Buzz Williams Postgame After 62-57 Victory over Pittsburgh

Opening statement

I thought we played more minutes of us than we have been playing. I didn’t think that we started great, had too many live ball turnovers early. Their first seven field goal attempts, they offensive rebounded six of them. They’re number one in the country in offensive rebound percentage. After that sequence I thought the rest of the way I thought we played much better.

I thought in the second half we were really good in a lot of ways. So I’m much pleased that we played more consecutive minutes of the way we have to play.

I thought Todd Mayo was the difference in the game. His defensive presence on 12 (Pitt senior guard Ashton Gibbs) for a freshman in his fifth game of big east play to guard the preseason player of the year, I thought he did superb.

I thought defensively when we were small we were really good with our full court pressure. We struggle when Davante gets too far extended. I thought we were able to hang in there in a grind it up game, in a much slower game.

I thought Junior was really good delivering the ball on time, on target.

We’re thankful for the victory.

Was the three-quarter press big for you guys?

I thought it caused some issues in the first half, then I thought there in the second half it was even better.

We work on a variety of zone presses in the full-court, not necessarily always back to a zone in the half court. We have to be careful without Chris and with Davante. Anytime the floor gets lengthened that’s not going to go into Davante’s favor.

When you think about when we were playing small, we are small in size, but we’re long in athleticism and long in speed. I think we have to utilize that to our advantage, and I thought with what we were doing within the full-court pressure that the guys did really good with that.

When did you decide it was time to let your guys loose and get after them?

I wouldn’t say the entire time were we in full-court pressure when we were small because I know there were some possessions with Davante in there.

They’re a different team. They’re missing an all-conference guard (Tray Woodall). Not only are they missing him but the responsibility that has to be shared by the rest of their perimeter core, that’s hard to absorb. That’s a lot of pressure to put on Ashton Gibbs. But it also puts a lot of pressure on the rest of those guys. I thought our full-court pressure did cause them some problems.

First time going with Jamil, Davante and Jae in there at the same time.

(We did that on Wednesday). That’s our big-ball team. We’re really mammoth when we move Jae to the 3.

What do you like about that and could we see more of that in the future?

I think we can play big but that’s always going to be dependent upon our guards. I think we can play small, and that’s always going to be dependent upon our bigs.

It’s hard to play with Jamil, Jae and Davante if any of them are in foul trouble. So that removes the big-ball lineup. And you could see, even today in the first half, Jae picks up two and we can’t play big-ball.

I think Vander had two fouls in the first half, so we have to play small. It just depends. They get reps of that and I like that crew together, whether it’s Junior and Vander, Junior and Todd, Junior and DJ, I like some of the flexibility it gives us.

And I think Jae is a hard match up in a lot of ways, regardless of where he’s playing on the floor because he’s going to get a touch for us regardless of if he’s inside or not. I also like it defensively. But again, Jae is our best help defender. And so when we play big, here comes a ball screen, and Jae can absorb because he’s involved with it.

Now when Davante and Jae are involved on the ball screen, Davante is gonna get strung out and now we’re really small on the weak side. Having said that, when we play with Jamil and Jae – they’re in that stretch-run – well we’re able to play completely different defensively – whether that’s in the full court or the half court.

And I think that we’re getting much more comfortable offensively and defensively whether we’re big or whether we’re big or small – what we deem to be big and small. I think we’re much more comfortable. Even if it is just six or seven possessions, it’s a change of pace on both ends of the floor and I like that.

Do you like Jamil playing on the perimeter more than you like him inside?

I like Jamil because he’s by far our best help defender, he and Jae are by far our best ball screen defenders and when one of those guys is involved in a ball screen and the other is under the basket, we’re going to be really good.

You think about every ball screen they were setting with Davante, they really weren’t even setting it. Davante’s man is running out and here comes Davante trucking in there, by the time he (Davante) gets up there he’s (the Pitt offensive player) slipping the screen and as he’s slipping the screen 35’s flashing and Jae cannot absorb all of that. But Davante’s working at it.

We’re going to be attacked in that way and that’s what they did. He’s improved, but the versatility of playing big or small, at certain times, helps us.

We just can’t get too extended. If we get too extended, and we’re playing big, then we’re in trouble because it forces rotation.

Those turnovers at the start of the game, what were you seeing?

I don’t know. You have to get the ball below the free throw line. It doesn’t matter if it’s man or zone. In zone, when the ball gets below the free throw line, it (the defense) is going to collapse and like I told our guys, “guys we played like the last 90 out of 100 minutes against a zone. Everything’s fine. Get the ball below the free throw line.”

You have all those live ball turnovers and all of them are occurring above the free throw line. And some of it was our guys trying to be too unselfish: drive it, force help and dump it in the alley. And the guards are collapsing, they’re playing it packed, they’re collapsing and getting those (passes and creating turnovers).

