March 28, 2009



Arizona State Head Coach Charli Turner Thorne
Opening Statement
We really excited to be here. Obviously, a very tough matchup with Texas A&M. I think Florida state was a great precursor for us in the sense that they played fresher defense. We’re really a team that hasn’t seen a lot of pressure all year long. We had Simon and January in our back court, we dare you to pressure us.  We got some time this week to make some adjustments which will hopefully go well tomorrow.  We are ecstatic to be here, we just got here actually, but the people of Trenton and New Jersey have been wonderful so we’re excited for the game tomorrow.

How has your team adjusted to the loss of Dymond?  Have you really had a chance to get it together before the post season? – You seem to be doing pretty well
We are.  I think the first game in the Pac 10 tournament was brutal, it was too quick to adjust.  At the same time we learned from it we saw some things, tried some things with our lineups and rotations and I think we took that back to Tempe with us.  We have six seniors, we have a talented team, we were a good team after overcoming being sent off to the south to two southern teams in their home area.  I think we might even be a great team and people have stepped up for us, if they continue to step up, I like our chances of being successful tomorrow.  
I cant even begin to tell you how great of a player Dymond Simon is.  I’d love to talk to anybody about that, and give them highlights.  She’s an amazing woman, and I definitely predict she comes back an All-American.  She was at the top of her game and we miss her.  But, we would never be here without her.  Its really a heartbreaking situation for all of us.  

Looking at both teams, who look like mirror images of each other, might this be a game first to 50 wins?
Yes.  I’m trying to get my team in the mindset, ‘Hey if it’s 40’s it’s 40’s.’   It’s a situation where we are playing a great defensive team where there is no free pass, no free touch, and we just have to work hard, take care of the ball and score and take the good looks as they come.  I think that’s the biggest adjustment we’ve made as a team without our leading scorer.  The bottom line is we’ve got to play relentless defense for 40 minutes if we’re going to be successful.

3 Pac Ten teams advancing this far in the tournament
Well it’s absolutely but expected, usually we have more teams in the NCAA tournament, so it is a little unusual that we only have three teams from the Pac 10.  But I think all three teams, especially Stanford and Cal, two teams that have been ranked in the top 10 pretty much the entire season, they had fantastic seasons, I think that they really have gotten a lot of respect and credit and deservingly so.  We may be the surprise of the group.  I think we’re the best team nobody heard about until Dymond got hurt.  Now, we’re still a very good team and have done a great job adjusting to that.  
“We know a lot of you guys were in bed when we were playing, and you don’t always get our coverage and see our games.  I think the west-coast in general, Pac-10 especially, has done great in the tournament.  If it wasn’t for west-coast teams being paired up with each other in early rounds I think we would have a few more teams still even playing.  Hopefully the Pac 10 can keep advancing.

Even though you’d probably be closer to this, is that the silver lining that the east coast people can get a first hand look at your team and league and see how good it can actually be
Sure, I think a lot of us travel.  Stanford was on the east coast, we were on the east coast.  We do a good job in the pre season, we do give people an opportunity to see us nationally.  I think this is the time when  people are paying the greatest attention, it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Pac 10 to say we’re a great conference, we have some good teams in the conference.  I think we’ve already done that.

January played for  Vic Schaefer in one of the International tournaments a few years ago.  Does that give them an advantage that he knows her a little better than most?
I’ve coached against a lot of the players I coach in U.S.A. basketball.  I think it gives you a little bit of insight.  I don’t think it really factors into that much to be honest in the scheme of things.  January is a huge piece on our team, and you may be a little more familiar with her.  Box, double team, do whatever you want to do she’s seen it all, bring it on.  

How is January’s ankle?  How have you adjusted to the pressure defense that Texas A&M is going to bring?
She’s doing very well, she’s practiced the last couple days.  She’s going to be good to go, at the same time we should sort of rest her, she got pretty beat up overall, last week it wasn’t just the ankle, but some other hits.   It was good to actually to practice against pressure without January on the floor.  I think that makes everything much harder, obviously she can kind of be her player anytime she wants and create a shot for herself or someone around her.  It was good for us and I thought we did a good job.  We’ll be prepared.  We’ve coached pressure, so we know what we feel is difficult to defend and I think we’re pretty good at preparing.  It still wasn’t a lot of time to turn around, hopefully we’ll execute our game plan tomorrow.  

How much does it help that you’ve played without Dymond on the floor before this season?  
We really have had her all season.  When we went to the Elite Eight a couple years ago, we lost her in the third week of January, and we had a little more time to regroup.  Kate Engelbrecht, who’s stepping up for us right now, also stepped up for us that season.  We only missed her for one game this year, we did beat Xavier by 20 points in that game, and they’re a very good team.  Our team did experience a little bit of basketball without Dymond, and we’ve had a few weeks now and people are stepping up so it’s good.

