NEWARK--- UNC veteran big men Tyler Zeller and John Henson spoke to reporters prior to Friday's Sweet Sixteen matchup with Marquette.
Zeller and Henson are looking to lead North Carolina back to the Elite Eight after snapping a year ago a three-year streak (2007-2009) of going at least that far in the NCAA Tournament.
Tyler, I hear that the flight last night was delayed and you guys had to spend about three hours just waiting to take off. How bad a night was that for you guys to get in late?
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TYLER ZELLER: It wasn't too bad. We usually have a meal or a meeting at 11:00 and we ended up, I think, meeting about 11:45. So I mean we just -- we got in late, but we didn't have the free time last night. But the plane was very nice. We had screens that you can watch movies, TV, played games. So we had fun with it. Obviously we would have rather not be there, but it was at least a nice plane that was enjoyable to be on.
Tyler, can you just talk about the last three years going from national champions to the NIT and now back here on the right side of the river so to speak. Just talk about that journey a little bit.
TYLER ZELLER: My freshman year was a great year. I didn't do a whole lot, I was injured most of the year. But to be able to be part of the ride was an amazing ride. And the team was a great team. Last year was very difficult. I mean we had a mediocre start and then AP preseason came around and we kind of plummeted and then we put ourselves in the NIT, made a little bit of a run and just couldn't pull off the last game.
And then this year, we started off 4-3 and then 6-4. And then, I think, I don't remember when we had the meeting, but we had a meeting and I think everybody just started -- I mean, we all started, our team chemistry got better. We all pulled together. And then I think throughout the whole season we've done a great job of just supporting each other and being confident in what everybody can do.
For either player or both: Marquette is known to have a team that's full of junior college transfers, guys who are initially overlooked maybe and your team, your players have been very much recruited when you guys were in high school. Does that give either side the advantage? The guys that might be the forgotten guys, or the guys that had success and now are looking to further that success?
TYLER ZELLER: I guess we will see tomorrow night. I mean there has been a lot of things that have been said, so I think they're a great team and we're going to have to be able to play a great game against them. But we're going to have to just play tomorrow and see which side has the advantage.
JOHN HENSON: I mean, at the end of the day two high-level college basketball teams. And whatever route they took, they are here now and we just have to be able to play and see if we can win.
John, your team got pushed pretty hard in the first, your first two games of the regional. Was it better that you had that coming into this part of the regional? Do you think it helped sharpen your play for what's ahead?
JOHN HENSON: I think it did, you know. You never want to be in a dogfight, but that's where we were. Especially the second game. And we pulled through. You know, I think we can expect more of the same with Marquette tomorrow, and we will be ready for it.
TYLER ZELLER: Yeah, I agree. I think especially with everybody said we had a lot of inexperience. And I think that showed us how focused you have to be in the Tournament. How important every play is just because you get up by 10 or 15 and then the other team makes a run at you and makes it very difficult.
And you have to make sure that you stay focused all 40 minutes rather than having a lapse here or there.