Feb. 14, 2011
UConn Head Coach Geno Auriemma
So many good things happened tonight. Does anything stick out?
"You know, we talk to our kids a lot the last couple of days about the energy level that was going to be needed tonight. Oklahoma likes to play quickly. They like to get into that transition stuff, they move the ball quickly, they shoot the ball quickly, they just play at a really fast pace. We knew we were going to have to do a really good job at getting back in transition and keep them in check. I thought our defense in the first 20 minutes was as good as it has been all year. That kind of got us going in the other direction as well."
When you have that much energy at both ends, is that level something few teams in the country can match?
"Well what we've had is that it's been difficult for teams to match up. With only six players that play a lot, it's difficult to maintain that pace. I do think that when we're playing defense, when we're rebounding like that and when we're getting out in transition like that, yeah, we've got too many players that can score and pass so it makes it difficult for people to catch up with the ball. We don't spend a lot of time dribbling like some teams do."
How much pride as a coach do you take when you see your players up by 35 and scrambling for loose balls?
"It becomes part of what you expect. I expect it from them and they expect it from themselves, then they expect it from each other. If you don't play that hard, if you don't compete that hard, you stay down in a bad way. It just keeps perpetuating itself year after year. It's not always been the absolute best every year but I think if we get the right kind of players, they come here and see that that's the way to play. Maybe we're old fashioned or something, maybe they haven't been told that they don't have to do that. This is 2011, not 1985."
Sherri (Coale) was beside herself that her team did not compete. Why do you think her team did not compete like she thought they should?
"When teams lose games and the outcome is as wide as it was tonight, coaches have a tendency to make stuff up. I don't coach Sherri's team, but from what I could see, it didn't look to me like they didn't compete really hard, that they didn't battle us as much as some other teams had. I don't think their intensity level is any less that I've seen. It just snowballs on you. When we're coming down and scoring, there are just too many places that the baskets are coming from and it's hard. They like to play quickly, they come down and take a quick shot, they are going the other way and we come down and score, they come down and have to hurry up and take a quick shot, we come down and score. It's not always about playing hard and competing. Sometimes it just gets away from you and today was one of those days. It just got away from them."
UConn Player Quotes
On overall performance:
"We always get so much more momentum when our defense is like that. It's so much more fun to play. We were out in the passing lanes. One of the plays that defined the first half was Kelly's (Faris) blocked shot. That was great, the whole place went crazy. I almost stopped running because I was so excited I almost stopped and stared at it. When everybody gets involved like that, we are all on the same page communicating. We were diving on the floor after loose balls. You can't ask for anything more."
On having talent vs. effort:
"It's something Coach Auriemma reminds us of every so often, that we aren't the most talented team in the country. We have a lot of youth and players who haven't necessarily made a lot of national recognition but that's why we have to outwork people when it comes down to it. We can't win it on talent alone. He's right, but I know we still have a lot of talent on our team and we have to take confidence in that. He's right because when we meet teams that are deeper, more talented, whatever, we'll know when it comes down to it that we're gonna outwork you. We are going to do all the little things it takes to get the win."
On teams matching the effort that UConn plays with:
"When we are playing like we did tonight, especially like we did in the first half, I think it will be really tough for all five players to match the five of our players."
On becoming the BIG EAST's all-time leading scorer tonight:
"It's the icing on the cake because if we had come out and played really poorly, it would be hard to celebrate. It makes me feel good because my teammates are excited for me. Just seeing them excited makes me excited. If nobody had told me anything, I wouldn't have known and wouldn't have thought about it. When I have their respect, that makes me feel the best."
On Lorin Dixon's impact:
"I can usually tell when I look in her eyes what type of game it's going to be for her. I saw it when we were in the locker room how engaged she was. Her energy in the warm-ups was great. When we have that Lauren Dixon, our team is so much better. It sparks us. She can do a lot of things. She can draw the defense to open up shooters. She can push us out in transition - which is where we got a lot of our points tonight. She can drive in and hit a pull-up jumper or take it all the way to the rim. Offensively she does a lot for us. Defensively, she sets the tone harassing the other team's point guard. All those little things build up the lead that you saw tonight."
