Following North Carolina's 85-83 loss to Iowa State Sunday evening in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in San Antonio's AT&T Center, UNC head coach Roy Williams and Tar Heel players James Michael McAdoo and Leslie McDonald, among others, spoke with reporters.
UNC's season ended at 24-10 after the Tar Heels allowed Iowa State to go on a 17-7 run over the final four minutes, overcoming a late 76-68 Tar Heel lead to win dramatically in the final seconds, 85-83.
COACH WILLIAMS: It was a heck of a basketball game. If you didn't care who won the game, you had to be entertained. You had to feel good about college athletics because it was two teams going very, very hard at each other. They made some plays down the stretch that they needed to make and we didn't quite make the ones that we needed to make.
I told the guys in the locker room and I believe this from the bottom of my soul that Fred is a great guy. I love Fred Hoiberg and his team. They're a fun team to watch. I've watched them this year, and Fred is one of my favorite people. Probably the most favorite guy I ever played against when I was a coach and he was a player. In and his locker room is really happy. My locker room is really sad. But I wouldn't trade my kids for anybody. I've truly been lucky to coach a great group of kids that took care of me all year long.
Guys, how difficult is it to lose that way where you think you might get a chance for a shot and then they take it away and say there is no time left?
JAMES MICHAEL McADOO: It's, I guess, heartbreaking to be there and have the opportunity late in the game despite all that we went through for 40 minutes. For Kane to hit that shot, it's tough. But no one play really defines a game. For 40 minutes we battled and we just came up on the losing end.
LESLIE McDONALD: Like James Michael said, it's hard. Kane hit an unbelievable shot, and when you think you have an opportunity at the end and realize the time went out and you don't have the opportunity, it's tough. You're hoping that you're going to have that opportunity but you don't. It hit us hard.
COACH WILLIAMS: One thing I would like to say is we're not laying this on the officials. I mean, we made some mistakes. We practice all the time that situation for five guys to be calling timeout, and I'm supposed to be calling timeout, and I was calling timeout. Referees didn't recognize it. We practice those scenarios, so we made mistakes.
Let's not anybody lay it on the officials or anything like that. We didn't call the timeout with 1.6 seconds to play. The referee said that the clock operator started the clock late and they didn't recognize my calling the timeout, and then when they did recognize calling the timeout and went to the monitor, they realize the clock operator had started the clock late so there should not have been any time left when they did make the observation that we were calling timeout. So let's not lay this on the officials, and that's what my kids are saying. It's very difficult, but nobody's blaming the officials.
For James Michael, you guys, I think, scored 12 points in the paint in the first half and had 28 after halftime. Just curious what was the conversation at halftime about forcing the ball down into the paint?
JAMES MICHAEL McADOO: Yeah, obviously just wanted to get in there more and get paint touches, not necessarily having to score from the paint, but just working inside out. I think that's something we were able to do somewhat successfully in the second half, myself, Kennedy, but also Marcus, J.P., Leslie getting in there on the drive. That was something that we were really wanting to work on and just trying to be patient on offense.
James, how does a game like this kind of motivate you going into next season, losing an emotional game like this?
JAMES MICHAEL McADOO: Yeah, first, you're just thankful to have the opportunity to have made it this far. A lot of teams didn't have the chance to come in here and play on the magnitude of this stage. But the biggest thing is just taking this emotion, but also just remembering this feeling. When you're in the locker room and you take a loss like that with your brothers, guys that I'm going to call brothers for the rest of my life. There is no off‑season in NorthCarolina basketball. We're going to remember this. Next year we won't be in the same situation.
James, you hit two more clutch free throws there at the end, just like the free throws the other night. What is going through your mind in that last sequence where you go from making two huge free throws to they score and then the clock situation at the end?
JAMES MICHAEL McADOO: Well, the free‑throws just wanted to step up and knock them down no matter what. Having shot the ball great from the free‑throw line, but at the end of the day the game was on the line. I knew my teammates had my back, and the coaching staff had trust in me.
But then a quick turnaround with them getting the ball in bounds and we kind of had a time to set up our defense. We set up Jackson in, and we knew what they wanted to do, ball screen with Kane and Ejim. You know, I think we played it pretty well, he just hit a really tough shot.
Q. Coach, the reasoning behind switching Simmons in for Meeks on the last defensive possession?
COACH WILLIAMS: It's pretty clear. You look at their lineup, they didn't have any big guys in the game. So Jackson's very sound fundamentally, defensively. They didn't have a post player in, so then you've got Kennedy trying to guard somebody out on the floor so it was pretty simple.
