New Orleans, LA – North Carolina’s head coach Hubert Davis and student-athletes Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Puff Johnson, and Armando Bacot met with the media following their 72-69 loss to Kansas in the 2022 NCAA championship at the Superdome on Monday night.
The UNC Tar Heels ended their season at 29-10 while Kansas finished 34-6.
Here is the Carolina basketball post championship game press conference video and transcript:
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by North Carolina.
Q. Armando, what were the last 24 hours like as you were trying to make sure you were ready to play with treatments and whatever, and how did you feel coming into tonight?
ARMANDO BACOT: I mean, the last 24 hours, probably 15 of them it was me just trying to get my ankle better. And Doug Halverson and (indiscernible), they did a great job preparing me for this moment. Right before the game I really couldn’t even jump. And then that’s why I kind of went back. We just kept trying to take a crack at it. They didn’t give up. Luckily, I was able to play 38 minutes.
Q. Each of you had something happen to you during the game. Armando you slipped late. Puff you fell down appeared to vomit. And Caleb looked like you tripped. Walk me through those three things that seemed to alter the game.
CALEB LOVE: I was running down and kind of twisted my ankle, rolled my ankle twice. That’s what happened.
PUFF JOHNSON: During the game, I got hit in the stomach. Just didn’t go well once I got hit in the stomach. That’s about it.
ARMANDO BACOT: I was just trying to drive to the basket. And I just kind of unconsciously tried to go up off my right foot. And then that was the ankle I injured. And I just rolled it again.
Q. RJ and Caleb, they hit you with the 31-10 run to start the second half. What were they doing to make it hard to avoid to stop the run from continuing?
CALEB LOVE: They were getting a lot of transition buckets. They were getting a lot of points in the paint. They were just penetrating, doing whatever they wanted to do.
RJ DAVIS: Got a lot of transition buckets, points in the paint. That was really about it.
Q. Caleb, can you take me through that last play with the 4.3 seconds left when you guys had one more chance to tie. Was there a particular play called or was it whoever got the ball was to try to make a play?
CALEB LOVE: Coach Davis and coach Frederick drew up a play for either Brady or me to get the ball, whoever was open — whoever got opened. And so it was kind of screen to get me open and it was supposed to be a screen for me to get a flare. Got the ball and I took the shot and came up short.
Q. There was a stretch in the second half where, Caleb, you started taking over bringing the ball up the court. Was that an intentional switch due to your ankle injury?
CALEB LOVE: No, it was really just to relieve pressure. They were pressuring the ball full court on RJ, we had to get the ball there.
Q. Armando, can you speak to the physicality of the game, banging down there with David McCormack and how tough it was throughout the game?
ARMANDO BACOT: All throughout the game, Coach Self did a good job just trying to go at me, put me in different ball screens. And he was ducking in a lot. And it was definitely tough just because he’s a bigger guy. I really couldn’t, the whole game, get the push on anything on my post-ups, defensively, anything. It was just like I kind of was out there and it was just hard for me to really just stand my ground.
Q. Hubert, as soon as the game ended you went straight over to Brady and sort of hugged him and consoled him. Why it was important for you to do that and important to tell the guys in the locker room that after?
COACH DAVIS: It was important for me to do that because I love the players and I care for them. And they were very emotional and crying, and that’s my job is to support them and to care for them and to love them and to be there for them. So it was nothing more than just caring for them.
Q. Armando, just what was the level of difficulty it took for you to play on that ankle all game?
ARMANDO BACOT: I mean, I don’t think there was any difficulty. We all really wanted to win. We came this far and this was a huge goal for us was to just hang up a banner. And we just really wanted to win. I really wouldn’t let anything stop us from getting to that point. It didn’t go the way we wanted, but I was fine.
Q. You guys have come up with wins in so many tight games the last month, two months. What was it like for it not to work out tonight on the biggest stage? And can you tell us maybe some about what the locker room was like afterwards, what you guys were dealing with, what you all were feeling?
CALEB LOVE: It hurts for us to get this far and come up short like this, everything we went through. But you know, the positive thing is I wouldn’t want to go through this with anybody else.
Q. Coach, you talked a lot about the experiences that you wanted your players to have and what an important experience it was getting this far in the season and showing the excellence. On the other side of it now, what do you think has been the most important thing in terms of experiencing what you experienced this weekend and throughout the tournament?
COACH DAVIS: I did. I said that — and I told them this after the game that my desperation for them to have those experiences in a Carolina uniform was very important for me. I was very thankful that I feel like this year they were able to have — they were able to have a number of experiences that they could grab on and to lean on and to smile about.
The thing that I shared with them in the locker room is along the way, as they were experiencing it, they were giving me more stories and testimonies and memories by just having a front-row seat to be around them.
