Rick Pitino previews Virginia

Rick Pitino met with the media on Friday afternoon to preview Saturday’s game against Virginia. Video and transcript below.

Video from TheCrunchZone.com

Opening statement

It’s a big weekend, obviously, with two highly ranked teams and well-coached teams coming in here. What (Virginia) just did to Wake Forest was interesting to say the least. We’re coming off a very good road swing where we — the second game — played probably our worst defensive outing of the year. But I think that had a lot to do with the officiating for both teams. That’s what’s happening in college basketball. That’s why the scoring is up the same way it was in the NBA. Players have to get used to the offensive player banging into you to create fouls, and they’ve got to get used to drawing offensive fouls and holding your plane. The NBA had to get used to it and now the college has to get used to it. That’s why scoring is up because more free throws are being shot.

Q: Do you like the way it’s being called?

PITINO: I just think they have to get a feel for it, that if you’re in a plane like this, even though your arms are bent a little forward, and the offensive guy smashes into you, they’ve got to recognize the right of the defensive player to have their plane. Outside of that I’m fine with it, because it was fair, it was both teams getting the same type of call.

Q: Has the consistency of officiating this year been better?

PITINO: It’s been OK, you know, if you watched the Wake Forest-Virginia game, there’s a lot of plays that the referees anticipated the foul, and you watch it, nobody touched anybody. So that’s something they’ve got to get. As well as the players have to get used to it, the officials have to get used to it. It takes some time. But it’s the same as it was in the NBA. I remember it as if it was yesterday, the same discussions that have gone on.

Q: As a layperson, at some point when guys were coming free underneath I thought you might go 2-3 zone or 3-2 zone, but you went man-to-man. What went into that?

PITINO: Well, a lot of it was about 41 defensive mistakes in that game. That’s unheard of. Forty one. We usually like to keep it under 15 per game. We had 41 mistakes. And a lot of it had to do with how we played the pick-and-roll, even out of the zone. You can play it five different ways. You can switch it, you can down it, you can blitz it, you can what we call string it, you can sit back in the lane and try to get over it and string it into each other, so there’s a number of different ways you can do it. In that game, from a scouting standpoint, our players were totally tuned out with what we were trying to do with the pick and roll. One, Matz made two key mistakes where he gave up a layup. Anas made two mistakes by rotating up. It was just a matter of the first time this year where the total focus was lost on the scouting report of what we were trying to do, and we were out of position, out of place, and we paid for it with about five uncontested layups in that game.

Q: You’ve said the defense isn’t maybe where you want it to be. What are some other things?

PITINO: Well, we’re adjusting to the officiating, as all teams are. Buzz is an outstanding defensive coach, and I’m sure he didn’t like his defense in that game as well. He probably didn’t like — the other night, I think reading their notes that he Tweeted out, great defense guys, we won a game with 94 points against an ACC opponent. But that’s pretty much what everybody is going through these things, because guys are afraid to foul, because any contact at all is a foul. So that’s one thing. But we, when teams play fast like Virginia Tech or Carolina or teams like that, it’s very difficult, and even compounds the problem, because in transition, you can’t close off the lanes as well as you can in the halfcourt. So we’ve got to adjust to that as well. And we don’t have the athleticism and speed in the backcourt that we once had. And that’s a factor, so a lot of things go into it. Inexperience. Youth.

Q: Has Virginia changed the way they play defense at all?

PITINO: They sometimes, they actually went seven possessions of zone, which you’ve never seen from a Tony Bennett team. . . . Because they usually blitz the pick and roll very aggressively, like a trap, but they were probably getting the foul calls, because you can’t do that anymore. So he probably did the smart thing and just changed up a little bit. He’s one of the bright coaches in our game.

Q: How much have they changed offensively? Last year they would pound the ball to the end of the clock.

PITINO: They’re playing a little faster. They’re a terrific offensive basketball team. They can score in bunches, they’re a great perimeter shooting team. Gill on the inside is lethal, very difficult to stop.

Q: How is Jaylen after the other night?

