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JOHN GERDES (NCAA): Student-athletes will be with us very shortly. We’ll go ahead and ask Coach Williams to make his opening statement.
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, we’re elated. The first half, I didn’t think it was North Carolina out there. We didn’t compete the way we have all year long. We didn’t rebound the ball, we didn’t dive on the floor, we didn’t take charges, we didn’t do all those little things that make a difference, especially when you’re a talented team, which we are.
I challenged them at halftime. We were four down against Villanova, five was nothing if we went out and played. You just got to look at these youngsters up here and realize how hard they competed in the second half against a big-time Michigan State team. Again, we’re just elated.
JOHN GERDES (NCAA): Questions first for the student-athletes, please.
Q: Sean, can you talk about, y’all played Illinois twice, not this year, but two previous years, basically the same group. What did you learn from that? What do you think about the championship game match-up?
SEAN MAY: I think they’re totally different from when we played them, especially last year. Watching them today, I watch college basketball all year, they distribute the ball better than any team that I think we’ve seen. Coach pulled out a clip one time where they just moved the ball 15 times with, you know, no dribble.
You know, they have three really good guards. They run. They can play halfcourt. They shoot the ball really well.
For us, you know, it’s probably going to be the same thing that we’ve tried to do all year, attack inside out. If we compete like we did in the second half, we’ll be fine. But if we play like we did in the first half, like coach said, we have no chance.
Q: Jawad, earlier this week your coach in a nice way said you guys needed more production from you. Did that motivate you or is your hip feeling better? What got into you today?
JAWAD WILLIAMS: I didn’t know he said that. For me, I just went out there and played my part. We have a team where guys’ roles can change at any given time. Tonight my role changed.
Q: Jawad, you and coach I think shared a moment after the Wisconsin game that he was very pleased with, a private moment. Can you talk about what you’ve had to go through the last couple weeks and how fulfilling tonight was.
JAWAD WILLIAMS: The only thing I really went through was people trying to make excuses for me. I never made an excuse and I never will. Tonight was a great win for us, and that’s all I really care about.
Q: Sean, would you talk about what you saw out of Jawad tonight. He looked like a different ball player.
SEAN MAY: I told him at the end of the game, I went over and told him, "The reason why we won this game is because you had heart and you wouldn’t let us fail."
He carried us in that first half. I didn’t play particularly well. Raymond didn’t play his best game. Rashad stepped up and made some plays.
Coach told us in the second half, the game is two halves, we have an opportunity to go back out there, we have a chance to win this thing. I went over to Jawad and told him, the reason we won this game is because of your heart.
He’s a totally different player than what I’ve seen the last four games. He was that old Jawad Williams, dunking on people, rebounding the ball, making the big plays, doing the little things it takes to win that he probably doesn’t get enough credit for.
Q: Raymond, what was the message at halftime, and how animated was it? What was it about getting going in the second half?
RAYMOND FELTON: The message was basically just go out and play hard and play better. We know that we didn’t play our best basketball. We didn’t play Carolina basketball. We just went out, played hard. Coach told us that. He said if we want to win this game, we got to go out and play it like we want it.
Q: How animated was he?
RAYMOND FELTON: How animated was it? He got the point across, let me put it like that (smiling).
Q: Sean, I think you won the rebounding battle 51-42. How important was that?
SEAN MAY: That was the difference in the game. I think, you know, the first half I definitely think they kicked our tails. You know, they did everything that they wanted to. We didn’t stop them from doing anything. Coach said if you guys compete -- the thing, I didn’t play well in the first half. You know, tonight I only had seven rebounds. I didn’t do my job in that aspect of the game. Coach, you know, he just said, "You guys have a chance if you go out there and compete."
I think everybody did their part. Jawad, Marvin had big rebounds, Rashad was in there battling. I think that was the difference in the game.
JOHN GERDES (NCAA): Gentlemen, thank you for your time. We’ll take questions for the coach.
ROY WILLIAMS: Jawad, don’t think I ever give you up, regardless of what they say.
Q: To hold Alan Anderson scoreless, what kind of key was that tonight? What did you do to make that happen?
