LEXINGTON, Ky.--- North Carolina just missed a victory over the nation's No. 1 team on its home court Saturday afternoon, but the fifth-ranked Tar Heels dropped a one-point decision to Kentucky, 73-72.
After the game, UNC head coach Roy Williams and several Tar Heel players, including Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, and John Henson, spoke to reporters. Read what they had to say below.
I think that, for us, it was a very disappointing last couple of seconds to say the least. It was a big-time college basketball game. There were some very talented and gifted youngsters out there really playing hard. I thought two or three occasions during the game both our teams were spent physically. It was such a crazy game.
It's a one-point game and we have a chance to win. We miss a dunk in the second half and a dunk at the buzzer at the end of the first half. It would have been nice if those would have gone in but they missed some plays just like we did.
I was really proud of my team. We were down four or five and Harrison (Barnes) made a 'three' on an out of bounds play. Reggie (Bullock) made a big 'three' in the corner and John (Henson) made two big free throws that got us right back and gave us a chance to win the game.
At the end, you just have to congratulate (Anthony)Davis, who blocked that shot. It was a big-time play on their part. They had the ball with 48 seconds (left in the game), so we knew they were going to take a shot. We hoped to defend it and have one shot, down one (point) as it was, and instead we fouled. It was the right call. We did foul, but they missed the free throws, so they still gave us a shot to win at the end.
The second half was the story of (Doron) Lamb, (Darius) Miller, and (Michael Kidd) Gilchrist, I think they were really focused for them in the second half and I thought all three of those kids hurt us. Darius inside, Gilchrist taking the ball to the basket and rebounding it, Lamb made two big shots back-to-back.
They (Kentucky) are a very good basketball team. We think we are very good as well. We didn't play nearly this well last Saturday night. UNLV had a lot to do with it. But I cannot fault my team's effort tonight. We had a silly turnover on an inbounds play down on the end which can't happen in big-time games. Again for us, those guys that made big-time plays down the stretch I was really pleased with them, but we have to play better.
Early in the second half, the first three or four possessions we didn't get what we wanted and we gave them lay-ups. At the 12-minute (TV) timeout I told them who was doing the scoring for them, and it was (Marquis) Teague and Gilchrist, and the guys taking the ball to the basket, so our defense had to get stronger. You look at the stat sheet and Kentucky shot 56 percent in the second half, but they were a little more patient with it than we were. That's a reason they were able to come from behind and get the win.
On what Kentucky was trying to do on offense......
They have the ability to score at every position. John (Calipari) has a better answer to this than me, obviously, but I think they are trying to get one of their good players an advantage and then be a basketball player (and make a play). The lateral screen underneath is tough to handle. The 'flat' screen out front, I thought we did a nice job with that.
We were pretty good defensively. They made some big-time shots and it's hard for a coach to say we were good defensively when they shot 56 percent in the second half, but they're willing to run some clock also. It's not just 'throw up the first bad shot,' so for me, I'd like it a lot better if John would let them take bad shots, but I don't think they did that today, so I think what he was doing offensively is what they work on every day. If they take some bad shots it usually helps us, and I didn't see many.
On the possibility of the Kentucky-UNC series continuing in the future......
I've been asked this question a lot, and I'm sure Cal has been asked it a thousand times more than I have. I love these kind of series, but everyone has to understand the landscape of college basketball is changing. We're sitting here at 16 conference games and maybe the next year we'll be at 19. Who knows?
I love games like this, but North Carolina and Kentucky didn't play for about eight or nine or ten years. I wasn't at North Carolina at that time, but both schools survived. Am I interested in continuing to play Kentucky? Yes. Am I interested in making a concrete statement up here? No.
John and I should have an opportunity to talk about that and see what else we have on the schedule and I think that's what John has been eluding to this week. I think he has more questions about it than I do. Regardless of what the Kentucky fans say about who they'd like to get rid of, we have a say in this thing, too. It's a two-way street kind of thing.
On what he was looking for on the last play of the game......
We ran a screen at the top of the key and then we tried to post Tyler (Zeller) up, and then we had a screen coming for a jump shot behind that, and we had Kendall (Marshall)'s penetration, so we had three good options.
We threw it into 'Z' and it looked like a good decision, but we'll look at the tape and see if it was as good as I thought it was, and I think Kentucky got a hand on the ball and it deflected up. Luckily for us, it went to John. I've always said if the score is tied or it's a one-point game, then you are better off taking it to the basket, but not many people can block a jump shot from John Henson. It takes at least 10 or 12 feet.
Before the game if you'd say, 'One of your guys is going to have a 10 or 12-footer at the end to win the game,' most people who come into Rupp Arena would probably take that. They've won 38 in a row (in Lexington) because---I don't know if Kentucky Wildcat fans believe in leprechauns, but something got down there and got Mr. Davis to jump up there and make a big-time play.
On whether UK is tougher this year versus last year......
It's kind of hard to compare. Last year they were a different team from the first time that we played them to the last time. The second time, I think the other team was better. We'll see and compare them later (in the season) to see where they are.
On whether he thinks his team can forget about this game and just look towards the next one.......
Not at all. This is a very good team. This would have been a very big road win for us. The fact that we couldn't execute down the stretch is kind of alarming.
On what happened during the stretch in the second half where UNC struggled......
We hung in, but we took some tough fade-aways. I took some shots that were a little difficult for myself, and I know some of my teammates did too. We just have to work on getting better shots.
On what UNC needs to work on if they face UK again this season......
Boxing out and rebounding. That's what it came down to. You could see that both teams are good at moving the ball and getting good shots, but at the end of the day, second opportunities made the difference.
On the difficulty taking shots with so much length on Kentucky's side......
The only difficult part was if you didn't have the right position. Length wasn't a huge problem for us. We shot well from outside, so I don't think it was a huge problem for us.
On what he learned from this game......
I think we've got to be able to play for 40 minutes. We had a couple of lapses throughout the game, and the younger guys are getting better at it, too.
Did they (Kentucky) do a good job of not letting you go up with the ball straight up?
They did a great job of getting there, almost before I got the ball. So it was tough. Normally you have half a second to a second to see it (the defenders) coming, so they did a great job of getting there very early and getting me in tight traps.
On the game against Kentucky......
Games like this get you ready for March, and that's all that matters right now.
On Anthony Davis blocking his shot to end the game......
It's funny because I do the same thing to other guys, and he did it to me for the game. It was a great play by a great player. (Davis) was guarding (Zeller) too, which means he came from the other side of the lane. It was a great play by him.
On battling with Kentucky standout Terrence Jones throughout the game......
(Kentucky) kind of went away from him in the second half. But credit to him, he was playing within his team. He was trying to help his team win, and that's what he did. That's what you have to do sometimes when you're a great player like he (Jones) is.