Extended thoughts from Jim Larranaga and seniors Kamari Murphy and Davon Reed after the Hurricanes opened the ACC Tournament with a win over Syracuse in Brooklyn:
LARRANAGA: “That was a great college game. We came into the game with a couple of thoughts in mind. Number one was they had out-rebounded us 41-26 the first time we played them. We couldn’t afford to have that happen again. We needed to be the better rebounding team.
“Number two, I thought our defense up there was reactive and not ‘actionary,’ where we’re trying to take some things away. I thought our defense was much more attentive to detail.
“I thought we made a couple of ill-advised fouls on a couple of shots they were about to attempt, and we fouled them, which gave them free throws, and they’re No. 1 in the ACC in free throws.
“At the offensive end, I feel like we needed to make eight threes or more. We needed Davon, Anthony Lawrence, Bruce Brown, Ja’Quan Newton, and D.J. Vasiljevic each to hit a couple to get us in that ballpark. It’s hard for just one guy to do that. But when you play against that zone, the whole key was first to get the ball in the middle, and we had a very hard time doing that. So the guys did a great job of sharing on the perimeter, making some key threes, making some key stops, and rebounding the ball. We ended up winning the rebound battle 31-26. So great win for us.”
Q. Kamari, just to kind of build off what Jim was saying, they didn’t have any second chance points. Just how significant was that making sure they didn’t get any extra opportunities like that?
MURPHY: “Like coach said, that was part of the game plan. We know Lydon, Roberson, and those guys like to attack the offensive boards. That was part of our game plan to stop them and get them off the boards. We did that. But as well as our game plan was to get on the offensive boards as well. So I think that’s where we got some exercise, some extra points. I got fouled a few times and got some free throws. So I think we executed the game plan pretty well.”
Q. They came back after you guys were up eight at halftime. What kind of happened during the time-out, and obviously D.J. made the threes on that push to kind of push the lead back out a bit?
REED: “We’ve been in these types of pushes all season. Early in the season, lack of experience led to us not being able to pull out some of those closer games. As the season progressed, we’ve been able to pull out some close games, and we showed that same type of resilience today. We had D.J. hit a couple big ones, and we just stayed poised throughout the stretch.”
Q. This question is for Kamari. You were perfect today from the free-throw line. You usually average about 59 percent. You doubled your points today. You’re probably the definition of what it means to step up for your team during the tournament. Talk about your performance today and what it means to just be the big winner today.
MURPHY: “Coming into this game during practice and everything, we kind of said to ourselves, we’re starting a new season, 0-0. Everybody had a fresh head and a clear mind.
“Just today I came in playing my role — rebounding, staying around the rim, finishing when I can. Free throws, I know I’m capable of making, and I made all of them today.
“The guys did a great job of finding me, so I put it all together. And [I’m] looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”
Q. Coach, just curious, I know you took down the, quote-unquote, home team, but for you what was it like to have a more neutral site for the ACC men’s basketball tournament and for the future?
LARRANAGA: “First of all, I looked at it as Syracuse’s home game. They’re from New York. They played in the city a lot over the course of Coach Boeheim’s decades of excellence at Syracuse. But we’ve been on the road before.
“The Barclays Center is a fantastic venue. New York City, the New York media, the television exposure in this area, being able to bring back a lot of our guys who are from the northeast — Davon from New Jersey, Kamari from right down the street, Rodney Miller [from Queens], Bruce Brown from Boston, Ja’Quan Newton from Philly.
“So we’ve got a lot of guys, and their families are able to drive to the game. It’s probably a little more expensive for them to stay overnight than it is in Greensboro [N.C.], but it’s a great venue and very, very exciting for our league to be in New York, what I consider the mecca of college basketball.”
Q. My is for Coach Larranaga. You’re from the Bronx. How does it feel to get a win in your backyard?
LARRANAGA: “Yeah, it’s absolutely great, but the credit really goes to these players. Like I’m looking at Lydon, who I think is an NBA guy, a great player, All-League player, and Kamari Murphy held him to five points, and Kamari didn’t even make the All-Defensive team, which blows me away. I cannot understand that. I thought he was the defensive player of the year.
