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March 17, 2018

Bill Kennedy

Robert Williams

Tyler Davis

Admon Gilder

TJ Starks

Charlotte, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We welcome the student-athletes from Texas A&M. We have from left to right, TJ Starks, who is a freshman; Admon Gilder, junior; Tyler Davis, junior; and Robert Williams to my immediate left, sophomore.

Q. Tyler and Admon, if you could take us through the opportunity of going up against the defending champs, basically in their backyard, and the excitement for that.
TYLER DAVIS: It's a blessing to be able to compete against such a great coach and team. It's was a lot work done for, you live for these opportunities. We're all excited and ready to play.

ADMON GILDER: Like Tyler says, a blessing to be playing against a winning organization. Each one of us are ready to play. Give it our best effort.

Q. There's this is a question for TJ. I don't know how much you expected that you would be playing during this season when it began, but can you tell us a little bit about like what you thought was going to happen and how it sort of evolved into you playing such an important role?
TJ STARKS: At the beginning of the season, I knew I was going to contribute to the team, but I didn't know that I was going to take on a great role the way I am right now. So, I just put in a lot of work and I knew my time was going to come eventually, so I was really prepared for the moment.

Q. Robert or Tyler, I don't know how much you know about Carolina, but they have a different lineup this year. They're not as big as they've been in previous years. How do you guys feel like you match up with them? Do you feel like you do have an advantage on the inside against them?

ROBERT WILLIAMS: Yeah, we definitely feel like we have an advantage obviously against anybody on the inside because of what we do. Carolina is a different matchup. Their bigs, 1 through 5, shoot. It's going to be a difficult task for us. But our coaches are putting together a good game plan and hope we'll beat them.

TYLER DAVIS: I feel like we always have the advantage on the inside, but their bigs are really talented. It's going to be a different way to guard them. Going to be tough to guard, but I feel like we have the versatility to guard any position.

Q. Robert and Tyler, you guys have had a few different starting point guards during this season. Is having the point guard changing, does that force you guys to adjust or do the point guards sort of play up -- play a particular style in a system? Tell us about adjusting to different guys at the point.
TYLER DAVIS: We just -- we play to the system, but I mean not every point guard is the same. TJ, he's a scoring point, but, you know, we play to his strengths and he plays our strengths. I think we did a good job of that.

ROBERT WILLIAMS: Like TJ is a scoring point guard and with that ability, he opens up a lot of stuff for the team of the guards and we use it to our strength.

Q. Tyler and for TJ. TJ, if you could speak to the challenge of going up against Joel Barry. And then defensively, Tyler, they've got Maye at the 5, how difficult of a challenge that is?
TJ STARKS: Joel Barry, he's a senior guard. Of course, he has good experience, so I just have to come ready to play. I know he's going to give me a good challenge. We have to stay focused and stick to the game plan.

TYLER DAVIS: Luke is really good. I know what kind of player he is and what kind of mindset he has. He has the worker's mindset. He's going to come at me hard like he does everybody else, from what I've seen. It's going to be a fun matchup. It's going to be a lot of fun having to guard him.

Q. The veterans for Carolina have played 13 games I guess now, in this tournament over the last three seasons. How do you guys combat that experience edge that they have, and how have you prepared for the tournament setting where you're getting ready for a game 48 hours after you had played another game against a team that you don't see regularly?

ADMON GILDER: We just stick to the Coach's plan. We try to play our brand of basketball each and every game. And like we've seen last night on the TV, it's anybody's game. So as long as we come out and play hard and play aggressive, it's anybody's game.

Q. If I could, I'd like to go one each for TJ and Admon. TJ, when you got handed the keys to the car, what was that conversation like with Coach? Probably wasn't something that you initially were expecting. Tell us about what that dialogue was like.
TJ STARKS: He just tell me to play my game, just do what I know how to do. Told me to stay poised and just control the game, control the tempo. And he tell me that I don't play like a freshman, I don't act like a freshman. So he just tell me to be mature about the situation and handle it the right way. And I feel like that's what I've been doing this whole time, and I just keep believing in him and he believing in me and we just going to keep rolling.

Q. Admon, after a couple of different people have played point guard, TJ steps into the role and you guys end up being successful. How important was it that he was there to sort of step in there? If you don't have TJ, how do you think the arc of the season might have gone?
ADMON GILDER: I know TJ is a hard worker. I say that each and every day. He's in the gym every day before and after practice. And I guess, you know, if he wasn't there, I guess we'd know he's the next man up. That's how this program is. So I think everybody on this team has done a great job of being ready to play. And so, like we said, we just go out there and do what we do.

