NC State coach Sidney Lowe has settled on freshmen DeShawn Painter and Richard Howell at center and power forward respectively, now that Howell has returned from injury.
Lowe also announced Friday during his weekly press conference that fifth-year senior guard Farnold Degand is getting "closer" to playing, but wouldn't commit to the idea that Degand will play Saturday at Marquette.
Lowe was impressed with how hard Marquette plays, and expects the undersized Golden Eagles to double team the taller Wolfpack players.
Click below to listen to Lowe's press conference:
What is the difference for Tracy Smith to go against guys his size or ones that 6- 11?
"One thing for sure is you probably can expect to double or triple team him in the post [when guarded by guys around his size]. On one hand, you like that and try to take advantage of that what we might consider a mismatch situation. On the other hand, you have to play smart. It's not often he's going to get that situation. We have to be prepared to just make the right plays.
"Tracy has to be very aggressive in his ducking in, and pinning that guy in there. He can't be satisfied with just catching it on the block. If you catch it on the block, then you allow double teams to come. He has to try and catch it in the paint, deep in the paint where he can catch it and score. While it might seem like an easy thing, he's going to have to really work. This 6-6, 6-7 guy [Marquette's Jimmy Butler], he works hard. He really works hard, and will try to make it difficult for him."
How has Javi Gonzalez been this year?
"I think Javi has played well, he's played better this year. He's playing with much more confidence. He's much more aggressive with it, both on offense and defense. I think he still needs to cut down on his turnovers. He at times, wants to create something that isn't really there. That is his mentality. We are trying to get him to just be satisfied with taking it back out, resetting the play and now lets get a good shot, as opposed to create something that isn't there.
"I think that is a change for him because his mentality has always been to play the other way. That's really the only area that I see that he needs to improve on, is understanding when it is not there the first time, and we get a second opportunity, a second shot, a loose ball, and he gets the ball, that doesn't mean now for him to start going and create something. Now, lets get it back out, take control and get your players in the right position, and run something. That is the adjustment for him.
"Other than that, he has been great. I'm very pleased with his effort and his communication with the guys in terms of running the show. He's pushing the ball, his defense, his rebounding. He's second in rebounding on the team. He has been playing great. I don't want to take away from anything that he has done. The area that he has to improve on is taking care of the basketball, turnover-wise, and then just continuing to have control of the game."
What have you learned about your team following six games?
"I think we are still finding some of those things out as we go along the season. We are going to play different teams, and obviously you are going to get into ACC play. I would say from the beginning, so far we've found out that these guys are going to play together, they are going to play hard. Our last ball game is the only one where we didn't come out aggressive the way we normally do. Unfortunately, you are going to have some of those days. For the most part, they've come out and played hard and played together. That I count on. That I don't worry about right now at this point. We have to continue to do that obviously.
"There are some other things that we still have to see. We've executed pretty well. Will we continue to do that? I'd like to see us run more. I don't think we are getting enough opportunities early on the break. Some of that is part of the defense getting deflections, steals and things. The area that I'd like to improve on is rebounding and running. Those are the two areas that we really would like to improve on. [We] didn't shoot the ball well last ball game, but we feel that will come around for us if we keep making the right passes."
Do you expect the same type of game as last year's last second loss to Marquette?
"Yeah, the first thing I expect from them, I know for a fact, they are going to play extremely hard. There is no question about it. They are going to play hard, period. That is what is going to get them over for the rest of their year. They play hard. They are going to try and utilize their strengths, mismatch situations where they have quickness, try to put it on the floor, create things.
"[Lazar] Hayward can obviously bounce inside, he can bounce outside, he can put it on the floor. [Jimmy] Butler can put it on the floor. And then they rebound. They aren't big, but they really go after the boards. It all goes back to their effort and their toughness. They are tough. They are just tough, and they play hard. We can expect that. That is what is going to happen. We have to go up there knowing that this is going to happen because I think that is their M.O. They going to try and out-work you and out-tough you."
Is Smith's fearlessness against taller guys a unique skill inside?
