March 24, 2009
Box Score |
No. 1 UConn Huskies
Head Coach Geno Auriemma
“Going into this game I thought it was going to be exactly like it was in that first half. For the majority of that first half it was very difficult to get anything done. They are incredibly physical and I knew it was going to be a struggle for us early on until we found our rhythm and found a comfort level to play at. Once we did, I thought we played great. I think it all started for us when they cut it to 26-20. That’s when our guys just came alive and that’s what I really like about this team. They sense when its time and they do what they are really good at and what they have been doing all year long. It was just a great performance tonight. It really was and I’m so proud of them.”
Do you agree with Maya Moore’s assessment that there are still better things to come in terms of its performance capabilities?
“Yes, otherwise there wouldn’t be any reason to practice the next couple days, watch films or do anything that we do as coaches. I think whenever we look at a game and we focus on the final score it’s easy to see that we played well. The stat sheet shows that we played pretty well. The kids understand that there’s things that we are going to see at the film and there’s things that we are going to do at practice where they’ll feel like there were opportunities that after 35 games we should play a little better than that. Hopefully that’s the culture that we have here. Whatever we’ve done is good, but whatever we’re going to do is going to be better. That’s the approach that we always take and those are the things that help make these two (Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery) the players that they are and our team the kind of team that it is. I could go down a whole list of things that we saw during the course of the game, but I am really proud of them. It was 26-20 and we went on a 40-11 run or whatever it was. That’s pretty special. I was talking to Sue Donahue from the NCAA that it’s a big game. She’s the head honcho out there for the NCAA Tournament. The tournament is getting great as much as everyone is focusing on Connecticut. That is what I try to tell those guys when this started. ‘Don’t focus on us. We are really good, but there’s going to some great stories coming out of this tournament and you need to respect that.’ Already with Ball State and Michigan State tonight, the tournament is just become an unbelievable event for these kids. Renee is right, we always think we get better. There are no guarantees. We want to get a lot better this week than we were this weekend.”
How important is Tina Charles to be consistent as you move on through tournament?
“I thought Tina played great in the first game the other day, but I don’t know that she started out the game with the same kind of success. With Tina it’s all about staying composed and staying within herself and not getting rushed. I thought she was rushed in the first half for long stretches of it. Then once she got into her comfort zone, I thought she was unbelievably good. I thought we passed the ball to her at the right time as well. I said last year that if Renee Montgomery plays like an All-American that we’re going to go the Final Four and that’s what happened. I think I said this year that if Tina Charles plays like the best player in the country, nobody’s going to beat us. I believe that and so far we are 2-0 with her doing that.”
Senior Renee Montgomery
When it was 26-20, you took over the game by scoring the next nine points. Did you just feel like it was time to put them behind you?
“This is the exact same thing that happened one game when Coach just said, ‘Come on, let’s go, like make something happen.’ I wasn’t necessarily looking for – well actually [the team] had just told me the timeout before that I’m open and I need to shoot it. I was going to make sure that if I’m open, I’m shooting it and if not, try to get in the lane and make something happen. It just seems to work out.”
Can you talk about your career at home being over?
“It means a lot, definitely. We actually had a really good student section come out and that’s always good because my freshman year when I got here, you know the student section just continually got bigger and bigger and that’s good too. Also just our fans – one of the players from Vermont during the game was like, ‘Your fans are awesome,’ and they are. It’s just good to play here and any extra games that I got to play in front of our fans was just a treat because they get excited about everything. It’s just they make you feel special. I appreciate that and I’m happy that I got to play five extra games here.”
Were you surprised with how physical Florida was in the first half?
“No. Actually, the coaching staff had told us going in that this was actually going to be a very physical game, so be strong and protect the ball. I’m surprised with how many fouls they called actually. Usually, teams are always physical with us and we just have to kind of fight through it but today the refs were calling it tight. I’m just happy with – they were pressing us a lot and we weren’t turning the ball over. It looked like we had a lot but a lot of times we were taking care of the ball. We kind of pretty much knew it going into the game.”
What did Coach say to you when you game out of the game for the last time?
“I was confused to begin with. I was just confused about that whole series because there was seven minutes left and I was like I’m going in for Kalana [Greene] and I didn’t know why. Then ten seconds later, Coach took me out and was like, ‘Now do you get it?’ I was just like, ‘Yeah, thanks Coach.’ I guess he wanted me to come out by myself and I came out during a timeout the last time so he’s just always doing something.
Sophomore Maya Moore
Can you talk about your ability to fight through the opening minutes when the team wasn’t on track offensively and then what triggered the run?
“You know, emotions are high. It’s our last home game at Gampel. Florida, they’re excited and we’re excited. That sometimes happens. You just got to keep grinding it out, and then eventually things start turning. I think because we get off to such great starts all the time, it seems like, ‘What’s wrong with them?’ if we don’t do that, but sometimes that’s just how it goes. It just comes in spurts. Like [Coach] was saying, one minute we can be up six, and the next minute Renee can take over and we can be up 12 so we just have to be patient and confident with our style of play.”
