“We feel fantastic being here. I was a little frustrated with the way we played in the middle of the second half. First half we shot the ball great, make a bunch of threes; second half, we're 1 for 7. Sometimes it's fool's gold, but we were sensational shooting the ball in the first half, Joel, Justin, and Luke. And what Luke did today, we see a lot in practice, and he's had one game this year where he had 15 rebounds. He's made some threes in the game, but today he even got one to bounce and crawl up from under the rim and go in. That was a big lift for us. Isaiah was in foul trouble. Tony and Isaiah both had two, and Kennedy got his second right before the end of the half.
“Butler just keeps coming at you, keeps coming at you. And thrilled with this group, thrilled with what they've accomplished. Was not thrilled for about six or seven minutes in the second half, and yet when they got it to -- looked up, when Nate, I think it was, went to the free-throw line, that was the first time I looked at the score in the second half and it was 10. And Nate made the free throws, and we still let them score more than we wanted, but we're still up here talking with a smile on our face.”
Joel and Justin, when you get the contribution that Luke gives you today, how much more dangerous does that make you guys as you go along?
JOEL BERRY II: “Yeah, I just think it's different when you have a guy that can step out and shoot threes. Usually you go against teams where their big men, instead of picking and then roll to the basket, and Luke gives us a different Luke, with being able to step out to the three. And I think that opens up the lane a little bit for the guards to be able to penetrate because we want to get the ball in the post by either pass or dribble or in the lane by pass or dribble. But when Luke is in there, it spaces out the floor, and it gives us threat on the three-point line.”
JUSTIN JACKSON: “Just to echo what Joel said, any screen on the ball, if they hedge too long, it's a wide-open three. It just adds different aspects to our game that just helps us, and for him to come out here and play like this, it was huge for us and huge for him, and we need him to keep it going.”
Luke, when we first spoke during Media Day earlier this year, you said that you wanted to help your team by any means necessary and fix what you need to fix to get the team where they need to be. How have you seen your progress this year leading up to today?
LUKE MAYE: “Yeah, I just want to go out there and play the best I can and try to limit the mistakes I make and do what I can to help my team win because that's the most important thing. Today I got a couple shots to fall in and felt pretty confident, and they kept going, and it gave us the win today. And that's the biggest thing we wanted, and we're moving on to Sunday.”
Justin, you score eight points in the first seven minutes of the game; what did you kind of see out of the defense that allowed you to get off to that hot of a start?
JUSTIN JACKSON: “I mean, I saw that they had a smaller defender on me, and my teammates were finding me. They were setting screens and they were just kind of late off those screens. I think the second half they did a lot better job of being there on the catch. But to start the game, I just kind of felt like I was moving freely, and my teammates were finding me, and it was just up to me just to step up and knock in the shots.”
Is there any extra motivation this weekend knowing that last year you were one shot away from winning the National Title?
JOEL BERRY II: “Yeah, I think there's a little motivation, and we always think about last year regardless of the game. We got to where we wanted to get, we just didn't finish it. But I mean, it's always on our mind, but just regardless of that, we go into each and every game just thinking about that game, and we can't look too far ahead. We've got to play the game that we're about to play. And so it's a little motivation there, but we've got to be able to play Sunday, to be able to get to where we want to get.”
They had I think a 9-2 run to cut that 16-point lead midway through the first half, but you guys answered with 12 straight points and kind of got it back again. What was different today compared to some of the other games here in the postseason that you guys have let some big leads get away?
JUSTIN JACKSON: “I mean, we didn't want to lose. You know, for us, we let -- we got by with very little room against Arkansas, and so for us, I mean, we had that lead. We know it's a game of runs and Butler is a good team. They're going to keep on coming at you. But for us we tried to stay focused and stay poised as coach would say, and just continued to play. I felt like we did that today, and we came out with it.”
Coach Williams, which team would you match up better against, Kentucky or UCLA?
ROY WILLIAMS: “Oh, it's a good question that I'm not equipped to answer right now because I haven't watched tape on either team, and this is nothing different than the regular season. I always make sure that I take the tape the day before we play. I've seen bits and pieces of UCLA. Needless to say, we played Kentucky, and they scored three more points than we did, and we didn't play very well on the defensive end, and Malik led us up for 47. I've only seen three or four different stretches in some of the UCLA games, but that's what tonight and all day tomorrow is for.”
