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    Connecticut vs. Kentucky Post Game Quotes

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    UCONNHUSKIESDOTCOM

    March 27, 2012

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    Connecticut Head Coach Geno Auriemma

    Opening Statement

    There’s really not much you can say. You watch the game and have to admire what these players have done over the course of the season that lead up to tonight. Playing in this game is very difficult; playing a really good team like Kentucky is difficult. It could have just as easily gotten away from us the way that first half was played. I thought we showed a lot in the second half especially when we needed to have it.  And I am happy for Tiffany [Hayes] most of all because when you’re a senior I think you want to keep playing until the last day if you can. I think that’s every seniors dream, you don’t want to bounce out early and I think she took it upon herself today and made sure that that happened. I’m thrilled for her and the rest of our team.”

    On Tiffany Hayes playing her best game tonight

    “I’m sure she has. I just don’t know that it has been in this moment and at this time when we really needed her. She has had a lot of great moments and a lot of memorable games at Connecticut. I do not think we would have won two national championships without her contributions. I think tonight was a little bit different. I was really upset with her and Caroline (Doty) at yesterday’s practice because I felt like they were a little too nonchalant like the game was already won. I made a point to tell them that “either you guys play great tomorrow night or you’re going to have to leave it up to freshman and sophomores and I don’t think when you guys were freshman and sophomores that anybody left it up to you guys.” Shea [Ralph] and I talked about it before the game that there was this sense in Tiffany today at shoot around that something like this could happen.”

    On Tiffany Hayes rising to the occasion

    This game affects certain players. Certain players rise to the occasion and own the moment and some for whatever reason, whether their afraid or not prepared or not confident in their own abilities or they want to win the game in the first five minutes and when they miss their first three shots they just tank it because they get so overwhelmed. I always thought that we really don’t need anybody to be more than they are, you just can’t afford to be less than you are. I think a lot of times Tiffany got herself caught being less than she was and tonight I don’t know if she made the All-America team with her performance but she was exactly what we needed her to be. She did exactly what we needed her to do. When we started running stuff for her to get her the ball in spots where I knew she could score because when she’s got it going that’s exactly what’s going to happen. I’m thrilled for her and her getting the award at the end of the game, she doesn’t act like it, but I think it meant a lot. I think it meant an awful lot.”

    On having NCAA Tournament experience

    I don’t know how much experience Kentucky had. The advantage some of our kids have is they are used to playing in big games where the pressure is great and you are expected to win and the opponent is really good. I thought Kelly [Faris] played like she has been to the NCAA tournament a lot. Tiffany certainly did. I think that gives a lot of confidence to your team and allows for Kaleena [Mosqueda-Lewis] to play like she did. Every time she looked around someone was doing something good and she just kind of got swept up in it. Even next week when we go play Sunday night. Whoever wins that game tonight, if it’s Notre Dame, they have a ton of NCAA experience and if its Maryland not so much and you wonder will that be a factor.”

    Was experience the difference in second half

    I don’t know how much experience Kentucky has. They have only been in the final eight one other time. The advantage our kids have is they are used to playing in big games where the pressure is great and you’re expected to win and the opponent is really good. Kelly other than some of the unfortunate things that happened with the whistles she played likes she’s been to the NCAA tournament a lot. Every time she looked around somebody was doing something good and she just got swept up in it. It allowed for the rest of the players to play the way she did. Notre Dame Has a ton of NCAA experience if it’s Maryland not so much and you wonder will that be a factor.”

    Is this a good feeling to get this group to the Final Four

    Yes, In terms of the players and the coaches, we like to go to the final four every year, who wouldn’t? Some years are easier than others. There are people who live in Connecticut, not at the university but people who live there who don’t think we can lose next week. They think we’re going to beat whomever we beat Sunday by 100 and whoever we play Tuesday by 90, It’s just the way they are. The expectations are always there no matter what the probability is of us going. This year it might have been a little bit less than it was in other years. I think it makes it more worthwhile. Last year we went as a team led by Maya Moore. The year before it was led by Tina Charles and Maya Moore and the year before that it was Rene, Tina and Maya Moore.  It’s always something and this year there isn’t that. It’s the University of Connecticut going to the Final Four and I think that’s pretty cool once and awhile.”

