March 21, 2009

COACH JOHNSON: Obviously, for this team, for these seniors, it wasn't supposed to end like this. North Carolina's a really good basketball team. You know, there is a period there we came out in the second half, there was a stretch there where we were making plays. We were executing them. I think we took the lead. There was about a 4-minute period where we couldn't get a break.
But these guys fought all year long. They played together as a team. They came into this year and embodied and receptive to everything we asked them to do. They have nothing to hang their head about. I just wish I could have found some ways to help them a little more to be successful tonight.

Q. Could you talk about the play of Marcus Thornton in the second half? He put in 21 in the second half alone coming off the injured toe. He just seemed to be a different player?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Yeah, you know, Ty's a great point guard. He's real quick and explosive. He's shooting a great percentage from the three-point line this year. So you have to respect his quickness, but at the same time he had two big threes, so we tried to get up in him and he was able to penetrate. So kind of the way he finishes, he finishes the best I've ever seen a point guard finish at his height. So he played a big part in that win.

Q. Of those first two or three minutes in the second half. Played just about as well as you could in the first 6:30. Just the mood of the team, it looked like you guys grasped control of this game. Is that the way you guys felt? Like you kind of grabbed control of the game?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Yeah, well, Coach always said the first five minutes of the game will determine the game. We tried to come out with the intensity the first five minutes of the game. But you know we try to keep it the whole time. We let it slip away from us.
MARCUS THORNTON: Like Tasmin said, going into this game, we knew we had a chance to beat North Carolina, so we didn't come here doubting ourselves. The guys we have on this team believe in each other. We knew we had to change to win.
Like we said, in the second half we came out with a lot of fire than we had in the first half and got back into the game and got the lead. That's the game and it kind of slipped away.
Give credit to North Carolina, they're a great team. They have great players. We just let one slip away.

Q. Being here as long as you have and everything you've put in, you've got to be proud of the effort you guys gave tonight in this hostile, hostile environment with such a great team the way you played?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Yeah, you know, I got a great group of guys that I play with. And one heck of a coach that I was able to play with for at least one year. You know, these two guys sitting to my left, I love them like brothers, man.
We came out in the second half, we played great especially at the beginning of the second half. You know, I think their depth just started getting to us toward the middle of the second half when they started trading baskets. We weren't able to knock some shots down, and they kept knocking shots down.
But we had a great season. I've had a great five years here. Lucky enough to spend four of them with Tas, two of them with Marcus, and one with Coach Johnson.

Q. Could you talk about from your perspective during that 11-0 run that Carolina made you guys failed to make a field goal for about a 5-minute stretch. What went on that enabled Carolina to surge ahead like that?
TASMIN MITCHELL: You know, it was just basically Carolina was making plays and we weren't. That's what it boils down to. We got good looks at the goal, didn't fall. We didn't get rebounds, got back, and we let them run the floor. So I mean, you know, it's just it all boils down to they made plays and we didn't.

Q. To start the second half you guys seemed to get a lot of mileage and throwing it down to you, and you scored early, and when they start doubling, you guys did a good job rotating. Can you talk about what you did to start the second half?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Well, Coach wanted to establish the inside presence, and he kept coming to me and I kept trying to make something happen. But when they started doubling down on on me, you know what I'm saying, it's on my teammates. They were open, and I just passed it to open man. And they did a good job rotating it around the perimeter. That's what we've got to do. When I get double teamed I've got other teammates. I'm not out there by myself.

Q. Marcus Thornton, did he look like he had any kind of an injury particularly in the second half?
MARCUS THORNTON: No, looked like he went back there and got some treatment on it, and he got well. Like I said, he's a great player, even when he's injured, he's still effective because he's the head of the team. Whenever they go, he makes them go. He came out, and he did a great job. They just fought a little bit harder and they won the game.

Q. After coming off two tough seasons, talk about this year this season 2009 as a ground work foundation for future success for LSU Basketball?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Definitely. Getting Coach Johnson here at LSU, it's a great building block to upstart LSU Basketball again. We're going to get some good recruiting classes in here. And Coach, what he did with this team with the expectations we had coming in and stuff like that, it was incredible.
You know, if ever they need me to do anything, come back or anything like that, I'm here for them. But LSU Basketball is going to be good in the long run.

