Senior guard Jonathan Wallace and coach John Thompson III spoke to the press this evening about their upcoming game against Notre Dame, the emergence of Vernon Macklin and how to get the team back on track. The game is slated to start at 1 pm tomorrow at the Verizon Center.
On a perceived shooting slump in the last two games: I don’t really want to look at it as a slump. I mean, I’m getting good shots, they’re just not falling. I need to find different ways to be productive when I’m on the floor.
On what the team must do to improve perimeter shooting: We are doing our same drills and routines, as far as shooting goes. We were getting the shots we wanted—we were wide open, they just weren’t falling. I guess it just takes a little more concentration and a little more assertiveness. It is kind of unheard of, with the kind of shooters we have on this team. But that’s not going to happen every night, it’s not going to be the same situation.
On a captain-called team meeting following the Pitt loss: Guys were just getting refocused—getting back to square one and focusing on what we really need to do as a team to be good on the road. It’s just being closer as a team and focusing on what we have to do.
On the slow start against Pitt: Overall we didn’t set the tone early on as far as effort and intensity, and that kind of gave them a jump and let them know they have a chance to play with us. You can’t play around, especially with good teams like Pittsburgh, on the road.
On what the team could have done better offensively: We should’ve worked the ball around a little more and been more aggressive off the dribble to create openings for guys like Roy [Hibbert], Vernon [Macklin] and DaJuan [Summers].
On being the team to beat in conference play: Coach always says that when we play teams it is going to be like their Super Bowl, so to speak. They are going to bring their best effort, and we have to play above and beyond what we usually do to match that. From the start we have to be intense.
On Vernon Macklin’s play against Pitt: Vernon played very well. It was probably the only bright spot in that game, him finding his rhythm and being aggressive.
On Notre Dame’s offense: They are probably not the best, but one of the best shooting teams in the conference, and along with that we have to regroup from what we did against Pittsburgh and guard in transition. Notre Dame really gets out and pushes the ball with [Tory] Jackson and [Kyle] McAlarney, so we have to slow them down in transition and at the same time find shooters on the perimeter.
On Luke Harangody’s emergence as a Big East power: I didn’t expect him to be the leading scorer in the conference, with some many good guys in the conference. He is a good player, and he plays within his limitations. He is really physical and he works to get a lot of good angles and positioning down-low, and he can get up a lot of good shots. We have to be physical with him and make him try to score over Roy as much as possible.
On moving forward after the Pitt loss: At this point, I guess at any point in the year, but particularly once you get into conference play you can’t dwell on your wins or your losses that much. You have to analyze and figure out what you can do differently and what you can do better, but this league is too tough—your next opponent will always be too daunting for you to be stuck in the past. You have to move forward.
On what the team can do to improve shooting: Our guys know we can make shots. We need to do a better job of defending shots, and not giving good shooters open shots, particularly going into this game when you face a team that can put five shooters on the floor at the same time.
On transition defense: That has been a point of emphasis. We have good shooters and we are getting open shots. We are not going to stop shooting, that’s part of what we do. We are going to keep taking shots, but we have to understand what that means. We need to be much better in transition defense, and not just stopping the initial surge, but on the second initial offense. We need to work on that. We are going to need to be better at that tomorrow, because [Notre Dame] get out and go and have shooters.
On whether or not the current slump will cause players to take bad shots: No. I think we have a group that is extremely confident in their shooting ability, and each guy knows the shots that they can make. Shooters shoot.
On whether or not the slump is just an anomaly: I hope so. If not, we will make adjustments and collectively figure it out.
On who he fears most of Tory Jackson, Kyle McAlarney, or Luke Harangody: My fear is spread equally. I think it has to be, just because their team is balanced and you can go into this game and say ‘we have to stop Harangody during this game,’ then all of the sudden the perimeter guys go off. You can go into this game and say ‘oh, we can’t let McAlarney get his shot, let’s focus on him’ then Harangody and all the other perimeter guys go off. And Jackson, no one’s been able to keep their body in front of him since our Big East [Tournament] last year. Regardless of who is guarding him, he gets to the rim whenever he wants to. So, that is a dilemma. That is one of their strengths, but I think what goes under the radar is their defense.