Charlotte, NC – After their 68-43 win over the Washington State Cougars in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament at Bobcats Arena, Carolina’s head basketball coach Roy Williams and players Ty Lawson and Danny Green talked with the press.
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: For the first time in my life I thought the media was so powerful, it’s unbelievable, and now we have more evidence of how powerful you guys are. Tyler was one of our players to be drug tested, and they said, “He has to talk to the media before he can use the bathroom.” You guys are powerful.
Other than that we’re ecstatic, we played really, really well during stretches. Defensively we thought we were really good but, let’s be honest, they missed some open shots. We felt like we missed some open shots. Well, first play of the game we missed a dead layup, and some after that, but Washington 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 they only had four points after second-shot opportunities, and we usually make a better living there than the seven we made.
But 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 3 for 17 or something like that from the three-point line. That’s not perfect, I’m not far off, but 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 is only 16 teams left, you gotta feel really good about that. And I saw Tony before the game and told him I waved at his dad because there couldn’t be anybody in the arena happier than his dad tonight. And he’s one of the great coaches of the game, and it doesn’t feel good for them right now but they had a great year.
Q. Danny, with what Coach just said, you did struggle a little bit up in Raleigh. What helped you get going tonight?
DANNY GREEN: I think just making one basket really, kinda gets me going. That shot gives me the confidence to knock down the next one and getting into a rhythm in the game and playing good defense, diving on the floor, doing the little things to get the butterflies out. And once I got going things started working toward my way.
Q. For either of the players, a lot of attention was paid to how many points you guys scored last week. Because of the nature of this game, the way you played it and the way they wanted you to play it, was this more impressive to you than the two last week?
DANNY GREEN: I would say so. I mean, they played really good defense. They slowed the ball down, but once we started going a little bit, getting out, pressuring defensively and getting some stops and running them, I think we started getting on a little rhythm and getting some easy baskets for ourselves.
TY LAWSON: I feel like it’s more impressive because it’s a tough game, it was a grind-it-out 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, that helped us get the lead and win the game.
Q. Ty, looked like you were jetting up and down the court as well as you have all year long. I know you probably get sick of being asked this, it looked like you felt pretty good tonight. Is this the best you felt since before Florida State?
TY LAWSON: I think so. I was able to do everything I normally was able to do. I was going to the basket, pulling up. My ankle felt really comfortable, I was able to jump off of it to make right hand layups. So I feel like I’m back to 100% or close to it.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. Questions for Coach.
Q. Roy, you talked about them missing open shots but that was pretty good defense out there. What was the point of emphasis tonight? And were you just trying to contest everything?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Well, we were trying to contest everything. I think one of the things we wanted to be is, I put up on the board, “tough enough, patient enough, poised enough.” And talking about guarding for 35 seconds. What they do they sort of walk the ball up the court, and they get it across the 10 second line with 7 or 8 seconds already lapsed, and they don’t necessarily try hold the ball down till the end. But they want to hold it until they get exactly what they want. So I said to Marcus and Danny and Wayne, “You’re going to be hit by a screen. You have to be tough enough and patient enough to get through it. You’re going to be hit by another screen. You’ve got to be tough enough and patient enough to get through it. Guys are going to cut on the baseline. He’s going to stop 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 tore us to keep them off the backboards and not let them get second-shot 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% in the second half, and we shoot 38% percent. And 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.
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: 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, 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.” And the other emphasis at halftime was that half is over with. We can’t do anything about that, but we could do something about the second half. “Let’s be focused and try and go out and do better in the second half.”
Q. What does it say about your offense that you had six points less at halftime than Notre Dame had against this team in forty minutes without Ty scoring?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: You know, I watched Notre Dame, they struggled getting the ball in the basket. Seemed like they were out of sync the whole game. We were struggling getting the ball in the basket, but I felt like we were okay. We were getting pretty good shots. We just weren’t making them or we were rushing the shots we had. So I felt pretty good about that.
I do feel good about our offense, there is no question there. I think we had great balance, but you look down and Ty is 5 for 11, Wayne is 4 for 13, Tyler is 6 for 15. We don’t have those kind shooting nights very often. But I do think in the NCAA Tournament we have to relax a little more.