    What can your team improve on after the impressive performance

    We need to be the dumbest group of good players I’ve ever seen in my life. They are really good students too who had high SAT and get really good grades, really bright but they are so dumb sometimes. Some of the fouls we committed to day if you tried to invent ways to foul people, you couldn’t do it. The way we played the first half defensively is what gets you beat at this time of the year. At this time of the year you need to make teams beat you, you can’t give them any help. I thought the first half we helped them a ton, the second half we didn’t help them at all. I hope there is better basketball ahead of us next week.”

    Were you worried about your bench with the amount of fouls?

    “I did look over at the bench a couple times and thought I hope Keya Stokes has something in her. I asked her and she wasn’t exactly jumping off the bench to get in the game. She went in and did a few nice things. You could see how nervous she was at the offensive end because she really didn’t want to be involved at that point in time you know. Everyone would love to have eight or nine players like Kentucky does and run them in and out of there but I think there level of play goes down too. I think we were because we had the same group in there.  I think Caroline Doty really had a great game tonight she didn’t do anything where you would look at the scoreboard and say wow but she was great. We had something else maybe.”

    Talk about the amount of assist on made baskets

    I don’t know if that’s something that I want to constantly have. We rely on passing the ball to take the pressure off. We don’t have anybody on our team who can dribble by their team and that’s not a good thing. You saw Kentucky was much better off the dribble than we are. I thought we had some great movement off the ball. We played to our strengths we tried to dribble the ball very little today. Were a good passing team, it’s either to our guy or one of their guys. So we don’t throw a lot of empty passes.”

    Talk about the sophomores and their play in the tournament

    One of the problems with the internet is every stupid person people who didn’t know they were stupid now knows they are stupid because the internet has given them an opportunity to prove that. Every time Stefanie plays poorly is because she’s not any good and were never going to go anywhere with her as our center and then Bria gets a little more slack because she comes up big in so many big games. She is generally a big game player. She probably cost herself some All-American teams because she went about a month without making a shot. The two of them really had their struggles. I know the two of them well enough to know they don’t get caught up in that kind of stuff. Stefanie more so than Bria. Bria just plays through it. Stephanie has a tendency to get really down on herself when she’s not playing well. I think The Marquette game at Marquette was the low point for her since that day she has been unbelievable. I’m not surprised they are only sophomores.”

    Thought on the Rhode Island experience and the Ryan Center

    I love this building. The sightlines are great there are no bad seats. It’s loud, when it gets loud its really loud. This place is the kind of place you like to have on campus.  It’s the closest think you have to play in a gym. Back in the day people played in gyms now they play in arenas and coliseums and that kind of crap. This is one of those places where you get a feel for the crowd on top of you.”

    Assuming Notre Dame holds on, your thoughts on playing them for the fourth time and four No. 1 seeds advancing

    If you’re a number one seed there is a reason for that. You’re supposed to make a tournament. Sometimes that parody stuff means there are a lot of mediocre teams. I’ve always said in women’s basketball its good and bad. What you have in our situation is you always need to beat the best teams at the end of the year. If it’s Notre Dame for us its eight times in like what a year. That’s just not right but the BIG EAST is the BIG EAST we are two of the best teams in the country. If they hold on to win the game tonight, it will be as hard of a game to win as any. You would love to say you would see someone different. You would love to say you want to see somebody different but reality they are just really, really good.”

    How do you practice for a team like Notre Dame again

    We did something completely different for the BIG EAST Championship which helped us change the game. There are only so many thing we can do that are different. My guess is we go out there Sunday night and if it’s Notre Dame were playing. I don’t know if we can make a whole lot of changes from now and then. In some ways there is some comfort in knowing that you don’t need to prepare as much because you know them so well. The down side they know you as well as you know them. I just hope it’s a great game whoever we play.”

    Connecticut Student-Athletes

    Senior Tiffany Hayes

    On taking hard fouls and getting back up

    I am just used to it.  I was undersized growing up.  I am still an undersized guard.  When you fall you have to get back up.  The game is still going on, you can’t stay on the ground.”

