On what it would take to beat North Carolina -
I will tell you what North Carolina is very good at. They are a great transition team. They obviously play faster than anybody else in the country and we can't allow the game to get into a high-paced game. If it gets in the 80s, the game won't be close and obviously that's their goal. They are the second-best team in the country and all they do is put points on the board. We can't let it be a high-scoring affair.
On EKU's 1-3-1 defense and how it is effective -
I was very fortunate to be an assistant coach for John Beilein for eight years at Richmond and West Virginia. Obviously we had a lot of success with the 1-3-1 at both of those programs, so it is something we have carried over here. We have used it a lot this season. We haven't played it as much here late in the season as we did early, and we don't play it as much as West Virginia does, but the 1-3-1 is a big part of who we are and it has helped us at certain times this year.
What is EKU going to do control UNC's offense?
We are naturally a patient team. That is one thing our guys have done very well. We led our conference in field-goal percentage this year at 46 percent and a big reason for that is that our guys took the right shots and we had the right people taking those shots. Hopefully we can be as patient as we've been all year. The problem is getting North Carolina to cooperate with that idea. We will continue to be patient. We have valued the ball pretty well this year and we know that if we have any turnovers that lead to breakaway layups and dunks, those are the points that we won't be able to get back on our offensive end.
On the importance of playing well for the program's image -
We have represented EKU well all year, really well all year. Our guys have played together. They've had the right game face on consistently throughout this season. We hope to represent EKU the right way.
On Darnell Dialls' prior NCAA Tournament experience -
Darnell is one of our natural leaders and I haven't said anything specifically to him to encourage him to talk with his teammates or not. I'm sure he will get his point across. Quite honestly we're playing in the NCAA Tournament, we're playing the University of North Carolina, I think our guys will be inspired. There is no way you can't be in this type of venue, in this type of atmosphere and I'm sure our guys are looking forward to playing.
On the importance of taking the home crowd out early in the game -
I don't think there is going to be any way to take this crowd out of the game. No matter what the score is with 10 minutes left or at halftime or whenever, this crowd is going to be in the game. We're going to be tested early in this game. North Carolina is going to be aggressive early and they're going to try to give us a gut check. We've got to handle that. It's very important that we value the ball and make good decisions, especially at the offensive end.
On what attracted Neubauer to the EKU job -
The one thing that was made very clear to me when I interviewed at EKU was that the priorities were in order - that we could build a basketball program and recruit the right type of young men. I do think we've had success recruiting guys that are not only good basketball players, but very good student-athletes and students. That was made very clear to me. The priorities were in the right order and everything has proven to be true along those lines.
Did you notice a difference in Hansbrough when he wore the mask?
Even with the mask, he's one of the most physical and aggressive players in the country. I know that his points and rebounds per game were down in the ACC Tournament, but he is still one of the most relentless guys in the country. We aren't a big team, so we are really going to have trouble matching up with him inside. A big part of that is not his size, but just how fearless he is around the basket.
What helped EKU win 11 of its last 13 games?
We were 10-9 after a home loss to Tennessee State, who is a good team in our conference. I think our team did feel like we had our backs against the wall at that point. We did so many good things early in the year. We had four road wins before Christmas. We were 8-3 going into Christmas. We were within four points with four minutes left at Rupp Arena against Kentucky and we'd done so many good things, and then the bottom fell out. All of the sudden we were 2-6 in the middle stretch. I feel like our backs were against the wall there. At that point our guys really responded and came out and won three games by 37 points and went on a seven-game winning streak.
On EKU's confidence over its final 13 games -
I was really proud of how our guys did respond during that stretch. We won seven games and I think three of those games were on the road and we had several guys contribute. It wasn't just one or two guys, we had guys coming off the bench. Josh Taylor hit big shots for us throughout the season, including the shot that sent us to the NCAA Tournament. Jamaal Douglas stepped up at times and was huge. So the fact that it was a true team effort shows this group really is a team.
STUDENT-ATHLETES MICHAEL BROCK AND JULIAN MASCOLL
What does it mean for you to play a team like North Carolina in a setting like this?
