April 5, 2010
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Connecticut - 70
Baylor - 50
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Pleased to welcome up here to the podium Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, as well as student athletes Tina Charles and Maya Moore.
COACH AURIEMMA: Going into the game you're always trying to conjure up all these different scenarios that may or may not come up that you're going to have to deal with.
And the one scenario that I didn't conjure up was our two starting guards going 1 for 14. I didn't plan on that.
And in spite of that, these two players up here were just absolutely amazing, because they had to do it all by themselves pretty much. And I can't say enough about them and especially in the second half what they did, when Baylor cut it to whatever they cut it to. I forget what it was.
COACH AURIEMMA: Closer than I thought. So we had a chance to respond, and we haven't had a chance to do that very often this year. And I'm glad that everybody got a chance to see that, what these players are capable of doing when they're pushed, when they're asked.
I'm really proud of them. Not an easy team to play against, for sure. But I'm really, really proud of these two, and I'm proud of the whole team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Maya, just talk about the lead that you and Tina took tonight in carrying this team to the win?
Maya Moore: I don't think it's anything different than what we always try to do. We always come out every game trying to be aggressive. And you don't really have to convince us to come out and be aggressive.
And I felt I had a mismatch most of the game. I was just trying to be aggressive. And once I listened to my teammates and set up my screens and used them, we got even more opened up. And Tina just does a great job of coming in, a confident leader who is going to attack anybody that she's matched up with.
She made some big buckets for us. Gave us a lot of momentum and blocked some shots and came through for us on the boards.
Q. Tina, can you talk about what was going on when they cut the lead to 3 and what happened after that when you guys were able to push out again?
Tina Charles: I think the reason why we responded so well was because Coach puts us in situations like that during practice. When we go to practice, even though we have this streak going on and we're winning games, he still puts us in game situations that could happen. And that happened tonight, and we all just came together and we're like we're not going to lose. We want to go on to Tuesday.
And we just knew what was at stake. So because we always come out against our practice players, we play hard and we're able to get the lead back. We knew we could do it.
Q. Maya or Tina, the first basket of the game was by Tiffany driving right in on Griner. Was that by design? Did you want to set the tone right off the bat, or is that just how the offense flowed?
Maya Moore: That's just how the offense flowed. That got us all excited. It shows the fearlessness of our team, of our underclassmen, and why we feel confident in our underclassmen despite a poor shooting night. We know they're going to bounce back with that same fearless mindset. I think it sparked, really, the beginning of the game for us.
Q. Maya, in the first game tonight you had a pretty phenomenal performance by Nneka Ogwumike and then you came out and put on a show. Can you kind of talk about you're going to have that matchup, you guys against Stanford again. You're very familiar with them. Could you talk about that matchup and also your thoughts on what Nneka did tonight?
Maya Moore: She's an outstanding player. She works extremely hard. She has, I think, developed faster than any sophomore in the country. And she has a lot of confidence right now. She can do a lot. She uses her body well. And it's going to be a tough battle.
I absolutely have to come in on my assignments and just working hard. It's going to be a battle. It's really not much more to be said about that. She's going to come with it, and she knows what's at stake as well.
Q. With Caroline and Tiffany in foul trouble tonight, you got 27 minutes out of Kelly. Just talk about what she did for you guys tonight.
Tina Charles: That's Kelly. When you look at the stat sheet, you don't see the things she does. It really doesn't appear up there. But her giving us the energy, the six assists, the rebounds, the four rebounds she gave us, she's the boost off the bench, her and Lorin Dixon, especially.
Q. Tina, you faced off against some of the best post players in the country, certainly the NCAA, but also with U.S.A. Basketball. You could even say in the world. Could you describe what it was like to match up with Brittney Griner and just how you would evaluate her game?
Tina Charles: It was definitely a battle, just physically. Just trying to push her off the paint. Coach was definitely getting on me about the seven layups I gave up and not forcing her to go to the middle. That's where my help was. She's definitely going to be a great player coming out of college. You definitely can see she wants to work hard. When her team comes around her and tells her we need to post deeper, she responded and she'll try to get me deeper in the lane.
But she's going to be a great player.
Q. Tina, can you talk about Brittney's position and where you see her in three years and how fast or quick she can develop into a superstar?
Tina Charles: I think that's her decision just mentally what she wants to do and how much of an impact she wants to have on with Baylor and just in the country.
Her development, I think, could be like how mine was, just being mental. I don't think it's anything physical. Just how hard you want to be pushed and how hard you want to be motivated and just what you want to do for yourself personally.
