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Well, congratulate Illinois. It was a fun college basketball game. If you didn't care who won you had to enjoy that; the problem is that we care deeply whether we win or lose. They are a fine basketball team coached by a really, really good coach and a really, really good guy. Dee Brown is one of my favorite players. I thought it was very fitting that James Augustine had a nice game since he had such a tough game in St. Louis in the national championship. But I'm really, really proud of my team. They were down 12, 13, whatever it was and they kept playing and kept trying to make plays. I told them in [the locker room] -- and I meant it sincerely -- they played harder and better than I coached. I apologized to them for that.
I looked out there a couple of times and [we] had four freshmen and somebody else out on the court. It was a fun experience for them, but you have got to congratulate [Illinois]. Brian Randle is not known to be an outside shooter. In their first five games he had taken one three and made it. The book on him was that he's not a great shooter, but he stepped up and made two big threes for them. Jamar [Smith] made two or three threes in the second half. I knew they shot a good percentage. [UNC SID] Steve [Kirschner] told me they made six of their first eight three's in the second half. It reminded me a little bit of the national championship game -- they made such a run and made a bunch of three's early.
We got some good defensive stops and got it to two points, and then we turned it over twice in a row and one of those is a play that I called. The kids haven't run it enough, so it was stupid of me to call the play, and we turned it over. The time before that David [Noel] turned it over trying to get it in to Reyshawn [Terry]. We go down and do some nice things and get a foul and get a missed free throw. We try to dribble it out of the crowd instead of picking it up. That is something else that freshmen tend to do more than seniors. Seniors just grab the ball and hold on to it. I haven't talked to them enough about that kind of thing. I just love how hard our kids played. It was a joy for me to watch that and the way they competed.
Coach Weber said the difference tonight was the experience that Brown and Augustine had - would you agree?
I think it was important to them. Coming out of the timeout -- I can't remember which timeout it was, it was their timeout I think -- the ball was out of bounds on the side. We'd used our last foul. They walk out on the floor and all the sudden Dee yelled at the teammates and called them together and said something else to them. I admire things like that, seeing kids being leaders. I think that was good. But I can't fault my club.
Needless to say, James and Dee didn't seem to be too carried away or too emotional out there. They were just business-like. They got their team into what they wanted to do. But it was a great effort on our kids. I enjoyed that. I don't enjoy losing, There's no question about that. And we're not going to make excuses. I screwed it up, and we'd like to have made a few more shots, but they really did play awfully hard. On the need for the team's enthusiasm -
I think so. I talked to them beforehand. I think it's a given that we've got to come out and play with such enthusiasm and such passion to have a chance in big games because of the experience factor. When I was at Kansas, we had Kirk [Hinrich], Nick [Collison] and Drew [Gooden] as freshmen, and they didn't all three start but they played a heck of a lot. There were like three games that year that we got blown away. It's something that you have to go through, but as long as we keep competing as hard as we are and get better -- we've got to execute better, we've got to get better defensively -- we're going to be okay. We're going to be okay.
On the crowd's support and impact -
I think the crowd was really fighting for us. It was a joint venture out there. Team effort by those in the stands and us, too. And I think they appreciate how hard the kids are trying. The experience factor Bruce talked about is huge, but we can't use that as an excuse - it doesn't do any good. We've still got to play on game nights. The crowd was into it, I loved their passion, too, and hopefully they'll bring that enthusiasm and passion every night because we need that as well.
If the late comeback gives this team confidence going into their first road game on Saturday -
We'll see. I do feel more confident about the toughness of our kids. It got a little ragged there and we started panicking and we tried to split the double team with the dribble twice and turned it over and all of a sudden the game was getting out of hand. But at the same time I was confident that as long as they do the things we asked them to do, we had a chance to come back and I think they understand that now - so I'm hoping that'll help them [Saturday], yes.