THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Wayne, it’s been said over and over Washington State doesn’t pass the “I” test. They weren’t the most talented Pac 10 team and I’m sure you guys knew teams in your conference that didn’t make it, but you have had a chance to play Derrick Low and other players. Have you guys have to remind your players not to overlook them?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Haven’t had to remind them because any team in the Sweet 16 they’re going to have talented players, but I told the guys about things we like to do well and their offensive game, and some of the things they like to do on the floor.
Q. Ty, are you 100% now? How did it feel the last couple of games?
TY LAWSON: I’m about 95%. It’s feeling good. I think I’m doing real well and it’s doing real good.
Q. Some people say you had an easy road so far playing in your home state. You’ve been able to tear through your first opponents. Do you guys look at it that way?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: I think we’re playing well right now. I don’t think it’s an easy road. I think everybody is coming back from injuries and we’re finally getting our team together collectively, and I think as a result of that we’re playing great basketball.
TY LAWSON: I agree. I don’t think we had an easy road. Everybody said we had the toughest match-up in the 8-9. And I think we’re playing well, playing on emotion. We all want to win the National Championship, so we’re all playing together.
Q. Looking back on that benching against Georgia Tech last year, has that helped make you part of the player who you are now?
TY LAWSON: Immaturity, and before I probably didn’t think practices were too important, and I went through the motions but ever since then, I play hard in practice, had a 100% turnaround. And Coach says, “If you practice well, you play well,” and I fully agree with that.
Now I feel like, if we have a great practice we play well in the game. If we didn’t have a good practice, we don’t play well in the game. It did a lot for me in my college career.
Q. As you know Washington State shut down Notre Dame, held them to 41 points last game. What did you see on tape of them about their defense? Can they slow you down at all?
TY LAWSON: I’ve seen them play a little bit, they like to force everybody to the middle, where they have great help. That’s a good defense. They help out a lot, they have great athletes, so their defense is good. If we just run and keep it to our game plan, we will be able to run and things like that, stop them from scoring and get rebounds. We can still score against them and run and things like that.
WAYNE ELLINGTON: I agree. They play great help team defense. I think as long as we do what we’re supposed to do, and play North Carolina basketball we’ll be just fine.
Q. Ty, this is in relation to what you just answered, but what will you have to do to force a quicker pace and to prevent this from being a game into the 50s and play more into their hands?
TY LAWSON: Probably just push off their backs as quick as we can and get into our offense or just scoring, pressure on the ball, not giving them easy baskets and create transition games. Most thing I will have to do is see the ball going to the net and run down as quick as I can.
Q. You guys have done this streak, played different degrees of playing well, not playing so well, different styles of teams. Do these guys remind you of anybody? Because you have won games that have been low scoring and high scoring, so it seems like you’re battle-tested in the ACC and out of the ACC.
WAYNE ELLINGTON: We played against a lot of half-court teams that tried to slow us down in the past. They don’t remind me of any one team. But we’ve played against a lot of half-court teams, and I think we’re used to having teams slow us down and turn it into a half-court game. I think we have to do our job on defense and attack the backboards, and you know, get the ball out quick and we’ll be able to play our style of game all game long.
Q. Wayne, you were teammates with Derrick Low in the Pan-American Games but people in this part of the country maybe haven’t seen him play as much, have you told your teammates about him and what to expect?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Yeah, we watched tape, also, so these guys know what kind of a player Derrick is, and he’s hard-nosed. He’s a tough player, he can shoot the ball well and he moves great without the basketball. We all know what to expect from him and we won’t have any surprises.
Q. Can either of you guys see yourself playing for a style like Washington State? If you could imagine coming out of high school and people were recruiting you, could you imagine having fun playing in a style like that?
TY LAWSON: Me personally, I probably wouldn’t go to a school like that, because I like to run up and down the court. That’s my type of game. They’re a school that holds the ball — they don’t hold the ball, but setting up the defense every time down the court, I mean setting up the offense down the court, I wouldn’t like that style of offense.
WAYNE ELLINGTON: I agree with Ty. He likes to get out on the open floor, and I like to create things — it’s a great offense, and it fits specific players.
Q. Ty, where did you develop your speed with the dribble? When you were younger did you have a coach that worked with you? How did you develop this?
TY LAWSON: I don’t know. Once I got to high school, everybody was saying I was quick. Before that I guess I wasn’t that fast, but my mom ran track and she says I get it from her. I ran up hills, jumped over things, that’s about all I can remember working on my speed, anything like that.
