The last play of the game – how was it drawn up and how was it executed?
Coach just called my number out and designed a play we have been working on a lot in game situations. We set it up and I knocked it down.
You were open on the left…
Yea. I definitely could have driven or looked to pass, but Sean set a great screen, Ray made a great pass and I knocked the shot down.
You scored the last ten points of the game for Carolina. Did you feel like you had the hot hand and knew that shot was going to go down?
Definitely. I felt like that the whole game. Even in pre-game warm-ups I felt kind of hot so my teammates took advantage of that.
Can you comment on how you built the big first half lead? Some of the things you were doing well then didn't work so well early in the second half.
I think our intensity dropped a little bit and we didn't attack like we did in the first half. We didn't rebound. And, they came out fired up. They are the number one team in the country so they had to respond.
Did Coach Williams challenge you guys midway of the second half in the huddle and in the last couple of minutes?
Definitely. He was very inspiring. We took everything that he had to say and went out there and did it.
How does winning a close game against a good team help?
We feel like we can go out and beat anybody. We definitely proved that tonight. But we haven't proved that we can't stop losing. That's something we've got to work on because in the ACC, you can beat anybody, but you can also lose to anybody. We have to keep the intensity when we play.
Is this a dream situation – hitting the winning shot against the number one team in the country?
I thought about it after I hit the shot…it was a dream situation until it happened. I never thought it would happen. You look at guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe, hitting game winning shots and I always said if I was put in that situation, I would try to shine and tonight I did.
Can you talk about dealing with what folks have been saying lately about you…
Folks are going to do that type of stuff but it doesn't make me lose any sleep.
Do you pay any attention to that stuff? How do you not let it get to you?
I've always known since I was a little kid to block those things out. What people say, you can't control. I'm mature beyond my years so I know how to control that type of stuff.
Do you think this team is buying into what Coach Williams is trying do?
I think so. Defensively and offensively we know what we have to do. If we just buy into what he has to offer we'll just win.
Coach Williams talked about there isn't any one go to guy on this team. He said it's more a team deal. Do you believe that?
Yea, I feel that way. There is no go to guy. Tonight, I was just fortunate enough to hit my shots. I feel like everyone would say he had a good game, he hit his shots. For me, that's probably one of the games I should have been having all year. I've been playing bad all year so it's good to pick up this win.
You looked like you were just out there not thinking and just doing it in the last four minutes…
That's been the biggest adjustment for me was to just to play. Just go out there and have fun, smile, enjoy myself. The game hasn't been fun, it's been more thinking for me. I just feel like when I think a lot out there, it hurts my game.
Talk about Rashad after the game…
It's one of those days that he's the cheerful Rashad. After a game like this, you should be cheerful. If he was not talking or something like that, then I would think something's wrong with him. He's doing his thing.
Talk about going up against Emeka Okafor in the paint.
Man that dude is strong. It doesn't make any sense! He's a beast and he's going to be a terror in the League and in the Big East.
You were front Okafor and Rashad helped behind to get a turnover with around two minutes to play…
We always want to front….when you front, you've got to help someone on the help side and Rashad was there for me. He got his hand on it, it bounced off the backboard and we got it. I think it was a big play because we were down and we scored the next time down.
Is this team learning how to win, especially in the last minutes?
Yea, definitely. It's a big deal for us to come out in these type of games and close them off in the end. We are showing people that we are learning off the losses in the close games.
When they cut into the lead, Coach said you guys had that "here we go again look" on your faces….did you?
Yea. You are always going to have that here we go again feel when a team comes back. What you have to do is concentrate on what we can do to get it back and that's what we did. We came out with a big win.
Talk about how it felt to be in the middle of that mob on the court at the end.
It felt great. Our crowd was great. The atmosphere was great. The crowd was loud and even the alumni in the front chairs were standing up. (laughter) You knew it was good then. It was a great atmosphere.
Did you think Okafor was better than advertised today?
Yes. When they said he was shot blocker, a couple shots he blocked I saw him get, I thought were fouls but they let him get because he's a shot blocker. After playing him today though, yea, he's a shot blocker, I can tell you that.
What do you do with a player like that?
Like I've said in the past, you have to take it right to his face. You are either going to get fouled or he's going to block it right back to you. We tried to do that, couple of times he blocked them, a couple times he got fouls so we did what we wanted to do.
Do you think you guys showed some toughness down the stretch that you haven't shown in the past?
Toughness is a key for us because we have to come out and show we can win close games. We hadn't done that in those three losses we had but I think we did today. That was emotionally, mentally, physically draining game so it one of those that you feel good coming out in the end but you are dog tired.
Talk about the last play…
Coach called it in the huddle and if anyone was going to take that shot, it was going to be Rashad. We he came off the screen and I saw how open he was, I just put my hands in the air because I knew it was good. I saw it when it came out of his hands and I'm glad it when in for us.
