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March 20, 2009The day before top-seeded North Carolina takes on No. 8 seed LSU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament South Regional, UNC players Danny Green and Wayne Ellington spoke to reporters.
Q. You made a shot last night, and you came back down the other side of the court and could not stop smiling. It seemed like you had a lot more fun. Just talk a little about your performance and how much better that was last night?
DANNY GREEN: "I wouldn't say it was a great performance, but a lot better than the past weekend. The games are more than just winning---we're having fun as well. But it's a lot easier to have fun when you're winning games. So we wanted to make it a point to work hard but also have fun as well since we're here."
Q. Did you have a chance to get a good look at what (LSU leading scorer) Marcus Thornton did against Butler what were your impressions?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: "Yeah, I got to see some clips today. I saw a little bit of their game yesterday. Yeah, I mean, he did a very good job. Had a lot of shots of the took some tough ones and made some tough ones. He's kind of like the fire on their team. He gets them going especially offensively. You know he's going to be a big time challenge for our perimeter tomorrow."
Q. You hadn't hit many of those (three-pointers) in the last couple of weeks. You've been struggling around the basket, too. The tips aren't falling, the put backs aren't falling. Any explanation for that?
GREEN: "No, I would say rushing a little bit. Taking my time and finishing plays. But right now I'm putting momentum, we're trying to build momentum as a team. But our next focus is LSU and what we have to do against them. We have to stop them inside. The two big guns are Tasmin Mitchell and Marcus Thornton. And Thornton, he can put it up. He can fill it up outside. Try to challenge his size and limit him to one bad shot. And Tas, try to get him to do something different that he doesn't normally do."
Q. I wanted to ask you, last two years you came out of the ACC tournament as champions and went to the NCAA. You talked about building momentum. Can you carry that momentum over. This year you're coming out after losing the semis. Is it any difference at all? Or just totally irrelevant to what you're trying to do in the NCAA?
ELLINGTON: "Well, I feel like I think it's totally irrelevant to jump from our conference tournament to the NCAA Tournament. You know, we had a week off, and I feel like once you get into the NCAA Tournament it's where you build your momentum. That's where we wanted to start yesterday. We wanted to start yesterday building momentum and keep it running."
GREEN: "I agree with Wayne. Two different tournaments. So that has nothing to do with this tournament right now. So we're building our own momentum from this tournament right now and starting something new. Last weekend was last weekend, and this is a totally different tournament. We're not playing the same teams we play in our conference. This is, I guess, not more important, but everybody in the country, they want to win."
Q. Playing in the ACC tournament is disconnected, is there any negative the years you won it in terms of the effort and emotion you had to invest in that? If it doesn't carry over good, is there any bad carryover if you really put a lot into it?
GREEN: "I don't think so. I don't think there's anything negative about winning an ACC championship. But some people may look at it as us being tired going into the NCAA's. But I don't think it has anything to do with that. I don't think it as anything negative."
Q. I wanted to get both your thoughts on getting to play in Greensboro in the first two rounds. Some might say it's unfair for teams to be able to play so on close to home. I know Coach Johnson said you kind of earned it. How do you guys look at it?
ELLINGTON: "I feel like, yeah. You work all season to be able to position yourself to have an advantage like this. I feel like it's the hard work throughout the whole season that places you in a place close to home and gets your fans close to you. It's kind of like a home-court advantage. So I feel like, yeah, we did earn it."
GREEN: "I agree. I think we've been fortunate enough in the past two years to be placed close to home and close to where our school is. But I think we definitely have earned it. The last year we played really well, and this year we played really well throughout the season. Us being in Greensboro is a big advantage with our fans here. But I feel like anywhere we go we can play and we're going to have fans there regardless. But it's good to be close to home."
Q. Do you notice a difference in how you're defended individually? And if other things open up if Danny is shooting the way he normally does?
ELLINGTON: "You said the way I'm defending?"
Q. The way that you're defended personally, and how many other things open up for you guys during the flow of an offensive possession when Danny is shooting as he normally does?
ELLINGTON: "Oh, yeah, did he have defensively I've been trying to follow the principles we've been doing all year long. I feel this time of the year you have to be able to stop guys and that's been our mentality."
Q. What I'm saying is you guys are on offense and Danny's shooting well and in a groove, do you notice a difference in how teams defend you and the way things open up for you guys during the normal flow?
ELLINGTON: "Oh, definitely. I feel like when Danny's hitting shots and I'm hitting shots, teams have to respect us. Opens up a lot inside for us. I don't really see a difference in the way teams are really guarding me right now as opposed to when Danny's knocking down all the shots. I feel like they still have to respect both of us."
Q. Can you you talk a little about have you seen the film of Temple defending Meeks well in the SEC Tournament, and having had some success against Redick, what are your impressions of him as a defender? Maybe having to go up against him?
