North Carolina State men's basketball coach Sidney Lowe has watched enough games to know how good Davidson is, especially its backcourt.
Lowe had his weekly press conference Thursday and talked about stopping Davidson shooting guard Stephen Curry among other topics.
Lowe also was asked about the RBC Center being nearly half empty in some of the home games this season, and whether the holidays will be a distraction.
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Click below for the audio interview with Lowe.
What kind of impact will Marques Johnson have?
"His game is that of a steady kind of point guard, run the show for you, get you into the offense, defend and hustle. There is nothing flashy, he's just going to come in and work hard for you. That is all that we will ask him to do."
What do you see his role being or minutes?
"I really don't. We are already playing nine or 10 guys at a time, so it is tough to say minutes-wise what he'll play. The nice thing is knowing that he is available, so you never know when the opportunity might present itself."
What is the difference between practicing and playing games?
"There is a lot. There is a big difference there because one, the intensity level is a little different obviously in the game than in practice. The crowd is there so there is a little more pressure to do well, and when you haven't played in a live game, a real game for a year or so, it is quite an adjustment when you get out there. I think Farnold [Degand] has handled it well out and has done a nice job of it. Marques is going through the same thing. I think just the fact that he's going to be suited up and out there with his guys, that is going be a treat and a thrill for him, to finally be out there and be ready, just in case if his number is called."
What have you seen of him in practice?
"He just works hard. He comes every day and he works hard and tries to do exactly what we ask him to do. That is really the mainstay right now is playing hard and working hard and playing smart. He has been doing that at practice."
Were you trying to send a message when you took J.J. Hickson out a 1:53 into the game against South Carolina State?
"Yeah. We have played in enough games now for the guys to understand what this is all about and how to play this game. More importantly, how we have to play to win. We can't come out right out of the gate and give up offensive rebounds, give up tip-ins. We are deep enough that we can go to our bench. As I've said before, we are going to play the guys that are ready to go, playing hard for us and defending. If you are not doing that, then you need to come out and sit down for a while and give the next guy shot at it. Then see if you are ready to go back and play a little better when you go into the game."
Was he surprised by that?
"I'm sure he probably was, and that is good. It is good that he is surprised. You don't want him to get too complacent, in think they can predict what will happen. Right now, it is just a matter of trying to grow up and help these guys grow up a little bit and take the responsibility of playing the right way and playing hard and doing what they are supposed to do."
Is there anything that you guys will do to guard against 3-point baskets by Davidson and Stephen Curry?
"One, we are just going to play strong tough man-to-man defense. He is one of those players that we have gone over this now for four days, that you don't leave him, you just don't leave him. He is a guy that if you are two feet away, you are too far, it is too late. Don't give him the opportunities, really. That is what we're going to try and do. Doing that is a tough job, a tough job. We are going to need more than one guy being ready to defend him. He is constantly moving and they are setting screens for him. He does a nice job of reading the screens, when he has a step-back move when he catches the ball to clear some space. All he needs is a look. It is going to be a lot chasing and good solid man-to-man. We're just going to try and prevent him from getting some open looks."
Did you get to see Davidson play against North Carolina and Duke? What jumped out at you about them and Curry?
"Yes. They know how to play. They are very intelligent players. They are experienced players too and that will be a factor. They read situation so well. If there is a slip with the big guys on a pick-and-roll, they are slipping. Obviously, Richards with his passing ability, finds those guys. Curry finds those guys. Those bigs get a lot of baskets just based on basketball plays. When you play against the team that just knows how to play basketball, it is always going to be tough. Those games against Duke and Carolina, they executed their stuff and get some easy baskets and some open looks. The other thing, is that they play hard. It is never over. You can be up 12 or 13 on these guys, and Curry or Richards might hit two or three 3-pointers and they are back in the ball game. They do a great job of rotating from a defensive standpoint. They really try to force to beat them from the outside. They rotate from the weakside and stepped in and take charges. These are all things that we've talked about as a team. Sometimes you have to give the team credit for what they do well. Then you have to make your adjustments from there."
