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Listen to Audio Part I (10:50)
Listen to Audio Part II (10:48)
Opening remarks -
We are happy as we can possibly be. We showed a tremendous amount of toughness tonight. We talked to our kids about being physically aggressive, mentally tough and being aggressive with the basketball. Once they made their run early in the second half, after about six or eight minutes into the second half I thought it was our best defensive performance of the year. I didn’t take Tywon or Tyler out of the game the entire second half, they played the whole time. The only reason I called time out was to give them a breather. Reyshawn had migraine headaches all day and at pregame we didn’t know [if he’s going to play]. I felt like if we could get him in the game, he’d sweat it out a little bit and he was sensational in the second half. It’s extremely hard to get the ball inside against Michigan State because they defend from the 3-point line on in. It was great basketball to get the ball in there to Tyler; Tywon did a great job of penetrating and when it got to crunch time Reyshawn decided he wanted his senior season to continue.
Were you concerned about Reyshawn not playing?
After I saw him play a few minutes my only fear was that he was going to run out of gas, so we kept running people in and out to try to give him some more breaks. One of the timeouts I took I told him that I didn’t have anything to tell him, I just wanted to give you a breather.
Talk about Tyler’s toughness -
He is a physical player, but he’s got great touch. He’s worked so hard that he has made himself more athletic than people imagined. That touch is a gift and that stamina comes from how he works so hard all the time.
Talk about Tyler’s performance after he took off the mask -
I was happy when he took it off because I though psychologically that would give him a little bit of a boost.
Would you say this was your best game to date?
We’ve played pretty doggone well sometimes. If you asked Lute Olson he’ll tell you the best game I ever coached was this year at Arizona without Brandan and Marcus. We were sensational. From a toughness viewpoint this was very impressive today.
Address your team’s toughness and maturity.
Toughness can be described in a lot of different ways. I think toughness is the willingness to run around those screens all the time. They set a million screens tonight and our guys were tough enough to keep going and not give in. Toughness is not just aggressive play, its aggressive attitude. The toughness issue is not just are you the toughest guy in the neighborhood, but mentally how tough are you going to be to have that poise. We can say that we’ve played 36 games and these guys are no longer freshmen and sophomores, but it is the first time half of our team has gone through this. From maturity level I think it gets better every single day. When you have experiences like this, it definitely makes you better.
Talk about Ty Lawson’s performance tonight.
When the other team gets something, we always wanted to attack. I don’t ever want one of my teams to be hesitant, to be on their heels. Let’s put the other team on their heels. We want to come after people. I said it when I recruited him, that for the way I want to play, Tywon Lawson has all the abilities I’ve ever wanted in a point guard. He’s a tough little nut. He’s stepped up and made big plays. He’s defending better now than he was three weeks ago. His game has really developed in a lot of different areas.
Talk about how important it is to have big guys at this point in the season?
You need to have guards, but you need some inside scoring and you need to be able to get the other team in foul trouble. My own personal view is that you have to be able to attack the basket each and every round of the NCAA Tournament. I don’t think you can say I’m going to shoot more 3-point shots and shoot a better percentage from the 3-point line. Fortunately we’ve got a guy that’s awfully effective on the inside.
Talk about your performance in crunch time.
Once again the opportunity came and I felt comfortable with the shot that I took. It felt good and it went in.
How did you feel tonight and how did the migraines affect your play?
Earlier on it was kind of tough because every time I ran my head was banging a little bit but I tried not to think about it and just worry about the game. I knew once the game started and during the stretch of the game I tried to keep it out of my mind for the most part.
How bad would you have had to felt today to not play in this game?
I was thinking about that the whole time I was having headaches and stuff I was thinking to myself, Rey you have to play in this game, it could be your last game. Coach told me to try hard in your warm-up and let me know what your thoughts are. After warm-ups I told him, I want to play. Coach stuck me in there and played the whole game.
How are you feeling now and is this a chronic thing for you?
I am feeling good, we won this game. I don’t get headaches like this that often. I guess its one of those days that everyone has. I fought it off and we won the game so I don’t worry about the pain at all.
Do you think this may have been your team’s most mature point of the year?
Brandan is always effective whether or not he is scoring or not. He is so long and he gives us a great defensive presents. If he is not scoring we always have guys that can step up and make the shots and it showed today. Tyler and Ty carried us for the most part, I made a couple shots down the stretch of the game but I definitely feel like our depth has been a big plus for us this year.
Do you feel like you have answered those who said UNC is not a tough team?
I think that we showed poise and composure. We got some defensive stops. We were pretty confident about getting defensive stops at the end of the game. I am pretty sure everybody else could see that. We are tough enough to get the job done. We have the philosophy of one game at a time. We let everybody else worry about what they have to worry about and we worry about what we have to worry about.
Talk about the way you never gave up.
They were physical. I think movement was the key for me tonight and my teammates gave the ball inside which I felt comfortable with. I just felt like some of my shots were falling down.
What was your reasoning for taking the mask off?
It was in the first half. I think it may have been early to midway. I was frustrated, it was heating my face up, it sweats a lot and I just felt comfortable taking it off. It was one of those things where I was trying to wear it for this game and if we win and advance to the next game I would have taken it off anyway. I felt more comfortable with it off.
Does your offense wear teams down?
We do like to run a lot and it’s tough. That’s one of our keys. It’s tough to run with us for forty minutes. I think it does wear some teams down but I think we could have worn some of their guards down and some of their big men gave us opportunities for Ty’s penetration and things like that; some fast break points which were key.
What was uncomfortable with the mask?
It’s one of those things that’s like a little bee around your face that you try to slap away but it won’t go away. I am not sure that’s a good analogy.
What was it like playing inside?
The coaching staff said when we were going over scouting that they were tough and as a team we couldn’t have any casual box-outs. I think we worked on it in that one practice and how ever many practices we had between games. It wasn’t much, a short preparation but I think it was one of the keys that we came out and tried to rebound and we knew we had to box out in order to execute the way we wanted.
How did you defend Neitzel and how would you rate your performance against him on the defensive end?
Basically I was trying to challenge screens and stay in front of him. He is a great player. He knocked down big shots in crunch time. He is a great player and its tough to guard him.
How did you have the stamina to play 36 minutes and produce the way that you did?
I used the timeouts to catch my breath. Marcus and Wes helped me guard Neitzel. Guarding Travis Walton gave me my legs because he didn’t do as much running around and stuff like that. It wasn’t too hard to catch my breath.