When you look at A&M, are there keys in your mind to handle the pressure? Are there other things you have to do too?
Sure, the obvious ones are: take care of the ball, and control the boards because they are relentless on the boards and relentless with their pressure.  If you give any great team second shots, or don’t take care of the ball against any great team it’s pretty much game over.  So those are the two major keys.  They have a lot of people that can score the basketball, but their big 3 kind of neutralizes maybe two of them.  We need some people to continue to step up offensively at least for us.

Joy of being in a tournament like this

We are enjoying it and we having fun.  Especially to overcome what we have, most recently when Dymond was healthy we beat Cal by 22 on their own floor.  I was sure this team was going deep into the tournament.  Then when we lost Dymond I wasn’t sure of anything.  I think this has allowed us to enjoy it more.  I think anybody who has been an athlete or a coach, you go into it saying, ‘This time I’m going to enjoy it,’ and then you really don’t.  Sometimes you get too consumed and I think I can honestly say I’m enjoying it, and our players are enjoying it and it’s helped us performed better and be more connected as a team and coaching staff.  We’re a team that doesn’t just expect to be in the tournament, we expect to advance in the tournament and expect to be here it’s something that our players appreciate a lot.

Arizona State Players

Kali Murphy
“How are you dealing with the constant back and fort time change?”
“I think we’ve been really well with the time change. We’ve been working on getting better sleep and not taking too many naps. It hasn’t been a big problem for us.”
“How has the post game developed? How are you going to have to rebound in the upcoming game?”
“We feel that rebounding is one thing we can really control in the game. If we are up on the rebounding side then it will help defensively and it will help offensively. It is something that we try to control every game, especially in these big games down the stretch. “
Briann January
“How is the ankle? How can you carry over the last 10 minutes against Florida State into this game?”
“My ankle is doing great. I’m feeling good and have been practicing. I’m feeling good. The way we played the last ten minutes of the game was great. We adjusted to the pressure and we’ve definitely been working on that all this week, and we are trying to keep that going and looking to continue that against Texas A&M.”
“How  are you dealing with the constant back and fort time change?”
“We have just been really disciplined with everything. Our coaches have been on us, even on the flight over her we could only sleep an hour. Little things like that the coaches have been on us, and our team has been really good with it.”
“What went through your minds when Dymond went out?”
“She clearly is a huge part of our team and still is even though she hasn’t been out on the court with us. It was definitely a tough break for us because she was our leading scorer, and doing great things for our team. But we did realize that we did have enough talent to make it to this tournament and we will be okay. We have been adjusting ever since we lost her, and every game we have been getting better, and people have been stepping up and really filling their roles doing what they have to do and we’ve been getting it done.”

“Do you feel as if you have nothing to lose?”
“We just kept working the whole year. We weren’t worried about where we are positioned or where other people were positioned we just go out and play our game every night. The playing field is equal in the NCAA Tournament as we saw with Ball State winning. It’s the madness of March. Anybody can win on any given night. We play hard and they’ll hard but the best team that night will win. Hopefully we do come in here and make some noise and I think that we have the ability to do that. We’re just going to go out there and play hard and see what happens.”
“You played for Vic Schaefer two years ago in the Jones Cup, does he get an advantage knowing you, or do you get an advantage knowing what he does defensively?”
“His defensive style, and Charlie’s defensive style is very similar. Playing with him was not a big adjustment for me. Ball pressure, deny, pass away, all that stuff that Charlie preaches day in and day out. He knows my game, but at the same time the way he coaches and the way we play are very similar so I just prepare for it that way.”
“Being 0-3 against the Big 12 this year do you owe them a game? What have you learned from those games that you can apply to this game?”
“In the games that we played against those other teams it was in the beginning of our season. We’ve grown so much since that time. We are pretty much a different team now since we’ve seen those teams.”

