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NCAA Regional Final Postgame Quotes

March 31, 2010

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UConn NCAA Tournament Central

"Obviously, I am happy for our players. It doesn't matter if a player has been to the final four one time or however many times. It's one of the great days in college basketball for a coach, or a player, or anyone associated with the program. Everyone might have thought it was a foregone conclusion today, but that's not the way the way we think. We take it one game at a time and today, in that first half, we happened to play very well. I can't say enough about the way we came out at half time either. We played with intensity and passion in the first ten minutes of the second half and it was incredible. It was really fun to watch."

Talk about the way Tina Charles played in the first half ...
"Every game the idea is to try and get Tina involved as quickly as we can and try and get her established to get her confident up. Everyone likes to get touches on the ball. Today became especially important for us to do that. We were going to go to Tina every time down the floor. She was very comfortable with it, and we were very comfortable with it, and she worked very hard when she got the ball. It wasn't easy because I felt like she was playing against the two big kids when Maya went out because we didn't really have another presence inside the lane. This caused us some problems on both ends of the floor.

"At this time of the season, if your guards play well and your center plays well, you'll be successful, as Baylor is finding out. Or if you have questionable guard play but still have a good center, you can still go a long way. Hopefully we can put the two of them together next weekend."

What do you say to these kids that get them to sustain what they do for as long as they do ...
"I just do what I do. I coach the way I coach. I say what I say. I don't have a script or a blueprint or a manual that tells me what to do, what to say, or when to stay it. It's hard for me to say what it is that I'm actually saying and when it is that I'm saying it. I just know that we take great pride in how we defend people and I have kids take pride in defending someone. It's the same thing I've said to some other teams and it just didn't register. But this particular group, two years in a row now, it resonates with them. I don't think it's that Coach Auriemma wants me to but it's because the other players on the team want me to as well. That's not always the case on teams, but on this particular team, it happens. They take great pride in it and they don't like it when people score on us. They hate it."

On beating such high quality teams by such large margins ...
"I was happy with the way the first half ended. I thought 'We're up by 14. That's pretty good. We haven't played great.' But I told them during a timeout that this was going to be a struggle the whole game so get ready for it. Then I look up, and we are up 25, 30, and I'm like man. When we start defending, and they start getting a little bit quick, and the ball starts flying all over the place, and then you look up, and because we score so quickly on the other end, it's 25. I don't think we're 40 points better than both these teams, I mean, that's ludicrous. I think they get caught up in this and there's nothing you can do about it. That's the only way I can explain it. We're good though."

Describe how these kids have handled themselves this season and what it has been like on the road back to the Final Four ...
"Winning in the NCAA tournament involves a lot more things than during the regular season. You have the regular season, you have the Big East tourney, then you have the NCAA tournament. At each time during those sequences you are trying to see where your team it at and how we are functioning. Some years you know it's just not working or that they're not working hard, or we don't have the right chemistry, or we don't have enough talent. Every team goes through it, but when you play with the kind of passion and intensity level that our team plays with, you can overcome whatever you don't do well, like a bad shooting night, foul calls, or injuries. You don't take any possessions lightly and they have been doing that. They have been doing it since September 1st. There are times when it didn't look like how I wanted it to look but I made my point. It's hard to explain it. It's more than we just have the best players. But if that's the reason we're winning, that's ok."

On having two dominating players in Tina and Maya ...
"We are not the only team that has two players who can score quickly. Any team that's left right now has two payers who can score. It's are they capable of sustaining it for a long period of time? Even having said that, with Maya and Tina, we didn't blow the game open till Kalana went off, then Tiffany went off. So it's still the other guys that are going to make it happen to the extent that it's happening. They are who they are and can do what they do. We're fortunate because if both of them have it going, we're going to win. If only one of them has it going, it's the other pieces who are willing to throw the ball in there instead of worrying about their shots. They don't feel like why haven't I got my shots yet. They are willing to throw it in 15 times in a row."

On comparative scores with Baylor ...Duke and Iowa State beating Baylor by such large margins and you beating both of them ...
"It's all about matchups and personnel and how another teams style of play effects another team. Because a team may have success against us doesn't mean that they will have success against another team. Or if the team struggles against somebody, doesn't mean they are going to struggle against us. I just think it's all about matchups. I can see some ways why Baylor would struggle with Iowa State because Brittney Griner wouldn't have anybody to guard. And I can see why any team would struggle with Duke. They are a great defensive team. They're quick, physical, athletic, and big. That doesn't mean we can do to Baylor what Duke did. We're not the same teams."

"All I can say from what I see is that this kid [Griner] is one of the most unique individuals I've ever seen on the basketball court. I don't know if you can prepare for Brittany Griner. You are just going to have to play the game and basically pretend she's not there. Just play on because you are not going to be able to do anything with her. She's going to score when she wants, she's going to block shots when she wants. Some days they are going to win by 20 and some days they are going to lose by 20. But I don't see that happening in the NCAA tournament. Whatever was going on with that team, that's not the same team that's playing right now. Whatever the score was against anyone else, it's hard to gauge because they are not the same team."

"This will be one of the more intriguing match ups. I'm looking forward to it. She's not blocking my shot. I don't know if Tina is looking forward to it though."

