Williams: “We feel fortunate and lucky, happy, everything to be here. We made some big plays down the stretch. Made six of our last seven free throws. I think that was big. The little fella beside me was a big time player for us today; there was no question about that. Four out of five from three, and the only one he missed was in the first half, and I said did you rush it? He said, ‘yeah, I wasn't balanced.’ But I think he was phenomenal for us, and not just the threes. He kept moving without the ball, and I think he got two lay ups as we opened up the court, and he turns down the middle and guys hit him with good passes.
“But there is a reason they were 29 2, and they're really a good basketball team. We're very fortunate, and I hope they get everybody healthy, because they have a very sincere run in them if they're healthy to win the whole blessed thing. They need Justin to get healthy, and Atkins hurt his ankle in yesterday's game, and we understand that.
“But we'll take it. But I do think Justin was great for us, and I thought Marcus, when it was a 1 point lead and we called a timeout with six seconds to play, I think his play at that time was the play of the game, really. I thought Brogdon was sensational. He scored 12 in a row on us. I think he had 22 or 23 in the second half. Perrantes scored their last five, but Brogdon was off the charts for them.
But the job Tony has done has been sensational. We're especially pleased to be here still playing.”
Justin said he thought your defense sped them up. Was that the case? Was your offense that good?
Williams: “I think it was one of the best games we've played defensively, and yet we made some huge mistakes too, but I thought we were much more active. We were more aggressive. We were pressuring. In a half court situation that could be the most aggressive, most active defense we've had all year long, and I think that helped us. There is no question we didn't get as many fast break points out of it as we had hoped, but I think it was good for us, yes.”
For the majority of the game from the free throw line around 50 percent you were shooting. But then in the clutch down the last couple minutes, the shots were falling. Can you just talk about the composure of your team these last few games down the stretch?
Williams: “Well, I think, again it's getting the right guys to the free throw line. We set the out of bounds play, full court when it was a three point game to get the ball to Marcus, and they got it, and they fouled him. Justin made two big free throws. He made two big ones yesterday, maybe more than two yesterday.
“So having the good shooters in the game, and good shooters usually make more than some other guys. I like the focus and toughness too. Teams talk about us being soft and all that kind of stuff, but I liked our toughness down the stretch yesterday and today both.”
Coach has been telling us all season long, Justin, what an excellent shooter you are. But you're at 26 percent on threes and to have a night like this, actually I looked it up since the game at Duke, you’ve hit 50 percent of your threes. So how did you go from being a good practice shooter to a good game shooter?
“I always knew I was a shooter. Obviously, like you said, the numbers didn't show it. But for me, I knew it would come around sooner or later. I think after the Duke game, me and coach sat down and I told him it would be all right, it will start coming. I guess, right after that, it started clicking a little bit. So I'm just glad I was able to contribute to this game and be able to move on tomorrow.”
“It's just what he said. I've said all along he was going to be a real good shooter for us. He could have shown more savvy by saying coach was right, but he missed that opportunity too. I really think that. Marcus's freshman year I said he's going to be a big time player, and I get to see it when recruiting him, yes, but I get to see it every day. It's a matter of time, sometimes it takes some guys longer than others. But I think that we need Justin to be a big time scorer.
“I think he's getting better and better at moving without the ball as well. In the off season he'll be able to work on his body and the whole bit. I did know that he was going to be a big time shooter before he left. I just hoped it was in my lifetime.”
Would you say this is about as complete an all around game as you've played this season?
Williams: “Well, again, it's such a good opponent. You have to feel that way. I hated the way we turned the ball over. We had some of the worst turnovers in history; but a coach is always going to find some things that you can get better. But I think it was a good dog gone performance, yes.”
Paige: “I agree. We shot 50 percent from the floor against one of the best defensive teams in the country if not thee best defensive team in the country. Like he said, minus the turnovers, when we got a chance to get shots, we got good ones. Justin did a great job of finding the open pass or cutting to the basket and getting the lay up. We were just played unselfish and sharing the ball.
Defensively we made mistakes here and there. We changed our defense a couple times and the guys didn't get the assignments at times. But we competed at the highest level we've competed all year, and that was one thing that was a positive for us.”
There have been a couple times this season where you guys have had a lead late in the game and it sort of got away from you. Coach mentioned free throws tonight, but was there anything beyond that yesterday and tonight that was different than earlier in the year?
Jackson: “We got stops. Obviously, Brogdon came down a couple times and hit some shots that you've got to get back on offense. But I think late we started getting some stops, which then they had to foul us and we started making free throws. So the biggest thing was we got stops and ended up making free throws.”
