March 20, 2009

Mississippi State

                   COACH FANNING:  If we could, I think in the last NCAA Tournament --
             the pronunciation is Govero, but we had that in the book and I think her
             father was getting a little upset, so I thought I would just say -- I'm
             just kidding.  But it's Govero.
                     We're excited about this opportunity and Texas is a very athletic
             team and what, I guess, our concept is right now is coming into this
             tournament and at this time of the year, you have to do what you do and you
             have to do that very well.  And so defending is very important to us,
             making sure that we can test shots, working as hard as we can as a team and
             helping each other out there.  And obviously you want a team to try to take
             jump shots if you're defending them and you want to block them out and
             limit second shots.  So I guess it's pretty simple what I'm saying
             fundamentally.
                     Rebounding the basketball.  You're going to have to rebound, get to
             the boards and get extra shots.  And for us in a half-court game, executing
             well, I think Texas attacks defenses, you have got to not be complacent and
             take the team to the ball.  We're a team that's not any one individual,
             we're a collective group of young ladies that have found a way to be
             successful and that's what carries us in this tournament and I do think
             that the entire tournament is wide open.  Right now it's the team that
             steps out and plays their best basketball.  I think the divider is the work
             ethic and the team chemistry so we take the things that we have, our
             system, and we hopefully execute them very well.
                     REPORTER:  Coach, Texas was just in here and they talked about how
             important their defense was to them.  Is this going to be a defensive game?
             What kind of a scoring game is this going to be?  Is it it going to be wide
             open?
                     COACH FANNING:  I'm pretty terrible at predictions, but I can tell
             you probably that both teams will play defense pretty hard and that's
             what's gotten us here and I can tell from watching film from them and from
             the fall, November, December, up till now, that that's something that's
             very important to them as well, so we'll probably be trying to guard each
             other really hard.
                     REPORTER:  Maybe you could address this and also the players could
             as well.  How much of a factor is it, you've played in big venues, you've
             played before hostile crowds, but actually playing in an NCAA Tournament,
             are you concerned at all on whether there will be a deer-in-the-headlights
             moment?
                     COACH FANNING:  I've tried to keep things as simple as possible
             through an entire season and tried to stay focused more inwardly on what
             we're doing.  So there's things that you talk about and things that you
             don't make points of, and we got -- this is one of the goals, and then the
             goal is to finish, though, is to finish, and to finish and be the best team
             that we can be.
                     So it doesn't matter who you play, it doesn't matter where you
             play, there's segments of a season and the team has understood the
             nonconference schedule.  They've adapted to, okay, this is your conference
             schedule and how it changes because we have some new folks in our lineup
             that's new to our team that's playing pretty prominent roles, then they
             understood February, then there's the SEC tournament.  And I think going
             into that tournament prepares you tournament-wise and of course we were in
             a tournament at Maryland, I know it's different tournaments, but basically
             if you keep it simple and you try to focus on do what we do.
                     I didn't check, but I think that the rim out there is about the
             same height, the court's about the same size and we've seen a lot of big
             arenas, so hopefully we get out and play and relax and have fun.  That's
             important that you enjoy this process and that you leave it on the floor.
             That's what I'm asking.  Scores, that's all going to fall into place based
             on how we play and the opponent as well, but that's what we are trying to
             do, keep it simple and play very hard.
                     REPORTER:  Can the players address a concern that you have going
             into the tournament?
                     ALEXIS RACK:  We'll agree with Coach.  We're just going to come out
             and play.  Simple.
                     REPORTER:  You've got one of the better road records in the SEC
             this year.  That mindset, is that one of the reasons you've been able to do
             that, you're 8-4 on the road this year, what you just talked about?
                     COACH FANNING:  I hope that everything that we have done that's
             positive this year that these young ladies feed off of and understand why
             they were successful and I hope that everything where we made mistakes and
             fell down along the way, that they understood how they have to correct
             those things.  And so again, let's go back to just simple and we're going
             to come out and to play and to win a basketball game and this is where it
             happens to be and the time and the place and all those things, but we're
             going to try to keep focused on that and hopefully, hopefully success
             breeds success relative to whatever we've done that's good, they'll carry
             that over, but if you start thinking too much about all these other things,
             then you can get your mind on things that's going to distract you from the
             focus that you need on the floor.
