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Opening remarks -
Well, North Carolina played exceedingly well in the second half for about a 15 minute stretch. We are very proud of our basketball team. I think that they took advantage of us on the glass in the second half. They just did a tremendous job of offensive rebounding. We couldn’t seem to get in front of them. We weren’t getting I thought our defense was terrific all night. Our guys guarded their actions. We never really got hurt out of their offense, just got hurt on the boards. They kept coming at us with Ginyard and Green and Wright in the second half. Lawson, I think, had five rebounds in the second half. At our offensive end, we were reliant so much in transition because of stops, because of defensive boards in the first half, that we were able to run out, and they had a hard time locating us in transition. That stopped because we were taking the ball out of the net in the second half. We just never had many opportunities to get it off the glass, stop, and bring it to the other end. Really proud of our basketball team. Really proud of these young men. All three of these guys were guys that I inherited that first year from Henry Bibby. They’ve been terrific. We have been a team that has been free of distractions. They love each other. They have played extremely hard. They prepare hard. Real proud of where they’ve come.
During that run when they started to get those offensive rebounds, at any point do you try to go away from trying to push the ball through the guards? Do you second guess that at all?
No, I really don’t. You know, it started happening a little earlier than that. We had a plan that obviously was to try to limit Ty Lawson in the open floor. We thought he was a real key in the game. I thought Gabe did a terrific job on him. We felt like Hansbrough was a real key and their ability to get to the foul line. We felt like quick doubles to him would limit his ability to just turn that shoulder and bowl through you and draw a foul. Daniel Hackett was a real key to that. He’s a guy whose motor runs for us. He had six rebounds against Texas. He had seven rebounds against Arkansas. He’s a guy who can rebound. Taj going out was a real factor. Just going big isn’t necessarily a rebounding factor. Ginyard, Green were six five guys coming back to the boards. Wright, Serbly a taller player, was coming back to the glass. We don’t necessarily rebound better, just with length with our club. You know, I thought that Taj going out, with his fourth foul, as early as it happened at the 12 minute mark, was an important part of this game. I thought he played just extremely well throughout this game both defensively, containment of Lawson in transition, and rebounding that ball. I thought he played very well. I thought Gabe played well on Lawson, as well.
Coach, if I may, what goes through your mind with a 16 point lead and 18 minutes left? What thought process do you have as their momentum starts to build and that lead starts to shrink?
We had four opportunities to talk to them about what was happening with the time outs and stopping it. We could not get stops. That was our problem. You can’t stop a run unless you stop. I thought we defended their coverage. They shot 38%. You factor in the offensive rebound baskets, take those away, and that percentage is 30, 29, 31%. We simply could not rebound the ball to stop, and couldn’t win a horse game coming to the other end to make our shots because now we were taking the ball out of the net, versus our defensive boards, our runouts, our layups in transition, our conversion. We had them on their heels. This was a rebounding game. This is what it came down to.
Just take us through the technical at the end there, what your vision of that foul call was.
Just disappointed. Wanted to keep playing. Wanted to keep playing. Disappointed with Taj’s situation, he was fouling out of the game, you know. But, you know, technical is a part of a game. It just happened. It just happened. I can’t comment on the call, as you know, or his fourth foul. I can’t comment on that either. So you sit there and you exercise frustration from time to time, which I did.
Coach, what did you tell your players in the locker room after the game?
I told them how proud I was of them. I told them that they created an identity for themselves that they enjoyed as a result of playing with each other, and that there was a true love for each other…