After the Bulldogs slam the Texas A&M Aggies, 63-48, in Stegeman Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, UGA men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean talks about the win and the team.
“I’m proud of our effort today. As a coach, especially when you’re going through these peaks and valleys of a season, the most important peaks and valleys to building your program are, whatever terms you want to use, it’s hard, and it’s really hard, and it starts with the fact that our fan support was tremendous. With everything that was happening on I-85 today, got rest the people that were involved in that, with how that was going to change travel for so many people, for so many people to use their tickets, for so many people to be here from surrounding areas, the state, Atlanta, not to mention Athens and certainly last but not least, those students. Good Lord. They just continue to come and be a part of this, and Dave Neal told me, I was meeting with him before the game, the play-by-play man for the network, he said when he got here today, he saw 200 to 300 people in line. He said, I’ve never seen that at Georgia, he’s only seen it for Kentucky. That’s what has to happen. If we’re going to build this program the way we need to build it, we’ve got to continue to get that support because we were definitely going to be dealing with a confidence crisis, and our guys worked through this. They really did. They worked through it. We had a great practice yesterday, and they figured out a way today to get better. They figured out a way today that the way to stay on the floor is you’re going to hit people when the shot goes up. In the case of Mike Peake, you’re going to get on the floor for a loose ball. You’re going to defend, then we’re going to move the ball. The key to the game I think for us, much like — well, the key to the game, we didn’t turn the ball over as much in the second half. Some of the turnovers in the first half were just crucial and bad. And we knew they were going to be a hard team to play against, the way they pack the lane, the way they attacked it off the rim, the way they charge. Buzz does a great job. He does a great job, and we had to work through that. As I said the other night, when Reed Nikko took momentum from us in the Missouri game, Mike Peake at the end of the half gave momentum by getting on the floor for the loose ball, having the presence of mind to call a time-out because I was going to call a time-out on miss or make if they scored, and for Sahvir to go down there and get that bucket. That may seem very, very minor, all right, but that’s momentum. That’s a momentum-changing play, and you’ve got to get more momentum-changing plays in the game than the other team does, just like you’ve got to get more 50/50 balls than the other team does, and I don’t know how that turned out, but I know we were playing one of the hardest-nosed, toughest teams in the league, and our guys responded to it, and it was a great win. And in the case of Anthony, I’m proud of the way that he played. I’m proud of the 15 boards, big time. I’m really proud of the fact that he had 14 deflections and with his defensive activity today we had 47, which is the first time we’ve been back there in a while, which is a huge, huge barometer on how we win. That’s my two cents, and I appreciate you waiting.”
Q. I was just going to ask you about Edwards, 15 rebounds that he had. Was this the most complete game you’ve seen him put together since you’ve had him?
“Thus far. Thus far. But as I said to him near the end of the game, it’s all got to turn up now, now that we’re in February. Everything has got to turn up. And that’s what the team has got to learn. If you’re not going to be physical, if you’re not to hit people when the shot goes up, it’s hard to play. It’s hard to play anywhere, but it’s certainly hard to play in this league, and there’s got to be a defensive mindset. And as I told the team, competition to get on the court just got raised today, and that means at our practices, we’re not taking steps back when it comes to how we’re going to practice. We’re going to take steps back with the length of practice, but we’re not going to take steps back with how hard we have to compete to get ready for these games, and we do not have a great practice team right now. We just don’t. We don’t have the maturity level, we don’t have the leadership level, and we don’t have the understanding level of what that is, and we’ve got to continue to grow that, day in and day out. Today was a good example of what happens when you practice well and you put things forth the right way and you’ve got a chance to prepare and compete.”
Q. With 13 minutes in the second half, a little bit of deja -vu compared to the Missouri game. Did y’all talk at all about, hey, this is another one of these situations —
“Not at all.”
Q. What did you do to keep it going and make it happen this time?
“Just kept playing, and that — like I’m aware of that, but that didn’t even cross my mind to bring that up. We’re talking about making winning plays, and then near the end, we talked about finishing the win. Finish the win. The win is right there for us, we’ve got to finish the win. Not finish to win, finish the win, right. Like that means making sure we’re not taking quick shots, make sure we’re not trying to do something that’s not there, making sure that we’re not giving up easy baskets because we’re celebrating. Finish the win. That’s really at the end of the game. But no, I didn’t think about that. Why would I put negative thoughts in their mind, right? My job is — there’s a lot of cheerleader in it, man. When you’ve got this many young guys, there’s a lot of cheerleaders in this. You’ve got to keep them upbeat. But today they did a really good job with that. I lose patience when I don’t see guys having belief, and they had belief today, which was good.”
Q. Anthony was saying Sahvir was kind of the key to it all, that he’s a difference-maker when he’s healthy. What did you see from him?
“No question. I thought that was such a momentum-changing play, right, at the end of the half to get that lay-up after Mike Peake’s loose ball. We called a time-out, we run the set, he goes to the rim. No question. He was rolling. He’s also had the week off because he didn’t do anything Tuesday, Wednesday, and he just kind of went through things on Thursday, and then yesterday he was live, so we felt really good about that. I thought he did an excellent job. And it means a lot to him, as you know. That’s where he signed, so that’s his home. You can see the football stadium from where they live in College Station. You can see the top of their stadium. It’s crazy. So I’m sure he’s (indiscernible).”
Q. There was I think eight stops in a row in the first half —
“Yeah, big thing for us is three stops in a row. We did a good job of that tonight.”
Q. And I guess defensive consistency, you’ve talked a lot about it —
“We need it. It’s number one key in the winning recipe, right, and getting back on defense, handing your defense and finishing it with a defensive board. And the other thing that we needed a better job, because Buzz’s team right now, Buzz is a great coach. He’s giving his team every opportunity to win. They’ve won three deep road games. Buzz can play a lot of different ways, and he’s playing a very controlled pace of basketball right now, and we can’t do that. We’re not that — that’s not our team. We’ve got to look to create the tempo. If the running game wasn’t going to be there, it’s going to be a lot different story. But the defensive ability is a big part of where we get our running game going.”
Q. Can I get you to comment on the play of Tye Fagan this season?
“He’s got to continue to get better. I thought he did some good things here and there. He’s like a lot of our guys, they’ve got to carve out how consistent they’re going to be, and he’s doing a good job, and it’s competitive. It’s very competitive out there. They’re going to play three guards, but as long as he continues to improve and get better, (indiscernible).”
Q. When you look at the rebounding, could you sense any difference in the way your team attacked the glass in the second half?
“Yeah, they just went. I mean, it’s not like we don’t work on rebounding every day, and we had some guys that didn’t hit. That’s why they didn’t get back in the game. And when I mean hit, you may not get the ball, but you have to block out. This team was coming off 23 offensive rebounds, and it’s how you win the game. Going forward, I’m not going to be able to coach with patience on the rebounding problem. I’m not going to be able to coach with patience on the lack of hitting when that shot goes up. I’m not going to be able to coach on the lack of offensive rebounds. Those things have got to be there in order for us to have a chance, and we don’t shoot well it well enough yet. How many threes did we make? We don’t shoot it well enough yet. There’s not one thing that we do so well that we say we don’t have to get offensive rebounds, and that’s just how it’s got to be.”