First of all, I want to just thank that crowd. How about that?! 20,000 people to come in here and cheer us on. I think that's a credit to Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge and all the great teams we've had here before us. And to our guys, for the way we play that has captured I think a lot of people in this state. Thank you to all those fans who drove long distances to get here and support this team. It means a lot.
I thought it was a great effort, a good basketball game. I thought it was tough for us to be up 17 going into the half and you fight human nature to have to maintain that against a good team is difficult. I was very impressed with Steve McClain's Wyoming team to make a comeback and come within three. I felt our kids were always in control – I don't think they ever lost their poise. We had some good shots that didn't go down and it was just a matter of time before some went down and guys hit some big shots. Jawad, Melvin … just a great team effort. Five starters in double figures, 27 assists to eight turnovers, 52 percent from the field. I was real proud of our guys.
You mentioned before the game that you hadn't seen Wyoming use the zone defense, so when they went to the zone did that surprise you?
I thought it took a while to adjust, it changes the tempo of the game. It was a good move by Steve to change the momentum and change the pace. We get our shots in a different rhythm, different looks and it took us a few minutes to get acclimated to that and once we did we built our lead back. So it was a good move by Steve and probably a compliment to our kids.
What kind of crowd were you expecting tonight?
I was expecting a bigger crowd than the other day because it wasn't on TV and it wasn't at 8:00. Dick Baddour came to our shootaround at about 4:00 today and said that 17,000 seats had been sold at that point, so before that the number I had heard was 13,000. Then during the course of the game I look up and didn't see many empty seats. It's Carolina basketball and that's why kids want to come here and play. Crowds like that are very supportive.
On the team's improved offensive play the last month-
I think the last several games we've done a better job of moving the basketball, hitting the open man, setting and using screens, being patient and I thought we did that fairly well for the most part tonight.
What impact does a crowd like that have on motivating the team to play in the NIT?
First of all I hope that, and think, we're excited about playing. Going into this game we were 1 of 31 teams playing college basketball. I've said this before, we're fortunate to be playing. I think everybody would like to be in the NCAA Tournament – lot of teams in football are 6-5 and get to a small bowl and are excited. We're excited to be playing and we're fortunate, especially in light of what's going on in our world. We are very lucky to be playing college basketball.
Then if there is any lack of energy or lack of enthusiasm, our kids go around for shootaround and the general admission crowd gets here early and they see that kind of crowd when they go out 45 minutes before the game to shoot around, it certainly energizes them more.
Was that your idea to salute the crowd after the game?
Last game our [SID] Steve [Kirschner] suggested we thank the crowd so we thought we'd do it again. They certainly deserve a lot of credit.
Describe Raymond's performance tonight…
He has all the cliches. He's got the heard of a lion, toughness, his enthusiasm, his competitiveness – it's contagious and I think it spreads to our guys. His blocked shot, throws it back in on the floor, is diving on the floor. He had 14 assists and two turnovers. And he doesn't care if he scores – he just wants to win. And he gets so excited when he passes the ball, jumps up and down. I'm lucky to be his coach.
On Melvin Scott's improved play-
Melvin is shooting the ball extremely, extremely well. I think our shooting percentages are indicative of since he's been starting and playing more. And the thing that I'm really proud of with Melvin is that he had but one turnover in the last 134 minutes through tonight.
In the long run, what will this NIT tournament do for this team?
I think it's maturity and also guys buying into what we're trying to teach and they see it working. And that'll carry over through the summer and fall as we get ready for next season.
Expectations for the crowd on Wednesday?
I hope that our crowd will be great, I don't see why it wouldn't. Georgetown, the Big East, one of the best conferences in the country. I know they're big and strong. And they've been through a lot of wars. For them to go up to Providence and win, that's not easy and to turn around and come down here to play us Wednesday night. Craig [Esherick] is a good friend of our program, he's known Coach Guthridge for a long time – and I've know Craig from when I was in the Big East – good person, good coach. But they are big, they are strong and it's going to be another tough test for us.