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JOHN GERDES (NCAA): We’ll ask coach to make an opening statement.
TOM IZZO: Well, the first half, I thought we executed our game plan about as well as any half this year. We went in wanting to corral or wall Raymond Felton, not let him get to the hoop. We thought we could cheat with our foreman because Jawad Williams had not had a very good four or five games shooting the ball, and I thought we didn’t double down, but we really dug in on May, who I have great respect for also.
You know, Williams went off a little bit, and yet I thought we got every loose ball. We really got after it defensively in the second half. You know, with Alan struggling a little bit with his knee, and then playing a lot better, we just fell apart a little bit, to be honest with you. We did not defend as well. When he was out, we did not corral Felton as well.
We had some bright spots. Paul, you know, had to play a ton of minutes because of Alan being out, and I thought he did an incredible job of rebounding and trying to hang in there, going up and down.
Maurice Ager, at times, Shannon Brown. We just didn’t have enough weapons. They played awfully well, they deserved to win. It’s going to be, I think, a great championship game with two No. 1 seeds. It’s probably the way it’s supposed to be.
JOHN GERDES (NCAA): Questions for Alan or Paul first.
Q: Can you talk about how tough it is to end your career on this note? Seems like you were in a funk today, Izzo was yelling at you, teammates yelling at you. What was going on today?
ALAN ANDERSON: I mean, yeah, it’s tough to end on a note, you know, especially waiting to play, you know, in games like this, a Final Four game. Pretty much teammates just backing me up, coach is telling me they need me. Just kept encouraging me, you know, they can’t do it without me and things like that.
You know, the results, when one of your best players don’t perform to they best, you know, it’s tough to win.
Q: Paul, in the first half I think May only had four points, 18 the second half. What did you see? What was the difference there?
PAUL DAVIS: Well, like coach said, we played the first half pretty well. We ran our game plans on both ends of the court pretty well. I thought they came out second half more aggressive and demanding the ball and going after more rebounds. You know, that’s the kind of player he is. He’s the guy that you have to shut down for 40 minutes, not just 20.
Q: Alan, when Carolina got rolling in the second half, did it just seem like it kind of snowballed on you; just wasn’t much that could go right for you guys at that point?
ALAN ANDERSON: Not really. Like, I mean, we played against teams that, you know, had runs on it. We just fought back and had our own run. You know, we didn’t give up. None of the guys, you know, didn’t act like the game was already over. They kept trying to get turnovers and get buckets.
But, I mean, Carolina just kept executing on their plays.
Q: Alan, how many problems did you have with the knee coming into the game? What kind of effect did it have on you today?
ALAN ANDERSON: I mean, I wasn’t a hundred percent, but I’m a slash, I’m a penetrator. For me I use my first step a lot to try to get around defenders, and then play to my advantage.
I felt pretty good coming in the game with it, coming off adrenaline and everything.
Q: Did something happen in the game? Did you tweak it in the game?
ALAN ANDERSON: No. I mean, this is from, you know, the Kentucky game before the couple overtimes. I sat out a couple days of practice. I wasn’t going full all the time. I was just going here and there to get my knee loose.
But, no, I didn’t tweak it today.
Q: When the sting of this loss wears off, whenever that is, can you reflect on the career here, at least getting a Final Four banner to go up and represent the class that’s been through so much?
ALAN ANDERSON: You know, that’s what we wanted to do, hang a banner, get a ring. This is going to be great for years to come. But, you know, like I said, these guys, they going to be back. I mean, they got great wing players, great post players, great freshmen coming off a very (sharp?) year. It’s something to look forward to. We had to look forward to the Elite 8 my second year here. Now they got to look forward to the Final Four, getting a little taste of it. Now they’re going to have more of a hunger to excel.
JOHN GERDES (NCAA): Thank you very much, Alan and Paul.
We’ll take questions for Coach Izzo.
Q: You alluded to the two differences in the halves earlier. Was there anything North Carolina did tactically; was it just a matter they got on a roll and nothing could stop them?
