March 6, 2012
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Head Coach Geno Auriemma
“You know, when you play in these kind of games and you go through what it takes first to get to this point of the season, knowing what you have to go through for the last five months and then you find yourself in this situation, as did Notre Dame and two teams that know each other so well, you just hope that it's a great game. You hope that both teams play their hearts out. I know my players are exhausted, and they should be. I think they're a little bit more grown up now than they were a week ago, and they've come a long way. It seems like they've come a long way in a short period of time since last week, but really they've been building on this since September. It just wasn't apparent what it was going to be like, and now they found out what it can be like. I'm thrilled for them. The championship, I know they're exhausted about it, but if you were in our locker room, you would know that the championship is important, but I think the other stuff, the intangible stuff that I think came out of this weekend, is maybe even more important. So I want to congratulate them, the players, Notre Dame for an unbelievable year. I told Muffet (McGraw) to do what they did in our league this year was pretty amazing. To do what they did with their schedule is pretty amazing. I think we've got two of the best teams in America coming out of our conference. I'll put our conference up against any other conference in America, and I don't think we take a back seat to anybody, ever. And I think tonight, you saw why.”
Reading some of your comments yesterday, you mentioned about the UCONN mentality and how it had kind of gotten lost a little bit. Do you think it was maybe found a little bit tonight?
“I think last night and tonight, for sure (it was found). Those of you that follow our team and watched us play throughout the season, it was a little different approach last night and tonight. You could see that something had been missing when you compare that to our St. John's game, our last Notre Dame game, our Marquette game. There are just a lot of games that just didn't play out the way we had hoped. With these young players, if you're not careful, they think that winning is Connecticut basketball. So we would look at them and say, ‘Coach, we're like 25-4, whatever we are, 25-3. Why do I get the sense you're not happy, Coach?’ Because in their minds, we're winning. We're good. Then the Notre Dame game comes up and reminds them, no, that's not how you measure whether you're good or not. You measure whether you're good whether you're playing Connecticut basketball other ways, not just by whether you won or lost. So, yeah, we got it back last night. We got it back a little more tonight, and hopefully now … we can hold on to it for three weekends, right? It's three weekends now. … Three weeks from now I'll be done. I hope it goes three weeks. Could be done next weekend.”
You had a ten point lead in the first half. They obviously cut it to one without Natalie Novosel and without Devereaux Peters. What was their message and demeanor at the half?
“Actually it wasn't bad. I've learned my lesson with this group. There are not a lot of tough guys in this group. I can't go in there like when we had Diana (Taurasi), and Sveta (Svetlana Abrosimova), and Tina (Charles) and those guys when they were older. I can't go in there and rant and rave and start throwing things around. Because back then they'd throw it back at me. I'd have to duck because it would be flying back at me. These guys, you have to be really careful how you deal with them. So what was disappointing was that we worked so hard to get that 27-17 lead. It was so taxing. I mean, we just played our butts off. Then all of a sudden, we just took the foot off the gas pedal, and we just stopped. They're not going to go away. This isn't like any team you're playing. This is Notre Dame. So when they came at us, we started doing the same thing that cost us last Monday. Everybody was becoming tentative and afraid to make the next pass. Wondering where our next score was going to come from. And the last three was my fault. That was my fault. That was totally my fault, and we went in at halftime and talked about, you know what, I think we're better than them tonight.
They've been better than us a lot the last couple months, but I just said I think we're better than them tonight. They're not going to lose. Notre Dame's not going to lose this game. We have to beat them. So let's not go out there and play like we played the last seven minutes like, ‘oh, my God, who is going to make a shot?’ We need a couple heroes tonight because they're not going to lose. They're like we used to be a couple years ago. We're not going to lose to anybody. You have to beat us. I think that's the one thing that feels really good is I don't think Notre Dame I mean, I'm sure they feel a certain way about it. I don't know, but we beat them. I don't think they lost to us. I think we beat them. They might feel like they lost to us, but we feel like we beat them.”
Sophomore Center Stephanie Dolson
A big part of this game was the rebounding tonight. Can you talk about the difference that you guys made in the lane and were you guys able to handle that?
“Well, we knew coming out into this game that like you said it was going to be a huge emphasis for us. I think we did a great job of just making sure all the guards were boxed out, making sure Devereaux (Peters) was boxed out. We just went after the ball. We had the mindset tonight of being so aggressive. We went after every, every ball. We had so many hustle plays. It wasn't just rebounds. It was everything.”
Freshman Forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
Can you just address the way you guys were able to fight tonight and make the little things work well and come out and get this win?
“I think we just really wanted it, you know. We've been working towards this, like Coach said, since the beginning of the season. We felt like with the losses that we had, it all had to do with the mindset that we had. So tonight we came out tough, we came out aggressive, and I think we just wanted it enough and we played our hearts out tonight.”
Sophomore Guard Bria Hartley
The fire you played with tonight, does that kind of go back to Monday night when the starters went off the court with about 3:00 left in that game? Was there a message that was received and implemented tonight?
“I think it proves that we had some fight in. Every time we step on the court we want to go out and prove that we play hard. We're going to fight, and we're going to fight to the end no matter what happens. I think us sitting out that last three minutes, didn't seem like we had that much fight. So tonight, no matter what we did, no matter if Notre Dame went on a run or anything, we made sure we came back and made plays.”
Senior Guard Tiffany Hayes
Can Tiffany, for a player who didn't lose a game in her first two years here, how much did losing three straight to Notre Dame weigh on your mind? How does it affect your teammates too?
“It's hard to lose any game, and to lose to one team three straight times doesn't sit well. I don't think it would sit well with anyone. But with this team, we just knew we were better than we had played in those last couple games. So we just wanted to come out tonight, and like we already said, we wanted to fight until the end.”
Last week we heard how important it was for Notre Dame to win that first championship for Coach McGraw. How important was it to you guys to get number 800 here and win the championship for Coach Auriemma?
“It was very important. To be honest, I think he's one of the best coaches, and he definitely deserved it. I think we owe him that much. We've been through a lot this year as a team, and it was just nice to get the win at home in front of a big crowd. Yeah, we got the championship.”