Full transcript of Rick Pitino’s press conference previewing the North Carolina Tar Heels, courtesy of Russ Brown and posted on Courier-Journal.com.
Opening statement: When you get into league play, every game takes on a different style and certainly this will be a totally different style from the Clemson game. There’ll be a lot more paying attention to transition baskets, rebounding, controling your turnovers. This should be a very exciting game for both teams.
On learning from last year’s loss to UNC: You can take away certain things. They hurt us in the second half with runouts because our guards didn’t get back. They’ll leave early and they run very well, so you’ve got to be ready for that. They’re a great transition team, they’re a team that has great length, great size, great jumping ability.
On scouting UNC: You have to take good shots and we’re a penetrating team and that’s how they beat you a lot of time. If your guard penetrates to the basket, they go for the block, the other guard leaks out and you have to be careful — you have to get your players back in good position to defend.
On preseason ACC POY Marcus Paige: I haven’t seen him play except 3-4 games on tape. I think he’s trying to be a facilitator more. He obviously had a great game against us last year (32 points).
On UNC big man Kennedy Meeks: He’s got his body in better shape. He’s one of the leading offensive rebounders in the game. They are a terrific rebounding team, very good athletes, very good passers, they work the inside very well.
On UNC coach Roy Williams: He has a certain style and he makes his players fit into that style, he recruits to that style. The fast break is his most obvious thing.
On road games at UNC: I think every place on the road is difficult. There are a few exceptions, but very few. The road is tough in the Big East, the road is tough in the ACC, the road is very tough in the Big Ten.
On why Louisville’s good on the road: Well, we’ve had very good basketball teams and we’ve also had mentally tough people who understand what the road is all about. We take pride in playing good defense and you have to be a good defensive team to win on the road.
On Louisville’s mental toughness: It’s good. Obviously, it’s not as good as it’s been because we have six new players who haven’t experienced it. You can’t expect Matz, Anas, Shaqquan and those guys to be road warriors because this is their first time on the road.
On Terry Rozier as a leader: Not really. Terry’s quiet. He leads by example of the way he plays, the way he carries himself.
On playing young guys in big games: We’re starting to play our guys. Quentin will play in this game, Shaqquan will play in this game, Nanu will start. We’ll play 8-9 guys.
On Clemson: It wasn’t as ugly as you guys think. I’ve been involved in many ugly games. It was just us offensively making mistakes in our half-court offense, not using screens, not getting the ball inside well enough and playing without Montrezl Harrell. We were a totally different team that scored more points as soon as he came back into the game. It was better played than you would imagine. It’s just people don’t understand Clemson’s style, so right away you think because it’s a low-scoring game with not a lot of fast breaks, it’s an ugly game. Ugly games is when there’s a lot of turnovers.
On Montrezl Harrell’s foul trouble vs. Clemson: He didn’t get in foul trouble because he was aggressive. He got in foul trouble because he tried to flop on a charge. If you’re going after offensive rebounds, you’re playing hard, you’re going to get your fouls. Certainly, he wouldn’t have been in foul trouble if he didn’t flop; he could have drawn a dead charge, and he’s very good at that.
On starting Chinanu Onuaku: Nanu gives us a more physical presence in there, and we’re gonna need that in this game.
On the younger guys: I want to see improvement from Nanu, Shaqquan, Anton Gill, Jaylen. And they’re doing it in practice. In the last 10 days we’ve had great practices and they’re getting better each day. And that’s because they’re making it more competitive. Like yesterday, the second unit, for the first time this year, outplayed the first unit. It hasn’t happened one time, and that’s good.
On young guys gaining confidence: I think so. I believe so. I think Quentin Snider is learning certain things, how to get playing time. I think he realizes now he has to play defense to stay on the court because if you’re in conference play and every game is close, especially like the Clemson game where points mean something, you’ve got to guard people.
On Notre Dame beating UNC: Notre Dame on the road will slow the pace down, they’ll take their time, they have good shooters, they’ll milk the clock a little bit. They use the clock wisely, they rebound well, they pass the ball very well and obviously they can shoot it. Notre Dame has one of the premier backcourts in the game, so they’re able to control the tempo of the game.
On UNC again: Carolina’s is the type of team, very similar to a lot of teams, on any given night they can beat the best in the country. They’re talented enough to beat anyone and if you keep it close you’ve got a shot at beating them.