“I told (the players in the locker room) one of the most inadequate feelings as a coach is what to say at a moment like this that can help them, can remove any of the hurt, that can give something to grab on to,” Williams said at his emotional postgame press conference. “I congratulated them on a great year. I thanked them for a being great student-athletes to coach. I apologized to them because in some way, somehow, I didn’t have our team ready to play as well as Bill (Self) did. That’s not easy to say.”
North Carolina certainly didn’t come out ready to start the
game. The Tar Heels were overwhelmed by KU’s defensive
pressure, and turned the ball over 10 times the first half. UNC was
down 40-12 with over six minutes remaining in the half before rallying
to cut KU’s lead to 17 (44-27) at halftime.
“Early in the game, they were much more aggressive than we
were,” Williams said. “We sort of came out a little
more casual that we’d like to. They hit us right between the
eyes. We probably rushed things a little bit. They just kept hammering.
They were really something early.”
Williams relayed to the media what he told his players during a timeout
late in the first half.
“You can make fun of this if you wish, but (I told them),
‘What the doctors and scientists do that are trying to get
find a cure for cancer, they get hit right in the mouth every day
because it’s not there, but they keep going back to work to
try to do it again the next day,’” Williams said.
“I’m so daggum corny, I used that with my team. I
said, ‘Hey, we don’t want those guys to give up.
You can’t drop your head and say, ‘Woe is me.
We’ve got to keep playing. You have to continue trying to do
the absolute best you can do.’”
North Carolina kept fighting and wound up cutting the lead to 54-50
with 11:15 remaining. The Tar Heels were down by eight points (69-61)
at the 4:55 mark before KU went on a 13-0 run to put the game away.
Williams was proud of how his team stormed back, though the Tar Heels
just didn’t have enough gas to get over the hump.
“I guess it’s a little like that story tale about
the little engine that spent so much trying to get up the hill, it
didn’t have anything left when it got to the top,”
UNC shot a season-low 35.8 percent from the field and its 27 first-half
points were its fewest in a half this season. The 17-point halftime
deficit was the largest faced by ‘Carolina this season, and
its 66 points tied for fewest of the 2007-08 campaign. The Tar Heels
were also outscored 50 to 30 in the paint.
And UNC had no answer for Brandon Rush, who scored a game-high 25
points. Williams gushed over Rush and the entire Jayhawks’
“I thought Brandon was sensational,” he said.
“A month ago I made the statement, I thought Kansas had the
best team, tremendously quick, tremendous athletes who are very
unselfish, who can score at every position, who can defend at every
position. I said a month ago they have no holes. ... Brandon, Darnell
(Jackson), I said congratulations to them, told them good luck on
Monday night, to play their tails off (against Memphis in the title
After his press conference, Williams did a brief interview with a
Kansas City TV station before hopping in the golf cart to be wheeled
back to the locker room. As the golf cart began moving, Williams told a
reporter he’d be sticking around San Antonio on Monday night
to watch the school he coached for 15 years.
Williams, no doubt, will be playing the loss to Kansas over in his mind
on Monday. He said his Tar Heels didn’t execute, largely
because of KU’s great defense.
“We talked about we can’t take quick shots, and we
took quick shots,” he said. “We talked about that
you have to be strong with the ball. We let them take it away from us
twice, just reach in and take the ball. We talked about coming to meet
the pass. We threw it to one of our post players inside. He just stood
there. The (KU) guy came came to meet it more than he did and got the
ball. We said you can’t dribble between two perimeter players
because they do a great job of getting back, getting their hands
involved. We did that twice and lost it.
“We said if you’re a post player, you have one
dribble, that’s it. Second or third play of the game, we have
a post player that dribbles in the second time, third time
they’re taking in the other end. Defensively,
they’re marvelous athletes. If it were an athletic contest,
it would not have been as close as it was. ... We’re the No.
1 rebounding team in the nation, rebound margin. They outrebounded us
by nine (42-33). They (are) just a fantastic club. Bill does a great,
great job with them.”
Despite the bitter loss, Williams was extremely proud of what his team
accomplished this season.
“Their dreams were bigger than this and it hurts a great deal
now,” Williams said. “Bill’s team won the
game. The other coach was the winner. But I love my kids. I love the
road and journey they took me on, winning 36 games (school record), the
ACE regular season and the ACE tournament and the (NCAA East) regional.
This bunch did some great, great things.”
“I think Roy Williams is one of the luckiest guys the
world,” he added. “This team was really a special
team. We had no issues. We had no problems. They were great kids. It
was just a fun, fun group to coach. And in some ways, that makes it
hurt even more because they are such good kids. I wouldn’t
trade my kids for anybody.”
Williams Laments Loss
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