CHARLOTTE - Following North Carolina's convincing 68-47 victory over Washington State Thursday night in the East Regional Semifinals, UNC head coach Roy Williams and several Tar Heel players spoke to reporters. Williams and his players are naturally thrilled to be returning to the Elite Eight for the second straight year, and the third time in four seasons for the UNC program.
UNC HEAD COACH ROY WILLIAMS
Opening thoughts about his team's victory over Washington State…..
We're ecstatic. We played really well during stretches. Defensively, we played them really good, although we missed some shots as well. I thought we were really good but, let's be honest, they (Washington State) missed some open shots. We felt like we missed some open shots. First play of the game we missed a dead layup, and some after that, but Washington State had some shots they would normally make and they missed some shots tonight. I thought on the backboards, we were really good on the backboards, and when you looked down (at the stats sheet), they only had four points after second-shot opportunities, and we usually make a better living than the seven (points) we made.
We're ecstatic about still playing. We felt Danny Green gave us a huge lift in the first half shooting the ball in the basket, and he hasn't been shooting the ball that well recently to say the least. I think he was three-for-17 or something like that from the three-point line (heading into the WSU game). He came in the first half and gave us a big lift when we were having trouble scoring against a very good defense. You've got to congratulate Washington State. If you're playing when there are only 16 teams left, you have to feel really good about that. I saw (Washington State head coach) Tony (Bennett) before the game and I told him I waved at his dad (Dick Bennett) because there couldn't be anyone in the arena happier than his dad tonight, and he's one of the great coaches of the game. It doesn't feel good for them right now, but congratulations to them. They had a great year.
Thoughts about UNC's defensive effort…..
We were trying to contest everything. One of the things that we wanted to be is tough enough, patient enough and poised enough. What they (WSU) do is sort of walk the ball up the court, and they get it across the time line with seven or eight seconds already elapsed, and they don't necessarily try to hold the ball down until the end (of the shot clock). They want to hold it until they get exactly what they want. I said to Marcus (Ginyard), Wayne (Ellington), and Danny (Green) that as long as you get hit with a screen, you have to be patient enough and tough enough to get through it. Guys are going to cut on the baseline. He's going to stop it and cut in the other direction. You've got to be tough enough and patient enough to continue to play the defense for 35 seconds.
It was a huge emphasis for us to keep them off the backboard and not allow them to get second-chance opportunities, and we wanted to do a better job on our offensive boards than we did. Defensively we wanted to really try to challenge everything, but you look at it and they shoot 29 percent in the second half, and we shoot 38 percent. A lot of that is the NCAA Tournament, kids wanting to do so well that they pressure themselves. But I was pleased with our defense tonight.
Did you feel that you had to say anything to Tyler at halftime after he scored just two points in the first half?
You know, in the Florida State game at Florida State he didn't score in the first half, but he was doing a great job defensively and rebounding, and in the second half he owned that part of the game. I did say one thing to him (at halftime). I told him, 'You've got good shots. Just relax. Don't press yourself. Just relax and play the way you've played all year long.' The other emphasis at halftime was that half was over with. We can't do anything about that, but we could do something about the second half. I said, 'Let's be focused and try to go out and do better in the second half.'
What does it say about your offense that you had six points less at halftime than Notre Dame had against this team in a full 40 minutes without Tyler making a field goal in the first half?
You know, I watched Notre Dame. They struggled getting the ball in the basket. It seemed like they were out of synch the whole game. We were struggling getting the ball in the basket (in the first half), but I felt we were okay. We were getting pretty good shots. We just weren't making them, or we were rushing the shots we had. I do feel good about our offense, there is no question there. I think we had great balance. Ty is five-for-11 (shooting), Wayne is four-for-13, and Tyler is six-for-15. We don't have those kind of shooting nights very often. I do think that we have to relax a bit more in the NCAA Tournament.
The first thing I put on the board (in the locker room) was 'Attack.' We want to be aggressive. We don't want to say, 'Well, it's going to be a low-scoring game,' and not play the way we like to play. When we did attack, we just didn't finish the play by making shots. First play of the game, Marcus gets a layup and misses it. Wayne drives the length of the court and lays it up and misses it. Tyler had the jump hook he makes all the time, and misses it. But I do think at times that offensively, we have a chance at times to put pressure on people.
With their style of play, was this a game you had to get through? Did your players kind of feel that way, that they knew this might be the one game that might be different from all the others?
