What's the defense called you came out with in the second half, and what did it do for you?
Pressure. Ray started it. He showed a lot of energy, and we just fed off of him and attacked the ball.
A few of you had made comments suggesting that you weren't really excited about playing in the NIT. Do you think it showed in the first half, and then did you turn it around?
Yeah, I agree. I think it did show in the first half. We got out to an early lead, then we relaxed and they jumped back on us. Then we realized that there are a lot of people less fortunate than us. The country is going through a tough time, and we have a chance to go out and play basketball for the fans. It was a great opportunity for us.
So it became fun again with your pressure defense?
Whenever you can get turnovers and convert them into easy lay-ups, it's always fun.
How much do you notice the crowd when you are out there on the court?
I notice the crowd sometimes, especially when somebody makes a big play. You realize how excited they get and you feed off that.
Could you tell a difference in the crowd tonight?
Yeah, there were a lot of unfamiliar faces in the crowd. Usually, you look in the second row and see people you know, but it was a different feel tonight. As soon as we came out, the whole crowd stood up and cheered.
About 10 years ago, Sam Cassell called the crowd a "Wine and Cheese" crowd. Do you think they seemed a little more "Beer and Pretzels" tonight?
Yeah. They were into the game. We feed off of them. They did a great job of supporting us tonight. They didn't have to come out and watch the NIT game, but they did and we enjoyed it.
What did you think of the crowd support tonight? You had a different crowd, different people sitting in those seats. Did you notice a difference--how did that feel?
It's the best crowd I've ever been associated with. They were amazing. From warm-ups they gave us a standing ovation. People were glad to be out there. I wish we could have those kinds of people in those seats all year around. That makes us play a whole lot better.
You looked like you had more of a connection with the crowd tonight. Is that accurate, or would you say it was the same as always?
Same as always. I didn't try to come out and try to boost them up any more. I think they were juiced enough. It wasn't anything different.
When you are out there, do you block out what's going on around you, or does the crowd matter?
The crowd matters a whole lot, home and away. It's very important because you feed off them and they feed off you. The game can change by [opposing] teams [not] hearing their plays and understanding what the coach is trying to say.
How about David Noel? Is this the best you've seen him all year?
David is very capable of playing big all the time. If he can continue to play like he's been playing, there is no limit for him.
Are you just scratching the surface of what you can do?
I hope so. I've been working hard in practice, and I've just been going out and trying to have fun. That's what it's all about with me. If I'm having fun, I can play to the best of my ability. Once that happens, the sky is the limit for me and this team.
You are the guys who has gotten your hands on some loose balls and made steals and dunks. Was if fun to see the entire team get into the act tonight?
That was great seeing the whole team involved in picking up the press. Getting easy buckets is what we've been lacking all year. We haven't gotten as many transition buckets as we know we can get, but this game we got a lot and it helped us to a victory.
Obviously, you'd rather be in the NCAA's, but once you get going in the NIT, the way you played tonight, you can win this thing.
Right. Coach Wojcik told us to go out and, no matter where we are playing, to give it our all. When teams are out of the NCAA, we will still be playing. Even though it's the NIT, we have a chance to hang a banner and get a championship. We are building in this tournament and working to next year. Hopefully, next year we get to the NCAA's.
There were a lot of people in the stands tonight who don't get a chance to see games in person. Could you sense a difference?
Yes. It was great. When we walked out, they gave everybody a standing ovation, and I thought that was wonderful. Our fans have been great all year, and these fans haven't had a chance to sit down low and see the game up close. It was great tonight.
Some of the fans in the front said that they had been waiting since 3:30 p.m. What does that tell you about the fan support and what does that do for you as a player?
Mmmm! That's amazing to have fans out here at 3:30, and the game isn't until nine o'clock, just to watch us play. It makes you feel good inside, that you are important, and people want to see Carolina basketball. That says a lot about the fans as well. They are supporting us, even though we are in the NIT. They support us to the fullest.
Was it more energizing today to have all those students in the lower level?
Yeah, man. Usually when we come out to shoot around, not many people are out there, but they gave us a standing ovation for each and every guy that walked out on the floor, and that felt good.
How much did you feed off of that?
A lot, just to have that support. They could have been like, 'Nah, we don't want to come to games because they are in the NIT,' but to have that support and that love from the fans makes you want to play.
I was talking to Jawad about how Sam Casell called the UNC fans "Wine and Cheese." Do you think tonight's crowd was a little more "Beer and Pretzels"?
Yeah, yeah. Definitely. They say Carolina fans have been spoiled for a long time, but I don't see that. They are great, even last year when we were losing a lot of games they stuck by us. We have the best fans in the country.
Some of those people showed up at 3:30 for this game. What does that say about the fan base, and what does that do for you as a player?
That's big. I feel we owe it to those people. They want to see us play, even though we are in the NIT. They aren't giving up on us. That motivates you, let alone Coach motivating us. Just to play ball is a motivation, but to have that support is awesome.
Do you prefer that format with the general admission?
Yeah, I like that better because we have the energetic fans on the floor now.
Did you interact with them?
Yeah, I made eye contact, and they are like 'Yeah!' They are hyped. It's like the whole student section was in the crowd.
What do you think of David Noel's efficiency out there tonight?
It helped us out there tremendously because he is so fast and aggressive. He played big minutes.
Were you having as much fun as it looked like?
Yeah, definitely. Did you see us smiling out there? We were just running around, chasing people, making them turn the ball over. That's a lot of fun.
Yesterday you said that there were some guys who didn't seem "into it," playing in the NIT. Do you think that changed once you got out there on the court?
I think the second half it changed. In the beginning of the game, we made a run. Then we got lackadaisical. But straight off the jump in the second half we got after those guys.
What does that phrase "Better Days" written on your shoes mean?
There will be better days, you know. Tough times don't last--tough people do. That's something we have to keep in mind for the rest of our lives--not just basketball, but throughout life.
When did you put that on there?
Today. Everybody thinks we are going to be down, but we have better days ahead of us. To play games like this and to win helps us prepare for the better days.
Was that like a team statement or something?
Nah, that was personal. Everybody started looking at my shoes, and I was like, 'Yeah, that's real. That's what's up.'