Final Four Notebook: Third Time Around
April 6, 2009
ST. LOUIS -- THIRD TIME AROUND: Neither Louisville or Connecticut is too thrilled with meeting each other in the national title game on Tuesday night, and each has a good reason. Louisville because the Cardinals have not fared too well against the Huskies in their two tries this season, and UConn because it's tough to beat a team three times in a season, especially when so much is on the line.
"We know their players inside out," said UConn head coach Geno Auriemma. "They know our players inside out. It is way too much familiarity between both teams -- a lot more than you like to have at this time of the year."
The Huskies handed Louisville a 39-point loss in their last meeting in the BIG EAST Championship on March 10, but a lot has happened since that game. The Cardinals have defeated two No. 1 seeds (Maryland and Oklahoma) in their last two games, after knocking off No. 2-seeded Baylor in the regional semifinals.
"If we don't make shots and we don't stop them, we're going to lose," said Auriemma. "Just like they beat Maryland, just like they beat Oklahoma. So, obviously they're really, really good. We have to be really good, and if we are, we'll be fine."
"We're going to have to come out and make them uncomfortable," said Louisville head coach Jeff Walz. "How we're going to do that, I haven't quite figured out yet. I've got until 7:30 tomorrow night to try and figure that out."
One thing Louisville does like about the match-up is the fact they have nothing to lose since no one is picking them to win.
"We want them to keep saying the other team's going (to win), because that's how we win," said Louisville senior Angel McCoughtry. "I hope they wish Connecticut wins tomorrow. That's what we've been thriving off of, so we don't want that to change."
Louisville and Connecticut will compete for the national title on Tuesday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. CT. TELLING THE TRUTH: Louisville head coach Jeff Walz' honest-is-the-best-policy coaching style has been much talked about during the last few days, but his approach seems to be working with all of his players.
When Walz took the Louisville job two years ago, he had one of his assistant coaches put game film together of Angel McCoughtry's behavior on the court to show his star pupil. He didn't like the way she sometimes reacted to official's calls or to her teammates when things weren't going her way, and showed her the video. McCoughtry's actions and body language changed drastically, making the whole team better for it.
"It wasn't very positive to the team," said McCoughtry. "It was very encouraging. It wasn't motivating. I wanted to win so bad that I wasn't channeling my emotions in the right way. Now, I'm channeling it the right way and it has made a big difference.
McCoughtry commends Walz for his honesty in order to make her a better player.
"Some coaches can have the tendency to beat around the bush," said McCoughtry. "I look at it this way. If you are in school and your teachers are telling you that you're doing fine and you're not, then you're going to fail. If your teacher is honest with you, that will help you. That's what Coach Walz does. He tells you when you are performing well and when you're not and that's important because you need to know the truth. The truth shall set you free."
"When our kids play well, I tell them they play well," said Walz. "I'm the first one to praise them and tell them they've done a great job. We motivate by just telling the truth to them. I tell them, I'm not trying to find 15 new friends -- I'm there to coach a basketball team."
NOTABLE: UConn freshman Tiffany Hayes is most looking forward to meeting President Obama if the Huskies win the national title. The winning team normally makes a special trip to the White House to be congratulated by the President. "It's what I've been looking forward to all season since he was elected." ... The match-up between Louisville and UConn will be the first time two BIG EAST teams will meet in an NCAA title game, and the conference is guaranteed their seventh women's basketball national championship. The Huskies have won five, while Notre Dame took home the 2001 trophy. The conference is not only two teams deep, however, as the University of South Florida won the WNIT Championship, 75-71, on April 4 for the school's first postseason championship of any kind ... UConn sophomore Maya Moore was named the winner of the 2009 Naismith Trophy as the top women's college basketball in the country chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Board of Selectors. Moore has received every top national player of the year honor after leading the Huskies to a 38-0 record with 19.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game this season ... NCAA President Myles Brand was chosen as the recipient of the 2009 WBCA President's Award, which is presented to an individual who has given a tireless commitment to the development of women's basketball. WBCA President and Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale chose Brand for the distinguished honor.