Stan Heath Press Conference – Tennessee
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Following an open date on Wednesday, Arkansas returns to action Saturday with a 3 p.m. home game against Tennessee. The game is being televised by Jefferson-Pilot Sports. The Razorbacks dropped a 79-65 decision at Vanderbilt on Saturday and enter the game 17-9 overall and 5-8 in the Southeastern Conference. Tennessee beat South Carolina on Wednesday, 80-72, to improve to 12-14 overall and 5-8 in the SEC. Following is a partial transcript of head coach Stan Heath’s press conference.
“I was concerned after the Vanderbilt game about how the team would respond. I didn’t know if they would have the same desire and intensity, but those things have showed up in practice. It shows we have a lot of character. We will be ready to play.
“Our defense has to get better, we have to cut down on our turnovers and we have to get better against zone defenses. We’ve worked hard in those areas and now that needs to carry over into games.
“Tennessee is coming off a terrific win over South Carolina. They showed their explosiveness by scoring 51 points in the first half. C.J. Watson is one of the better point guards in the league, Chris Lofton is a premier shooter and Scooter McFadgon gives them a strong backcourt, although McFadgon has missed the last two games. Brandon Crump was injured for a good portion of the season, but he’s back playing at the level he can. He has a couple of good moves around the basket. He’s 6-10, so he has a lot of length and he’s a senior, so he’s a veteran. He is a key to their team.
“They will show a lot of defenses, and they will trap and extend the floor with full court pressure. A lot of that depends on how we attack it. “This is a dangerous team. We have to be the aggressor.”
“It’s not a question of effort. If you asked our players, they would all look you in the eye and tell you they are giving 100 percent and they think they are. I think they all have another level they can get to.
“Where we got hurt (at Vanderbilt) was transition defense. They were four-of-16 against our zone. The point guard is always back. If the other point guard penetrates, then the shooting guard has to get back. Anytime both of those guys are in there, the small forward has to get back. It’s a team effort and recognizing who needs to get back.
“I don’t know if effort is the right word, but there wasn’t the attention to detail that we needed.”
“It’s important to find the right combination on the floor with good ball skills and still be effective on offense and defense. The last two or three games, our turnovers have jumped, which have created fast-break opportunities for our opponents. Our emphasis on offense has moved to the forefront the last few days.”
“He is available to play, but certain parts of the game are difficult for him right now. He wants to do whatever he can to help the team. If there are offensive and defensive situations, obviously on offense he can help us. It’s important that we find ways to play him where there will be a stoppage of play.”
“He’s had a good week of practice. You can see his confidence increasing. He gave us a good presence at Vanderbilt. If I had a list of candidates to start (at power forward), he would be in the top two. He has played really well in practice.”
“Point guard is where we really need Dontell Jefferson or Eric Ferguson to step up and give us solid play, not only offensively but also defensively. That position is the key. It’s important that between Eric and Dontell, and Ronnie Brewer, too, that we get good play. There are a lot of intangible things that go into that position as well, such as leadership.”
“He’s made significant strides, not just in points, but he’s defended well. He’s not at the same level he was a few games ago. I’ve challenged him to pick it up defensively. I think he will respond well Saturday. He’s an emotional kid. We need him to play well and not put so much pressure on himself.”
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