And so I said before that I can’t remember a time in my life where, I should be disappointed, but I’m just filled with so much pride. I’m so proud of these guys of what they have done for themselves individually, as a team, the way that they have represented our university, this program, our community.
I can’t ask for them to do any more than what they have done. And I am extremely proud of each one of them.
Q. In the second half, a lot of you guys were missing shots that you had been hitting really all tournament. And after playing in, I guess, four all-time classic games, so to speak, how much did fatigue play into that? And what were your adjustments that you had to make?
CALEB LOVE: It was the national championship. I don’t think anybody was thinking about being tired. We were just trying to go out there and do whatever we had to do to get the win and it was just unfortunate that we came up short.
RJ DAVIS: We were just trying to remain positive and things weren’t going our way. The shots that we usually make we were missing, coming up short. Everyone just told everyone just stay together. There was a lot of time left.
Q. Armando, with about 38 seconds to go, you’re hopping down the court on your only good leg. How much pain are you in at that point? Do you know you cannot go any more? And just what’s going through your mind?
ARMANDO BACOT: Yeah, I mean, I thought I made a good move. I thought I really got the angle I wanted. I thought it would have been an easy basket. And then I just rolled my ankle as I was going up and then, I think we were down like two points.
It was a four on five and I was trying to get back to do whatever I could, even if I was just contesting a shot or do whatever. But I really struggled. I really couldn’t put any weight down on my right leg. And I don’t know, right then and there I probably knew I was done at that point.
Q. Coach, you talked about pride. What are the emotions also that you feel when you watch the performance of Armando and the way he gutted it out all game?
COACH DAVIS: It was not just tonight. The type of season that Armando has had, I’ve had the privilege of seeing all of his hard work that he did in the offseason. He put himself in a position to be successful this year. I’ve seen the commitment that he has had and the desperation for him to make this team successful.
You know, the first couple of years — and I told Armando this — that I just felt bad for him because he’s such a great kid and an unbelievable player. And the first two years I just didn’t think he had that Carolina experience.
And not going to the NCAA Tournament his freshman year, we had a losing record, then we lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. And his decision to come to North Carolina was to be a part of the great history of this program. And I really wanted that for him.
It’s not just his effort tonight. The effort tonight that he displayed, he’s done it all year consistently. And that’s why he’s one of the better players in the country.
Q. I was wondering if you could tell me what Manek’s assignment was on that last play, if he was going to the opposite side for a 3 over there. And how you feel with the number of guys that went down and how they tried to battle through various maladies and problems today.
COACH DAVIS: The play was for him to get a baseline screen. We were supposed to throw it to them. Looked like he was going to be open, throw it to the opposite corner. But he stumbled. And so it threw the play totally off. I think he would have been open.
The first option was for him to shoot the 3. And then we had Caleb coming off of another screen on the backside that was going to be set by Justin McKoy. But because Brady tripped, it just messed up the play. And Caleb shot a great shot. It just didn’t go in tonight.
Q. Puff, walk us through a little bit your mentality tonight, when they needed you, when Leaky got in foul trouble. And you hit some big shots, drew a charge. Really came through with some valuable minutes for them?
PUFF JOHNSON: My whole thing this whole year has been just to stay ready whenever your number is called. And I mean, I can honestly just say that I gave it everything I had. And that’s what I try to do each and every game and each and every day in life. I came into the Final Four with a bit of a banged-up hip flexor from what happened earlier in the season, reaggravated a little bit. And I can honestly say I just gave it everything I had.
Q. Coach and any of the players who want to answer. Coach, this being the first year at the helm, what would you say you kind of learned about yourself going through this season as a coach? And similar question for any of the players: What did you learn from this experience in terms of what it takes to get to a Final Four to win a national championship, compete for one?
COACH DAVIS: I’ve said before, there’s a number of things going through my mind right now. And even though that the whole season has been filled with so many blessings, it’s been so busy, I haven’t had time to really process and think fully what has happened.
I will say this, I like — not I like — I love what I’m doing. I just love being the head coach at the University of North Carolina and coaching these kids.
RJ DAVIS: It takes a whole band. We’ve been together this whole year. We made it this far for a reason. This team was special. Glad to share memories and big games that we’ll all talk about and cherish forever. We’ve been through a lot this year. Faced adversity. Overcome it. And all the hard work we’ve put in this offseason, summertime, preseason, brothers to this point where we’re at.
ARMANDO BACOT: I mean, I would say that this season has been successful. Just having Coach Davis as a coach. He’s been amazing all year. And everybody on our coaching staff has been great. And just this program, we’ve all loved being here all year and just playing for Coach Davis. This won’t be the last time y’all will see this program here.