Needless to say, it feels a lot better than it has been feeling. I think in the second half, for us to win still and (have) only shot 37.5 percent, I think it goes to two things. At halftime I think we had seven turnovers, we only had three in the second half if my math is correct. Halftime, they had seven points on offensive rebounds to our six; at the end of the game we had 17 and they still had seven. If you look at the stats also, they had 26 shots in the second half and we had 32. It always helps if you get more shots.
I think Will (Graves) and David Wear did some really nice things for us defensively when we had to go a little smaller and put them on Tracie [Smith]. He was a load for everybody, and Javier [Gonzalez], it was hard to keep him out of the lane. I still think lack of turnovers and rebounding were the two keys for us. Larry [Drew] having no turnovers in the second half was big, to say the least.
I think the guys that came in off the bench playing in different spots, different times in the game, for the most part gave us something. Look down [at the box score], nobody had a great game statistically, but North Carolina had the most points.
Will you talk about what John Henson did today. He got more minutes.
You know, at the start of the season, we had Deon (Thompson), Tyler Zeller, and Ed Davis, and I said to everybody I felt like I could start two of those three interchangeably, because they all three deserved it, and I knew we had Travis Wear as our fourth big guy, and we are sitting there right now and we only have one. So we went through the major course of the season with John trying to play the three-spot, but we decided to make a change and get more time at the four-spot before Ed got hurt.
If you go back (and look), we even did it some in the Virginia Tech game. We started play him a little more at the four trying to see if we could get more out of him that way. So that's been a move that has been helpful. He is such a force inside because of his length. He's got to get a heck of a lot stronger and finish plays. You don't like your power player to be 4-9 and those kinds of things, but he is doing some good things, and around the basket he is a threat to block a lot of shots.
Is there a measure of relief, finally getting a victory and getting a hold on down the stretch?
Yeah, I mean there is no question. You play every day trying to get better, and I think we have gotten better, but it hasn't shown up in the final score. But today it did. I was frustrated--it's like a 10- or 11-point game, our defense is just terrible and give up two stinking layups in a row. Then we come down and Larry, of all people, makes a bounce pass. John catches the ball and lays it up. I think that's when we got a three-point play, and again you have got to be able to play the game without turning it over. And I think down the stretch, other than David's turnover, I don't think we turned it over but once in the last 10 minutes.
...We made some mental mistakes and turning the ball over. Like I said, just mental mistakes. In the second half we came out and played hard.
Larry played strong, especially down the stretch, hit some big shots. Did he need that, coming off of Duke?
He actually did, to build his confidence. Like you said, big shots he hit--I think he hit like three three's, two or three three's, had some good drives to the basket and got our team going.
What does this mean for you guys as a team? Is this something you think you can build off of?
It means a lot because, you know, you don't want to backtrack from here. You want to keep going forward and come out to play every game.
Considering all the alumni in the stands, the losing streak, how much pressure was this team feeling to win this one in particular?
Towards that, we didn't take it as they might think, but we just had to come out here and play. This game was a must-win. The Duke game was a must-win (but) we didn't play to our full potential. Like I said, we can't backtrack. We just (have) got to keep playing hard, come out to play next game.
Do you think that there is a difference in the effort level of this team now than there was earlier?
There is. I think there is. Everybody is beginning to improve their effort, and that is what we have to do to enable us to win. I think everybody is doing a good job out there.
In two games against [NC] State, you had 33 points, 14 assists, three turnovers. Kind of what has it been against them that has allowed you to play so well?
I told the other reporters, maybe it is the color, the red, like bulls charge and attack. I don't know what it is. Maybe that's it, but I can't really put my finger on why it is.
You played very well in the second half. What was kind of going through your mind? I just felt like I needed to pick it up after the first half. I felt like offensively I wasn't being aggressive enough. I wasn't attacking enough. I just felt like I was doing my job there so--I just kind of let the game come to me and also looked for any driving lanes, anything I could attack out there, so--
Tell us about the three when the buzzer is winding down and you nail it--that was a big shot. (Rather), the clock running down.
Yeah, we tried to run a play before that play, the flat screen, but he went under the screen so we called our fist play that is basically a pick-and-roll but from the wing. I was pretty sure he was going to go under the screen, which he did, so I just stepped back and nailed it.