I said something about putting things up on the board, first thing I put 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. And 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. Late 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 missed it. But I do think at times that offensively we have a chance at times to put pressure on people.
Q. Roy, with their style of play, was this a game that you had to get through? Did your players kinda feel that way, that they knew this might be the one game that might be different from all the others?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: 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. And you guys have heard me say a lot, I’d rather win in the 80, 90, and 100s, but sometimes you have to win in the 50s and 60s. 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.
Q. You know Derrick Low very well from high school and this season he had 24 points in the second half at UCLA last week, 11 in the first 10 minutes of the second half against Winthrop. Was he one guy you were paying attention to in the second half to make sure he didn’t score in bunches like he has in the past?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Well, their whole team — they may have missed that, but not by a lot. Seven threes in 85 seconds against UCLA, so they can score quickly when they start making them.
I grabbed Derrick and Weaver both and told them, “It doesn’t feel good right now but congratulations on what you’ve done and great careers and great year.” But we were concerned about Derrick and Weaver both of those guys from three. But Derrick has, I watched the Winthrop game, was it Winthrop or Stanford 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.
Washington State Cougars head basketball coach Tony Bennett and players Aron Baynes, Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver spoke to the media.
COACH TONY BENNETT: Well, it was not the way we wanted to go out. But I told these guys in the locker room after the game, what a run, for their careers. These two seniors, especially. I’m very thankful for that. We so desired to get to this point, and played a heck of a team, and they certainly exploited us. We had some trouble against them, and we’ll learn from it. Obviously I want to focus on now, what they did for our program. It meant a lot to me and I’m sure you guys will ask questions about that, but Robbie, Derrick and Kyle especially came in when nobody wanted to give us the time of day, and they went through a lot to get our program to where it’s at, and I’m just thankful for that.
Again, I’m thankful for what we learned. It was hard out there. It was disappointing because I think we’re better than what we showed, and North Carolina is excellent and well coached and tremendous talent and all that. And we thought we could play better than that, but we just didn’t do the job tonight.
Q. Aron, Hansbrough had no points in the first half, how were you able to limit him? And conversely in the second half what did he do differently to get his points?
ARON BAYNES: I don’t know, I just tried to make him play over a body the whole time. I tried to stay between them in the basket the whole time. I knew he was going to score points, but I tried to do the best I could to stay out of foul trouble and make it tough on him. The second half, he’s a great player and great players are going to get shots off and they’re going to get some of those to go down. So he came out and scored a few more points in the second half, but still just tried to stay — I got a few calls, a few fouls called on me and that kinda made me sit out. And it was a struggle down there. But, yeah, I don’t know, just tried to play the best D we can.
Q. What is it that you normally like to do that you were able to do when you were successful that you did not feel that you could do tonight, and then related to that, what did North Carolina do to take that away, if, in fact, it was something they did?
KYLE WEAVER: I think it was our team defense. We really didn’t play the team defense that has gotten us here all year. We broke down a lot of times, each time down the floor, you know, someone was out of position and we just didn’t cover each other. That’s the type of team defense that we needed to play. We just didn’t get it done and I think that’s a bit due to the way Carolina played. Every time down the floor they pushed it at us, and tried run it go down our throat, and they tried to force us into making mistakes in defensive transition. And a couple times that happened to us and they hit some big shots, and they were able to stretch the lead out.
DERRICK LOW: I thought we were pretty good at transition defense, but tonight I thought that was lacking a little bit. I thought for the most part we got back most of the time, but when you’re going up against a quick guard like Lawson, you know, you’ve got to get everyone back and build the wall and stop him. And I thought, you know, it was partly my fault in the second half — I mean, yeah, second half, Lawson got a few in a row when he drove the lane through the court and just zig-zagged his way to the rim. But I thought last couple games we were successful at that and tonight it wasn’t.
Q. Can you guys talk about shooting tonight? Was it something they did defensively or was it just sometimes in basketball you get cold?
