Jan. 14, 2013
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory answers questions from the media each Monday on the weekly ACC Coaches Teleconference. The Yellow Jackets began Monday preparing to play No. 3-ranked Duke Thursday night at 9 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Thursday’s game will be televised nationally on ESPN. Tech heads into the week with a 10-5 overall record, 0-3 in the ACC following a 70-65 overtime loss Virginia Tech at home Saturday.
“Obviously, we’re a little disappointed in our second half performance on Saturday afternoon. Sometime it’s not what you do but what your opponents do. I’ve got to give Virginia Tech credit; they played extremely well in the second half. They have a dynamic score in Green that kind of held them together when we were making a run and kept them within striking distance. Our margin of error is small as we continue to try and rebuild a little bit in this league. You have a home game that you have the opportunity to win, you have to take advantage of it, because we’re in a difficult phase of our schedule as well.
“We have a great challenge on Thursday. We’re playing against not only one of the best teams in our conference, but one of the best teams in the country. They have some guys playing at a very high level. I thought we played well on Wednesday on the road in a tough environment at North Carolina State. They weren’t looking past Georgia Tech. I thought they played extremely well in that game. Mark (Gottfried) had those guys ready to go, and I thought we competed extremely well in there. Not pleased with our performance especially the second half on Saturday, but we got to keep moving forward. We’ve got the opportunity to play two games now in the next thirteen days and have some chance to get on the practice court and continue to improve.”
On the difficulty of playing Duke in Durham coming off a loss and does it make it any easier that Ryan Kelly isn’t playing?
“Well, it doesn’t matter if you’ve come off 20 wins or 10 losses, it’s hard to play in Durham. Obviously, an exceptionally coached and disciplined team with great talent as well, and that’s a tough combination to overcome, but you have to embrace it. You have to embrace the challenge, and you’ve got to be excited about the opportunity. You can’t worry about the mistakes.You have to compete on every single play. Where we’re at as a program, that’s what we preach, it’s what we emphasize, and hopefully we’ll be able to go out there and perform that way. They’re going to have some runs, you have to take care of the ball and play extremely good defense on the dribble.
“Ryan Kelly I believe is one of the most aggressive post players in the country. You just love guys where that motor is running every single possession. One thing is, they are a different team without Kelly, there’s no question about that. I’m sure you’ve caught the comment that Mark Gottfried said during the halftime, they replaced him with another All-America, but different. He brings great experience to the team. And in this league, as good as the freshmen are, you have to rely on your upperclassmen. Sometimes initially it affects the team a little more and as you get through it, the next game or two, guys start of understanding the new role or objective that they have to get done, and they start tightening things back up again.”
Does it feel like a new experience for your guys that your guys have never been to Cameron?
“Obviously our freshman haven’t, and I think our upperclassmen played there probably the year before. Yeah, but everything this year with this year’s team and the progress that we’re making, it feels a lot different. We still have some of the same Achilles’ heels in terms of problems that we have to overcome and so forth. Some of it due to youth, some of it due to ability to make some plays that need to be made, but that’s part of the progress, part of growing pains and so forth. In this league, you better respect everybody you play, because everybody’s got great players. But we also want to get to a point where that respect is a healthy respect, but we go out there and try to play Georgia Tech basketball, and that’s defend better, rebound better (which is a key for us). And that’s when the opportunity comes, and we’d like it to come more often is to really push the ball and share the ball.”
On the improvement of Mfon Udofia from last year to now
“I think he’s still playing his best basketball of his career right now, and a lot is thrown on his plate. He’s our only senior along with graduate student Pierre Jordan. He got banged up in the Illinois game on our way back from our trip to California. I still don’t think he’s 100 percent. I think there’s no problem with it [his ankle] – he could play but he’s lacking a little bit of that explosiveness that he had early. But we’re just not the same team without him playing well, so he’s done a good job of taking care of the ball. He’s shooting his best percentages from the field, taking quality shots. We need him to shoot better from the free throw line. And now he’s got to guard Green at Virginia Tech. And he’s got to guard Larkin. He doesn’t get to rest on the other end either, so he’s having as good a senior year as we had hoped. And to be honest, we need him to do more. And that’s not always fair, but that’s the reality of it.”
On Udofia setting an example for the rest of the team
“He definitely values the work ethic that you have to put in everyday. He comes hard and practices hard every single day. Games and practices are important to him. He’s got an emotional tie to what we’re doing. All those things are important. I think at times it’s frustrating for him to realize that some of the work that he’s doing in terms of leadership, he may not be able to reap the benefits from. You look at some guys, as much improved as we are, he may not be able to enjoy all the fruits of his labor, but in great programs, you put in the work and understand that other things down the road at going to be super positive, and sometimes that’s hard for younger guys to grasp or buy into, but Mfon has really done that.”