                     REPORTER:  Again, just talking to the Texas team, it was pointed
             out that you guys like to press and trap and get on top of people and they
             say, well, we like to do the same thing.  When you're playing in that type
             of a game, how do you counter when another team wants to do to you what you
             really would like to do to them?
                     ALEXIS RACK:  It's not really a counter, it's just playing.  Most
             people are going to trap, it's just a defense that they have, so we're just
             going to play our game.  The fact that they like to do what we do, it
             doesn't matter.
                     REPORTER:  You obviously like to play in those type of games.  Is
             that a fun game for you guys to play?
                     ALEXIS RACK:  Oh, sure, yeah.
                     REPORTER:  For Coach and maybe for the players, anybody in the SEC
             that Texas reminds you of?
                     COACH FANNING:  I think athletically, probably an LSU-type
             defensive team, but with a lot more experience and the offensive potential
             is different -- I mean, it's different with the experience, not only with
             the size, but guarding and more.  It's really a combination of several
             teams through the year because the pressing is a little bit different, the
             styles, what the they play defense, the way they play their half court
             match-up, zone, whatever they're playing, the zone, some things are
             different, but I think there's combinations of things that we've seen all
             year that are similar.  The main thing is how you read and react at noon
             until about 2:00 tomorrow.
                     MARY KATHRYN GOVERO:  I'd say the same.  LSU in the sense that
             they're a long and defensively-minded team, but like she said, they have
             players that can score outside, so just combinations of their offenses and
             defenses of different teams that we've played all season.
                     REPORTER:  Robin, you haven't gotten to talk yet.  What are you
             guys doing really well as a team right now that has picked up over
             February, you think, that got you here?
                     ROBIN PORTER:  Really well, I think Alexis has stepped up a lot.
             Our defense has been there.  The energy is going up and down, but I believe
             our team chemistry most importantly has been there as well.  But we've been
             playing together, rebounding well, and just playing hard as a team.
                     REPORTER:  Texas Coach Goestenkors said that one thing she was
             concerned about your team is how athletic you are.  You say the same thing
             about Texas.
                     COACH FANNING:  It ought to be a heck of a game.
                     REPORTER:  Is there a particular statistic or a particular aspect
             of the game that will be manifested in which team's more athletic or who
             wins that battle?
                     COACH FANNING:  I think that you have two athletic teams that are
             going to work very hard and it's game-day stuff because if you look at
             stats, you have to go back through opponents and who you're playing because
             one looks a little bit different than another when you're playing certain
             teams in your league or out of the league.  That's one of those things I
             couldn't say.
                     I think that Texas is a tremendously athletic team with a great
             deal of depth and I really respect what they have accomplished this year.
             I've been on the poll, voting poll, I've had them up all year long after I
             saw a game, I guess the Tennessee game prior to Christmas, and I think
             they're a very good basketball team with experience.  But everybody that's
             in this tournament, we respect, it just happens to be they're our opponent.
             So hopefully -- I think it takes a lot of fundamentals.  I think it takes a
             lot of fundamentals when it comes down to this time of year and that
             consistent work ethic.
                     And every possession is very important, you have to value every
             possession and try to make sure offensively you have a 50/50 chance at a
             shot, a good one, a very, very good one, and then you have to guard hard
             and you have to do that together because people are going to get to the rim
             or they're going to try to and you're going to have to guard the rim,
             you're going to have to make them shoot outside or not give them extra
             looks.  So I think both teams are going to try to accomplish the same
             thing.  I guess we'll have to play the game.
                     REPORTER:  Coach, back after a five-year absence in the tournament
             and now it's the 16 sites instead of the eight in the last couple years,
             what are your thoughts on that?  Do you like this format better than the
             eight sites?
