March 29, 2009


THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Rutgers Coach Stringer, we have Brittany Ray, Kia Vaughn and Epiphanny Prince. Coach, your thoughts?

COACH STRINGER: I thought that Purdue came on sharp, hot, they understand that they were looking to attack, I thought they rebounded extremely well.

It took us quite a bit of time to adjust. And Freeman knocked down two or three shots before we got it together, and that's disappointing because we would expect Hylton, Howell, Rayburn to do that, but it was clearly Freeman. And of course we know that in big-time games, big-time people step up on the big stage, simple as that.

Unfortunately, we had to have -- the rebounding had to be key for us, and it just didn't happen, it just didn't happen. We needed to have -- and unfortunately we don't have big people other than Kia, so we needed to have rebounding coming from the guards, we were not effective in our 55.

Why, because the little guard was quick, and the 4 was able to handle the ball well enough so it didn't allow us to get into that trap situation, we were wasting time.
When we can't score off the defense, we've got to score other ways. One of those ways is getting to the line, to see if we can get it done that way. I don't think we could have done anything differently in terms of man-to-man defense, but credit to Purdue, they did a great job and credit to our team, given where we started and how we proceeded throughout the vast majority of the season.

You know, we're pleased that we were able to get here, but unhappy because we know that we could have done some different things.

Q. Kia, as you guys closed the gap, did you start believing "yeah, we're going to actually do this?"

KIA VAUGHN: Throughout the game there was no doubt in my mind that it wasn't incapable of us to get the game done. Little by little, at the end when they went to the free-throw line, it dawned on me that it wasn't in my hands anymore. We just tried to stick it out.

Q. Kia, looking at where you're sitting right now, can you take any consolation in that?

KIA VAUGHN: I'm proud of my teammates and how far we've come. We've fought so long to get to where we are now. We started off really, really sluggish in the beginning of the season and not knowing roles or what we were capable of doing.
We had the skills and the talent to do anything we wanted, but it seemed like it was locked in a chest and no one knew where the key was.
Coach kept telling us we were hot and cold and we had to keep working hard to find it, and we finally did at the end of the season, it's just that today it didn't work in our favor.

Q. Kia, Epiphanny, that last pass when you pulled down that rebound and you threw the outlet to Epiphanny, what were you thinking there, or was there a miscommunication of some kind?

KIA VAUGHN: I just overthrew the pass. I seen her going in for the fast break. And I just overthrew the pass, that's all it was.

EPIPHANNY PRINCE: I didn't know how hard she was going to throw it, so...

Q. Coach, when you look at where this team came from and how it got here, how do you feel about it going forward for next season, the freshmen that didn't play as much as you probably expected, but over all?

COACH STRINGER: Tell you the truth, I don't know, because we are losing a huge -- we're losing the battery that is Kia and Heather, they are connected. Heather and Kia read each other extremely well.
Obviously I haven't been too impressed with our freshmen in terms of them handling this kind of a situation. I heard someone make a statement that Tennessee had all of these freshmen, and we had all these freshmen, and we were able to get something done.

But I think you would be fooled into thinking that because our freshmen did not play a significant role in any of the game, any significant amount of time.
We've seen bits and pieces, but as an example, the Tennessee freshmen played far more games and logged more minutes. However, the biggest issue with our freshmen is for them to buy into and understand that there is a way to win the game.

This game started off today with, you know, you think that we know how to play the team game. But for whatever reason, we began to take a shot with one or two passes, we began to take a quick out, and what we know is that anytime we've shot over 14 three's, we've lost the game.

We start shooting quickly with one or two passes, that ball was rebounding long and they were going back to the other end of the floor. I thought that Dee gathered herself a little later, she is a freshman and she needed to calm down and know how to attack, because while they were much bigger, they couldn't be bigger and quicker, so when she began to attack, we got to the free-throw line.
That's what we needed from Epiphanny Prince, she goes to the free-throw one time, there is something wrong with that picture, which means she is shooting over 6-1, 6-2, 6-3s, which is unusual, because we knew we needed to balance this out without going to the free-throw line.

It wasn't for us as a group -- we seemed slow, maybe somewhat intimidated, shocked -- I won't say intimidated, I think we were shocked with the size when we really -- a lot of times sizes aren't inflated because they were the size that they were and they were skilled.

So I thought they were a little cautious and we started doing things that told me that we weren't playing together as a team. When we did begin to play together as a team, as someone asked, did we believe, and I do believe that we did believe.
Because we reverted to survival, self-survival, which is -- has been our nemesis and that's what killed us at the beginning of the year. So our time outs had to do more with, wait a minute, this is the exact same thing that we've done in more than half the games, so why are we going crazy now?

We don't have the direction, we're rushing things, can we slow it down and become the team that believes and demonstrates trust and faith? But in a game of this magnitude, it only takes about a good five minutes and that's basically what it was, we lost a good five minutes.

