During Monday's Atlantic Coast Conference Coaches Teleconference, Florida State's Leonard Hamilton and Miami's Frank Haith talked about their teams, the upcoming matchup between the Seminoles and Hurricanes, and more. Here is a transcript of their conversations.
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton
"Our team seems to be growing and developing in the poise area. We played several close games and we were able to pick us up and be aggressive. Against a very good Maryland team the game went to overtime, we had a lead there towards the end of the game and they made some shots and changed their defense which had been established for a while, but I was very proud of our team and our poise. We seemed to be able to come back and get the victory. It is very, very important that we hold serve at home as much as possible because going on the road and getting road victories in the ACC is very difficult, especially as we go down to Miami, a team that is playing very well."
Q: Anything you can point to for your recent success against Miami, winning five in a row?
A: Well when you look back at the nature of the games, all of them have been probably decided in the last two or three minutes of the game. I guess what I am saying is that any of those games could have gone either way. We are a different team now and they are a different team. I would hope that the last five times would have a bearing on this game but unfortunately they won't. Al Thornton was a lottery pick and he was very instrumental and last year we were very fortunate to come away with a victory. I think they are a much improved team, they have more quality depth, and it is going to be more of a challenge for us than what it has been in the past.
Q: While Thornton is gone, what does it mean for those guys that have experienced success against Miami?
A: I think we have two players who played significant minutes for us against Miami, Ryan Reid and Toney Douglas. We have six first-year players and this will be there first, a new experience for them. I do think with the way that Miami has played our players have a very healthy respect for Miami and that has a tendency to bring the best out of you going into an environment where the team is very good and if you don't play at your best a loss could very well happen. I guess out of respect for them and the job that Frank (Haith) has done and the talent that they have, and how well they have played, has motivated us to be at our very, very best.
Q: With the size in your lineup compared to the smaller Maryland team, did that benefit you or hurt you in matching up with them?
A: It did make it tough to match up with them because they did a very good job of rebounding. We were in the lane but I thought the ball bounced wrong, we didn't do a very good job of blocking out, and Maryland did a great job of getting a lot of put-backs and it really made it difficult for us to pull away. When they went to their 3-2 defense, we didn't execute very well, we had some wide open looks but for whatever reason we couldn't get them to fall, and that kind of changed the complexion of the game. But I think that we have shown a tendency at times to be a really good rebounding team. Against Maryland, I thought that really made a big difference in the game, how well they rebounded against us. I thought we might possibly have had an advantage there but I think that is what kept Maryland in position to win the game.
Q: This year's team has done very well in close game, which is different from past years. Is there a factor you can point to for why that is especially considering you have so many young, inexperienced players?
A: I think a lot of it is that this is an unusually confident bunch. They feel very confident in their ability. Plus, we have good leadership in Uche (Echefu) and Toney Douglas. They have hit big free throws and made big shots down the stretch. I think our newcomers have been willing to follow, it is hard to be a leader when you don't have guys willing to follow. I think we have had good chemistry from that standpoint. When the game is on the line they seem to come together more than anything else and really, really play within themselves.
Q: Can you talk about the impact of having Solomon Alabi's shotblocking ability?
A: Well last year we didn't have any shotblockers at all. We were probably last in the league in blocking shots. I think having some of that size back just makes up for some of the mistakes of your perimeter players. I think that has been tremendous for us. In this league, you are going to have guys get by you and penetrate into the lane and having a big hand back there deters guys a little bit and I think that has made a difference in some of our close games that we have been able to change some shots as well as block a few.
Q: We measure blocked shots, but does anybody keep a stat for shots altered or intimidated by a player?
A: Some guys keep that stat, we don't keep it. We do realize the importance of it. There is no doubt about that. We have had issues with some of the blocking teams we have played against. But we have had to make adjustments because people have gone out of their way to create scenarios in their gameplan that take Solomon away from the basket. They will put three-point shooters out there and right now, even though he is recovering from his injury, he is not quite as mobile and athletic as we think he will be in another year after being off for a year and a half. Sometimes we have to make adjustments with how we combat that. We have been very fortunate as far as not letting that adversely affect us but I think he is getting better and hopefully it will be less of an issue for us as we move on.
Q: How has Derwin Kitchen done in taking some of the pressure off of Toney Douglas, not only helping out with the scoring but also with the ball-handling?