Brock: They're a great team, so for me personally, it's an accomplishment being able to play at this kind of level. Mascoll: Everyone is excited to get to play a team like this in the first round. Roy Williams has historically great teams, at Kansas and now at UNC, you just don't get that chance every day.
What have been some of your impressions of the Tar Heels as you've begun to put together the scouting report and game plan?
Brock: They're a great transition team that is able to push the ball on every possession. They're just an all-around good team; they have great players at every position. Mascoll: I would say that every person on their team has an attribute that is hard to stop. Especially because they have players that do things that most players aren't capable of doing. Their transition is key for them. And Ty Lawson running the point is hard to stop, even next to him, so running full speed – it takes a team effort.
You aren't satisfied with just being here. You want to make a statement while you are here. Talk about that.
Brock: Yeah, we definitely want to make a statement. I mean, win or lose, we are going to play with everything that we have. We are going to play with a lot of emotion and a lot of passion out there. So, either way the game goes, people are going to know that we were here. Mascoll: For me and Brock, this possibly is our last game. So at least from our stand point, we have to stress to our teammates to leave it out on the floor. Spring break is basically over, so you might as well play your last game like you should.
What got you to this point? You won 11 of your last 13 games, a conference tournament? What did it for you?
Brock: Playing team ball. Playing with a lot of passion. Playing with heart. Mascoll: I would say believing in our system. I mean, our coach gave us a system that works around everyone, not just one player. So anyone can score. And if you watched our last game, a freshman hit our game-winning shot. So it can come from anywhere with our system. Was there an incident or anything that kind of keyed this last stretch of success?
Mascoll: I couldn't say. After the Youngstown State game, that was our first loss after our seven-game win streak, so I guess we realized that was out of conference and conference play is all about where you're seeded in the tournament. So we just looked at it as, it's better to have this loss now than in the conference tournament.
How do you avoid playing the jersey and the reputation tomorrow?
Brock: We're just going to go out and play like it's just another game because that's all it is. They're just a bigger team, a better team than what we are used to, but it's just another game for us. Mascoll: I think the history behind the program is a little intimidating, but then again you look at it as, they have everything to lose and we don't. We're obviously the 16 seed and that's never happened, so we're just playing like this is another away game and we're trying to steal wins on the road.
Talk about the pride you have in representing not only EKU but also the Ohio Valley Conference.
Yeah, takes a lot of pride in where you're from and who you are. For us, as seniors, we want to go out in the right way, so whatever we can do to help our team is good. Mascoll: You take it as a step to bring your underclassmen up to something they've never experienced. But you're trying to take your program up too. The OVC hasn't won an NCAA game in a while, so you're trying to take that next step for your league also.
You played at Ohio State and at Kentucky this year, how can you use those experiences to help you tomorrow?
Mascoll: Those are great experiences. Obviously Greg Oden didn't play when we played Ohio State, but they had Conley and Daequan Cook coming off the bench who are both phenomenal players. So playing those two, and Kentucky, which is another historical team, you just take that and the experiences down the road. And we might not have that caliber a team in the OVC, but nonetheless we do play good teams. You just take that experience and move it on to the games that you play in the conference championship and now in the first round of the NCAA.
Did either of you watch the UNC/Murray State game last year? And if so, did it make any sort of impression on you?
Brock: I did watch it. It just shows how hard our conference plays against larger competition. The Tar Heels are from a great conference, and the OVC isn't known for our strength in the conference. But we can go out and play with the best of teams. Mascoll: I also watched the game. And even though we are different teams, we still come from the same conference and we play them twice a year. You fight and you scratch when you're playing such a great team from the ACC, which is one of the best, if not the best, conference in the nation. But you just play you're A-game and hopefully they miss more buckets and we make more buckets.
How does the game go tomorrow if you win it?
Mascoll: I guess it's on to the second round or the third round. You try to take the emotions and put them in your pocket, but this is North Carolina. You have to look at it and if you get the win you are going to have to play somebody as good as or better than them. So you can't let emotions settle you down on this one win. You try to go as far as you can and ride the horse as far as possible. Brock: That would definitely be a big accomplishment for our team and our program. It would say a lot about us. And going on to the next game, you're going to have to take each game one at a time.