“The best thing to say is happy birthday to Jackson… I’m going to tell him every day is his frickin’ birthday, so it was something that was good for us. We feel as fortunate as we can possibly be. In the second half I just didn’t think we could stop their 3-point shots from going in. They also made some 3-point plays the old conventional style. Our guys fought like crazy. I think the backboards were huge for us. The total 41-19 is pretty and everything, but we had 19 second-chance points to their 11. But they are so good defensively, it was a struggle for us every possession. P.J. [Hairston’s] big basket across from our bench that they took the time to decide if it was a two or a three was huge for us.
"And then we had the ball with a 3-point lead and Jackson turns it over. I think it was Terrance Shannon that took it away from him and I think Jackson and Marcus [Paige] hustled their tails off and got back and we came up with the basketball again. We hadn’t finished the second half the last couple of games very well and today I thought we did make plays. Marcus, I thought, hit some big free throws. It was a 3-point game and we had been struggling a little bit and he steps up there and makes both free throws to give us a 5-point lead. You just look down the line and there’s a lot of guys that were heavily involved in a lot of good things for our team.”
You held them scoreless over the last four minutes. What went into that execution?
“People have done that recently to us, too, so I know how it feels. We went small there a little while and Jackson was doing such a good job when James Michael got his fourth foul, that I decided to take him out. That’s probably the smallest lineup I’ve ever had in a game. I put P.J. on one of the post players, Okaro [White], who is so hard to guard anyway, but that did enable us to switch more.
"We go zone one possession, first possession of the year, and we play it terribly and give up a layup and foul him. I went zone to see if we could stop the three and we did stop the 3-point shot, but we still gave them three points out of it. I think our kids needed this, to say the least. We’ve been struggling. The pressure has been on. The stress of being at North Carolina and starting out 0-2 on a young team is incredibly tough to handle, much less a veteran team. And this is not a veteran team.”
It seemed as though the team was more aggressive as a whole in attacking the rim. Was that more of what you’re looking for?
“Well, the whole time we’ve talked about being aggressive. We’ve got to compete harder, have more of a sense of urgency. That’s what we’ve talked about, but today was the first time that I really thought that we did have a big-time sense of urgency.”
Did you see Jackson’s type of performance coming?
“He does this every day in practice - he gives you 100 percent effort. And what was his first big-time play today? He dove on the dadgum floor. He dove on the floor and I think we made a three from the far side… And then he runs a play we’ve been working on [and] every time we’ve run it we’ve screwed it up. He ran the play correctly and we got a backdoor layup. And then he goes out and sets a screen on the ball and sets it solidly. He had three big plays and so I knew I was going to give him some chances in the second half as well.
"The greatest thing about it is that he took time away from Brice [Johnson], Joel [James] and Desmond [Hubert] and when he’s making those plays in the game, those are the three guys that were standing up and going crazy for him more than anybody. Always be prepared; you never know when you’re going to be called upon. That’s the way I’ve said it to every player I’ve ever coached. “