Opening remarks -
I've just been told about our mascot that was hit by that car this afternoon, so our thoughts and prayers go out and hope that things look better than they look right now. Sort of makes everything else pale in comparison to that, a youngster to have something like that happen. I was just told that, so it was a nerve-wracking right now to think about that.
But it is a fantastic opportunity for us. At half time I didn't throw any chairs. I did get a little heated by our intensity, about our effort and about our concentration, but I personally never lost faith in our kids. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our team. We didn't get off to a great start the second half like I had hoped we would, but even at the 16-minute time-out, I said, ‘Let's stop making silly mistakes and giving them easy ones, let's make them earn stuff.' The kids started believing in themselves and came back bit by bit. I told them it wasn't gonna happen in two minutes, might take the entire half to get it done, but I thought we would get it done if we played. Did the best we could on offense and defense every possession. I do have a tremendous amount of confidence in our club. We picked up on defense and we also were lucky that they missed a couple open shots.
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But we feel very, very lucky. I think that we don't have any pride or confidence that makes us be too cocky to stop us from saying that. We feel very lucky but we are still playing. I'm as proud of these kids as I could be.
Roy, when Marcus and Brandan began to crash the boards, how much did that help your comeback? Was that the decisive thing that happened to get you going in the comeback?
I think so. You know, we talked to the guys at half time again about we didn't have the passion, didn't have the energy level early. Tim does a great job. They do some funky things on defense that bothers you psychologically if you allow it to, but at the same time I thought we needed to get guys going to the offensive boards a lot better. You know, they weren't necessarily playing Brandan outside, they were using his man to help other people, double on Tyler, for example. Marcus wasn't being played very much outside.
Southern Cal, with Tim, they want to make your nonscorers shoot the ball and the guys that don't shoot it as well take more shots than the guys that do. It's very sound fundamentally. For us, we tried to go the other way and say if they're not playing, it does give you a free run to the backboards. First of all, we have to do things on the defensive end, had to shore that up. On the offensive end, let's try to get the basketball inside and get all over the offensive boards.
At half we were 2 for 12 from the half point line. That's too many threes. The second half we shot two of them but we did get the ball inside to Brandan some. The other thing, 20 offensive rebounds was huge for us.
Obviously, at this point everybody knows what's at stake. But from a coaching perspective, how is coaching in a regional final different than any other game?
If you don't play well, you start thinking about when the first time you're going to play golf. That's the biggest thing. You don't prepare any differently. The kids understand the significance of it. I don't think I have to stand up here and say, "Hey, guys, if we don't play, we go home." You don't have to say those kind of things to them; they understand that.
I do believe that what you do now is you coach for one game. You know, tonight, second half, I don't think I took Tywon out of the game. We're coaching for one game. Jimmy Valvano used to say, ‘We've got to survive in advance.' We're not looking down the road. I've said many times you start looking down the road and that's where you're gonna go, going down the road back home.
But we feel very fortunate. Please understand it was not any great coaching strategy, we just got kids that did give us the effort in the second half. We had a lot saved up because we didn't use very much of it in the first half.
Just wanted to ask about your defense in the second half. You allowed just seven points over the last twelve and a half minutes. It looked like you were making them settle for jump shots. You kept them in front of you, that type of thing. What did you do defensively?
What we tried to do even in the first half, we went small a little bit, and that helped us some. But then when they went two bigs, we went with two bigs because that helps us more offensively. What we did in the second half is what we intended to do in the first half. If you guard your own man, where your teammates don't have to help you, then your defense is so much stronger. But we weren't doing a very good job in the first half. We said Daniel Hackett was a driver. The first two times he catches a ball he drives to the front of rim and lays it up. The kids really decided and they did a much better job in the second half.
Brandan had kind of a rough time offensively against Michigan State last weekend. What was the biggest difference you saw in him tonight?