ROY WILLIAMS: You know, it’s one of the match-ups, to be honest with you, concerned us because he plays a lot at the four spot, he has ball-handling ability, the ability of a perimeter player. It means that Jawad and Marvin really did a nice job on him. But at the same time it wasn’t a good night for Alan. He’s a big-time player. Things just didn’t go as well for him tonight as it had been.
But yet you look down there, Ager had a big-time game. The three that he made over Rashad down the stretch there was just unbelievable.
But Alan is a great player, and I grabbed him at the end and said, "Don’t make this let you lose sight of what a great year you’ve had."
Q: Jawad said his role changed. How did it change? How did you motivate him this week?
ROY WILLIAMS: I didn’t hear him say exactly that, but I will tell you that I did say to you guys that he hadn’t been as productive as he has been in the past because he’s been hurt. But your question to him, you said I said in a nice way that he needed to get going. I just said truthfully that his production hadn’t been what it was.
But Jawad is about winning. He’s a senior. He’s gone through a great deal of tough times, yet the last two games in Syracuse at the end of the game, he was sitting over there, and Marvin was in the game, and he handled it marvelously.
I think what I do to motivate Jawad, is we just look at each other and talk because I have a great deal of confidence in him. When he is healthy, he can really play. He hasn’t been as healthy as we wanted him to be. But if the only thing I have to do is motivate Jawad, I’ve got a pretty easy job, I can tell you that.
Q: Jawad hit your first field goal tonight, then he hit a three about midway through the first half. First in a while. Did you kind of realize at that point the old Jawad was pretty much back?
ROY WILLIAMS: Not necessarily. I mean, I didn’t like what we did in the first half. We took 12 threes and we talked about trying to get the basketball inside because with Paul Davis out, I think that their next guy is not quite as good as Paul. I thought it could be an advantage for us. For us to take 12 threes in the first half is more than I want us to take, even if it’s Jawad, Marvin, Rashad, Raymond, and Melvin the guys that can shoot them.
Again, I haven’t been that extremely worried about Jawad. I just want him to get healthy. When he’s healthy, he’s a big-time basketball player. It did make me feel good, there’s no question about that, when it went in. He made those threes in the first half. I don’t think he made any threes in the second half.
To be honest with you, our game was awful in the first half. I wasn’t thinking too much about him making threes in the first half.
Q: Can you talk about Rashad McCants’ game tonight and the kind of player he’s become.
ROY WILLIAMS: In the first half, I was so mad at Rashad and Melvin, and our guys not getting on the floor for loose balls and taking charges and boxing out. He’s been so much more mature now, he’s been handle everything. Made some big baskets for us. We tried to post him up a little bit more in the second half. I think he was able to score in there, get fouled.
To me I think the biggest thing about Rashad is that he handles criticism in a constructive way, which I hope is about all I do. Sometimes I’m sure it’s not. But he handles that well and bounced back.
Again, he wants our team to win. And I screamed at him and Melvin one time at the end because they let Ager get open for a three in the corner. They were both pointing at each other like it’s not my man. I said I didn’t care, it’s North Carolina’s man, and that kind of thing. But I think he’s so much more mature and he’s a better all-around player as well.
Q: At this point in the season, do you have a feel for this season?
ROY WILLIAMS: You know, I think a lot of times when you get to the Final Four as a coach, you think you know your team. Who knows what goes through the mind of an 18, 19, 20, 21-year-olds. The stage we have at this, the attention that we have. It was unNorth Carolina like in the first half.
I did point that out to them at halftime. I said here, I don’t know if it’s this stage or whatever a couple days ago, the thing that’s impressed me the most about our team down the stretch is our toughness, and the toughness was a huge thing for us today.
Raymond and Rashad making shots, getting the ball inside to Sean, you know, we had a lot of things that were going good for us.
Q: Can you follow up on what you were talking about earlier? I think all of us could tell you were really super-intense coaching your guys late. Every swing of the ball late. Seemed like you were reminding your guys this was something you wanted to get a message on.
ROY WILLIAMS: You know, Marvin said to somebody the other day, "Coach is pretty intense." You know, I’ve been called things like that, and I love to compete. I think if you’re completely focused, and you truly give a commitment, you can do a lot more than you can if you’re not that way.
