This is a crazy time in the country, as we know. We talked about it before the game--how fortunate we are to be playing a basketball game when a lot of people we know are going off to war. It puts it in perspective. I want to watch over those people going across the ocean.
Anyway, I appreciate the fans, first of all. They were awesome. I really think they gave us a lot of energy. I think we fed off of them. We started off great, then we got into a lull with eight minutes to go in the first half. We could have hung our heads in the second half, but a guy named Raymond Felton came out and boy did he set the tone with his defense.
That steal he had where he slipped and got up and scored--I think everyone fed off of that. I thought his defensive energy, his leadership, and his toughness was unbelievable. Everyone fed off of that.
David [Noel] had a great game. The thing about David is you look at his numbers--rebounds and points--but he's so unselfish. Something we've struggled with is shot selection during the year. He turned down some shots today to help the team get better shots. That's team basketball. That's Carolina basketball.
I thought Jackie [Manuel] did that too. I thought Jawad [Williams] did it. I thought we played a good floor game. We did have too many turnovers, but we only had six in the secon half. We did a better job of taking care of the ball.
It looked like your defense in the second half allowed you to overcome their height advantage in the second half.
It reminded me of the Virginia game at home where they were killing us on the offensive boards. We were playing pretty good defense in holding them to 42 percent, but they had 11 more shots than we did because of offensive rebounding--19 points off of second-chance points. We had to build out our pressure to get it into a little bit of a rat race. We did, and then we got the lead.
Then when there are rebounds--Doug Wojcik talked about it at the Virginia game--when we are in that rat race, they are taking jumpers in transition and our guys are flying to the boards. We are pretty good rebounders because we are quick to the ball. But if we have to grind it out with a 6-8, 250-pound guy, we are not really good in that situation. We got them taking quicker shots, so our guys flew back to the defensive end and I think did a better job of getting some rebounds. They had what--only four offensive rebounds in the second half?
How rare is the charisma that Felton possesses?
It's rare. I was fortunate enough to coach a guy named Jacque Vaughn, who had it. Believe it or not a kid named Jimmy Dillon at Notre Dame had it--the toughness, the leadership, the charisma that other people want to follow. I wouldn't trade him for any other player in the country.
What are your thoughts about Andre Brown, especially what he did in the first half with a double-double?
I knew Andre Brown. I tried to recruit him at Kansas. He is a stud. It didn't surprise me--I didn't like it. Jawad Williams doesn't complain. He's had to guard Taj Holden, Ryan Randle, Sheldon Williams. He's had to guard big, strong guys, and he's as good of an offensive rebounder as we've seen all year.
Did you go to the press to generate some energy?
We did, but they also average about 15 turnovers per game, so we wanted to create a little more energy. We wanted them to not [be able] to get it inside. We also wanted to be able to get it like the Virginia game where they were taking quicker shots, so there would be longer rebounds, and we'd have a better chance to get longer rebounds.
When did you know about Sean, and was there any concern about getting him back and then not having him?
I thought Sean had practiced really well up until yesterday. Yesterday he twisted his ankle against Duke. Now his left foot is the one with the screw in it, and the right foot--the good one--he twisted the right one and he couldn't practice yesterday.
We felt--his parents, Sean, the doctors, myself--he couldn't have played even if he'd said to me that he wanted to play, even if his Dad said he could play, he couldn't have played today because his ankle was bothering him. He is not in game shape, so it's not smare to put him into a position where he's going to--maybe it's a back, maybe it's a hamstring, maybe it's an ankle, maybe it's a knee. Knock on wood. It's not the right thing for him. I want him to be healthy, so this summer he can have a really productive summer. His Dad understands that, Sean understands that, Dr. Taft understands that, Mark Davis, his Mom. It's the right thing to do. We just have to move on.
What did you say in the middle of the court after the game?
[UNC Associate A.D. Steve] Kirsch[ner] had a bright idea--(sarcastically) the first one in about three years--and he said we need to thank the crowd, so we wanted to get together, huddle up, and thank the crowd because they did make a difference.