Jan. 31, 2011
UConn Head Coach Geno Auriemma
How impressed were you by the start by the team tonight?
"We talked a lot going into the game about how physical they played us last year and how we needed to set the tone right away, and those first five minutes were how we wanted the game to go. That we needed to be the more aggressive team and we talked about not being on defense. Whether we had the ball or they had the ball, we stayed on offense and made sure we were putting the pressure on them constantly when we could. We can talk about all this stuff and plan for all those things, but if it happens, that's a totally different story. The fact that it played out the way it did those first five, six, seven minutes, I was surprised as anybody. We always make shots to a certain extent, but I thought our defense was unbelievable. I think it was another example of how we're getting better. We're getting a little bit better. Stefanie Dolson is getting better by the day. Tiffany Hayes played exactly the way Tiffany needs to play. She kept her emotions in check, she was spectacular at times. We don't even talk about Maya (Moore) anymore because Maya is Maya. She just does what she does. I watched it and was amazed by it myself."
By Duke's own admission, they didn't compete in the first half. What causes that?
"I don't know. I don't have an answer for that. Here's one thing we talked about. It's not always the case, nothings absolute. You know how coaches write on the blackboard and they draw X's and O's, and they move this X over here and this O over here as if that actually wins games. I told the players today, those Xs and those Os have never won a game at Connecticut. Those Xs and those Os represent people and it's the right people that we've been able top get here that win those games. A lot of these kids growing up, you know what happens now? They all have personal trainers. You've got kids not worth (anything) and they have a personal trainer. They all have trainers, and none of them know how to play, because they are always working by themselves on how to play, how to jab step, how to cross over, how to shoot. Then you put them in five-on-five and somebody punches them in the face and they stop playing. So we talked a lot before the game about how they practice the way we practice, they run their drills, they do everything we do in practice. In the games, the real basketball players start to come out. I'm lucky. Our starting five is a competitive bunch. I don't know why Duke feels like they didn't compete. Maybe we had something to do with it. I don't know."
What goes through your mind when you look up and the score is 23-2?
"A couple of times I looked up at the scoreboard and I couldn't believe what the score was. The way they played in the second half was what I expected. What happens when you are on the road and you start missing shots, you have to hope that the other team starts missing shots. When they were missing shots, they were missing and we were scoring, and then you get stuck in that carwash thing and you don't know which way is out. That's what it looked like to me. They got caught and couldn't make anything and we were making shots. The more they rushed to hurry up and get back in the game, the harder it got for them. When we went in at halftime I told Chris Dailey `I'm not really comfortable with this,' because I'd seen them come back from 20 down before. It wasn't like we went in and thought take this one home. I've got a lot of respect for them."
What do you think they would have had to do to come back from 20 down?
"That all of the sudden they started attacking the rim, we rotate, foul. They throw up some shot, offensive rebound, put it back up, foul. Now all of the sudden we come down and are a little tentative and start missing shots. All of that stuff goes through your mind. I don't know if they were going to come up with any different strategy. When we handled their pressure and got a couple of layups after a few mistakes, I knew we were going to be ok."
UConn Player Quotes
On 23-2 run to start the game:
"The game plan was to give the ball to Kelly Faris every time and have her shoot threes (laughing). Really, that was a big part of why we did so well. Kelly was able to knock down some big threes. I thought that we came out and were the more aggressive team. That's the most important thing. We knew we had to have a really good start because when you have a really good team in your place, you don't want them to think they can get in the game. We wanted to come out the first five minutes and really establish our pace and our tempo."
"I can't tell you that I thought we would do that. That was incredible the way we played good team defense and played without fouling. I was proud of the way we played such good defense without fouling. It can be hard to play that way and not foul. We were able to limit them to tough two-point jumpers, no threes. Offensively, getting out in transition. We knew if we could rebound the ball we could get them in transition. That's something we love to do."
Do you think that teams underestimate the desire and heart that UConn brings on the court?
"I don't know. I'd like to think that we've been a program that's established that we play with heart. I guess you could overlook that if you just limit it to how many players that we have. At the end of the day, it's about who comes out there and competes. It shouldn't matter who's out there for us."
