booker and Jennings and they've got other pieces, they're a physical, tough team to play against.

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