Here is a transcript from today's LSU press conference in Greensboro, N.C., on the day prior to playing the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Could you talk about your role as the defensive stopper, and what that means for this team? And also, the fact that you're a Final Four guy, and what that can do for these guys?
GARRETT TEMPLE: Well, first of all, a lot of people on this team, everybody has their role and understands what their role is. My role is to, you know, play great defense, guard whoever Coach puts me on. Most likely the toughest scorer on the other team or their best 3-point shooter on the other team. I've had to have that role for the last three or four years now. I take it to heart. I try to do the best I can defending whoever coach puts me on. Find out what their tendencies are, you know, and defense is a really big part of my game. That's probably the best thing I bring to the table in terms of basketball. In terms of the Final Four, I mean, that was three years ago, so I don't know if it has that big of a deal with this team, because it's a whole new team. The nucleus is, besides me and Tasmin, everybody else is new that's getting a lot of minutes. But me and Tasmin can pass down some things from that year, in terms of patience, making every possession count. Understanding how important it is to not take anything for granted when you're on this run, and to cherish the moment. Other than that, the basketball game's going to be played how it's played.
Q. How much different of a team is is Carolina without Lawson, than it is with him, and has it been difficult to prepare for them yesterday and today not knowing whether he's going to play or be effective or not?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Like Coach Roy Williams said, you can't replace a Ty Lawson. He's the head of their offense. He makes everything go. But preparing for him? We prepare for him just like he's going to play. We're not taking nothing for granted. We're going to prepare for him like he's going to come out there and lead the team. So it hasn't been that difficult, but, like I said, you can't replace him so we're just going to prepare like he's playing.
MARCUS THORNTON: Like Tasmin said, Ty law a big part to their offense and what they're trying to do. But they have Bobby Frasor and their guard Larry Drew that comes off the bench and does a great job, too. So if he plays, or if he doesn't play, it's going to be the same thing, because what they bring to the table is similar to him, but he just does it in a variety of ways. So we're just going to prepare the best we can, and try to get ready for tomorrow.
GARRETT TEMPLE: Like they said, Ty, the main thing that he does that the other guards don't do as much, he's averaging 6.5 assists. I think the other two combined are averaging 2.5, 3. He pushes the ball well because of his speed. I don't think they can match his speed. But when they get in the half court offense, you know, they pretty much do the same thing. You know, Ty can break off on the dribble a little better than the other two can. But, you know, they're a team, their offense. A lot of guys score in double figures. So the main thing is probably transition.
Q. If you watched the North Carolina game yesterday, then you know that this won't be necessarily a neutral site game. Is it fair that you are going to be a decided underdog to the fans? MARCUS THORNTON: It's basically a home game for them. What we have to do is try to block out all the hoopla that's going on in the stands while the game's going on, and focus on us. It's like a road game to us, so we'll just try to come in, take them out of the game early and try to get it done.
TASMIN MITCHELL: To piggyback on my teammates, like I said, you know, it's going to be like a home game for them, but I all of that stays within the four lines. The fans play a major part in every team's success, but they don't have to play. So like they said it's going to be another road game for us. And we're going to go out and play like it's our last.
Q. Few years ago you knocked out -- you played really good defense on Reddick as you guys knocked Duke out of the NCAA Tournament. Number one, does that seem like forever ago? Number 2, what do you remember about that game?
GARRETT TEMPLE: I mean, yeah that's a pretty good while ago. Three years. People still tell me about it still to this day, ask me about it and remind me. But the thing I remember is just the atmosphere of the Sweet 16 going into that game, being the underdog, similar to what we are now. Going on to play the top seed in the tournament at that stage. You know, it was just a great atmosphere. We just soaked it all up and came in playing with nothing to lose. Expecting to win and play great and we were able to get that win. I feel like this team is going to come out tomorrow and do the same thing.