"Maybe he has that cool, calm, collected attitude, I guess, but I'm not sure. Obviously, he has the ability to score in there. He can score against big guys. I thought he did a great job a couple of times where he actually went around the big guy for Northwestern instead of trying to shoot over them all the time. I think that is where he is learning, how to score on those guys. He is not going to be able to just jump over some of these guys all the time just because they are too big. He controls his body very well. He puts his body into them and protects the basketball.
"I think he is so accustomed to doing that, playing his position and playing against taller guys, he has developed that ability to do that. We still talk sometimes about just going to power. He can double pump it sometimes, and we'll tell him to get away from the double pump. When you double pump, you are not going to get a foul called. You have to go right through that guy and get in there. He has the ability to score against bigger guys. That is just something that he is able to do."
Has he improved as a passer?
"I think he's better as a passer. More importantly, I think he's understanding it better. He's starting to understand that there is a double team, there is a triple team, ' I've got to pass the basketball.' That is the first key. He sees that now. He understands that if I can get it out there early and those guys can make some shots, it will open up for me later in the post. That is what we will see tomorrow.
"It's going to be double, triple and we have to make the open pass. We worked on that today. We had to blow the whistle one time because one of our guys ball faked to an open man. Why would you ball fake to an open man? You throw him the ball. It didn't make sense to me. You don't ball fake an open man, you throw him the ball. You know. Those are the things that we work on."
How have the freshmen developed so far?
"I think those guys have done a great job. I think Jordan has done a nice job for us in there, especially from a defensive standpoint. Just his size in there, some key blocks that he has had in ball games. He understands the offense, understands ball screens. He is about as good … Dennis [Horner] is probably the best, but Jordan is probably up there second at defending ball screens. He really understands that pretty well.
"I think DeShawn [Painter] has done a nice job for us. I think he's still trying to pick up a few things. We are trying to settle him down to one position right now, and let him learn that position. His athleticism can certainly help us. He's running the floor well.
"Richard [Howell] hasn't really played much yet. I think Josh [Davis] has been really good. He's been really good. When he comes in, he's automatic energy, automatic. When he comes in, it is not going to be long before something happens with him, where he is going to get an offensive rebound, or a loose ball, or make a big defensive play. Something is going to happen with him as soon as he gets into the ball game. He's going to help us down the road.
"Scott [Wood] is playing OK. He's not shooting the ball the way he would like to. He understands what we are doing. He's good on the defensive end. He's an excellent team defender. Passing the ball, execution. Once his shooting comes around, then I think you are going to start to see how effective he can be for our team."
Does Wood just need one game to break out of it?
"I think he needs to hit a couple. He needs to knock a couple down and get that confidence back. I think that will do that for him. He has never lacked confidence. That is one thing, even in high school, he has never lacked confidence. He has always thought the next shot was going in. We are just trying to keep him there, and not let him get down on himself. We want him to look for the shot. As long as it is a good shot, an open shot, we want him to take it."
How has the new block/charge rule under the basket had an impact?
"Oh man, yeah it has, I think it has. I watched the game, a couple of games actually, actually watched the Duke-Wisconsin game. They had a play there where I thought the Duke guy stepped, actually was standing there waiting, standing there waiting for the guy, and took the charge, and they called the block. He pointed down like to the floor like you are inside something where there is the invisible line.
"I just don't understand. I don't understand that rule and why they won't just put a line down there. I think it puts too much pressure on the officials, and they have enough pressure as it is. They have a tough job to do. The last thing you want to do is give them an invisible line. That's just me. That rule just confuses me. I can't say it bothers me, it confuses me. I just don't understand it."
How long do you think before they start painting the lines on the floor?
"I don't know if they like changing in midstream. They might let it play for the rest of the year, but I think they are going to get enough coaches that complain about it. From my standpoint, if it's broke why not fix it now? Why not fix it right now, and just put it there and let's play. Like I said I think it puts too much pressure on officials, and they have enough pressure, especially when you got some good officials out there that because of the lack of that line probably makes the wrong call.
