“Needless to say it feels a heck of a lot better than it did a couple of weeks ago… It is a wonderful feeling in our locker room right now. There is no question about that. Sometimes you say some things that work and sometimes you don’t. I reminded our guys of 2012 when Austin Rivers made the big three at the end of the game at our place and we thought we had the game won, should have had the game won and we didn’t. Then we came over here and we played very well, we played great, and ended up winning the game over here. I told them that it has been done before and we can do it again. I tried to give our kids confidence; I know one team that could come in here on Senior Night, play great and win, and that was us.
“The backboards and the inside area was huge for us. It was not as huge as it needed to be when we played at our place. Rebounds were 64 to 29 and we had 27 offensive rebounds. We batted it around like a volleyball around the basket three or four times – on two possessions we had six shots – we were 0-for-6. We shot 28 percent the second half, but we had so many opportunities around the basket. Then they cut it to one or two in the first half with a nice run and we took it back out to eight or 10.
“They cut it to one in the second half and I told our guys during the timeout that they had done that in the first half, and we responded, so let’s respond now. Justin Jackson made two free throws. Brice scored a couple of buckets in that time period. Joel Berry made a three. Then down the stretch Theo, Joel and Marcus were 8-for-8 from the free throw line to finish the game. A lot of good things in the locker room. It is a fun locker room right now. I thought that it was very fitting that Marcus could not throw it in the ocean, but he went to the free throw line and made four straight free throws for us.”
How did you think Kennedy Meeks played tonight?
“Kennedy was big today. Isaiah was pressing too much. He wanted to do too much. Isaiah has been fantastic for us all year long, but I’ve never seen a game where he is 2-for-6 with four fouls. Kennedy was big early, and Kennedy was big late rebounding the ball. He could have even scored more, but he couldn’t get it to stay in the basket. Fourteen rebounds for Kennedy and 21 for Brice Johnson. I have been on those two guys all year long because I want more out of them effort-wise, intelligence-wise, effort, effort, effort. Tonight, 12 and 14 for Kennedy and 18 and 21 for Brice. Brice Johnson offensively has done some things that have been done very seldom in my years as head coach; rebounding the ball and scoring the ball. I think I have said something about everybody that played today so this was a North Carolina win.”
What was Paige’s comfort level taking the free throws at the end of the game?
“You never know what your comfort level should be, but if I had to pick anybody in the country to step to the line in that situation, I wanted Marcus Paige over anybody else. He was pretty doggone good.”
Did you make an effort to look for Johnson down the stretch more tonight?
“We looked for him the first minute of the game, the 19th minute of the game and the 32nd minute of the game. He, Kennedy and Isaiah were about to drive me crazy because I wanted a flash in the middle of the zone even harder and we sort of sashay in there. I told them at one of the timeouts that they were short-arming their shots; shoot the basketball. It is great coaching; I mean, this is how silly the game is. I said, ‘If you want to take a shot, be tough enough to make the dang ol’ thing.’ You know that is silly as it can be, but that is exactly what I said. We were trying to go inside every minute of the game because we got a size advantage and a depth advantage inside.”