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April 1, 2000

Billy Donovan

Mike Miller

Brett Nelson

Kenyan Weaks


COACH DONOVAN: Well, obviously we're extremely excited about moving forward and having a chance to play for a National Championship. I just want to commend and say how much respect we have for North Carolina and their basketball team and how hard their kids competed tonight because they're very talented. Brendan Haywood is a great player. Posed tremendous problems for us up front. Obviously Kris Lang was on a bad ankle and probably wasn't 100 percent but I thought showed great character. Cota has done as good as any guard we've gone against this year handling our press. I thought he was good tonight. Forte getting off to a slow start in the first half but played great. I want to give a lot of praise to North Carolina, we certainly have a lot of respect for them. I was also very, very pleased and proud the way our basketball team competed as well.

Q. This is for Brett. When Cota picked up his fourth foul, right here, when Cota picked up his fourth foul at about 13 left or so, you went directly after him. Sometimes when you do that sort of thing, it can get away from your offense. But it obviously didn't have a bad effect on you. Can you talk about the idea to go directly after him? Did it come from the bench, was it your idea? How did it work out?

BRETT NELSON: He had four fouls, I knew that. We were just running our offense and I was getting open looks. Through our offense I was just shooting the ball through open looks.

Q. For Brett and Mike, each time North Carolina, two times they took the lead you guys went on good runs. What allows you guys to keep going like that? Is that the way it's been for you guys all season?

MIKE MILLER: It's basically a credit to our style of play, you know, they have chances where they go out and they get a lot of runs on us, then there's chances where we have runs on them. You know, that's our style of play. That's the way we like to execute things. That's the way we play if there's any turnovers we hope to execute on them. Just those runs, we made some shots. We didn't make a whole lot of shots tonight, but those runs, critical runs, we made shots.

BRETT NELSON: Just like Mike said, it's our style of play. If we get down 10, 12 points in any game, that's not a big thing because our style of play, we can get a few steals, I can knock down a few threes and we can push the lead to six. That's just -- I pay a tribute to our style of play for that one.

Q. Mike, unfortunately not a lot of time to enjoy this. Can you talk about Michigan State and your thoughts of playing them for the National Title?

MIKE MILLER: Michigan State's definitely a great ballclub. They've been the top three, four, maybe five the whole year. They've got seniors, which is important when it comes down to this. They've been here before. They had a good game against Wisconsin, they didn't shoot well. I don't think any of the four teams that were here shot very well, but, you know, we have one day to prepare for them. But I think we're going to do a good job of scouting them. I think Coach has already got a plan on them. Once we get in tomorrow and work on that, we'll be fine.

Q. Mike, could you talk a little bit about the similarities between this game and the one against Duke in which you also, you know, kind of wore out one another, you know, thin team from the ACC?

MIKE MILLER: Like I said, our style of play was very important. We knew coming into the game that they played six, maybe seven guys, and that's important for us to, you know, attack that. We play ten guys, they play six. We have to play our style of play. They started getting tired. I think when Ed Cota picked up his fourth foul, he had to play more passive. That helped our press out. They're a good basketball team with or without many guys. We knew our style of play was going to have to win out tonight.

Q. Brett, it seems like all season, I mean even back in September before you were even playing games, Coach was harping on this and says you're going to fall behind by four or five maybe midway through the second half, but you can't give in. Through the whole tournament, especially tonight, is that something that just sticks in your mind? Can you talk about maybe some of the conversations you had early in the season?

BRETT NELSON: Yeah, Coach has always told us with our style of play if we get down, like I said earlier, six, eight points, never give up and keep playing and playing and playing. Our style of play, the way we press and stuff, we still get it knocked down to three and we're right back in the game. Coach has said never give up, that's what we've been doing.

Q. Brett, in the second half, North Carolina went on a run, they were up four. You answered pretty well with four straight plays. Can you talk about the difference in the way it feels when you're playing well like that and you're in sync and maybe a couple of the drives in the first half where you were a little out of control?