Q. Guys talk about it, I guess this is for Tyler, Robert. This is essentially a home game for Carolina. Talk about playing in this type of environment, and do you think the fans going against you will kind of fuel you or work against you?

TYLER DAVIS: We've done pretty well on the road in neutral court games. So, they're going to have a really good crowd, lot of fun, lot of energy. But we know it's going to be us out there battling against everybody.


ROBERT WILLIAMS: We know they're going to have a big crowd out there. We know, we live for the moment, we play and impact the way of games. We feel like there's nothing but fuel. We don't fear it at all.

Q. Admon, you touched on this a minute ago, what was it like for you as a basketball player, even though they're in the opposite pod, watching the UMBC game last night?
ADMON GILDER: We were watching at the hotel. It was just amazing to see how UMBC came and they played, brought it to them. They played hard, they played their brand of basketball. That's what we try to put our hats on playing our brand of basketball wherever we play. And so we have great bigs. We have great guards who play different positions. Just knowing that -- seeing that, it gives -- gives teams around the country knowing it's anybody's game in any given night.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student-athletes? Okay, guys. Thank you. Good job.

BILL KENNEDY: Excited to have advanced in the tournament. That's what it's all about, and makes you feel a big part of it when you win a game and you can kind of follow how the tournament goes. And to play against a Carolina team here in Charlotte is something that every coach and every player would be looking forward to. So we're really excited to be playing against a really good team. Know we'll have to play really well to get the win.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.

Q. Coach, in terms of the arc of your season to arrive here, how much of that do you think had to do with the depth that you had at point guard on this roster this season?
BILL KENNEDY: You know, I think we played a lot of different lineups, we've gone through a lot of different things. And I think just the experience of playing TJ starks at the 2 earlier in the year and he played -- backed up the 1 against some really good preseason teams that we played, he's been -- his first start was at Kansas, I think helped get him ready for this moment. I think that's a good point. I think that's one of the reasons why we're here today is because he's been through some different things and our team has been through some different things. We've weathered the storm and been pretty resilient through it.

Q. Just to follow-up on that, yes, you did weather the storm. What was it like being the coach in the storm?
BILL KENNEDY: It wasn't a dream situation. some of the things we went through. One of my toughest years as a coach because we had such great expectations and started off so well. We started out 11-1, fifth in the country, and rose up real fast and we did it with a broken lineup even then. Robert Williams didn't play against West Virginia in the beginning of the year. We added him to the team in Brooklyn and we continued to win and we continued to press on, and I thought we got better and then we had the injuries. The injuries were the biggest problem. When you lose Duane Wilson, who is an older senior for us and experienced, one of the true experienced guys that we had, that's been in the NCAA Tournament, that's played in the Big East, played -- we lost of him. That was a big loss. Losing Admon Gilder the first, I think, four games of conference play is not when you want to lose a guy to injury. He had had knee surgery and came back and really muffled up our lineup, muffled up our rotations. We started one group one way and then next week we started the older guys and went back and forth. So, hopefully that we survived it, it made us tougher. Our guys hung in there and believed what we were telling them and thankfully we're in this position today.

Q. I came in a couple minutes late from your locker room. I've sorry if this was asked before. The challenge Joe Barry presents your freshman point guard when North Carolina has the ball, but then also when they run Maye at the 5, which they've been doing, the challenge that that presents defensively.
BILL KENNEDY: No question. He's the most experienced, probably best point guard in Roy Williams's system in a long time. When you look at the games they've won and what he's done. I saw him in high school, he's a five-star player, won a State Championship. The kid is about winning. The kid -- he understands how Coach Williams wants to play and it will be a tough matchup. But TJ hasn't surprised me. There are no surprises with TJ. He can make two great plays, he can make two plays and I'm pulling my hair out. So, I don't think there's anything that TJ is afraid of. That's the one thing we like about him. He doesn't lack any confidence and that's a good guy to have in your fox hole when you're going against Carolina in Charlotte, to have somebody who is not afraid.

So, hopefully he won't get caught up in the transition game and we won't just run up and down with them because that's not something we want to do. We want to wait on our bigs. It will be a new experience for him, but I like our chances because of his confidence and what he's been through already.