TOM IZZO: Well, I really thought one of the reasons May scored more points, you know, the penetration was what we were most worried about. Our point guard match-up was a bigger problem for us than we thought our post match-up. We thought Paul could do a pretty good job, which he did.
I mean, Raymond, I don’t know how many assists he ended up with, had to be seven or eight. I think a lot of those were drop-offs to May late. I thought he scored some baskets there when he penetrated. I thought on the actual post feeds we did a pretty good job on him, considering.
But offensively we just weren’t in sync with Alan out of there. You could really tell. We tried to go small, and that didn’t work too well. You know, then we just -- when we battled back, you know, it was a nine-point game, we missed that dunk. I thought we missed some opportunities. I thought we missed some opportunities in the first half on some layups and dunks, a couple one-on-one free-throws. Again, you can’t do that against a great team, and that is a great team. I talked to Roy. I think he got after them pretty good at halftime. I think that, too, made a difference.
I thought the first half, every loose ball we got. The second half, I thought most of them they got. That was the difference.
Q: Coach, having seen both teams now, can you provide us with a bit of a preview, scouting report, keys to Monday night’s game?
TOM IZZO: Well, I think it’s going to be interesting. You know, Illinois has been so good all year - not because they’re in our league, but I think they’ve deserved everything they’ve gotten. I think our league has deserved a lot more than it’s gotten.
But in Illinois’s case, they did a tremendous job on both ends of the court. When we played against them, they had one of their best nights. But most importantly, I enjoyed watching them play. They move the ball so well. They rebound. They defend. There aren’t many teams that do as consistent of a job all around as they do.
In North Carolina, I was really impressed, you know, if Jawad Williams plays like that, you know, I think he’s had 11 points in four games, and he had 20 tonight, that’s a whole ‘nother dimension for them.
I think Illinois will match-up pretty good. We had to cheat a lot off of Raymond to stop his transition, which gave Jawad some open shots. They have the quickness. I’m not sure they -- the depth worries me a little bit for Illinois.
But, I tell you, they’re tough. They’re well-coached. Boy, they got the heart of a lion on that team. I’m not saying that North Carolina doesn’t. I’m just saying that Illinois has got one of these refuse-to-lose-type teams. It should be great. They’ll go up and down, too. They’ll get up and down the floor like we did. We still ran pretty good today. We missed some opportunities. I thought in a lot of ways we did a lot of good things, and Illinois can do those, and they can do them even better, especially if Dee and Deron get on track.
It should be a high-scoring, very well-played game. Both teams pass well, both teams are very well-coached. I think it will be a great finish.
Q: How puzzled were you with Alan? One time you yelled at Alan like, "What are you doing?" Thoughts on this senior class going out at least with a Final Four.
TOM IZZO: Well, Alan, you know, he didn’t practice two days this week, the first two days of the week. In fact, we had off a day. He didn’t practice the next two days. It was a worry. You know, he’s not that kind of player. He’s been playing so well. I just -- I did feel he was kind of out of it. You know, I know the injury had something to do with it. When it’s a knee... You know, if it was an ankle or something, a knee’s a little more worrisome for a player.
You know, I mean, he did have one of his -- just did not have a great game. I think it was more what he did than what anybody else did. We needed him to because we thought that was the one X factor for us.
But in saying all that, you know, this team had a great year. I mean, our league was so, so much better than people gave credit. That means Minnesota and Iowa and Indiana and Ohio State I think was one of the best teams in our league, of course Wisconsin. I mean, they were just so much better.
We played well in our conference. Those seniors didn’t deserve the abuse they took, and yet they fell a little short tonight when some opportunities were there and fell a little short during the season when some opportunities were there. But I’m proud of what they’ve done. I’m happy for them, that they have something to leave behind. I do think that’s important for a senior class, in some way or another, and yet hope they weren’t satisfied. I didn’t feel that way at all. It was more positive than negative.
JOHN GERDES (NCAA): Thank you, coach.
TOM IZZO: Thank you.