On the other end of the floor there have been a lot of media reports about how Carolina has struggled against opposing guards. You really did a good job on Gonzalez tonight--he had six turnovers. What was your focus there?
Just keeping him in front of me. No cheap fouls--nothing like that and everybody just playing good team defense also.
Coach made a comment in there and laughed--he said, "And of all things, Larry threw a bounce pass." I take it you hear that quite a bit from Coach. Could you talk about the things you've learned and what you still need to do more of?
One thing I definitely need to do is make more bounce passes once I'm driving. I think, honestly, that is one of the toughest habits for me that I have to break because I'm so programmed when I see an open person just to get the ball there as quickly as I can instead of what is the best way to get it there. Most of the time guys aren't ready for it or it is a little to the left or to the right, and [with] me throwing it so hard they are probably not going to catch it. That is definitely something I need to work on, just making more bounce passes.
...I'm not saying I'm not going to be out there (at the three) again, but with the team right now I need to be down low. I'm pretty sure I'll be out--when everybody gets back--I'll be out on the wing a little bit too.
Do you think ultimately in the future, your place is more down low?
Ummmmmmmmm, you know, I can't even tell you. Like I said, as much as I know, I'm just playing day-to-day trying to get better. Where ever I end up is where I'm going to be.
Did you go to the coaching staff asking to play a little more four?
Ah, nah. Coach asked me, he was just like, "How are you feeling? Don't get frustrated," and said just talk to him and "Do you want to play down low a little more?" I said, you know, "I'll play on the wing but I'll play down low a little bit," and then with the injury they had, Zeller and Travis, it kind of fell into place.
Some of the bigger post guys on other teams, when you move to the four, do you see their eyes kind of big thinking, "I'm going to push this guy around"?
I mean, their eyes get big but, you know, my eyes get bigger when I'm going up to block the shot so it's all good.
What have you learned about how you can use length to kind of compensate some for muscle?
That's a big part of my game--you know, length--to compensate for my lack of size. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't but that is something I use to my advantage (just) as someone would use their weight to their advantage.
When somebody is trying to kind of muscle you in and back you down, how do you defend that?
Ummm, you just, you've got to fight. You've got to fight and work to get in front of them. Me, I probably have to fight a little harder than most people to get around because if I get behind someone it might be a little easier for them (against me) than for Ed or Deon, so you just have got to fight for it and take pride in that position.
I thought for a while there was a pretty good ball game going. I thought, that first half really we played decent basketball and made a nice run at the half. We came out the second half and just made a couple of bad plays. We turned it over twice, took a couple bad shots, and they got it going. It's that part of the ball game that we talk about. The first five minutes of the second half is when a lot of really good teams come out with intensity and try to make a run. It's part of the ball game when good teams try to get you and, um, we didn't come out and do that. They got to the foul line early and they were able to get a run on us.
Coach, you understand this rivalry better than your own players. Is it tough and frustrating, whatever adjective you'd like to use to not be able to kick them while they are down and they are 3-7 in the ACC with two wins over you?
Yeah, I understand it. It's just a, it's a great rivalry, you know. I don't want to say, 'kick them while they are down,' you know. I'm not sure when this program is ever really down. They might be struggling a little bit as Coach said to me, but there is a lot of pride here and a lot of tradition here, and I am more--if I would say disappointed--I'm more disappointed that we didn't come out in the second half ready to play. Nah, I can't say, 'ready to play.' We weren't smart, we weren't smart. We talked about it at halftime, we talked about our position at that point, and we talked about--once again--reminding them times in the ball game when you can make a run, and good teams make that run the first five minutes. And we came out and made some really bad decisions, and I think that is one of the things that's been, that's been killing us here lately is understanding, really understanding how to win, how to win games. And I just explained to our guys, again, that we are really, we are really not that far off. It's, you know, getting an offensive rebound and taking it back out as opposed to dribbling around and trying to create something, and then turn it over, which we did today. And then they go down and they score, and we come back down and we take a quick shot, then they go down and score. Those type of things is really what we are lacking, you know, that experience, that understanding, and that poise. And that's--every time we look at the film we see certain areas where we just break down, and a lot of it is understanding really how to win and how important it is each and every play.