And then while we attempted to go back, playing team basketball and doing what we needed to do to come back, my conversation with April Sykes, for example, was do you understand what I meant by taking the drive instead of the outside shot?
In games like this you're always going to get a 3-point shot, we don't need a savior, we didn't need to go one or two passes and shoot. And so they settled down and they were like, "okay, we're going to do the right thing" and then it was better.
There was major miscommunication when there was a girl standing there at the basket, we knew that we were taking switches. For whatever reason, Piphanny and Dee, Dee did the right thing, she was taking the switch, Piphanny knew she had four fouls and did not want to take the switch, she would rather play the perimeter player and not be put in the post position, I understand that, but they didn't trust.
Because at that moment Dee said "switch" and Piphanny said "no, I've got to stay," and in between that the girl was left free under the basket. When you think about a game that could have been easily decided with one or two points, that's what it is.
She's got to come in sharp off the bench, Dee, but you have to be 30 seconds sharp. We had watched that player at the high-post position do that step through and backdoor hit a thousand times. Why would we get anxious?

The only reason I took Kia out is because I didn't want her to kick up a foul with 23 seconds left. We couldn't give up the points and it's all the little things that make a big difference.

Each player knows their strengths and whatever the patterns are, if you drive better to the right rather than to the left, everything we were calling were isolations. We needed to come even, or once we did go ahead and once we did, we thought we would have control of Purdue.

I thought we did everything down for those few seconds, yes, the turnover was crucial, those things will happen, but we just got a little anxious and Purdue was a better team today.

Q. Coach, your team seemed to do better when they were able to run the ball, drive and penetrate. Very often they seemed tentative, willing to stay out, settle for a half-court game, pass the ball around and take those outside shots. Was that part of the game plan or --

COACH STRINGER: No, no, no, no, that's right. That's why you don't see any tears in my eyes, I'm upset, more than hurt, I'm disappointed because we knew what we had to do and we went out there and got foolish.

Trust me when I tell you that, why would we stand out there and try to execute when we're dealing with people that are giants, basically. Our advantage was to get the ball off, pass the ball, like we did before, make the pass, all of the sudden we got real -- all of the sudden we were going to stand out there and try to execute and see what's going on and if there was -- several times we took 4-point shots! You know?

But I'm not too surprised, I'm upset, because didn't we know? Didn't we lose like that doing the same thing? So there is a lot of things about us that, as I share with the team, it is at the end as it was at the beginning, the first day, the exact same things. It's behaviors, and I'm thinking, why are we here. So, no, ma'am, absolutely not.

You should have asked the question to them, what were you supposed to do? And they would tell you, it was supposed to be drives. When we started doing that, we would stop the clock -- they couldn't stop us on the drives but we couldn't figure that out until late, and we wouldn't handle it on the 55, which is surprising.
And I think if we had a little more energy, a little sharper, we probably would have been able to handle a 55 but it forsaked us today. But we didn't then become smart with the other things that we needed to do. It's very obvious if you look at the stats, Prince, for example, is an 87% free-throw shooter, and there is nobody that can stop her. If she comes near a screen, they're not shopping her, they're going to foul her, so how do we think? We just didn't play very smart.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the Purdue coach, Coach Versyp.
COACH VERSYP: It was a game of runs, and Rutgers had been playing such great basketball and had balanced scoring and they were never going to be out of the game no matter if we were ahead by 20 or 30. We tried to keep that sense of urgency and our players stepped up.
The rebounding for us was a big key and Rutgers gave us everything at the end, going one-on-one to the hole and they were able to knock down some key shots and we were able to knock some key shots down.
FahKara and Danielle both knocked down shots, and our players stayed composed, and I think there was a big reason we were able to be successful tonight.

Q. Lindsay, you've had games this year where you've had second half leads and let them slip away and ended up in a loss. What do you think was different today?
LINDSAY WISDOM-HYLTON: I think learning from those experiences and those losses helped us get to where we are today, and I think we gutted it out.
And when we were only up with 2 with a minute or two left, I think if this was three, four, five months ago, maybe we would have let it slip, but tonight we were able to battle through and come out on top.

Q. Do you feel like throughout the game you guys were able to sustain your offense for longer periods than Rutgers?
LAKISHA FREEMAN: Yes, I do feel like that. We had that inside/outside game which was tough for them to guard.

Q. Lindsay, can you talk about that shot that FahKara hit? It's probably not often that you have seen her hit the fade-away shot.
LINDSAY WISDOM-HYLTON: It's tournament time, anything can happen. We had a couple of buzzer beater shot clock shots, and when you're feeling it, you are hot and she had some key buckets down the stretch. And we're playing well as a team right now and anything can happen.