Q. With Maye?
BILL KENNEDY: With Luke Maye, that's a tough matchup with anybody. That's why they've won so many games, because he's an experienced post guy who goes on the floor and push it on the break. I knew they were really good. I knew their personnel before. I was sort of watching them on tape. As you watch them on tape, you see Theo Pinson pushing the ball in transition one minute and Luke Maye the next play and back to Joel Barry. That's what makes them so good in transition. You can prepare for it but -- in a short amount of time, but you don't know how good until you see it.

Q. Coach, we saw history last night. It's known that Carolina has never lot of a game in Charlotte. Is that something you talk to your team about, you know, let's do something else, let's make more history here in Charlotte as you head into this?
BILL KENNEDY: That just motivates me a little bit more. I didn't know that. We'll use that as motivation. We've got -- we're going to come in here loose and play. That's the thing, we come in here and have fun and enjoy the experience. And we're here to win. We're not here to just show up. We've talked about this moment from the spring on last year. The Final Four is in San Antonio. We don't want to go there to eat chips and salsa. We want to play. In order to play, you got to be able to beat Carolina or beat good teams that are in your way. We'll use that as motivation. And we know it's a tough task because Coach Williams is a great coach and Carolina is Carolina basketball. You just know it's going to be a challenge.

Q. Coach, you mentioned the challenges that Joel Barry and Luke may present. What about this matchup gives you confidence? What are the things you like before you go into this next game?
BILL KENNEDY: Well, we've got five guys who can get you double figures anytime, also. At the 3, 4, 5, and our length and size is something they've not seen a whole lot of. I thought Providence, Coach Cooley made an interesting comment that our length really bothered them. Until you go through it and see it, you know, it's a tough experience. So, hopefully our inside play and our size will be a factor and our guards will make shots. When our guards make shots and take care of the ball, we're hard to beat because Robert Williams and Tyler Davis are a load in the post.

Q. Playing with motivation and playing with momentum is a great thing and a bad thing. How do you hone in that motivation into something great instead of it's overwhelming your players into making mistakes to where it causes a problem?
BILL KENNEDY: Well, again, you hope preseason experience and the teams we've played, you look at who we played against and playing at Kentucky and playing against a good Arizona team on the West Coast, Kansas. We've seen a lot of different things. You hope your experience prepares you for this moment. But you never know until you go through it. That's the one advantage Carolina has over probably anybody else. They'll play all year and they've had it all season long, they've experienced a national championship and experienced it moreso than any other team left playing.

So, if you're going to get past that, it's good to play -- now is as good a time to go through it.

Q. Coach, there's only a limited number of hours that you get to prepare for this game. Can you sort of give us an idea about how much of the time is spent focusing on the things that you guys have done and how much of it is taking a look at Carolina and what you can do to them?
BILL KENNEDY: We do transition defensive drills everyday. So I mean, we spend -- from the beginning of the year to this time of the year, even today we practiced, we work on transition defense. That's an emphasis. But in the short amount of time -- we got to watch them play the first ten minutes here and then we went back at the hotel. And not knocking Lipscomb, because we know anybody can win, but we started watching Carolina right away. And the thing about Carolina, I've been watching them my whole life. So, I think we'll know more about them than they'll know about us. I hope that's an advantage.

You know, you see them all the time. You don't see Texas A&M on television every night or hopefully you're starting to see us more and more. It is different. Yesterday, yesterday that's all I did. I was locked in my hotel room watching film, trying to get as familiar with their personnel as possible. Today we're going to go through it, show film tonight, and then we'll just go play. But you got to hope that your body of work in practice throughout the season prepared you for this and not just this last day and a half.

THE MODERATOR: Other questions.

Q. Billy, I don't know if you heard Roy Williams' comments yesterday, but he called you one of his heroes because of what you've had to go through as a coach and through seven years and maintaining strength and overcoming a lot with your health situation. What did that mean to you when you heard that?
BILL KENNEDY: It's obviously special because I got so much respect for Coach Williams and we've talked about it on the road some, because he's had some health issues and he knows some people that have had Parkinson's Disease. He understands that it's a challenge, and he's really been supportive. Every time I see him, Roy is Roy, he's a special man, he's a special coach. And for him to say something like that it's definitely touching and encouraging.

THE MODERATOR: Other questions at all? Okay. Thank you, Coach.

BILL KENNEDY: Thank you.

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