KYLE WEAVER: Yeah, it was freezing out there. I thought we got a lot of good looks offensively. Pretty often I thought we got a lot of good looks, we drove and kicked a few times. It just wouldn’t go down for us tonight, even inside. We missed a few bunnies, a few put-backs that we usually put down, so I think it was more of us than them at times.
Sometimes it just doesn’t go down and tonight was one of those nights.
Q. Derrick, you’ve had games like this when you struggled in the first half, even last week, 0-5 in the first half against Winthrop and you were able to turn it around and score 11 in the second half. At UCLA 0 in the first half, 24 in the second. Tonight was there any sense that you could get that roll going in the second half at all?
DERRICK LOW: I was trying to, but I thought offensively I thought I got all the looks, you know, that I could get and that I wanted. A lot of them were good shots but like he said, it was just hard to get it to drop, and, you know, in most games I would have my teammates making shots and it would probably just be me missing. But it was pretty much offensively us tonight and we just didn’t shoot well as a team. That’s how it goes sometimes, but, you know, you can’t stop shooting. I thought I just kept trying to get them down and a couple of times I had to switch it up and go to the basket, but it was just one of them nights that it didn’t want to fall.
Q. Kyle and Derrick, could you talk about the last night of your senior year and the thoughts as you came off the court and what you talked with Tony about as you left the court.
KYLE WEAVER: It’s hard, you know, right after you lose a game like that. Like Coach said, you don’t expect to lose or go out in that type of style, but, you know, to take it to where we’ve — to get it to where we are now, you know, to where we started, being last in the Pac and, you know, every year being a struggle to get it to where we are now. I mean, it’s kinda hard to say that now but it was pretty — it’s pretty satisfying now that it’s over to just look at it from a big picture.
Like I say, it hurts to lose, especially like this, being our last game as seniors, but I think we can look back at this, and I think we can say we left a mark at Washington State.
DERRICK LOW: I’ll answer that one, too. Walking off the court, like Kyle said, it was kinda hard not to feel disappointed to end our college career like that. But then again, after that it just kinda made me reminisce back to the beginning and, you know, how it was back then when we first got here and the adversity that we went through, maybe being injuries or just being the last in the Pac 10, and no one believing in you and then, you know, to look where we were now walking off the court coming out of Sweet 16 game. And you just gotta smile at that and even though we lost, we just thank Washington State and the coaching staff for taking a chance on us. Just kinda stuff like that.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. Congratulations on a great year. Questions for Coach Bennett.
Q. You’re an NBA point guard. Certainly people around here think the X-factor for them is Lawson. How good is he? And everybody talks about them being their engine.
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yeah, he was good tonight. I asked Derrick in the waiting room, how fast is he? Because in the second half we stopped him two or three times, but then we scored a couple of baskets and he’s right on top of you. And I mean, we worked so hard preparing for this and sprinting back and trying to build a wall, but you can’t mimic that in practice, and his ability to change directions and use his strength.
He certainly is a significant guy, because that’s our strength, transition defense, it was our strength against Notre Dame and Winthrop and throughout the season. And he found some holes in it and he would get so deep. You know, you try to get out there and pick him up and get the ball off him, but he gets so deep. That was impressive, it certainly was. He’s healthy now and getting full strength, and he showed why he’s thought of as a big league guard. Tried to go behind the ball, screen a couple times. We made them shoot 43% as a team, but they do, they keep coming at you, the best off of makes that you’ll see, turnovers, and they keep coming and we knew that.
Q. Tony, you faced a lot of good basketball teams this year, how good are these guys?
COACH TONY BENNETT: They’re good. I feel bad, I didn’t feel like we represented the Pac 10 the way we should. We got to the Sweet 16. There’s three teams here, but I felt early the game was going at least where we needed it to go and I felt we could get shots, we could do things, but where they’re good at, you can see it, is they keep coming at you. They keep playing over the course of forty minutes, and we’ve played some really good teams in our league, a little different style but really good. And I thought we were better than we showed. But I do think North Carolina is very special. And when you shoot it as poor as we did — and I think North Carolina is better defensively than people think, too. They can guard you, they certainly can, but I did think we got enough quality looks for us to be in the game longer than we were.
