TOM CREAN: We certainly had been on a good run of practicing well and bringing high-level competitiveness to the games, and what I thought, one of the reasons that we’ve been playing so much better is we were able to overcome hurdles in a game, able to overcome when we were struggling or not playing as well or not making shots, and tonight we didn’t. Tonight we didn’t.
Neither team was — I mean, neither team had a three at halftime, and as much as we were getting out-rebounded, the second-chance points were tied at two, so it wasn’t by any stretch that we should have had our head down, but we did, and we never got our competitive level or intensity level where it needed to be inside of the game.
The two biggest things are — and these have been achilles heels through a lot of the year. We’re not physical enough at times, and we don’t talk nearly enough, and we gave up some baskets and threes, and we gave up some shots where we just weren’t locked in on our man, and what happens is when you lose your spirit a little bit or when your offense isn’t going the way you want it to go, you’ve got to be mature enough to go back on the other end and overcome it, and we’ve been getting a lot better at that. We really have. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, we’ve been getting a lot better at it. Tonight we weren’t. But they did a good job. They capitalized on our mistakes. That’s one of the things about this league; you make a mistake, the teams are good enough to capitalize on it.
But we’ve got to move forward. It’s disappointing that it’s the last game for six seniors and we go out that way on the court, but we’ve got to move on quickly from it for South Carolina, and hopefully everybody will look at it and understand that we’ve got to take another step in the direction of playing with a maturity and a confidence when things aren’t going well and when shots aren’t falling or those type of things, and it can’t get quiet and it can’t get not aggressive, and unfortunately that’s what happened to us tonight.
Q. You mentioned that they weren’t physical enough at times. I think the rebounding total was 50-28 or something like that. Was that more of not being physical enough or out of position?
TOM CREAN: Yeah, our block-outs weren’t as good, whether it was inside or whether it was the guards. We just lost our focus. You know, the other night against Florida we didn’t give up on — Florida runs tremendous out-of-bounds plays. We didn’t give up a basket. Tonight, we’re not switching. We’re miscommunicating on switching. All of a sudden they’re getting lay-ups. And that hurt us, right, those kind of things — because nobody is trying to make a mistake, but you’ve got to be able to make up for it with aggressiveness. Not necessarily aggressiveness offensively but doing your job defensively, getting into your man when the shot goes up, getting back, getting matched up, those type of things.
But again, you look at the second-chance points, for as bad as rebounding numbers were, it was only one, a point difference.
But it was more about our determination to get into people tonight. And that’s where we’ve got to improve.
Q. Can you put a finger on why you think your team lacked intensity?
TOM CREAN: No, no, because they were ready to go. No, I really can’t very good practices, really good walk-through. I think we regressed when we weren’t playing well, and I think that’s — neither team was — I mean, we were both setting basketball back offensively to start the game, but that’s where you’ve just got to keep going, right, you’ve just got to keep going. They did, we didn’t. So no, if I had — we were searching and pushing and trying to find different buttons, and if I had it pinpointed I’d have figured it out during the game. I just didn’t, unfortunately.
Q. Nick and Turtle both said this they didn’t like to use the word disappointed because of the negative connotation. Is that something that you share a feeling about —
TOM CREAN: I really don’t know. We got beat. We’ve just got to get better. I really don’t have adjectives, unfortunately. I’m sorry, I just don’t.
We need to be more — we needed to be — we needed to communicate better. We needed to be more aggressive with our physicality, and we needed to not get our head down. We missed a lot of lay-ups. We’re going to look back at this film, and we missed some open threes certainly, and we missed some lay-ups. We missed some close shots. Those go in, it’s a different story. But they weren’t. That’s part of the game. So you’ve got to be able to go back down and not allow that team to get those easy baskets, and that’s where we weren’t as good.
Q. A lot of issues you’re talking about are mental-type issues. At this point in the program —
TOM CREAN: No, I’d say they’re more physical. When you’re not physical, that’s a physical issue, right. You’ve got to be aware, you’ve got to step into people, be aggressive. I mean, it’s been a — it’s a long season for everybody. It’s especially long when you’ve been as close as we’ve been in these games as of late.
You know, the early — I look at it this way, the early start of the schedule there’s no way we were ready for that with those teams we were playing early on. We just weren’t, and we didn’t have any confidence to start out of the gate, and so it’s just the way it is. So we’ve struggled a little bit, but we’ve continued to get better. We’ve continued to improve. We continued to have energy, and we put ourselves in position to win games, you know, against some really good teams, and then get one the other night, and for some reason tonight we just regressed inside of that game with that.
