We caught up with Tom Pecora last night after the Flying Dutchmen fell to UConn, 76-67, in the second round of the Preseason NIT in Storrs. Thanks as always to Pecora for taking the time to chat as well as to Jeremy Kniffin for setting up the interview.
On what it was like to coach in such a game:
Yeah, it was wonderful, except for the outcome. I think we lost our way a little bit. Got up nine and [Stanley] Robinson made a three and then we had a couple of empty trips offensively. They picked up their intensity a little bit defensively. That’s where we could have really extended our lead. We weren’t able to do that. We battled ‘til the end, obviously, it was a one-point game with 1:20 to go. But no one’s going to give you those types of wins. We had an opportunity [to win] and we didn’t.
On his thoughts when the Dutchmen took a 54-45 lead more than halfway through the second half:
I knew there was a ton of time. You really want to extend the game and extend your lead [and] get yourself to a point where maybe you can start burning a little bit of clock. We were still a long way off from doing that.
On the Dutchmen driving the lane regularly against the bigger Huskies:
I thought it was great. Early on, I think the first few possessions, we got offensive rebounds on our first three possessions and that set the tone for the night. In the first half we shot the ball so poorly—we shot 22 percent—that there were a lot of offensive rebounds to go around. We had 11 at the half. We outrebounded UConn, we only had 12 turnovers. That was the key for us. We said if they don’t beat us up on the [boards] and we don’t turn the ball over, we’ve got a chance to win. Watching tape, we probably missed six or eight layups, stick back plays. Those were the ones that break your back.
If we shoot the ball as well as we usually do and we rebound and then don’t turn it over like we did tonight, we win the game. We weren’t able to win.
On the environment in Storrs:
For our first three games, we played no. 1 and no. 13. I think the experience at Kansas really prepared us for tonight and allowed us to take care of it.
On Charles Jenkins’ performance (25 points, including 21 in the second half:
Once again, every time we play games like this, it’s a marquee game for the program—but also our chance to show Charles his wares.
On what he takes from the near-upset:
This program is beyond moral victories. I wanted to go play in the Garden next week. And I think we better learn from our mistakes here, because it’ll cost us a game later this year. We’ve got a lot to do and we didn’t finish it.
On the early-season scheduling and how it raises the Dutchmen’s profile:
I think there’s a method to our madness in scheduling these games. I think it’s going to help our RPI tremendously. We have wins over teams that are perennial below 200 teams, our RPI is 100 points lower than it will be Monday with one win and two losses. That could help us during the [season], make us a better team and prepare us.