Listen to Audio (17:01)
"Well, there's no question at this time in college basketball as coach you hurt. And you hurt for your team, you hurt for these kids that for about 34, 35 minutes were a part of a fantastic basketball game. You also have to congratulate Kansas and wish them good luck, because it was a great basketball game, like I say, for about 34, 35 minutes. And the last four or five minutes, they played much, much better than we did, and their coach coached much better than I did.
"It was a game of runs, and we didn't answer the last one. They would go ahead six or eight and we would catch up. And they would go ahead six or eight and we would catch up. And it was that kind of game. They hurt us early in the second half on the offensive boards, just getting so many rebounds and putting it back in. We even had one time where we blocked the shot and it came down and their kid caught it and laid it up.
"But I can't fault my team for trying. My gosh, the little rascal sitting beside of me, Stilman, just competed his rear end off. It wasn't smooth for him because it's hard all of a sudden to be thrust into this role, three practices before this regional. But, boy, he did some really good things and I just admire him and admire what he did and admire how he competed. And you look down there and he played 28 minutes today and 32 yesterday, that's 60 minutes. And the little rascal had zero turnovers and hadn't been in this position all year.
"And that's what you love about college athletics. It is about the kids. It was a one-point game, and we got the ball and were coming down and we turned it over in the middle of the court on the break. And then played really good defense for about 27 seconds and then Elijah jumped up and made the three with seven seconds on the shot clock and that was their only three of the second half and we made none. And all of a sudden, now it's a four-point game and then we messed it up on the offensive end again. And they got a run out and it seemed like it snowballed there. We couldn't make a shot the last five minutes of the game or something like that.
"But I enjoyed coaching these kids and you hate it for them and that's what it's all about. This is college basketball and that's what it's all about. It's about the players. It's not about the coaches. It's about the players and it's about the name on the front of the jersey. And I had a marvelous group. I said that about Stilman, and on the other side of it, you can't be a more perfect student-athlete than Tyler Zeller. So right now, it's just that there's no way to put into words the way we feel. There's no way to put into words the way I feel.
"But I tell you what, I feel awfully lucky to have coached Tyler Zeller. But again it's the NCAA tournament and one team wins and one team loses and that's what we have to understand. And we learned some lessons every day. I know I love my team. Man, they were fun to be around and they were facing a lot of adversity."
Was Kendall even remotely close to being able to go?
"I thought he was yesterday. We let him run up and down the court and catch and pass a little bit. And I really got a little excited at that point. But I think that it got even sorer last night after just that little activity. We weren't even on the court probably 25 minutes doing anything. At that point during practice I thought he had a chance to go. But last night, I got less confident, and then this morning it just didn't feel right for him. "
You hate that for that kid. You hate it for our program, hate it for our team. But Kendall Marshall is all about winning and is all about team. And if you've ever watched him play, you realize that he's one of those point guards that cares about his team maybe more than anybody I've ever seen. So you hate it for him."
How good was that first half in terms of the basketball that was played and what did you think might be the decisive factor in the second half?
"It was. If you're a fan, watching that game, you had to love that. Coaches, we always talk about guys taking charges and diving on the floor. But that was good basketball the first half. Both coaches probably wanted their guys to defend better, I know I did, and I'm sure Bill did as well. You really thought it would continue that way and we would make a run, they would make a run, they would make a run, we would make a run. And then unfortunately for us, we stopped answering.
"In the second half, I thought both clubs were better defensively or maybe a combination of the stress of the situation might have affected some shots as well. But it was pretty there for awhile. It just wasn't very pretty the last five minutes."
How quick do you want to sort through the process with the underclassmen and their families?
"Oh, hadn't thought a heck of a lot about it, to be honest with you. But we'll try to do it pretty quickly. It's what it is. It's our culture. It's not as much fun as getting a guy and coaching him for four years, but it's what it is. We have to handle that. But I would think that before the end of the week, I would have at least the initial conversations with all of our guys, yeah."