PITINO: Yeah, it was the most bizarre thing, because when we went out, Ralph and I got sick to our stomachs, because we thought his wrist was in an S shape, he’s holding it like this. Fred puts a towel over his wrist so we don’t look at it. Then he said, ‘He’s okay to go back in.’ I said, “His wrist was hanging,’ and he says, ‘No, it’s his elbow.’ So he had a lot of swelling yesterday. We’re a little banged up right now. Nanu and Jaylen did not practice yesterday. I think Nanu will be fine, I’m not sure about Jaylen.

Q: Looking at the league standings, can you kind of take stock of where you are?

PITINO: I wouldn’t put too much into that. I wouldn’t put too much into it because we’ve got to play Virginia twice, Duke twice, Carolina. We’ve got to play at Pittsburgh, at Miami. Sounds nauseating.

Q: How important will this little stretch tomorrow and Sunday be?

PITINO: I’ll let you know on Tuesday.

Q: Are you anxious to see how your team will handle it?

PITINO: I think we’ve handled everything much better than I ever anticipated going into this season with such an inexperienced team. So I’ve got no complaints.

Q: (About Virginia’s defensive rebounding)

PITINO: They play five versus three almost every possession. Their thing is choke down the paint, don’t give anything inside, if you hit a jump shot it’s got to be with somebody running at and challegning you. They do a great job of blocking out and getting five guys in the lane.

Q: I didn’t get to see it, but how did they score so much at the end of the Wake Forest game?

PITINO: It was fine with me. I’m sure it wasn’t fine for Danny Manning.

Q: Kind of like the Miracle on Main?

PITINO: Now, the last shot was, instinctively, two guys always run after the ball, and we try to tell our guys don’t do that. I told them the other night, in the Georgia Tech game, not to try and block the shot, hold your ground, up four, and do not leave your feet. Make like a statue, was my words. Both guys went up to try to block the shots. Instinctively guys do defensive things incorrectly. Although that guy rotated very well on a challenged shot, he made a lucky shot and sometimes you get that. It’s unfortunate.

Q: With your team, even when guys have off nights, do you have a good feeling that other guys will pick it up?

PITINO: I guess, yes I do. I don’t know who’s going to play well on this team. We are a work in progress. Every day, we’re learning something new about our players, what they can do, what they can’t do. The one thing we don’t do is jump to conclusions after a good game like Anas had, or a bad game that Jaylen may have. You know, we’re just trying to get this team where they be at the end of the year. They’re very inexperienced, very young basketball-wise in terms of what we’re trying to do defensively. They’re very eager to learn. Very willing to pay the price. We’re super-excited to be 17-3 at this point.

Q: Talked several times the last couple of weeks about Matz. He played nine minutes the other day, what did you think?

PITINO: He’s a very good offensive players. Matz and Anas are going to be great juniors and seniors. They’re going to be great. That’s really what our program’s been built on. Player development and reaching their junior-senior year. So both players are going to be — now Matz screwed up defensively not doing the right things, because he’s not used to playing, that being said, it’s a good experience for him to screw up there because he learned some valuable lessons in victory rather than a loss. You know, we’re, I think our guys take a lot of pride in what they do and I think they’re very upset at themselves the way they played defense.

Q: Deng Adel was a DNP the other day and sounds insecure on the court?

PITINO: I think so. I think the injury set him back. He was playing great ball this summer. It’s not him as much right now as it is Damion Lee’s good play. If we didn’t have Damion Lee, obviously he’s playing a lot of minutes, but we have Damion Lee and right now he’s your best offensive and best defensive player. Your best steal guy and your best offensive player. He’s well-conditioned that he can play a lot of minutes when you’re playing this kind of schedule. Now the Deng we saw in Puerto Rico would be playing a lot of minutes, but he’s not the player we had in Puerto Rico right now.

Q: How do you get paint touches if they’re going to choke off the paint like they like to?

PITINO: It’s tough to do. That’s why we scored 13 points (in the first half) down at Virginia last year. It’s a little easier now with the way the game is called, than it was. Because everybody was fouling back then. And now you can’t do it anymore.

Q: Kenny’s notes said you’re successful in the white suit. Have you decided what you’ll wear tomorrow?

PITINO. I don’t know. What’s it say the record was?

Q: Beat four ranked teams.

PITINO: Then I’ll definitely get a white suit somewhere. My other one is a little outdated with the pleats. I’ll definitely get one.


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