You know, we didn't look at it like that. We looked at it as we have to get through it because it's the next game. We didn't look at their style of play. We didn't look at our opponent. It was just the next game in front of us. You guys have heard me say a lot, I'd rather win in the 80's, 90's, and 100's, but sometimes you have to win in the 50's and 60's, and you have to be tough enough to understand that, and you have to be tough enough to make the shots and tough enough to guard for 35 seconds. I personally don't feel like our staff or players looked at it that way. This was the next game and that's the way we were trying to play.
Was Derrick Low the one guy you were paying attention to in the second half to make sure he didn't score in bunches like he has at times in the past?
Well, their whole team, seven three (pointers) in 85 seconds against UCLA, so they can score quickly when they start making them. I grabbed Derrick and (Kyle) Weaver both (after the game) and told them, 'It doesn't feel good right now, but congratulations on what you've done and great careers, and a great year.' We were concerned about Derrick and Weaver, both of those guys, from three (point range). I watched the Stanford game in the Pac-10 Tournament, where he made three just like that early in the second half. So we had seen that, and talked about it, but we just tried to get focused for every possession.
On the intensity the Tar Heels took into tonight's game…..
It was a tough game. It was a grind-type of game. They played good defense. We had to make tough shots and things like that to score, and it was kind of hard for us to score in the beginning of the game. But I started playing and loosening up and started running, and that helped us get the lead and win the game.
Did you feel your best tonight since the Florida State game?
I think so. I was able to do everything I normally was able to do (before). I was going to the basket, pulling up. My ankle felt really comfortable. I was able to jump off it to make right-handed layups. I feel like I'm back to 100 percent, or close to it.
Thoughts about his recent shooting struggles, and overcoming them tonight…..
Just making one basket really gets me going. One shot gives me confidence to make the next one. Playing good defense, doing little things to get the butterflies out. Once I got going, thing really went my way.
Did you think the victory tonight was more impressive than the wins over Mount St. Mary's and Arkansas?
I would say so. They (Washington State) play good defense. Once we got some stops and were really running them, we got a rhythm going.
Thoughts about Washington State's defensive pressure…..
I don't think it was necessarily the double-team. I think it was just (WSU center Aron) Baynes is just one of the strongest players I have seen this season. He is extremely strong, and it's hard to get him in good position. I think he did a really good job.
What is it like to win playing against different styles of play?
We are trying to impose our will on them (our opponents), and we just need to find a way. I think that is the biggest thing about this tournament. Just finding a way to win; that is what this is all about. I think that obviously this is not the way we would have liked to have played, but we found a way for it to work in our favor and for us to come out on top. Everything is not going to go our way from here on out, but we've got to find a way and that's what we did tonight.
With the double-teaming on Tyler, how did that create some good shot opportunities for you?
I mean, I knew I was going to have them (good looks at the basket), so I just tried to prepare myself. He (Hansbrough) does get double-teamed a lot, so I knew I had to get myself open and have the open shot.
WASHINGTON STATE PLAYERS
Thoughts about his shooting effort in the game…..
It was freezing out there. I thought we had a lot of good looks. We drove and kicked a few times, and it just didn't go in today.
Thoughts about playing his last game at Washington State…..
It's hard right after you lose a game like that. To get where we are now, from being last in the Pac-10, it is pretty satisfying to look at it from a big picture. I think we could look back at this and say we left a mark at Washington State.
Thoughts about tonight's problems stopping UNC…..
I thought we were pretty good at transition defense, but tonight it was not so good.
Thoughts about getting into a rhythm offensively…..
Offensively I thought I got all the looks I wanted, and it was just hard to get it to drop. In most games, my team would be making shots, but tonight it just didn't fall. Sometimes you have those nights.
Thoughts about having played his last game at Washington State…..
Like Kyle (Weaver) said, it was hard. It made me reminisce to the beginning (of my career). Injuries, and being last in the Pac-10, nobody believed in us. Even thought we lost tonight, I want to thank Washington State for giving us a chance and believing in us.
Thoughts about defending Tyler Hansbrough…..
I tried to stay between him and the basket. I tried to stay out of foul trouble. I knew he was going to score some points, but I tried to play the best I could on him. I got a couple of calls against me, but Tyler did well.
Thoughts about the problems stopping UNC on the defensive end…..
We didn't play team defense as well as we could. We needed to play good defense against a team like this, and that is something we didn't do tonight.
What happened out there tonight?
They (North Carolina) are a good team. It's kind of another level with a team like that. They're physical and they got down on us sometimes in transition. I think we had some breakdowns defensively in the first half. I did myself. As a team 'D,' I think that hurt us some out there. It was like we were getting the shots we wanted. They just weren't going in.
How did UNC's Danny Green change the tone of the game?
That's what makes North Carolina so dynamic---the fact that they sub like a hockey team. They're bringing in new guys and there's no drop-off. They're the same guys. They're just as good.