CHARLOTTE --- Following Friday night's victory over Long Island in an NCAA Tournament second round game in Time Warner Cable Arena, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams and multiple players spoke to the media.
The Tar Heels (27-7) return to action Sunday afternoon against Washington, who knocked off Georgia following UNC's victory to advance to the round of 32.
HEAD COACH ROY WILLIAMS
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It's a W. We're one of 32 teams. Not 32 yet because there's still some games being played. We're pleased about that. We didn't play the greatest basketball game. We had some really good moments early in the seconds half. First minute of the second half was good enough. These two guys (Zeller and Henson) and Harrison are phenomenal scoring for us. We turned it over way too many times. Did some other things, but you got to credit Long Island for their intensity and how they kept coming back and coming back. We helped them by some of the silly turnovers and those kind of things. That's part of the game of basketball.
John carried us in the first half, Harrison at the end of the first half. Zeller carried us in the second half. Got to be everybody. Guys coming off the bench have got to do some good things as well. Last year we weren't even in the tournament. Glad John Henson got his first NCAA Tournament win tonight.
You said you were pleased with the win. Was this enough of a performance to eradicate any concerns of an extension from last weekend?
Coach (Dean) Smith I think is the best that's ever been. From the mental side of the game, the psychology of the game, I think he was better than anybody ever and he always said you had to build your momentum once you get in a tournament, and I believe that's true.
We made Final Four several times when we didn't play well at all and just squeaked by the first game. Made the Final Four a couple times when we played grade. In '09 the first game was fairly easy. The second game against LSU we were behind in the second half.
I think what you do is you have to put all those other things past you and be able to play today. That's what we try to focus on. You have to give Long Island credit. Z was saying they didn't go away. They kept coming back. They're pretty doggone good. You have to understand build on this win. Am I pleased about the win? You're darn right. Am I pleased about some of the turnovers? Not at all. Am I pleased about going three for 17 from 3-point line? Not at all. But we have to build on this to be ready to play better in the next game. And I think do it each and every single level I think always helps you.
Coach, what do you think made John and Tyler so effective inside tonight?
We had a size advantage in there that we talked about earlier. I think couple of their guys were in foul trouble. I think that helps. We moved the ball at times really well and they got really good shots. Couple of times we didn't move it as well, we settled for an outside shot, perhaps too early, but I think that we always try to focus on throwing the basketball inside.
I've done that ever since I started coaching. And I think if you throw it inside and those guys produce, then all of a sudden those outside shots get to be open. I have no problem taking 17 3s. I just like to make more of them so you have better balance. No, I think that we always focus on trying to get the basketball inside.
Coach, did you envision that it was going to be this kind of score, this kind of running that they were going to be able to run almost as much as you?
They averaged more points per game than we did. You have to understand that part. That's the way they like to play. You got to dance with who brung. I didn't think that they would change their style just because it's been successful for them. It's kind of game of basketball that you don't ever know until the game starts how it's going to play out, but I expected that it would be an up-and-down game because I knew we were going to try and run and they were going to try to continue doing their things.
Neither team, I don't have a stat sheet. We were 3 for 17. I don't think they were great from 3-point line. They've been a big point shooting team from 3-point line. They were 8 for 31. They've been really a good shooting team. What they try to do, in my opinion, they try to break you down and either get something with their big guys taking it to the basket or their shooters shooting 3-point shots. Three guys, zero, 24 and 23 are averaging 40 percent from 3-point line. That's pretty strong. Luckily for us they weren't able to do it tonight.
Coach, I wonder if could you talk a little bit about John Henson's free throw shooting and its improvement and what you noticed?
Well, even when John was struggling earlier, he was shooting them really well in practice. A lot of it had to be -- he said a little bit of the mental side and physical. We tried to get him to get a set routine and stay with that. I think, I could be pretty close since about at least halfway through the ACC season until this point, I think he's probably close to 60 percent because he really has improved.
John has shot a lot of free throws. He's worked at it. Earlier in the year, we had one stretch where he was shooting about 30 percent, but two straight weeks he shot 154 -- no, 158 out of 200 one week, and next in week shot a hundred, made 76 of those. It's a little bit of getting confidence. It has been better concentration, too. But I think he's worked at it.
Coach, were you looking to go to Tyler more in the second half? Did he did he get more aggressive? Twenty-five of his 32 were after halftime.
John had 20 of his 28 in the first half. He was the one who was more active himself when the ball was coming his direction. John got his third foul. We went small a little while with Justin Watson at the four spot. And again we always want to go inside, but Z was having a lot of success around the basket either scoring field goals or getting fouled and going to the free throw line.
One time Harrison was wide open cross from the bench, left side. He held it and passed it three more times and all of a sudden, Tyler gets a layup and gets fouled. Was a little bit better emphasis of us getting better shots, too.
Anybody else got one? I got a Coca-Cola cup back here if anybody needs a cup (Laughter).
Tyler was talking about if they got up 15 in the regular season, the team goes away. A team now doesn't. Are you content, are you happy with your team's effort once they got up that high or do you need more of a killer?
No. Guys, it is NCAA Tournament. Teams aren't going to go away. It's not just about your team. Am I pleased? No, said that earlier. But the fact of the matter is, Robbie, did you say 32 for Tyler Zeller, 32 minutes in NCAA Tournament? And somebody said Justin Watts had 18. We only have 50 minutes experience of ever being in an NCAA Tournament.
