Can you tell us a little bit about what kind of game we should expect against UCLA. They seem to have emphasized defense quite a bit.
John Brady: "I watched the UCLA team on tape. Ben Howland has done a wonderful job with his team. They know what they're supposed to do on both ends of the floor, particularly defensively. Their best players shoot the majority of the balls. Their guards are extremely talented and smart. Defensively they're as sound as any team we're going to play. They understand rotation. They understand help-side defense. They rebound the ball well.
"We have stressed to our team that we're going to have to execute against their defense in order to have an opportunity to win the game. I've said all along that if our perimeter holds up, we're usually pretty good. So far our perimeter hasn't shot the ball as well as maybe we would have liked, but I think we've made some timely shots in critical moments of games that has helped our team.
"Defensively we've been quite good throughout the tournament, but really we've been quite good defensively the whole year. When you have a player like Tyrus Thomas to roam around a basket and protect some defensive errors that you may make in the perimeter, it allows you to maybe do some things that other teams may not be able to do because we have a player like him back around the goal."
Could you expand a bit more on how your defense has improved this year, against Texas, Duke.
Brady: "Both of those teams presented different challenges. It wasn't difficult to identify on the Duke team who the best two players were and who you needed to stop. Williams and Redick had attempted over half their free-throws and made over half their free-throws, had shot over half their field goals, made over half of their field goals. Half of their points came from those two players.
"We had to develop some type of plan to hopefully make someone else make baskets to beat us. I'm not saying Duke had not done that, but in that moment, that situation, that particular game, that particular stage, certainly if you're going to play percentages, you want someone else shooting balls in difficult moments and making them make 'em, not a guy like JJ Redick who is the best shooter in the country from the distance he shoots from them.
"Our plan was to double JJ off of every ball screen, bump him on every cut. If we were ever in doubt of him coming off of a screen by himself, the screener should run at him, and his man recover to him, too, and leave someone else open. That was the plan. Garrett Temple did a wonderful job of face-guarding him really. Never concerned himself with any help at all. Shelden Williams got to make some baskets on us one-on-one in the post. Running time scores, Shelden made one basket in the last 10 minutes of the game. What we started doing with him, every time he caught it, we doubled him post to post. In essence, the last eight, nine minutes of the game, their scorers that they need to score in critical moments for them to win, we disrupted their flow of offense, which allowed us to score enough points to win that game.
"Texas, on the other hand, presented a different challenge for us because they had four, five players averaging double figures. Any number of those guys could score. As opposed to more of a team defensive effort, as we did against Duke, it was more of an individual guarding effort against Texas because they spread us out a little bit more.
"We respected the rest of their team in scoring the ball. I thought we did a real good job on Daniel Gibson particularly later on in the game. He made one 3 late, but we did a nice job on him the last 12 or 13 minutes. I thought throughout the game, Glen Davis did a real fine job on Lamarcus Aldridge. We took the best two players for each team. We made it uncomfortable for them offensively, which allowed us to score enough points, find enough points to win the game. The overtime we played against Texas was about as good as we could play on either end of the floor."
Both teams are similar defensively. In what way are you most dissimilar and do you thus anticipate a low-scoring game?
Brady: "I hope -- I'm not going to say that. I think we're similar defensively. I think if you didn't know who was saying it, you were looking at the words in print, I would -- Ben Howland's comments are similar to mine. If you didn't know who was saying it, you'd probably read defensively, what his plan is, what mine is, what he emphasized, what I emphasized, they all may be the same.
"Now, offensively I think we probably think the same offensively in some ways, but I think the nature of his team and the makeup of his team is a little different than mine. We're pretty good around the goal. Their strength is their two perimeter guards. Their two guards could start for anybody in our league. We're going to have to do a very good job of making our team concerned with where they are, what set they're in, who is setting the screen, what we're going to do to disrupt both of those players. Afflalo is a nice jump shooter. He has a good bounce to the goal. Farmar on the other hand, you know, he can shoot it from the three, but he's very, very good off of ball screens and even off of double teams. I've watched enough tape on him to know how dangerous he can be. He can make the other players better.
"Like I said, if our perimeter can hold up, find a way to guard those two players, disrupt them a little bit from an offensive flow, because the other three players really rely on those two guards playing well. Offensively we're going to do what we've done. We're going to try to take advantage of where we think our strength is. That's around the goal with Tyrus and Glen and again, coming off the bench with Magnum Rolle and Darnell. They've played really well throughout the tournament for us. Hopefully Darrel Mitchell can make some baskets. Tasmin Mitchell and Garrett Temple can make some timely baskets. If we can do that, we can be fine. We're going to try to advance the ball, try to get some cheap baskets. We'll do what we've done. I'm sure they've seen on tape, press from time to time, when we think it's appropriate. But it's all about us being able to execute and keep defending and rebounding. Against a UCLA team that I think the strength of their team is the two guards out front that I think are very good, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for them."
For the players, all three of you, how have you and the coaches balanced the size of this event and the fact that it's just a basketball game? Have you allowed yourselves to soak up some of this a little bit besides getting ready for a basketball game?