On the team's response to picking up her second foul in the first half...
"That's a great example of our team, and how we pick up for each other. We have each other's back. It's absolutely frustrating when I put myself in that position. My teammates were there and stuck with what was working and that was Tina Charles. She comes in and does exactly what we know she can do. She dominates and finishes and carries our team. I'm just continuing to ride the Tina Charles train and hopefully it can keep us going."

Are you playing better as a team at this point in the year?
"Definitely, this is the time of the year where you want to play the best basketball that you have all season. We're on a roll right now. We have a lot of momentum, and we have a lot of confidence. I think as each game goes on in the year, you want to be playing your best basketball as the year goes on. That's how we practice, and that's how we think, and that's what you guys are seeing. Of course, there are ways we can always get better. We're not going to play the perfect game, but we're going to work to play a even better game than the game before."

On the being named the Most Outstanding Player...
"It's a great honor. I think our team winning makes it the most sweet. I'm just glad that I've been able to come through for my team. My teammates expect a lot from me. They expect me to score. They expect me to rebound. Just to be the best player I can be. Whenever I can come through and show up for my teammates, that feels the best. When I do that, you guys obviously see that they come through for me to, and they do their part, go 100% from the field, dominate inside like Tina [Charles] has kind of been doing. I would have it no other way."

What is your mentality on offense when you are posting up?
"Just trying to score all the time, just trying to get good position. I was getting frustrated at times that the shots I took weren't dropping. There were times when I should have used my left. Just little fundamental things. Overall, my teammates, they tell me, as long as I do my part, I know they'll deliver it to me."

On your emotions about heading toward the Final Four...
"Definitely happy. Definitely looking forward to it. This is our last go-around, and we talk about it all the time that we just have to do this. We just have to get it done. No matter how we do it, we just have to go out there and play hard."

On the difference between going up against Sylvia Fowles (LSU) as a freshman and now, Brittney Griner (Baylor) as a senior...
"Definitely a learning experience. I wouldn't change anything about what I went through my first year at Connecticut. It made me stronger. It made me a better player, all those challenges that I had to face. Just seeing a great center like Sylvia Fowles and seeing the limelight she was in, you definitely want to be a part of."

Kalana Greene, CONNECTICUT GUARD On her offensive performance tonight...
"I think when you play an offensive game like I had against Iowa State, you can't get much worse. I just came in confident. I had to knock down shots. Every shot I shot against Iowa State, I thought it was going in. In this game right here, I thought the same thing. I came with the same mindset and had to knock a couple in."

On the journey from the end of last season to now ...
"After we came back from St. Louis last year, we had a meeting with coach. He said, you know what, we are going for the same thing next year, but understand it's going to be a lot harder than it was this year. It is going to be 10 times harder than it was last year. We rose to the challenge. There was a target on our back last year, but this year, it was even bigger. We had a lot of fans last year, and this year it seems like everyone was against us. Everyone was in the stands to watch UConn lose instead of support us. We had to dig in deep and play more as a team than ever. We rose to the challenge, and now we are back to the Final Four again."

On the energy of the team in the second half...
"I think our defense is what provides our energy, transition defense, fastbreak points. I think our defense always comes through for us. When we have our transition game, it's hard to stop us. Tina [Charles] and Maya [Moore] do a great job rebounding. All our energy comes from rebounding and getting steals. When we rebound and get steals, it's hard to keep up with us."

"Boy, they make you play ugly. I thought we missed a ton of shots, but that is because they did such a good job in every area. We couldn't stop them. Obviously, giving up 90 points in an NCAA game isn't going to get you a win.

What is your opinion on what your players were able to accomplish this season?
"They were a team that made a lot of people believe. I really credit them for that and their mentality. I really credit them for taking our program to another level. It has been the case, year in and year out, that you have to see a certain spot in order to conquer it the next time. They took us to a spot we've never been to before."

Does UConn do something unique or something you have never seen before?
"They just get it. Their mentality is so good it is almost second nature. They get the big picture. They know why they do what they do and they are really good at it. There is not a lot of teams that have the kind of commitment that they have and it's very obvious."

Geno said the way to get here is by recruiting the top players, what are your thoughts on UConn's players?
"Maya [Moore] had 22 points in 20 minutes. I thought we had a good chance in the first half getting her in foul trouble, but Tina just took over. They are not only two great players, but two great players that have worked extremely hard and improved their games. Geno doesn't just get great players, roll out the ball and let them play. He puts them in the position where he coaches them up, develops them and helps them understand their roles. It's unique to be able to do that with great athletes."

When the shots aren't falling, is there a helpless feeling?

"It's not a helpless feeling, but it is a mentality. When the shots aren't falling you can't go into yourself and you can't just say, 'Oh well, the shots aren't falling, the game is over.' You have to fight, and I thought we did that for part of the game, but we didn't keep it going like we should have. We didn't give UConn a good showing. "

What can you take away from this season?

"This season has been a great year for our team. The players and my teammates, we got along very well. That's going to stay with me forever. This game doesn't determine who we are as people. It was just a basketball game. We didn't go out and play as well as we were expecting to, but I know my teammates and I are going to take away that we did what no other team has done in this program. To get us this far is a good accomplishment and I'm proud of our team and our coaches."