Was there more chatter at practice this week after getting the win over South Carolina State?
"I think the guys felt good about the win, absolutely. More importantly, not just the chatter, but what they were saying. They were talking about defense, about getting stops down the stretch while we were in practice in our four-minute games, where we put guys in situations. We'll say this is the last four, five minutes of a game, how do you play these last four, five minutes and not turning it over? We had a lot of conversations on the court from the guys about getting one more stop, one more stop, let's get a good shot. I think that is growth. That is our guys developing and understanding what it takes to win. We said it would be a process and I think they are definitely starting to get it."
Do you think you got the players attention by using your bench a lot vs. South Carolina State?
"When you have players coming off the bench that you can count on, it should make the guys that are in there play a little bit harder, play a little bit smarter. Really more importantly, what I told our guys is don't save yourself. There is no reason to save yourself. You go hard, and if it is four minutes, it is four minutes. If it is three minutes, it is three minutes. You go hard those three minutes and then we will have someone come in for you. I think the way that we play in trying to push the ball up the floor to get some easy baskets, if you play four, five minutes, then you probably should be a little tired, a little winded. We are going to have to utilize our bench and utilize those guys. We do have energy guys. Ben [McCauley], Dennis [Horner], Simon [Harris], Javi [Gonzalez], those guys come in and they play hard with a lot of energy. We need to take advantage of that."
Do you think the stigma of losing to a mid-major starting to disappear some?
"I think it is certainly coming to that, absolutely. When you look at the team, and look at the games and the teams that they are playing and how well they are playing, you would certainly think that. It is one thing when you start to talk about the different conferences and things of that nature, you really have to look at the players. Sometimes great players end up at smaller schools. This happens. You can't always look at the school, you have to look at the players that are there. Sometimes, you get those guys that didn't go to an ACC school or Big Ten school, whatever. But when you look at their track record from high school, that they won in high school, that they won championships and might have been Mr. Basketball or whatever the case might be. That they can play. Yeah, I think you have to look at that. You have to realize that this is not a game that you are supposed to win. These teams are not like that anymore."
Is respecting Curry part of that?
"When you talk about a kid like Curry, when you talk about a guy like Richards, a guy that leads the country in assists, that's saying a lot. He's up there. Those are pretty good players."
How much emphasis do you put in a week of practice do you put on respecting the other team?
"We talk about that a lot, again that's why I was saying earlier you give a team credit for who they are and what they do well. Now we try not to spend a lot of time on them, but we certainly discuss that and then I like to try and spend more time on us and our focus and what we need to do and how we need to play. Cause sometimes you can get caught up in talking too much about a team, I think then your players concentrate more on that than themselves, but we certainly have talked about them. We've had enough days to talk about Curry and Richardson and what they do and the shooters and the rebounders, how they play. We've had enough time to do that. We've given them enough information about this ball club. Now we need to concentrate on ourselves a little bit."
Do you worry about the focus of the players during the holidays?
"I'm not going to anticipate that happening, no, I'm anticipating us coming out and playing with great energy and playing hard and then again, if not, we'll find guys that will go in and do it, and those that start they are going to be ready to come back in a little later on."
How does technology play a part in scouting opponents?
"Plays a big part, especially when you can get those film early enough that you can really break them down and get more than one. We'd like to get three, four films if we can on a team and break it down, again, see their tendencies. We break it up, our coaches, they all, they each take certain ball clubs. If one guy is maybe more familiar with a team or familiar with a coach, the coaching style, we'll try to make sure he gets that team. Each one of our coaches have certain teams that they will scout and do the work on."
How do the scouting reports translate to the players
"I think the main thing, I know as a former player, the main thing for me was to know my guy, whoever I was guarding, my opponent, his tendencies, his strength. That was the most important thing, and we do that with the personnel sheet that we give the players and it talks about the individual players on the opponent's team so you can look at it and see who they are guarding. It tells you the three-point shooting percentages, tells you if he likes to drive left, drive right, tells you about him defensively, what he likes to do, rebounding, whatever it might be. I think that becomes more important than anything.
