March 23, 2009

OKLAHOMA QUOTES

Oklahoma Head Coach Sherri Coale

Opening Statement
“We are very excited to still be playing in the NCAA Tournament.  We are looking forward to our competition against what I thought was a very inspired Georgia Tech team.  They played incredibly hungry with a great level of intensity and enthusiasm last night.  What they did was not easy to do.  They beat a very talented Iowa team on their home court in front of their fans.  The deck was stacked against them.  They did not have their key player.  I thought their victory last night was an exclamation point.  We know what we have to do tomorrow night.  A lot of it has to do with cleaning up the glass and taking care of the basketball; two things we have been schooled on in the very tough Big 12 Conference.”  

On the importance of Amanda Thompson’s return
“I don’t know that that has been talked about very much and that is okay.  What Amanda does for us is bring that toughness, definitely on the glass.  That is what she is known for.  Against the athleticism of Georgia Tech it would be great to be able to use her and I think we will have an opportunity to do that. Again how long she can go no one knows.  We will have her available when we expect to use her.”

 On Amanda Thompson’s toughness
“She becomes other-worldly.  When she sets her mind to it she can take the entire team to another level.  It emulates her passion for the game and she has an opportunity to do so because of her intestinal fortitude.   She is a tough kid who loves to play.  She will pay for it on Wednesday I am sure, but she will give us all she has.”  

On how much she has seen Georgia Tech play this season
“I have actually seen them play a couple of times on television earlier in the year.  I saw them play earlier in the year against Connecticut - I watched that one live at the time.  I have seen a couple of ACC games along the way.  They are different without the kid (Alex Montgomery) that hurt her knee.  Obviously last night they showed they can still be effective in her absence.”  

On the Georgia Tech team she saw against Iowa
“I think there were a number of things.  I think Iowa had a hard time blocking them out against the zone.  If you look at the points in the paint I believe they had 46 points in the paint against Iowa, and most of those were offensive rebounds or at least slipping inside the zone.  Their post kids are really tough and they never quit working and moving around.   They move on that pivot foot until they have an open shot.  I thought their aggression kind of had Iowa off balance and I’m not sure they really steadied the ship.  We know how that can happen.  I think that happened to us against Texas A&M in the Big 12 Tournament.  So there are some similarities there.  Basketball is a game of nights, as we have talked about at this tournament.  

On Georgia Tech’s press versus Texas A&M’s press
“It is a little bit different style.  I don’t know anybody else that does what A&M does and they way that they do it.  Georgia Tech comes at you with the traps; hard athletic traps from side-to-side.   You have to survive that wave.  Once you cross they come at you again.  You can never ever relax.  They do dump back into a man.  You have to survive the first part of it to get to that.  We feel like we can have some success once we do survive it.”

On Georgia Tech’s inside presence
“They are big and they are very physical at every position.  They really go after the ball when it comes off the glass.  When it goes up, they are going to get it and they do that purposefully and with great athleticism.  Our block outs will have to be as good as they have ever been.  We understand that and we know going into tournament play you have to guard the basketball and you have to rebound.  All those things will remain true tomorrow night.  

On Georgia Tech’s being the wrong/right team to be facing in the second round
“One of the things we do is to figure out where we are in the bracket and what our potential road may be.  We sit down and dissect every possible thing that could happen.  We talk about how and why our experiences over the past four months have prepared us for this.  We are so fortunate because we play in the Big 12 Conference and we see a slow-down tempo like Iowa State and Kansas State, and then we see the versatility and attack mode the way Texas A&M plays.  So we see a little bit of all of that.  In our preconference schedule too there is not anything that we have not seen.  Having played Texas A&M particularly in such close proximity over the last three weeks, We think it is exactly the right team and that we are as prepared as we will ever be for it.”  

On the play of the Big 12 Conference
“We have become one another’s biggest fans.  As soon as that bracket comes up, as long as our paths don’t cross, as soon as our game is over we are running to see how Iowa State did or how Kansas State did.  We want the Big 12 Conference to win and win and win.  In the offseason, believe it or not there are a lot of bragging rights.  We took a lot of smack from the Big East last year.  We both won eight in the first round and then they kind of had us in the second.  We are very proud of what our fellow teams have done and I think there are several that have a great shot at winding up in the Sweet 16.”

