Dec. 18, 2011
Head Coach Frank Haith
Good win for us. I thought we played really well today. 18 assists, six turnovers - just having a good all-around game. I thought defensively we were really, really good in the first half. And then you know, a team's going to make some shots. And this team, in the past, if you watched them earlier in the year, they had St. John's in the first half and they pride themselves on making threes, and we did a good job of taking that away from them.
On not having late game experience yet this season...
We prepare for ourselves daily, working on late-game situations. We practice those situations to prepare ourselves to be in those situations. But obviously all the things that you want to see happen late in the game, these guys can do that. We can handle the ball, we can make free throws, we make good decisions. We're getting better in those areas. Our makeup is to have success in those games.
On Mike Dixon's role as sixth man...
In our preparation work we talk about the shooters, who the shooters are, who the drivers are, so he should have a personnel feel going into the game. I think when you're coming off the bench, the things I like about Mike is when he subs in, other teams are subbing in so Mike Dixon's like a starter, so he's playing against the other team's subs. I like that match up, that's a good match up. The other thing too is that Mike has a chance to relax. When he comes in the game, we normally put him with Phil (Pressey), so he's not playing the point to start when he goes in the game. He's getting a sweat going before he handles the ball as the point. Mike knows his value. He knows how I feel about him. I mean I love him, I love everything about him - his tenacity, his toughness. I think (Dick) Vitale said he has a lot of swag. It's not who starts the game, and every coach says this, it's who finishes, and I imagine he'll be in there a lot in late-game because he's an excellent free throw shooter. Mike has really bought into the role.
On Mike Dixon's improved shooting...
After the Villanova game in New York, he was 2-for-13. He took some tough shots and he knows that. He and I sat down and we had a video session and I think he has a better feel for understanding shot selection and being a point guard at that time. You go back and you look at the game afterwards, and he had better floor games. He's bought into that. I told him, "You don't worry about scoring. Scoring will take care of itself. You just worry about doing these things and the scoring will happen."
On Marcus Denmon not having a high scoring night...
That's a great sign, when you're leading scorer doesn't has one of those nights and you can still shoot the ball as well as we did and have different guys score. I think we all said that, that we've got a lot of guys who can score.
On the upcoming Illinois Bragging Rights game...
I've heard a lot about it. I'm excited about being a part of it. It's going to have an NCAA Tournament feel, is what I hear. They're a well-coached team, really talented, off to a great start, a top-25 ball club. So it's a game that at the end of the year, when March rolls around, that Sunday, when those people are in that room and they're talking about seedings and NCAA tournaments, this is a game that will help our team. So a great opportunity for us, as it will be for Illinois.
English on defensive play:
"We really talked about staying solid, not just trying to take the ball from guys. With these teams that are so disciplined and smart, you really have to stick to your defensive principles. Coach really harped on that all week and we did a good job of that for the first half."
English on the Illinois game:
"I would love to beat them. They are the next game on our schedule. It is a huge rivalry. Those games you can throw the records and the rankings out the window because that game means so much to a lot of people and we take pride in that game."
English on Dixon's success in the game:
"He picked his spots and was in attack mode. That was it. He's getting more comfortable each practice and each game. Today was just another showing of his hard work. He stays after practice every day and stays late."
English on post-finals time practice:
"This is my first Christmas break in the Frank Haith era. I'm sure practices will be the same. The difference is your individual time increases, you can put more time into your game. We talk about resisting complacency. You're either getting better or you're getting worse. This is a great time for everyone on our team. Don't revel in the 11-0 start, get better. Continue to push on."
Dixon on finding his shooting touch:
"You've got to take the good with the bad. I think I'm just fortunate enough to take some shots early on and that kind of got me going. My teammates and offense put me in a good position to make shots so it's just a tribute to them and this offense."
Dixon on Villanova shooting success:
"I just didn't make them. As you can see a lot of the guys can score and we talk about that a lot and you just have to take the good with the bad. As long as we win, I'm happy."
Dixon on lob to Denmon:
"Kimmie told me to take the shot because it was going under the screen. They did a lot of ball watching across the court. Marcus cut and made a play."
Dixon on preparing to enter the game:
"I just see what's going on and what our team is doing. I look to see whether we need to close out or if they've got some athletic guys that can drive the ball. It's just reading the team and reading the situation. Today I saw they were in a lot of misdirection. You had to be solid and you had to pressure the ball."
Dixon on unique atmosphere of Illinois game:
"It's one of the funnest games I've ever played in my life. My freshman year was really humbling, just a great win. I'm undefeated so I don't plan on losing to Illinois ever. It's just a great atmosphere."
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