JOHN GERDES (NCAA): We're now joined by Illinois. Again, we'll ask Coach Weber to make an opening statement. We do have four questions lined up for the student-athletes first.
BRUCE WEBER: Not much you can say. We had a tremendous year. It was just a special journey. I didn't think we fought very hard in the first half. They played with a lot more urgency. We lost our poise down the stretch in the first half. Probably cost us because now you have such a margin to come back.
You know, came back valiantly, played our hearts out second half. Told the kids they shouldn't hang their head. But we looked at Michigan State stats. If you shoot the ball 70 times, you're going to be in trouble. We shot 70, 40 threes. We had some chances down the stretch, just couldn't get it done.
It's a tremendous game, 1 and 2, we lived up to it. Went down to the last couple possessions. They had probably more inside threat with May than we had, and it made the difference in the game.
Q: Deron, I know this is hard to do on short notice, but do you think there will come a time that you will look back at this year finally and not remember this game so much? Can you remember the season as a success?
DERON WILLIAMS: I mean, I already think it's a success, you know. Our goal was to get to the Final Four, compete for the national championship. We did that. It just leaves a bad taste in your mouth not getting to cut down the nets, you know, not getting to, you know, see the seniors go out with a bang like we wanted them to.
Q: Luther, you did so much to get your team back into this ballgame, I think 13 points in the second half. When you took that shot about 12 seconds left, what did it look like, what did it feel like? When you saw the ball bounce that high and hit the backboard, what were your emotions?
LUTHER HEAD: It was a shot, I was wide open. Coach ran a great play. Got me open, had a great look. Just missed it.
Q: Luther, as a senior, how would you like to remember this basketball season?
LUTHER HEAD: As we was a tough team, a team that fought their heart out each and every game, never quit. We just stayed a family throughout the season, no matter what happened.
Q: At the end of the game when you went over and sat on the Tar Heels bench, what was going through your mind in those minutes?
LUTHER HEAD: That we just lost. We didn't win the national championship. Something that me and my whole team wanted to do badly. Just left a bad taste in your mouth. It hurt.
Q: Can any of you talk about if you were at all surprised when Carolina left Felton in with two fouls in the first half? Bruce, can you also respond to that?
DERON WILLIAMS: I think he's a critical part of the offense. In a game of this magnitude, it's the final game of the season. You got to leave him out there. He's got to be out there on the floor because he controls their offense.
Q: Dee, obviously the emotions you went through this year, the way this ended, when do you start to allow yourself thinking about how you can get at it and do it next year? How long does it take to do that?
DEE BROWN: I say, you know, kind of disappointed. Like I say, we got some young, good talent on our team. I think Coach Weber will do a great job of getting us focused the next couple weeks.
Q: Dee, will the first half and the fact they jumped out on you, is that going to stick with you for a while, a "what if" thing you play in your head?
DEE BROWN: Like I said, credit my teammates, we came out in the second half and fought like we should have. Unfortunately, they got out to a big lead, played so well in the first half. Just credit them guys to coming out and playing great basketball in the first half. We didn't really come out shooting the ball well and playing great basketball.
Q: Can you talk about that possession where you had the three chances, and that final turnover when Felton stole the ball?
LUTHER HEAD: It was a play. I thought I saw somebody open who wasn't open. I passed the ball, they got a steal. As far as the shots, I just missed them.
JOHN GERDES (NCAA): Dee, Luther, Deron, thank you very much for coming down. We'll take questions for Coach Weber.
I don't know if you can address that one question that was asked.
BRUCE WEBER: What we've done all year, with Deron, like he said, he's their quarterback. Roy, you figure that he's a smart player. They went zone quite a few possessions to kind of protect him. You know, it's like those guys said, it's the last game of the year. You got to have your guy in there as much as you can.
Q: Coach, as a whole, how will you assess this basketball season?
BRUCE WEBER: Tremendous. I mean, what else can you say? It goes down in history. Not only Illinois history, NCAA history. Tied the most wins ever, No. 1 for all the time. You get to the championship game. You know, I mean, if you're not happy with this, I feel sorry for you, because life ain't getting better.
Q: What are you going to remember most? You got a lot of highlights this season.
BRUCE WEBER: Oh, just the whole thing. Just the whole journey. It was just so much fun. You know, last night, I kind of cried in front of the team because the last meeting, you don't want it to end. We knew it's going to be the last game. There were no more ballgames. Sad it's over.
You know, but you're not sad how we played. I mean, we went down fighting, battling, had chances. You know, it's too bad James didn't get to play. You know, there's a big discrepancy on free-throws. But part of that's, you know -- you know, we shot too many threes.
I think the big stat is we have 17 offensive rebounds, and we only -- they have more second-chance points than we do. You know, we just didn't finish plays first half. Could have finished some plays.