Q. Can you talk about Ellington? He seemed more aggressive than some of the good scorers that you're able to shut down, they just kept coming and kept coming?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Yeah, Wayne is a great scorer, really skilled. He does a great job in moving without the ball. And when he catches it, he gets a lot of rise on the jumpshot. So when you do contest, he's still able to get the shot off.
But he did a great job of playing one-on-one. I wish I'd have been able to guard him a little better, but he was able to knock some shots down, and he hurt us tonight.

Q. I know nobody's ever happy after a loss, but after last year still having good numbers but not the same record. Do you take any satisfaction of getting to end your career on a stage like this?
MARCUS THORNTON: Yeah, I'm happy to be able to be in this situation that we're in. I'm not happy that we lost the game or whatever, but just to be here with these guys with the expectation of not even making it, probably, some people thought. Just to be here with these guys is incredible, and I wouldn't change it for the world. I thank the Lord every day for putting me in this position.
PHIL WARSHAUER: We'll continue with questions for Coach Johnson.

Q. First 35 minutes really back and forth. Then the last 5 minutes things started to fade away. What was it that you noticed that wasn't working that maybe was in the first 35?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I thought defensively they got their hands on a lot of balls and more transition opportunities down the stretch. But coming into the game we knew that the tempo in which they play and as deep as they are and as talented as they are that we're going to have to do a really, really good job of being selective on the half court once we got opportunities to make plays.
I've got to believe when we took the lead there was a period there where we missed a couple. I think we ran too strong for Marcus. He came off the baseline missed the deep three. One he's been making all year long. They ran out.
Then Lawson who was fresh, very fresh. And Bo who sprained his ankle during the course of the game, you know, he took advantage of them on the half court and in the transition opportunities.

Q. You alluded to this earlier, but after the game Bo just talked to us about it. It was an emotional scene. How emotional was it talking to these seniors for the last time?
COACH JOHNSON: You know, I don't think you guys really get it sometimes. You know, three and a half months of practice and what these guys did, buying in, being receptive.
I mean, Tasmin Mitchell has played for three coaches in three years. And the expectations on this team, there were none. Then every step of the way for them to continue to battle and fight their expectations grew, and changed weekly.
For me, personally, this is what I told them and it's never been about me. But the impact they've had on me and just my ten years as a Head Coach, it's unlike any team I've been affiliated with.
I'm not a very emotional person, but much has been made about Trent Johnson and this and that. Well, the impact these young men have had on me has been special. But that's about -- that's the bottom line. It was emotional. They didn't think they were going to lose. It shouldn't have ended like this. It really shouldn't have.

Q. Down the stretch, you think the depth may have worn you down a little bit? You tied with 8 minutes left?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, they've got good players, they've got a good coach. I mean, they spread us, and, again, we came out of the second half and we executed. We got, I think, three baskets in a row. Got right back on top. You know, we just couldn't get ourselves in a situation where we couldn't make a play and get a stop, and we wanted to go. We're trying to attack inside out, off the bounce. Then even go through the post.
But we just couldn't get anything done. But you've got to, again, give them credit. They're good. They were at an excellent venue, and just didn't work out for us.

Q. Bo said after the game that he felt like it might have started slipping away when you started taking shots quicker than you normally would. Did you notice a little impatience out there? Was that just trying to scramble a little bit in the second half in the last 5 minutes?
COACH JOHNSON: No, what I noticed is what I told Garrett. We came out in the second half and were executing really well. Then there was a period there where we went up two and ran a couple plays for Marcus, and he came off wide open. They couldn't guard us out on one. They couldn't guard us off on our counter stuff. So I'm not going to tell a kid to turn down an open two or open three as talented as he is, and he's been playing all year long.
Again, that's Bo's perspective out front. But they got their hands on a lot of loose balls and they got out in transition, and they had a guy who hadn't played in a long time who is fresh and who is a pro to make plays.

Q. Marcus Thornton, were you thinking that he may show up in the second half after he didn't quite do it in the first half? But you kind of had a sneaky suspicion that he might perform better in the second?
COACH JOHNSON: I didn't have a sneaky suspicion. I had a suspicion who was on the floor for Carolina was going to play well and do a really good job, whether it was Drew or Bobby Frasor because they've been playing really, really well.
He's a pro. He's probably one of the best point guards in the country. So for us we knew our hands were full in trying to contain him. Trying to contain Hansbrough, trying to contain Ellington, trying to contain Thompson. So, it wasn't a sneaky suspicion, it was just we've got to continue to battle.