Q. Would you talk about your team's style and then contrast that to what you've seen of North Carolina, and how y'all differ or are similar when you try to run with them and that sort of thing? GARRETT TEMPLE: Our team's style, well, we've won a variety of games in different ways. We can play slow, you know, we can play Washington, and I think we beat them by like 6. The games in the 50's, always scored up to 85, 80, 85 points. In terms of North Carolina, they run a lot. And they love to score in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. They have a lot of bodies coming in and out. Our team isn't nearly as deep as theirs. So I think to our advantage would be to slow the game down a little bit. Not try to run with them. Take open shots if we have them. You know, take the transition. Don't be scared of transition at all, but be smart in terms of transition. If the numbers aren't there, then slow it down and try to cut them up offensively. So that's the main thing.
Q. Can you talk about the matchups like Garrett, will you be matching up with Ellington? And when Carolina's lost games this year it's mainly been because the opposing team has good penetration from the point of attack at the guard position. How much have you gone over there trying to get at their defense by getting past the first line of defense by Bo Spencer or something like that?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Well, the point of attack will break down any team. Like you said, the team that they lost to this year has done that. So that's, you know what I'm saying, that's the smart thing for us to do is to do what they did to win. So we're going to go out here with our game plan and we're just going to attack. We're going to attack them and play good defense.
MARCUS THORNTON: Like Tasmin said, we watched the Boston College game a lot when they played them at North Carolina, and the guard Tyrese Rice he got in the lane at will, and that kind of disturbed them a little bit. As y'all know Boston College got that win. So it will be very important for us as guards on the perimeter to try to get in the lane and make something happen, and try to get the big men in foul trouble as well as the perimeter.
GARRETT TEMPLE: Boston College did a great job. In terms of the match-ups, we don't exactly know yet. I might be guarding Ellington, Marcus might be guarding him. But because they're so -- what's the word -- they have so many people that can score, Hansbrough, Thompson inside, all three guards are scoring over 13, 14 points a game. It's really going to be a team defensive effort. But, yeah, we did see Tyrese Rice break them down at North Carolina, and that was a big part of them winning the game. We have to do that as well. As well as just run our offense and execute and make them guard us for however long they need to.
Q. Just to kind of piggyback on on the question about Duke a couple years ago. Just talk about going into that game as the big underdog like you would be going into this one, and the mentality of playing a team traditionally a power like North Carolina or Duke? But going into that game, what was your mind-set? You all were young then, but to be seniors now and juniors and to go into this game, what do you remember back then going into that one?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Well, we remember we were just in the locker room all together. Like give it all we've got. All we got. We're all we got. You know. Everybody was against us and stuff like that. But we weren't worried about. We were like we're all we got, so we went out there with the mind frame like OK, they put their shoes on just like us. We're going to go out here and play ball and see who comes out with the victory in the end, and it was us. But that's how we're going to approach this game. We're coming out to play ball, play LSU basketball.
GARRETT TEMPLE: We didn't have anything to lose, just like this game. We understood the ball was going to have to be thrown up and we were going to have to start playing. We really believed that we had a chance to win the game. Being the underdog is a good thing. Nobody is pushing to win, the team might not be up for you as much, a lot of positives go with that. But we really prepare for the team real well. Duke, we had a whole week to prepare. This team is a little different, we only have a day, really, to prepare for them. But we're getting their tendencies, understanding what they do. What they like to do, what they don't like to do. Just go on out there with the mindset of winning. It's another game. Like you said, they put their clothes on just like we do. And they have been beaten before. They're not invincible, so just go out there and play.
Q. I'd like for each of you to take a minute to give me the reason you think you guys have had an outstanding season, and for the program it's been a remarkable turn around. I know that Coach Johnson, when he came in, said he wasn't going to demand anything of you, but he was going to ask you to do some stuff. Would each of you tell me why the regular season championship, why you were able to win it? Why you're here today? What is the reason you were so successful this year?