And in the first half, we allowed the loose balls to go their way, we allowed the free balls up on the board to go their way. I wanted to be in the game. I wanted our players to be in the game. Sometimes if they happened to see that and can pick up all that intensity, that’s great.
But for the most part, I expect our guys to do it by themselves. I’m not a flyer child sitting over there wondering what the heck’s going to happen at the end.
Q: What did you do in particular during that big second-half run that the team hadn’t been doing for the first 25 minutes?
ROY WILLIAMS: I don’t want to keep saying this, but it is the same thing. We competed. I mean, you go back and look at the tape. Every time there was a loose ball, they got it. In the second half, they didn’t. And then, in basketball terminology, we continued to try to push it.
As I said earlier, one of the questions, first half we shot 12 threes, second half we attacked the basket. You know, first half we shoot 41%, second half we shoot 57%. From a basketball standpoint, we wanted to attack and we didn’t do that as much in the first half.
Q: Some people recently have questioned your team’s defense. You hold them to 29% in the second half. Can you address the overall defense and how all that helps you going into Monday night.
ROY WILLIAMS: When you say "some people questioned," that included the coach. We didn’t play very well defensively in Syracuse. But we had three big-time days of practice, three big-time days of practice this week. The focus was going to the pit and working on the defensive drills, and we did that for three days. I think it helped us.
Q: I don’t know how much you’ve seen Illinois, but do you think they’re the best team in the country? Do you think you’re playing the best team?
ROY WILLIAMS: Yes, I think they’ve shown throughout the course of the whole season. I mean, they’re a three at the buzzer away from being undefeated, which to me would be almost unheard of in college basketball. They’re a veteran team. They’re very well-coached. They’re extremely focused. I saw the T-shirts they were wearing in the shoot around this morning where it said, "Finish the job." They’re a big-time team.
Q: Did you say anything specific to Sean at halftime? What was the biggest change in him in the second half?
ROY WILLIAMS: I don’t think I said anything specifically to Sean. It was more to our team. Well, I said a couple things specifically to a couple of other guys, but I didn’t think that Sean had let his teammates down by not getting after a ball or something like that.
But we did try to focus again on attacking and get the basketball inside. And I thought that 12 threes in the first half, again, were too many.
Q: You were talking as if you gave motivational speaking at halftime. We’re in the Final Four. Do these guys know a little too well how good they are? Is that possible?
ROY WILLIAMS: No, I really don’t think. Again, you know, who knows. Do you have children?
ROY WILLIAMS: How old are they? You’re in for it. You got a hell of a life in front of you, I’m telling you (laughter).
Who knows what 18, 19, 20, 21-year-olds go through. This is a stage -- Sean May, for example, is a college basketball fan. Watches games, knows players, all those kinds of stuff. But it’s the Final Four. It’s the biggest stage you can be in. Maybe guys go tiptoeing through the tulips. I don’t think our guys were overconfident. I’m not sure that’s where you’re going. I don’t think it was that at all.
I don’t think they were Prima Donnas, I don’t think they were big-timing anybody. I think Michigan State hit them right in the mouth. We staggered a little bit and didn’t now how to react.
I hate to put it in that vernacular, but maybe that explains it better than I’ve been doing. They were the aggressor and we were not. And I don’t think you can be the kind of team that can win at this level against these kind of teams if you’re on your heels. I don’t care if there is a Tar there or whatever, you can’t do that. I wanted us to be more aggressive in the second half.
Q: I know you haven’t had a chance to break down the tape. Off the top of your head, can you give us a bit of a scouting report on Illinois and the keys that your club will need to accomplish against them.
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, you’re right. I mean, I’ve watched them as a fan. One of my assistants is in charge of them since the Final Four teams had won the right to come here. But I’ll get more information on them.
But, you know, Dee Brown, Deron, Luther Head, I mean, I know those guys. We did play them last year. Sean was right at one of our meetings this year, I took a couple clips from Illinois games and showed them to my team. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. I told them watch this. They moved it 15 times. I don’t think the ball was dribbled a single time. Somebody got a wide open one. That’s the way I think basketball should be played.
I do think before Monday night, I’ll have a chance to watch some tapes.
JOHN GERDES (NCAA): Thank you, coach. Congratulations.
ROY WILLIAMS: Thank you.