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April 1, 2000
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
End of FastScripts...