Postgame Q&A with USF coach Stan Heath
USF's men's basketball team saw its season end Tuesday night with a 68-54 loss to Seton Hall in the opening round of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. Just wanted to share coach Stan Heath's postgame interview, so you can get his thoughts on his second season and looking ahead ...
Q: Offensively, you weren't able to do much in the second half. Is there one thing that jumps out as why?
A: I don't know if there was one thing. We've been inconsistent offensively, it's been highs and lows in being able to score the ball for us. We had a high in the first half where shot 52 percent, which was great, but the second half, I thought we had one of those lows. Free-throw shooting has been sporadic, at times we've knocked it down, at times we've struggled. That was something that hurt us because we couldn't keep pace. They were making shots, we were getting fouled, we were missing shots. I thought they had a couple of spurts, especially in the second half, that opened the game up a little bit.
Q: Dominique Jones didn't take a shot in the first 11-12 minutes of the second half. Is that something where he has to play through it if he's not getting open looks?
A: He had a tough spell when Chris (Howard) picked up those fouls and Chris had to come out of the game. It forced me to have the ball in (Jones') hands all the time, and it's a lot harder to move him around when he has to bring the ball up and he has to cut, too. I thought it took away from Dominique when Chris got his fouls.
Q: Before the game, you talked about the experience of being here for the first time. Did you notice any difference, was that a factor, or just like any other game?
A: I didn't. I think we were typical of most teams that play in the first round. We actually in the first half shot the ball a lot better than I thought we would. Free-throw shooting, I thought coming in they might get a little bit of nerves in that position. We came here early, came and watched the first set of games, hoping that would kind of let them get used to getting a feel for the environment, and I think that helped. I thought we settled into the game in the first half very well. Just one of those games in the second half where we ran out of gas, just got a little tired and lost some quickness, probably.
Q: This would have been a big step forward for the program. Is that the frustrating part of not being able to continue for another day?
A: Undoubtedly. We knew this was a historic day for us, our first experience in the Big East tournament. We certainly wanted to make it a special first day. We're all disappointed it didn't happen. We wanted the game and played very hard, but Seton Hall was better.
Q: What can you guys take from this, to build on for next season?
A: We talked about that. We've got to improve. We've got to get stronger. Certain guys have different things, their conditioning, their strength, their shooting, their ballhandling. Every guy has different things. We briefly touched on it, and we'll talk more in depth when we get back. I think our guys, there are pluses and minuses. We obviously wanted to win more games this year, but we took baby steps. We won more (Big East) games. We were able to win against a top-10 team, and I don't think that had ever happened. And we were able to do it minus three potential starters a lot of time down the stretch, which is huge. Everybody suffers things, but that's a lot. I see some of the other teams that went through this year, some really talented teams that I'm shocked aren't NCAA Tournament-bound, have struggled. I saw teams have hard time winning a game. I thought we hung in there, and I'm proud of that with these guys. Losing the guys we lost, battling the competition we've faced - this may be the strongest this league has ever been, and we hung in there. I can't blame our guys for that, because it was a very challenging year.
Q: Other than the result of the game, how was your experience with the tournament?
A: This is unbelievable. Just to be here in Manhattan, walking around downtown and seeing all the different things, it's so impressive. I know how I feel, so I have to imagine how these guys feel. Just being in the Garden, being a part of the games, it was special. We wish it was more special by winning, but it was special.
Q: In terms of the lineup you finished the year with, you won't get hit that hard by graduation. With so much back for next season, does it help that you've already gone with the guys you'll have next year?
A: I feel good about it. I really do. We already have some guys lined up to come in, and we're involved with some guys who can really help us if it works out that way. We have a really good guard sitting out right now who can help us in (Anthony) Crater. I think the league's going to have a changing of the guard a little bit, too. It's still always going to be good, but I think there's going to be a little change to make things balance out a little bit.