And when you keep missing it does something to you defensively, too, and we couldn’t get the easy ones to go down. And when that started happening you could just feel it and certainly they have a nice atmosphere here for them. But they can play. I’m just disappointed because we should have represented our league better than that. We didn’t, but we represented it well for most of the tournament, and it would be a heck of a match-up against the couple of the top teams in our league, if they played them.
Q. Will you talk about Aron’s game? Was this maybe the best game of his career?
COACH TONY BENNETT: He certainly could physically compete out there. Just physical with the banging and for the most part the officials let it go. I felt bad for one of his calls because they needed him on the floor. But he grabbed some rebounds and showed his physical toughness, and this was a game where physical toughness was going to be at a premium, and he met the challenge that way. And I was glad to see him complete that way. The one thing he said when it was four minutes left and we were down whatever it was, he kept saying to the guys after he fouled out, “remember, be thankful. Being passionate.” He was talking about the things that mattered to our program, “Go out learning something. Go out hungry.” He was engaged and locked in and I thought he — I think he probably impressed some people, and he’s played against some offensively good interior guys in Brook Lopez and Kevin Love and playing against Harangody. And I think that helped prepare him to play. But he certainly stepped up and was the one guy offensively that was a bright spot.
Q. Coach, you talked about the seniors and what they meant to this program, and can you touch a little bit on that and also what future they might have in basketball after this?
COACH TONY BENNETT: I told them in the locker room, I said, “I’m going to miss you guys.” And miss them a lot. They’re like family. Most of you people don’t understand what it was like when they did come in, and we took a chance on them, but they took a chance on us, and they endured and they’re wonderful kids. Derrick and Kyle, what they did making the Pan-Am team.
They’re definitely going to have a future. I hope they get great looks at the NBA level, but they have a perspective. You could hear that listening to them here, and I think they’ll be okay, I really do, and whether it’s high-level Europe or a chance in the NBA. They can play and they’ve done a lot and a lot has been asked of them. It certainly has and they have certainly responded. And Robbie against Notre Dame, he was significant in that game. He wasn’t as good today, but he’ll have some decisions to make, what he wants to do after his career. But he could, I think, certainly play somewhere.
But they’re the foundation for us, and they took it to a spot — like I said, after all this stuff goes away, they’ll feel real good and they’ll be remembered forever in Pullman, Washington. I promise you that.
Q. You talked last week about the photo of the Vanderbilt game and how you wanted them to learn from that. Now as the seniors leave from the program, what do you hope that they learned from this experience as they go on now past the Washington State doors?
COACH TONY BENNETT: I told them, they came in as boys and I believe they’re leaving as young men for what they’ve been through. I just hope that what matters to our program most are the five principles we talk about, that they remain humble, they know who they are, whether they play professionally or whatever profession they go in, that they are always passionate about what they do, that they’re true servants. We talk about servanthood being the way to greatness. They’ll embody those principles, and that they’re unified in. Those are the things that matter to our program and those are life principles. I hope they’ll take those and know “I can do it,” even though it doesn’t look like it’s possible. But they’re good kids, they’ll both get their degrees at the end of year, and they represent to me what a student-athlete should look like at this level from Washington State or anywhere, and they can hold their heads high with their Pan-Am experiences, and it’s almost sweeter when you come from the bottom and get to the — I’m not going to say to the top, but get to a spot where they wanted to be.
So I hope they believe in those principles because it matters to us.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the shooting. I asked the guys this, is it contagious, poor shooting?
COACH TONY BENNETT: We didn’t shoot real well against Notre Dame, I can’t remember what we were from three, and I was concerned about that, and against a team this talented I knew we would have to make some shots. The quality of shots were pretty good. I think it affects you more on the defensive end. We couldn’t get one to drop and you felt so much pressure on your defense, and the looks, again, were there. Robbie couldn’t knock it down. Derrick got some, we got into the lane, chippies, things that didn’t want to fall and that’s devastating. It really is because you need to stay attached to a team like North Carolina. You don’t do that and you really don’t have much of a chance.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.