On defensive intensity:
"It's something that we work on all the time. It's really hard to do because it requires all five players to constantly be on the same page and communicating and being aggressive and aware. The minute one player loses focus, somebody scores. It's a mindset of not letting your teammates down. Doing your job to help. It's not about shutting your player down. It's about making sure your player doesn't score and that your teammate's player doesn't score. It's about team defense. It's really a mindset, not just X's and O's. It's about finding a way to get it done. As hard as practice is every day, games like this make it all worth it."
On Maya Moore's relaxing effect on the team:
"I would definitely say that she has that effect. She's the best player on the team and when you have an athlete like Maya, the second she steps off the floor, you are kind of waiting for her to come back in. It's fun being on the floor with her. I can speak for everybody that when she's on the floor, she kind of relaxes us all."
On making three's to start the game:
"I'm just glad they are falling. It's been a while. I think that after the first couple went in, it was a little bit easier to get in the flow and my teammates were finding me. I know Maya had a great pass at the end of the shot clock. That's just an example of our philosophy - team ball. Everybody's constantly looking for who's on. If it's Maya then we are looking for her, if its Tiffany (Hayes) then we find her. I have to give props to my team for getting me the ball tonight."
On manhandling a team like Duke and the feeling as a first-year player:
"I mean, it felt great. I didn't really know what to expect when we went out there. The way we played, I've never been so excited. In high school, you can't get as excited about games like this. To be part of a team and a program and games like this, it's such a great feeling."
On personal development and comfort level with the program:
"I think the team has helped me a lot with the comfort level and my confidence. Knowing that the team has confidence in me raises my confidence overall. I think I've realized my role on the team and have just taken it."
On excitement tonight overall:
"The way the whole team played. We went out there, played our hearts out and competed. That's what really excited me. The way the team played as individuals and as a whole."
On battling down low:
"We knew going into the game that battling down low and rebounding would be key to this game. That's what gets our transition going. I knew going in I had to be tough and aggressive. I went in with that mindset and it showed."
Duke Head Coach Joanne McCallie
"Not much of a game for Duke, but an excellent game for Connecticut. I thought they played very well together, they moved the basketball well and they rebounded exceptionally well. I know that you can look at shooting percentages, but this team is based on rebounds and assists and that is pretty clear."
Can you talk about the atmosphere coming into Gampel for the first time?
"This is just a great place for women's basketball. I don't think it is much different from some of the things that we have seen. I didn't think it was exceptionally loud, but I certainly thought it was a great environment. Our team has some experience with that though. Obviously we didn't feel very comfortable in the environment, but Connecticut just came out punching and didn't do anything to counter punch or fight back early."
How much did their defense give you problems to start the game?
"I think that you have to give them a lot of credit. But you look at us taking 67 shots and them taking 54 and we are just taking a ton of shots and we don't need to do that. We need to move the basketball and be able to face the team and we didn't do that tonight. You have to give credit to Connecticut though because their stats are so dominating. Obviously their defense was tough for us and we didn't make the extra passes that we needed and we played very poor basketball overall."
Did you think you might be able to wear down the UConn team?
"I don't think that way totally, that is sort of naïve to think that. They haven't lost here in four years, so I think that would be naïve to think that."
On the game:
"I think it was a combination, Duke stifled Duke and UConn stifled Duke. When you don't pass the basketball and you take quick shots against Connecticut that is not exactly what you should do. That is a recipe for feeding their game. Definitely credit Connecticut because they were so quick on transition to get their shots, but at the same time we helped the situation a little bit by slowing down and making them play us longer."
On Maya Moore:
"One thing that Maya Moore does better than anybody in the country is she relaxes her team. I have never seen a more relaxed team and that is the Maya Moore factor. When a young lady averages 29 points and gets 7 assists you can pretty much be free to do what you want. Everything is on Maya's shoulders and she carries it well. When you have a player of that magnitude the effect is pure relaxation for others."
Does this game prepare you for the rest of the season?
"I think it always prepares you, but it is up to our team and how they take it. To me it can prepare you, but we need to take it right and we should be upset about the loss. How many times can you keep getting punched? I'm not so driven by the outcome, because the outcome was never in question here. I am upset about the process and the fight, we had no fight."