MBB: Tom Crean and Andrew Garcia Interviews – Georgia vs. Northeastern

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MBB: Tom Crean and Andrew Garcia Interviews – Georgia vs. Northeastern

On Andrew Garcia…

“He showed again that he’s a basketball player. Like I said to the team after the game, ‘We showed ourselves on Saturday night that we can compete, and we can be tough and have really good energy against an experienced, big conference team in Cincinnati, and we can respond to that size differential.’ Tonight, not only did we learn how to get out of a hole, which we shouldn’t have been in, but most importantly, we learned that we have individual guys that can step up and change the game in an unnatural position, and that’s one of the reasons that we spend so much time having bigger guys guard guards in practice, guards guard bigger guys. I have to do an even better job of that now. I’ve gotten away from it a little bit. We knew at some point inside of the game that the key to guarding Tyson Walker was going to be to make sure we put some length and size on him, some physicality, and we probably should have done it earlier, but when we did it with Andrew [Garcia], when we did it with Tye [Fagan], we started denying him in the second half, I thought it really turned around the game.”

On the defense…

“In the first half, we didn’t follow our game plan. We lost our energy. We were incredibly ready to play. I have no doubt about that, and they were excited to go. It’s almost like the air went out of our balloon when they made a couple of shots, and we turned it over, and then we became a step too slow defensively, and we overhelped, which was the number one key to the game is to not overhelp because of the way number two [Tyson Walker] finds the shooters, and we did. We just kind of lost our focus because the ball wasn’t going in the basket as much, and we have to outgrow that. The bottom line is the defense really did pick up. We had 32 deflections in the second half. We held them to 5-30 in the second half. We outscored them 44-13. We had some tremendous differences in plus-minus in the second half. It’s another game where we had three guys in double figures with deflections, so we made strides, and that’s what we have to understand, that we’re going to win. What I liked about tonight is that Sahvir [Wheeler] can guard someone bigger, and he was very comfortable with it, and they didn’t like it, and we could go bigger on a smaller guard, and the guard didn’t like it. One of the reasons that I didn’t really panic at all in the first half is because we were missing layups, we were missing free-throws, and they were really trying to push the pace, and I just wasn’t quite sure that could do that the entire game. We had to make some shots and get our defense going and get three stops in a row. We didn’t have three stops in a row at all in the first half, and I think in the second half, we had six or seven.”

On coming back…

“I think it’s huge. You don’t like it when it’s happening, but you certainly appreciate it after. There are a lot of different experiences, and we’ve had a lot of different experiences, whether it’s a pace game, whether we have to come back, whether we have to build on a lead. There’s a ton of room for this team to get better. That is ultimately the bottom-line, putting 40 minutes together. These experiences are really important because if we go not the road, and we get our head down like that and no one changes momentum for us defensively, rebounding-wise, or talk-wise, we’re going to get cracked, and we have to learn through that. To come back tonight, the way that we came back with the defense and the rebounding, and the fact that they had 15 points off our turnovers in the first half, and in the second, they only got three. That is as big of a stat as there is in the game for us.”

On Toumani Camara… 

“Yeah, and he’s not even a-hundred-percent healthy right now Mike. We’ve been limited with him in practice, and he did a really good job. I don’t think I took him off the floor in the second half until I took him out at the very end, and he had three fouls during that—so he did a really good job. We took Sahvir [Wheeler] out when he had four bottom line he’s versatile, he’s got to become one of those guys that has to get up and guard a guard like that constantly. But he’s very aggressive, again he had thirteen deflections, and he’s playing with confidence. He’s not playing a-hundred-percent healthy but he’s playing with confidence.”

On confidence of tonight’s game… 

“I don’t panic, I don’t panic. I’m reading the game. It takes time to understand your team, to learn your team. So, there’s a learning process that you get over the first few weeks that you are playing games and apply in your mindset. We were missing layups. The bottom line we were missing free throws, we were quiet. Now, if the quietness and the activity didn’t change then we get beat. We get beat badly. But, I was confident that it would, and I think when I say I never panic I keep my energy up and it’s looking to make the adjustments. We made the adjustment of going bigger on [Tyson] Walker, and we made the adjustment in the second half to deny him the ball best we could and our guys did an excellent job of that. I think when you go through a lot of situations you just have to stay positive. These kinds of games around Christmas you better be upbeat, because you might have to grind through it, mentality wise no matter how hard you practice one of two things are going to happen. They’re either locked, which we weren’t in the beginning which I very much thought we were or you’re going to come out and you’re going to cruise. We didn’t cruise. So, we learned a lot inside of this game, and it was just really a matter of just getting that talk back. It’s not about lighting somebody up, being after them, it’s just about continuing to be positive—talking facts and clarity, not talking emotion.” 

