March 21, 2009

Senior guard Abby Waner

On the team’s progress since hiring head coach Joanne P. McCallie…
That was two years ago and the past is the past. This team has come a long way, it is a new year and it is a different year than it was last year. Not only that, but we are already into the postseason and a good thing about this team is that we are peaking at a very gradual pace from two years ago to now. It’s great, as Coach P. touched on, for her to come back and be able to see family and friends and enjoy being back in East Lansing. I think that this team is not totally different because there are a bunch of players still from that time period, but we have grown and learned and we are just excited to play basketball right now because that is what it is all about.

Senior Center Chante Black

On her thoughts on being a No. 1 seed in her final NCAA Tournament…
I am just trying to enjoy it right now. We want to come out strong for the last few games that we have, especially with all three of us (Chante Black, Abby Warner and Carmen Gay) being seniors, this is our last go-around. We want to make it worth it and play the best that we can.

On what it takes to win a national championship…
All three of us have played in a championship before, and we know what it feels like to be defeated when you reach that point. We are definitely putting our all into this to try and get back to that point and share something with this team that others have not had a chance to feel yet.

Senior forward Carrem Gay

On the team’s “212” motto…
We started off saying 212 degrees is the boiling point of water.  A lot of times, there are teams that can get to 211 degrees, but you have to put in that extra effort to reach that extra degree.  Right now, I think we are at a place where our team could really boil over in the next couple of games, even thought we are focusing on just one game at a time.

On how their season has prepared them for the tournament…
During our season we have seen a lot of teams and have been in a lot of different scenarios, like coming back from a 17-point deficit for example and still winning the game by eight. I think that speaks for itself and through the competition we have faced, I think we have learned a lot. Right now we are playing some of our best basketball. If we are able to put together everything we have been working on, I don’t see why we couldn’t go very far into the tournament.

Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie

Opening Statement…
We are really excited to be here. It’s been a while since we’ve played; I know that’s the same for all the teams pretty much. We are pacing ourselves and we’re very, very excited to play tomorrow. Game one is important to us and I really like how our team has been practicing and playing as of late, so we’re going to try and build off of that.  Obviously, it’s very special to be in East Lansing, a great, great place hosting this event. We’re just excited to get started.

On returning to East Lansing…
I think it’s great; I just love this team so much, it’s about our journey this year. It’s a bonus for my family to be in East Lansing. I know my children are scattered somewhere in East Lansing right now, so if you see them watch out for them. I know my husband is doing the same thing. For us though, it’s different, it’s business, it’s being with the team. We’ve worked very hard this year. You’re in a hotel, you’re doing film, you’re doing all the normal things. I think there’s certainly great energy here and we hope to absorb some of that. Really, it’s about what we’re trying to accomplish as a team, and I’m just excited about this group. They are really, really fun to coach.

On any advantage that she might have playing in a familiar arena…
I think that the advantage we have here is ourselves. I think it’s not about a coach. I have experience, and yes, I have been here, but any advantage that we have we’re going to create. At this point and time, all of these teams are very, very good. You can’t treat anybody differently and you’ve just got to really focus. So I think that any advantage we have is going to be created by us. For my family, I don’t have to worry about my kids at the hotel so that’s pretty cool; I don’t have to worry about entertaining them because they’re gone. So, from a personal point of view, I think it helps me focus more and be able to be with the team. But this team is creating things and it is fun to watch. 

On how her team is focusing on Austin Peay…
That’s a very easy answer because it’s game one, the most important game of the year. I think that for us to get better, there are things that we need to get done in game one. If we get those things done, the outcome will take care of itself. That is helpful, and I think we’re very good at focusing. People can speculate game two, but as far as I’m concerned, game two doesn’t even exist, it’s all about game one and it’s all about what we offer. That’s the approach that we need to take. 

On the keys to Duke’s success…
I think that this team has been very resilient and has had a resolve that has been so important to us. We have had our low moments this year, without question. We have faced adversity throughout the year in various ways.  Whether it was a tough loss or injuries or things not exactly the way we have wanted them. I think our toughness comes from our experience of going through that together, and also learning how to play off of each other.  We are very, very good at playing off of each other and understanding each other’s strengths on both sides of the ball, and that’s very important. The leadership has been spread throughout the team. With our seniors, they’re very happy to step up, lead, communicate and get things going in the right direction too. We have a tremendous staff and everybody has played a role, all of the coaches. It’s everybody trying to play their role and that’s what it needs to be.  We definitely have a resolve. We’ve been in a lot of very interesting games. 


On how she’s changed as a coach…
I hope that I have grown a great deal as a coach. Some things have changed certainly, some things are the same.  I don’t think I do all of the same things in terms of a ritual. I definitely know that these players have made me a better coach. There’s no question about that and that’s what it’s all about. It’s about getting better, it’s about pursuing the highest level all the time and finding out about yourself. I have to do that as much as they have to do that. I think that the more that I do that, the more that they’ll do that. I think we’ll kind of feed off of each other.  I think that some things are pretty much the same principles of course. I think that I’ve grown a lot too from experience. 

