CHARLOTTE--- Following its narrow victory over Washington Sunday afternoon in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena, UNC head coach Roy Williams and starting guards Kendall Marshall and Dexter Strickland spoke to reporters.
HEAD COACH ROY WILLIAMS
It's a wonderful win for us, and in coaching you got some guys that you really, really like, some guys that you don't. Most of the guys that you respect a great deal and don't worry about whether you like them or not.
But Lorenzo Romar is a guy that I really, really like and really, really respect a great deal, too, and when the last shot was missed and he jumped up and feel that elation, you look down own the other bench and see a guy that you really like, for a second there it's not good.
And I think Lorenzo would understand this as much as I like him, I like my team even better. But it was a great basketball game. If you are a basketball guy, you had to enjoy that basketball game.
Lorenzo had his team really ready to play. They made shots. They were so much more aggressive than we were in the first half. They got the offensive rebounds, they did so many good things and we're down 11, and I was just so proud of my team the way we just kept playing.
I told them at halftime I was very lucky, felt very lucky we because I didn't think we played as able as we needed to and still only down one. Then they come out and score the first four points of the second half, but my team just kept making plays.
In the locker room, I told John (Henson) I wish he would have caught the ball that was shot from the 10-second line with five seconds -- after they had it out of bounds with five seconds. It would have made it not quite as exciting.
A great win for us over a big-time basketball team that had a big-time year and over a big-time coach, coaching staff, and one of the great guys in college basketball.
Q. Coach, I know that you said last week you only had two players who had played in the tournament before. Even though you had this inexperience, it seems like all year your team has had such mental toughness. I wonder how big a factor that was down the stretch today?
I thought it was huge. I congratulated them in the locker room, because even some of the games that we've won, we've had instances where a guy would try to do it on his own, and I never felt that way today. I thought that everybody was working together, everybody was trying to carry out their assignment.
Dumb old coach, I called three set plays against their zone, and all three of them worked. We got it done. Two layups. It's because the kids executed what we asked them to do. We tried to get them to build a wall and try to keep Isaiah in front us and not let him get all the way to the basket.
Everybody got involved in that. So it was -- they're young, again, two freshmen, two sophomores, and a junior who has never played a full year in our starting lineup, but we don't -- we only played eight guys.
The kids have really done some nice things, and with each and every week during the course of the season I think we've gotten better. And this was -- these two games here were much better than what we played last week, to say the least.
Q. Coach, you didn't look quite like yourself on the sidelines. Are you feeling okay today, are you ill?
Today was a tough day. I didn't feel very good. Told the kids to take care of their old man, and they did a nice job of that. So I feel a heck of a lot better now. It's been pretty, you know, pleasant since about 4:30 this morning.
Q. Can you talk about John Henson's play today? There was a couple of plays where his arms looks like they reached to the ceiling. Looked like you had a funny story for us about him that you told Kendall.
I think the question over here was about John hitting Kendall sometimes. John hits him sometimes intentionally and tries to act like it's an accident. And Kendall turns away and John winks at everybody else. But he's a tremendous shot blocker.
I was disappointed with him the last play because it looked like I thought the shot was not going to have a chance to go in. And I said, "What were you thinking?" Because he got up and tried to block it.
He said, "Well, it was just for two I saw it." So even if they called it goal tending, it was going to be a win. John is a quick thinker. He has long arms and quick thinking. It will be interesting for me to see it on the tape, but my video guy said it was a two-point shot there at the end.
I told him in grade school, you know, they tell you to look the ball into your hands.
And on that shot attempt of theirs from about the center line -- that was a good play by Lorenzo because we were going to foul. We were up three, and I think he instructed his guys if it looked like it was going to be a foul to go ahead and shot the bull.
What we had done is we see said we were going to foul therm and get close enough to foul them in the backcourt. Not wait until they got across the 10-second line. If the guy anticipates a foul, he can shoot it quickly and sometimes the referee buys into it. John is a very mischievous 11-year-old who happens to be about 20:
Q. Coach, same question I asked your players. Talk a little about the challenges you're going to have and what could be a very loaded region in the East.
You love the challenge because that means you're still playing, and that's the first reaction that I have. I think that our guys, you know, both these guys up here had never participated in an NCAA Tournament game. So they're ecstatic with what they've done so far. We're going to enjoy it a little bit and start focusing on the other guys.
I think almost every team in our bracket that should have won according to their seed did win except for one, I think, and so it is a loaded bracket with the best teams performing so far but, every step you take in NCAA Tournament play, that other team gets a lot better each and every step. You've got to do that every step you take as well.
Q. Roy, given much of the stuff that's happened this season, what does it mean to you now to sit up there and know you're taking a team to the Regional Semifinals?
Well, you know, last year was very difficult, the most difficult professional year of my career, and then the off-season was just about as bad. Except for January 1st, 2010 when our grandson was born, it wasn't a very good year. Little boy was there today and I got to wave at him before practice and before the game.
But this team has handled a lot of adversity. It feels fantastic, but I'm old fashioned. I'm corny. It's the greatest part of today's game was those kids waiting for me in the locker room and the looks on their faces. That's what we all coach for.
Q. Coach, can you talk also about how Dexter played today. You got some really good defense in, 13 points out of Dexter.
You know, I talked this week for the first time about Dexter's injury and trying to play with it. He's been a tough little nut, and today he had some drives to the basket, one great pass where he drives to the basket and bounces off to Z for a layup, made two free throws down the stretch.
I think Dexter has taken a lot of criticism because all the other four guys are getting so much attention. Everybody is saying Dexter is the weak link.
