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January 14, 2013

NC State expects to remain focused for Maryland



NC State will need to refocus after its huge victory over No. 1 Duke last Saturday when play resumes Wednesday at Maryland.

NC State (14-2, 3-0 ACC) moved up six spots to be ranked No. 14 in the country in the new The Associated Press poll Monday.

Maryland (13-3, 1-2 ACC) has lost its last two games &mdahs; home versus Florida State and at Miami.

NCSU second-year coach Mark Gottfried answered several questions Monday during his weekly ACC teleconference. Here is a transcript of what he said:

Opening statement:

"I think first of all, we've got a tough road game at Maryland, and I think they're much improved from a year ago. Watching film on those guys, I think with [Dezmine] Wells and [Alex] Len's improvement inside, you've got two elite level players."

Coach, do you feel any type of letdown there for Saturday and then going into a team that's lost a couple of games in a row?

"No, we've got four returning starters that have been through this league. I think they're very well aware of the fact that each game counts as one game. Saturday was fun, but it's one win, and that's it. Now you've got to go do it again 15 more times. We have an 18-game schedule and we have 18 opportunities. I think the fact that we've got some veteran players that have played, that should not be a factor for us."

Just to follow up on that, does your team play based on where it started in the rankings? Did they have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder or is that not part of their make-up?

"We don't ever talk about that. Where we were picked or projected is irrelevant. It comes down to how you play. Last year we weren't picked very high. It still came down to how you play so we're just not a team that's caught up in all of that. Those things are things that people are weighing in on. So we just need to concentrate on us, and it's not something that we talk about ever."

Will we ever see an undefeated team again?

"I think it would be awfully hard. I think the difference, obviously, is with television nowadays. Everybody has an opportunity to recruit good players. I think years ago the difference was that some people had more to offer, opportunities to be on national television, better facilities. Nowadays it seems everybody's caught up. Good players go everywhere. There is a lot more parity than I think there was through the '70s, '80s and even the 90s. So I think it would be really hard."

When you look at the Duke team you saw, how much difference does it make that they didn't have Ryan Kelly Saturday?

"Well, there is definitely a difference because Ryan is different from both [Josh] Hairston and Amile [Jefferson]. I thought that they did very well. Amile played great, and so did Hairston. They scored well, and defended well. But Ryan is just different. So I do think they're a different team. But we're all different when you lose a good player, when you lose a starter. Nobody is exempt from that. There is always an adjustment period when you have a starter out. Your team has gotten used to playing one way with a person's style and what they bring to the table. Now you've got to change just a little bit. They're not exempt from that. That's a difficult thing to do at this point here."

Do you feel you're doing things better than you were in December and January?

"I hope we're doing things better. You hope your team each year improves throughout the year. There is always a period at the beginning of the season where I believe your team is still learning how to play and how to play effectively. Who needs to do what? What is the best way if your team to defend good teams? What do you need to run at certain times in the game? Who needs to shoot? That takes a little while sometimes for that to come together. So I do think that we're better than we were early, but we still have to play, obviously."

Is the improvement in one certain area or two key areas?

"Not necessarily. I just think in our biggest challenge this year was integrating some very talented young players into a veteran group that were used to playing together. We needed to blend that. So I think we're better in that regard, for sure.

How much does familiarity that some of your guys have with Dez because they've actually played with him as opposed to seeing him on tape?

"I think it probably helps. When players know each other, they usually know their games sometimes better than we do. So, yeah, I think that probably works the other way too with Dez. He knows our guys pretty good too. So I do think that becomes a factor a little bit at times."

Was there a time when you thought that he might end up in Raleigh after what happened at Xavier?

"Well, we certainly looked into it. I think he's a great player. I think he made a good decision and it's been working out well for him. But we certainly got involved in that, so, turned out good for him."

No. 1 in the nation in field goal percentage, do you think that's something that's sustainable over the course of conference play? What will it take to stay at or near that level?

"Well, it's interesting. It's another one of those things that I'm not too caught up in where we're actually ranked. What I'm interested in is are we executing our offense well, and are we taking high percentage shots for each individual player, which I think we can still improve in those areas. We can execute better and we can find better shots sometimes for guys. So I think we'll see at the end of the year where we finish in our ranking. But I'm interested in winning games more than where we're ranked in a category. We've just got to make sure we keep executing, improving our execution and getting the right guys the right shots. I think that's what's important."


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