lair – Capel: ‘We’re just focused on North Carolina’

Jeff Capel talked about Pitt’s upcoming trip to North Carolina and other topics on the ACC teleconference Monday morning. Here’s the full rundown of what he said.

You’ve already played North Carolina. You’ve had a little bit of time to look over their tape and see how they’ve progressed throughout the season. What’s different about this team compared to the last time you saw them play?
Well, I thought they were really good the last time we saw them. I still think they’re really good. Obviously, they’ve won four in a row. They’re very talented. Obviously, it starts with Bacot, the pressure he puts on your whole defense with his ability to score, to draw fouls, to rebound, give them extra possessions. Obviously, RJ Davis is a heck of a guard. He’s playing really well, playing with confidence, shooting the basketball extremely well, making tough plays. Caleb Love is a guy that you’re always afraid of, because of his ability to put points on the board, and he can do it in a hurry. Leaky Black, just kind of like the ultimate glue guy, does a little bit of everything, does it really, really well. I saw, I think it was the Wake game when he really scored the basketball when they played them, Wake Forest, in Chapel Hill. Hit a few threes in that game.

So, I mean, they’re talented, they’re really good, they’re well-coached. It will be a tough challenge for us.

You’ve talked for a while about your team needing to play stronger defense. You saw that especially to finish the last game. How have you felt about the progress that your team has made to be a strong defensive team in the ACC?
I think we’ve done well in spurts. We need to be consistently good on that side. Our initial defense has been pretty good; where we get in trouble is when we don’t rebound, when teams have been able to take advantage from that standpoint. Or if we’re careless with the ball and allowing transition baskets. It’s something that we continue to have to work on and continue to get better with. But I am pleased with some of the things we’ve done so far.

As someone who grew up in North Carolina as an ACC basketball observer, do you have memories of watching games that Billy Packer did?
Yeah, man. Yeah, I did. For me, growing up, he was like the voice of college basketball. Growing up right there in North Carolina, watching those games when I was little – like, I lived and breathed ACC basketball when I was growing up. When I got to sixth grade, my dad became an assistant coach at Wake Forest and I obviously got to learn more about Billy then because he played at Wake, got to meet him. But just hearing his voice and what he meant for college basketball, in general, but especially right there on Tobacco Road, a big-time loss for the college basketball community. He was the voice of the NCAA Tournament when I was growing up. He was the young guy. You’d watch the Final Four and see him, and I remember hearing the call when Lorenzo Charles dunked in the air ball and, you know, always hearing, ‘They’ve won it, they’ve won it, they’re going to Albuquerque’ when State went on to the Final Four. So I was really sad to hear about his passing.

I believe your last two matchups against Wake and Miami, the games came down to literally the last possession. I think Miami, you all had an 11-0 run the last two minutes – they didn’t score the last two minutes of the ball game. Can you speak on your assessment of your team’s ability to close tight games out?
I think the thing that this team has done for a good part of the year now is just stay present. We’ve done a pretty good job of not letting mistakes or things lead to other mistakes, or even let – we’ve gotten better with not allowing really good plays to fester on either. So we just try to stay present, man. We try to stay in the moment, we try to focus and concentrate on each possession, and we’re getting better and better at learning how to do that.

You hinted at it after the game on Saturday, but talking about the management of minutes and looking at a guy like Jamarius, he’s played 34 or more minutes in four of his last five games. How do you balance that kind of thing throughout these midweek practices? And after this North Carolina game, you get six days before your next game; are you looking forward to maybe a little bit of rest?
I think as you go on throughout a season, you have to adjust what you do in practice, how much you do, how much contact you have in practice, the physicality of it. Normally when you get towards the middle and end of January, you’re starting to back off. You’re not doing as much contact in practice. Some guys may – especially after a game – normally, our games are on Wednesdays, so normally the Thursday is really a non-contact day. We’ll do stuff with guys that didn’t play heavy minutes, we’ll do some stuff with them. But the other guys, it’s more of a mental day. So that’s what we do.

And to answer the second part, man, we’re just focused on North Carolina. That’s it. We’ll get to the bye week after that and we’ll figure out what we’re going to do, but we need every ounce of our attention and everything that we have focused on going down to Chapel Hill and playing a really, really good team on their home court.

In that final two minutes against the Hurricanes, what did your team do so well to kind of just shut down their offense and close the game out on the 11-0 run?
We had some individual pride defensively. We did a really good job there. We had really good help defense. We were in gaps early, we were in a stance, we talked and we rotated well. There was one play where Wong beat us on a wing drive and we had great rotation to come and wall him up. We got lucky – they missed a couple of shots during that stretch that they can make, because they’re really good players. But by getting stops and turnovers, it enabled us to get out in transition and we were able to get some baskets before their defense got set.

Leave a Comment