Do you have a name for that play?
Yea it's…..I don't know…(laughter)….I was about to lie….(laughter)
You are up 16, they come back and take the lead. What did it take for you guys to shake that off and win?
Poise. We had to have poise tonight and I think we showed a great deal of that. And mental toughness. When we have those things on our side and we can control it, I think we'll come out with a lot more close games.
How does this help going back in to ACC play?
Ah man, it helps a whole lot. Getting a big win against the number one team at home. You want go into the next game feeling good and not thinking about a loss so it helps a whole lot confidence wise.
Talk about what you are feeling seeing that last shot hanging in the air and then it doesn't go in and the crowd rushes the floor….
Ah man…you are like "don't go in, don't go in, ….YES!" (laughter)
Is a game like today a learning experience for Carolina, especially after losing a couple game similar earlier in the year?
I think every game for us is a learning experience. We have something we can get from a game. Today was one of those games (that shows) we can win close games. Some might think in close games, they can't win. We can win close games.
Was tonight a building block win as opposed to last year's [win over UConn] seemed like just a good win?
The bricks were being laid last year but this win means a lot. Getting a win against the number one team, especially after the tough loss against Maryland.
What do you think the difference was today as opposed to against Maryland?
I think everybody locked down on defense and we came together as a team. That was a major difference from the games that we lost.
What did Coach Williams say to you guys in the huddle at the 12:31 mark?
You don't even want to know. (laughter) You really don't want to know. The clipboard took a hit. The message was not nice.
Isn't that what this team needs though?
Yes we do. Sometimes we lose our focus and that's how teams come back on us. We get too comfortable at times when we get a lead.
Will it reach a point where he doesn't need to do that?
Hopefully so. If he keeps doing it enough. After a while it's going to have to reach a point where everyone (understands).
What did it take to get this game back after they came back and took the lead on you?
We had to show great poise. Come out and work hard, play hard and believe in Coach. Execute the offense. Play great defense and get a win. It's all about heart and determination. Connecticut is a great team and has great players. They have great players and it was a tough game. Put we are pretty good. We beat a Final Four team in my opinion.
A win like this after a bad loss to Maryland….what does it do for this team?
This gives us great confidence after coming off Maryland. We should have beaten Maryland – no offense to them because they are a great team – but I felt like we should have beaten them because we had plenty of chances. They played harder and got the win. Against UConn, we did the little things.
Talk about the read you made and hit Rashad on the last shot.
You have to be smart toward the game. As the point guard you have to recognize things. Rashad had hit some big shots. I'm looking at Melvin coming off a screen, I see both guys. Jawad's open for a layup but that's not there. The whole time I'm going to Rashad because he's hit big shots and Sean setting a big screen. Rashad's hit two big shots and he's open so why not go to him and get the W. You have to be smart and make good reads and I think I made a good read and he knocked down the shot.
Were you surprised at the 14 point lead at half?
Was I surprised? No not necessarily. They are a great team but we are a great team. We played hard with great intensity in the first half. In the second we didn't play as hard or with the same intensity and that's why they came back. We played great defense and patient on offense in the first half. We didn't do that early in the second half and we have to start doing that – playing with the same intensity the whole game.
As a point guard, are there nights when you can feel someone is going to be on?
Definitely, you can see it within the game that Rashad is on. He's posting up, he's driving to the basket, he's knocking down open. When he does a variety of things, that's when you know he's on that night. If a guy is hot, I'm getting it to him.
How big was Jawad's play tonight?
Jawad showed a lot of character out there tonight. He's playing with a broken nose, mask on his face messing with his eyes…he knocked down shots and did what he could do to help us.
Talk about the last play. Coach Williams said you tried to run it against Wake in the first overtime but it didn't work. What was the difference?
Coach Williams knows what he's doing. If we execute the way Coach Williams wants us to, we are going to get at least a shot. When we get shots, it gives up opportunities to win games the odds are with us. We got a good shot and we knocked it down. If we do that and we execute, we'll be tough.
What did Coach Williams have to say to you guys at the 12:30 mark in the second half?
He was just demanding for us to scrap out there. A couple plays, they got loose balls and Coach doesn't allow that and doesn't like when the other team out hustles us. We understand his frustration. Personally, if I could take that play back, I'd try to break my neck to get it. The guy made a good play but Coach was frustrated.
Doesn't this team need that from Coach Williams?
Yes. We need that, we need that. He knows what he's doing and we need to start trusting him more and I think that trust is coming. It's there and we did something good today.
At some point later in the year, he won't have to do that.
Yea. Sometimes we are going to mess up. That's the reason we have coach to get on us. Sometimes we aren't going to box out, we aren't going to dive on a loose ball and he's there. I respect him for that.