Assistant Coach Stan Jones filled in for Leonard Hamilton during his weekly Monday teleconference. Among the topics covered by Coach Jones, Florida State's loss to Clemson on Sunday night, the pressure of playing for a tournament spot down the stretch, and the team's defensive identity.
"We want to apologize for Coach Hamilton, he has had some personal matters come up this morning that have made him be indisposed this morning. We are coming off a difficult loss last night with Clemson. If you told me going into the game that we would hold them to 53 points and not win the game, I would have eaten my hat after the game. Our kids gave a terrific defensive effort but so did Clemson. Their pressure defense kind of screwed us up mentally a little bit and we did not play on the offensive end as efficiently as we have been playing our last three games which we had won. They just made a couple more plays at the end and we didn't quite make as smart of plays as we needed to. Now we have to move forward and get ready for our last home game here, against Wake Forest on Wednesday night, who is also in need of a big win. So it is going to be another grind it out battle I am sure on Wednesday night."
Q: Can you talk about the fact that this team has been built on defense, unlike a lot of other successful teams for Coach Hamilton doesn't have the one scorer, instead having to do it with a committee offensively?
Jones: We have been very good this year, we have been very, very good on the defensive end of the floor and also rebounded the basketball, but they outrebounded us by two last night and got two extra possessions on offensive rebounds than we did last night. That has always been Coach Hamilton's identity ever since his days at Oklahoma State and Miami. We had a similar team like that when I was with Coach Hamilton down at the University of Miami where we didn't have a guy who was just a flat out, go-to scorer, I think Johnny Hemsley may have been the closest to that. This year, we haven't had that guy score like a Toney Douglas or Al Thornton in the past, who during a dry stretch has been able to take some isolation plays and score for us four or five possessions in a row. That is what happened last night, nobody was able to take their match-up last night and do what they needed to do to exploit that match-up. You have to give credit to Clemson, they did a terrific job with their substitutions and keeping us off-balance.
Q: In replacing Toney Douglas who carried such a load for you last year, were you concerned and how have you made up for his absence?
Jones: Well, we have tried to get offense from our defense and I think we have been very effective at doing that. We have done a good job keeping other teams field goal percentage down and also done a good job keeping their second-chance points down. When we have done that, we have been very good. We have tried to be able to play the game by whichever player is going to have the best mismatch on that night. Some nights it has been (Solomon) Alabi, some nights it has been (Chris) Singleton, some nights it has been Derwin Kitchen, and some nights it has been Michael Snaer. A big key to our development and a reason I thought we had been playing better the last five or six games was the improvement of Derwin Kitchen and Luke Loucks as our point guards. I think they had got in the habit a little bit last year of being around Toney Douglas and deferring a little too much and not asserting themselves. I think they have started to do that the last five or six games. We just didn't quite get that same leadership in the game last night. Their guards played terrific and Andre Young made some big plays for them down the stretch. Guard play in our league is always paramount. Teams that have great guard play usually win in our league. We have to bounce back and go against a terrific guard on Wednesday night and our guards have to be ready to take on the challenge of Ish Smith.
Q: Talk about your basketball teams upcoming crucial games this week with the NCAA Tournament and things like that on the line?
Jones: Every game you have to treat them as the same. Our kids have been doing that pretty well lately, just locking in on the gameplan. I don't think you want to go out there and put additional pressure by saying this is this and this is that, and get kids to play outside their element. The amount of stress they are under anyways is phenomenal anyway and we just have to go out there and lock in on what we feel our strengths are against Wake Forest and we have to stay away from our weaknesses and we have to get Wake to play to their lesser tendencies. So we just have to go out there and lock in on what we have to do in our gameplan. We have to be more efficient offensively, we can't go in and beat anybody with 20 turnovers in a homestretch game likes these games are coming down to the end of the regular season.
Q: In a stretch like this to conclude the regular season, do you buy the theory that the team that needs it more has a little big of an edge?
Jones: Well I think the game of basketball is such a mental thing that desperation can become a positive but it can also be a negative if you let it become the kind of pressure that allows you to tighten up in everything. Whatever you do in your preparation, it is sort of like when you go in to take a test when you were in college. When you went in and you were prepared thoroughly, you had a positive pressure about you, but when you kind of went in and all night long, the night before the test, you tried to cram and figure things out at the last minute, you go in with some negative pressures. Sometimes it causes you to lock up on the test. We have to go into practice etoday and tomorrow and we have to got to prepare positively, like we are confident we are going to do what we need to do. Then, once that game is over, you have to turn around and do the same level of preparation for the next game. You have got to manage your kids focus, you have got to manage their energy, and you have got to make sure they are on point with the things that they have to do. Our staff has to be good at teaching and we have to be able to go in and visually show the guys the things that we feel are important. The percentages that will allow us to win the game because basketball is a game of percentages. We have to get ourselves where we can play at our highest percentage and we have got to get our opponents to play at their lowest percentage. The kids know, they look at the standings, they know the situation, they follow the internet, I don't think you have to walk in as a coach and say come on fellas, we have to win this one. You have to go in and say this is how we are going to win this one.