Q. Playing in Raleigh and then in Charlotte, how much of an advantage do you think it is? Is it business as usual with all your fan following and everything? And also, would it be more fun to go to Anaheim or Houston or somewhere?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: I think it’s definitely been huge for our fans to be here and be able to support us and just staying close, but at the same time, you know, the fans can’t play for you, and this is the NCAA tournament, and no matter where you are, you know the team you’re playing is going to be competitive and you’re going to get everyone’s best shot. So the fans are very important for us and they help us, but at the same time they can’t play for us.
TY LAWSON: I feel like it’s a whole game sometimes. All the crowd stands up — especially parts where we have games that are close, the end of the games. If our crowd pushed us toward — we like when our fans are screaming and things like that, so I think it’s a little of that.
Everybody in the NCAA tournament is a great team, especially the Sweet 16, so I don’t think it’s that much of an advantage playing close to home.
Q. The Australian center for Washington State described how Tyler was a thrashing croc. I’m wondering if that works for you?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: I guess so. I think of him more of a tenacious basketball player. Whatever a thrashing croc means. If it’s similar to that, what I just said, then, yeah.
TY LAWSON: I can see why he says that. I see him thrashing all the time. I see him trashing, I can see where he gets that from. Ty is a great player. He just loves to play, you can see on the court how fierce he is.
Q. What do you like about Alan Iverson when you were a kid?
TY LAWSON: Just that he was so small and still controlled the game, scores, played tough-nosed defense, plays when he gets hurt. Just a lot of his toughness as a player is why I admire him.
Q. Wayne, any recollections from the Pan-Am Games? Since you were competing for playing time, did you bond with those players? Or what was that experience like?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: Yeah, you know, we had a chance to spend a lot of time together. We were in Brazil, we didn’t know many other people that spoke our language except for us. So, yeah, we had a lot of time to spend together.
Both great guys, good basketball players. Yeah, I think it’s going to be a tough match-up for our guards tomorrow and we’re looking forward to it. We’re looking forward to competing against them and we’re going to have a lot of fun.
Q. Wayne, when you win a game by scoring more than 100, when you cross that 100-point threshold, can you speak at all about any additional thrill that it gives you? Any special lift? And by extension if you’re able to win this, yet the score is low, is that going to take any of the fun out from your perspective?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: I don’t think scoring over 100 points really does anything for us. It just says that a lot of people are contributing and, you know, I mean, that’s what we need. But we’ve been in tough battles before, tough games and we’ve proven that we’re tough enough to win low-scoring games where we’ve got to battle on the last possession on defense. So I think that’s something that we are used to, and we’ve been through that and that’s something that we’re not shying away from.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. Questions for Coach Williams.
Q. Coach, last June you came to our Hall of Honor banquet and you told us how you recruited Derrick and you followed his career, but since then have you followed his exploits in the Pan-Am Games and this season? And did you picture him back then as being a player here in the Sweet 16?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: You know, I have followed him, and it’s strange because in high school I saw him as a point guard, and he still has those capabilities. But he is a big-time shooter, and he is more on the receiving end of those passes and stepping into his shot more than I ever picked him in high school. I have followed his play. I like the Bennett family. Tony has done a great job with the team. I used to love watching his father coach, and I think they got off to a start like 14-0 this year, they’re really good.
Q. How much better is Ty’s work ethic now than it was it, say, a year ago, and how much of a struggle was it to get to this point?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: It is better. I don’t know if I’m good enough to put a number on it, but it is better, let’s put it that way. He had never really been challenged, because he is so gifted. That quickness is hard to simulate, so he had always been able to get by people so much easier because of that quickness, and all of the sudden you’re playing in the ACC and it’s not quite as easy. But I do believe his work habits are better. I think it’s a bigger change for somebody that relies on speed and quickness than it is anybody else. So it’s something he worked at. He got much better last year as the season went along. I got mad at him the day before the Georgia Tech game, and I think it got blown out of proportion. And after that I never went back to it and touched on it, and last year down the stretch he was sensational for us. This year he got off to a great start and got hurt, and has gotten a little better each and every week, and I think he’s doggone close to being full speed right now.
Q. How big of an advantage is it really to have played all tournament games in North Carolina and being here this week? Also, in your career have you ever been in the situation where the opposite has been true, where you’ve taken a team in to play somebody where they’ve had a partisan crowd?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: You guys think it’s a heck of a lot bigger advantage than I do. To answer the last part of your question, one of the greatest things we’ve — 2003 we played in Anaheim and we ended up beating Duke and Arizona. And Arizona and California, those states are fairly close together, it was a huge pro Arizona crowd, but they do a great job, and we won the game because our team played better on that day.
In 2005 we played the regionals in Syracuse and Villanova was right there, big crowd, but we played better on game day. Everybody told me in ’95, gosh, Coach, you just got to win those first two games to get to Kansas City. Well, we got to Kansas City and Virginia beat our tails.
I don’t believe that crap, you’ve got to play on game day.