GARRETT TEMPLE: I think, yeah, you're right on with that. He said that from the start, he wasn't going to demand anything, he was just going to ask us to do stuff. Because we have so many seniors, the seniors really have to buy into what he was talking about. He came in and showed us right off the bat that he was about business, the first day he met with us.I think the discipline factor was the biggest thing. When he disciplined us, he earned our respect, we earned his respect. From then on we just started believing in what he said, and it's been working for us.
MARCUS THORNTON: The main thing was we bought into the system. We knew -- we didn't know what he was coming in to do, but as time went on we understood what he was bringing to the table. As seniors, it's our last go round, and we weren't trying to mess anything up. So we came together as a team and we bought into what he was trying to do. The main reason was nobody had their own agendas and personal goals. It was all team goals. That's the main reason we're here today.
TASMIN MITCHELL: To piggyback on what these guys said, we just bought into the system from day one. You know, we just came out. Like he said, he asked us, and we told him we'll do it. So it's all about the team chemistry. He brought the team chemistry together. That's what wins games, chemistry.
Q. Tyler Hansbrough, obviously, is a unique player. How have you guys talked to Chris, or what is the mood in the locker room with Chris and what he's going to have to do tomorrow to do whatever he can to slow him down?
TASMIN MITCHELL: Well, like you say, Tyler Hansbrough is a unique player. But like I said, we're just going to go out there and play defense like we try to do every game. We're not going to try nothing special on them. We're just going to help them. Just team defense. Team defense is going to win this game. I'm always going to say, he puts his clothes on just like we do. You know, we're just going to go out there and play defense.
MARCUS THORNTON: I don't think we should tell Chris anything. If he can't get up for this game, he doesn't need to be playing basketball, period (laughing). You know, like you said, Tyler Hansbrough is one of the greatest players in the conference today. If Chris can't step up to the plate like he needs to, he doesn't need to be playing. But I have faith in him. He stepped up big yesterday. He was a big part of our team yesterday, and I feel he'll do it again tomorrow. Q. You touched on Carolina's depth a little bit earlier. What can you guys do to combat that? They obviously go much deeper than you all do. And is it something that you're aware of out there? How do you combat their depth?
GARRETT TEMPLE: I mean the only way to combat depth is to have depth of your own, to be honest. But basically rest. We've got to get a lot of rest. During the game that is another reason we might try to slow the game down a little bit. Maybe stay on the offensive side a little more, little longer than usual just so they won't be able to run out on us. We can slow the game down. That's the only way to combat depth without depth of your own. So hopefully we can slow the game down.
Q. To any of you, you've talked about how this is going to be a road game atmosphere. You lost to Utah and Alabama back-to-back early in the season. After that y'all played pretty well on the road. What did you learn from that early season experience, and how confident are you when you go to opposing campuses now?
GARRETT TEMPLE: We learned that fans can be a big part of the game. After Alabama, we came out and also understood that they can play the game. We learned how to block that out. We had a couple of road wins and at Rupp. They're a hostile crowd over there. We just learned if we stay together we believe in what we can do as a team, then anything can happen.
Q. Do you think you're going to guard Hansbrough a little bit, too, like you did Ogilvie and Howard? And Tas, and Garrett, you think fewer people think y'all are going to win this game? Some people were picking you to beat Duke a couple years ago?
TASMIN MITCHELL: I don't know what Coach will allow us to do. He's going to give Chris the benefit of the doubt. He'll give Chris a chance. If things don't go right he'll probably put me on him. But coach never really puts me on on post player that's really like scoring, because he thinks about situations and stuff like that. But I wouldn't mind guarding him. It really wouldn't matter to me. But, a lot of people did have us beat. A few people had us beating Duke, but a lot of people had us losing to them, too. So it doesn't matter, it was all about us.