    On getting back to the Final Four

    [This one] is even sweeter.  This is a team effort, it wasn’t one or two people getting us there.  We all had our put in and everyone had their way of helping us get there.  I am just glad that it was a team effort and I am glad to be back (in the Final Four) for a fourth time.”

    On having a lot of tournament experience

    Experience is always good when you get in games like this because you have players on the court who have seen it and know what it is like and know what we need on the court.  I think it was good for us to have veterans out there who have been in that situation before.”

    On the half court pass to end the first half

    We huddled and we talked about the play.  They were supposed to set a double screen.  Kelly [Faris] said if UK [Kentucky] played it wrong she was going to go long.  I was looking for that first.  She went and I threw a perfect pass, she caught it like a running back and finished.”

    On being the tournament Most Outstanding Player

    It was nice.  My teammates were there and they came at me all crazy.  It was a great time, especially because they were there with me and I was able to share it with them and the coaches and all of the fans.”

    On stepping up in such a big game

    I am a senior and I am supposed to be playing like this all of the time.  For me to do it in this game, it means a lot more.  I am glad that my teammates were there to help.  We all did our part, and like I said, I am just glad to be back in the Final Four.”

    Sophomore Stefanie Dolson

    On getting back to the Final Four

    It means a lot to us.  A lot of people didn’t think we would make it this far because we don’t have that superstar on our team.  We are collectively all such good players and we all know our roles.  To get back to this point is awesome because we all know what we need to do.  It feels awesome at this point.”

    March 27, 2012

    REGIONAL FINAL

    Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell 

    Opening Statement

    “I want to congratulate the University of Connecticut on a great game and advancing to the Final Four.  They are an outstanding team and I just thought their players played extremely hard tonight and earned the victory.  I'm real proud of our players and how hard they worked.  It's a difficult moment for any season to end but this has been a great group to work with and this is particularly tough to see end.  I thought we gave great, great effort in this tournament, I thought they had a very difficult road to get here and showed a lot of character to arrive at this point and we wish we could have gone further.  Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone here at the University of Rhode Island and Kingston.  We were treated in a first-class manner and we really appreciate everyone and their kindness here.”

    On what he said to his players during the timeout when Kentucky trailed 9-0

    “That was a real bad start for us and I feel terrible that I didn't have them more ready to play and I just don't fault the players there.  I wish I had done a better job being able to get them out of the gate but I just felt like Connecticut would be strong at the start.  The way they play is a real challenge for us to guard and I thought when they were fresh early in the game, I thought it might be difficult on us so I just tried to settle us down and help them understand they could defend it and get back to it.  I thought they did a beautiful job of getting back into the game and really had a good first half.”

    On how the game got away after trailing just 52-49

    “That is not the players, that is my inability over the course of this season to help our players handle big, physical zones and Connecticut probably plays it better than anyone.  They are so physical and they are really, really tough with a lot of contact and if you're not tough enough to play through it, you can have some of those withering runs.  We really wanted to try to hold onto the ball, to try to get the ball at the rim and not have these live ball turnovers that would fuel their transition and they're just so good at getting in and pinching gaps and they're just an outstanding basketball team.  Big, physical zones have hurt us this year and that is something that I need to get better on in the off season to try to help our players a little bit more but I thought our players gave an awfully good effort.  I thought they worked extremely hard and if you want to blame somebody for this one, you can credit Connecticut's good play and you can blame me for it because I thought our team gave a really, really strong effort tonight.”

    On playing 12 players

    “I thought tonight would be a battle of wills and if we could keep them off the free throw line or if we could get to the free throw line we had a chance and it just got so physical in the second half and we just could not guard them without fouling.  So when the game stops, then they're able to recover and they are a well-conditioned team.  We've tried to keep running them and we tried to wear them down and, you know, they were just better tonight and we were unable to do that so that's a credit to Connecticut.”