BRETT NELSON: I would just do the offense. I mean I get in a rhythm, through the flow of the game I get a good sweat going. I was just penetrating, Udonis was on the zone, who ever else they ducked down. I saw the man, passed to it. We were running, that's one of our sets, set a hot pick-and-roll.

Q. Kenyan, tell me what this game, playing a Championship game means to you, this, your senior year. I saw you emotional up there a minute ago. What does the thought of playing Monday night mean to you?

KENYAN WEAKS: It's a great feeling. It's a position I've never been in. I'm grateful to be a part of such a great basketball team that has come this far.

Q. This is for any of the players that want to answer. After Carolina, towards the end of the game and after Carolina got in to foul trouble, did you notice them getting fatigued, or was it just the fact that they had to play so passive because they had three guys with four fouls?

KENYAN WEAKS: Yeah, we just, you know, we just kept playing and playing the game. Playing our style of play and kept fatiguing them and fatiguing them. Their players were unable to perform. We just kept going at them. I think that's the reason why we won the game.

Q. Brett, I went back on your stats and you had trouble shooting early in the season, as a freshman might. Did you ever doubt yourself? You don't look like the kind of guy who would ever doubt yourself.

BRETT NELSON: No, I mean earlier I really didn't understand what a good shot and a bad shot was early in the season but I attribute how I'm playing now all to Coach. He never lost the confidence in me. We would have talks, he said just keep your head up, you're going to break through it. And I have. I have to attribute that all to Coach, because he kept my confidence up.

Q. Kenyan, you missed three free throws all year, you missed your first three in this game. Is that just the pressure of this situation, or what?

KENYAN WEAKS: It wasn't any pressure at all. It was just, you know, I wasn't mentally focused at the line. I missed free throws but I'm just glad I got that out of my system.

Q. Billy, almost every game has taken almost on the same type thing, five, eight minutes left, the other team start to wilt a little bit. Have you come to expect that?

COACH DONOVAN: I don't think so. I was concerned, I could tell you, at half time because we fouled entirely too much in the first half and I thought that Carolina did a good job of, you know, really Brendan Haywood in particular, he just completely had our whole front court in foul trouble. Udonis also had two fouls. Brendan maybe had one foul or two fouls in the first half. I think he picked the second foul up late. I did not really know. Cota, I thought, did a great job tonight handling our press. I thought what happened was when we were able to get a couple scores, when we got down by four, Brett coming off some pick-and-rolls, knocked down some shots. That really made the game move a lot faster and we had a couple steals, had a ten-second call. I could probably see maybe about ten minutes, they looked -- appeared to be a little tired. Coach Guthridge is probably a better guy to talk to about that. We played obviously a lot more people than they did. I can't see -- we come to expect it, because you never know, you know, a team may be able to go all the way through and be fresh.

Q. The beginning of the year with so many freshman and sophomores you were looked at as a team that was a year away. Did you ever buy into the fact you were a year away? If not, why not?

COACH DONOVAN: I've always said this, for some reason people always say next year's going to be their year or wait till next year. I think if you forget to focus on today. I never lost confidence in this basketball team. I mean we had a great year. I mean regardless of expectations, I think it's very, very rare you find freshmen and sophomores live up to expectations. We wanted the SEC Championship, certainly we didn't play a great game in the SEC Tournament against Auburn. Auburn was ranked in the top 20. We had a great year all the way through. Like anything else, when you're young, your guys get better and improve. Brett Nelson is a better player today than he was in Maui in November as is our entire basketball team. I think what happens, people look at these expectations on recruiting, you could be as talented as you want, if you don't play together, use a system and perform well, you're not going to win. I think our guys did an unbelievable job this year because I would say that if people saw us play in Maui and say do you think is this a Final Four team, I think people probably would have laughed. These guys have done a tremendous job with their character, their focus, their will to learn, listen and be coached.

Q. Billy, do you find it ironic that you may have won -- beaten two top ACC teams because you had more players, more depth? . Can you talk about the role depth had in tonight's game?