A: It has been tremendous from a ball-handling standpoint because Toney does not have to push the ball down the floor all the time and it frees him up to get on the wing some where we can take advantage of his offensive skills. More than anything else it has given us a chance to rest Toney significant minutes each half. It keeps him fresher. That has been an issue for us for a while because Toney was fatiguing in the latter stages of the game and now with Derwin as well as Luke (Loucks) it gives us the opportunity to give him a few more minutes. Kitchen is still a work in progress. He is still trying to get himself conditioned and he is still not quite as comfortable with everything that we are doing but it has been a very welcomed addition to our team.
Miami head coach Frank Haith
"Obviously we had a week where we played at home against Maryland and had a huge comeback to win that ballgame. Went down and played North Carolina this weekend and they played great. I thought they were outstanding. For about 17 minutes of that ballgame we were hanging there with them and then (Wayne) Ellington just took the game over along with Tyler (Hansbrough). That game got away from us. Big week for us in terms of two home games so we are just trying to get ready for that."
Q: Florida State has won five in a row, any rhyme or reason why they have put together that streak?
A: Well you know they have done a good job against us. This year they are equally as talented as they have been in the past in terms of athletically. I don't know, some teams you match up well against. Each one of our games in that stretch have gone down to the wire and I know two of them for sure have gone into overtime. Last year down there went into overtime and two years ago up here went into overtime so they have all been tight ballgames and they have just been games that haven't gone our way. I don't know that I can point at one thing and say that is the reason. I know that it is a rivalry game and before they won five in a row I think we had won four in a row so it has kind of flip-flopped like that. Hopeully we are able to be on the other side of that come Wednesday.
Q: Just talk about the importance of this game for your team.
A: It is extremely important. I think any time you come back home you want to stay positive with your home record and trying to win your home games. It is an opportunity for us to play a game against a team that I think is very good. You just mentioned five in a row, so it is an extremely important game for us. We have to get ourselves ready to come in and play. I think if you would have told me we would be 2-2 after our first four games in league play I would have taken that. We are where we want to be and now it is important that we take advantage of protecting our homecourt against a very good Florida State team that I think will come in here with a lot of momentum and confidence. They have already won on the road in the league at N.C. State so they will feel good about coming in here and playing and we just have to be ready to play.
Q: Can you sense when the two teams play that the passion is turned up a little more because of the in-state rivalry?
A: I don't know about in terms of any other ACC game. I think probably our fans get wound up a little bit but I know our guys want to play well. It will be an intense game. Every one of those games we have played since I have been here have been a hard fought, physical, very intense game. I anticipate it being the same way it has always been.
Q: After the last two games, where is your team's mindset at this point?
A: I think as I said earlier, we are 2-2 in league play and we are in good shape. We lost to an outstanding North Carolina team and a Clemson team that was ranked in the top 10 going into last week. Carolina had lost at home the previous game before we played them so I knew going into that game on Saturday we were going to get the best North Carolina team and that is pretty doggone good. I think our guys are excited about getting back to work today and getting prepared to play a home game with a good crowd. I think our students will be back for Wednesday's game and we have gone a long time without playing in front of our students. I think our guys are excited about getting ready to play.
Q: Dequan Jones has increased his minutes and seems to be playing well, is that something that you have seen from him and does he seem to continue to become more productive?
A: Absolutely. I think he played well against North Carolina. We made that decision to put him in the lineup because we really feel like he is a guy we have to get going in terms of what he brings to the table for us. He is a 6-foot-6 guy on the perimeter who can guard and he can do a lot of different things. He can play athletically against for example, when we play Florida State (Chris) Singleton, he is very long and athletic on the perimeter. We need somebody out there to match up with teams in this league. … Every team in the league has guys like Dequan Jones and we need to get him out there and get him going a little bit so he can help us and match those guys we are playing against in this league.
Q: So far this year it is 10-10 as far as home teams winning on their home court, so how big of an advantage is it really?
A: Exactly. You are hoping it would be an advantage but I think you are seeing our league teams are so good and so compatible that it may not be as much of an advantage as it has been in the past. With that said, you still want to try to take advantage of it when you do have an opportunity to play at home and sleep in your own bed and play the next day. Thus far, I know those numbers are even and I think what you are seeing is that we have some really good teams in this league that are very compatible.
Q: How big of a homecourt advantage do you guys have when you play in Miami?
A: It is getting better. I think it will be a lot better now that our students are back. We have played two league games without our students and we didn't have a full house the other night against Maryland but when we made our run it was very good. I think it is getting better and better. I anticipate as it was last season when we made our run it was packed and we had a lot of energy in our building the last part of last year. I would anticipate with the six games we have left to play at home that we will have a really good crowd, a very energetic crowd.