ELLINGTON: "Actually I haven't gotten to see much of him. Coach emphasized how great of a defender he is. He was all defensive player in the conference, so it will be a big time challenge. I love playing against guys that get up in you and want to challenge you. I think it will be a lot of fun."
Q. You played an SEC team in the second round last year, Arkansas, a lot of people thought they'd give you some trouble, too. Is there a comparison with this LSU team and that Arkansas team?
GREEN: "I mean, possibly. I think that they're two totally different teams. It's a new year, and the teams that we're playing now, I think it will be a lot tougher than we've played in the past. Like Radford we thought they were better than Mount St. Mary's. But we had to come out with the same intensity and same energy and be more focused because we knew they were going to give us a run for our money."
"But LSU and Arkansas they're both athletic teams. Arkansas had Sonny Weems, and LSU has guys that are long and athletic and get up and down the floor. But I think it's the difference with the guard play. They didn't have a Marcus Thornton on the team---a guy that can light it up outside and be a big threat out there. So Tas on on the outside can be a big threat as well. So we have two big challenges we need to face, and we need to step up to the challenge."
Q. LSU said that obviously they're going to try to control tempo tomorrow because of your quickness and everything. How important does that make it on you guys especially if Ty is either not going to be able to play or not 100% to keep that tempo high, keep pushing it and get transition going?
ELLINGTON: "It's always important for us to control the game and push the ball as many opportunities as we can. Wherever we get the opportunity. So I mean we're going to do that regardless. Hopefully we'll have Ty, but if not, I think Bobby did a great job yesterday of advancing the ball forward and pushing the ball ahead. We're getting great opportunities in transition."
GREEN: "Definitely, pushing the ball, that's our game. We're not going to change our game because Ty's not playing. We're going to continue to push the ball. Practice paragraph like I said, we like to try to tire teams out a little bit. Normally in the past we've been a lot deeper than we are now. But I feel like we have a good bench and our bench is giving us good things now, Zeller and Ed and Larry, and Larry being more effective coming off the bench. So we're definitely going to keep pushing the ball. We're not going to change anything we do because someone's not playing."
Q. Sort of following up on the Greensboro playing here, do you guys enjoy playing at home, these home games more in the NCAA Tournament or when you're playing at a neutral site, playing in the tournament is kind of its own buzz? Is it about the same, more fun, more pressure?
ELLINGTON: "I'd say it's a lot of fun playing here in front of all your fans. But I feel like our fans follow us everywhere. Whether we're here, on The West Coast, we still have a lot of Carolina fans there. But I feel a tournament is a tournament. It's an atmosphere that's going to be the same, it's going to be fun and challenging. And I think that's what college basketball is about. So whether we're in greens boor on owe or not, I feel like we're definitely going to have the same atmosphere."
Q. You played against Tasmin Mitchell or I'm pretty sure with Tasmin Mitchell in the McDonald's All American game. When you guys play against teams that have that type of high-level recruited talent, that type of thing. Do you feel like they're less intimidated from the minute they walk on the floor? Do you know what I'm trying to say?
GREEN: "I don't think any team has intimidated us in this tournament. I don't think any team has intimidated us in any tournament we play in. I think they're out to beat us. I think every team is really hungry especially now this time of the year, this is March time and they want to win. They want to get a chance to play in the Final Four and win a National Championship. But I guess when you have recruits like that, I guess it is easier to play and not think about well they have this guy, this guy or one's better than us and we have to do this."
"But Tas is a big recruit in high school, but when you get to college none of that matters. All that McDonald's stuff goes out the window. It doesn't matter who is on your team, it matters who is working hard now, who is playing hard now, who is doing one what and going to win the game. It has nothing to do with what you did in high school."
Q. The LSU players talked with a great deal of familiarity about the Boston College game at Chapel Hill, as if they've already looked at that tape maybe in getting ready to play you guys tomorrow. What did you guys take out of that based on on everything else that's happened? What did you take out of that that helped you finally wind up winning the regular season?
ELLINGTON: "I think we've been a lot more hungry since then. I feel like when we played Boston College we were a little comfortable. Our first game in the league, we kind of just cruised into it instead of being on top of each other and being hungry, I think it was. I thought we're a totally different team than we are now than then.
So, they can talk about that all they want. But I feel like we're definitely a much better team and more focused team right now than we were when we played against Boston College."
GREEN: "I agree with Wayne, of course. We're definitely different now than we were then. But they may look at that tape and see some things or weaknesses that they have. And they think they can use to beat us because some of the things that Boston College ran. I'm sure they do a lot of flex and stuff like that. But I think this team has matured a lot more. We know how to play better defensively. We know what we have to do to win games. We've just got to come together and, you know, make some sacrifices, and play better defense and challenge shots and box out, do the little things, and play the flex a lot. We know they're going to try to throw that at us because they think we're not as good guarding the flex than other teams are. But I feel confident in our team that we'll be able to do what we're supposed to do."