ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Few expected NC State to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament as little as a month ago.
NCSU first-year coach Mark Gottfried spoke following the Wolfpack's emotional 60-57 loss to Kansas on Friday.
NC State junior small forward Scott Wood and sophomore power forward C.J. Leslie also discussed the season-ending loss to finish 24-13 this year.
Below is a transcript of Gottfried, followed by the players:
"Well, first of all we're obviously very disappointed. And we didn't play particularly well tonight. You got to give Kansas a lot of credit. I thought their defense was very good, especially around the rim. But we also had a lot of good looks. We couldn't knock them down. It was one of those nights. Combination, they played very good defense we had some good looks, couldn't make them. We just couldn't offensively get going.
"I'm extremely proud of our team. I'm not sure I could be more proud than I am of our team. This team learned how to compete, they learned how to keep fighting, and they did it again today. We just came up just a little bit short. We grew a lot. We improved a lot. But it's just tough because we felt we certainly had a chance and could have won the game.
"But Kansas, they made some key plays at key times. Defensively I think they were very good, especially around the rim."
What did you tell your guys after the game? What was the message to them?
"I was proud of them. I thanked our seniors. I think C.J., Williams and Alex and even Kendall, who is a walk on. Those guys, when you're a senior in college athletics and it comes to an end, it's hard, for any team. But I'm extremely proud. One thing that I said to our guys was that the entire Wolfpack Nation, whether it's alumni, the City of Raleigh, our community, these guys helped generate some excitement for our school. That more than anything, I just told them, thank you for that. They did it. They just did a terrific job.
"We were disappointed today. Tough day for us. But we'll all step back and look at what was actually accomplished. And I think for all of that, these guys need to hold their heads really high. They really do. And feel proud of what they were able to accomplish."
How much of an affect do you think not having C.J. for that eight , nine minute stretch, what sort of affect do you think it did have on the team?
"The one thing that was tough was that he was the one guy that was somewhat efficient. Everybody else seemed to be struggling offensively. We struggled to score inside. Their length bothered us around the basket. That's happened to us a couple times this year. The teams that are just that long, we're not a big, tall team. We're quick, but the length bothered us some. I thought Calvin was the one guy that was actually getting something done offensively. So when he was out of the game, it really affected us on that end of the floor, more than anything."
Can you go through what you drew up on the very last play there with 2.9 to go?
"The last two, we did not execute very well. The end of the day, that's my responsibility. On the past cross the court to Scott, we actually wanted something we worked on take it hard dribble down to the baseline and set a flare screen for Scott. And actually, see, we call it a hammer pass right along the baseline and see if we can get Scott open. So we didn't execute there.
"Then on the last play, I thought we had enough time to catch the ball. Richard is great at catching that pass, got great hands to catch it, and we had three shooter on the floor, Scott was going past him, Alex on the other side with Lorenzo. And I think he just thought that he needed to shoot it real quick, maybe with the time there. So we didn't get what we wanted out of those two plays. That was a little disappointing at the end."
Looking back on the last few weeks or last weekend, you gave some really inspirational speeches. What was said in the locker room after this game?
"After the game? I just told you. I thanked them, I was proud of them, and they don't need to hold their head down at all. We're very, very proud of our guys."
Obviously you've seen North Carolina plenty now, and now you've seen Kansas. Your thoughts on those two on Sunday?
"Well, it will be a great game. Two great teams, two teams with great size, both well coached. North Carolina's obviously a little different if Kendall Marshall doesn't play, but it will be a great game. We're just disappointed we're not in it."
Start with all the blocked shots they had what did you see the affect of Withey's work down there, causing for your team?
"Well, he really changed the game. We wanted to go at him and there's been times where we have turned and faced attacked bigger players off the dribble and we have been able to get some guys into foul trouble. We just weren't able to get that going tonight.