GARRETT TEMPLE: Like he said, it's all about us. People did have us beating Duke more so than North Carolina. But those people are not putting on LSU uniforms, so it really doesn't matter what they think.
COACH TRENT JOHNSON: Well, excited to still be playing. Going into the year, there are three things that we really thought we needed to improve on to be a pretty good basketball team to compete at a high level. One of them was transition defense. Another was rebounding and taking care of the ball. So we took 52 shots versus Butler, Carolina took 44 at the half. So I think our transition defense is going to be tested really good come Saturday evening.
Q. Tyler Hansbrough is a very unique player. What kind of challenges does he provide to you? Is there anybody in SEC play that kind of compares to the offensive skills he brings to the table? COACH JOHNSON: Well, I think there is a comparison. The kid at Kentucky, Patterson is strong and really physical. But Tyler reminds me of a guy when I was an assistant coach at Stanford by the name of Mark Massey. What I mean by that is he's relentless. His effort is there for 40 minutes. He's a special player. But they have a lot of other special basketball players on that team. For us, we need to make him work for everything he gets. We need to make sure we concentrate and get him a man, to half down, and cover down off the post and don't give him good angles to the basket. If we do, he can really dominate the game.
Q. You talked about transition defense, how much does it affect their ability to get out and push tempo, depending on whether Lawson is playing or not? And has it affected or made it a little more difficult to prepare for them not knowing what his status is?
COACH JOHNSON: No, we're preparing like he's going to play. In terms of our team and our defensive transition, we played against some extremely quick teams in our league. This is my first year through the SEC. And one of the things that I was thoroughly impressed with is the quickness from 1 through 12 on the roster. There's a lot of teams in our league that play extremely fast. So I think it's a situation where with our basketball team where there is nothing that we're not prepared for. There's nothing we haven't seen. Obviously, Carolina poses a lot of problems because of their skill level and talent level. But Bobby Frasor, the Drew kid, they're more than capable.
Q. Chris, obviously, is accustomed to playing folks bigger than he from a weight standpoint. How at 210 pounds has he compensated for that and become a defensive presence in the post for you folks?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, Chris does a good job of using his length. Also, there's a balance. You go from Chris Johnson to bring in Quinton Thornton off the bench who is physical, and about 6' 9.5, 240. So Chris is who he is. Offensively I need to do a better job of putting him in situations so he can make the guys who are going at him, he can go at them on offensively off the bounce or even in the post. So he does a very good job of altering shots. He does a very good job of working to the best of his ability.
Q. Could you talk about the leadership role that Garrett brings? And also, he said a few minutes earlier, he didn't find it particularly important that he is a Final Four guy. Just as a coach whether that means anything to you to have a couple of those guys?
COACH JOHNSON: I think it means a lot from the standpoint of Garrett is probably from every aspect of being a human being, socially, academically, athletically, he's special. You know kids use that term loosely about being real. Garrett Temple is real. There's not a phoney or false bone in his body. So his leadership on and off the floor is very genuine. It's been very good for us. It's been very good for me. Tasmin Mitchell is not as vocal as Garrett is at times, but he leads by example. So having those two guys who have been through their share of the wars, in terms of being to the Final Four, been through some ups and downs, some wins, some losses. There's no question that's helped this basketball team. There's no question it's helped us as a staff.
Q. You're a voracious consumer of game tape, as you watch tape on UNC, has any team given you as much to think about or consider as the Tar Heels have given how much depth and how many different things they have going offensively?
COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, Butler. They're all the same to me (laughing). No, honestly, again, there's a challenge in front of us. Nobody respects what Carolina basketball is about and what Coach Williams has done with this basketball team more than me. But I've always been one to consume myself and concern myself with our strengths and our weaknesses and how we can attack if we can attack our next opponent. So I try to keep myself in a position where I'm on on an even keel, and it is competition. For us going into Saturday much like it was coming into Butler's basketball game or before that it was Mississippi State. It is a game that's going to be decided on the floor. We need to compete at a high level and do the best we can. If we're good enough we'll be successful. If we're not, we won't.
