Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, players Moses Wright, James Banks, on loss to Notre Dame
JOSH PASTNER: First off, want to give obviously Notre Dame credit, Coach Brey and his staff and players. He’s one of the best coaches in the country, and they’ve got a really good team, and Mooney is very, very good. There’s no question about that.
Secondly, they shot the daylights out of it the first half. We were just on our heels, in a sense, and they were just making those threes. We dug ourselves a hole, but as the year has been, we have fought, scrapped and clawed our way back every game, and it was no different this game. We found a way to get back in. We just dug ourselves such a deep hole that it was hard to dig out of.
But we gave ourselves a chance, and that’s all you can ask for. Our guys have played their tails off for this program all year long. You know, I was really proud of Moses Wright, the way he has gotten better towards the end of the season. He’s continued to improve. James Banks the second half was obviously at a high level for us and led the ACC in shot blocking and was all-defensive team.
It was a tough loss. We’ve got to have a great off-season this off-season and spring, summer, fall. We’ve got to get better, got to keep improving. We’ll obviously be older as we go into next season. But to wrap up for this year, I was proud of our young men in terms of the effort, energy, fight that they’ve given this program every game, but obviously losing stinks, so we’ll get back to the drawing board and get back at it.
Q. Josh, it seemed like they had a really great plan for attacking your zone and kind of used Mooney, kind of a dose of your medicine with the high post and kicking it out.
JOSH PASTNER: It’s a disadvantage of playing them — this is the seventh time we’ve played them against our defense, you know, so that was just one of the things — in fact, when they were playing Pittsburgh in Notre Dame, I had told our staff we would have been better off playing Pittsburgh because they have only seen us once and Notre Dame, this is would have been the seventh time that Coach Brey has seen us and so they did a good job, but they also made shots. The first two times we played them, if you look at the numbers, we held them in the 20 percent range from three and 31 percent from the field. We just — today they made a lot of threes.
They were just on fire that first half, and you’ve got to give them full credit. And we were actually playing okay offensively, and we scored 32 points. We only had two turnovers. We had seven assists on 13 made field goals. They had probably their best half all year long was against us this first half, and that’s just one of those things, unfortunately.
Q. Do you feel snake bit at this point? It seems like every time you start to get a little momentum going, things kind of go backwards on you. You had a game where your offense played pretty well.
JOSH PASTNER: Yeah, you know, I was just saying that for us we have — a big step for us we’ve got to make, I said before the year that we needed to win road games. We’ve won some tough road games at North Carolina State, at Arkansas, at Syracuse, but then our next step is we’ve got to be consistent. If we want to get to not playing on Tuesday, so we’re playing in the NCAA Tournament, our consistency level — and I still believe the best way to do that is getting old, staying old, and getting old, our team, our core group will all be back next year, obviously, so they’ll just get older by just the natural maturation of college basketball.
But that’s a big thing is consistency. We were really good against Boston College, really good against North Carolina State, and we were really good the second half, and we were good offensively the first half. We just had a bad defensive game the first half.
You know, I was sitting next to a coach next to me before the game, another ACC coach, and he told me, he said, in all his years, he’s never seen his defenses — I swear to you I said this in my mind — he said, in all my years, I’ve never seen a defense that’s not man-to-man that’s as good as yours, because we came into this game fifth in the country in three-point defense, and we play all zone. Most teams against zone you gave up — fifth in the country in three-point defense. That’s how good we are. And he said that to me, and I was like, I hope he doesn’t jinx us. And I really felt that when he said that — I said that in my mind, when he told me that before the game, I hope he doesn’t jinx us. They were just incredible from the three-point line. They were on fire. It was probably Notre Dame’s best half all year, and it just came at the right time. Unfortunately for us, it came at the wrong time.
Q. What did you think about the way you guys were playing defensively, particularly in the first half?
JOSH PASTNER: Well, we just — they made a lot of great shots, and we weren’t as good the first half. I mean, there’s just no other way to deny it. Our defense, which has been our staple all year long, just we failed the first half.
But second half we were obviously much better. They scored 26 points the second half. First half they had 52. We haven’t done that all year long. It was just a bad first half.
And again, there’s no excuse. It’s just, I don’t know if it’s — if it was the conference tournament or we didn’t play Saturday, I don’t know why we played the way we played, but again, that falls on my shoulder, and we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and figure that out, and the best thing we can do is not put ourselves to be playing on Tuesday. That’s the goal is we’ve got to get to the next days. And if you’re not playing on Tuesday, you’re probably going to be in the tournament, so that’s what we’ve got to accomplish.
Q. Moses, when you came out of the second half, you scored I think the first eight points for them. I’m just wondering, was that part of the adjustments at halftime, adjustment strategy, try to get you the ball down underneath, or was that more a question of just how things worked out?
MOSES WRIGHT: It was how things worked out. When we went in the locker room, Sylvester got on us about how we were so lax in the first half and how we had to be more aggressive. So when I caught it in the high post, I just attacked then on defense, and I just scored.