"We wanted to try to attack off the dribble, turn and face instead of backing them down, and see if we could get past them or end up at the foul line. We just couldn't get to the foul line very often. Calvin did a couple times off his dribble penetration with our bigs. Both of our bigs, Richard and Calvin both can go somewhere with the ball dribbling. So that was what we were hoping to do. We weren't able to get those guys into foul trouble.
"I think then Withey, his length, that really bothered us. And it affected how we shot the ball around the basket. Seemed like we were always trying to make a tough shot. And so he definitely had an impact on the game."
Scott, what effect did you think C.J.'s foul trouble had particularly there in the second half?
Scott Wood: "Obviously, you lose him, he's a great asset to our team. He's probably our best low post scorer and he can really get himself involved. He brings us a lot of energy on the offensive end, defensive end, too. So any time he gets in any foul trouble, it hurts us. But at the same time, I think DeShawn and Tyler Harris did a really good job of coming in and helping us out."
Scott, on that cross court pass there late, ball was high, you stepped out of bound, when you came down, was that just you not quite realizing where the sideline was or what happened on that play?
Scott Wood: "Well, it was just a little flare screen to get it towards that corner, and I obviously just jumped and miss timed it too much. I don't know what else really to say except for I was just trying to make a play and my back foot just hit the line."
C.J., what did you make of their bigs, Robinson and Withey? Obviously they were very active. How they played. Withey had 10 blocks and Robinson was a load. Your impressions of how they played.
C.J. Leslie: "My impressions of how they played? Any time you get 10 blocks that's outstanding. They did a good job."
C.J., what was the affect of Withey? In addition to the blocks was he altering other shots? How difficult was it down low to score with all that going on?
C.J. Leslie: "It was a very physical game. They're a very active coming over helping and trapping, and it was just one of those games where I had to figure out. Kind of first half, it was kind of getting blocked, and second half it was kind of a little different scenario, just me figuring out the game as it went along."
Scott, not too many people predicted you guys would be in the Sweet 16. I know it's tough to deal with the loss right now, but your impressions of how well you guys played and the success you've had this season.
Scott Wood: "We just brought it night in and night out. Whether it was off a four game losing streak or riding a winning streak, every practice we came with the mindset that we were going to get better. And I feel like we knew we could be a really dangerous team. And we started to click at the end of the year and ended up making it to the Sweet 16. But by any means, especially for the people coming back, we're not satisfied. We feel like we have got some good talent coming in and we have got some good talent returning, and hopefully, next year we can build on this."
For both of you, if you could kind of maybe reflect as quick as it is after the game, on what impact Coach Gottfried has had on you guys in your first season with him.
C.J. Leslie: "The impact speaks for itself. Nobody had us to be here. You can pretty much tell, the proof is in the pudding in this situation."
Scott Wood: "Yeah, it's just been a huge turn around, and not many people picked us to be here. A lot of people picked us to be eighth and lower in the ACC. And I think Coach Gottfried and staff just did a really good job of utilizing our players' strength and just getting them the ball where they needed to have it. And they just did a really good job of making us that much better."
Scott, the 3 point shooting for both teams was not very good tonight. Kansas was 1 14, you guys were 6 21. Any ideas what was going on with your defense, and then with their defense limiting you guys from behind the arc?
Scott Wood: "For me, I just felt like I got good looks. My teammates set good screens and they just it gave to me when I needed it. I just missed a couple here and there. I think both teams worked extremely hard to limit 3 point attempts and making sure that we contested on all of them."
To either player, you guys only gave up one field goal in the last 3:46. Could you talk about the defensive intensity down the stretch and what kind of got that going.
Scott Wood: "It's win or go home there. If you don't get stops, then you're pretty much done for. So we knew as a group that we had to get in a stance and get some stops and get some defensive rebounds and get on the break and get some easy points."
C.J. Leslie: "Late in the game, we just wanted to be a little bit more focused and just really, really get focused. And really worked on what we needed to work on to whatever that is, if it's running the offense or if it's playing defense, just really focus in on it and do what we need to do late in the game."