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I said 'Congratulations" to Paul (Hewitt), and I meant it. In college basketball, you have one team that feels great at the end and one team that doesn't feel very well. We were so tentative, so tight early it was unbelievable and that's what happens. Here we lose a game and they get a little shook. You try to give them confidence and that is hard to do.
It was unusual basketball playing for us in the first half. I felt like we'd have a chance to win the game, and we did have a chance to win the game. (Zach) Peacock made a nice shot--I think that was his only field goal of the second half. We didn't do the best job defending the play at first because they had a guy wide open underneath. And then we got picked back up and he had to make the shot over a couple of guys' hands. He made the shot and we came down, Larry (Drew) got a contested layup and we got a tip.
We'd like to have gotten it a little bit better, no question about that. Then it took us an awfully long time to foul--he missed one, made one. So we only had one timeout left; we had wasted three timeouts, in my opinion, during the game. All those people that say that I hoard my timeouts, I'd like to have had some of those suckers that I've hoarded so much that everybody wants to think they're--I'm going to be nice.
I said this morning (that) everybody thinks they are smarter than every basketball coach and everybody thinks they are smarter than every golf course superintendent. You know what's best for the greens, you know what's best for somebody else's team, but that's OK.
But we had a chance to win the game. I told Will that was big-time for him in the second half. I'm very proud of him. I've been on his case for years--and deservedly so. I said it like that as well too, and he understands it. He is so competitive, and making shots too, but I just loved his competitiveness.
You know, we felt like we had to do a great job with their big guys, and Iman (Shumpart) was sensational. I tried to recruit the heck out of him, there is no question about that. We felt like that their inside players, those three guys Derrick (Favors), Gani (Lawal) and Zackery--we didn't do a great job on them, by any means, but Iman's 30 was something that really killed us.
We are not used to watching Tar Heel basketball playing without any confidence. How is it dealing with that as a coach?
I'm not used to coaching Jayhawk basketball, or Tar Heel basketball, without any confidence. We put ourselves in this spot, and we have to figure out a way to dig out of it. We can go belly-up, but I choose not to do that, and I told them that in the locker room. We've got to go back to work, and it would be great to have a practice tomorrow, but we have a Special Olympics Clinic for those kids. We'll do a great job of that, and we'll have a great practice on Monday and try to get better. To answer your question, I'm not used to it either, but we have to find a way to get out of it.
What were you all thinking when you got down early and went into halftime with the double-digit deficit?
Just, we were here on Wednesday. It's not a good way to start, but we have to come out with some fire in the second half and try to pull it out again.
You all looked so much more confident in the second half than you did in the first half. What was going on in the first half that changed in the second half?
Just that we are doing the right things--doing what we were supposed to do, doing what the coaches said. We finally put it in our heads that we were going to come out and play with some intensity, play with a sense of urgency and it was just a matter of doing the right thing. When we do the right thing, when we do what Coach asks, we are a great team.
Where is that grit for 40 minutes. It seems like we don't see it very often except when you guys get down (on the scoreboard).
I think we are looking for the same thing. I try to bring it for 40 minutes, and some of us try to bring it for 40 minutes, but it has to be a team effort and it is just a matter of growing. I don't like losing, but I feel like getting hit in the mouth is kind of good for us right now, being that it is early and we should bounce back quickly.
How many times do you guys need to get hit before you respond? It seems like you guys are kind of nearing a fork in the road. You get hit a lot, maybe too often, and you go the wrong way.
Well, I mean we are all blessed to wake up the next day. God wakes us up the next morning. We took a blow and we didn't fall, so we have another game and we just have to keep coming out, keep coming fighting, and keep putting it in our head that we need to start from the beginning of the game to the end of it. If we just do what coach says for 40 minutes, we will be fine.
…takes us until midway through the second half to start fighting back, and it is just something, myself included, the team as a whole, we just have to learn how to just hit people first before they hit us.
Is that physical or mental toughness, or is it both?
Can you talk about the play you had at the end of the game when you drove to the hole there. Did you think you had it in?
Yeah, I thought I had it in. I mean, it felt good leaving my hands. I thought I hit the right spot on the backboard--put it up there pretty soft, and it didn't go in. I was on fate today when a lot of my shots didn't go in. But you can't make them all. It's just something that you have got to learn to deal with as a player and just learn from it.
Coach says that he feels like this team has lost its confidence. How does a team get confidence back? What kind of things have to happen for your guys as a group to start getting that back?
Just playing hard, man. We just have to play hard. It seems like teams don't miss against us. It's just--I can't really put my finger on it. It's just--we just have to play better as a whole and just play the way we know we are capable of playing. People see what we did to Michigan State, people see what we did to Ohio State. We are definitely capable of beating the big-time teams. We are a big-time team ourselves, but we just have to go out there--I think sometimes, like I said before, we let teams attack us and we just have to start attacking the other teams first at both ends of the floor.
You come to Carolina knowing you have a bulls eye on your back, and it is almost like people are hitting the bulls eye for a little bit this year.
We joke around all the time--it's like somebody always has the best game of their life against us. That's the way it should be; we're Carolina, and like you say, we have a bulls eye on our back. People really look at that, and they try to take advantage of it. But with that being said, we also have to just have a greater sense of pride in what we do and why we're here.
I know you guys aren't scared, but it looks like a team that is playing scared at the start of these games lately. Can you give us your perspective on that?
Maybe we come out maybe a little tight. I don't know if anyone is scared. I definitely don't think anyone is scared out there--maybe just a little tight, just a little cautious not trying to make turnovers and things like that. But it definitely is hard to win a game when you come out down 20. It makes it tough.
The second half you played with a lot of grit, fight, all those kinds of things that are necessary for 40 minutes. Why does it take getting down as much as you did to kind of show that fire?
That is something I would like to know too. I really don't have the answer for that. I don't know why it has to take Coach to scream at us and all those things for us to really play with some fire and some passion for a whole game, but we definitely know it is there. You saw it today in the second half. You just have to be able to do it from beginning to end if you want to be a good team.
Now that you saw the result of it, is there any way that the way you guys played in the second half can be a launching point for anything?
It definitely can be. We can always look at it that way and use it as a springboard going into our next game against Wake (Forest) on Wednesday and just try to play with some fire and some passion for a full 40 minutes.
You've been here with three teams that no-question would go to the NCAA Tournament, looking at high seeds, that kind of thing. Are you guys sort of at a fork in the road right now?
I don't think it's a time to panic. We have all the pieces to be a great team. You never know, you get to tournament time, you win six games, you find yourself in the Final Four. So this is not a time to panic. We definitely do need to win games, that's obvious. We have to keep playing together, and we are definitely not going to stop working in practice and things like that. We are not going to allow guys to be discouraged and not want to practice and think this is going south because we are going to find a way to go north.