On the difference between Bob Stoops and herself rooting against/for the Big 12 Conference.  
“I think it is a definite difference in the way the sports are set up.  Football doesn’t have an NCAA Tournament at the end of the year.  They don’t have a point where we all start at zero and there are 64 of us fighting for a crown.  It is completely different.  The length of the basketball season enables you to get good preparation from those opponents.  So in a way it really helps you in the pursuit of your goals.  And Bobby is famous, in Norman and in Iowa City, shall we not forget.”

Oklahoma Senior Courtney Paris
On similarities between Georgia Tech and Texas A&M
“Yes, definitely.  They press a lot and they crash the boards.”

On the team’s performance early in the second half
“I thought we came out poised.  We took care of the ball and didn’t have any turnovers.  We hit shots and finished those layups we were missing early.”

On the relief of having a now neutral court
“It’s like going on Christmas trips and you play on a neutral spot with not a lot of people there.  Coach always says you have to bring your own energy and stay in your own bubble, so we have to really focus on that.  With our bench and us on the court, we have to really create our own energy in the gym.”

On Courtney Paris being 24 rebounds shy of 2500 points and 2000 rebounds
“I’m just thinking about one more win to go to Oklahoma City.”

Oklahoma Freshman Whitney Hand
On confidence of tomorrow night’s game
“I think as a shooter, when you’re going through your highs and lows trying to get back from a hand injury, after you hit that first couple, it’s kind of like, ‘whoa, ok, this is just basketball’.  Obviously, I kind of went cold the second half, some games you just go cold.  I’m not worried about it.  I have confidence like I had at the beginning of the season and I’m just excited to play against Georgia Tech because, they are a lot like (Texas) A&M and our conference has prepared us completely to compete at that level, so we’re excited about it.”



GEORGIA TECH QUOTES


Georgia Tech Head Coach MaChelle Joseph
Opening Statement
“Well obviously we feel very blessed to be here today, and had a great win last night against a very good Iowa team, but we don’t feel as though we are done. This has been a team all year we have talked about. We were on a journey to find success, and success for us was becoming the best team we could possibly be. Along our journey we have had a lot of special moments, some very difficult challenges and some very good wins, and some very tough losses to deal with. But through it all I really feel as though every time we had a tough loss we bounced back higher than where we were before, and this time was no different. We had a very difficult loss against Clemson in the ACC tournament, but I thought we came out against Iowa and showed what kind of team we could be. In the process of that we lost our leading scorer and leading rebounder so I really thought our team showed a great deal of character, toughness and heart in the way they played the other night. We are excited about the challenge of playing Oklahoma. Like I mentioned the other night, we have played three out of four of the No.1 seeds, and now after tomorrow night we will have played all of the No. 1 seeds this year. So for a young team that’s a great experience and I know that I’m not ready for our season to end. I know our seniors aren’t ready for the season to end. Jacqua Williams in particular is not ready for her career to be over. She has meant so much to this program that the other players on this team want to keep it going for her and one of the things we have talked about is that size is one thing, but one thing you can always control is your effort and how hard you play. One of the things we pride ourselves on is being a blue-collar team that comes in and tries to outwork you, and that’s what we are going to try to do tomorrow night.”

On Oklahoma’s Amanda Thompson’s presence on the court
“Outside of the Paris twins she is their other rebounder so she brings a rebounding presence to their perimeter game. She also gives them some versatility because she can play inside and outside, so she can guard a forward, a quicker forward like Iasia (Hemingway), when she goes to the forward position. She can also guard a guard, obviously, on the perimeter so she gives them a little bit more versatility inside and outside. The other thing she does is that she is a big strong guard. Defensively, you can see without Alex we have gone bigger. We’ve moved Iasia from the inside to the outside, and that gives us a strong presence on the perimeter. You saw against Iowa where we posted them up on several occasions, and I think that’s one thing Amanda Thompson does, is give them a guard that can defend a bigger guard.”