"You just don't want that. Just watching that game, it wasn't my game, but just watching that game, you hate to see a player make a great play and the team is penalized for it."
Has Wood put in extra time in the gym since he's gym rat?
"You can't put in too much time in the gym."
Has he spent a lot of time in the gym?
"He stays after it, gets there early. He got new contacts about two weeks ago. He hasn't been shooting well for about two weeks, so check that out."
Is there a transition of arena like this vs. a gym?
"In fact we talked about that, and I was praying that wasn't the case. I was talking with the coaches and I just said, 'I hope this is not something that he's always had a problem shooting in an arena like this, an open arena.' But yeah, guys do have that, but there's an adjustment for him, and I think the more we can get over there and practice that's going to help as well.
"I mean it's different. It's a tough thing to practice in a facility all week and then to go into an arena and now you have a game and shoot. Some players, it affects them. It does, and hopefully we can get opportunities to shoot there more as we can schedule there. They only have two courts and we're trying to do drills and things of that nature so it's not conducive to practice there all the time. Maybe we just have to bring a special backdrop or something, I don't know, put something back there."
How is Farnold Degand doing?
"He's closer, yeah. He's closer, he's doing everything he's supposed to do. I think he understands the importance of everything he's doing and what he needs to do. He's definitely closer."
"It's just some things that we need to see, that I need to see to make sure it's okay. We want it now, we really do, but it's really not all on me. It's just some stuff that has to happen. I have to keep telling he is eligible. It's just some things that we're looking at down the road."
Is Richard Howell going to play more?
"Richard will play more. He'll play more. He's had a few practices, a few more practices, and is scrimmaging. The big thing when you miss so much time is conditioning plus the mental part of knowing what we're doing. Even though you can sit there and watch, it's different than being out there and running it, executing it. But yeah, he'll play, he'll play more tomorrow."
How long will it take for his conditioning?
"I think it depends on the individual and then the work that they put in. We do extra stuff with him, extra conditioning with Wright. He's got to watch his diet obviously. There are things that he might eat if he was in great shape that he might have to pass on, watching what time he eats at night, not eating too late and laying down. It really just depend on the individual though. Some people it takes longer to drop that weight than other people.
Will he be a help when he gets into shape?
"Oh yeah, Richard is a very good basketball player. He's a very good passer. He's a very good passer, and certainly with what we run and things we do, we need big guys that can handle the ball and make those passes. When he gets there, when he gets in shape, kind of in game shape, ready to go, he's ready to help us out."
On DeShawn Painter:
"We're looking at him more at center, a little more at five. Gives us once again athleticism there. Then we're pretty protected then. We have Tracy, DeShawn and Jordan. Any foul trouble comes up or anything like that, we have three guys that can really concentrate on that position.
"He'll be able to swing down to four, but that may be a little bit later down the road. When you're trying to learn the system, learn plays, I found that it's best that those freshmen learn one position first then get down the road before you play anything else."
What is your ideal scoring range?
"We'd like to be in the mid-70s, at least. That means we are creating opportunities, and then looking at also the number of shots we're getting up in games. We want to make sure we get that number up. Now those are good shots, but if we're pushing the ball and getting some quick ones, then that should get up there as well as depending on how foul shots we shoot and if the shots go down as well.
"We'd like to get up in that mid-70s run and hoping that our defense is solid enough to keep our opponents from getting there."
Is the team pushing the ball enough?
"We want to look to push it every time though, and I do rely on my point guards sometimes to feel the flow of the game that if we push it and push it and didn't get anything, okay now let's settle down here, now let's walk it down here and get something good. That part of it I want, but I don't want them to just walk the ball up the floor every time. We want to push it up the floor. We want those wings to get down the floor, run down the floor and hit those baselines and come on back up and give that opportunity to get an easy basket, to get something quick. I just don't want us to get into a halfcourt line team. We need to be able to run halfcourt sets, but I don't want to have to rely on halfcourt line and execution all the time. I want us to get down and get easy baskets."