Q. Maya, when it was 41 38 after the timeout, what was your mindset at that moment? What was going through your mind?
Maya Moore: Just keep attacking. Keep playing. Staying confident with everything that we've done the entire year. It's important for each individual to really have good body language at that point.
And I looked up as I was inbounding the ball at my four other teammates on the floor, and all I saw was positive body language and just attitude in their eyes. And I saw that and I said: Let's go. We picked it up, got a steal right off the bat, and we never looked back.
Q. Maya and Tina, is the next one the matchup that you guys wanted in your hearts of hearts, No. 1 versus No. 2, now this will be the third consecutive Final Four in which you'll run into Stanford?
Tina Charles: The matchup doesn't matter to us. Whoever is going to be in the way, that's who we're going to have to go up against. It's nothing personal or anything like that. Whoever it was, we're just going to face a challenge and go up against them and play hard and leave everything out on the court.
Maya Moore: I agree. I personally just want to play the best. I want to be challenged. I want to compete. And Stanford has proven themselves to be that team.
Q. Coach Auriemma has talked about the diversity of your offense, how you have worked so hard on that in your time. Can you talk about because tonight I think that was a perfect example of you scored from all over in every kind of different way. Could you talk about how much work you've put into that?
Maya Moore: Probably the biggest and hardest area for me this year has been in the post. Coming out of high school you don't really have to have post moves if you're taller and more athletic than everybody you face.
And coming in as a freshman I absolutely worked even junior team in high school I worked on my outside shot, my 3s. I just didn't get to do it a lot in high school. So coming here, my 3 point shot I've been trying to keep consistent.
But he constantly challenges me. It's more of a mental thing, just to find different ways to score. Don't settle for the outside jumper. Post up. When I have mismatches, I'm looking more to post up. And Tina gave me a great pass in the first half. And that's fun, when you can mix it up and score different ways. That's what makes basketball fun.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Are you comfortable when the score gets uncomfortable, with your team?
COACH AURIEMMA: You know, I really enjoyed coaching the game tonight. I thought it was a lot of fun. We've played a lot of basketball this year. And, you know, there haven't been a lot of opportunities where we've been challenged and we've been pushed to that extent that we were tonight.
And I kind of enjoy that. I do. I enjoy that. I get a kick out of it. Just like Maya said, we like the challenge. We like the competitiveness of the game. Makes you feel like you really accomplished something at the end of the night. That's how we feel tonight. Like we really earned that win. We really accomplished something.
Q. Coach, what did you think about the one on one battles between Tina Charles and Brittney Griner tonight?
COACH AURIEMMA: I thought it went it went about the way I thought it would go. Brittney was going to get X number of points and there's nothing you can do about it. She's going to block some shots and there's nothing you can do about it.
I also knew Tina was going to get hers. Tina's a senior. She's been around a little bit. She knows what she needs to do. And I think that might be the best player Brittney's ever played against in her short college career. So I would expect Tina to come out on top in that matchup, her being a senior.
But as you saw during the course of the game, when Brittney Griner decides she's going to score, there's not much anybody can do about it, including Tina Charles.
So that matchup went the way I thought it would go. And I also didn't think they would have a good matchup for Maya Moore.
Q. You said when Brittney decides she wants to score there's not much people can do about it. Seems like that's kind of true for Maya too, especially with the versatility. I guess if you could expand on some of the things she said about how hard she has worked on being so versatile?
COACH AURIEMMA: When Maya Moore was a freshman, she just caught it and shot it. And she shot 3s and ran around the court, and that was the extent of the game for her. And what we've been trying to work on with Maya is what happens when those 3s don't show themselves and we can't get them, what are you going to do?
And I think she has put a lot of time in reading defenses and made a couple of great cuts today and read a couple of great screens.
And our kids are always quick to acknowledge her. We ran a couple of things specifically for her after they got it to four or five or three whatever it was. She made a couple of big buckets and the kids on the bench were yelling: Great read, Maya. As soon as they saw Maya pop open they were commenting on what a great read she made. I don't know that she would have been able to do that a couple of years ago.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about what it is being one step away from your ultimate goal for the year of the national championship and winning two consecutive undefeated seasons?
COACH AURIEMMA: I just thought of that when you said it. Because I was thinking today about wanting to play Tuesday night. I really want us to play well against Baylor. I want us to win because I really want to play Tuesday night.