You've played Luke here and there, even going back to last year. How much of that is so he's like prepared for when he does have to play a bigger role like he did tonight?
ROY WILLIAMS: “You know, he's prepared. Last year he sat in my office and told me he was going to work harder than anybody on the team in the off-season. We don't give him grades, but he's -- what was that Bum Phillips said about Earl Campbell was not at the top of the class, it's very small, it doesn't take long to call the roll.
“Well, that's the way it is with Luke. He works exceptionally hard. He's a good shooter. He has good savvy. He had one game this year, I think it's Florida State, he had 15 rebounds, so he's been able to help us. And he really does provide a lot of headaches for the starting five during practice almost every day. But yet, at everything we do, we always switch him over so he plays with those guys a little bit, as well. But he can shoot the ball. He can rebound the ball. Got to get him to be a little bit better defensively and one time he shot his little jump hook, when he had Kennedy underneath the basket with nobody guarding him, so he's got see his teammates. But he's got a big role with our team, and I think it'll just get bigger and bigger over his career.”
They kind of threw a zone on you about midway through the second half of play, and you went into a bit of a lull offensively. What did they do to slow you down offensively with that zone?
ROY WILLIAMS: “We didn't move as well as we wanted to move. In the first half we make all those shots, in the second half we're 1-for-7 from three. We got good shoots inside. We made some layups. Joel made some, Kennedy made one inside. Seventh Woods made a nice pass to Isaiah and he got one inside.
“What was hurting us was not the offense. We shot 54 percent for the game, 56 in the second half. What hurt us in the second half is we didn't rebound the dad-gum basketball on their end. They kept getting multiple opportunities on it. It wasn't our offense that bothered us.”
You were around when Mark Maye played quarterback for the Tar Heels, right, in the 80s, and both parents of Carolina kids, and you've recruited some Carolina families in the past, but has there ever been one quite like Luke? From the moment he opened his eyes he was probably a Tar Heel fan. Can you talk about the recruiting, and is he better than you thought he would be?
ROY WILLIAMS: “No. Not at all. He came to our camp five or six years, and I kept telling Mark, just don't be in a hurry because I think he's going to be good enough. Just don't be in a hurry. I felt like that, and I was dumb, okay, because we had offered some scholarships to some other people, but I told Luke I wanted him to come. Notre Dame, Clemson, Virginia, Davidson had really made a nice effort in recruiting, but I told him, you can really be a good player for us, you can be extremely important to us. I'm serious, guys, we see this every day at practice. He drills the white team so much and has so much fun with that.
“But the dumbest thing was that I asked him, I said, don't have your feelings hurt, but I'd like for you to come here first year and pay your own way, and then we'll give you a scholarship the rest of the way. Because we had some scholarship offers out there that I felt like we needed, and needless to say, we didn't get them, so that was one of the neatest phone calls ever. I called Luke one night and said I want you to go in and ask your mom and dad if you can have just a thousand dollars to go to the beach and blow it this weekend.
“He said, Coach, I don't know if I can do that. And I said, well tell them that I just called you and gave you $25,000 scholarship for the next year so at least they ought to be able to give you a thousand to blow. But he had some fun with it. But I always thought that Luke was really going to be good, it's just, again, some of the other scholarship offers we had out there were people that I'd promised them to for a couple of years. But I think Luke is -- you know, and he has the ability to shoot the ball. He has the ability to rebound the ball, but the reason Luke is going to be successful is what he's got in his brain and in his heart.”
It's been a while since both Justin and Joel have had good offensive games together; how good was it to see those two guys do what they did tonight?
ROY WILLIAMS: “Well, at this stage of the year, if you don't have good offensive games or good defensive games, you go home. But we do need to be clicking a little bit on all cylinders. We've got one, two -- we only had three guys in double figures today, one of them is 26 and the other 24, so that's pretty good. But yes, we do need both of them making shots and doing some things for us.”
How important is it to have Sean May on your bench giving the team that experience from winning a championship and getting them to keep their head focused and win it all?
ROY WILLIAMS: “Well, every now and then I'll ask Sean, do you remember what it felt like at this point, and he'll say, yeah. I'll say, did you ever have any more fun? He'll say no. So talking to him like that, he's a cheerleader for those guys. And I do, I say, hey, Sean's jersey is up there, but also he's got a banner on the other end that he was really responsible for. Any time that he's encouraging them or cheering them on, they like that.”