N.C. State press conference after beating Villanova
MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from Coach Gottfried, followed by questions from the student-athletes. Coach?
COACH GOTTFRIED: Just to start off with, I'm extremely proud of our guys and I thought they did a great job defensively not allowing Villanova to really get going from the 3-point line. I know they made a couple late. Defensively, I thought one of our better defensive games for 40 minutes from start to finish the whole year. Really proud of our guys. They've come a long way. They've gotten better. They've improved. They've got to remember, a lot of people, we were picked 10th in our league. So they've done a phenomenal job. I don't think they're done yet. So a lot of guys stepped up, made some great plays. Again, for me, I think the defense we played for 40 minutes was the difference in the game for us.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes only, please.
Q. For Abdul-Malik, Coach Wright was in here earlier talking about how it seems like NC State's young forwards are gaining confidence. Do you feel like you've gained some confidence over the last couple nights?
ABDUL-MALIK ABU: Definitely have. It's a mindset to go in there. Coach always inspires us to be the best we can be and be the best when your best is needed. I just try to go out there and play the best I can every night and every time I play.
Q. Abdul-Malik, what was it like going up against Ochefu? He has size, height on you. How did you manage to pull 12 boards, 13 rebounds and dominate him?
ABDUL-MALIK ABU: My parents told me to go out there and work hard. I pride my game off of just working hard. He's a great player, great talent. I wanted to try to match his energy and take it to another level.
Q. Trevor, you guys were seconds away from not even being in this round. How does it feel to be advancing to the Sweet 16?
TREVOR LACEY: Feels great. First for this team, everybody on this team, to make it to the next round. Can't get too excited. We have to get refocused on whoever we play Friday and try to keep going.
Q. Trevor, what kind of boost of confidence was it for y'all going in at halftime when you hit that 3-pointer there at the buzzer?
TREVOR LACEY: It was a big boost, but I think we had more confidence that the game wasn't out of hand. And if we didn't make a few mistakes, we felt like we could have extended the lead a little more. Gave us confidence as far as we knew we could compete with these guys and that's about it. We just knew that in the second half, we had just matched their intensity. We knew they were going to come out, try to make a run and match their intensity and stay solid on the defensive end.
Q. For Trevor, did you guys get nervous at all at the end when they were starting to sort of make some of those long range shots and pulled within a couple points?
TREVOR LACEY: It seems like that always happens with us going down the stretch in late games. We've been in that situation for - I threw the ball away before like that too against Notre Dame. But we've been there before. Coach made sure nobody panicked and let the play go. When Hilliard came down next possession, we just made sure we didn't give him a clean look.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student-athletes? Gentlemen, you're good to go. Thank you, congratulations. Questions for Coach Gottfried.
Q. Mark, if I told you before the game you were only going to get three 3-pointers, you probably would not have been happy with what the outcome might have been. Did you, as you look at this team, think that beating them on the perimeter was not the way to do it anyway? It was going to be to have to go inside and dish and get it to the big guys.
COACH GOTTFRIED: You never know how a game is going to unfold. You never know. Part of our plan was to go inside. We thought we'd have advantages inside. We wanted to go in early and get the ball around the basket and score inside. We thought it was important for us. Whether we made three 3-pointers, whatever the number was, that wasn't a concern for me. We had a night where Ralston Turner, who is a terrific 3-point shooter, didn't make -- I don't think he made a field goal either. So we needed the play from our inside guys. We needed that offense, but we certainly wanted to try at least to go inside best we could. I thought our guys did a great job with that.
Q. With about a couple of minutes into the second half, Ralston and Cat picked up their third fouls within 20 seconds of each other. You kept Cat in the game. Did you give thought to sitting him down or was he going to have to play with three no matter what?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I thought about it. I knew I was going to take him out at some point, give him rest. We felt like we changed his matchup instead of him guarding -- I can't pronounce his name, Arch-something-or-other, instead of guarding him, we moved him on to Ennis because I didn't think Ennis was going to drive it as much and just tried to protect him through a matchup more than anything else. Then with both those two guys just, you know, we knew you're going to have to kind of watch them and see and we survived it. Ralston didn't pick up his fourth until very late. Ended up working out okay for us.
Q. Mark, against a team that can get really hot from outside, how do you go into a game trying to defend that? How do you think you guys did?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I thought we did really well. They took 28 threes and made nine. Of the nine, two or three of them were late, right in the last minute or two. For the bulk of the game, we were right around that five, six number as far as made threes for them. So that was for us everything in our game plan.
When they penetrated, we wanted to stay on shooters, latch on to guys, make them make hard twos, tough twos. If you're going to give something up, I'd rather give up a two than a penetrating pitch three. Sometimes that's hard. We had a few breakdowns where just naturally, you're coming to help because someone's driving to the basket and they're finding a shooter. For the most part we did a good job. I felt if they made 10, 11, 12 threes, we might be in for a long night. They're at their best, penetrating pitch, creating opportunities behind the line for themselves. We wanted to take that away. That was part of everything we wanted to do.
Q. That sequence at the end of the first half, you get a four-point play from Caleb, a physical block by Beejay and the 3-pointer by Lacey. How significant was that sequence?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I thought it was huge. I really did. Instead of going in at halftime down, you go in at halftime with a lead. You're also going into the half with momentum off of Trevor's shot, the 3-point shot. Believe it or not, with us, if you followed us, Trevor making that shot right before the half is -- we've seen that a lot, whether it's at the half or end of the game. He makes those kind of shots. We did a nice job of finding him. Caleb took the ball out of bounds on the inbounds play. I thought those plays, that sequence was really big. Gave us great confidence going into the half.
Q. Desmond Lee gave you a lot of good minutes with Barber in foul trouble. Can you talk about his contribution?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I'm proud of Desmond. He hasn't played sometimes as much. He's hung in there. Prior to the tournament, I thought he had great practices, played really well in practice. As a senior, you get into the tournament, I just felt like as a senior, he could do some good things for us. He did. He played pretty good defense. He made a couple big shots. So extremely proud of his contribution today. Did a great job.
Q. Mark, I don't know if you pay attention to seeds, but they're obviously the 1 seed in the East. I don't know if you sensed or could tell maybe they were tight early on. Does that give you the opportunity to play pressure-free at the beginning?
COACH GOTTFRIED: Honestly, we don't talk about the whole seed thing very much. We're all aware of it. Our players are aware of it. It's not something we try to make a big deal out of that we're the 8 and they're the 1. You listen on television and everybody is having fun picking teams and who's going to win. You've got to block all that out. With our team, we've played in a great league. A great league. In my opinion, it's an undervalued conference right now for how strong our league is.
So when you went on the road like we have and beat North Carolina or on the road and beat Louisville or beat a Duke team, it's not that you don't respect. We respect Villanova, but we've seen good teams. We've seen a lot of them in our conference. You see them about every night. So a league like that prepares you for games like tonight. But again, our guys don't - it's not something we made a big deal out of, whether they're the 1 or whatever. We're going to play and that's our next opponent.