Last week at the press conference I told you I was not worried about Brandan. If Brandan Wright was a worry for me I was a lucky, lucky individual. I said, hey, there's nothing wrong with you, it's a very physical game. You didn't feel like you got some breaks with the officiating. He thought he had two fouls, the referees thought he had four. It was one of those bad days, you know. Yesterday again Tiger shot 71, last week he shot 76 in the final round but he's still Tiger. Today he shot 66. So Brandan shot 76 the other night but he shot 66 today. He doesn't know what the heck I'm talking about so I can say anything I want about golf.
Various times throughout the year your team has a unique ability to turn it on, turn it off when they can. Do you get concerned about that a little bit?
Yeah. But, you know, we've won 31 so it's not a concern that I'm laying awake at night. My concern is when we don't guard people.
But I think, you know, people put that conception out there but I think it's a misconception. I don't think we play like that. I think you have to give the other team some credit. I mean, Southern Cal, we didn't play as hard as we wanted to defensively but Southern Cal played pretty doggone well. Sometimes we fail to give the other team some credit, but my team has been pretty doggone consistent. We may screw it up for a little while, but every team does that.
I think even all the way back to when Coach Wooden coached, he used to talk about get a couple of spurts during the game and if you have two or three of those significant spurts that's enough to get you over the hump. I didn't want to have rely on an 18-0 spurt by being down as much as we were, but we will have some mistakes out there. We can screw it up in a heartbeat. But kids, for the most part, have really played exceptionally hard.
About twelve minutes left, Taj Gibson picked up his fourth foul. Was that a turning point for you?
It was important to us, no question. He had nine rebounds at half time. But it's one of the reasons I play a lot of people because if we play a lot of people, we're not going to be as tired, we'll have more energy and we won't have the same guy in there getting in foul trouble. It's, knock on wood, in the first half I took Tywon out, at the end of the first half, ‘cause he had two fouls. I took Tyler out at the end of the first half. I think they finished the first half on like a -- you guys would have to tell me -- 9-2, 7-0 run, something like that, 34-33 and it ended up 42-33. For us, the 8-0 run was with Tyler and Tywon sitting over there. I would have liked to have had them over there, too. They had their second fouls. Put other guys in there. Didn't work out as much. We do play other people so hopefully it helps us at the end. Taj was having a great game. He's had a phenomenal freshmen year. I said something to him about don't let what you've done be discredited by one night.
This is the 25th anniversary of that big Georgetown-Carolina final. What are your thoughts on playing Georgetown?
I have no idea, you know. We're over there 16 down getting our tails kicked, hell, I just want to be here. Let's be honest. Young John, it's what I call him, I really genuinely like him as a person. His dad is one of the giants of coaching, I've stolen from him many, many years ago, big John allowed me when I was a coach at Kansas to come back and watch his practice at Georgetown. I've always thought of him as a person that was extremely close to Coach Smith and that meant that I was extremely close to him because of that relationship. But, you know, 25 years ago I had black hair, you know. My golf game was a lot better than it is right now, too. But, you know, that would be a heck of a game right now. I think Patrick's knees would be worse than Michael's, so we'd have to see.
Is there anything you could take away from the sluggish first half tonight in order to prevent that next game?
You know, in the first round game against Eastern Kentucky we got off, were up 27. You know, if I'm that smart, I would have taken that same game plan and do it tonight. But we got to understand they're not machines. They're young kids. Sometimes they're gonna mess it up. But you just got to keep trying, keep plugging, keep trying to do the right thing. Again, we were up 27 and they cut it to four. It's just a game of basketball, and it's not, especially at this time of year, it's not just North Carolina. That other team is responsible for some things, and I think that other team, the stretch in the first half, we could not handle. Fortunately for us we got them to miss a few shots.
MARCUS GINYARD, TYLER HANSBROUGH & BRANDAN WRIGHT
Could you just discuss the significance of Taj Gibson getting his fourth personal foul and how that changed the flow and momentum of the game?
WRIGHT: Personally, I wasn't looking at the foul situation, I was just worried about who I was guarding. I was getting back into the game, doing what we needed to do on defense to make the game close and take the lead. Like I say, I really wasn't, you know, into the foul situation.
Marcus and Brandan, how were you able to get so many offensive rebounds and tip-ins in the second half?