Q. Garrett Temple was talking a moment ago he said the best way to combat their depth is, because you guys won't have as much, is to play an on opposite style. Which is to slow the ball down like Butler tried to do yesterday. Do you think that's the best way to approach this Carolina team that loves to run up and down the court and score with 15 seconds to go on the shot clock? Maybe slow it down? Or do you stick with what you've done?
COACH JOHNSON: No, we're going to come out tomorrow, and we're going to run like hell (smiling). We're going to try to do the things we've done all year, honestly. The thing I like about our group is we've shown at Tennessee against good teams and skilled teams and talented and well-coached teams. To understand that if we get caught up stepping out of our character and our box we're going to struggle. So obviously, Saturday if we do a good job once we're in the half court getting the ball to people in certain situations to score, and we have to sprint back defensively to try to keep it in front of us. So we're going to try to do those kind of things and that's what we've been successful with all year long. But we haven't played Carolina all year long.
Q. What is the biggest upset you've been involved with as a coach or assistant coach or maybe player that you won?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I'd have to go back to my sophomore B-team I coached when I got my first coaching job. We were 1-19, and we beat a team by the name of Capitol High. That might have been the biggest one. Because I didn't think we were going to win. That was my first coaching job. True story. I'm just telling the truth.
Q. Anything in the NCAA Tournament?
COACH JOHNSON: No, no, no.
Q. Your players said that they immediately bought into your philosophy and that you came in and you showed right away that you meant business. How did you do that without demanding and just by asking?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, again, they're good kids who are good people and good players. For me, trust is a two-way street. I've never been contrary to what people believe. I'm not some big old tough guy. I think you've got to earn their respect, and they've got to earn mine. There are some talented players and we had some good leadership. All I've ever asked is we stay the course, I think we'll have a chance to be successful if we do three things. That's pretty much been it. We had to clean up some things academically, and we're not there where we need to be. There were some bad habits and all those kind of things. But kids have a tendency to follow, if you're consistent, whatever your behavior may be, whatever your leader your staff in terms of that. So they have a tendency to say, okay, well, gosh, that's how he is. He doesn't sleep, he doesn't talk much, this is what he does. He's a grinder, so that's what we've been doing. We've been grinding.
Q. You touched on it a little bit in the answer to that question. We can probably have a long conversation about this, but in the time allotted, was there similarities to the playing you started with in Nevada, what you did at Stanford, and now what you're doing at LSU? Or were there any differences in the three assignments?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, yeah, there were differences because the Nevada situation was really rock bottom, and the cupboard was bare so to speak. Stanford had a basketball tradition and a lot of winning and those guys were familiar for me. And everybody knows what was here at LSU. But the three common denominators were Kirk Snyder who was a WAC player in year 04. Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez. Brook Lopez was the runner-up to the Pac-10 Player of the Year last year, and then Marcus Thornton. So the bottom line is players. The bottom line is players. It's not Trent Johnson, believe me. Because we were running the same stuff we were now when we were 9-20 my first year in Nevada and it didn't work. So you better have some guys that can make baskets and make plays.
Q. Is it fair that North Carolina has such a home-court advantage in a tournament that's supposed to be a neutral site?
COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, they've earned it. They've been one of the most dominant teams in college basketball throughout the year, so I think they need to be rewarded. Again, again, good teams, good players, regardless where they play, who they play, when they play, they're capable of playing and competing. There will be 20 thousand plus people here I guess cheering for Carolina. We'll have our faithful, but that's not going to be the difference in the game. The difference in the game is going to be Ellington and Hansbrough and how we offset this or that. So the players are going to decide the game. Again, I said it earlier, our guys have been in Lexington, and Kentucky travels well, Arkansas, those are tough places to play. So on and so forth, so we've been to our share of tough venues.