Q. I know you don't put a lot of stock in atmosphere and don't really talk about that. But are you proud of the way the kids held their composure in what had to be the toughest place to play in the country tonight?
COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm proud of the way we competed. These guys, I think Marcus alluded to it, I know Tas feels the same way, I know Garrett feels the same way. It wasn't like we didn't come out here thinking we couldn't beat this basketball team. We're not into moral victories. And as long as I'm representing the LSU Tigers Men's Basketball Team, we're never going to be in moral victories. I don't care where we play, who we play, when we play.

Q. Coach Roy Williams talked at length about some of the shots that Marcus made, shots that you guys have seen him make before. Can you talk about that stretch where he really got hot? He knocked down one right in front of the bench. I think that might have been the one that gave you the lead?
COACH JOHNSON: Again, without looking at the tape and not having the greatest memory in the world, we came out of the halftime. We wanted to move the stacks up and run what we call a 42, 52 counter, which is the one he hit on the baseline. Then we wanted to run him off a series of staggers which was X. And then we wanted to go into the post with Tas and put Marcus on the weak side. So we threw it into Tas. I think he threw it to Bo, Bo turned it to Garrett and turned it to Marcus on the corner.
So basically coming out of the half we had good looks because we executed and we were in rhythm. And we put them back on their heels.
But when we took the lead they got really emotional. But they settled themselves down. We were trying to run the same stuff. And I think there were a couple of plays right in front of us where Tas got raked, Green went the other way, and Garrett missed the three, then they got a cushion there.
And once a team like that gets a cushion regardless of what you run, it's going to be hard to get back in the game because they're talented and really skilled.
You look at the line. We out-rebounded them, had 15 turnovers, that was the difference. And there were three by C.J. at half that gave them a cushion. They went to the line 18 times, we went 6. So there is your ballgame. Off the bounce in the post, and our inability to take care of it.

COACH JOHNSON: Obviously, for this team, for these seniors, it wasn't supposed to end like this. North Carolina's a really good basketball team. You know, there is a period there we came out in the second half, there was a stretch there where we were making plays. We were executing them. I think we took the lead. There was about a 4-minute period where we couldn't get a break.
But these guys fought all year long. They played together as a team. They came into this year and embodied and receptive to everything we asked them to do. They have nothing to hang their head about. I just wish I could have found some ways to help them a little more to be successful tonight.

Q. Could you talk about the play of Marcus Thornton in the second half? He put in 21 in the second half alone coming off the injured toe. He just seemed to be a different player?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Yeah, you know, Ty's a great point guard. He's real quick and explosive. He's shooting a great percentage from the three-point line this year. So you have to respect his quickness, but at the same time he had two big threes, so we tried to get up in him and he was able to penetrate. So kind of the way he finishes, he finishes the best I've ever seen a point guard finish at his height. So he played a big part in that win.

Q. Of those first two or three minutes in the second half. Played just about as well as you could in the first 6:30. Just the mood of the team, it looked like you guys grasped control of this game. Is that the way you guys felt? Like you kind of grabbed control of the game?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Yeah, well, Coach always said the first five minutes of the game will determine the game. We tried to come out with the intensity the first five minutes of the game. But you know we try to keep it the whole time. We let it slip away from us.
MARCUS THORNTON: Like Tasmin said, going into this game, we knew we had a chance to beat North Carolina, so we didn't come here doubting ourselves. The guys we have on this team believe in each other. We knew we had to change to win.
Like we said, in the second half we came out with a lot of fire than we had in the first half and got back into the game and got the lead. That's the game and it kind of slipped away.
Give credit to North Carolina, they're a great team. They have great players. We just let one slip away.