Q. Coach, did you once apologize to Dick Bennett for dissing that style of play? You’re not a big fan of the Bennett style, are you?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I wouldn’t say that I’m not a fan of that. I’m a fan of basketball going up and down the court. And I made the statement and it got a great deal of play, and I called Dick and he said “I understand.” It was 19-18, at halftime.
Don’t play games. The number of people that enjoy seeing 19-18 is not as many as the number of people that like to see 61-60. If you were to take a poll, you would pick 61-60. So I made a truthful statement, and Dick understood it. He knows I love the way they play defense, I will still say I like 19-18 okay, but I like 60-61 better. Dick and I have been good friends and Tony, I love what he’s doing with the club. Dick, when he did retire, I said, “What are you doing?” And he said, “Walking on the beach every day.” Kind of thing.
I enjoy him. He’s a coach’s coach. He’s old school. He’s going to do what he can do with that personnel, and with that personnel he felt like that was the way to play. I don’t think — put it this way: I think Tony will probably play faster. I don’t think Tony slows the ball down right now. I think they try to be efficient, they don’t take bad shots, make stupid passes. They don’t beat themselves and I think those are all positives, but, again, you’ve got people pick on me for saying the ACC is the biggest cocktail party, well, it is. Let’s be honest. They say, 19-18 isn’t pretty — well, it wasn’t pretty. They’re saying we’re stupid, he’s not saying it’s an advantage to play in North Carolina all the time. Say what you want to say, if my team plays well, we got a chance to win in Siberia. If my team plays poorly, we have a chance to get beat in Chapel Hill, which we did twice this year. I’ll get off the soapbox now.
Q. Roy, can you talk about David Padgett after his freshman year in Kansas. Was there any attempt to get him to come to North Carolina? Any contact? What attracted you about him, recruiting him out of high school?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: David and I did speak when he left Kansas. We did talk to him about coming to North Carolina. Wonderful kid, who has had a lot of adversity and has bounced back from it in a great, great way. I loved him when I was recruiting him because he was a big guy who could run, who could catch, who could pass, who had savvy and I think he’s showing all of those things now. Rick has done a great, great job with him.
We were in Las Vegas in the tournament there. I forgot the name. I guess that’s bad for their sponsors. Las Vegas Invitational, is the name, is that what it was? All right, so I didn’t forget any sponsor. But I talked to David at practice. They were practicing right before us and we were going into practice at the facility, and that’s when he was hurt, and I said, “What are you going to do?” And he said, “Well, they’re saying the whole season. And I think I could get back quicker. And if I could get back in January, I want to play this year. I don’t want to try to petition for a sixth year.” And I think he came back early in January and he’s been sensational, and I couldn’t be happier for him.
Q. When you’re playing a team that’s slowing down the tempo, do you have to worry about your team being impatient in that situation, not being disciplined enough?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think so. I think you’ve got to be patient on both ends of the floor. I think you’ve got to be patient on the defensive end because you’re going to get hit by screen No. 1, and then 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. So you have to be tough enough and patient enough to play the defense for as long as you need to play it. And on offense you have to be patient to get a great job. You don’t want to play defense for 25 seconds — again, I don’t think they slow the ball down as much as people act like they do. They’re going to take a great shot, even if it’s quick, if it’s the shot they want. Don’t put yourself in a position where you play defense for 25 seconds and then come back and play offense for 5 seconds, and then come back and play defense for another 25 seconds.
But you’re right you have to be patient on both ends of the floor.
Q. What was your team missing when Ty was not in the lineup?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think we were hesitant about what we could do. It took us a game or so to get used to a slower pace because Ty gets you so many easy ones. And I think that’s the easiest answer to your question is that his speed and quickness gets you easy ones and you would like to have some easy ones. You wouldn’t like to have to play against the other team’s set defense. If you play golf you would like tap-in birdies as opposed to putting from 20 feet every time. So that makes it easy.
Quentin is getting us easy ones, also, but I think that’s the biggest thing we missed. And the fact that we had two point guards when we had Ty and Quentin, and after Ty went down we had a second guard, Marcus, who had never played the guard spot in college.
Q. Roy, defensively how do you rate your team compared to past Carolina teams and even back at Kansas?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: We’re getting better, but we’re not where we want to be. I think we are getting better at seeing the big picture and understanding how important it is. We need to do a better job of guarding the dribble and stopping the dribble, stopping penetration. We need to do a better job of closing out on the shooters and it may be more technical than you wanted. I think we’re getting better but we’re not where we want to be. Yet I’ve used this example of 2005, once we got into the NCAA tournament, we really started having the stats to back up that we were getting better. In the semi-finals, Michigan State shot under 30% in the second half, and in the Finals Illinois shot under 30% in the first half, and part of it was they missed shots, but part of it was our defense, too.
