Postgame: UNC-Wilmington on loss to UVA in 2017 NCAA Tournament
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you for joining us. We’d like to ask you to make an opening statement.
KEVIN KEATTS: First, I’d like to congratulate University of Virginia for winning a hard-fought game. I thought it was a well-played basketball game. When you look at the first half, I thought it was an even half. I thought we did a great job in the first ten minutes of the half, and then Virginia did a great job closing the half off. I thought we had everything the way we wanted to. Obviously, when you talk about tempo, we wanted those guys to play a little faster than they normally do, and I thought we did.
I think the difference in the game is they made a couple plays towards the end, and we missed a few chippies. Certainly, obviously, you get the result.
But my team, I’m so proud of these guys. When you think about what we’ve accomplished this year, winning 29 games, winning the regular season, winning our tournament championship, and certainly playing well enough to win the game. Though we’re disappointed, when we walk out of here, we’re going to walk out of here with our heads high because the effort these guys have given me all year has been unbelievable.
THE MODERATOR: If you have a question, please raise your hand.
Q. Kevin, just for your team to let them back in in the first half but then to stay in the second half a lot longer than that Duke game went last year, how much progress do you see in these two openers the last two years and what you showed down the stretch today?
KEVIN KEATTS: I don’t think either game has to do with one another. Obviously, basketball is game of runs, and I thought we made a great run early in the first half, and I thought they did a great job answering the game. Our guys expected to win the game. They played well in the second half, so did we. I think you take a couple free throws out of it, take a couple chippy plays — Perrantes goes up, and we’ve got a good stop going on, and he scoops it up and makes the layup. I think two or three of those freaky plays, and we might be in another situation.
Q. Did you have a specific game plan to counter the Virginia defense? And do you feel you did a good job of speeding them up and making them play your tempo?
KEVIN KEATTS: Well, I did. When you think about Virginia — and I watched every single ACC game. Only 20 teams were able to score — most teams scored under 60 points. They held 20 teams to 60 and under. I thought we did a great job. I thought we made those guys adjust to us. Obviously, they had to go small. But you don’t shoot 41 percent against a Virginia defense.
I thought we did well. I thought our offensive game plan was great. I thought these guys made some shots. It was a great college basketball game, that I thought Virginia made a few more plays than us.
Q. Chris, you had some major sequences down the stretch last five, six minutes during the game, where you kind of took over on offense and defense. What was your mindset as you guys tried to close the gap with you just taking the brunt of the offense?
CHRIS FLEMMINGS: Just continuing to play hard, stay aggressive, and attack, and giving us a chance to win.
Q. Virginia, obviously, they went to five guards at some point in the game. When they did that, did you sort of feel like you guys had them where you wanted?
KEVIN KEATTS: Well, I did, and I felt — even though they were scoring against us, I knew tempo was what we were looking for. Obviously, when you play against a Virginia defensive team — Tony Bennett does a tremendous job — you’ve got to make them play a little fast. We had everything that we wanted in the game today tempo-wise because they even took some quick shots that they normally don’t take.
So I thought when they went small, even though they made some shots, it played into our favor a little bit.
Q. Coach, with C.J. struggling, was there anything that was keeping him off his game? How nice was it to see Ambrose step up with C.J. not having his normal game?
KEVIN KEATTS: I thought Ambrose was great. If you look at it, he was 5-for-5, 4-for-4 from three. C.J. had a tough game. Sometimes that happens. Give these other guys credit. I thought they stepped up in his absence.
You know, once again, what a great game. Very disappointed that we didn’t win the game, but got to be happy with these guys. I mean, you talk about these two seniors here, they came to the program when it wasn’t popular, when I first took the job, and we hadn’t won anything. Having to sit out a year — I told them on the way over here, walking over here, I’m so proud of them. I love them because they’ve single handedly helped turn this program around, and we’re a championship program now.
Q. Coach, you guys won the rebounding battle 40-33 against an ACC school. How happy are you with your team’s effort on the glass?
KEVIN KEATTS: I thought our effort’s been great. You know, just tonight, you look at it — obviously, we look at the 40 rebounds, but I’m more impressed, I thought we got 14 offensive out of those.
These guys have played so hard the entire year for me. You think about it. I know I keep saying this, you don’t accidentally win 29 games. On any given night, I feel like these guys will give us a chance to win the game.
I was happy. I thought our effort — I thought we played as hard as we could play.
Q. Question for Denzel: You guys came out, and I think you and Ambrose hit eight of your nine first threes. Just speak to the confidence you guys had to shoot against this defense the way you did.
DENZEL INGRAM: We just wanted to step up and hit shots. Came out with energy. It’s a big game. Just got to lock in and be ready to play.
Q. Denzel, you spent a lot of the night matched up with Perrantes. What was it like going up against him? I know you guys rotated off him a little bit. What was it like going up against him and battling a guy who was having that kind of a night?
DENZEL INGRAM: It was a good game. It was fun. We made some plays, and we tried to make plays and get stops, and that was it.
Q. Question for Coach: First of all, congratulations on a great season to you and your guys. A lot of talk about them going to five guards, and you have a guy like Marial Shayok who ends up putting up a career high in points. When a guy like that has a game like that against you, does it make it even tougher to beat the team as a whole?
KEVIN KEATTS: Yeah, I thought he was great. When you look at him and look at the score, I thought we did a great job on Guy. I thought Shayok, if you look at it, he made some shots, made some threes, and he was able to drive us a little bit. I thought he was great.
That being said, I thought it was still the way we wanted it to be. We were able to take all of their big guys out of the game, and that’s why we rebounded the ball so well. But I think they made some perimeter shots that kind of hurt us.
Q. This is for Denzel: I know you only had one turnover today, but that one turnover with 15 seconds left, was that a situation where you’re trying to do too much and you turned the ball over? Is that just how Virginia was playing that possession?
DENZEL INGRAM: It was just miscommunication. I thought he was going to get out quicker, and that’s just what it was.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Keatts, Chris and Denzel, congratulations on a wonderful season. Good luck to you.