I'm so proud of him for playing with the knee the way it is, knowing he's going to have the surgery at the end of the season. But I love the fact that he was successful today.
And to be honest with you, when he went to the free throw line, I said, "This youngster is going the make this." I couldn't be happier with anybody else on our team stepping up there. I just love that situation for him. Aren't you guys getting tired?
Q. Coach, how much did you guys have to adapt to them, because they are different and unique than any of the teams that you face this year?
Well, they're not really that different from the way we practice every day. We try to push, try to get both teams to push against each other, and all our scrimmage situations. They're unique in that we can't simulate in practice their speed, their shooting ability.
First half they made six threes, but five of them wide open. I asked the guys in the locker room at halftime, "How many of you did a nice job of guarding the guy when he made a 3?" There was only one. They've got a good plan. Isaiah penetrates, the big guys are tough, the shooters are tough. It was scared -- I was scared to death.
I watched their finals, PAC-10 Tournament Arizona and Arizona 7--point lead, and all of a sudden, Lorenzo got them over there and they turned up the heat a little bit. My gosh, they were really good after that. It reminded me of what Duke did to us not too long ago.
Q. Coach in the last few minutes, you guys really tightened up on defense. Can you talk about that?
All year long we practice on having to stop on one possession. We call it "must stop." We must stop them right now. If we stop them right now, we have a greater chance to win the game. And sometimes I even say, "We stop them right now, we win the game." And with four minutes left, that's what we started talking about. We need to stop right now.
They helped us because other than I think (Terrence) Ross making a 3-pointer right in front of their bench you know, we got some stops.
A big play of the game was John Henson when the ball is out of bounds and he tips it and we come up with the ball. We changed and started using that defense this year.
He's been great for us. He's quite an obstacle in front of that ball trying to get it over them, but it was very gratifying, satisfying (to get the win).
THE MODERATOR: Before we have questions for the student-athletes. I want to let you know that Kendall Marshall's 14 assists is the most by a North Carolina player in an NCAA Tournament game, breaking the mark held by Kenny Smith with 12 in 1987. First question.
Q. To both Dexter and Kendall, it seemed like you guys had to go through several phases adapting to the way they were playing, because there's nobody in the ACC that is quite like them, but it that you had fully come around about the last 12 minutes of the became because were you got getting some driving lanes to the basket, some half court lanes there. Is that the way you saw it when you guys were able to get to the rim, that you were starting to take control of the game?
KENDALL MARSHALL: Well, second half they played a lot more man-to-man and made driving angles a lot easier. The bigs when they came in set screens, they were coming out hard. Really we just wanted to keep attacking the basket. We were having success doing that, and once we settled down, we only had nine turnovers for the game. That's a credit to us, just being patient, and then we were able to make things happen.
DEXTER STRICKLAND: I agree. Coach wrote on the board before the game "Attack, attack, attack, under control" and I think that's what we did and we did it pretty well.
Q. For both players, you both had free throws down the stretch. Can you tell me what was going on in your mind at the end of the game. Kendall, what did you think when the ball -- when you missed the front end? And Dexter, what was going on with you when you made both?
KENDALL MARSHALL: I stepped to the line. I knew they were big free throws. And, of course, I want to knock down both. That's the way basketball goes sometimes. I doesn't always go your way. Right when I saw the miss, I was focusing on finding my man and getting a defensive stop.
DEXTER STRICKLAND: Down the stretch you have to have confidence and believe in yourself and be and be ready to take those big shots. You work on them all the time in practice. Practice. You got to be ready. Pretty confident in making those shots.
Q. Kendall, John said he sometimes doesn't realize how long his arms are, and I think he mentioned hitting you in the face a couple times with an elbow. What's it like playing against him, and has he hit you a couple times where you didn't really expect his arms to be that long?
KENDALL MARSHALL: First of all, I'm happy he's on my team and I don't have to play against him. It definitely makes my job easier with passing angles to him. If he's not challenging my shots, I'm a lot more confident. It would just be everyday things. He'll go to exaggerate something and hit me in the face.
I feel like I'm far away, but John, he's got a different body, I guess you could say. It's not the average human being, and it definitely takes time for other teams to adjust to that on the court.
Q. Dexter, talk about playing defense on Isaiah Thomas, what were you trying to do and how effective it was.
DEXTER STRICKLAND: He's a great player. You know, I think the key to stopping him was limiting his touches to the ball, and I think not just myself but my teammates, they did a great job of being there and, you know, being supportive, playing defense the Carolina way.
You know, like I said, we limited his touches and forced other players to step up, hit big shots. But I think we did an all right job on him.
Q. To both players, could you just talk a little bit about the challenges you face in the East Regional ahead and the success you've been able to have in the State in the NCAA Tournament?
KENDALL MARSHALL: We're going to enjoy this win until midnight. I think it's something to be proud of, making the Sweet 16. We don't want to look too far ahead. I think the game is at 7:45 tonight. Marquette, Syracuse, two great teams. We're be looking forward to it, seeing who's the winner and just preparing.
DEXTER STRICKLAND: I agree. We got to keep the same mental focus, just go out there and just try win and contribute, whatever you have to do to help this team win, you got to do it well.
Q. Dexter, can you talk about going home for the Sweet Sixteen?
DEXTER STRICKLAND: It's a good feeling. You know, I haven't seen my family in awhile. I know I'm going to probably have my own section with my family there, but it's a good feeling to go home and play in front of a crowd like that. You know, I'm anxious and can't wait for it. Hopefully it doesn't snow.