We played two freshmen, two sophomores, and a junior who hasn't played a full season. I have no idea what to expect sometimes. It's not like '09 where I knew we going the play our rear ends off. We had Tyler as a senior, Bobby as a senior, Danny as a senior, Wayne Ellington is a junior. Experience, talent is still the best way to go. I sometimes don't know what we're going to get. I can't tell this group when I leave the locker room if we're going the play well or poorly. What you have to do is just try to do the best you can and come back and learn from it.
The thing I was most disappointed today was our turnovers. I mean, we turned the ball over four times -- excuse me, five times, trying to pass the ball down the court and they make the steal. It's like a quarterback in football, you can't just throw it by seeing your guys. You got to see the defensive backs, too. You got to see the linebackers too. Every football coach in the world loves the quarterbacks who reads the defense. You got to do the same thing. To turn it over five times as you're trying to pass it down the court is not very good.
But no, I'm not pleased with the way we played. I'm pleased that we're still playing. This has been a bunch that's a lot of games played their tails off for us down the stretch.
John, your first taste of an NCAA Tournament game. How far into it did it seem like another basketball game?
JOHN HENSON: At the tip, you know, it's just another basketball game, but I think it was a little more tense, and, you know, I think both teams came in a little more tense because it could have been these teams' last game. That's how we played.
Tyler, we made a lot this week of the lack of this team's experience in the NCAA Tournament. In the second half when you're scoring all those points in a row, did those 32 minutes of experience you have kick in a little bit?
TYLER ZELLER: Little bit. We did a good job of taking advantage what they were giving us. We had mismatches inside. We kept throwing it inside, and I got lucky and made a few shots. It's one of those things that, I mean, we just took advantage of what we could.
Quick question about you had it going to well earlier but they came back and ended up tying the score. Was that a little bit of a wake-up call for you guys?
JOHN HENSON: I think it was. We made some crucial mistakes, a couple turnovers, some bad shots and not getting back. That's what happens when a team of that caliber in this tournament. Those are mistakes we can't make in the further rounds and try to fix that.
TYLER ZELLER: I think it's one of those things that, I mean, nobody has been -- well, nobody has played significant minutes in the tournament, so it's one of those things that you get up by 10 or 15 in a regular season game, they might just go away. It's their last game and they're going to keep coming back and you've got to be aware of that.
Just given their lack of size inside, did you have a feeling you would have opportunities to have a big game? What were the keys to doing that?
TYLER ZELLER: Yeah, we thought we could. Something that we have. We emphasized all week getting the ball inside, either throwing it into us or off the dribble. We did a great job of it over the course of the game. We had a few lapses in there, so we just got to be able to remain focused for 40 minutes.
JOHN HENSON: Along the same lines. You got to be focused. He answered what I was going to say.
John, can you describe the highs and lows of going and you're dunking and then the lows of being on your back?
JOHN HENSON: Well, when I dunked the first one, my fingers were slipping and I could just feel it kind of coming down and, you know, fortunate that I caught my ground because it could have been a little bad.
It was just -- comes with it. When you dunk, you know, you might fall on the ground, get elbowed a couple times. I'll be all right.
After the ACC Tournament, after the slow starts and letting them back in today, are you guys making -- is it mental mistakes or is it physical and experience mistakes?
TYLER ZELLER: I think a little of both. I think we get up by 10 or 15, we have a little lapse and let them back into it. But, again, I go back to the NCAA Tournament. Regular season you get up by 10, 15, they go away. NCAA Tournament they're going to come back even harder.
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: You have to give some credit to the other team. It's not just us playing out there. The other team does some things.
John, you didn't get off to the greatest start this season shooting free throws. Seems down the stretch you've really improved. What have you done over the last few weeks to see that percentage go up in practice, and have you changed anything in the way you're shooting it?
JOHN HENSON: I can't really you what it is, but something is just clicking, and, you know, I finally got a routine down, and, you know, things to do that help me hit them. You know, now it's just a matter of maintaining and shooting even more so, you know, I'll get it back like it was.
Just to follow-up, was it more of a mental block or just something that -- with the routine that's just helped you out as far as your form?
JOHN HENSON: I think it was a little bit of both. I got a few tricks I use to kind of focus and just, focus on the shot and seems to be working.
On the lack of North Carolina's NCAA tournament experience…..
TYLER ZELLER: I think we just did a good job of taking advantage of what they were giving us. We had mismatches inside and we took advantage of what we could.
On the team's slow starts in recent games……
TYLER ZELLER: I think we get up by 10 or 15 and then let them back in. I go back to being in the NCAA tournament, they are going to keep coming back hard.
On playing in his NCAA tournament game…..
JOHN HENSON: At the tip it was just like another basketball game but a little more intense. It could have been both teams' last game so that's how we played.
On whether he was happy with getting the win despite it being closer than some thought….
You're happy that you won the game and you get to move on, but defensively we're not happy with our game. We allowed them to have way too many easy baskets.
What did Coach Williams tell the team before and after the game?
Before the game he told us that we couldn't go out there and just out score them, and I guess he used reverse psychology on that. In the next games we are going to have to step up our defense if we want to continue.
On looking ahead to Sunday's game against Washington…..
I think getting this game out of the way will calm down our nerves. We'll practice tomorrow and our focus is on Sunday afternoon, so whether it is Washington or Georgia, we'll get the game plan and be ready.