I thought North Carolina tonight looked like an experienced, veteran basketball team. I think that's what good teams, experienced teams do. Right at the end of the first half we got it to six and then I don't know the run but Berry hit a three, Jackson hit a three, and they seemed to have an answer for everything we did.
We've struggled this year guarding off the dribble... it's been a real struggle for our group, keeping somebody in front of us. I thought that was an issue. I thought our transition defense was better.
I thought we gave up too many rebounds. The four bigs we had, Omer, Malik, Ted, and BeeJay combined for I think two defensive rebounds. They just rebounded the ball, and it was a big difference in the game too.
We didn't do things well, but that's a good team. They played really well tonight. They answered everything we did... you have to give those guys credit. Sometimes you need to look and say they answered everything and played better... that was the story.
Do you feel like you need to make your case to Debbie at this point about your future?
I don't want to talk about that. I respect you guys, it's a fair question, good question, but I want to talk about the game and those kind of things.
That's not something I want to answer. I hope you understand.
You give Carolina credit... do you feel your team played as well as they could have?
Nah, I think at the start of the game we had four wide open three's, great looks. When you're playing a team like North Carolina, you have to make them. I understand you're not going to make all of them, but those are the opportunities. All of a sudden you're down six or eight instead of two or three of those three's go down and it's a different kind of game.
We have to play better and make some shots. I thought in the first half we had some great looks and couldn't seem to make them. Then right there the last couple of minutes in the half was in their favor. We cut it to six and bang they stretch it out to 12 or 14.
What led to the starting lineup change?
Honestly, just a change to see if it would give us a spark.
It's difficult because they are big and we weren't sure if Hicks would play or how well he'd play with the groin injury. That makes it a little tougher, but I thought Torin had played really well the last couple of games and deserved to play and start.
[Hicks] had a couple of baskets early because we were small. We were hoping to take advantage of that by taking Hicks away from the basket and try to get some things, Torin penetrating and getting him off the dribble.
That was more of why that decision was made.
More on the second half...
I was hoping we'd have a better start to the half. We didn't seem to do that. I'm not sure why.
Again, I don't know what the right analogy is... you can put two guys out there golfing sometimes, one guy might be a little better than the other, and the other guy can try all he wants... the other guy will probably beat him. I can go play against Jordan Spieth, but I'd have no chance. I'm not saying it's that kind of margin, but you have to give those guys credit. They did a good job. They did a great job of answering the things we tried to do and they played really well.
Their rebounding was the biggest factor to me, more than anything. Our inability to guard off the dribble has been a struggle, and I thought we had some great shots early in the game and didn't make them. That probably affected us a little bit mentally.
As for rebounding, was that a lack of focus or them really crashing the boards.
They are pretty good at it.
The defensive stuff, is that something your players are capable of and it just hasn't been happening?
Good question. It's a hard one. It's been one of those that... it's been an issue all year long, it has. There's a number of times tonight we just got beat off the dribble and that hurt us.
When you have the scenario with these lopsided losses, how much do you take responsibility?
All of it. Everything that happens is my responsibility. That's part of the turf as head coach.
Just like if you beat Villanova in the NCAA Tournament or go to a Sweet Sixteen, you get a lot of praise as a coach and other times you take the hits.
I know people are tired of hearing it but it's the truth. We have a lot of young players playing in a league that's really, really good this year. You get caught in a vulnerable spot where you're relying on young guys and playing really good teams every night.
I was telling someone the other night that we're near the bottom but we're good enough to win at Duke. Boston College has beaten Syracuse by 20 I think it was. Georgia Tech has beat North Carolina by 15. I watched Pittsburgh go into North Carolina and Duke and play them almost to the wire. Those are the teams at the bottom of our league right now.
When it falls the way it goes, we had some guys go in the draft, Lennard not playing as a senior, you're a little vulnerable and playing in a league that's really good.
When North Carolina is playing really well and making shots like tonight. We all know in this room, that's a team we just watched that could make a deep run and go to the Final Four and play. Most of those guys played in the championship game last year. The national championship game.
We like to look at ourselves sometimes, and say we're the crappiest thing of all time. Sometimes the other team is really good too and they were really good tonight. A good basketball team and they had an answer for everything we tried to do.