Q. Being here as long as you have and everything you've put in, you've got to be proud of the effort you guys gave tonight in this hostile, hostile environment with such a great team the way you played?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Yeah, you know, I got a great group of guys that I play with. And one heck of a coach that I was able to play with for at least one year. You know, these two guys sitting to my left, I love them like brothers, man.
We came out in the second half, we played great especially at the beginning of the second half. You know, I think their depth just started getting to us toward the middle of the second half when they started trading baskets. We weren't able to knock some shots down, and they kept knocking shots down.
But we had a great season. I've had a great five years here. Lucky enough to spend four of them with Tas, two of them with Marcus, and one with Coach Johnson.

Q. Could you talk about from your perspective during that 11-0 run that Carolina made you guys failed to make a field goal for about a 5-minute stretch. What went on that enabled Carolina to surge ahead like that?
TASMIN MITCHELL: You know, it was just basically Carolina was making plays and we weren't. That's what it boils down to. We got good looks at the goal, didn't fall. We didn't get rebounds, got back, and we let them run the floor. So I mean, you know, it's just it all boils down to they made plays and we didn't.

Q. To start the second half you guys seemed to get a lot of mileage and throwing it down to you, and you scored early, and when they start doubling, you guys did a good job rotating. Can you talk about what you did to start the second half?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Well, Coach wanted to establish the inside presence, and he kept coming to me and I kept trying to make something happen. But when they started doubling down on on me, you know what I'm saying, it's on my teammates. They were open, and I just passed it to open man. And they did a good job rotating it around the perimeter. That's what we've got to do. When I get double teamed I've got other teammates. I'm not out there by myself.

Q. Marcus Thornton, did he look like he had any kind of an injury particularly in the second half?
MARCUS THORNTON: No, looked like he went back there and got some treatment on it, and he got well. Like I said, he's a great player, even when he's injured, he's still effective because he's the head of the team. Whenever they go, he makes them go. He came out, and he did a great job. They just fought a little bit harder and they won the game.

Q. After coming off two tough seasons, talk about this year this season 2009 as a ground work foundation for future success for LSU Basketball?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Definitely. Getting Coach Johnson here at LSU, it's a great building block to upstart LSU Basketball again. We're going to get some good recruiting classes in here. And Coach, what he did with this team with the expectations we had coming in and stuff like that, it was incredible.
You know, if ever they need me to do anything, come back or anything like that, I'm here for them. But LSU Basketball is going to be good in the long run.

Q. Can you talk about Ellington? He seemed more aggressive than some of the good scorers that you're able to shut down, they just kept coming and kept coming?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Yeah, Wayne is a great scorer, really skilled. He does a great job in moving without the ball. And when he catches it, he gets a lot of rise on the jumpshot. So when you do contest, he's still able to get the shot off.
But he did a great job of playing one-on-one. I wish I'd have been able to guard him a little better, but he was able to knock some shots down, and he hurt us tonight.

Q. I know nobody's ever happy after a loss, but after last year still having good numbers but not the same record. Do you take any satisfaction of getting to end your career on a stage like this?
MARCUS THORNTON: Yeah, I'm happy to be able to be in this situation that we're in. I'm not happy that we lost the game or whatever, but just to be here with these guys with the expectation of not even making it, probably, some people thought. Just to be here with these guys is incredible, and I wouldn't change it for the world. I thank the Lord every day for putting me in this position.
PHIL WARSHAUER: We'll continue with questions for Coach Johnson.

Q. First 35 minutes really back and forth. Then the last 5 minutes things started to fade away. What was it that you noticed that wasn't working that maybe was in the first 35?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I thought defensively they got their hands on a lot of balls and more transition opportunities down the stretch. But coming into the game we knew that the tempo in which they play and as deep as they are and as talented as they are that we're going to have to do a really, really good job of being selective on the half court once we got opportunities to make plays.
I've got to believe when we took the lead there was a period there where we missed a couple. I think we ran too strong for Marcus. He came off the baseline missed the deep three. One he's been making all year long. They ran out.
Then Lawson who was fresh, very fresh. And Bo who sprained his ankle during the course of the game, you know, he took advantage of them on the half court and in the transition opportunities.