                     COACH FANNING:  I've been on the floor of the NCAA for years.  I
             think that way back, going from the beginning of it, I think that a lot of
             the teams that hosted those first two rounds traditionally, that that is a
             way -- most teams if you look at the stats, now, we can look at stats in
             the past, I guess, that they have won at home, that that's usually what
             great teams do.  And so I think that that established a pattern.  And when
             we went to the concept of the predetermined site, and I remember the vote
             on the floor being 200 and something to really low that we wanted to go to
             predetermined sites because we felt like the parity in the women's game
             provided that.  Then of course we ended up going to the regional where
             there were eight teams.
                     I looked at our men's SEC tournament this last weekend and they
             talked about it being down in attendance a little bit, and I don't -- I
             think that we still have to grow the women's game and somehow get to where
             there's pockets of basketball where we can get to the predetermined site
             because right now probably 10 of the 16 first two rounds, I think, are
             either -- may not be exactly on a home court, but they're in that hometown
             area and I think that that's an advantage for fans, of course.
                     And to grow the women's game, I guess I debate that, because I
             think until you get to that neutral site, then there's somewhat of an
             advantage for those people if they're in that area.  I counter that with
             when we had the tournament in Nashville and Vanderbilt was a home -- it was
             in their area, even if it's not one that you play at all the time, I think
             that -- however it does lend itself to having more fans there.  I hope that
             we can get our game where it would be neutral, because I think that having
             them, you know, like Auburn has to play Rutgers probably second round, it's
             a number two seed playing on a home court, that's tough.  Louisville going
             into LSU.  That's the same scenario and I think that's a challenge.
                     So maybe my counter now would be, if we're not there, then first 16
             rounds -- I mean, first two rounds, give the seed to the home team, but the
             problem now is ESPN, which is just tremendous for the women's game and they
             can't get the trucks there, you know, if you wait until that night of the
             selection committee to know.
                     So we're sort of in a catch 22 really and we're trying, I know that
             the committee, that we're trying to make sure that we get it as neutral
             areas as possible and that's just what I would challenge to do, but we're
             sort of -- I think we're in a catch 22 because we need the media, we need
             the game to grow that way, yet we want to be fair to the teams with the
             higher seeds, so it's just one of those difficult situations.  The main
             thing is that you work hard and try to get a round close to you, I guess.
                     REPORTER:  Can I ask you young ladies, how old were you when you
             started playing basketball and what would you say to girls, little girls,
             today about getting involved with sports?
                     ROBIN PORTER:  I was eight when I started.  I actually started with
             a boys' league and from experience, I'd just say play with the boys,
             because they really help you.  It gets you tough.
                     MARY KATHRYN GOVERO:  I was also eight when I started playing on a
             basketball team and I'd just encourage little girls, if you have a dream to
             play in college, then to pursue that dream because it's possible if you
             work hard.
                     ALEXIS RACK:  I was six when I started playing.  I have two older
             brothers, so I guess Robin who had inspiration, playing with the boys is
             helpful, so I would say just work hard.

 

 Texas Longhorns

                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  Well, we're just extremely excited, again, to
             be involved in the NCAA Tournament.  We've had, I think, a tremendous
             season, gone through some ups and downs, been in the Big 12, which is an
             extremely difficult conference, but we feel like we've faced just about
             every style of play that you can see over the course of the year, so we
             feel like we're prepared, anxious, and excited to get going.
                     REPORTER:  You mentioned the Big 12, does Mississippi State look
             like anybody in the Big 12 you've played to date?
                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  Yeah, they remind me of a couple teams in the
             Big 12, specifically in the Big 12 South.  A little bit they've got some
             players that are similar to Oklahoma State in Andrea Riley, we feel like
             Alexis Rack is a little bit like her who can shoot the three real well and
             get to the basket.  Their physical is very athletic similar to Texas A&M.
             So we feel like we've seen some teams that are similar to some of the
             players and the style of play that they have.
