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March 16, 2012Members of the Duke basketball team met with the media on Thursday to discuss tonight's matchup with the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. The Blue Devils also touched on a handful of other topics, including how Ryan Kelly's absence impacts the team, and toughness they have displayed in the latter parts of the season.
Read on to see what Duke associate head coach Chris Collins, Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton had to say about the game.
On Duke's toughness and how teams might underestimate it
I think when we've been at our best we've been tough. Our guys have shown that ability I think because we have a number of guys that have the ability to score and kind of their identities are labeled with that and sometimes that other stuff gets lost, whether that's Seth or Austin or Ryan when he was healthy. Those guys have taken charges, gotten loose balls. In order to win 27 games you can't win just being a pretty team. Tyler is our catalyst with that. He is our ultimate dirty work guy, our glue guy - he holds us together. I think the other guys have fed off of him and really stepped up in all the other areas.
On Tyler Thornton's improved play
He's really stepped up. He's always had those qualities in him. He's always been a very vocal guy. He's always been someone that everyone respected. But now that he's been a consistent starter I think it's given him even more freedom and confidence to step out and say more, to be more demonstrative with his teammates and we need that. It's something that has been a big boost to our team.
On adjusting offensively without Ryan Kelly
It was an adjustment for sure. Ryan was our third leading scorer and just the spacing on the floor. It gave more room for Seth, more room for Austin, more room for our post guys. So now, not having him out there you have to figure out what works well and what things you can run, how you can be a little bit better maybe than when he was on the floor. It's been an adjustment, but the fact that we've had four days of practice I think has really helped our team not only getting ready for Lehigh but being able to assess ourselves heading into the tournament.
On C.J. McCollum and Lehigh's supporting cast
McCollum is as good as any guard that we'll have played against the whole year. Watching him on film - he's one of the nation's leading scorers, he's a rebounder, he's an assist guy, he plays with tremendous confidence and he's not going to be afraid by the moment. We know we're going to have our hands full. And their other guys can play. It's not like you can put the whole house on him. Gabe Knutson is an outstanding big guy, but McCollum gives them their swagger. Any time you're playing with a great player everybody else feels more confident. It's like when I played with Grant Hill, I felt I was a lot better when Grant was on my side and he gives that to their team.
On what makes Lehigh a tough test
They are a championship level team. When you play a team like that not only are they good but they've won so much they are supremely confident. They have good guards and they have a good post threat in Knutson and they believe in themselves. They are not here just to show up, they're here to play and they're here to win which is why we know we're going to have to come out and play a really good game to beat them.
On Lehigh's guard play
Their backcourt is a great one with McKnight and McCollum. We've been watching a lot of film on them and they are very tough. McCollum is a top five scorer in the whole country and McKnight is a solid point guard - very fast and can shoot the ball. We've got our hands full.
On how Ryan Kelly's absence impacts the team
We really didn't understand how much Ryan did for us besides scoring. He's our charge leader, he stretches the defense - he's a very key guy to our success. But Josh can play, too, and him getting his feet wet last week at the ACC Tournament he is coming in here with more confidence.
On Seth Curry's toughness
Seth is tough. I guess that's his thing - everybody feels they can rough him off. He likes that though. He likes players trying to be physical with him because he is strong too. He uses screens well, so if you try to push him off the screen he can curl - he's just very crafty off the ball and on the ball.
On whether or not teams underestimate Curry's toughness
I know that for a fact [teams do] because I did that coming in. I didn't think he was that strong. I just thought he was a shooter, but watching him play for so long, he does so much more than that. He's very strong. You can't push him around. That's what I thought, and I guess that's everybody's view on him, but he proves them wrong.
On defenses making him shoot
Certain teams play us differently. We didn't really expect Virginia Tech to really play the way they did as far as forcing me to take shots. I've seen it now and I'm ready for if any team does that again. I think I handled it pretty well. I didn't shoot as well as I would have liked, but I did hit a few big shots during that game. I think our team is ready for pretty much anything as far as defenses teams might throw at us.
We played two very good defensive teams in Virginia Tech and Florida State and they showed us two different styles of defenses. I feel like a lot of teams will probably use those strategies as far as how they'll play us from here on out.
On defending C.J. McCollum
McCollum is a really good scorer. The coaches have talked about him being a top five scorer in the country, but we're going to play defense as one. Whoever is checking him is going to know they've got four guys behind him to have their back and we're going to talk. I think we're going to do a pretty good job on him.
He really reminded me of like an Erick Green, Terrell Stoglin - a guy with an extended dribble, he can take you inside, shoot outside - he's a really good scorer. I think if we play as one we'll be fine.
On teams underestimating Duke's toughness
I think teams underestimate our toughness as a whole, which is fine with us. We really don't look too much into that, but I definitely think Seth and Austin have done a lot more dirty work than they did in the beginning of the year and it's definitely helped us and given us new energy.