Coach, obviously, after an emotional loss like this you're probably not looking too forward toward next season. Talk about things you can build upon from a season like this? Obviously, it didn't go the way you'd like it to go. But talk about some of the things that you can look toward next year?
COACH WILLIAMS: I said it a little bit earlier, I loved my team. We had some adversity. We had some trouble. We had some turmoil. We had all this stuff. Every day when I went to practice I felt like I was released. It was so much fun. Even when I got mad at them, it was mad at their actions, it wasn't mad at them. I don't believe I left the building this year one time, two times anything like that mad.
Disappointed in some actions or something, but never mad. They were really a great group to coach.
I've got two grandsons, 4 years old, almost 2 years old. Everybody in my locker room I would put in charge of my grandsons and say I'll be back in a couple hours. They're what student‑athletes should be, and I'm proud of that. Building on that and learning from these experiences is what life is about. You got to handle some adversity and understand that it's not always a sweet ride. My team is going to face that.
They're hurting in that locker room. They're really hurting. I told them to use this feeling as fuel to motivate themselves to do even better. I'll share one thing with you.
A lot of things I keep in the locker room because it's none of your business, okay. But I told them in 2009 we get to the facility for the semifinals in the Final Four, and Bobby Frasor stood up and said, you remember what we felt like last year in 2008 when we left the locker room because we didn't come out ready to play in the first of the game, and I think that drove us. I told them that in the locker room.
Bobby and those guys remembered that all year long. Tyler Hansbrough came back to school in 2009 because he didn't like that feeling. He wanted to try to win a National Championship. So I told them, use that as fuel to motivate them. But guys, you got James Michael McAdoo, Marcus Paige. Roy Williams is really lucky.
Coach, did anything Iowa State do without Niang surprise you tonight?
COACH WILLIAMS: You know, Coach Smith used to always say hated to play somebody when they lost one of their very important players the first game because everybody's going to be so emotionally into it, and I think they were. We wanted to be emotionally into it also. But they're really a good team. I mean, they really are. They're a 3 seed. You look at their RPI, their RPI was 7. They had a better RPI than Virginia who won our league. Virginia was 8th in one of the RPIs. So I knew that they'd come out and really play.
I went down and talked to (Georges) Niang before the game. I saw him sitting on the bench because it reminded me of what happened to us in 2012 I guess it was. For us, losing John Henson and getting him back, but never being able to be what he was. Then losing Kendall Marshall completely, I thought we had a chance to win the National Championship that year.
So I told him good luck, and I was so sad for him. I really was. But you've got to congratulate (DeAndre) Kane and (Melvin) Ejim and those guys. They played their tails off. I was trying to look at Naz Long, a guy that came in off the bench and made a huge three for us when we go up three, and six seconds later, they tie it up. So you've just got to congratulate them. They pulled together and Fred did a great job.
Coach, what kind of an impact did losing Brice Johnson have on the game, on your team? Did it change the way you did anything?
COACH WILLIAMS: They lost a great player too. For us it's hard to lose. As coaches, it's hard to lose a guy within the game because then you have to make changes on the fly. Even if it's just 24 hours, you can talk to some kids and that's the difficult thing for us. We tried to play Isaiah Hicks out of position. Brice gives us a big‑time plus coming off the bench. He's an inside scorer averaging double figures, playing less than 20 minutes a game.
So it was a big loss for us, but the biggest place probably was trying to play some other guys who wouldn't have had that time and the offense that we lost without Brice being in there. To be honest with you, Brice is not a great defensive player by any means, but boy, protects a lot of things around the rim and blocks a lot of shots around the rim. We didn't have that possibility out there today.
Coach, I believe Iowa State made 7 of their last 8 shots, 17 points after the final media timeout. Was it a matter of those guys making plays? Were there defensive break downs there or was it a combination of those two?
COACH WILLIAMS: I'm sure it was a combination of those two. You've got to congratulate them in opening the gym with nobody standing there you don't make threes all the time. We're up 8, and Marcus took a shot probably a little earlier on the shot clock than we wanted, and they make a three.
Then James Michael comes down. They call an offensive foul and they make a three. And all of a sudden, it's a two‑point game. Then we get it back and it's a tie game. And Leslie makes the three for us, and six seconds later they make a three themselves. We needed to do a better job of getting back in defensive transition, there is no question.
But still you've got to congratulate them on making plays. Yeah, it would have been nice to get some points, three straight possessions when we didn't get points. Because after Marcus missed the jumpshot and James Michael got the offensive foul called, Kenny got the offensive rebound and missed the lay‑up. So it was a little bit of both.
We didn't capitalize when we had the ball, and I think I'm right on those three possessions. So it was a combination of we didn't take advantage of some opportunities we had and they made big plays.