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“We congratulate George Mason. That’s what makes this tournament, in my opinion, the greatest sporting event there is. For George Mason to come in and nobody probably thought they could beat Michigan State and North Carolina back to back, but that’s college basketball. It’s been an absolutely wonderful ride with my team. Today is about as disappointed as I have ever been. The kids tried as hard as they could possibly try. If I’d coached a little better, that would have helped us a heck of a lot. The score was 54-51 and David (Noel) made a three and tied it up. We called a timeout, and I looked up to the clock and it still said 54-51. In my mind, I thought something was wrong. I called a press and we didn’t do a very good job on the press. It was a bad call on my part. It’s something as a coach that you hate to do to hurt your team. They (George Mason) went down and David fouled a guy and he made two free throws. We never got the score tied after that. As a coach when you feel like you’ve not given your team the best chance to win that’s something that’s hard to put up with. I love this team. When you look at what they’ve accomplished, they’ve accomplished things that maybe people didn’t think they could. But, they were an unbelievable group of kids that took me for a great ride, and I feel very fortunately to have coached them.”
On senior forward David Noel
“I think David Noel epitomizes what we want all student-athletes to be. I think David Noel epitomizes what we want as a tremendous team player. I lot of times when you get to be a senior, you think it is your time and you are going to try to take the shots and get all of the accolades that come to you so you can perhaps move along. He had one rough spell during four or five games, but even in that stretch he wasn’t trying to do too much. He tried to help our team win on and off the court as well as anyone I have been around in my life. I was very fortunate to coach him. I’m better today because I have coached him.”
On what he thought of George Mason going into the game:
“Last night I thought gave the most impressive first-round performance I have ever seen in an NCAA Tournament game. I think if you were go to go over the last 18 years as a head coach, I think our teams have led the nation in scoring over an 18-year period even though people don’t act like that - but I think it’s true. During that same time period, I think Michigan State has led the nation in rebounding, and not only did George Mason shoot about 60 percent, they out-rebounded Michigan State 40-24. They played with a great purpose and a great passion. I was scared to death, to be honest with you. In saying all that, I still thought we were going to win the game. We’ve got them 16-2 and there are two seconds on the shot clock and they bank one in from the top of the key. There were three times in the second half with one or two seconds on a shot clock and twice they make lay ups against our defense. They defense is not very good, but the one time they make a three right over Reyshawn Terry’s hand at the top of the key. And in fact, I think that’s the first time in the second half. We came out and David Noel missed a shot on the first possession of the second half, and then we turned it over six straight possessions. I called a timeout and we were behind at that point. The first time we got the lead, and maybe the only time we got the lead after that, we score and go up and that’s when they ran the shot clock down to two seconds and make one from the top of the key. They get the scored tied, and then that’s when I make a big mistake that will be hard to live with, there is no question about that. George Mason, they are a really good basketball team. They are experienced. They score outside. They guard you. For us, we tried a couple of really different things just to see if we could find something that could work. We didn’t do a very good job of stopping them. It is frustrating and deflating when you play defense for 32, 33, 34 seconds and they make one with one second to play. You have to congratulate them and pat them on the back for making those plays.”
What went wrong in the first two minutes of the second half?
“As a coach sometimes you try to do so many things, you are looking for something to see if it works. I was trying to make them mad at me. I challenged Reyshawn (Terry) at that time, because he has been so casual on the offensive and defensive end of the floor. I told them if they wanted to just talk about what a nice year it was, we could just do that and sit back and relax. I was trying to challenge them to see if I could fire them up, but it didn’t really work. I went back into the huddle after the coach’s assistants had talked, and we came down the first possession after that and turned it over again. Some people thought I was a wizard two nights ago for going to a 1-3-1 trap, and it worked. But the players made it work. Today, I didn’t give my team much help.”
On the quality of George Mason, and if they can advance further
“They aren’t going to sneak up on anyone like they sneaked up on Michigan State. They didn’t really sneak up on us. I told our team (their first round win) was about an impressive a performance I have ever seen. But each step you go the competition is even better and even more confident themselves. Is Villanova the No. 1 seed in this bracket? [Audience says `Connecticut’]. That shows you I don’t look down the line. Everybody thinks I’m just going to be corny or whatever. They’ve gotta play their tails off, but that’s what you are supposed to do when you get to the Sweet 16. You’re not going to be anybody if you don’t play well. Nowadays when you get to this Round of 32, you aren’t going to beat anybody when you don’t play well. I can remember a time when you are a one, two or three, the first couple of games you could win without playing well. But I don’t think you can do that anymore. I think George Mason has to understand that and Jimmy (Larranaga) will do a great job with them. They’ll have to continue to play at an extremely high level.”