                     REPORTER:  What's their style of play and what concerns you the
             most about them?
                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  Extremely athletic at all positions.  Run the
             floor very, very well.  So the style of play, they like to get up and down
             the floor, they like to create their offense with their defense, tips and
             steals, they'll pick you up full court, have a variety of presses, and then
             they've got some great, I think, one-on-one players, they can break you
             down off the dribble very easily.
                     They've also got excellent three-point shooters, so they can go
             inside and out on you.  I guess the main thing is their athleticism.  We're
             going to have to take care of the ball and their rebounding, they're an
             excellent rebounding team as well.
                     REPORTER:  You talked about the Big 12 and the teams that look like
             that.  Overall for the Big 12, how good a year, everybody knows about
             Oklahoma, but how good was the league this year?
                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  The league?  We were ranked as the number one
             league last year, we were ranked as the number one league this year, the
             RPI for the league.  We were much better as a league this year than we were
             last year.  Last year we won eight teams for the tournament we only got six
             this year, but I think the six this year are better than we were last year.
             Those six all returned at least four starters from last year's teams, so we
             feel like we have a little bit more experience this year than we had last
             year.
                     REPORTER:  How are you guys playing right now?  What have you been
             working on in practice tweaking to get ready for this tournament?
                     BRITTAINEY RAVEN:  I think one of the biggest things we've been
             working on is rebounding.  Through our conference we had ups and downs in
             rebounding, so that's been one of our main focuses, knowing that
             Mississippi State is a great rebounding team and taking care of the ball in
             running the transition.
                     REPORTER:  For any one of you, coming into the tournament, a lot of
             talk about losing six of the last eight, do you feel like you're almost
             coming in a little under the radar because of that or was there --
             obviously the quality of opponents is really good at the end of the year,
             talk about that coming in, I guess, on not much of a roll as you'd like to.
                     EARNESIA WILLIAMS:  I guess we don't feel like we're under the
             radar.  I think even though we've lost some games, we have had some good
             games, especially in our Big 12 tournament that we did fight and played
             better as a team and played harder, so I think we are playing good as a
             team right now and ready to compete.
                     REPORTER:  Comment on being on the road in places as far away from
             Texas as also Columbus, Ohio, do you think the fans are going to follow you
             up here?  What kind of support do you think you're going to get?
                     KATHLEEN NASH:  We have a few, like, really loyal fans who will
             definitely be here.  I think there are some parents who will be here.  So,
             I mean, we feel the support from our school definitely.  Even if they're
             not all here, I'm sure they'll be watching.
                     REPORTER:  Coach, talk about the format now, going from the 16
             sites back to the eight sites, is that something you favor?  Do you like
             the way this is set up now?  Do you understand it's kind of a necessary
             evil right now for the women's game?
                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  Personally I preferred the 16 home sites.  I
             felt like if you finished, if you were one of the top 16 teams, I thought
             you deserved to have a home site.  So I think it's really difficult if you
             have to play on the home site of somebody one year, actually the higher
             seed.  So that's not the case obviously for us this year.  I've had to deal
             with that in the past where a few years ago I was the number one overall
             seed and we had to go play at Connecticut to get to the Final Four.  So I
             think that just makes it rough when you've worked all year, you've earned
             the right to be, I think, a top 16 seed and host, and then you have to go
             sometimes play on somebody else's home court when you're the higher seed,
             so I don't fully agree with it.
                     REPORTER:  Do the players feel the same way?  Do you like the
             set-up?
                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  They haven't had to -- they didn't ever get to
             experience the top 16 where you played on your home site, so this is all
             they know, so I'm sure they love it.
                     REPORTER:  Is this an advantage having been -- having played in big
             venues and hostile environmentments and now coming into the NCAA just
             knowing a little bit what to expect in the NCAA?
                     BRITTAINEY RAVEN:  For all of us, this is our second time in the
             NCAA, so last year we found out what it was like and we know what it takes
             to compete in the tournament, so we're going to take our experience from
             last year and what we've learned this year to compete in the tournament.