GINYARD: Well, we really feel like they was effort plays. You know, we really lacked that effort and passion in the first half. In the second half, that was definitely one of our emphasis, was just to play with that passion and intensity. Like I said, those were just simple effort plays that I just feel we gave it an extra effort.
WRIGHT: We are really proud of ourselves. By hitting the glass, you know, we can't just stand behind guys, we got to get around, do what we need to do, push, scratch, claw to get the offensive rebound.
Tyler or Brandan, can you talk about the run there where I think it was an 18-0 run, how you were able to -- that was the deciding factor in the game. What went into that run?
WRIGHT: I didn't know it was an 18-0 run. I mean, that's great. You know, when our team can make spurts like that and, you know, play well enough on defense, we really are going to be hard to stop. Our guys did a great job at, you know, hitting the glass and, you know, hitting the boards on the defensive end by finishing the possession. That was great for us.
HANSBROUGH: I think it was a situation where we needed some must-stops, you know. It was definitely the point of the game where we needed to make a run. I think our defensive intensity picked up a little bit and guys started making, you know, stops. They got stops and we started converting on the other end. It was very crucial for us in the win.
GINYARD: Well, we really just, you know, at that point of the game, you know, when Coach Williams doesn't call a time-out and we're down 16 points in the second half and we look over at Coach Williams and he's not calling a time-out, and he's just telling us to get the ball up the floor and continue to play, all the players can feel the confidence Coach has in this team. Like he said earlier, he has a ridiculous amount of confidence in this team. It's really hard to say how important that is for a player, you know, for a coach to feel that confident about his team and the way that he knew we'd be able to come back.
Marcus, have you watched the other tournament games to see virtually every other top seed has gotten through a game like this and if you were curious at all to see how your team would respond if you had one?
GINYARD: I did notice other top-seeded teams were pulling out close games. I always, just like I said, just the confidence that Coach has this in this team and the confidence we have in ourselves, I understood the further you get in this tournament, the harder the games will be. We didn't come into this game thinking it would be an easy game but we just knew we had to do whatever we could to pull it out.
I know you were not born 25 years ago but you heard a lot of talk about the last time Georgetown and Carolina played for the championship. Do you know anything about that game? It doesn't matter now, but do you know the significance of that game? What do you think of the history of it, playing them again now?
HANSBROUGH: Well, I think I do know a little bit about it because I think, you know, there was -- I think those guys did come back, right, to watch us play a game and for the reunion. I think we watched a video on them. It was pretty inspiring for us. It says a lot about the tradition and, you know, what North Carolina has done. For those guys to come back and watch us play, it meant a lot for me because it just shows us what type of family North Carolina is.
But as far as a rivalry goes, I don't really know what's all there because, you know, I don't think we even play them that much. But, you know, I'm just ready to play ‘cause it's our next game.
Brandan, Coach said he was confident in you guys. How confident were you guys down 16 early in the second half?
WRIGHT: I mean, I feel great, you know. When Coach doesn't call a time-out, you know, I don't like when people make excuses about, you know, us being young with a lot of freshmen and sophomores making contributions to this team. He just shows the confidence that Coach has in us. I really respect that. He let us play through it and we got the job done for him.
Marcus and Tyler, guys, what was going on in the first half tonight with the slow start? You played with so much passion against Michigan State and it seemed to be lacking in the first half tonight.
GINYARD: Well, that was just the biggest key, lack that passion. You know, I don't really know what it was, you know, why we weren't playing with that passion or intensity. But, you know, it just came down to the simple fact that, you know, at half time, you know, we all just looked at each other. Coach Robinson said it's now or never. We have to play with that intensity now or we're going to be going home, sitting in that locker room afterwards with our heads down. That's no feeling that anybody on this team wants to have right now. So we just had to do, you know, whatever it took.
HANSBROUGH: Marcus pretty much said it, you know. We just didn't have the intensity the first half. We came out pretty sluggish. Got off to a bad start. Came in half time, listened to the coaches talk, rallied up a little bit, come out, have another little sluggish start then started getting after it. I think that's where the game really turned around for us.