But until you just mentioned it, it didn't dawn on me that there was anything else at stake other than winning the national championship. So you know the feeling right now that I have and the team has is exactly the same feeling we had last year after we won our semifinal game.
This is what we came here to do. And the fact that we're playing a really, really good team I think makes it even better. We're playing a team again for the second time like we played Louisville last year for the third time. So there's a lot of familiar feelings that are going to be going through us these next 48 hours.
But I did mention to the team at one point that if Louisville had cut it to 3 last year in the semifinal game, I wonder how we would have reacted knowing we had lost the year before in the semifinal game. That's why when they cut it to 3 this year, they had been there before. They knew what to expect. They knew what to do. And they did it.
hey have to do. They know they can do it. They've done it before. And that's the best you can hope for right now and then play the game.
Q. Stanford didn't get to the final quite the same way you guys did. They had two close games and lost two games, obviously. Does that matter come Tuesday night?
COACH AURIEMMA: I don't think so. I don't think so. No. Their game against Xavier was something else, though. It's funny, Tara would be the first one to tell you they're really, really fortunate to be here. But once you get here, then you still have to take advantage of it.
So they caught a break when that poor kid missed those two layups. But they didn't have any aftereffects of that because they came here and they beat a good Oklahoma team.
Sometimes when you get a second life as a team, you tend to make the most of it if you're a really good team. And I think they're a really good team.
I don't think it hurts them or helps them Tuesday night, what's happened. And I don't think it hurts or helps us what's happened, you know? I hope they're as tired as we are tonight. I know my guys are tired.
Q. Is this what you had in mind when you recruited Kelly?
COACH AURIEMMA: Kelly Faris? Oh, yeah. She's great, isn't she? I told her at one point late in the game, I said: That's really cool you could come here as a freshman and play in your first Final Four and the semifinals and played as well as you played. Get six assists and four rebounds and play great defense.
She impacted the game tremendously without scoring. That's what I saw her doing in high school all the time. The kid has never lost in the postseason. High school or college now. She won four state championships and she's still winning.
It's something about that kid that's pretty special. And I'm just glad she didn't go to Butler like all those other guys (laughter). I'm glad we got her.
Q. First of all, tonight, were they doing anything that actually frustrated your 3 point shooters or was it just the basketball gods? The second half of that is looking ahead to Tuesday night, what do you feel you have to do to defend the title, and is there anything you think that Stanford could do to upset that?
COACH AURIEMMA: Well, I have been saying all along that it's not preordained, you know, that you still have to come out here and make shots. That's the key to it's called basketball, as somebody told me one time. You've got to put the ball in the basket, damn it.
And what happens is we had a couple of games during this tournament where we made 11 of them. I mean, everything we put up went in. And then you show up tonight and, just like I thought, it's not easy to shoot the ball in these environments.
One, it's not easy to shoot the ball in the Final Four, because this isn't a game in January in the middle of nowhere. You're playing in front of 25,000 people. You know every shot means more than it did two weeks ago or three weeks ago or a month ago.
So it's not easy to make shots as it is. Now you put them in a big dome. We have absolutely nothing to look at that reminds you of anything back home or on the road, and it's just hard to make shots in the Final Four.
And, you know, we've got two young kids that didn't make shots. This is Caroline's first Final Four. And she's very emotional kid and tried too hard, probably. And Tiffany, Tiffany is she's only good when she's falling down. And so if I can get her to shoot 3s while falling down, she'll make a couple of them. She will. She only gets to the line and scores when she's falling down or getting hit. So maybe somebody should punch her while she's shooting a 3, then she's got a chance.
But shooting is shooting. We could come out Tuesday night and make 15 3s, but if we shoot the way we shot tonight we'll be in trouble on Tuesday night, because Stanford's a little bit different offensively than Baylor. They just have a lot of offense.
I don't know what they shot tonight. I didn't see the stat sheet on their game, but they're a hard team to defend. They may be the hardest team to play against in America. For us, anyway, because of all the offensive players they have.
Q. They shot 39 percent.
COACH AURIEMMA: They shot 39 percent. Good, based on 2. What did we shoot? 41 percent. Good. Maybe the first team to 50 wins Tuesday. Why don't we do that? I would like that. First team to 50 wins. Wait a minute. They went 1 for 15 from the 3 point line? See, they'll make 10 against us, I guarantee you. Mark it down. They'll make 10. That's the way it works.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Sophomore Guard Caroline Doty
On their closest game of the tournament thus far:
"We didn't come out the way we wanted to. We didn't play our kind of basketball but we fought hard, rebounded hard and we are happy with the outcome. They are a tough team. Brittney Griner was tough down low and something that we hadn't seen before. When you don't hit shots it is going to be difficult. I think we handled it well. Tina (Charles) and Maya (Moore) played extremely well. We are happy with the win."