"Obviously we'll go over the plays, we'll watch films on these guys probably twice with the players, we'll break it down and show certain sets. We'll show that set maybe three or four times, we'll go through it on the court. We give them a lot of information, but you don't want to overload them. So if you break them down and just give them the tendencies of that individual, which a lot of times it will come down to that. A team runs a play, a lot of teams don't get shots off their initial sets. When a guy catches the ball, now he makes a move. Knowing what your guy likes to do, if I know I am guarding a three-point shooter, I'm never going to leave him, things of that nature."
Technology has probably changed too since you were playing.
"I'm sure, I'm sure, I'm not sure what coaches were doing then, I don't think we had the reels going but I'm not sure."
Is this a big upcoming stretch?
"This is a very tough stretch first of all, it's a tough stretch. These next three ball games, it's going to tell a lot I think in how we handle it, how we play, if we win them, but I think right now more importantly how do we come out and play, and I think that's what I'm looking for this game tomorrow. How do we come out of the gates? Do we come out with the energy and the focus to try to get off to a good lead, get off to a good start? Coming off a win, can we keep that, can we keep that going? Can we keep our focus, our concentration, and more important that effort in playing defense and getting stops when we need to?"
Is it important to get off to good starts?
"We've had good starts in games, even a game that we lost we had a good start, but more importantly right now and where I am is that I am looking at the teams that can finish the game. I said this at the very beginning of the season, it's not important to me, and I've told this to you guys, it's not important to me who starts, it's important to me who finishes. Who can be in a game that I can count on to get that stop, to get that rebound or to make a play for us, and I think I am starting to get a better feel as to those guys that you can kind of count on right now."
How does the three games during the Holidays factor into things?
"We talk about it obviously. Some of the guys are going to get a chance to see family some won't. That's a tough thing. But we have to keep our focus. We still have to play these games. God-willing if we don't get ill or something like that there is going to be another Christmas, another holiday. There's not going to be another game this year with Seton Hall during that time so we need to focus in and take care here take care of our business."
Will there be a gather together as a team?
We'll be together, we'll have dinner get together. We'll feed them.
What do you think of the size of the crowds at the RBC Center?
"Absolutely I'd love to see bigger crowds. Yes if we were in Reynolds it would be packed. I appreciate the people that are there. You know what, when they are cheering and telling for us, I hear us, I think our guys hear it. Would we like to have a packed house against everyone, absolutely, absolutely. I said this once when I was playing here, our fans come to see us. They don't come to see the other teams. If you do that, you are going to have a packed house. I think we'll get to that point eventually, I do. I think we'll get to where we're going to come see our guys and support our guys. I appreciate the people that are they. Sometimes they can't make it. I understand, but the ones that are there, I appreciate it and they get as loud as they can, and it definitely, it helps in a bigger arena. Twelve thousand in that arena is not 12,000 in Reynolds. But they yell, they support and they cheer for us. I appreciate it."
Are you surprised after last year though, did you expect more people?
"You know what, I never thought about it. I never really thought about it."
Would you like to play a game or two at Reynolds every year?
"Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, it's been one of the toughest places to play for years. It's no different now because it's going to be a packed house, it's hot in there, the crowd is going crazy, it's just a different atmosphere. Sure, yeah, if we could play in there a couple of games, absolutely."
Would playing at Reynolds make sense financially?
"That's the thing, while I say I'd like to play there, obviously I don't want to exclude anyone, someone who is supporting us and has been there and paying their money to see us play, no I wouldn't want that to happen. It's RBC, and it's a beautiful building, it's a beautiful building, it is. Like I said when we get 12,000 in there, 11,000 whatever it is, they yell, scream for us, we're home. That's the bottom line, we're home, and they're cheering for us. I love playing for our crowd."