Paige “I agree, not turning the ball over late. Very late in the game we didn't have many turnovers, so we were able to keep the ball, keep possession and get the ball to our foul shooters and knock them down. They missed a couple good looks. The one possession we really needed to stop on when Justin Anderson caught it on the wing. Brice did a good job of challenging that three point shot and we were able to get that rebound. That was big for us.
“Just executing the little things. We missed a couple boxouts and stuff, but we competed on the glass late and got the ball to our foul shooters, and we made them.”
Williams: "J.P.'s turnover at 2:26, and we didn't turn it over the next five possessions. I think that was big, too.”
Marcus, could you describe what you were trying to do on that shot, and what was going through your mind knowing Brogdon was on you, you went airborne and you had to get it up quick?
Paige: “Yeah, we set up the elevator door play for me to go through with the two big guys to catch the ball at the top. In six seconds you don't have a lot of time, but that's plenty of time to make a play and not hoist up a jump shot. A couple times early in the year I had settled for jump shots in that situation, but I knew we were in the bonus and I wanted to try to use my quickness to get in the lane and either make something happen for myself or my teammates. Gave him a fake, and when he left his feet I knew I had a chance to get a decent shot off. That's what happened. I was able to knock it down.”
Coach, with two and a half minutes left in the game, you were up 61 60, and Brogdon was driving for the bucket. I think it was the only time they were shooting for the lead. And as he went, I think they knocked the hand out and knocked the ball loose. Can you talk about that play?
Williams: “Brice usually thinks defense is what you put around your yard, defense. But Brice really did slide his feet and get in there that time. During one of the timeouts we talked about it was North Carolina's defense against Virginia's offense. It wasn't just a guy guarding Brogdon. If he started driving for everybody to get in and try to close the gap and make it, and I thought that was a huge play. As you say, probably the most significant play of the game.
“But as I said, we had some lapses, but you're going to have that in the course of the whole game. Virginia is so good, you can't have too many or you're going to lose, but I thought that was a huge defensive play for Brice.”
The stamina of playing four games in four days. Is there a concern you'll run out of gas?
Paige: “At this point, everybody's tired. The team that we're playing will be playing a third game, so so you have to mentally not think about it and just tough it out. I played in the ACC Championship game my freshman year, and we came really close. We played a great game, and we were unable to come through and win it, so we'll have some extra motivation there. We've had guys on the roster that were on that team too.
“So we're going to be hungry. At that point once they throw the ball up, you can't worry about being tired. There is no time for that. Especially for what's on the line, a championship, a chance to call yourself the best.”
Jackson: “Honestly, there is no excuse. We made it to the championship, and other teams played games these past couple days. So we're going to rested up tonight, come out tomorrow whatever time the game is, and be ready to play them.”
The tournament moved forward a day. A lot of the coaches have been in support of that. How much of a help is it now? I know you have a game to play, but you have an extra day of rest before the tournament. Is it a benefit playing Saturday and having Sunday off?
Williams: “There is no question it's a huge benefit, but guys, I'm not trying to get on you, but right now we're trying to win the sucker tomorrow. I'm not too concerned about where we're going later on I always tell my players, if you look down the road, that's where you're going, down the road, going back home.
We're going to be ecstatic to try to play to win a championship tomorrow, but there is no question the extra day's rest helps. No question about it.”
J.P. went out with about four or five minutes to go in the game. Have you gotten a report on him?
Williams: “No. I don't have any idea. Do you guys have any idea? I don't have any idea what he did. I was focusing on the guys that were in there. They told me he was not going to be able to go back in and we focused on the guys that we have out there, so I have no idea.”
Coach, for Virginia to be unbeatable most of the season and then lose twice in a week, I'm kind of wondering if coaches have figured out that team going into the tournament?
Williams: “No. Beating Louisville's not easy. They lost on the last second play when Mathiang, I think I pronounced his name properly, knocked in a jumpshot which is not what they would focus on doing. Brogdon made a huge shot from the corner. This league is pretty doggone good.
“We're not chopped liver, so losing to Louisville at Louisville, and losing in the ACC Tournament in the finals, doesn't mean you've been bad. I'll give you this one, I want these guys to change it, but my teams have taken me to seven Final Fours. One time we won the conference tournament, and we were pretty doggone good, and we won two national championships when we did not win the conference tournament.
So Tony has done a fantastic job. They get those guys healthy, they can win a National Championship. I'd like to play them again in a National Championship Game. That would be ecstatic for me.”
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