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    March 30, 2009

    UConn Head Coach
    Geno Auriemma
    Opening Statement...
    "It seems like not that long ago we were sitting in this situation last year, getting ready to play Rutgers. I know how we were going to approach that game and how difficult it was going to be to win that game The energy level and intensity level required to win that game, and I think it so many ways the same thing is true this year. The way Arizona State's been playing since the tournament began has been impressive. How hard they play and the intensity level that they bring is going to be a great challenge for our guys tomorrow. I think these five guys are anxious for the test, I think it going to be a great game, the kind of game you're supposed to have leading to a Final Four. If you're going to be in a Final Four I think you're going to have to be tested, and I think tomorrow is going to be one."

    How do you feel about having to win the Pac 10 tournament to have to get to the Final Four? Or even the National Championship game? How does the style of the Pac 10 compare to what you deal with in the Big East?...
    "I haven't seen all the teams in the Pac 10 I've seen a couple of them. Up close and personal I've seen two, I've seen Cal and now Arizona State. In our league you see a little bit of everything, I don't think there's anything you've seen after 36 games that you haven't seen at some point in the season. I just know Charli from when she was a coach in Northern Arizona. When Rebecca was playing for us we went out to Hawaii and played them out there and I remember her teams play exactly the way they do right now. They play hard, they're an intense group of kids and that's how she coach's her teams. I watched what they did yesterday and I don't think anyone expected them to be here at this point. We know who we are, we know what we bring to the table, we know what we've done for 36 games and whoever stands in our way that's who we're going to play."

    Can you compare/contrast Arizona State who use 9-10 kids that all play about 15 minutes. Have you seen teams that use that type of system?...
    "I don't know whether they've played like that all year long or because they're playing in a hockey arena, because they look like a hockey team, They just send you out for two or three minutes, you play your shift, and then they bring out another group in and try to wear you out. It is kind of unusual but it's effective if you let it be effective. It's going to be a challenge for us because we don't have a deep bench. Yesterday we had a couple Pac 10 officials, I don't know if we'll have them tomorrow, maybe we will, maybe we wont. I think the way the game is officiated is going to have a lot to do with it."

    Yesterday you said you were proud of Tina for how she handled the game, can you expand on that?...
    "The worst thing that can happen when you get into a situation like this is you get a couple things not go your way, early on you get a couple quick fouls, and now you're sitting on the bench and you're kind of helpless. If you're not careful you're out of the game. I don't mean out of the game where you're sitting on the bench and can't play for fifteen minutes, I mean out of the game mentally. And now when it's time to get back into the game in the second half, you don't have it. I think when you're young you tend to judge a game by the way it starts. I think as you get older you start to understand that the game is played out over 40 minutes and you can impact the game at anytime. I think you can overcome a bad start, and you can stay in the game mentally. I felt she did that mentally and physically and was huge in the second half. I told her I think she grew up a lot yesterday as a player from it. She didn't score a lot of points, but she blocked shots and rebounded the ball and played defense. Those two big kids were not a factor in the second half. Her and Kalana Green were a good reason for that. Renee started off to be not quite herself and came back to her old self. I think these guys believe in each other and trust each other. They don't want to let each other down."

    How much can a team get strength that's a little less talented, a little less athletic, from believing thet can play as one?...
    "If you're talking about us, I think we believe in ourselves a lot. Once you win a couple games in the NCAA tournament you start to build momentum, and you feel its all going to go your way. It takes the team coming in to make sure it doesn't go your way, and hopefully that's what we're there for. Arizona State's a little more athletic than people give them credit for. They're a little tougher than they look. That's one of the first things that came out. When you play really hard, you can overcome whatever the other team has. I don't think the game tomorrow is going to be won by the team with the most athletic ability. That was proven last night by Arizona State. They played a much more athletic team than them and outplayed them. You don't get to this point in the NCAA Tournament without having a tremendous amount of confidence, and a belief in each other, and they certainly have that right now."

    What has impressed you the most about how this team and how they've gotten to this point?...
    "We've been pretty consistent throughout the whole season. We don't seem to have a lot of peaks and valleys, we pretty much stay on the same plane. It's a pretty high plane, but we don't drop off that much. We've been able to hold onto what we have, because there's no doubt among these guys up here that anything else is going to happen. That's part of them being a little bit older this year, playing together a little bit longer. I don't think Renee is going to let us believe in anything other than that. She believes that if we do what we're supposed to do, and if we follow her lead, we're going to keep playing. We're fortunate that we have a bunch of other kids on our team that believe that as well. As long as that's the case we have a chance to win the games that we're playing, and we've stayed true to that.