Q: One of the toughest things I would imagine for a coach to do is to somehow console one of your star players who doesn't get that game winning or game tying shot. What did you say and do for Luther?
BRUCE WEBER: I just hugged all the seniors. Luther got us back in the game, as somebody said. I hugged him, cried. He cried. I mean, it's just -- he's come so far. Couldn't be more proud of a kid. All those seniors. Everyone talks about the juniors, but the seniors are guys that made our team.
You know, Luther, you got to give credit to Felton, he makes a great steal, hits a big step-back three. You know, they made a couple plays down the stretch, and we didn't. We put some pressure on them and they stepped up.
Q: When it got close, a lot of people thought that you guys would get it done, you found ways when it got close. Were you thinking that when it got to 70-70?
BRUCE WEBER: We had shots. You know, we had open shots. You know, but our kids played theirselves to exhaustion. You shoot all those threes, you maybe don't have legs at the end. If one those goes, now the pressure's on them.
We just never got it to, you know, a tie -- but never could get it over the hump. Somebody said we had three chances maybe to take the lead. We just never got it done. You know, in retrospect, maybe go inside. We just didn't get some inside looks. But, you know, James is the guy. Didn't have a great Final Four. I'm sure he's not going to be, you know, remembered -- he's not going to have great memories of St. Louis.
Q: You said on television that the guys didn't come out with much fight in the first half, but had a lot of fight in the second half.
BRUCE WEBER: Yes.
Q: Looking back, was there anything that you saw in the locker room before the game or anything that would have indicated that to you?
BRUCE WEBER: No difference. They just had a sense of urgency. We got on our heels. We missed some shots. They got the loose balls. We had a lot of deflections. Our play-hard chart was in the 20s at halftime. We were getting deflections, but they were getting the loose balls.
Then we started missing some shots, and got a little stagnant. They could go to May. Williams hits some big threes for them in the first half. You know, it's just -- you knew May would get stuff. You knew Felton would be important. But we couldn't let somebody else have a huge game. McCants and Williams, you know, have pretty good games. That's probably the difference in it.
Q: If you could just talk more about what Felton and May did for them tonight. It seemed like whenever it got to be a pressure situation, those two came through for them.
BRUCE WEBER: You know, May made tremendous strides in high school. Roy has done a great job with him, got him in shape. He has a tremendous desire to win. You know, he wanted to win a national championship. There's no doubt. He played like it the whole tournament. Played with a sense of urgency.
He's tough to defend. We tried everything. I wasn't real happy with some of the things that happened out there. But, you know, he's a great player. Felton's a great player. He makes plays. He made the plays down the stretch.
Q: Coach Williams has been in your position tonight a lot of times. Did you get a chance to talk to him?
BRUCE WEBER: Just for a minute. They were celebrating. He apologized for celebrating. Shoot, they should celebrate. That's part of it. Won the national championship. Tremendous coach. Tremendous for the game. One of the good guys in the business. I'm very happy. I always have wanted him to win a national championship; obviously not tonight. He's somebody to cheer for.
Q: You have some guys, Dee and Deron specifically, NBA futures. What role will you play in that? When will you sit down and talk to them?
BRUCE WEBER: We've talked all year. You know, we'll communicate here probably in the next couple days. I got to go recruiting Wednesday. Got to go to Atlanta for an award on Friday, then to LA for Wooden banquet on Saturday. Hopefully get with them before the banquet and talk about what's going on.
Q: The fans, the last couple months.
BRUCE WEBER: Unbelievable. Unbelievable. You know, just can't beat it. I hope they appreciate the journey. You know, obviously we had an advantage tonight with the crowd. You know, that even makes their win I think even more impressive. But I think they got us back into it. It got loud. We played off of the energy, but we just didn't have enough down the stretch.
Q: You were down 15 a couple times in the second half. The Arizona comeback is now legendary. What did you say to them?
BRUCE WEBER: We just talked about going down fighting. This is a game they're going to remember the rest of their life. If you go down -- the regret that you would have is if you didn't fight. I say "fight," battle, play hard, don't play not to lose, don't play timid.
You know, we thought we got it to the four-minute timeout, we've been in this spot a lot of times, shut people down. We had chances; we just didn't come up with the plays this time and they did. You know, tremendous win for them. Feel good for Coach Williams and their group.
But I also feel great about our guys. I mean, it's just been a blast. Sad that it's over.
Q: You've obviously got a great team. You had a wonderful season. If you would, just assess North Carolina's team.
BRUCE WEBER: Oh, they're a tremendous team. They got great balance. They got the inside-outside threat. They push it. You know, Roy's one of the best in the business.
You know, both our clubs, all year, I think, you know, you got to appreciate that we got here. I talked yesterday about the basketball gods looked down upon college basketball. They got us here. I think we put on a good show. But, you know, we just didn't have enough to get over the hump.
JOHN GERDES (NCAA): Thank you, coach. Congratulations on an outstanding season.