UNC-Rutgers: Matt Doherty

CHAPEL HILL, NC--UNC head basketball coach Matt Doherty spoke to the media after his Tar Heels' 71-67 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the second round of the Preseason NIT.

Opening Remarks:

We're fortunate to win. It could easily have been a loss. That's a credit to Coach Waters and his team. That's one of the scrappiest teams we've played against. They play great defense. They're tough. They are a veteran team. I'm so proud of my young team and the poise they showed when they could have easily folded. They are fighters and hung in there, hung in there, hung in there, and made plays--in spite of ourselves at times. It's nice to gut out a win.

I told them at one point that Carolina's known for comebacks. I said that this might not rate as one of the best comebacks ever in Carolina history, but it's the best comeback for this team. I'm proud of them the way they came back. It's nice to win [while playing] poorly. That's a credit to Rutgers and their defense. But we didn't execute--we turned the ball over, made some poor decisions. To stay after it and gut it out makes me proud.

What about Rashad's play down the stretch?

I got on him. I took him out in the first half because he took a terrible shot and didn't box out. When I took him out he didn't sulk or pout. He kept his head in the game. I knew we needed him to have a chance to win this game, and he went in there and made some big plays, as did Jawad. Jawad had six offensive rebounds, [13] points, something like nine in the second half. Sean May, double-double, two in a row. Raymond Felton had five turnovers in the first half and only had two in the second half. Jackie Manuel's basket at the end. They all contributed. It's a happy locker room.

Where they working on May during timeout's?

Yeah, his calf was cramping up.

How important was it to win this game to get to go to New York?

Now that we have the opportunity to do that, it's great. I know some people were making a big deal out of it, that we have to get to New York. Dick Vitale was saying that a lot tonight. I love Dick, but if we don't get to New York, our season's not over. We have a tough bracket. We played a Big 10 school and have to play Rutgers. When brackets came out, I said "Geesh, no one is doing us any favors. I'm going to have to make a call up to Jack Powers up in New York."

The biggest focus for us, right now, is Old Dominion. At that point, we'll know who our next opponent is, and it's going to require our guys to be mature beyond their years and not look past Old Dominion. I don't think we will. Old Dominion is opening up their building, they have a great coach, and two of their players are from North Carolina, so I know they will be fired up to play us.

This team scores well in the running game. What does it mean to win in a half-court slug-it-out battle?

I feel proud that we gutted out a tough win. I think that shows the character of this team. It was not a pretty game, and I knew it wouldn't be pretty because Rutgers didn't press us. I wish they had pressed more. I think it would have opened up the court to us. I think they pressed a couple of times. One time Raymond went through it, and we got a lay-up. I think they respected us a little bit. As a result, it was a half-court grind-it-out. They were physical, they get into you, and we weren't sharp executing our stuff. It was good that we were tested like that and showed that we could beat an opponent, playing in the 60's or low 70's.

When you got the ball back with 20 seconds to go, and it was tied, were you surprised that they went right for the win, or did you want to hold it for the last shot?

I've been in that situation before, with a more experienced team, and you just want them to go. I want them to understand when there's a tie score, we just want a great shot. I'll take a lay up any time, but I don't want a bad shot. We want the last shot of the game. I'll take a lay up. I was looking to call time out there at one point. I wanted to get the look in their eyes [to see] if they are confident. If a guy is dribbling the ball up the court and looking at me, I'm going to call time out. Raymond had his head down, looked like he knew where he was going, Jackie was wide open. Raymond found him, and Jackie made a great play.

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