    The game's you played against Arizona State in '03 and '04, Charlie commented those games were important to her program. Can you talk about that and also did you think at that time that she could take this program to where they are now...
    "When I saw her team play when she was at Northern Arizona I thought the only thing she didn't have was really good players yet. I like to go places where somebody's trying to do something that's going to help our game and build the game up. I thought when they came to our place, I knew it was going to be a battle, and we had a really good team. I think when we went out to their place our guys weren't really prepared for that. I don't remember the final score, but we got beat pretty good. I'm not at all surprised that they're where they are. If they had any luck this year, and they didn't lose their starting point guard, we wouldn't be playing them right now. They would have a higher seed, maybe they would be the two seed. I'm not at all surprised with what she's done there. I'm not at all surprised people approach her every year about leaving Arizona State for other coaching jobs. I just think she's one of the best that we have out there."

    Maya is getting ready to break Walter's single season scoring record, can you talk about the season that Walters had with you?...
    "I don't think I've ever been as confident as a basketball coach for the four years we had Walters. I remember playing golf instead of going to shoot around, and going out to California playing teams out there and we would go to practice the day before and put our game plan together and come game day it was like I didn't have anything to do. We had the most dominant player. From her sophomore year until the time she graduated I thought she was the most dominating player in the country. She was unique. People used to ask me "What do you do at the end of the shot clock?" and I said "We dribble it over to the wing and give it to Cara, and if she's not open then we throw it up to the high post and we throw it up to Cara, and then if she's not open we swing it to the other side and we throw it to Cara." It was really a finer play for our players. All we had to do was throw the ball in the air somewhere and it just showed you how dominant she was. The year after she graduated we probably threw more passes out of bounds then anytime since I've been in Connecticut. It was one of the more fun times that I've had coaching. Looking back on it, it was a lot of fun."

    How much were you expecting from your freshmen class this year?...
    "I spent the whole summer thinking about where everybody would fit in. You think about where all the pieces are, what we have, and what we have coming in. I thought if all the pieces were able to fit together, mentally we were what I thought we could be one of the most amazing teams ever. We slowly began to unravel and I still felt that we had something special going on. Then when Caroline got hurt I thought at this point this is when the margin of error becomes really slim. We kept playing at a hard level. I guess I shouldn't be surprised because from the middle of September to now there hasn't been any time where I said I don't think you guys are committed to doing this. I think you're just all talk. It's always been they backed it up with everything we've said in practice, every one of their goals. That's not taking into consideration who knew that Tiffany was going to be able to do all this. I thought she'd be really good but I don't think anybody expected her to be doing all this. I've had teams come together. That's one thing we do pretty well, and I think we put pretty good teams together year in and year out. I think our coaching staff is really good at that. We have some coaches that are rebuilding or not rebuilding, who are young or not young, injuries or not injuries. We've been able to maintain a certain level. This year here we are and I don't think anyone expected us to be unbeaten, but we're not surprised that we are."

    How dangerous is Arizona State's mentality going into the game?...
    "I would be surprised if they didn't think that the strength of their team was having to play well together. I said all along that in one sense the best team does win the NCAA Championship because that means that they are ready to play the best on 6 nights in a row. That doesn't mean that the team who was the best regular season team that has the most All-Americans, the most wins. It's the team that is able to play the best 6 nights in a row. Whoever that team is, is going to be the national champion regardless of where they come from, what seed they are, what league they are. Those things don't matter anymore. That's one reason why I think being undefeated and being number one is a non issue at this time of the year. You're just trying to play really, really well one more night. Tomorrow if we don't play well I would eventually say we would lose. If we play really well, we're going to win. That's kind of how they feel I'm sure. That's how you're supposed to feel this time of year."