“But him coming back home to Brooklyn, New York, I think it’s a lot more important for him to have a great tournament. He got off to a great start with a tremendous performance today.”
Q. Jim, I know you said you felt like you guys were more attentive to a couple details on defense. What were the two or three things that you were really trying to limit for them?
LARRANAGA: “We were trying to keep Andrew White from making all those shots like he did. Maybe that didn’t work out so great.
“But what we really wanted to do was limit their offensive rebounds in case they did miss, and we wanted to change up our defenses a little bit, and we did. We played man-to-man the whole first half. We switched and went to a matchup zone for a good portion of the second half, and then went back to the man-to-man for the closing three minutes.
“I thought that helped us because, when we went to the matchup zone, we didn’t foul as much because we’d been fouling too quickly and giving them free throws.”
Q. Davon, what enabled you guys to click from three today? Were you getting good looks, open looks, tough looks?
REED: “Well, in the first matchup, we took a lot of shots off the dribble, and we had a lot of shots — catch-and-shoot shots in the first half as well, and the percentage between the two was outstanding. So we wanted to focus on knocking down open threes and taking less shots off the dribble today, and I think we got a chance to do that.”
Q. Davon, there was a play toward the end of the game where Tyus Battle drove, missed the dunk and then you guys came down and scored on a dunk. Can you talk about how important that play was or pivotal that play was toward the end of the game?
REED: “Coach always says through practice don’t give up on the play. There’s times when we disagree with what may have happened. We’ve got to just keep playing. So got to give credit to coach L, and we just did that today, especially that play.”
Q. Guys, how tough was it in the second half? First half you were making three-pointers, but the second half, the shots weren’t falling. What was the game plan in the second half?
MURPHY: “It was the same as the first half. We had to keep rebounding. That was the emphasis on the game was keep rebounding. Definitely stop fouling in the second half. I think they got a lot of points off the free-throw line. I think to continue the offensive rebound and make them guard us as well.
“Just like the play she was just talking about. We attacked before they got into the zone. We made plays before they got back into the zone, and that was key for us, and we made some threes. So we put it all together. Great win for us.”
Q. Coach Larranaga, you mentioned Kamari’s defense on Tyler Lydon today, but John Gillon struggled too. Were you doing anything special with him? What was the plan with John?
LARRANAGA: “I told our team after the game that Ja’Quan Newton’s performance was outstanding, and going into the game, by coaching staff and I had basically determined that if John Gillon has a big night, so does Syracuse, and that it was a challenge for Ja’Quan Newton to guard him. I thought he did an amazing job. I thought it was a good team defense, but it really started with Ja’Quan and how hard he played and how often he kept him out of the three-second lane.”
Q. Coach, tomorrow you play Carolina, a team that you already beat. What is your strategy going in tomorrow for the next game?
LARRANAGA: “Well, we have a list of seven things we have to do against North Carolina, both defensively and offensively, and we’re going to review those seven things defensively and seven things offensively with our players tonight. There’s no practice. We’re not going anywhere and practicing this. So it’s more about mental preparation and relying on our skills that we’ve developed over a long period of time, both offensively and defensively.
“We have the utmost respect for Carolina. They won the regular season championship. A lot of people are picking them to win the National Championship. So we know we’re the underdog. But we like that we’ve moved on and we’re in the quarterfinals now.”
Q. Kamari, Coach was talking about your defense on Lydon today. What was your approach, and how did it work out for you?
MURPHY: “We know that he’s a three-point shooter. He’s one of those stretch fours that rarely run to the rim, and he runs to the three-point line. So we had to be aware of that. Middle ball screens, we were trying to show hard and get back to him and kind of force him to get on the floor, which he’s not so comfortable doing compared to shooting. So we added a ball screen game plan, transitioning game plan, and I think I executed — the team helped me execute as well, and you see the results.”
Transcript courtesy of The ACC