On losing nine games this season and being selected as a #9 seed
“Okay, that’s a loaded question. First off all we said all along that we felt we played ourselves into a better seed than a #9 seed. It was kind of a mystery to us when we finished ahead of Virginia in the ACC standings, and I know they say they don’t put a lot of credence into how you finish in your conference, but we finished above Virginia and they got a #5 seed and we dropped all the way to a #9. That was kind of a mystery to us. We did have one bad loss at the end of the season when we lost - no disrespect to Clemson - but when we lost to Clemson in the ACC tournament. Obviously that hurt us and I think that’s where we fell in terms of the seeding procedure. But also when you lose your leading scorer and your leading rebounder - I’m not sure how that should affect your seeding - but obviously I think it does and that’s something that as we go down the road we will have to figure that out. Last night I think my team played to their strengths and eliminated their weaknesses. I thought we did the things we’ve done all year long, but you have to remember of those nine losses, four of them were to top 10 teams. We lost to Maryland, we lost to North Carolina at Carolina, and we lost to Connecticut at Connecticut. Our losses were to the top teams in the country, outside of Wake Forest and Clemson. Those were the only two losses that the team wasn’t ranked in the top 10. You can say we lost nine games, but we lost to some very tough teams, and I think that made us better. There was no intimidation on our team’s part last night because of the fact that we have been there and done that. We have been in these situations before. I also believe that everything happens for a reason, and I mentioned throughout the course of the week that without Alex there were other players that had stepped up. It was interesting. I was excited to see how they would perform and I thought last night they made some significant contributions. Mo Bennett, she came off the bench, hit her first shot and got six offensive rebounds and a couple of tip-ins. I thought she played extremely well. Moving Iasia Hemingway to the perimeter, you know she played there throughout the course of the season then I moved her to the four so she was back at the three. It wasn’t a huge adjustment for the team, but it gave us a totally different look, and that was a tough adjustment for Iowa.”

On receiving #9 selection and playing Iowa on their home court
“Really to be honest with you, I should probably send a letter of thank you to the selection committee because that was one of things I think that really motivated our team. I think it was one of the things why we were playing for a little bit of respect last night. We really felt as though, like I continue to mention, we had played ourselves to a higher seed. It was one thing to be a #9 seed, but to get sent back to somebody’s home floor after we had done the same thing almost a year ago. We really felt as though we has scheduled stronger in the pre-conference, played tougher teams, beat ranked teams, we really felt that we had put ourselves in a position to not play somebody on their home floor in the first round. That’s what we talked about since the selection, that Monday, was hey, that’s fine this is where they see us so let’s go out and show that we belong here and we can be successful in this tournament.”

On Sasha Goodlett’s performance
“Obviously Sasha, I had mentioned earlier, that she had big numbers throughout the course of the year. She hasn’t necessarily been consistent with it, but most freshmen aren’t. You saw last night what she is capable of and one of the things that has bee great to see with here is her development, her continued development throughout the course of the season. When she came to us, you know she has lost a lot of weight, and she has gotten herself in better condition and as she has done that, she has been able to play more minutes and as she has played more minutes her stats have gone up. Her rebounds have gone up, her point production has gone up, she has been able to play in our style and our system more effectively and I thought last night it really just came together for her. She played with a tremendous amount of confidence and I think that she missed her first three shots, but that didn’t stop her. She just kept demanding the ball and going up and finishing. Obviously, we are very excited about the future of our program with her anchoring us at that position.”