    How valuable is Maya Moore to the team?...
    "I'm always torn by when they name a player of the year. Is it the most outstanding player? If it is, then there are things that Maya Moore does that nobody else does. I don't know if there is anybody out there that in the 2 years that she has been in college basketball who has impacted a team more than she has. Having said all that, it doesn't matter how good your running back is or how good your wide receiver is, if you don't have a really, really good quarterback it is going to be very hard for you to win the whole thing. We've got the right amount for this particular team, and if we took her out of our lineup or if she is not having a good night then obviously we are a completely different team. It is very difficult for us to win tomorrow and the next couple of games if we are fortunate enough to play those games without Rene playing exceptional well. We saw what happened yesterday when she wasn't playing well. When she turned it around you saw what happens."

    If there was no UConn would the tournament be more exciting because nobody would know who would win it?...
    "I would say that one thing that we all want is the sport to be unpredictable in some ways. We want our own teams to be predictable, but for us we want the tournament to be unpredictable like everyone else. So I would say yes. We want there to be upsets in every other region and in our region but we don't want it to include us. The other thing I think coaches want is that they all want home court advantage. We talk about that a lot because if you're the higher seed then you should have home court advantages. The reason that the tournament has been so unpredictable is that teams have had a chance to not have to play on the road have been able to play on neutral courts close to home have upset some of the teams. That's caused a lot of the excitement. There is a lot of discussion that if you're a number 2 seed and you play on the number 8 seeds home court you should be able to win that game. Coaches are better, players are better; nobody is in awe that you got there anymore. I think that this is just the beginning of what you're going to see. It's going to happen more and more. If you look at where Purdue has come from and Arizona State, Iowa State, there are a lot of teams out there that are really good but nobody knew about them."

    What impact does it have on this game that Sybil Dotsy has come from Tennessee to Arizona State?...
    "I think she left after her freshmen year. I'm not sure. I know that she didn't get a chance to play a lot. I don't remember what kind of an impact she had or didn't have at Tennessee; I just don't remember her playing. Obviously, to be recruited at that level and then come back and be able to do for that program at Arizona State, what she's helped do. I think you bring a different mindset or a different intensity level, and I find it hard to believe that the intensity level at Tennessee could be higher than it is at Arizona State the way those kids play. It helps you get some other players too. You get someone like that and all of a sudden you're beating teams. Now you get involved with a couple other players that you haven't gotten involved with before. It's a snowball effect. I've seen it happen before. There was a kid that left Tennessee and went to Seton Hall and Seton Hall was in the sweet 16 two years in a row. It happens probably more often than you think."

    What has Tina done to make her a better player?...
    "The biggest thing with Tina is she settles for "I want to be good." Or she'll say "I want to be great," but saying it and doing it are two different say her first two years at Connecticut she was good. She was good. She wasn't good in the NCAA Tournament but she was good. This year she was really good. Now she wants to be considered a first team All- American and she wants to be on the same level with Rene and Maya and those guys then she has to play great. The first thing that goethings. For her it was always much easier to say it, and then expect her natural ability to carry her to where she wanted to be. As time has gone on she realizes that at this level of college basketball your natural ability is one thing but what you do with it is what ultimately decides whether you are a really good player or a great player. I think from Tina's stand point I would s into playing great is you have to compete at a really high level every single day, every single night, every single drill. I think Tina starting to understand that. The other night I think she showed that she's capable of doing that."

    Student-Athlete Quotes

    Comment on impressions on Briann January?

    Renee Montgomery- Right off the bat you can tell she plays hard all the time.  Everything her team does goes through her.  Typically with a point guard that’s how it should be, but you can tell she takes it personal that they get everything right.  She’s always encouraging her team.  She always has a lot of energy.  I think she plays hard on both ends of the floor.

    How do you manage to keep yourself insulated from the pressure of having to be perfect every single time you play?  More importantly, how does coach help take the pressure off of you?

    Maya Moore- When you come to Connecticut you have to have that mindset yourself.  You want to come out and strive for your perfect game, your best game.  So whenever coach is getting on you about something, if there’s a big game coming up, that’s why you come to Connecticut to play in those big games.  In a way we put that on ourselves as well, it makes you tougher when you are put in those situations.  When you are put in those situations and things aren’t going your way, how do you get out of those holes?  That’s what great teams are about, you get hit, how do you get yourself out of the hole?  That’s the attitude me and Kalana come out with every game. 

    Kalana Greene- Being perfect is impossible, but you still strive to be perfect.  It happens in practice first, nothing happens in the game that’s anything different from what we deal with in practice.  It gives you confidence to be able to know what you’re doing, and do it.

     

     


     

     

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