Glen Davis: "Well, I'm just trying to, you know, enjoy the moment, you know. You don't get this chance a lot. You don't get this opportunity to play on a stage like this, win one of the immortality trophies, that's what I call it. You win the trophy, you live forever basically. I'm just trying to soak it up, you know, take it in, take a humble approach to it, don't get too wound up, try to act my weight, not my age basically (smiling). Trying to act older, trying to act grown. I don't want to get too excited like a kid, you know. I don't want to get too excited. I just want to just ride it on out, just try to remember everything, just try to enjoy the moment. I'm not really looking at the Final Four. You look at that, you're like, Oh, my God, Final Four. Get excited, start hyperventilating. 60,000 people out there, oh, my God. I'm just trying to enjoy it like a regular old game."
Darrel Mitchell: "Are you done (smiling)? For me, I'm taking every moment in. This is my last go-around. I'm taking it day to day slowly, since we got here. It really didn't hit me when we first got here. Since I've entered the Dome, it's really sinking in that, you know, we are here, we have a chance to do something special with this team. But, you know, this is my last go-around, like I said. These guys may have an opportunity to do this again, but I don't. I'm taking it day to day."
Tyrus Thomas: "It didn't hit me until we got to the hotel. We had pull-out couches in the front. We had some nice rooms. It's like, We're in the Final Four. You know, we got to take the same approach. Just, you know, keep a level head. We got to stay humble and hungry, just be ready for a fight Saturday because UCLA is going to put up a good fight. We just have to be ready. We can't let the Final Four thing or title excite us, get us too riled up. We just got to play calm, relaxed, play like we've been playing."
People say in the NCAA tournament the officials call it loose or let players play more. Has that helped with your aggressive physical style of defense?
Tyrus Thomas: "Well, you know, I got a couple of fouls earlier against Duke. Glen and myself had to sit out because we were in foul trouble. You know, they did let us play. They let us play. It's good when they let us play on both ends. They keep the game fair. They've been doing a great job of keeping the game fair. I'm less hesitant about being aggressive. I'm less hesitant about bumping somebody or just putting my body against people because they've been letting us play. I appreciate that the past, what, four games."
Glen Davis: "I don't really have nothing to say about that. I just seem to get screwed any way 'cause of how big I am, just all the flopping (smiling). But I think it's okay. You got to roll with it. It's just sometimes it don't go your way, it makes you even play even harder. It makes you more smarter on the court, you know."
Glen, after y'all vanquished Atlanta, can those tape worms in your belly be tamed by the mystique of UCLA? They've won more championships than anybody. They're the Boston Celtics of the NCAA.
Davis: "Last time I checked the roster, Bill Walton wasn't playing. Kareem wasn't playing. Reggie Miller wasn't playing. We can't let that scare us. We can't let that get to us. This is a different time. This is a different time. I respect their tradition tremendously. I respect their tradition and the things that they done 'cause, you know, they also have earned their right to immortality, too. You got to respect that. But right now it's time to play. UCLA, you know, is just a couple letters on the front of the jersey really to me. They're a great team. I respect their team. They got to go out there and play the same way we play."
Since you brought up the weight issue, Glen, I have to ask about the nutrition program and the weight program that you've been on at LSU. I heard you really enjoy that organic oatmeal.
Glen Davis: "(to his teammates) Why don't you be quiet over there. This woman is asking a great question on nutrition.
"Organic oatmeal? You ever watch Fear Factor (smiling)? You know how you're sitting there, you look like you see this nasty food, but you want to eat it 'cause you can get a lot of money? That's how I took it. I was just like, you know, if I eat this, I can make a lot of money one day. That was my motivation. It's hard. If you got some organic brown sugar, some raisins, throw it in there, give it a little flavor. It's tough. The nutrition part of it is really, really hard because of the habits I used to have. I ate a lot of organic stuff. Whole Foods was my place that I roam. So, yeah...
Darrel, looking at how thin the line has been between winning and losing, have you thought about that shot against A&M, what might have happened if you didn't make that shot?
Mitchell: "I thought about it that night after the game, but after it was done and over with, we had to move on. We had to face Duke the next round. That was a big task for us. Face a team like that, prove people wrong, all the people that doubted us, we used that as motivation. But after the shot, I thought about it that night, a little bit the next day. After that, we had to move on. I let it go.
Glen, can you talk about the nickname, how it came about? Do you like it?
Davis: "I've grown to love it. I'm a nice guy. It depends on how you use it, though. If you use it, yeah, I'll have to regulate. It started when I was nine years old. I was a big, big, big toddler. I was overweight, you know. I was real overweight. But I loved to play football, loved to play sports. Back in Baton Rouge, you had to be a certain weight limit to play in your age group. I was way over that weight limit. I had to play, you know, two, three years older, 11, 12, 13 bracket. I was just overweight. When I got to playing, I got okay, I was holding my own. I used to get beat up, banged on, picked on a lot. Just a little kid. I was whining. My coach was just like, Stop crying, you big baby. He just said it every day. I won't never forget that. I just went to school, and it started spreading around. For somehow y'all got a hold to it and turned it inside out, man. I can't shake it (smiling).
Do you like it?
Davis: "Well, I never looked at it in a negative way. Gives some of my critics something to feed off of. I'm a nice guy. I don't mind. I adapt to anything."