That wasn't a bad college basketball game right there. I'm extremely proud--and I've said this several times--of my team. For a young team to go against a team of UConn's stature—and the tough thing is getting off to a great lead, because you know they're going to make a run, because that's UConn—and to answer that run, and then especially at the end when they took that lead, Raymond (Felton) executed the play and hit Jawad (Williams) for a big, big, big, big shot. I'm just really proud of my team.
I mentioned Raymond, and I just want you to know that I'm making a public statement that my relationship with Raymond is very good. And I encourage you to ask my players about me and my relationship with them, because a lot has been said. Ask them. Ask them. That's not to say we don't disagree with each other from time to time, just like you and your wives [disagree]. You disagree with your kids, and they disagree with you. That's coaching. I push and prod, but there's respect there. I encourage you to ask them.
Rashad (McCants) looked pretty happy out there tonight. He had 27 points. He had a heck of a game. He hit huge foul shots. Byron Sanders made huge foul shots. His play in that zone was very intelligent. We made some subtle adjustments at the end when they tried to get Denham Brown free at the foul line.
We're 4-2 since Sean May (went down with a broken foot). I'll tell you, if and when he comes back, we're going to be that much better.
You know, UConn, they didn't shoot great. They're a great shooting team. They scared me to death. We were fortunate that they missed some shots.
The crowd was unbelievable again tonight. We couldn't ask for better support from them.
On UConn's long comeback:
It was hard, because we kept telling the guys, "We've got to score. We've got to be aggressive." We got stagnant and made some turnovers. We got too impatient and tried to hit home-runs, and we just hit singles. But youth, you know—that's a lot of firsts, being in a situation like that against a team that presses. I thought the lead did slip away, but the bottom line is that we won by three against a great program and a great coach.
On the play of Byron Sanders, and his late bucket plus the foul to help keep a lead:
You know, it was funny, because I went up to (referee) Andre Patillo. And I went like this (gesturing to call a timeout). Rashad cut through the lane, and I was getting ready to call a timeout. He dumped it off to Byron for a three-point play, and I went up to Andre and I said… "It's a good thing I didn't call that timeout I was getting ready to call. It was dumb luck.
On UNC's use of the zone defense:
Actually, we were in a zone most of the game. Just to let you know, it's basically a matchup zone that we played probably 35-37 minutes, quite frankly. I don't know how else to say that, but that's what it was, and it was pretty effective. But we do match up and it has man-to-man tendencies, and we're trying to be aware of their shooters. And the thing that concerns me, aside from their ability to shoot, is their ability to penetrate. They have explosive guys like Tony Robertson and Ben Gordon on the catch that can really get through some seams. I thought we let some of that go in the first half, and in the second half we did a better job.
On lessons learned in previous games that were applied against UConn:
I would have liked for us to handle the ball a little bit better. I didn't think our movement was great. We stood and held the ball some. But I think the fact that they scored and took the lead and we came back and made that—Jawad made that basket—I think that's huge. Our guys didn't hang their head. They were coming out of the huddle saying, "Come on, we can do this," and they did it.
On McCants's emotions:
I talked to Rashad in the summertime, before he got here, and said that when he dunked the ball, I don't want him to embarrass opponents. I don't want him to yell, holler, and point at opponents, just like Coach Smith didn't want it and Roy Williams didn't want it. But I definitely want a show of emotion. I never told him not to wave to the crowd or pump his fists. Heck, I did that, usually when someone else was scoring. But no, I want energy and emotion. That's what we talked about before the Clemson game. That was our theme—energy, emotion and energy. So no, I've always wanted people to show emotion, but I didn't want to embarrass opponents.
On shutting down UConn's Ben Gordon:
We went man for one possession, because they went with a small lineup, with Denham Brown as a four man, who's a very good shooter. We thought we'd go man because we'd match up better. Ben Gordon refused the ball screen and drove to the basket for a layup, and we went zone from there on out.
On the team's growth process:
I think we've learned a lot…that maybe we were overconfident at times during the year, which everybody does. Every team does. But especially when you're freshmen and sophomores. Maybe we felt a little of that before the Iona game. But we've learned. We know we've got to play hard for 40 minutes to win just like anybody does, just like any team in the ACC.
On Jawad Williams' increasing leadership:
Here's a kid—you know, being a freshman college basketball player is hard. And it's harder here, and Kentucky, than anywhere. When a player has a frown, people are going to interpret things, and when a player walks off the court, people are going to interpret things. Last year, a lot was said about Jawad, you know—whether he was going to stay or whether he was going to go. And Jawad had a quote in the paper today that's one of the best quotes I've ever heard from one of my players. His maturity over the last year has been unbelievable.