                     REPORTER:  Brittainey, you learn what it takes, but what does it
             take to get deeper into the tournament?
                     BRITTAINEY RAVEN:  You have to put everything out on the floor
             every night.  You can't pace yourself because every team wants to win and
             every team is going to do their best to play, so that's what we have to
             come out and do.  We can't start out slow, we have to come out with
             intensity and just play hard the entire time to win every game that we
             play.
                     REPORTER:  For Coach Goestenkors, is there one particular stat,
             when you look at the box score that you'll think, that was a deciding
             factor?
                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  I think there are two, it's going to be the
             turnovers and it's going to be the rebounds.  Those are the two keys to the
             game.
                     REPORTER:  Why is that?
                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  Just because when we take care of the ball --
             we're a pretty good shooting team.  When we take care of the ball, we do a
             pretty good job.  And when we rebound the ball, we feel very confident.
             Most of our losses, we've been outrebounded and had too many turnovers to
             give ourselves an opportunity to be successful.
                     REPORTER:  Coach says that Mississippi State is a pressing/trapping
             team, and just how do you like to play against a team like that and how do
             you overcome a team like that?
                     EARNESIA WILLIAMS:  I guess you really have to take care of the
             ball and make good decisions on offense and attack their pressure, don't be
             scared.  And also we trap as well, so make them kind of come against our
             defense as well.
                     REPORTER:  Kathleen, I've been trying to read some things about you
             guys before you got here, but is defense your big thing and how are you
             playing defensively right now?
                     KATHLEEN NASH:  As a team or --
                     REPORTER:  As a team, yes.
                     KATHLEEN NASH:  I think defense is a huge key for us.  I think
             defense is something that we're good at as a team and we're a pressure
             defense team, so we have a lot of girls who are really good at pressure
             defense, so I think it really disturbs other teams.
                     REPORTER:  How do you feel you're playing at the end of this
             season?  Some of those could be teaching moments, I guess, when you lose
             those games, did you feel you were playing well and just lost some close
             games or did it prepare you for this tournament?
                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  I think we haven't played our best basketball.
             I think we've had some great games and we've had some great moments, but
             we've had some ups and downs, and I think we've lost a couple close games.
             We talked just the other day about, we've lost three games by a total of 10
             points and in those three games, we missed 17 free throws.  So little
             things that we could have done that would have helped us -- that would have
             helped us.  We would have finished third in the league if we would have
             done those little things.
                     So the good thing is, we're playing hard and I think we're playing
             smarter, but now it's those little things that make a big difference in
             these big games.  And we have control over those things.  So we feel like
             we're playing good ball.  And it's a few key little things, setting a good
             screen, making a free throw, those little things can make the difference in
             the tournament.
                     REPORTER:  I'd be interested in knowing, how old were you when you
             started playing basketball and why would you tell girls to get involved in
             sports?  What's that done for you?
                     COACH GOESTENKORS:  Are you talking to the players?
                     REPORTER:  Any of them.
                     BRITTAINEY RAVEN:  I started playing when I was -- competitively
             when I was 13.  I don't -- I just grew up, my mom played basketball and
             just seeing my friends at school trying out for the basketball team, I
             guess, motivated me.  If kids that are younger want to play basketball, I
             would just say go for it, just continue to work and you can improve, never
             give up on yourself.
                     EARNESIA WILLIAMS:  I think I was around basketball probably my
             whole life.  My mom had me when she was in college, played at Fort Hayes,
             but I think I started playing maybe fifth grade recreation ball.  But I
             think I would encourage young ladies to just start, just being active and
             you don't have to play basketball, but just play a sport, be active to stay
             healthy.
                     KATHLEEN NASH:  I started playing basketball, I think it was one of
             the first things I ever did, I think I was like five years old, just
             playing with my older siblings and my dad liked basketball so he put us in
             it.  I really encourage kids to get involved in basketball because it's
             great to be a part of a team.  We're all, like, best friends, so it's just
             a great experience.