On what her schedule has been like…
I’ve been at the hotel; we had a wonderful welcome. The neighborhood came to the hotel to welcome the team; I thought that was pretty fun. The whole cul-de-sac of Tavistock showed up to welcome the team, so I did see quite a few people upon welcoming the team. I have very close friends that I grabbed a quick meal with across the street.  But, I’m not going to be out and about. This is not about that. If I want to do that I can come back and do that. This is about keeping my regular focus of what I do as a coach; that’s easy to do.  We’re just so excited to play. Going through film today was fun. We haven’t had an opponent in so long so just getting into film was a great way to focus and concentrate. 


Head Coach Carrie Daniels

Opening Statement…
We’re very excited to be here In East Lansing and to be in the field of 64. I think that in the beginning, a lot of people probably doubted this team and whether we would be here. We were picked preseason ninth in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC), went through the regular season and got the fifth seed in our tournament. A magnificent run, I think it was all a matter of heart, believing and toughness and these players just buying in, buying into the system and just digging down deep. We knew that when we won the OVC Tournament and gained the automatic berth, it would be a tough draw, we knew that and we were going to be up against tough odds. We’re not just happy to be here, but we’re here to compete and put a tough 40 minutes on the floor. 

On if facing a No. 1 seed has been discussed in their preparation…
We really haven’t talked about seeding. Like I said, we knew it was going to be a tough draw, and us getting a 16-seed was what it was probably going to be after we won the OVC. Our focus has been on ourselves and what we have to do to prepare for this 40 minutes tomorrow afternoon. It’s all about defense and rebounding, it’s been our focus all year long. Our defense kind of creates offensive opportunities for us. We can’t look at the seeding, we can’t look at us going up against the No. 1 seed, it’s another ballgame and that’s what we’re going into tomorrow.

On how playing ranked Division I opponents during the regular season helped them…
That was the whole reason for putting that type of schedule together. Prior to this season ever starting, did I predict that we would be sitting here today?  No. I really couldn’t say that I felt like we would’ve won the OVC tournament. I don’t know how many people would’ve thought that, but did I think we had the talent to do it? Yes, definitely. But the reason we put that type of schedule together was exactly for this: one, to prepare our team for the conference schedule. I’m one that I feel you have to play a tough non-conference schedule. I’m not one that I want to pad the non-conference schedule to get wins; I want to prepare my team as much as possible to go into conference play so they are ready for it; whatever is thrown at them during the conference schedule. The other part is, if you win your conference, we’re pretty much a one-bid league, so when you win that conference and you go into the NCAA Tournament, those are the types of teams you’re going to face and here we are. We played North Carolina, who at the time we played them, were No. 2 in the country. We went and played Louisville who was in the top-10 at the time. We went and played teams from the SEC and other ACC teams, and again that’s exactly why it was. Hopefully our team, tomorrow afternoon when they step on that court, they won’t be shell shocked. They’ve played in that environment and hopefully that’s prepared them for this game.

On the turnaround season they’ve had and how she’s prepared them…
Well first off, it’s all about players and surrounding yourself with good people. I have a remarkable staff that I lean on heavily; I have to give them credit. I do think our run in the tournament started with that last regular season game. That game, the way it was played, we did not have a lead at all during regulation - in 40 minutes - but we forced overtime. These two players sitting right here, this one [Ashley Herring] struggled a little bit

Sophomore Guard Ashley Herring

On having a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality going into the game against Duke…
Coming into this game, I think that is a great advantage that we have—we don’t have anything to lose. Like Coach (Carrie Daniels) said, we’re not just happy to be here, we’re here to compete. I think that not having that pressure is going to help us be confident in this game. We have faced some great teams already this season and I think that not having that extra pressure is going to help us a lot and be to our advantage.

On the team’s tribulations throughout the season…
Coming in after last season, we were against a lot of odds. Coming in with so many freshmen and young players, we had a lot of odds against us since the beginning, especially being picked to finish ninth in the Ohio Valley Conference. We had a lot to face initially and throughout the whole season. We had a lot to face, a lot to go against and a lot of challenges. But pushing through and working as hard as we did in practice, we believe in each other and we have each other; we all know what we are capable of in the situation that we have. Going into games throughout the season, sometimes it would be bad, but we had to pull through and fight through. I think that’s what we’ve learned through the losses. Just because you have a loss does not mean you are down and out. You can pull through and I think that is what we did.

On whether the game against Duke will be an offensive or defensive struggle between the two teams…
I think it’s definitely going to be up to our defense because when we play good defense, we can cause a lot of frustrations for other teams. I think that when all of us are on the same page defensively, it gets our offense going as well. For us, it’s going to start with our defense. That’s what it’s going to come down to; trying to pressure Duke and force them into playing a different style of basketball; we want to make them play our style of basketball.

Senior Forward April Thomas

On pulling out a victory tomorrow…
We just have to go out there and play hard and play like we play and do what we do best. We have to get the ball out and play our style of basketball; we can’t let Duke dictate the game. We have to dictate it from the beginning. We’re the smaller team and we’re from the smaller city, so the odds are going to be against us a little bit. But we’re not going to let that bother us. We’ve played North Carolina and all kinds of other schools where we were the underdog. We just have to go out there and play like we play. We have a big heart so we fight to the end no matter what.