April 1, 2009

UConn

Geno Auriemma

Opening Statement
We were talking in the locker room after the game. We read in the paper all the time, There's a lot of talk about playing with pressure. The pressures on us, the pressures on us. There's no pressure on the teams that play against us. It's all about winning the national championship or bust for Connecticut. I wanted to be sure that they understood, and they do. Honestly that's the goal for Connecticut every year and certainly this year, it's a more realistic goal than some other years. But, it's not been about national championship or bust. It's been one great event after another; it's been one great win after another. One great performance after another. Especially these two right here when they play. They played out of their minds tonight. We've enjoyed every bit of it and we love the pressure. We love what comes with it. We love how it energizes us. I'm proud of them because kids their age buckle under pressure. These two specifically embrace the pressure. I said last year we would be back and we are going back. We're pretty excited right now. It's good. It's all good.

How excited are you to play Stanford again and show everyone that you're the best point guard in the country?
Renee: I'm very excited. Not to show people I'm the best point guard in the country, but just because I'm confident with the team I'm going with this year. It is great that we do get to play Stanford again. We're excited to play them. I'm sure they're excited to play us. I'm just excited for this whole season and how everything has worked out and how everyone has responded and just the team chemistry. I'm just excited about everything.

Going back to Missouri, how excited are you for the homecoming and how much of your family do you think will come out?
Maya: I don't know. It will be interesting to see how many people come out. But I know my immediate family will definitely be there or watching it on TV at someone's house. It is very exciting to go back and just to be so close to my birth spot. To go there with a group of girls that I love just like my family. I feel like all of my family is going to be in St. Louis

Describe what it's like to play on the floor with Renee?
Maya: The first thing I think is, 'Where's Renee? I don't want to mess this play up without Renee." So, once she gets the ball in her hands, I know it's pretty good. Something great is going to happen. 9 times out of 10 in full transition Rene and I are going and we are just going to get something done. That's just exciting to know. If I run hard, work hard, we're going to get rewarded. I trust her completely to dominate and make big plays and make some tough shots. Just taking people one on one, baseline from the middle. She was unstoppable tonight and I'm just excited.

Describe that 2nd half run? How did you see that stretch play out for you guys?
Maya: Our team is one of the teams where we work and we are always looking to get on a run. Every timeout, every huddle, "let's get on a run." Everyone believes that we are capable to go on runs like you saw. It's not necessary something that we're always conscious of. Anytime another team scores on us or they get a run. We're just competitive and that's just the type of basketball that we're trying to play. They score and we're going to score back on them. That's just our style and we're comfortable playing that way. That's how we're going to continue to play.

Cara Walters said after the game that she is honored to be mentioned in the same breath as you. How does it feel to break the record that you did and what did it mean to have her in the radio booth to call it?
Maya: Records and breaking this. First whatever. The fact is celebrating UConn. Cara Walters is one of those special people that you walk in practice everyday and all you have to do is look up and see her name on the rafters. She's a great player. Set history here at UConn. She was a trailblazer. She's part of the reason I've been able to be in such a great program. It's an honor for me to even be able to compete with such a great player that she was. It's all good. We are both just laughing, celebrating, and smiling together. It's all in the family. She's one of the few players that is in the UConn family. She comes back and she's involved in the program. She's great to us. It's just a win win situation.

Is tonight's game one of those situations where coach said "It's time to take over" or "We need to do something here to get back into the game?"
Renee: This probably sounds like a broken record. Coming out of a time out, Coach said "let's go on a run," so I just know that we were going to push the ball every time we get it. When we were on the floor, it's hard for people to guard us. You got a post player guarding Maya and she's stops the 3 point line and hits a 3. It's just hard for the other team. When he says go we go.

How much do you want a piece of Stanford? How excited are you to be back in the final four?
Maya: It's a very made for TV game. Both teams have worked so hard to be in this position that we're in. Both Stanford and our team we played some great games to get into the final four. I think we're both on a roll. It's going to be a battle. It's like our test to see if we really are better than we were last year. I'm just excited to play.

NFL players often talk when they go to multiple super bowls how they learn from each experience. Going back to the second straight final four, what did you learn from this weekend and what do you think might benefit you this time around?

Renee: I think last year, just right after we lost we started post season work outs quick. Everybody didn't want to lay around and think about it. We had a set date when we were going to start post season workouts. But they got moved to a closer date because you just don't want to sit around in your room and think about the loss. It's sits bad on you. I think at that moment we started learning from our mistakes and what we did last year. We knew that we had to go harder every single drill. We can't let half the team go harder than the other half. I think we learn that everyone has to be on the same page. Everyone has to be working just as hard as the next person there. I think that mentality alone just completely changed our team personality, our team face, and it's just how we perform.

Maya: What I took away from that game is just not going in without any doubt at all. I think that at times we doubted ourselves in that game and it hurt us. A split second where we're not thinking 'lets get a run, let's get a stop,' they get on a run. Their great players step up and get big shots. I really feel like this year we're confident and don't have any doubts about our team and what our team can do.