On what threw the team off in the first half after the 16-2 run
“I challenged them not to look at the scoreboard because it was too easy. It was fools gold. We were making a bunch of shots. We haven’t shot 30 threes in any game this year, and we shot three or four at the end, but I don’t know of many games where we shot 25. They were missing some shots, we were making shots. But we weren’t stopping them, but they were stopping themselves because they missed shots. I wasn’t’ ecstatic. I told them it was only three minutes ... I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Perhaps we relaxed or something, but we didn’t have the focus that we needed on the defensive or offensive end of the floor.”
On if the team could have attacked more offensively
“We could have done a much better job attacking. We needed to move more and Tyler needed to move more. We needed to get the ball in bounds and in to him. He needed to move more quickly, and when he got it, go up or pass it more quickly. When we did get it in there, it gave them even more confidence. They did a great job of jamming down on Tyler and that made everyone’s jump shots even more difficult at that point. In the NCAA Tournament sometimes you’ll be loose and make a bunch of shots, but most of the times you better have an inside scoring threat.”
On the possibility Tyler Hansbrough considering going in the NBA draft
“We’ll look into it. I’ll give him my advice. I expect all my guys will be coming back, but I will look into it and give him some information.”
On why this team wasn’t merely a bridge between last year’s and next year’s teams
“I think this team played their tail off for this year team. Next year doesn’t have David Noel. I’ve got a guy who said `You’ve got George Mason and then you get to play Wichita State.’ College basketball is not easy if you start taking things for granted. I’ve said many times that if you start looking down the road, that’s where you go - down the road back home. It was a wonderful ride with a great group of kids. Everybody can say they have great kids, but everybody on my team you guys could take home and you would feel comfortable if they were in charge of your children. My son and my daughter were great; I’d take every one of these guys.”
On how the win over Duke fit in with the post-season
“It was a wonderful win. I think we did put it behind us. If anything, it gave us confidence of how good we can be if we really play. We didn’t play as well tonight as we needed to play. At Duke we turned it over twice in the second half, guarded them like crazy and made big shots. Today, we had six turnovers in the first three and a half minutes of the second half. I don’t think it’s a letdown from the Duke game. I think to me that was a great night that everyone remembered, but it was also a night that gave our club confidence as to how good we could be. We met up with Boston College in the tournament, and they were sensational. They are pretty good - they are still playing. George Mason, as I said, made plays and put us in a position where we didn’t make plays.”
How stunned are you at the result?
“They came out and executed in the second half. They got us to turn the ball over and went on a great run. They’re a great team, so I wouldn’t call it `stunned.’ They just made the plays when we didn’t.
“We just relied on our jumper too much, we didn’t get inside to Tyler (Hansbrough) like we normally have. When you’re shooting that many three-pointers, you’re not getting to the foul line that much. So I think we shot ourselves in the foot in that aspect.”
On what he’ll remember most about this year
“Just how fun it was and how great these guys are to be around. Every road trip and every home game. How great the coaching staff was. Even though coach is taking all the blame, they don’t play the game, the players do. We were definitely in a position to win the game. It was up to us to execute and we didn’t. It’s something we’re going to look back on and we’ll cry about it, be sad, but it just wasn’t our time. I’m definitely going to take a great deal away from this season because it was one of the best I’ve ever had here at the University of North Carolina.”
On Coach Williams
“We sat down early on and talked about different things. I put my all into it. I knew he could take me as far as we could possibly go. He’s helped me out tremendously. Coach (Matt) Doherty gave me a chance, and Coach Williams came in and continued where Coach Doherty left off. I thank those guys, and I thank God. Because without them, I know I wouldn’t be the player I am, or the person I am today.”
Surprised George Mason switched from a first-half zone to man-to-man press, and on losing the early first half and halftime lead?
“That’s what counts...they made big plays down the stretch. Yeah, but they were behind at the half, so they needed to increase the temp a little more and increase their press a little bit. And they definitely did that in the second half more. That definitely hurt us, a lot. We didn’t even get off a shot a lot of times, we turned the ball over. It’s definitely something we’re look back on and no we could have done something a little differently to make the outcome go in our favor.”
On George Mason’s defense
“They send a lot of guys at me. That was part of their plan, sent a lot of double-teams. They were pretty aggressive. It was frustrating. But at the same time, I have played against guys who are about the same size or bigger. A lot of it was some of my movement. It was frustrating.”