Sooners Talk Carolina Loss

Jeff Capel, Bake Griffin, and Taylor Griffin met with the media following Sunday's 72-60 heartbreaking loss to North Carolina in the Elite Eight in Memphis, Tenn.

Jeff Capel:

Opening Statements
"First of all, I want to congratulate North Carolina. They're a terrific basketball team, terrific program. They made plays today, and they beat us. I'm really, really proud of my team and for all that we've accomplished this year. I hate that we didn't shoot the ball well tonight or this afternoon. I thought the game would have been a lot more interesting if we could have made some shots, and I thought we had some really good looks. But that's the way basketball goes sometimes. Unfortunately, it happened today. Again, I can't say enough about the effort that our guys gave today and throughout the season. How hard they played. And just how together we were. And I think it especially showed in this tournament."

"We have a locker room full of guys that are hurt. And we fully believed that we were going to win this basketball game today. But this is how life is sometimes. It doesn't happen the way you want it, and every opportunity is a chance to learn. So that's the way it goes. I hate that our season had to end this way, especially for our seniors, especially for Taylor and Austin. I mean, those two kids, you know, they've endured so much during their time here at the University of Oklahoma. And for them to stick with us, stick with the program, and to stick with me, and for them to have the kind of success they had in their last year really means a lot to me. I know it means a lot to them. And hopefully it means a lot to the people at the University of Oklahoma, fans, everyone involved. I do ask one favor of all of you. I know it's probably a topic that you want to ask, but please do not ask Blake anything about the NBA. We'll get to that when we – at the appropriate time. You know, he's hurting right now. I'm sure that's the furthest thing from his mind. So thanks."

Have you ever been around a team where guard play was so inconsistent?
"Well, you know, it has been at times. We've been really good at times. And we didn't make shots today. You know, we did -- we had the tempo where we wanted it. To hold that team that's averaging 90-72. We had all of that where we wanted. The only thing we couldn't do was we could not make shots early in the game. I do think we were a little bit tight. Sometimes you can want something so much that it -- you know, you're trying so hard, and I think that's what happened to us early in the game. You know, Blake had a lay-up, and he missed it on a great drive. We had a couple of wide open shots that we just missed, and I think that and then Carolina executing and jumping out to a lead maybe knocked us back a little bit. But I was proud of our guys for continuing to fight. To start the second half, you know, we ended the half well. To start the second half, we just couldn't get stops. We got our offense going. We were scoring. We just could not get stops. And one of the things that Carolina's known for is being even more efficient in the second half, and they certainly were today. So, again, I liked the tempo that we had. I thought we did a good enough job defensively although in the second half they did shoot 62%. But it came down to our inability to make shots. Carolina had something to do that, but we got some good looks and just missed them."

What do you feel was the key to the game?
"Transition defense. Carolina is so good. They're the most explosive offensive team in the country. So we talked about transition defense. We've got to get back. We've got to get the ball under control, and we've got to fan out because they love to hit ahead. I thought we actually did a pretty good job with that. The other thing was trying to control tempo. We didn't want to get into a track meet with North Carolina. We wanted to try to control tempo, and I thought we did a good job of that. Again, we just couldn't do enough offensively. Defensively, we did enough to win. We just couldn't get it done offensively against them."

How do you get a stop against such a good offensive team?
"You know, that was all throughout the game, but we were especially trying to implore our guys to do that to start the second half. It felt like we finally got the ball to go into the basket towards the end of that first half. And I felt like, if we could come out and get a few stops and then execute, that would put a little bit of game pressure on North Carolina. I think they scored maybe their first four or five possessions. And each time out after that -- you know, when you're behind, it is tough to climb out of it, especially against such a great team like they are. And they're a great team. They're not a good team. They're a great team. And they're a great offensive team. They have so many weapons. And, again, it wasn't lack of effort. Our guys played. They competed. I just think, if we could have made a few more threes, some of those baskets maybe would have put a little bit more pressure on them and would have made things a little bit more interesting. But take nothing away from them. I don't mean that as any sign of disrespect. I have the ultimate respect for that program and wish them luck the rest of the way. They were terrific."

Can you sum up Blake Griffin's performances in the NCAA tourney?
"Well, he's done that all year. I mean, I think that he's solidified that he's the best player in the country. This is not a knock against anyone else. But I don't personally think it's close. And there's some terrific players this year. But with what he's done the last two weeks and throughout the season, you know, there's a question asked of him about being double-teamed as soon as he called it, and he's still 9 for 12, 23 points, and 16 rebounds against arguably the best team in the country with post depth, bringing McDonald's All-Americans in off the bench. He's really, really good, and he's done it all year long, and he's done it against really good competition all year long. It's been a joy to watch him develop this year. You know, it's especially rewarding because he put the time in last summer. And he's a great example for guys in our program, and hopefully that's something that they look at. Hopefully, that's something that they see. There will never be another Blake Griffin, but if you want to have a chance to maximize your potential as a player, then hopefully you watched his work ethic and saw what he did."

What was it like coaching a close knit OU team?
"Yeah, it's neat. This was a tight group. And we've been through a lot this year, just like every team does. Every year is a journey. And these guys have taken us on a wonderful ride this year. I mean, I couldn't be any prouder. You know, to my third year here at the University of Oklahoma, to get to an Elite Eight, to have an opportunity to play for a chance to go to the Final Four. To watch these young men grow, to watch Taylor and Austin from the time I got here and to see them now. To watch the development of Tony Crocker, you know, to watch the development of Blake Griffin, Willie Warren throughout the year. I mean, it's been -- I mean, that's the University of Oklahoma is a pretty special place. All of us are very fortunate to be a part of it."

