Ole Miss Basketball Weekly Press Conference

March 3, 2003

Ole Miss Head Coach Rod Barnes

Opening Comments
The next couple of days will be emotional for me because of David Sanders, Emmanuel Wade, Derrick Allen and Shaun Holtz. They are four guys that I am really fond of. They have brought some really good memories to our basketball program and to me personally. My thoughts are with those guys. Senior Night is a special night for me. I hope we can win and send these guys out on a good note. I've been fortunate to work with each of these four seniors and everyone has a special place in my heart.

LSU has a good basketball team and is playing well right now. They have made some changes. Some people thought LSU could contend for the SEC West title, especially after they beat Arizona in December. They are playing probably as well as anyone in the Western Division, outside of Mississippi State.

Wednesday's game will be a challenge for us. It's a team that we beat on their home floor. Our kids may lack confidence, but they should have some going into this game because it's a team that we have already beaten. Hopefully, we'll have a good crowd because of these four seniors and what they have given to not only our program but also our university.

(What is LSU doing differently now?)
First, they are playing together more. They are sharing the basketball better. I thought they were playing well the last time we played them (Jan. 18). They are also defending better. They are working hard on the defensive end, and a lot of that comes from defensive rebounding.

(What adjustments do you make to stop their hot three-point shooting of late?)
First of all, we have to get back to playing defense the way we're capable of. Our defense has been lacking the last three or four games. We have to get to the point where we are contesting shots and defending better. We'll probable play less zone against LSU than we have against our last two opponents. Hopefully, playing man-to-man will help us contest their three-points shots better.

(Talk about the difference in free throw shooting in recent games)
Officials are human beings, too. Right now, we're on the tough end of breaks and close calls. I think that has been a problem for us. Also, there have been concerns raised about the way we play defense. Now, it's a little more evident that people are watching us more closely. Another reason may be that we are not consistent in our defense in applying pressure that we are capable of. So, when we do apply that pressure, then fouls are called. In the last three or four games, there have been some cases of how some are fouls and some aren't after I look at the tape.

(What are you expecting from the younger guys on Senior Night?)
Senior Night is an emotional time. For the seniors and their teammates, Senior Night is the last time they will suit up and play together at home. The thing that concerns me is that all this emotion hopefully will help us play better. Sometimes emotional times like Senior Night can hurt your play. I don't want that to happen.

(Talk about LSU's personnel)
When you look inside, they have Jaime Lloreda, who is a very physical and aggressive kid. Ronald Dupree is playing better and is shooting the ball better, and he is always a tough match-up. Torris Bright is a tough defender and another veteran. They are playing well right now, and they did this at the end of last year. They made a run at the end of last season, and they had most of the guys returning from that team. Darel Mitchell is another perimeter player that has shot the ball well. Antonio Hudson was good down the stretch last year, and played as well as anyone in last year's tournament. They got a couple of big wins and since they have been playing good basketball.

(Do you like what you have seen from the changes you've made?)
I like some of them. I see some guys getting better. I see Justin Johnson playing better. I see John Gunn playing with more confidence. I thought David Sanders and Derrick Allen did a good job off the bench against Georgia, and Derrick played well again yesterday (vs. Alabama).

Obviously, it's Senior Night on Wednesday, and I always start my seniors. I'll start the seniors regardless if we're one game from clinching the West title or if we're in the position like we are now. It will be a different lineup at the beginning, but I hope to get back to the regular rotation after that.

The changes have helped some players' confidence. Kendrick Fox is getting out there a little more. Justin Johnson and John Gunn are gaining confidence. Our younger guys have played with some energy and confidence and hopefully that will help our veterans in the next couple of games.

(Talk about the Arkansas game)
It will be a tough game. Arkansas is playing better. They have picked up a couple of wins, and I'm sure they feel better about their team. It's also Senior Night for them, and they have a group of seniors that have been there. That will make the challenge for us even tougher. (Head coach) Stan (Heath) has done a good job with the team, and the kids have hung in there with him. It's going to be a great match-up. It's going to be the first game we've played recently that doesn't have a bigger lineup than what we have. We've played well against Arkansas recently, and I expect us to play well this time.

(On Arkansas' recent success)
One thing is they have slowed the ball down, and they are playing at a slower pace. Their scores are down, and they spend more time trying to keep you on the defensive end. From the very beginning of the year, Coach Heath has preached rebounding, and if you don't shoot well against them, they are going to rebound. Also, when you get the game down into the 50s like they are trying to play, it gives you a chance to win and they have been fortunate to hit the big shot at the end. It has been a combination of patience on offense and good defensive rebounding.

(You are going to Arkansas for their Senior Night. What do you do to prepare your team for their Senior Night?)
First of all, your guys should understand what Senior Night means to their team. I don't know if Coach Heath starts his seniors, but after the first three or four minutes if you come out and play well, it becomes regular basketball game. We just have to go out, play our game and fight against the emotion of Senior Night.

(Does your recent success at Arkansas help?)
I think so. Whenever you have beaten a team, it gives you confidence that you can win that game. We have had a lot of success there, so I think it is to our advantage instead of going to a place where you have struggled. Hopefully we can get a win versus LSU that will put us in a more positive situation heading into the Arkansas game.

(What kind of momentum can you build these last 2 games heading into the SEC Tournament?)
If we could be fortunate to win the last two regular season games, it would give us some momentum. Look at LSU now and the momentum they have picked up over the last few games. In this league, if a team can gain some confidence, they can reel off three or four wins. Of course, there have been several teams to get down and lose three in a row or more like us. Our league is so tough, and at this point in the season, the mental aspect is more important than the physical. If we can win these two games, we could go into the SEC Tournament with some confidence. That's what we're working on.

 

 

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