Watching Maya play tonight was like watching water flow.
Geno: Sometimes it's just hard to describe. You try and come up with words to use. I watch her and sometimes I have no idea what she's doing. Like on that charge. There's a part of her that's just like a 12 year old. She doesn't even see the guy right there that she's going to charge into. We all see it. You know what 12 year olds also do? They don't think twice about running down the floor full speed, stopping, and chucking up a 3 pointer. I look at it and I go 'I can't believe she has the guts to take that shot.' Once she makes one, you know next time she's taking one. When those two go in. Forget it; everything she touches will go in. That's how she is in practice. It happens so quickly, it happens so easily, so effortlessly. Some of the kids struggle to get those same shots. It's just effortless. She's just running up and down the floor and doing things we all wish we can do.

Last trip to St. Louis wasn't what you wanted it to be. Comment on your hopes of making this a more fond memory this time?
Geno: That was one of the more frustrating weekends that Connecticut basketball has been involved in, in all of the time that I've been here. To overcome the loss of Shea and Seta and then play as well as we did in that first half then come up short and knowing that we could win the game the next day. It was just a really bad feeling for everyone associated with the program. I remember just how devastated everyone was and I don't think I've ever taken anything as hard as I took that one. In the locker room today after the game I said, this is Shea's first final four game in a long time. It's her first final four since St. Louis. She couldn't play in that one. She can't play in this one. But circumstances are a little bit different.

Talk about this team's ability that when this team needs to step up and make that run they do it better than maybe some of your teams in the last couple of years. Is it just maturity; is it an aura about this team that they can do things like that?
Geno: I think it's probably a combination of all of those things. I think Renee hit it square on the head when she said that there's a collective mindset on the team. They know it's going to happen and they're not doubting whether it will happen or can it even happen? Each and every time that we've been tested, the response seems to be the same. It just happens to quickly. Going into the tournament I will still worry if we are going to win. One of these times, if we get into that situation where we don't have it, I close my eyes and I'm scared to death to think about it. But, up to this point there hasn't been any doubt in their mind it's coming. There's no doubt in their mind that we have the ability to do it even when Tiffany had 20-something the other night 28 the other night, and she never got on track today. Yet, it didn't matter. It was just a matter of time until we got it going. The great teams I think are great finishers. That's what we've been able to do. We've been able to finish pretty strong. I think that wears some of the other team's out that we play.

What does it mean for you to go to the Final Four? What does it say about Renee to pick up the 3 fouls and still play an aggressive second half?
Geno: I talk about Renee having the big eyes. When the eyes are big big big during the game, I know that something big is going to happen. They weren't there the other day. For whatever reason. Yet today, from the end of the game until today, you could see it was back. It was going to be a big game from Renee. The first foul, the offensive foul, when we watched it on film, she did. The third one, a score and then two seconds later it's a foul... I said "yo, it's 50-50 give the benefit of the doubt to the offense. That kid worked her ass off to get in position to make that shot. Don't take it away from her." But she never got frustrated. She never allowed it to change her approach. She just kept attacking. There were a couple times I was just praying she would pour it out. She just kept going full up, making shots. I'm glad Renee has the type of confidence that she does. Sometimes she amazes me.

Now that Renee's picked up her energy and has helped lead her team to the Final Four, what does that mean to her?
Renee sees herself as the floor leader of our team. Physically, mentally, everything. That's her responsibility. That's what she does, and she's taken responsibility, and complete accountability. It's my responsibility of this team to get this team to the Final Four. Last year along this run, she really struggled. When everyone asked me whether she's played too many minutes. Well she's played a lot of minutes this year as well, but she doesn't have the same mindset, because emotionally she's been better. She doesn't have as many things to worry about. She's had a lot of help this year to figure things out. Her mind is a little bit more energized; it's not tired like it was last year. Tired of having to do everything all the time. She's had a lot of help this year, which has made the biggest difference. Renee and Maya both made all American, out of five players you have two of them. It almost makes it like, what's the big deal? We should be going to the Final Four if we have two of the best players. They've put themselves in that situation. It says a lot about how hard they've worked. I always have this vision of what an All American looks like. I see some kids that are All Americans and just shake my head and go, 'you've got to be kidding me.' To me All Americans are All Americans. They did everything well. They were great kids. They were great leaders. They were the hardest workers. They were winners. They were clutch. They play both ends of the floor. Now it's changed a little bit I think, in all of our teams. You score a lot of points; you get a lot of rebounds. It doesn't matter if your team consistently wins which championships or whatever. Now it's just a numbers game. For these two to be All Americans, they brought that back to what it's supposed to be. They've got it covered in every aspect.

Thoughts on Stanford.
Thoughts on Stanford my ass. I recruited Jana Bell as hard as anyone can recruit someone. I love that kid. I loved her as a high school player and I love her even more as a college player. Her ability to around the basket is second to none. I was just so impressed last night with the way the team played, the way she played. They don't have Candace Wiggins, they lost a big part of their offense this year. They look like as good of a team as they were last year. IF we go out there and we do the same thing as we did last year, I don't think it's going to be good enough. We're going to have to go out there; we're going to have to better than we were last season. I think they are going to be just as a good as they were last year, if not better.