Listen to Audio (2:05)
Could you comment on the physical play that was going on inside. It looked like the big guys from both teams were sort of a point of pride happening in there, answering each other back and forth all night long.
"Yeah, you got to give a lot of credit to both Thomas Robinson and Withey. Withey was in foul trouble the first half. But Thomas Robinson is a fantastic player. Somebody that he can drive the ball, shoot the ball, he can score the ball inside. There's a reason he's up for the Player of the Year. He's a tremendous player, so you got to give him a lot of credit."
It seemed like every time Kansas go on a run, you guys would respond with a run of your own. At what point there in KU's ultimately last run did you guys realize that time was really running out?
"I think it was a four-point game and it quickly became nine and we had a timeout. I think we still thought we had a chance then, but we came down and they made a great stop and we didn't make our shot. So they came down and hit their free throws and once it hit double digits, it was tough. I mean under a minute, it's tough to be able to come back from that deficit."
Listen to Audio (2:25)
Would you talk about your feelings, what your experience was like, the chance you had here.
"It hurts. This was a great team and we had great goals and doesn't feel like we quite achieved them. But we played as hard as we could and just came up a little bit short."
In the first half, you guys were able to play transition pretty easily. But the second half, what changed?
"I don't know. I was just pushing it and if I didn't see anything, I tried to pull up and run, find whatever coach was calling. We tried to run a little freelance earlier and we weren't quite moving around like coach liked us to. So I think we focused a little more on running sets in the second half."
Listen to Audio (3:07)
On the decision not to play:
"If I did play, I wouldn't have been effective. If I'm just standing off to the side catching and passing... It was a struggle. So maybe with three or four more days, maybe I could have been able to help the team, but I can't really catch and pass right now."
Was it obvious early in shootaround that you wouldn't be able to go?
"Yes. I was going to just try to tough it out, but it wasn't a toughness factor. It was the fact that I couldn't catch and pass."
Listen to Audio (3:05)
There's a lot to be said for the heart this team showed out there:
"Yeah, we definitely kept fighting back. We just couldn't get that one stop to put us over the edge. Every time we would get there, they'd just come back and answer, so it was just defensive and mental breakdowns that we had."
Listen to Audio (3:37)
Was the triangle-and-two in the scouting report?
"They haven't done it in the past, but they tried it out against us and it was successful."
Is there a possibility that this is the last game you play at UNC?
"I haven't thought that far."
Is there a feeling that this team may have missed an opportunity if everyone decides to leave?
"Well, first of all, I think everyone in this locker room feels like they played the best that they can play today. We all laid it out there. I don't think anyone is looking beyond that, because we all had anticipation of going to New Orleans."
Listen to Audio (2:38)
How did you hurt your ankle?
"I think I stepped on one of the guy's toes and tweaked it a little bit, but I had to play through it. This was our last game, so there's no time to just sit on the sideline and rest it."
On his left wrist:
"It got bumped a lot, but I had to play through it. I got a shot before the game. I got numbing cream. We tried everything, taped it up. It felt better toward the end of the game, but I just had to play through it."
BILL SELF & PLAYERS
Listen to Audio (27:07)
"It was anyone's game for the first 32 minutes or whatever, and then we got some consecutive defensive stops which we hadn't been able to get the first 30 minutes and made a ton of plays, individual plays, great team plays down the stretch. But we know as a group we also caught a break today, too, with Kendall not playing. I'm not saying that would have changed any the outcome, but we caught a break. But these guys, they wanted him to play. We talked about that.
"But these guys did an unbelievable job, kind of just staying the course and not playing tight. I kind of had a calm about myself today. I felt good about it. And these guys obviously played at a very, very high level."
When Withey picked up his fourth foul, you didn't take him out. Was that sort of a moment of truth in the ball game or talk about that.
"I think there was only four minutes left when he picked it up. At that time, if I'm not mistaken, we were up either one or four. I can't remember if Elijah had made the shot yet. So you got to win the game and some coaches will take him out. If we had a four-point lead, I may have taken him out for a possession or two. But in a tight game like that, I was going to let it ride."