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March 31, 2000

Ed Cota

Brendan Haywood


Q. I'd appreciate it if both of you could address this. The success that you two have had in hooking up, particularly in the tournament, Ed getting the passes to Brendan, Brendan being able to finish it, seems it has really flourished for you in the tournament. Can you talk about it as something you worked on, coming to fruition?

BRENDAN HAYWOOD: It's something we worked on every day in practice. Ed getting the ball to me at the right time has definitely made my job a lot easier. I said all year long, he's one of the better point guards in the nation and really gets you the ball at the right time.

ED COTA: Definitely makes my job easier when Brendan gets good position inside and really seals off. My job is to get the ball to him in the right position. Like I said, whenever he does a good job posting up, it makes it easier for me.

Q. The last two games Florida's opponents have talked about the fatigue factor and said it's all mental. But when they go out there, it's physical because they've worn down. What do you think about playing with six players?

ED COTA: Well, the starters, we're used to playing 38 minutes and better. Florida has a lot of guys they're going to throw at us. We need to go out there and try to control tempo. We might get tired some. As long as we don't get tired mentally, we still have a chance. We just got to try to control tempo.

Q. When you're playing against a pressing team, I guess the options are to, you know, attack it, break it, try to get easy baskets or get it across half court and set up. Is that going to be kind of up to you to decide, this time we're going to go through and get a layup?

ED COTA: Yeah, we're going to try to make Florida pay for pressing, but at the same time, take good shots. We can't go out there and just take the shots they want us to take. We might get across half court and they run our offense. But just depending on what the situation is and if the opportunity is there, we're going to try to score.

Q. Ed, talk about what it's been like the past couple years not having guys like Jamison or Carter, what adjustments you've had to make. No disrespect to guys like Brendan.

ED COTA: I don't have to make too many adjustments. I basically play the same role I've played since my freshman year, I just have to get more comfortable with some of the guys that came in when I was a junior and just try to be more patient with the guys and just try to get more used to them. But I basically have done the same thing.

Q. For either one of you guys, you guys have played a lot of tight games in the tournament, sort of faced elimination, especially against Tennessee when you were down late. What did winning games like that do for the team's confidence?

BRENDAN HAYWOOD: It does nothing but build confidence. When you can win games that are close, just gives you a sky-high feeling. There have been times we seemed like we were down and out but kept battling. It just helps you with other games in the tournament.

Q. Could you talk about Joseph Forte and the confidence level he came in when he got there and what he's provided for your team?

ED COTA: Well, since day one, Joseph came in with a lot of confidence. He wanted to be a starter, and he really worked hard. And made his presence felt. But he has a lot of confidence. And scoring is not his biggest strength, he can rebound, play defense. He brings a lot of energy to the team.

Q. This is for Ed and Brendan. Ed, this is your third Final Four, Brendan, this is your second Final Four. You guys lost both, all three and then Brendan, your other Final Four game of the Semifinals, is there anything that you can take from your previous experience and bring to the team and help them win the game Saturday?

ED COTA: You really can't learn much from your past experience. It's a totally different team, and a totally different year. But we just got to go out there and give it 100 percent on the defensive end and hopefully we won't take an early exit this time.

BRENDAN HAYWOOD: Basically, what Ed was saying. There's nothing you can say. You can't look at the Final Four we played in San Antonio and say if we did this different. You can't look at it like that. You have to go out, play your game and do what got you here this year.

Q. Ed, could you talk about pace of play for me, and what sort of disadvantage you might be put at if Florida is to take control of tempo and go up-and-down the floor?

ED COTA: Well, if we start turning the ball over and they score off our turnovers, that could definitely hurt us in this game. Like I said, we might have some turnovers, as long as we have a chance to set our defense up, we should be fine. But we just got to try to control the game. But if anything, for the most part we just need to play a great defensive game. If we do that, we have a chance.

Q. This is for Ed. Ed, this whole year people have been trying to write this team off all year. What was the lowest point during the regular season for this team, and obviously this must be the high?

ED COTA: Well, I think our lowest point was when we lost to Wake Forest that last time in the ACC Tournament. Everybody had their heads down. Everybody -- we expected to win the ACC Tournament, the Championship, but we fell short the first game. So that really hurt. But all year long we had an up-and-down season. We can't blame anybody for writing us off or our fans for criticizing us and stuff like that because we deserved it. But we handled it well. The coaches had the patience with us, and we just believed. That's why we're here now.

Q. Ed, since that Wake Forest game, what's been the biggest factor of why you're here?

ED COTA: The biggest factor is us playing defense. That's why we lost a lot of games this year. We really wasn't defending well, and we led the nation in field goal percentage and still had a rough season. So our defense definitely picked up, and that's why we're here now.

Q. Ed, when you saw that North Carolina got a No. 8 seed, given the great tradition of the program, was that motivation during the tournament at all or how did you react to that?

ED COTA: No, it wasn't motivation. It didn't really matter what seed we got, we was going to be motivated regardless because we felt we had something to prove to ourselves and our coaches and we wanted to just make our fans happy and we just was gonna take it one game at a time and Missouri was our first opponent. That's the only team we concentrated on. We just took it from there.

End of FastScripts...

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