Capel: 'Our guys have a lot of confidence'
Jeff Capel met the media after Pitt beat N.C. State on the road Friday night. Here's the full rundown of what he said.
Capel: I’m really, really proud of my team. What a tough effort, to be able to go on the road, first game in the ACC against an outstanding opponent and to defend the way that we did, to play with toughness and the togetherness that we had for 40 minutes. I’m really proud of the effort that our guys gave.
N.C. State coming in, they’ve played the fastest pace in the league, averaging 83 points per game, five three’s per game, and I thought our defense was outstanding throughout. I thought we were incredibly connected, we played really hard, we made things difficult for them and we were able to get some stops, get out in transition and I thought we did a pretty good job executing once we got strong. I thought there was a moment there in the first half where we didn’t play as strong as needed against their pressure. But once we corrected that, I thought we were able to generate some good looks.
Jamarius was outstanding on both sides. Obviously the scoring and big shots, but I thought he did equally as good a job defensively guarding one of the best guards in the country in Smith. Our guys took on that challenge, and we knew it wasn’t a one-on-one challenge; we had to do it collectively as a group and we did that. I thought Federiko was outstanding. For him to have to defend multiple ball screens so far away with how they shoot the basketball in a possession and then come back on offense and set multiple ball screens and rim run and put pressure on the rim and the energy that he played with.
Sibande made some huge shots for us. They kind of got into a run - great skip pass and he made a three right in front of our bench that extended our lead and gave us a little bit of a cushion. He kind of stymied their run a little bit.
So again, just really proud of our guys. Big-time win. We have to keep trying to get better.
You talked about - a couple weeks ago, you talked about how your team gets in foul trouble in the first half and it leads to a lot of different problems on the offensive end. With Blake getting two fouls in five minutes, for your team to be able to still hang around and then go to the locker room with a lead, what does that say about the growth you guys have had in the last couple weeks?
Capel: Well again, I thought our bench guys - Nike, he’s a sixth starter for us but he comes off the bench. I thought Jorge gave good minutes. He rebounded well, he defended well. I thought Nate gave a really good two minutes. And obviously Federiko. That’s four guys off our bench that came in, especially in the first half with Blake in foul trouble, Nike played with two fouls, those guys came back in and gave us good minutes and were smart in those moments to not pick up a third. I thought it was incredible growth for us.
Nike had - we’ve talked about him for the last three or four games; what have you seen change in him since VCU that has led him to be probably your most productive backcourt player in the last four or five games?
Capel: You know, he’s, I think getting healthier, I think trusting his knee more, but I think also understanding his role on this team, what we need him to do, and him feeling comfortable and confident in what’s needed from him. And I think he has unbelievable support from his teammates, and that’s something that’s really big. Those guys are so happy to have him, so proud of him for what he’s gone through and how he’s battled back and you watch plays that he makes and things that he does, there’s no one more excited than his teammates.
Speaking of roles, another quiet night for John, at least as the stat sheet is concerned. Do you think as time goes on that the numbers will start piling up because they’re going to spread out and create opportunities for him down low? Or is there something you guys need to do to get him a little more involved?
Capel: Well, he’s got to play better. That’s the bottom line. He has to play better. There are opportunities that are there. He’s really, really important for us, but he’s got to play better.
You guys in the second half had a double-digit lead and twice N.C. State went on a run, and right after a timeout or a break, both times you got big shots. Nelly had the four-point play and Nike with the one you mentioned. Can you speak to the importance of your guys stepping up, your veteran guards stepping up to make those shots?
Capel: Our guys have a lot of confidence. They have a lot of confidence in themselves, in what we do. They have a really good feel of what we’re looking for, the things that are open. They have a really good feel for sharing the basketball, trying to make the right play, and we had some guys step up and got fortunate and made some big tough shots. They weren’t afraid of the moment - on the road, the crowd’s going nuts, they have a little bit of momentum, and those guys stepped up and made big plays.
Do you feel like Nelly needs to shoot the basketball more?
Capel: I think - man, we just won. We just won two road games. I’m not worried about any of that stuff.
Do you feel like your defense pushed them out of their comfort zone? In the first half, 14 of the 34 shots by N.C. State were from three-point land, and other than Smith making those quick two at the beginning of the game, they only made one more after that.
Capel: Yeah, I just thought that we did a good job. I don’t know if it forced them outside of their comfort zone, but I thought we did a really good job of - we really wanted to try to take them off the three-point line, we really needed to play, you know, compete on the basketball if you’re guarding the ball, because I think they have some outstanding one-on-one players. Our ball screen defense, we needed to do that. Burns got going in the first half and made some big plays. We’ll live with that. That’s contested, it’s two-pointers. Contested two-point shots, that’s what we want teams taking. But I just thought we fought throughout and really did a good job of understanding tendencies.
You talked a lot about Smith. Joyner was held to just a single point. How proud are you as a coach to look at their leading scorer coming into today without a field goal?
Capel: Yeah, I’m proud of our whole defense for everything that we did. We competed for 40 minutes. Like I said, there’s some things we have to improve. Certainly defensive rebounding. But to be able to come on the road, first ACC game for a lot of these guys in a hostile environment against an outstanding team and a team that’s averaging 83, to hold them to 60, to hold them to six three’s, they were making nine a game, to turn them over 12 times, that’s a big-time performance.
Nine of those 12 turnovers were in the second half; were there any adjustments or was it kind of just reinforcing what you guys planned to do coming in?
Capel: It was just trying to reinforce, correcting some things, making sure we were over a little bit earlier, our help defense being a little bit more active. We got a feel for some of the things they were doing. We were able to get in passing lanes and get some steals. But again, it’s all a credit to our guys for how hard they played and competed.