    On shot selection in second half

    “That was a big key in the game.  For us to succeed we had to have enough discipline to really take good shots and really be tough and credit Connecticut for being able to wear us down and make us maybe take some shots they wanted us to take instead of what we wanted to take and it's tough.  Even when we took poor shots I didn't think it was our kids giving up I just thought you weren't open long so maybe we just didn't have the patience but it's hard when you have five outstanding players guarding you.  It's a lot easier for me to sit over there and tell them to take good shots then it is for them to be out on the floor and do it but shot selection, we would have had to take better shots to keep it going.”

    On season as a whole

    “It's hard right now here tonight to do that.  You get so close and you feel like you have a chance and you just want to punch through and you want to make it but we just have to keep showing up and we need to keep knocking on the door and at some point and time we'll get in there.  I think it's important to figure out can you come back with more enthusiasm, can you come back with more determination, can you continue to help the program progress to a point where we can get to a Final Four, where we can win a National Championship and it's hard.  I just have so much admiration for Connecticut and what Coach [Geno] Auriemma has done here.  It's just, I was thinking today, it's hard to get where we got to tonight, it's hard to get to this round and they've just been here so many times and it's difficult but I think we just need to stay at it, we need to keep showing up and one of these days we'll punch through.”

    On senior class

    “I just told them in the locker room, and it's hard for them to digest this right now and we'll have a more appropriate time to tell them but, you know, the program looks a lot different with them walking out of the door then it looked with them walking into the door.  I don't know, really, if people were really being honest here if they thought what's happened now was really possible.  We just historically had one of the worst winning percentages in our conference, we just don't have a lot of tradition and now these kids have come in and really poured their heart and soul into the program and we at least have a fighting chance to have a good program and to be considered a program that would be nationally recognized.  Those kids have poured out gallons of sweat and have poured out blood and tears and it's just a different looking program than when they got here so you just are grateful for their contributions, you hope you can honor that by continuing progress.  You hope you can honor their effort by one day getting to a Final Four and winning a National Championship but four or five years ago when these kids were thinking about coming to Kentucky, and they eventually ended up, I don't know if they thought they'd win an SEC Championship or do what they've done so I'm really, really proud of them and they've all progressed as players and we're grateful for them.”

    On Kelly Faris' last-second shot at the end of the first half

    “That's coaching.  That's a poor, poor job of communicating what needs to happen.  The players should not have been in that position and it's my job to get them in a better position.  We needed to try to get them to catch it underneath the free throw line but I don't know how big that one play was.  We came out, we got a foul, we got a bucket so we just needed to do a better job executing there.”

    On Tiffany Hayes

    “She's an outstanding player.  She had a great career here at Connecticut and it's still going.  She's so big and physical, we just had a hard time guarding her.  She's just really, really tough and just could hold you off where we really couldn't deny her and she is an outstanding basketball player and, you know, that's an impressive basketball team.”

    March 27, 2012

    REGIONAL FINAL

    Kentucky Student-Athletes

    Freshman Bria Goss

    On Connecticut’s play in the second half

    “Like coach said, they’re a really good team. We stopped hitting our shots, they were hitting their shots and we never got it really going and I felt like that was the turning point of the game.”

    On Connecticut’s size and the physicality of the game

    “They’re a really tough team and they stayed strong when we were going on our runs or we they went on theirs. They’re just very tough, very physical. You could see that they were pretty big. But like Samarie [Walker] said, with DeNesha Stallworth coming back next year we’re going to be good, if not better. We’re going to take this loss and we’re going to get better from it. Remember this feeling.”

    Sophomore Samarie Walker

    On this season and looking forward next year

    “We’ve had an incredible season. Coach [Matthew Mitchell] told us from the very beginning, over the summer when we came back to start school in August, that we were going to go to Denver. That that was our goal. And we worked towards that every day. There were some times when we might have questioned, ‘Can we really make it?’ like when we had our three straight losses, but Coach never doubted us at all. He made sure to remind us that we can still make it. I feel like we’ve done a wonderful job. Like you said, it’s very disappointing, but we have Bria [Goss] returning, A’dia [Mathies] and then DeNesha Stallworth will be able to play next year so I feel like we’ll be really good again.”

     


     

     

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