I think that when you look at our offensive numbers, we’re in the top-20 nationally in assist to turnover ratio. Sixty-five percent of our baskets are assisted – that’s outstanding. All of our offensive numbers are really good. We force teams into 17 turnovers a game. That’s not great, but it’s above average.

The thing we’ve got to minimize is our turnovers. And some of our turnovers are too careless. So if we can shave two or three off of that, that’d really help us.

Are your guys getting a little too impatient, falling in love with that three point shot a little too much in that zone?

I thought in the first half, obviously it was a slow possession game, our paint touch numbers relative to the possessions were good. One of the things we’ve been talking about is not just paint touches, but re-paint touches.

Once we get a paint touch, we’re going to draw help – zone or man, pitching it (out) and trying to get another repaint. Against St. John’s we were able to get multiple possessions of re-paint touches because we could throw it in there to Davante.

I can’t remember. I think we shot 10 threes in the first half and 10 in the second half, but in the first half we shot 20 shots and in the second half we shot 29 shots, that’s because we didn’t turn the ball over quite as much.

Was Junior sick today?

I guess.

He left with a garbage bag.

So you know in the timeout he’s always to my immediate left, and ‘Melo (Jamail Jones) – who is an unbelievable kid – is standing behind Jae behind a timeout. And ‘Melo is hollering at me, ‘Coach, Junior is throwing up.’ I can’t hear him, and I’m like ‘what?’ And he’s like, ‘Junior’s throwing up!’

I look at Junior, and Junior is throwing up. The horn sounds, and I go to the official and say ‘the kid’s throwing up and we got to sub.’

I put Jamil in. So now DJ and Todd are our perimeter guys – that aint good. We need somebody to initiate offense. We have a bad possession. I look at Junior, holler to put him in. and then that possession they got to sub him out, and he’s throwing up again.

And Homer asked me a while ago if he was OK, and I haven’t asked. I didn’t have time to ask.

(I told Junior) ‘Junior, we need you to play. You can throw up after the game.’

I thought down the stretch he was big time. I thought he was big time. I guess he had an upset stomach that I was unaware of.

Jamil said your defense runs your offense. Do you think that accurately describes your style of play?

I think sometimes our best offense is our defense. During that run we had eight consecutive stops, I think that translated into 11 points for us. So we’re on an 11-0 run. Some of it was full-court. Some of it was full-court that shortened their possession that turned into a half-court stop.

I agree with that. Those are kind of words I use.

What we can’t have happen, is that we’re waiting on our offense to dictate our defense. We can’t become offensive sensitive, and I don’t necessarily always use the word ‘sensitive’ with our team. But we can’t be sensitive offensively, and that determines what we do defensively. We have to be the same defensively and see if that will generate some offensive transition baskets. Regardless, we need to have a presence to what we do defensively.

What’s hard, particularly in the first half, if you have a live-ball turnover it’s probably resulting in transition for them. Even if it’s not transition, they’re not playing against a set defense and when they’re missing shots and getting offensive rebounds they are not playing against a set defense.

I think we offensive rebounded six of our final 10 possessions. That’s the game. That’s the game.

If you were to rewind and just look at the first six or seven minutes of the first half, that’s the game. When we’re able to get consecutive turnovers and stops, I know it sounds simple and trite because I say it all the time, but that’s going to generate some offense for us not offense that I call but offense that’s created from our defense.

Do you expect most teams in the conference to run a zone against you until you prove you can beat it consistently? And will you press more on a consistent basis, no matter who you play the rest of the year?

They have not played a possession of man since I’ve become head coach here in the games we’ve played (against Louisville). Thus far, through their games in Big East play, they have not played a possession of man.

So I anticipate zone pressure in the full court, zone pressure in the half court. They’ll try to change up within the possession (from zone to man). Anytime the ball goes into the high post they’ll flatten out, and it’ll turn into man like Seton Hall, like a lot of teams do when the ball goes into the high post against a zone it’ll go to man.

But I anticipate that they’ll play 97.5% zone on Monday.

And what about from a defensive stand point will you put that heat on teams a little bit more?

I got to study a little bit more. I’ve watched a little bit, but it’s a delicate balance. We have to give our guys one day off each week. And so if you rewind to our lives since the day after Christmas: We play Vanderbilt. We immediately then have to prepare for three games in seven days, starting with Villanova. And then we’re in the midst of another three games in seven days – I know it’s not literal calendar days – but considering basketball days, because we have to give them a day off, it’s a delicate balance of coaching the scout and coaching our team.

So will we do some things in the full court? Odds are we probably will. How much and when and all of that? I need 40 hours to better understand and answer that question.

And plus I don’t like as much as y’all Twitter and Facebook and put this on the Internet, I don’t necessarily like to give a pre-scouting report to an opponent.

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