Q. Lindsay, how important was it to get Jodie going today offensively?
LINDSAY WISDOM-HYLTON: Jodie is awesome. She's playing so hard for us right now and she is getting those outside shots for us, and she is attacking the basket.
And she did a great job with that today and her offensive and defensive play has stepped up for us today.

Q. Lindsay, I read where Coach said that you guys were not stressed, not pressured, everybody has maybe overlooked you. How does this feel now to get to the regional final and how much is it where you guys are relaxed and playing and not under any pressure?
LINDSAY WISDOM-HYLTON: I think that's when we play our best basketball, when we are relaxed and not tense and not worrying about things. We had nothing to lose here, so we had to go out and play our hearts out. And whoever plays the best wins the game, and we're playing our best basketball right now.

Q. Lakisha, any nervousness at all when they kept closing the gap?
LAKISHA FREEMAN: No, there was not. As Lindsay said, we learned from our experiences. A while ago the team probably would have got the win, but we're learning and today we were staying tough and we were able to knock down some key shots.

Q. Jodie, being in the Elite 8, a lot of you players have been here in this situation before. Talk about being back in this spot.
JODIE HOWELL: We're excited right now, we're probably going to enjoy this tonight and get back to business tomorrow. But it's a great feeling to be here.

Q. Lakisha, three straight games now you guys have been shooting the ball well. Everyone says you want to peak at tournament time, are you guys doing that?
LAKISHA FREEMAN: Yes, we have those who are starting the game and everyone is scoring well, as well as everyone that's coming off the bench, and everyone is scoring and playing great for this team right now and it's great.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, we'll see you back here tomorrow.

Q. Coach, a lot will be made about your shooting percentage tonight. Talk defensively what you guys were able to do to take them out of rhythm there for the first 30 minutes or so of the game.
COACH VERSYP: We started out in our one defense and we didn't look very good there briefly, so being able to make some adjustments, you know, because of how they set up, really working the deep corners.
But I think the changes when we went man-to-man and they didn't score for 5 or 6 minutes and then we got into foul trouble, but our kids sustained it and were able to knock down shots. But our defense has been our bread and butter the whole time.
I think that's been the key because we hope you shoot 50% or 60%, but that's not going to happen all the time. That will always be a key to our success.

Q. Do they seem to have a different look about them?
COACH VERSYP: We just have a lot of confidence right now. Every time-out, we say we're not going to let this slip away, every player on the bench. And it's a mind-set right now, everybody is physically gifted, everybody is playing great basketball when they get to that point. And right now it's mental toughness.
We talked about that mental toughness early on and now we have it. That's when you want it to come out is in February and early March.

Q. Your bench didn't give you necessarily a bunch of points, but I thought they gave you critical minutes, Guyton especially in the first half. Can you talk about that.
COACH VERSYP: We need to be physical down low, Kia Vaughn is very, very strong and we have respect for her. When Danielle got into foul trouble, Natasha gave us great minutes.
And Alex was able to bang because she is so physical and being able to knock down that shot and calling the play for her, it builds her confidence. And I think we brought our freshmen along well, but now they're understanding things more and it's not always about offense.

Q. Coach, the shot at the shot clock there at the end, what was that?
COACH VERSYP: That was a player making a play, they took us out of what we wanted to run, they did a great job. But at this point, sometimes the stars align right, there has to be some luck in this, and as soon as it released from FahKara's hand, I knew it was in.
She stepped up big for us, she controlled the tempo, played amazing defense. Our biggest concern was her boxing somebody out, but that was huge. She was the one in the huddle saying "this is our game, this is our game," and she's that leader for us.

Q. You talk about your defense playing, again, you've been shooting 50% the last couple of games and beaten two pretty good teams. Does the defense set up that offense or offense is a nice by-product?
COACH VERSYP: For us, our defense always sets up our offense, but when you knock down a big shot, you don't have tired legs on defense. And I think when Jodie Howell knocks down 3 for her teammates, everybody gets the energy.
It takes the pressure off, but everybody is talking about our shooting, but we almost lost the game on free-throws, so obviously that will be a point of emphasis, which it always has been. But these kids are enjoying it, they're enjoying the moments. We have talked about you can't get these moments back.

Q. When Rutgers started making that run at the end and pulled within 2, was there any nervousness? Did you feel like they were playing the basketball you'd seen?
COACH VERSYP: Rutgers or us? Both? Rutgers totally isolated and went one-on-one. They have phenomenal players and we were able to take it down low and play off the dribble, and we ended up going into a defense that slowed them down with the key rebound we got, but we've handled that before, we've learned from it.
We've had a heart breaker when we played against Ohio State, and we're not going to try to allow that to happen again, so our memories went back to us.
THE MODERATOR: All right, Coach, congratulations, we'll see you tomorrow.

End of FastScripts