On what Coach Auriemma told them after the game:
"Good hard work but we have to play a lot smarter. The fouls were costly and as good players you can't be fouling like that. Play smarter and come out Tuesday and keep working as hard as we have been all season."
On her own foul trouble:
"It was tough because I couldn't play as physical as I wanted to. I had to play smarter and a couple fouls were dumb on my part. You just have to be conscious of how many fouls you have and then adjust. It is a learning experience and now we move on to the next game."
On playing Stanford:
"Stanford is a great team. We got to watch them play Oklahoma for a little while earlier tonight and it is going to be an exciting game."
Freshman Guard Kelly Faris
On how Baylor was able to go on their run:
"We basically weren't making smart decisions. Overall we were fouling, not rebounding and we weren't playing how we know how to play. Defensively we just have to move our feet, we have to play smart, we can't foul, we can't put them on the line and offensively we were standing around a bit. We had to get moving and move against their zone."
On how she kept her composure as a freshman playing in such a big game:
"It was one of those things where you know your main players were in foul trouble and they couldn't come in, so you just have to and you just kind of get put in that role. I think anyone on this team if they were put in that role would step up to fill that role. You do what coach asks you to do. I have learned from these girls in practice every day both on and off the floor. They have taught me a lot and for me to go out and keep my composure, it reflects all I have learned from the girls and coach."
On playing Stanford:
"We are excited. We have played them before and they were one of our tougher games. They kept it close and they are a great team. They have a lot of different aspects to their team. We know they are going to come out ready and they will want to get us back for beating them the first time. I think it will be a good match-up and it should be a fun game to watch and to play in."
On any Easter team events today:
"We had an Easter egg/scavenger hunt today, which was fun. Unfortunately my group didn't win but it was a lot of fun."
Senior Guard Kalana Greene
On only allowing 10 points in the final 10:59 of the game:
"We played tremendous defense down the stretch. Not for one second did I have any doubts. We knew we had it in control. We go through this every day in practice where we're only down or up by a couple, that's why I think our team knows how key those possessions are. Defense has been our staple the whole year. That's what we do is play defense. A lot of people talked about how Baylor was the number two defense, but we're the number one defense. We play defense the same way against any team. We don't like when people score and that's what we do. Connecticut is a defense first team and that's what we're always going to be."
On Baylor's run at the start of the second half:
"We took a lot of quick shots. You can get a quick shot that isn't contested and that's different, but they made a lot of great defensive plays. It shows why they're the number two defensive team in the nation. Once we settled down and Maya (Moore) settled down and started using screens really well, we got an open shot that we wanted."
On Brittney Griner:
"I don't think she affected our offense that much. She did a lot of great things, but we weren't afraid to attack her and we got a lot of layups. I think people thought it was going to be a game where Connecticut has to shoot well, but we were able to get in the lane and got a lot of layups. She was definitely a factor, but not as big to us because of how our offense works. I think we just stuck to what was working. Tina (Charles) was doing a great job. She scored over her and made her move. Tina made her work to get the blocks that she got. We didn't shy away from her. We just found ways to score, especially down the stretch; we got to the free throw line a lot in the second half especially and that's what you have to do.
Sophomore Guard Tiffany Hayes
On whether she got nervous when Baylor got to within three points in the second half:
"No and the only reason why is because I know who I have on my five. I know who my teammates are. I know we have two All-Americans and a good point guard in Caroline (Doty). I just knew, if not me, someone was going to step up and make a big play or make a good defensive stop. It never crossed my mind that we might lose this game. It was just a matter of when we were going to get our offensive thing going on."
On only allowing 10 points in the final 10:59 of the game:
"I think it was just us knowing what we needed to do to win this game and defense is a big part of it. Knowing that we have to get stops; score and a stop, score and a stop that's what we try to do and I think we did a really good job of that, all of us. It was just a matter of knowing what we needed to do to win the game."
On National Championship game against Stanford:
"We're looking forward to playing our basketball, definitely having a better day shooting wise and defensive wise; just a five-on-five effort on Tuesday. We know they're a very good team and we're just going to play and have fun with it. The streak is irrelevant right now. We're here to do one thing and one thing only and that's win a National Championship and that's what we're here to do."