Q. You alluded to this earlier, but after the game Bo just talked to us about it. It was an emotional scene. How emotional was it talking to these seniors for the last time?
COACH JOHNSON: You know, I don't think you guys really get it sometimes. You know, three and a half months of practice and what these guys did, buying in, being receptive.
I mean, Tasmin Mitchell has played for three coaches in three years. And the expectations on this team, there were none. Then every step of the way for them to continue to battle and fight their expectations grew, and changed weekly.
For me, personally, this is what I told them and it's never been about me. But the impact they've had on me and just my ten years as a Head Coach, it's unlike any team I've been affiliated with.
I'm not a very emotional person, but much has been made about Trent Johnson and this and that. Well, the impact these young men have had on me has been special. But that's about -- that's the bottom line. It was emotional. They didn't think they were going to lose. It shouldn't have ended like this. It really shouldn't have.

Q. Down the stretch, you think the depth may have worn you down a little bit? You tied with 8 minutes left?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, they've got good players, they've got a good coach. I mean, they spread us, and, again, we came out of the second half and we executed. We got, I think, three baskets in a row. Got right back on top. You know, we just couldn't get ourselves in a situation where we couldn't make a play and get a stop, and we wanted to go. We're trying to attack inside out, off the bounce. Then even go through the post.
But we just couldn't get anything done. But you've got to, again, give them credit. They're good. They were at an excellent venue, and just didn't work out for us.

Q. Bo said after the game that he felt like it might have started slipping away when you started taking shots quicker than you normally would. Did you notice a little impatience out there? Was that just trying to scramble a little bit in the second half in the last 5 minutes?
COACH JOHNSON: No, what I noticed is what I told Garrett. We came out in the second half and were executing really well. Then there was a period there where we went up two and ran a couple plays for Marcus, and he came off wide open. They couldn't guard us out on one. They couldn't guard us off on our counter stuff. So I'm not going to tell a kid to turn down an open two or open three as talented as he is, and he's been playing all year long.
Again, that's Bo's perspective out front. But they got their hands on a lot of loose balls and they got out in transition, and they had a guy who hadn't played in a long time who is fresh and who is a pro to make plays.

Q. Marcus Thornton, were you thinking that he may show up in the second half after he didn't quite do it in the first half? But you kind of had a sneaky suspicion that he might perform better in the second?
COACH JOHNSON: I didn't have a sneaky suspicion. I had a suspicion who was on the floor for Carolina was going to play well and do a really good job, whether it was Drew or Bobby Frasor because they've been playing really, really well.
He's a pro. He's probably one of the best point guards in the country. So for us we knew our hands were full in trying to contain him. Trying to contain Hansbrough, trying to contain Ellington, trying to contain Thompson. So, it wasn't a sneaky suspicion, it was just we've got to continue to battle.

Q. I know you don't put a lot of stock in atmosphere and don't really talk about that. But are you proud of the way the kids held their composure in what had to be the toughest place to play in the country tonight?
COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm proud of the way we competed. These guys, I think Marcus alluded to it, I know Tas feels the same way, I know Garrett feels the same way. It wasn't like we didn't come out here thinking we couldn't beat this basketball team. We're not into moral victories. And as long as I'm representing the LSU Tigers Men's Basketball Team, we're never going to be in moral victories. I don't care where we play, who we play, when we play.

Q. Coach Roy Williams talked at length about some of the shots that Marcus made, shots that you guys have seen him make before. Can you talk about that stretch where he really got hot? He knocked down one right in front of the bench. I think that might have been the one that gave you the lead?
COACH JOHNSON: Again, without looking at the tape and not having the greatest memory in the world, we came out of the halftime. We wanted to move the stacks up and run what we call a 42, 52 counter, which is the one he hit on the baseline. Then we wanted to run him off a series of staggers which was X. And then we wanted to go into the post with Tas and put Marcus on the weak side. So we threw it into Tas. I think he threw it to Bo, Bo turned it to Garrett and turned it to Marcus on the corner.
So basically coming out of the half we had good looks because we executed and we were in rhythm. And we put them back on their heels.
But when we took the lead they got really emotional. But they settled themselves down. We were trying to run the same stuff. And I think there were a couple of plays right in front of us where Tas got raked, Green went the other way, and Garrett missed the three, then they got a cushion there.
And once a team like that gets a cushion regardless of what you run, it's going to be hard to get back in the game because they're talented and really skilled.
You look at the line. We out-rebounded them, had 15 turnovers, that was the difference. And there were three by C.J. at half that gave them a cushion. They went to the line 18 times, we went 6. So there is your ballgame. Off the bounce in the post, and our inability to take care of it.