Sybil Dosty
“Both Teams are mirror images of each other. Are you in the mindset that it is going to be a defensive battle and low scoring?”
“I think we’re prepared for any type of game, but since we are a good defensive team and they are a good defensive team, it could be a game like that. We are focused on our offense also and making sure that if it is a game like that we feel confident. Our defense if pretty good right now so we are confident about it.”
“Is it easier or more difficult to prepare for a team that is so similar?”
“I don’t think it is easier or more difficult. Maybe a little bit easier because we are used to playing against pressure defense and theirs’ is really good, maybe not as good, but we played against a team in Florida State that likes to pressure. I think we are prepared for it but I do not think it is any easier or difficult comparing it to any other game.”
“How has the post game developed? How are you going to have to rebound in the upcoming game?”
“We have played our role all year and tried to do whatever was asked of us on any night. If coach asked us to go out there and defend we’d try our best. Same with our rebounding. Rebounding has been a big constant all year. In the post that is one of our biggest focuses. We are making sure that we are boxing out every possession, and we are getting as many rebounds as we can. That is a part of the game plan every night. Rebounding is something that we go out and do every night.
“Being 0-3 against the Big 12 this year do you owe them a game? What have you learned from those games that you can apply to this game?”
“Well when you put it that way, we definitely owe the Big 12 one. Texas A&M likes to play fast, and I think the teams that we played against in the Big 12 also liked to play fast. They push the ball in transition so we are going to have to get back on defense. They rebound hard and they probably are going to be physical, but in March everybody plays hard. Everybody gives all they got. This game will be a little different because March is a different kind of basketball. We’re just going to go out there and battle.

Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
Opening Statement:  We’re happy to be back, we were here in 2006, that was the first time Texas A&M had been to the NCAA Tournament in 11 years.  I think we were more interested in seeing New York City and the ESPN Zone, and Empire State Building.  This year we’re ready to play basketball.  We’re a better team.  All of those kids that were freshmen back then have seen New York City.  Now its time to play basketball, we just have to do the little things right.  We had a good workout at Princeton today.  Our basketball team has played well.  We’re led by our three seniors; we’re always led by seniors.  If you’re led by seniors you’re going to be a good basketball team.  Our region that we played in South Bend out there, we were able to get the right drawl in Minnesota and beat the home team Notre Dame.  As you can tell the way things are going now, in the seeding that means a lot.  Until we were able to play Minnesota with the same amount of fans, we brought that they brought.  It was a mutual floor, and we were the better team that day.  I believe the NCAA has done a very smart thing by going back to the 16 pre-determined sites.  I was at Los Angeles three years ago, and played in front of 400 people.  Which, I think they again, played in front of 600 this year.  We’re happy to be here.  We’re at a great regional.  People asked, are you disappointed that you’re in this regional with Connecticut?  We just hoped to get a chance to play Connecticut or California, but first we’ve got to play a very good Arizona State team that is very similar to the things we like to do.  We’re a defensive team first, and that’s the way Arizona State is.  They’re a defensive magnet team first, and I’m looking forward to playing them.

Knowing the two teams are alike, will this be a game of first to 50 wins?
First to 60.  I like 60 better.  I think that there will be a few fouls called.  Both teams shoot free throws pretty well.  Id like to get to 60 and see what happens.  Defense is fine, but I think both of us have very good offensive players.  I think both of us will find a way to score despite having two good defensive teams. Both teams have playmakers and both teams have good offensive schemes. They run a very good motion offense. You think you got one thing covered stopping the option and then all of the sudden there comes a double screen the other way. When you have a great point guard like January, she keeps her team into their offense; very disciplined basketball team. They’re not going to get out there and freelance. They know what they’re doing they are going to beat you their way. Just like they’ve been doing in the PAC 10 for the last 6 to 7 years.

Talk about your team, especially with the big 3 how you’ve grown throughout the past years? Their maturity level and ready to go after something like this?
Well as most of you written about, we had a nucleus of 6 kids together for 3 years. 3 of them graduated last year and 2 of them are in the WNBA. A’Quonisia Franklin, Morenike Atunrase and Patrice Reado was the heart and soul of our defense. Now we have Mischeaux, she patrols the paint. Even though she’s not a tremendous offensive player, she’s still a very capable offensive player that you have to guard down low. Starks and Gant they’ve just blossomed as players and they’re very unselfish. They share the ball and the limelight. They’re kids that win first and stats second. Particularly, Gant, she can score 20 points a game at the 3 position but I have to put her at the 4 position to have find room on the court for Smith. Those three believe in our system. They believe in our university and our coaching staff. We wanted to find kids that were blue collared kids. That’s what those three will do. In our practice at Princeton, the Princeton coaches said ‘you’re working them kind of hard a day before a ball game.’ We’ll work hard the day of the ball game. When we do our shoot around. That’s the mentality you have to have when you’re going to play our style of defense and be able to do some of the things we do on offense. We play the game hard. There’s no rhyme or reason why we do certain things. I don’t have the players that Geno or Pat Summits has, but I’ve got kids that can win. I got kids that can take tough love and that’s what you want in coaching. Maybe we have an orthadox style, but two years in a row we’ve been the number 2 seed so our style must be working.

