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"We're ecstatic to be here. There's no question about that. I congratulate the NCAA for having cookies back there today, more than yesterday. And they're good. We're making progress in every area. This is a dream come true. I think each and every year you put yourself in a position that you can be one of those teams that has a chance to win it all, and that's my dream and my goal every year.
"This team has dealt with a great deal of adversity. A great deal of expectation from other people. And they've got us going to Detroit, and we're excited about that. We have to say congratulations to a really, really, really big time Oklahoma team. They were a load for us, there's no question. I tried to say to most of the players and to Jeff particularly to think about what they accomplished the whole year, not just think about this game. Guys, we feel very lucky and very fortunate and very happy."
Roy, could you just talk about was Blake Griffin as good in person as you thought he'd be? What did you say to him after the game? You had an extended conversation there.
"He was. He's a load. You know, please don't misunderstand -- don't make this to be a comparison. He is LeBron James-like, and he's got such a package of strength, explosiveness, touch, power. You know, it's hard to match that.
"In person when you're sitting on that bench, it even looks more awesome than it does when I'm watching it on TV. I've always really liked Jeff Capel. His dad, I always considered a friend. His brother played at North Carolina. So I've watched their team play several times this year, and I've been extremely impressed with him.
"So for us, you know, we really did want to aim our defense at him. I was ecstatic in the first half, we got two 35-second shot clock violations. We've been criticized, maligned, I've pushed and begged and pleaded with our defense all year long. But I think defensively -- I'll give you an example.
"Tyler Hansbrough takes four shots today, and he was a beast defensively with the things that he did in the second half. Now, in the first half, I didn't like what he did. He got two cheap fouls, and he had brain lock when he tried to dump that one ball from one top of the mountain to the other top of the mountain 14 miles away, stupid play. Other than that, he was sensational defensively. And Blake is -- he's got to get extra attention. So that's what we tried to do is give him extra attention."
I believe last week you were talking about all the injuries you've had, and you said this was the most frustrating season you've had. With all the injuries, the adversity you faced, the expectations you all faced, is this a little sweeter too than maybe previous?
"They're all sweet when you're going to play the last weekend in college basketball. There's no question about that. This has been a tough year for me mentally, emotionally, with the adversity. There's no question about it. It's been a hard year. Early season practice, we'd have one drill that we were going eight minutes, and after seven minutes, I think I'd better stop it right here because I haven't hurt Tyler yet.
"Okay, the last three weeks we've had a drill that would go eight minutes, and after six minutes, maybe I'll just stop this right now because I've already got Tyler play two plays. And if I push him a third play, he may hurt his toe. Those kind of little things wear on you, but it definitely is very satisfying right now."
You are the reigning national player of the year. Your impressions of Blake Griffin after mixing it up with him there and watching him play.
"One thing about Blake is I think he's tough down low to box out. I think one thing about him is that he's one of the best rebounders I've played against. And so that was very tough. I think he gets a lot of stuff off offensive rebounds, and his rebounding ability was something that I think I'm not really used to seeing."
You never seemed to be too uncomfortable out there in the last two games. Do you credit that to the experience you had against LSU in the last ten minutes? You knew what to expect.
"Definitely. Because in the LSU game they put pressure on us when we came out in the second half. This game, we were used to it. And just experience overall in the NCAA tournament. You can't get uncomfortable or feel pressured or rush stuff in the NCAA tournament because that leaves turnovers and bad shots and things like that. When times are tough, just call a play and relax everybody and just get a good shot."
Specifically for you with your toe, you never seemed to be too uncomfortable out there testing it.
"No. Once I get the adrenaline and just the intensity of it, I really don't feel the toe or start favoring it. Just like in the middle of the game, the pain just basically goes away."
With what coach said about the pressure at the start of the year and the injuries you've had, how satisfying is it for you to get back to a Final Four a second time?
"Very satisfying. I know we have high expectations every year. It's nothing new to us. I mean, I think it was more this year. They were expecting us to go undefeated and all that talk. We lost a couple of games, and everybody thought the world was ending.
"We knew that we could still achieve the things we wanted to achieve. We had some guys go down. Marcus was hurt. He had surgery. Zeller went out. We didn't expect him to come back so soon. I think we handled it very well. And this team is mature enough, and I guess we're more experienced than we were in the past. We've been through enough adversity to be able to fight through games and bounce back and to get to where we are now."
Tonight, you guys showed that if you want to, you can play serious defense -
"Definitely -- we definitely can. When we turn that switch when we want to, we definitely can. We can get some big-time stops and I think we did today."
That was a pretty quiet celebration -- does that indicate that this team has more work to do?
"Definitely. We have a lot more work to do. We're not satisfied at all. We got to this point last year, so we want to get past it."
On reaching the Final Four:
"It does feel good, like we've got another chance. That's kind of how it is. Now it's a two-game tournament again. If we play well on Saturday night, that gives us a chance to play on Monday and that's what our goal has been our entire year. Now it's right in front of us."
What does this performance say about this team's defense?
"It says that Coach knows we can play now. He's definitely going to expect us to play a little defense from here on out. He's seen us do it. So we're definitely going to take that and move on with it. Coach knows we're not as bad defensively as people always assume, just because we can score so many points."
"First of all, I want to congratulate North Carolina. They're a terrific basketball team, terrific program. They made plays today, and they beat us. I'm really, really proud of my team and for all that we've accomplished this year. I hate that we didn't shoot the ball well tonight or this afternoon. I thought the game would have been a lot more interesting if we could have made some shots, and I thought we had some really good looks. But that's the way basketball goes sometimes. Unfortunately, it happened today.
"Again, I can't say enough about the effort that our guys gave today and throughout the season. How hard they played. And just how together we were. And I think it especially showed in this tournament. We have a locker room full of guys that are hurt. And we fully believed that we were going to win this basketball game today. But this is how life is sometimes. It doesn't happen the way you want it, and every opportunity is a chance to learn.
"So that's the way it goes. I hate that our season had to end this way, especially for our seniors, especially for Taylor and Austin. I mean, those two kids, you know, they've endured so much during their time here at the University of Oklahoma. And for them to stick with us, stick with the program, and to stick with me, and for them to have the kind of success they had in their last year really means a lot to me. I know it means a lot to them. And hopefully it means a lot to the people at the university of Oklahoma, fans, everyone involved."
Coach, I'd like to know before the game, considering the matchups that you obviously faced against with North Carolina. I'd like to know what did you designate specifically as the top priority? What was needed in order to win this game? What did you tell your team before the game?
"Transition defense. Carolina is so good. They're the most explosive offensive team in the country. So we talked about transition defense. We've got to get back. We've got to get the ball under control, and we've got to fan out because they love to hit ahead. I thought we actually did a pretty good job with that.
"The other thing was trying to control tempo. We didn't want to get into a track meet with North Carolina. We wanted to try to control tempo, and I thought we did a good job of that. Again, we just couldn't do enough offensively. Defensively, we did enough to win. We just couldn't get it done offensively against them."
Coach, all the things you said about Blake. Do you feel like it's almost an insurmountable task to keep him another year?
"It probably is, but we'll see. You know, that will be a decision that Blake will make for him, and it will be the same thing that happened last year. We'll sit down. We'll talk. And I'll get whatever information.
"I think it's easier this year to get that information. And he'll do what's best for him and his family. And we all will support him 1,000 percent."