Is this redeeming after struggling the last couple of years and winning it outright this year?
We wanted to win it outright, and we knew we had to play a really good team tonight. Duke is about as good as it gets when it comes to a team and players understanding how to play with each other, where the ball goes. This team just had too much fight tonight. We just wanted to win and do whatever it took. Down nine with three minutes to go, I think everybody [else] thought it was over, but we did it all.
In all your years of playing basketball have you ever been a part of such a wild finish where you guys put on such an amazing run, to pull a game out of the fire like that?
I've never experienced anything like that. That's something I'll never forget for the rest of my life. Being down nine with three minutes to go, I could look at my teammates and we knew we still had a chance. We capitalized on some opportunities. They turned the ball over. That play were Danny Ewing turned the ball over and Raymond jumped on it was probably the play of the game.
How specially nice is it to beat Duke, considering the rivalry between you guys to be able to pull this out against them and be able to put this ACC Title in your pocket?
For me, it feels really good because I have never beaten them. We beat them my freshman year right before the ACC Tournament, but I didn't play. Finally, to get an opportunity--I had an opportunity over there--to take advantage. We had an opportunity over there, but we didn't take advantage. We had an opportunity last year and turned the ball over three times. With three minutes to go we were up seven. Tonight was the same type of situation, except they were on top. We just had too much fight tonight. We wanted it and wanted to send our seniors off on a good note.
Duke had 30 rebounds and you had 24 rebounds. You really hit the glass today.
Every time I have played against Duke, I try to go to the boards as much as possible. They do a good job of help-side defense. That's mostly where I get all my offensive rebounds--Ray will drive, Shelden will help, and I'll clean up the mess.
Coach talked to me yesterday and he said, 'You have a chance to do something special here. You have a chance to be one of the best rebounds that has played here. Tomorrow we need you to step up and make some big plays.' Tonight, I just tried to do my part, and it worked out for us.
Marvin Williams ends up with the ball in his hands. He hadn't had a great game to that point but made a huge play when you needed it.
I told the rookie, 'Hey man, way to step up.' That was a huge play. He's got guts. He stepped to the line and made that free throw. We got a timeout to set up our defense.
You know, the thing was Ray missed his free throw, but he kept fighting, he kept that ball alive that got into Marvin's hands, so they both made tremendous plays.
You've had eight consecutive double-doubles now, and today was also a 20-20. What do you think about that?
I'm on a good streak right now. My teammates are doing a great job of finding me. I take it upon myself, with Rashad's absence, to try to pick up the load a little bit, and Raymond does too. We need to get Rashad back. I'm happy to get eight double-doubles, but more importantly we got a huge win tonight and we won the conference championship.
What happened in that final play and what was going through your mind?
Nothing was going through my mind. I just tried to make a play, I guess. Ray should get the credit. He missed the free throw and could have easily given up. But he kept at it, he kept the ball alive. Sean was going after it. When the ball came out, I just shot it.
Is this the most excited you've ever been?
Not even close. I've done a lot more exciting things than that. But it was fun.
What has made you the most excited you've ever been?
(With a wry smile)My buddies and I do a few things back home that are pretty exciting. I'll just say that.
You walked in with a limp. How is your foot?
It hurts a little bit, but I'm doing OK. It's getting better.
Does it bother you during the game?
Not unless somebody steps on it, to be honest. It got stepped on a couple times today, but I'm OK.
What does it mean to finish atop the ACC?
It's big time. To me it's another game, but to the seniors, I'm just so happy for them. They came so far and for them to finish on top is big time.
You all looked excited on the court after the win, but now everybody seems pretty calm here in the lounge.
This is one of THE biggest wins I think we've had. For us to get it against Duke the way we got it was that much more meaningful, especially the way we lost to them the first time. It was key for us to come out for this game and be prepared to be in a dog fight and that is what it was.
What were you thinking with three minutes left, down nine points?
Nobody was being negative. Coach was just like, 'Believe,' and everybody started speaking positively. And that's how it went from that point on. Everybody was like, 'We've still got it. We have a lot of time left. Let's do what we do to get this lead down.'
Coach Williams looked more animated today on the sideline. Was he more animated in the huddle?
I think so. He gave us a deep speech and told us to believe. When you believe anything can be accomplished.
What did you do to create the steal that Raymond dove on at the end?
Actually, I had messed up at the beginning because I was supposed to switch off on Danny on all the screens. He got the ball and drove it up a little bit. I was able to come off. All I was thinking was 'Don't foul.' He drove past me a little bit, so I was able to knock it away from behind. Raymond dove on it and we got a timeout.
We've talked about you growing up as a Duke fan. When you think about this game, does it mean more because you've grown up locally, been a Duke fan, and now you play for Carolina?
It's funny when you think about it because I grew up a Duke fan almost all my life. To be able to come in and play in this rivalry was big. For us to get that win, it was that much more satisfying.
I didn't really take it any way. I was just angry the way it happened, the way it went down. I was angry at myself about a couple of things, but I had to put it behind me. We had plenty more games.
What were you trying to do on the missed free throw?
At first, I was trying to grab it, but there were two other guys holding it with me, from Duke. I just took the initiative to knock it out of their hands and try to knock it to Marvin. I saw him in the corner of my eye, so I tried to knock it to him. Somehow it got to him.
Did you get an assist on that?
(Laughing) Ah, na.
What does it feel like going into the ACC Tournament with the X on your back?
It feels good. No matter who you play in the ACC, it is going to be tough. You get to that tournament and every team is going in to win. Teams that feel they have no chance to get into the NCAA Tournament are going to be fighting hard to win it to get in with an automatic bid to the NCAA's. It's going to be tough. We aren't going in expecting it to be easy.
This wasn't Rashad's last game--that we know of--so do you know why he was so emotional after the game?
He wanted to be out there. He's just like me--he loves the game of basketball. He wants to be out there contributing and helping our team. I know how he feels. Just that one game I missed this year, I wanted to cry the whole time I was on the bench. I know exactly how he feels--it is emotional.
Did Coach have to tell you to get your head up at some point, and can you tell me about that?
I was 2-9 at the time, my shots weren't falling, we were down by nine. At one point I dropped my head in the huddle. I wasn't giving up; I was just frustrated. He told me to keep my head up. When Sean missed a layup, I got the tip in. After that, my teammates stepped in and made big plays for us tonight.
Marvin Williams said that it was your idea to lift him up on the shoulders in the crowd. Why was that?
He deserved it. That was a big time play. A freshman came in and made a big time play in a big time game. He deserved to be lifted up on our shoulders.
You've seen the lowest of lows at 8-20. What is it like now to take home an ACC Championship?
It's a great feeling. It makes me appreciate wins like this and appreciate teammates and coaches. Hopefully, we can keep it going from here.
What is going through your head that last few minutes?
Hang it in my locker for now. I want the whole thing. It was great to get that one, but I want the whole thing.
Does it mean more that it's Duke, your biggest rival, to finish it off here against them?
Not really. I think the biggest thing that matters is that we got a W tonight. That's all Coach really talked about--sending the seniors out on the right note. Our teammates did a great job of helping us tonight.
UNC's campus has been anticipating this game for awhile. What is it like to deliver the win?
It feels great. Words can't explain the feeling when the fans rush the court. Hopefully, we can have more victories like this.
How long do you take it in, and then when do you move on?
I'm going to enjoy it tonight and still realize that certain things can't happen on this team if we want to be successful.