Ole Miss Basketball Press Conference

Feb. 17, 2003

Head Coach Rod Barnes

Opening Comments
First of all I would like to thank God for another week. I'm glad we're off (mid-week) because it will help our team. Looking back on the Mississippi State game, I thought our kids played with a lot of energy, excitement and enthusiasm. It was a great game to be a part of, but we just came out on the wrong end of it. I was pleased from the standpoint that our kids gave good effort after going through a losing streak.

Hopefully, this break will allow us to get some rest and catch up on school. Playing four of the last five on the road is tiring and is tough on you mentally when you are losing. Again, that was why I was so proud of the effort the guys gave on Saturday.

We play Auburn here Saturday, and it's going to be a tough game. They are fighting for the Western Division title. Because we've been on a losing streak, I'm sure they are feeling this is the place where they can get a road win. We'll be prepared for the game, and having the mid-week off gives us more time to prepare.

Someone may ask, "Do you want this time off or would you rather be playing?" Personally, I think we need the time off to work on some things. Hopefully, we can turn things around, get on a winning streak and give ourselves a chance for the postseason.

(Have open weeks been good for the team?)
Basically, you have to play the schedule that is laid out for you. I don't think anybody else has had it tougher the last five games than we have, playing four of those on the road. I don't know who dealt the hand to us, but we have to deal with it. A week off at this point is good, but we really won't know that until Saturday. I hope it will help us. We'll get better this week. If we were on a winning streak, it may be a little different because you want to continue to play at that level and keep momentum going.

(What do you work on this week?)
First of all, you work with individual players. We have to work with Derrick Allen. We need for Aaron Harper to get more shots up. We need to work with David Sanders on his ball-handling. We will work with others on helping them gain confidence. Shaun Holtz and John Gunn played a lot of us in the last game, and we need to help them continue to improve.

It's only a week so it's not like you can go back to preseason drills. You have to pick out some areas and work on those that will help you in the next game. As for the coaches, we are trying to break down Auburn and find out what they are doing and how we can attack them.

(Do you just look at the next game or look down the road?)
We have to look at Auburn only because we need a win. We can't worry about what comes after Auburn. We will focus on Auburn because the most important thing for this team right now is to get a win. As a coach, I have a vision for our team. My vision right now is Auburn.

(How much time will the players have off?)
We took off Sunday and we're taking off today. Our kids need time away from basketball. As much as we've been on the road, our players need to catch up on their academics. We got to make sure our guys are staying on track in the classroom.

I'm not looking at the recent tough times in the terms of just one season, but as an entire program. We're going some tough times, but the most important thing is the program. We don't want to lose kids academically trying to only win basketball games. Playing four of five games on the road at this time of the year usually doesn't happen, but it has and we've got to make sure we have things in order from a program standpoint.

Our kids need time the study time. When you've lost as many games as we have, you do need time away from the game. We'll work out again on Tuesday, but it won't be a full-scale practice.

(What do you do about the shot clock violations?)
A couple of times when the clock was running down, we tried to run a play. David Sanders was running the point, and that's not his natural position so we didn't have everybody where they needed to be. The other times, we just turned down open shots. This is what we're going to work on this week.

I'm not as opposed as some are that when the shot clock runs out, it's a bad thing - especially when you're on the road. If you take a bad shot against Mississippi State, then it's two points on their end because they are a great transition team. There are some things we have to straighten out in those situations. Someone has to recognize the shot clock is going down, and we need to get into something or try to make a play. We missed that three or four times Saturday.

(Did the players feel a little better after Saturday knowing they gave their all?)
After Saturday's game, this team - maybe not the program - took it as a moral victory. Like I told our players, all I ever ask of them is to give the best effort possible. Whether you win or lose, give your best - and that's true in any profession. I told our kids that we fought hard, played hard and executed the gameplan as well as we possibly could. Yes, we did make mistakes and turned the ball over. But, it wasn't because of lack of effort. I can walk away from games like Saturday feeling better.

To me, life isn't all about winning and losing. It's also not about being successful as far as what you gained. It's all about how you going about doing it. We walked away Saturday feeling we gave our very best to win the game. But, I told them that we're not a program that is going to get caught up in moral victories.

(Do you anticipate keeping Emmanuel Wade in the starting lineup and Trey Pearson coming off the bench?)
Yes, I do. First of all, Trey has been wearing down. He came here last summer, has played every game, and there has been a lot of pressure on him. Emmanuel has been here. Most of the time veterans bring more energy because they have been through this time of the year and have been in this position before. A lot of times high school players in their first year of college hit a wall at some time. Right now, high schools are in state tournament play. But, Trey still has five more games in the regular season, the SEC Tournament and who knows after that. Trey is a little tired, but this gives him a chance to take some of the pressure off him.

It also gives us another look. It gives us veteran guards in the backcourt down the stretch, I felt like it is the best thing for us. There was nothing that stood out on tape that made me make the change. I thought it was best for our team at this point. Emmanuel has made some big baskets and is playing well for us. The way opponents have been playing us on the offensive end I thought we needed more scoring at the start of the game.

(How did Trey Pearson take this?)
Before I made the decision, I met with Trey, Emmanuel and several of our players. That was part of our meetings last Thursday. The meetings were about us making some changes that would help us down the stretch. Trey was very comfortable with that. Trey trusts me. When kids trust you, it makes it easier. Every kid wants to start and play a lot. It's not a situation of taking his minutes, but one of getting us off to a better start.

(How did Trey do coming off the bench?)
It was hard for him in the Florida game. Against Mississippi State, he was into the game from the very beginning. Trey is still our best ball-handler and our best point guard. Trey was more relaxed and he moved better against Mississippi State. Aside from the turnover at the end, I thought every time Derrick Zimmerman went after him, he handled it well.

(Talk about Saturday's game with Auburn)
It's a good match-up for us. Kyle Davis caused problems for us in the game over there, especially in the second half. Their point guard, Lewis Monroe, hit some shots and he had not hit that many going into that game. Hopefully, he won't come over here and get off to a good start. It's a team we match up against pretty well. Depth is not a problem because they are playing as many as we are. The Auburn game has always been a close one at either place. I hope that's not the case Saturday. I want to win and win in great fashion. But, if it is a close win, then I'll take that as well. They do a lot of different things, but having the week to prepare is good for us.

 

 

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