Q&A: SI's Grant Wahl
Haywood, UNC come back, but Gators wear 'em down
Posted: Saturday April 01, 2000 11:13 PM
Sports Illustrated college basketball writer Grant Wahl chatted with CNNSI.com from courtside at the RCA Dome after Florida's 71-59 victory over North Carolina on Saturday.
CNNSI.com: How did Florida manage to get out to the quick lead?
Grant Wahl: Their pressure really hurt Carolina at first, and Carolina didn't really know quite how to break it. They finally realized if they get it into Brendan Haywood, they're better off, and he dominated the rest of the half. But Florida came out really hot, hit a lot of its shots, and before you know it they were up 18-3.
CNNSI.com: UNC came back and made a game of it early in the second half. What happened for Florida?
Wahl: It seems like there's a point in every game when Florida just wears down its opponent past the point where it can really do much more. It happened against Duke, it happened against Oklahoma State, and it happened with about nine minutes left in this game, where you could just see that the Carolina players looked physically spent.
Florida uses so many players, they just wear you down. All that stuff from early in the game -- how much defense Carolina has to play, how much energy they expended trying to break the press -- it just caught up with them in the end. You saw it in the second half, Ed Cota got tired, Haywood got tired, and once Haywood got tired, Florida's big guys started playing a lot better. Donnell Harvey and Udonis Haslem both had a monster second half.
CNNSI.com: On paper, it was a balanced effort for Florida, but who for them do you think was the key?
Wahl: The key, I thought, was Brett Nelson. He came in with them down 48-42 in the second half and took over at the point. Teddy Dupay had a horrible game, and when Nelson got in they just played a lot better.
He was not out of control tonight, only a couple instances where he was. Instead, he kept hitting the big shots. And he had a huge pass to Haslem for the dunk that tied it up at 50-50.
Nelson was the player of the game as far as I was concerned.
CNNSI.com: Finally, what do you think Florida's chances are against Michigan State?
Wahl: I think they're decent. Michigan State played a good defensive game tonight, and they'll have to do the same thing against Florida.
Florida has to play a more complete game. They didn't show up for a while late in the first half, and they can't afford to do that against Michigan State or they'll get buried. Carolina could have won the game tonight.
Then again, Michigan State hasn't been tested yet by a team that has a ton of depth like this, so it's a possibility. I picked Michigan State from the beginning, so I'll probably stick with them, but I think it will be a close game.