What can Willie Warren learn from the experience in the NCAA tourney?
"You know, I thought our experience last year helped us, our experience last year in the tournament. We got embarrassed our last game against Louisville. I know that was a motivating factor. And it made our guys understand how hard we have to work. Hopefully, one of the things is that we don't take it for granted, especially Willie as a freshman. You don't take it for granted getting to this point. And hopefully it makes him want to work harder to improve his game. Hopefully, he can make some strides like Blake made from his freshman to sophomore year. You know, if Willie decides to come back, then we're going to look at him as being a leader for us, for our basketball team next year. So for all of our guys, this whole experience can help. You know, if we use it the right way and keep it in the proper perspective."

Is talking Blake in to staying an insurmountable task?
"It probably is, but we'll see. You know, that will be a decision that Blake will make for him, and it will be the same thing that happened last year. We'll sit down. We'll talk. And I'll get whatever information. I think it's easier this year to get that information. And he'll do what's best for him and his family. And we all will support him 1,000 percent."

Was it an opportunity lost to not make it to the Final 4 with Blake Griffin?
"I won't look at it as an opportunity lost. You know, we had a great season. You know, I'm crushed just like our guys are, that it's over, but we've won 30 games this year. We won 13 games in the conference. We've won the Preseason NIT championship. So it's not a season lost. This is foundation for what we're building. And obviously, Blake's been a huge piece of it. You know, hopefully we'll be able to continue to reap benefits for what he's meant to this program."

Can you really beat a team like UNC that shoots 63%?
"If you shoot 63 or if you shoot 62 and you make maybe a few more free throws. I mean, it's a challenge. It's a challenge guarding those guys. You know, they have pros at just about every position. And they're incredibly efficient. That's kind of been the trademark of North Carolina's program if you look throughout the history. From Coach Smith to Coach Guthridge, and now Coach Williams, they've always been incredibly efficient. And that's a testament to the coaches. But also it helps when you have great players, and they have great players, and they have great depth. And they use that. You know, if you look at their team, again, they have a hall of fame coach, and they have eight or nine McDonald's All-Americans. On their team. And, again, they bring pros off the bench. And they're a great offensive team, and they're a good defensive team, but they're a great, great offensive team. We did a good job defensively. Again, it's crazy to say that because they shot 62% in the second half, but to hold them to 51 field goal attempts is good. 72 points when they average 90 is good. We just had to score more points today. And we're a team that averages 80. And so, you know, again, their defense did a good job on us, and we missed some shots."

Blake Griffin:

Was OU ever in ryhtm?
"I think North Carolina came out, I mean, they executed the whole game. I felt like we were in rhythm at times, it was just hard to stay in rhythm. You could see at the end when we didn't give up, and we came back from 19 down or however many down. We didn't give up. We were in a rhythm. We were playing defense… So yes."

Was it hard to deal with the double team?
"I mean, they did a good job defensively. You know, Coach Capel talked to me at halftime about getting a piece of the paint when I posted up. I tried to do that in the second half, and it was a little bit easier. I mean, they did a good job, but it was something we've seen as a team all year."

How did you improve this season?
"How have I improved as a player? I mean, last year I made it a point to get in the gym and really work and just try to outwork everybody and work on my overall game. I think the area where I improved the most is just I hope it was trying to be a leader. You know, kind of setting an example for the rest of our guys. You know, I didn't do that as well at times as I would have liked to. But just the mental part of it. You know, I think that's the part that I got better at."

Were you pleased with the team's defensive performance?
"I mean, I'm not really sure. The thing that killed us was we couldn't get stops. I mean, we did play pretty good defense at times, but we just -- the thing that couldn't get us out of the hole was we couldn't get stops. I wouldn't say we're pleased defensively. I wouldn't say we did a bad job though."

Did the UNC 13-2 opening run make it too hard to claw back?
"It's hard. I mean, obviously, it puts you in a hole. I guess, it knocks you back on your heels a little bit so you kind of have to scramble to keep up. You know, I thought we did a good job of not just breaking down at that point and kind of keep fighting, so to speak. And get it within nine at half and then get it down to 12 when they were up big in the second half."

Did you try to go quicker to beat the double team?
"After I caught it a few times in the block and saw how they were doubling, how they were rotating, I tried to make my moves a little faster and pick my spots a little bit better."

Did UNC wear you down?
"No, I don't think so. That's something we faced as a team all year. Teams might not have as many guys like that, but it was -- I wouldn't say I felt worn down. They did do a good job defensively. I'm not saying they didn't."

Taylor Griffin:

Was it frustrating shots were not falling?
"You know, I think that it just came down to just missing good shot opportunities. The shot opportunities were there. You know, we were just doing what we've been doing all season. We've been pounding it inside. I let Blake do his thing. You know, get kick-outs from him when they're available. And we were getting good looks. It just wasn't falling."

Did this game feel different?
"I mean, I think the only thing different about it is that it was a game to go to the Final Four. I mean, you know, that's a pretty big game right there. I mean, that in and of itself. But, you know, if you want to call us not hitting shots is us coming out tight, maybe that's what it was. I feel good. I think I can speak for the rest of the team. We felt good. We felt like going into that game we were going to win that game. We had a chance to win that game. Just like coach said, shots weren't falling."

Was UNC impressive in person?
"You know, it's not hard to see how talented they are throughout the year. You know, I've always been impressed with them. You know, they're as good as advertised, I think. You know, I just wish that we would have had -- you know, I think the effort was there on our part. It was just a matter of shots falling. Besides that, you know, I think we were there. We were ready to compete with anyone at this point in the season."

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