How often you face a team that plays the same type of defense that you do? Advantages and Challenges preparing for that?
Baylor who has the same style of teams and players, they are very similar.  University of Texas is similar to us on one end of the floor. I followed Charli’s team for years. I like their style and I like the type of kids they recruit. They recruit some classy kids you don’t see kids in Arizona State getting in trouble. They’re good kids who can take coaching. We have the same thing at Texas A&M. Sometimes even though I don’t play Arizona State I like the continuity and I admired the coaching staff. You don’t see kids trying to transfer out of there. You have kids saying ‘Hey, I believe in that system. Defense first.’ They’re similar like when I was in Arkansas when we had to play Tennessee in our conference every year. I just admire her job and her staff is very good. They recruit very well.

Can you talk about Sybil and what do you see in her post game?
I saw Sybil a lot back when she was a high school player. She went to Tennessee then came to Arizona State. You go to the school where you’re going to fit into the coaching philosophy. It’s a perfect match up for her. I just hope the officials let two hard working kids play tomorrow against each other. They do for the team what needs to be done. They don’t worry about scoring 20 points a ball game. They’re going take charges and block the shots. When it comes down to it, can they score 1 on 1 on the block? It’s going to be determined tomorrow because sometimes they’re going to have to score against each other.

Do they look any different without Dymond?
There are not too many teams that can live with January from the two to the one.  Starks can go down to the one for me and play a little, but she cannot play it as well as what January can.   Micheaux and January played on an Athletes in Action team.  Good teammates have a lot of respect for each other, Dymond is special because she could create as a point guard and she can score as a point guard.  Every team would love to be able to have someone played the point guard position that can be a combo guard and play the two.  I think this will be a great match up and my two Sydney’s.  
“Don’t change your style once you get to this thing, do what got you here to the dance and keep doing it.”

Texas A&M Players
Takia Starks
“How have you grown since you have last been in Trenton in the Tournament 3 years ago?”
“It’s sort of like a long time coming. It all started here and it might all end here or we’ll progress. Coach said no site seeing, but if we win tomorrow then we can site see. It’s just being focused. I think we have all matured since then. I remember coming in as a wide-eyed freshman and kind of nervous on the first shot. But now it is just business. We are focusing on our game plan. We had a pretty good practice today and we’re just ready to play.”
“Some players just don’t want to play defense. Does your team just buy into it. Do you just want to play defense?”
“I never met anybody who didn’t want to play defense. Every team I played for, defense was the focal point, and defense comes first. With our team our defense jump starts our offense, so it is like a must to have to want to play defense unless you want to sit on the bench. That’s just how it is, and that is just how our coaches coach. Honestly we get excited from it. We get excited from denying a pass, or getting a steal, Micheaux blocking shots, DG blocking shots, getting all the hustle plays. It just jump starts everything for us and its exciting.”
“Your coach says that this team is very similar to Baylor. Is that to intimidate you since you have not done well against Baylor this year?”
“I definitely don’t think it is an intimidation factor. It is definitely a motivational one. They play like us so we have to do what teams do against us and that’s going back door, playing aggressive, driving to the hole and getting the foul, and dishing it to whoever helps off. Since we are 0-3 against Baylor this is another chance for us to get a win against a team like Baylor, so it would be a victory within. We aren’t worried about playing them since they are similar to Baylor. They are a different team, we are a different team at this point, and we are just ready to play and get our goal.

La Toya Micheaux
“What have you told your teammates about Briann January? Can you talk about your match up with Sybil Dotsy, as your coach would like to call the “Battle of the Bruise Sisters?”
“She is a quick point guard and takes control of her team very well. I believe that our point match-up will be great. With the “Battle of the Bruises” coach was just trying to say it is going to be a battle inside. They are great offensively, they can rebound, but hopefully there won’t be too many bruises out there.”
“What did you learn comparing how you played against Florida State and how they played against Florida State?”
“It goes back to the question earlier about defense. We realize that they get into the passing lanes just like we do. We’re going to have to execute and be smart. It’s going to come down to how well we can execute.  Going back door, going inside and outside, kind of changing it up a little bit of offense. We’re going to have to do what we have to do starting with our point guard all the way down to the center. We just have to do our job.

Danielle Gant
“Do you have to change your mindset when you are going against a team that is a mirror image of yourself?”
“I really don’t know. We never had a team play us the way that their defense is going to play us. I think with them putting a lot of pressure there are a lot of things we can exploit as far as back doors, ball screens, and slips, which are some of the things they are going to do. I think its going to be a tough game but as far as the offensive end I think we’re just going to have to settle down and focus on what plays we want to run and what things we are going to do against their defense.”