On foul trouble… 

Getting him his fourth hour was huge, it was absolutely huge, and we got him on the post up, you know, which was big. So no, there’s no doubt and he still played thirty-three minutes, thirty-three and a half minutes. I don’t want to look at it and say that was the difference in the game. But him being out, we were already making our run when he went out, and we were able to build on it. I think the fact where Justin Kier played, like without Mikal Starks available right now, the bottom line for us is we cannot have Justin and Sahvir [Wheeler] off the court at the same time, even though they are both starters. So, there’s going to be extended minutes and Sahvir had more extended minutes off the floor because of the fourth file. We’re playing time and scoring that situation because you always have to prepare like you’re going to need that guy at the end of the game, so you don’t want to put him in too early. But, I think it’s crucial that we were able to overcome the foul issues, that they didn’t become tougher, we wanted to keep them, especially [Tyson] Walker off the foul line. That was a big deal, he was zero of one; I think he had 33 free throws and four games coming into the game. So, keeping them off the line was another key to this game. But, we made our adjustments and we’re able to work through the fouls. 

On their versatile offense…

“We got to get better offensively, big time, there’s no doubt about that, and I think we will. A big part of that is going to be our shooting. You know decision making, quicker passing, one dribble earlier in our shooting, and I think we made four threes in the first half. The good news is, we held them down. But the biggest thing I learned, I think I said this, is that we had different guys, bigger guys that could step up and they could go in different matchups and guard a guard. Sahvir [Wheeler] could guard a bigger guy over an extended period of time, not just in a switch game, you know because we didn’t want to be as much in a switch game. But, we got a little more aggressive with trapping and then trying to make sure that we weren’t letting Tyson [Walker] get the ball back as much as we could, and that bothered him. Number 24 [Shaquille Walters] had a good game, but we were able to do a pretty good job of limiting him as well.

On what led to the victory… 

“Coach [Crean] before the game and in preparation always talked about how we have to come on the defensive side first—that is what kind of riles everybody up and how we score. He [Coach Crean] always says the ball is going to find you if you play defense. I feel like that gets everybody’s energy up and excited to play even more. I just try to come out a bring that for us.”  

On Tyson Walker… 

“I’ve heard of his name he is definitely familiar. I never played against him because he was a couple of age groups down from me. But, he is a gritty dude. He attacks, he’s relentless. For myself, I always take it to heart to put forth everything I’ve got no matter who I am guarding or where he is at on the court.” 

On the intensity and energy in the game and what it was like guarding Walker… 

“In the beginning of the game, they were hitting shots. We turned the ball over sometimes. and we would get discouraged. I felt like we just lost our talk. When we came in halftime, we had to remind ourselves that we are a team. We thrive on our communication and our grit. So, that is how we had to get over that hump. Everyone on this team is indispensable. They told me throughout the game, I just had to step up to the task because we had Sahvir [Wheeler] and a lot of dudes that were guarding him—in our game plan was to wear him [Walker] down. I just tried to not let him get the ball.” 

On his mindset coming off the bench… 

“It’s all defense. They were getting it going so I know we had to get stops. The more stops we get in a row, that shows the energy is there and that just trickles down. So, I just knew that when I came in the game I was going to have to rebound, get in front of my man and get those stops—get everyone’s’ confidence up to just keep attacking and work together to get those open baskets and cuts.” 

On the energy in the second half and who stepped up to rally the team… 

“I would definitely say it was a collective effort and shoutout to the bench. There are a lot of dudes who never really get their names called. But, there is continuous energy and supportive comments throughout the whole game to keep us going. That is a big part of having a winning team. When everyone is unselfish and for the team. I feel like that is what we had.” 

On leading the team in scoring tonight and the offense… 

“I will definitely say that everyone on this team from Sahvir [Wheeler] to Tyron McMillan has the ability to dribble the ball, to shoot. That is what we worked on all summer. Our goal was to get everyone’s handles straight, to get everybody confident to shoot the three, to step in. I feel like the work was put in and now it is showing. As the games go on, Coach Crean is going to put these guys in, and we are going to surprise a lot of people with the amount of people we have that can dribble the ball, shoot the three and move like our other guards.” 

On what he sees his role is coming off the bench… 

“I just see myself every game trying to impact the game. Whether it’s on the defensive end, offensive end, whatever or both. I come in, and I want to win. Points don’t mean anything to me, I want to win. Whatever Coach [Crean] asks me and what I can do on the court to bring people together is what is going to matter in the long run. In games like this, I was fortunate to step up and help both ends. The defensive end has to be the number one thing in our minds, so I come I with that mindset.” 

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