Certainly there’s some mental, but I think you’ve got to be physically aggressive, step into your man and make a hit, right, and you’ve got to do it time and time again. So that’s the biggest thing to me.
Q. That’s kind of what I mean in terms of handling adversity and mental things like that. Is that sort of the biggest hurdle this program has to take at this point?
TOM CREAN: You know, I don’t know. I’m just focused — I’ll assess — leadership is vision, okay. Leadership is perspective. But coaching is urgency. Coaching is having some energy, and coaching is trying to fix what you’ve got to fix right now, right. And as the head coach of the program, you’ve got to wear both hats; you’ve got to wear the leadership hat and you’ve got to wear the coaching hat. So right now I don’t have any perspective. I’m wearing a coaching hat. We’ve got to make sure we’re getting ourselves better and doing what we need to do to be ready and more competitive against a very good South Carolina team on their senior day.
Q. You say you’re trying to find fixes offensively tonight; one, was that why Tyree started the second half —
TOM CREAN: They weren’t guarding Christian, and that’s what we have now. They were not going to guard Derek on the perimeter at all and they weren’t going to guard Christian at all. So we were not getting any lane presentation, weren’t getting anything really good in the lane, and we needed to try to get the court spaced a little bit better. But that’s just part of it.
So really when you’re in that type of situation, you have to make a decision, okay, am I going to put defense in front of this right now or am I going to put spacing and movement in front of this right now. Usually I would put defense in front of it, but in this case we needed to open up the court because we couldn’t get any penetration.
Tonight, and again, it is what it is, tonight it finally hit us, Ray is not out there. It’s real easy to look at this — he is one of our two leading scorers. You have to — you’ve got to guard him all over the court, you’ve got to guard him at 3, you can guard him in the post, he can facilitate, he’s our inbounder. It’s a different match-up for people. So all of a sudden now when he’s not out there and you’re trying to play some guys that they don’t have to guard as much to the three-point line, now it changes your spacing. It changes your offense.
Our cutting wasn’t nearly as good. That’s physical, as well. Our cutting wasn’t nearly as good to start the game, or inside of the game. But bottom line is there weren’t very many places to cut. They sagged very well, and we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to — it’s not the first time it’s happened, but we’ve been cutting so well and we’ve been able to knock down some threes that would loosen it up, and then we get some offensive rebounds and things of that nature, and we just didn’t get those tonight. We didn’t’ hit the threes early on that would have, A, brought the confidence, but B, most importantly, all right, made them come back out a little bit more, all right, and they really did a great job of compacting the paint.
Q. I was going to ask you about JoJo, too. You put him in, I know it was late, but seemed like he had a little bit of a spark.
TOM CREAN: Yeah, he’s out there right now shooting. At some point you’ve got to try — he did a good job. My biggest thing with him is when he tries to make plays that aren’t there, right, and we don’t need that. We need you to space, need you to cut, keep getting better with your skills, get on the glass, bring aggressiveness defensively.
He did a good job. I almost put him in in the first half. We needed to get our aggressiveness up. We needed to get our energy up. We needed to get our confidence up because we weren’t scoring, right, so I didn’t need somebody that was seeing ghosts at that point because the ball is not going in for them, and that happens, right, that happens. But he did a good job. He did.
Q. Can you update us on Hammonds’ status? Do you expect him back at South Carolina?
TOM CREAN: No.
Q. SEC tournament perhaps?
TOM CREAN: Right now it’s — we’ll have a statement out later, but right now I do not see him being able to play. We’ll give you more definitive details later, but he’s going to be out.
Q. What did you see out of Jordan Geist tonight?
TOM CREAN: He’s aggressive. He’s one of the more aggressive — we said to our team, they’re one of the hardest playing teams in this league. I mean, there’s no doubt about that. And he sets the tone with that. He really does. He sets the tone with that. He is in constant motion. He’s aggressive. He was the — we didn’t have anybody creating that for us like he does for them. He basically willed that team in the first half to a confident level, and then they took off from there. But he’s done that other times, as you know. He’s very good in that situation. He plays with a ton of energy.
There’s a lot of different ways to lead, and I don’t know him, but I know that when he plays like that on the court and he plays with that aggressiveness, that’s a heck of