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"One of the players said in the locker room, sometimes it helps to win ugly, and we did win ugly today. I was extremely proud of my team when we were down four late in the game and we came back and tied it up and had a chance to win it at the end. I was extremely proud when they went ahead and we made a couple of baskets, 'Z' made a couple of free throws to put us back in the game. We didn't execute very well at all our last two possessions. We got a turnover and not a very good shot at all.
"And I feel badly, Jim Baron is one of the good guys, I mean, he really is, and something should have probably been called there at the end. I don't know what it was going to be. I don't know if our guy tripped over somebody else, but it looked weird and I feel badly that the game ended like that but we should not have been in that situation where we were that close to fouling a guy, also, because there was only going to be four or five seconds left and you don't foul a guy 60 feet from the basket.
"We have had tough luck this year with guys being banged up and being out of games and miracles happening against us, so we needed a win tonight and we got what we needed."
Can you talk about the work you did on the glass all night long? Was that something that you had an advantage from the start?
"Yes, one of the three things I put up on the board was to get the ball inside by pass or dribble, because we had a size advantage and we should do a good job in there. We didn't do a very good job of getting low enough, getting low post position. We were getting out eight or ten feet and giving an example in the first half. We had ten more offensive rebounds than they did, but they had two more points after their offensive rebounds, because we kept missing very close shots. So we talked about trying to finish some of those plays in the second half and get more opportunities and stay close on the boards.
"John Henson misses the dunk, but we end up chasing the ball down. And we got another loose ball there at the end of the game. They seemed to have gotten almost all of the 50/50 balls, even Marcus gets a rebound and turns around and dribbles it off the other guy's foot, and it goes to the floor and Larry reaches for it, and I forget which player from Rhode Island it was, dove for the basketball and they ended up getting it and it was their ball and they got a time-out. It was at a key point in the game and we cannot allow people to out-hustle us.
But yes, we did have an advantage because we were bigger but we didn't explore it as much as I would have liked."
Does an NIT win put a different face on this season for you and for the kids or not really?
"You know, I have a great appreciation of this tournament. I have a great appreciation of the tradition, the history of the NIT. If you win this tournament, you have to feel good about it.
"Now, is that your goal at the start of the season? Let's be honest. That's not our goal at the start of the season, but we put ourselves here. And so it would be a very positive thing for us because we put ourselves in this position because we didn't play as well as we needed to play. But then we accepted that and we tried to do the best we possibly could in this game. So from that viewpoint, it would be a positive spin on it but it would not be our dream and our goal.
"We enjoyed playing the last Monday night last year, and, you know, we played the last Thursday night this year. Playing the last Monday night is better, there's no question about that. But I do believe that if you're playing and if they keep playing until there's only one team standing, it's very important to be that one team standing."
You're starting to get used to this, having the ball in your hands the last few seconds, in this tournament?
"Yeah, you know, I feel those are the kind of situations I was bred for and one of the reasons why I came here. I feel like I have the confidence to make the plays down in the stretch that we need to make. I'm glad to have the ball in my hands in those situations."
Can you talk about your play in overtime? You played well.
"I had not played very well the whole game and tried to come out and help my team out in any way possible. Just ended up being able to make a few plays, and it helped us win the game."
On the game:
"Luckily, we made plays when we needed to. Down four with them on the free throw line, we were able to make plays. That's where we feel like we've been lacking all year. We made plays to allow ourselves to get lucky."
Where has this sense of urgency down the stretch come from?
"I don't know. This is a just a refocused team. It's a different mindset. We're just a little more focused."
Did you get a hand on the ball when Larry missed that last shot in overtime?
"I felt like I did. I thought I got a hand on the ball, but I felt like another teammate had it and I was just trying to get to it if there was anyway possible and not let them get a good shot off. I dived on the floor for the ball when it was rolling; just doing what a regular Carolina player would do."
Was there any contact when you were diving on the floor?
What does it mean to play for the NIT title?
"It means everything. We can change the whole season around, the outlook on the whole season with a championship. It's great to still be playing. A lot of people are at home right now that got to go to the NCAA Tournament, but we're taking this as an opportunity to keep playing, an opportunity to showcase our talent and an opportunity to appreciate that we had a second chance."