On Oklahoma in comparison to the other No. 1 seeds
“That’s interesting, because I was thinking today, comparing them to each one that we have played. One of the people on the Oklahoma team that doesn’t get the credit she deserves is (Danielle) Robinson, I think she makes them go. She is the difference maker. She pushes the ball in transition, as good as anybody in the country. I think she is the speed and the quickness that makes them difficult to defend, especially in transition. I compare her to a (Kristi) Tolliver, but she doesn’t have the three-point shooting abilities as Tolliver. But, we have seen that type of quickness at the point position; we have seen that kind of ability from a point guard though. That’s where I would compare them to Maryland. The other thing with Maryland is that they have a very good inside presence; though they are young they have a great four and five tandem inside to go with their two great guards on the perimeter. I think they compare a little bit more to Maryland then the others. You look at Connecticut and I don’t think that anybody, necessarily, compares to Connecticut as the big three. Maya Moore is what separates them from someone like Oklahoma. Tina Charles can match-up, they can match up inside, (Courtney) Paris and Tina Charles, but I don’t know who can match-up with Maya Moore. On the perimeter, I also think that Robinson can match-up with their point guard, with Montgomery, but I’m not necessarily sure that they have a Maya Moore. And then the other one, Duke. They have Shante Black they can match-up on the inside with Courtney Paris, they have lost Abby Waner to an injury, but they are so deep and athletic. That’s one of the things about Duke that I think separates them a little bit is their athleticism.”

On team response to Alex Montgomery’s injury
“That’s very interesting. Right when the ACC tournament ended we gave them a couple of days off, and when we came back together, they looked like deer in headlights. They were looking at me like ‘oh no, what are we going to do now’, and I just kind of said ‘hey, somebody’s problem is another person’s opportunity’ and we are not a one person team, this team is not about one person, that’s why it’s a team sport. After a couple of tears and a little feeling sorry for ourselves I took a quote from Kay Yow that said ‘the man that had no shoes was sad until he met the man with no feet’. I said we can be sad that we are going to the NCAA tournament without Alex or we can be happy we are in the NCAA tournament, and we could be sitting home watching this on TV. So, I think after that we just decided we were going to make the most of a difficult situation and we were going to come out here and earn some respect for our program. Alex has given so much to this team, not only was she our leading scorer and leading rebounder, she was our heart and soul. She is our hardest worker. Every day off she was in the gym, she did everything above and beyond you could ask for of your best player, your leading scorer and leading rebounding. So, everybody wanted to give more because of what we knew she had given to us.”

On what’s missing with Montgomery’s absence from the court
“She helps us spread the floor, she made 72 three’s for us this year. But, I think what we miss the most is her toughness. She was a competitor, and her defensive rebounding. She was third in our league in defensive rebounds, and for a guard that is pretty phenomenal. She was our back-up point guard; she played half the game at the point. So she could jump from center to play point guard. Her versatility is amazing. Next year she will be one of the top five players in the ACC, she is just such a tremendous talent. Above and beyond all that she is our toughest kid. She is just a tremendous competitor and I know after last night you are probably wondering, wow, we were pretty tough, but she has definitely set the tone for our toughness on the defensive end and offensively taking shots.”

On Montgomery not traveling with the team
“Absolutely, but right now we are going through the rehab procedure, so the doctor’s felt like it was best for her to stay there. If or when we advance she will definitely be with us going down the road. That was one of the first things she said last night was, ‘you have to win one more so I can join you all.’ We called her right after the game in the locker room. Obviously, it was a consideration, but the doctors felt like it was in her best interest to stay behind and rehab. Plus, we have school today and academics is, obviously, very important to us at Georgia Tech, so she had to stay behind and attend classes today.”

Georgia Tech Senior Jacqua Williams
On preparedness having already played three number-one seeds this season
“I feel like we’re well prepared.  We’re just going to go out and play with heart and a lot of energy.  Like our coach said, we’re not ready for this to be over, and we showed that last night. We’re going to build off of what we did last night.”

On Oklahoma Senior Courtney Paris
“More likely, it’s not going to be about the first shot she takes. It’s going to be about boxing her out and not allowing her to get the offensive rebounds and put-backs.  We’re going to play our game and do what we can.”

Georgia Tech Sophomore Iasia Hemingway
On Oklahoma Senior Courtney Paris
“I agree with Jacqua (Williams). We just have to box her out and make sure she doesn’t have three or four offensive rebounds. We just have to play our game and get defensive stops.”