Do you believe this team has reached its peak?
“I don’t think so. I really believe that at the end of the day, we start to think more like Coach every day. There’s just so many things that we still can work on like Renee, one of the first things we said was, ‘I had five turnovers’ even though she had 25 points. I think our best game is always our next game or the game we’re playing so we’re going to go into our next game next weekend trying to play that perfect game. Hopefully we can get as close to it as possible.”
No. 8 Florida Gators
Head Coach Amanda Butler
“Obviously we are very disappointed. I’m sure you guys may be shocked, but we didn’t come here to keep it interesting or keep it under a certain score, we came here to win so we are very disappointed. At the same time Connecticut is fantastic, they are very talented. I love how hard they play combined with their talent. I am exceptionally proud of my team and how they battled today. I thought we executed with a lot of pride and a whole lot of toughness and that was important for us. There were a lot of things that were out of our control that had an impact on the game, but there will always be things that are out of our control. We did the best we could and I think we had some fantastic individual performances that aren’t necessarily reflected in the statistics. We had a fantastic year and it was a big step forward for our program and I had a very special group of women that I was privileged to coach this year.”
There were 12 seconds left in the game and you had possession, but were down by 31 points and you called timeout, what did you tell your team at that point?
“We were trying to execute a play even though we were clearly going to lose the ball game. There is a big picture here and I could careless about making the fans mad or whoever is disappointed, it was an opportunity for my team to get better. There was a certain amount of time left on the clock and we were going to draw up a play, execute it, and score which is exactly what we did. That’s what I was thinking by calling the timeout.”
Can you talk about how your game plan was disrupted by the team not being able to knock down shots?
“We said this in the locker room, it was not a good shooting night for us. I thought we had some good looks and every time one of our players shot the ball I thought it was going in. Obviously Sha (Brooks) wasn’t on the floor so we were relying on other people to take a bigger offensive role. I felt they were trying awful hard, but it was one of those nights. We knew scoring was going to be important and there aren’t many coaches who are going to say that, they would stress defense and rebounding, but when you play a team like Connecticut that is offensively talented and gifted you have to be able to score with them. Chances are, defensively, whatever you think is going to work might work some of the time, but they are too good. So we needed to hit our shots and we missed, but they were good looks and high percentage shots, but we missed them way too much.
Did you have to change the way you were playing, after getting called for a lot of early fouls?
“We weren’t going to change the way were playing. We were going to play with toughness because that was part of our game plan and that was going to be our chance to play with them. We had to be physically tough. There are always parts of the ball game that are out of our control and the way that the officials see the game in one of those things. So it was definitely frustrating and diminished our chances of playing with them, but at the same time it is out of our control and we have to bounce back, be resilient, and encourage your team to play the way you taught them to play. That is exactly how we played tonight and I cannot control the amount of free throws each team shoots.”
Senior Sha Brooks
What are you thinking about after 90 seconds, when you have two offensive fouls in a kind of game like this, what is going through your mind at that point?
“I couldn’t believe that I just got two fouls that to me were not really fouls but I have no control over that. I had to stay completely focused and have confidence in my team and I had known that Lonnika Thompson was going to take over and play the best she could. Marshae Dotson stepped up as well as everyone else who played tonight. I was not worried, I was just frustrated.
Can you take a look back and talk about what the team did this season, you tied the school record for wins, you had a win in the first round and where do you think the program is going?
“The program is going in the right direction. Our team this year has set the standards high. I feel that we are no longer the underdogs and people need to look at us and realize Florida is coming to play and you really have to worry about Florida. We had a great season. People did not expect us to make it this far but we did, we worked hard and will continue to work hard even though Marshae Dotson, Aneika Henry, Kim Critton, and myself are leaving, I am pretty sure our program is going to continue to build.”
Junior Steffi Sorensen
When Sha was out for the whole first half you guys were hanging in there at 26-20, can you talk about that and then UConn went on that big run and kind of put the game away in the first half?
“Anytime your point guard goes out, especially Sha Brooks, your team is going to feel it and we tried our best and we came out aggressive and we were trying to stay in there but they went on that run and they knocked down those shots. We left them open and a team like UConn, if you leave them open, they are not going to miss and that was evident tonight. Certainly Sha came back in the second half and I think you can’t ask more from your senior point guard to overcome the adversity she did in the first half and come out and shoot the ball like she did and I am proud of her for that.”
Senior Marshae Dotson
Can you talk about what your coach has meant to you this year and bringing the program to where it is?
“She challenged us everyday at practice. She challenged us today at halftime, she was very encouraging. She challenged the people that were not playing to step up. She challenged Sha to come in the second half and try to do the best she could. She is very competitive and the competitiveness comes out in us too because we feed of her energy.”