JOSH PASTNER: Moses has gotten better and better, which I’m really proud of him, as has James, and for us, look, the bottom line is for us, José had a tough game. And in this league your guard play has to be good every time you step on the floor. Boston College, NC State, our guard play was good and we won both games. Today Michael Devoe was solid but José he had five assists to one turnover but it’s hard in this league if your guards aren’t really good every time you step on the floor, and tonight, this afternoon, José didn’t play his best, and obviously that was a struggle for us.
Q. That’s actually what I was going to ask is even if you have Moses going for 25, how difficult is it to win if your point guard goes 0-for for the first 38 minutes?
JOSH PASTNER: We’re probably not winning. When you were at the Florida State game, and in that stretch of — José had been, the last six or seven games, he’d been averaging at a high level, and you look at how good we’d been playing. Prior to that he was just in a bad slump, in a funk, and we weren’t real good offensively. Thank God our defense saved us.
But without José playing well, he’s our engine in a sense, and it’s not that he has to make 30 points, it’s that he’s got to have the energy level, and I just didn’t think he had his same fight energy level that he usually has. He’s our motor guy for that.
And in this league, you’ve got to have great guard play to perform every time you step on the floor in this league.
James did his job. He did a double-double. Moses did his job. It’s just, when we’re relying on José for that, we need him to produce. But he’s been in a stretch where he’s really played well. This is his first off game in about the last six, seven games.
Q. James, how difficult has it been to defend? They have two good posts that can score and Mooney is really difficult because he can stretch the court. How was that match-up for you today?
JAMES BANKS: Oh, Mooney is a great player. Juwan, he did a great job in the post, as well. But once we were able to get out — it’s a lot more difficult than 20 because of the responsibilities that I have playing that X 5. But when we were able to go into man, the biggest thing is just not letting them get the catch because we’re playing against good players in the ACC, and you let them get that catch, they have a package that they’re able to score.
Q. Moses, can you describe a little bit just the confidence you felt every time — it seemed like the offense was kind of running through you. You seemed like you were looking to score in the second half. I’m curious if you’ve ever felt like that in a game, particularly at this level.
MOSES WRIGHT: My teammates really helped me get that confidence because first half I wasn’t really looking to be aggressive. But with the four other players that was on the court and the bench players, they really helped motivate me to be aggressive.
JOSH PASTNER: For Moses, he’s come a long way. He’s really starting to be consistent. He’s got to have a great off-season. But you’ve got to remember, Moses was literally a zero start recruit. I think we were his only scholarship offer. And he’s only been playing for a few years of organized basketball. Prior to that he was a tennis player. So I’m proud of Moses. He has gotten a lot better.
In these last two games, even this last stretch, three or four or five games he’s been playing, but especially his last two, he’s played as well as anybody in the league. He’s been very high level, so very proud of him for that.
Q. Josh, what are you missing to kind of kick your team to the next level? What do you need to add in the off-season, or what do you need to develop in the off-season?
JOSH PASTNER: Let me tell you this: As I said in my radio show last night, I didn’t come to Georgia Tech to finish 10th place and not be in the NCAA Tournament. The whole objective is to get the program back to the NCAA Tournament and then the next step is to try to move up the ladder from there and try to compete with the upper tier for league titles, but the first step is to get to the NCAA Tournament, that is the objective. You know, initially it was a five-year plan because I truly believed we had to get old and stay old. I really believe if we had Josh Okogie back this year, we would have been in the tournament, but we didn’t. He starts for the Timberwolves.
Missing him was a crushing blow for this season, but going for next season, we’ve got to move the needle because we’ll have our core group back. Of course we’re going to continue to recruit and recruit guys in the spring, but we’ve got to most importantly continue to get the current guys better. So we’ve got a great core group, got to maybe sign another guy or two in the spring, and we’ve got to move the needle next year. That’s important, and we’re positioned to do that. I really believe we’re in position to do that, to take the next step and put ourselves in position to the NCAA Tournament. Now, is it going to be easy? No. There’s a lot of good teams. The league is 20 games. We’re playing Arkansas, 21, Georgia, 22, the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, 23, three games in Diamond Head in Hawaii. That’s 26 high-major teams you’re playing. So there’s not a lot of room for — or 27, I guess, whatever it is, 26 or 27 high-major teams that we’re going to be playing. So we’re going to have to — our work is going to be cut out for us, and we’re going to have to have wins, and like I said, be in the top nine, I guess, to get you to Wednesday, and you probably put yourself in a position in the NCAA Tournament as you see with Clemson and North Carolina State, 8 and 9, they’ve got themselves in a position.
So we have had a good growth year. Guys have had an opportunity to get a lot of playing time, and they’ll grow. We’ll get better, and the goal is next year to really move the needle and let’s get our butts back into the NCAA Tournament.