So I believe we’re getting better. And how they compare to past North Carolina teams, I’m sure we’re not as good as some of those teams. We’re not as good defensively right now as the 2005 team, for example, but we’re light years better than the 2004 team was.
Q. To go on when you were saying about Q, how valuable has he proven to be this year for you guys and how rewarding is it for you to see a guy who has been a reserve to emerge in the role that he has?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: He’s been a saver and it’s a feel-good story for me as a coach. He had gotten opportunities and didn’t grab it and run with it, and then he got hurt, so he had the adversity of injuries of not playing well when he got an opportunity, and then all of the sudden we needed him to do it. Not just we want him to do it, we needed him to do it and he really did. He grasped it and ran with it. It’s been great for him.
Q. Roy, I’m thinking of the Virginia Tech game, scoring in the 60s as opposed to the 80s, what are some of the things you wanted to do in those games that you weren’t doing?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: It all goes back to the defensive end. You don’t want to give up simple, easy shots. You want to make them work for it and we didn’t do that as much as we wanted, and we were impatient on the offensive end against Virginia Tech. That was probably something that bothered me more than anything. But I like winning in the 80s and 90s, but to be the team and reach the dreams we have and be the team we want to be, you’ve got to be able to win at someone else’s tempo. You can’t be in your comfort zone all the time.
And for the most part I’ve had teams in the past that could win games in the 50s and 60s, I just enjoyed it more in the 80s and 90s.
Q. I wanted to follow up about using various point guards. Tennessee is doing that. Can you talk about what obstacles that presents and what positives there are to that?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think the obstacle is knowing exactly what you have for your teammates. Is he going to push it and go all the way or pull up and look for me behind the three-point line? So the familiarity is something that takes practice and games to get that. Obstacles for the other team they don’t know exactly, you know, what one point guard is, does he play exactly the same as the other one? And at the same time, that also keeps them off balance. In baseball you have a fastball pitcher and then all of a sudden you bring in the relief pitcher that’s got the big curveball. Change for change’s sake is good. So there are obstacles and not the least of which we should ignore is the freshness that you have.
Q. Coach, do they try to keep the games in the 60s, and do they do with that the offense or the defense?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think a little bit of both. They don’t hurt themselves. They don’t take bad shots, they don’t turn it over a lot. They wait until they get the absolute shot they want on the offensive end. On the defensive end they guard you. You don’t get an easy shot. There are a lot of teams that their defense is good for the first pass, second pass, and then all of the sudden it breaks down. I think each time Washington State is prepared to guard you for 35 seconds.
You’ll see tomorrow, they’re going to get an opportunity and they’re going to run the break because they do try to take advantage of opportunities to run as well.
Q. We’re all going to write about their system and how they slow it down. What about their personnel impresses you?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: A little bit of the same answer, because their kids don’t try to do things they can’t do. Rochestie, just a phenomenal kid, great assist ratio, a lot ofbetter athlete than people think he is. Derrick Low is a fantastic senior. Puts the ball on the floor, is crafty, starts around high screen, cuts backdoor. Weaver is a big-time athlete who can put the ball on the floor, shoot the three-point shot, can post you up and then has a wonderful assist-TO ratio. And then some big guys who shoot 56% and 59% are the two starting post players. So they don’t beat themselves, they will try and do the things they do, and they’re able to do that well. I’m watching the Stanford game, and I think they were 11 for 14 from the three-point line. They’re really good.
Q. They did such a good job last year against Harangody from Notre Dame, will Hansbrough present a different challenge?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I haven’t seen Notre Dame enough to say he and Tyler are close, but it is the same kind of thing, a big guy who loves to run and play. Tyler has been faced all year with people who are trying to stop him, sending two or three guys at him. One of his biggest areas of improvement is his ability to move the ball out of bad situations, his ability to shoot the ball before the bad situation gets there, or his ability to step out on the floor a little more and not just be a post-up player and we need him to do all of those things tomorrow, because Harangody was 3 for 15 or something like that, did have 20 rebounds or something like that. But we need Tyler to have better offensive numbers than that.
Q. Roy, does this have a different feel? The rest of the conference is gone, it’s just you now?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: To me there is a definite different feel in the NCAA tournament than the ACC Tournament. And, again, people pick on me and say bad things because of it, but it’s the fact that the ACC Tournament is not what it was 25 years ago. We’re trying to beat our brothers, neighbors, establish bragging rights, but we knew that we were going to have an opportunity to play after that. Right now it’s none of that. If you don’t play, you go home and you get out the golf clubs.
So there is a much different attitude, a sense of urgency, and along with that sense of urgency is a realization of you getting closer and closer to a bigger prize. So I think it’s a totally different atmosphere.