COACH DONOVAN: I think the SEC for us has done a great job in preparing us to play in this NCAA Tournament. I think you look at the SEC and we had six teams in, there could have been seven teams with Vanderbilt in. We've played in great competition. Duke and Carolina, obviously in the ACC, year in and year out have been the two programs that certainly have tremendous success. It probably wouldn't be fair to me to say that we wore Carolina out, because Coach Guthridge knows his team better than I do. He knows maybe how much our pressure affected them relative to some other teams. All I can go by is what they say after the game. Sometimes when people say to me, "You wore them out," I don't know, were they the same team the last ten minutes they were the first ten minutes? No, I think we were not the same team either the last ten minutes. We were able to rotate guys. The one thing people don't understand about our style of play, you can be tired. You can have ten guys tired. I play ten guys, ten guys to be tired. But obviously to beat Duke and to beat Carolina I think speaks volumes about our league, how good our league is and certainly it's very, very gratifying. Those two programs, in my opinion, have been the model for success and have had obviously tremendous tradition over the years.

Q. You mentioned Haywood was so dominant and troublesome for you guys. Was there an adjustment you made?

COACH DONOVAN: I think there was a couple of things that we tried to do. The first thing was we tried to get the game going up-and-down the floor, wanted Branden to play in transition so he could not set up in the post. In the first half, he did. He really hurt us. I think he had 16 points and nine rebounds maybe in the first half. What we started to do later in the second half is we could not get up -- we could not get any post up position. We had a difficult time scoring from the low post against North Carolina. What we started to do was bring him away from the basket and run some pick-and-rolls. I think with the pace of the game maybe getting up-and-down for about an eight or ten minute stretch there, Carolina maybe couldn't get the ball into him, but they -- I've never seen a guy that size and I don't know how you play post defense against him. They just throw the ball to areas of the floor and he goes and gets it and it's very, very difficult to guard him. We wanted to play the game up-and-down so we would not be in that situation. But to Carolina's credit they did a great job getting the ball to him in areas where they could score. He had 20 points and 12 rebounds. I thought he really played well tonight.

Q. After Carolina took the four-point lead, could you talk about Brett Nelson's series of plays?

COACH DONOVAN: I thought our guys kept their composure. I thought right around the 12-minute mark we were not playing great basketball, we were up by three at the half, I think there was some back-to-back threes, maybe we got up by four, all of a sudden, they came back at us and took tremendous control of the game. Brett Nelson's play certainly opened it up, they were in some foul trouble. Forte picked up his third. Obviously Cota picked up his fourth. But, again, I think that we got the game in transition. We got a ten-second count. Brett Nelson made some shots. For us, we can play our style when we score. I thought the first half we took some quick, ill-advised shots which did not enable us to get our press on as much as I would liked to. When we scored with Brett Nelson scoring we had -- that enabled us to get our press on, we could chase and trap and get disruptive. That's what opened the game up. We were a little bit more disruptive.

Q. Have you had a chance to see Michigan State very much? What's your thoughts on them and your matchup with them Monday night?

COACH DONOVAN: Well, I've had a chance to see them periodically throughout the year. I didn't get a chance to see the game today. You know, it's going to be kind of interesting going against Tom Izzo, I would consider him and I very good friends. He was an assistant coach for Jud. He's a great coach. His team plays very hard. They're very competitive. They have great leadership. You know, again, we're going against a basketball team that has tremendous experience, has been in this situation last year although they lost last year. I think they're a hungry basketball team like we are. It would probably do them a disservice for me to really comment on them. My assistants have seen them play. With Mateen Cleaves and Peterson and Charlie Bell, you know all the names, they're terrific and they do a great job defensively. They're great with their half-court execution. I think they're a team that, in my opinion, could play any way you want to play. You want to run and press and go up-and-down you can do that. Sit down and play half court, obviously displayed that against Wisconsin. We got our heads filled with everybody to start the year, felt like this basketball team, Michigan State, was probably the best in the country. And it's a tremendous challenge for our basketball team.

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