On "landing the first punch" in games:
"We just try not to take our foot off the pedal. We keep pushing harder and harder. Coach always tells us to make sure we bury teams when we get them like that. Just to make sure that there's no comeback in the second half or any momentum. We made sure to bury them."
On emotion from Kelly Faris' blocked shot:
"It's great to witness anybody in that type of play. That play made me explode on the sideline. I had my towel waving around on the sideline and that was just such an amazing play. It makes you feel good to be on a team with people who make plays like that and work that hard."
On the feeling of putting offensive numbers up personally:
"It was good, especially in a win like this. It's gonna feel good when you have your teammates around you there for you no matter what you do. They were congratulating me on rebounds. (Coach) Shea (Ralph) was telling me to get rebounds and I got a few. It always makes you feel good and especially when you get a win like this."
On teams coming in to Connecticut and playing intimidated:
"Every time we come against any team we expect them to give their best effort. We expect them to come out and come at us full strength. Oklahoma is a good, hardworking team. We expected them to come out hard and for 40 minutes we would have to grind it out. We don't expect any team to just roll over when we come out and play them."
"We came out and just worked hard. Practice has been a grind and we just decided to come out here and take it out on someone other than our practice players. I feel like we never really thought about Oklahoma giving up. We thought about it like Tiff (Hayes) said. We wanted to keep our foot on the pedal the whole game."
Oklahoma Head Coach Sherri Coale
"UConn had a competitive fire on every possession and I am embarrassed, I am embarrassed by our lack of fight. In fifteen years I have to say that this is the worst loss."
Can you talk about the defense and what it did on your three point shooting?
"We missed open three's, we had plenty of them in the first half and we didn't take advantage of looks that we had. We just played scared. I don't want to take anything away from UConn, they are fantastic. If not the No. 1 team in the country they are 1A. They are really, really good and what makes them better is their competitive swagger. They just believe that they are going to make plays and they are going to go get it done and we crumble under that competitive swagger and that is what I am embarrassed by. I don't want to take anything away from them but they played 5-in-0 tonight."
How has the UConn team improved from the beginning of the season to now?
"They have continued to get better, which is a trademark of Geno's teams. Stefanie Dolson is much better now then she was in the opening game against Baylor. They are smoother, their chemistry is better and defensively they are better."
How does this team compare to last season's team?
"Every season is different. How much of our toughness last year came from Amanda Thompson and she isn't here anymore. It is a completely different team and a completely different season and this group of kids has had a problem competing against a team that takes the floor full of confidence."
Can something change in the next 10 games to make a run in the NCAA?
"Absolutely. It is a decision that people have to make personally. At some point it becomes an issue of personal pride."
How do you think this UConn team would match up against Baylor now?
"Baylor is better too. They are both better teams."
Can you talk about Aaryn Ellenberg and what you need from her?
"She has to be tougher. That is her deal. She has to buckle down and stop somebody and she needs to be a little bit more physical. She needs to do a better job of boxing out and a lot of little things. She is a prolific scorer and has been really good in big games up until tonight. I don't think she had a good game tonight, but toughness would be what she has to improve most on."
How much of UConn's competitive swagger follows Maya Moore?
"A ton of it. They look around and Maya makes plays and they go `okay anything can happen because Maya Moore is on my team'. That is what a great leader does and what a super star does and she does make those plays. She makes the effort plays too, she is diving on the ground after loose balls. They have three people diving after loose balls and not one pink jersey is on that side of the floor. That is the stuff that drives me crazy. You miss shots, you miss shots, if you can't stay in front of the ball on defense, fine. Loose ball, you need to dive on it. Anybody can do that. That is wanting to win so badly that you will do anything to make it happen and we don't have that right now and that is what breaks my heart. Losing to Connecticut, fine, I'm tired of losing to them, but fight, play for the name on the front of your jersey."