Arizona State University

Coach Charli Thorne

Opening Statement

"I would like to start by thanking the MAAC, Rider University, everybody here in Trenton for hosting us, the NCCA. It was a great experience, and we do a lot of our share of work in Tempe and we had a wonderful time. Everybody has been fantastic. Obviously very disappointing. There was a lot of talk about how Dymond got hurt and how we were going to recover, but obviously we have some amazing seniors on our team. I just want to thank them because they truly led this team to an amazing place this year, and it was really fun. I had a lot of fun as a coach. I don't know if I have seen as much growth in a team because I saw it this year in so many different ways that I cannot even verbalize. I just want to thank my team for everything, and I just wish we had a few more days to maybe practice our transition defense. We'll just leave it at that."

Thoughts on UConn Stanford match up:

"We've got a re-match from last year. Stanford is going to be a very tough match up for UConn. If Maya continues to hit three's like that in transition that is really difficult for post players to defend. I think that's going to be the challenge for Stanford. They're also just a great offense team, and they rebound as well. I think they are going to be very comparable on the boards, and it's going to be an outstanding game. Stanford is really peaking now and they're playing really good basketball. It's going to be interesting.

"If you had more time to prepare do you think the outcome could have been any different?"

"I think the biggest thing was the pace. You go out and get your scout team out there and they don't take the ball out of bounds and they sprint up and down. I think we're usually good when we have some preparation time, and at the same time these are all things that we prepared for all year long. You have to sprint back, you have to match at half court, and you have to box out. We needed to execute a little better at times offensively. There are things we should be doing to take that final step to the Final Four and we just didn't get it done. Obviously credit to UConn.

In regards to UConn's response to cutting the lead to 8 at the 10:45 mark

"At this point I told our team "This is where we have to make our run." All the film I've watched, if anybody hangs around it's either in the beginning of the first half or middle and they make their push. They understood that and we just didn't get it done. I don't remember exactly possession by possession but I know we had possessions where we turned the ball over and just didn't execute. We weren't getting stops the entire game. Every time we were in the huddle I was like "Let's get some stops, we can score on these guys." They were so quick in transition, and I don't know why we couldn't find Moore, and we were really soft. That's where you'd love to have your full compliment on the perimeter stopping the ball, and your best on ball full court defender out there against a team like that. We couldn't get our defense set up. They were scoring too quick on us and I saw that in the Cal game, I saw that in a lot of games. I thought we could do a lot better. That's usually a strength of ours, taking away transition. I was pretty confident that we could do a pretty good job on the half court set. We couldn't find them and I don't know how many points they scored in transition. Don't tell me I don't want to know. A lot."

How demoralizing was it to lose Brianne January with her 3rd foul for the rest of the half after Rene Montgomery picked up her 3rd foul?

"On of scale of 1 to 100 a 99. A 99 being the most demoralizing, and it was tough. Obviously that was a break for us. We turned around and didn't take advantage of it.

In regards to the whole season:

"It's great for Arizona State's Women's Basketball. For us in 3 years be in the Elite 8 twice hopefully it will gain respect for our program nationally. Hopefully it will make a lot of blossoming young women want to be Sun Devils. I would say that the best recruiting is winning. When you come off a year like this and people got to see us, got familiar with our program through ESPN who does a phenomenal job thank you guys for covering the tournament the way you guys do. It really helps the game of women's basketball. Hopefully our exposure will continue to grow."

Briann January

In regards to UConn's offense in the 2nd half: "They're a great, great offensive team and they'll make shots if you let them be comfortable and that's what we did. We didn't have any help side and we let them do what they wanted to do, and if you let great players be comfortable they're going to make shots."

"Do you see the UConn Stanford match up being evenly matched?"

"I definitely see a similarity between those teams. One thing that all three of those teams have is toughness, they rebound the ball really well, and they have a great transition game. They're aggressive. All 3 of those teams are aggressive. I could draw so many comparisons between them but I think that UConn Stanford game is going to be great."

Putting the season in perspective:

"We definitely had to face some obstacles this year and that's one great thing that we can take from this season how our team came together and overcame those battles. We just grew so much together. We got so close as a team and I think that's what allowed us to be so successful and make a run in this tournament like we did."

Sybil Dosty

In regards to UConn's rebounding:

"I was trying to battle hard down there, but everybody was rebounding for them. We might have had one person not rebounding, and so not everybody was getting hit and the person not getting hit would get the rebound. We just needed to match up better on the boards. We weren't hitting hard enough, and even when we were hitting they were still getting the boards. It just wasn't a good rebounding game for us and obviously it hurt us."

Danielle Orsillo

In regards to UConn's rebounding:

"We talked about how in order to win this game we needed to rebound and we just didn't do that. I think our post did a good job fighting underneath. The guards were really focused on the transition defense but we ended up not doing any of it. We didn't defend out in transition and we didn't rebound."