“Well, that was about as bizarre a game as I’ve ever been involved with early because there was nothing that we did that was very good. Ian Miller making those threes early; one time Marcus was all over him and he still made the shot. But our guys just sort of hung in there. We started to get a couple of plays made by some guys off the bench. Brice gave us a lot in the first half off the bench. And to do that without James Michael McAdoo, who has been our best player in this streak that we’ve been on because he’s played so hard, but foul trouble…
“And then Leslie and Marcus, they gave us nothing, but then, all of a sudden in the second half, Marcus’s teammates started looking for him and he had the look in his eye and he started making a bunch of shots. Kennedy Meeks, who hadn’t played very well recently as far as scoring or rebounding, was huge for us inside. When you go 11-for-12, needless to say, that helps you. But it was just a bizarre game. They got off to such a hot start and then in the second half we shoot 68 percent. That’s pretty good.”
Can you talk about the importance of these types of wins when it comes to ACC and NCAA Tournament seeding?
“The conference win on the road is what we talk about. We don’t talk about that other stuff because if we take care of our short-term goals, our long-term goals will be taken care of. We’re trying to get better every day and I know that doesn’t make for good stories, but we talk about it all of the time. I talked to them at halftime, I said, ‘I feel like I’ve stolen every cookie out of the cookie store.’ Nobody else got any because I got them all because we were down three at halftime.
“But each win… You look back and we gave some games away early. You’d say, well, North Carolina most of the time should beat Belmont, for example, and Rick’s a great friend of mine, so he’ll understand me saying that. The culture of basketball – kids play in the summer and they play five games in one day and they don’t even remember which games they won, or if they won. And then [the season] comes and now we’re playing and every game is important to us. Our first five ACC games we were 1-4 and those games were really important. But as you’re saying, down the stretch you want to be a confident team and I think that’s helping us playing well.”
How nice was it to see Kennedy have the kind of game he had?
“He started five or six games for us but hadn’t played very well the last two or three games. But he was 11-for-12 and he does give us some inside scoring. I think the huge part of it, too, was our guys passing the ball to him, bounce passes inside. He made one jump shot in the first half about 10 feet out on the left baseline and the rest of them he could cough it in from where he was. But that’s okay – I like those. But he was big for us and he’s a good passer as well.”
Brice Johnson was also effective inside. What was it that allowed him and Kennedy to be so successful tonight?
“We wanted to get as low as we could, as close to the basket as we could. I think Brice did that. Again, his guys got the ball to him. He made a silly reach-in foul – some of the fouls we made weren’t very smart, that was the bad thing about it – but I think Kennedy and Brice are our best offensive post players. We’ve just got to get them to a little bit lower spot on the court and that will help us even more.”
You’re the fastest coach in the ACC to get to 300 wins. What does that mark mean to you?
“Well, I had forgotten about it. I’m trying to win one more game. I don’t know if I’m going to be alive and croaking tomorrow. I’ve had great kids who really buy in to what we’re trying to do. I’ve always taken a great deal of pride trying to get kids to buy in and be driven toward a common goal and that’s what coaching is. I’d like to say thanks to Raymond Felton, Jackie Manuel, Tyler Hansbrough, Sean May, Ty Lawson and all of those guys and all of those guys in the locker room right now. I’ve lived a blessed life on that basketball court and it’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully I’ll have another win sometime.”
How encouraging was it to see your guys chip away at the deficit even with McAdoo hampered by foul trouble?
“Well, it was encouraging. The first timeout I called I didn’t do any coaching, I just screamed at them. I thought that’s what they needed. But after that, I said, ‘we can get back in there, we can back in there, we can get back in there. We’ve missed two layups, we’ve missed a wide-open three, we’ve missed both shots of a two-shot foul, we’ve missed the first shot of a 1-and-1, just make a couple of plays and we’ll be right back in there.’ And the last three or four minutes of the first half, we did get back in there and I thought that was the key part for us because then, as I said, I told them at halftime I felt the luckiest that I’ve ever been just to be down three the way that we had played.”