Postgame Quotes: #8 Lady Vols 82, #13/15 Texas A&M 72

Feb. 28, 2013

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(Opening statement)
"When it's senior night, you have a lot of pressure on you - your family is here, you're expected to perform and I thought [Taber and Kamiko] did perform on the highest level. I can't say enough about those two. Their leadership this year and their will to win... Those two are special young women and I'm extremely proud of our team and our staff to get an SEC championship."

(On cutting down the net)
"It was a feeling of a little bit of disbelief, but I guess I didn't know how to act because I've never done that before. I was obviously extremely excited for this program and our players and it's just a great opportunity to make sure that we carry on the tradition that Coach Summitt has done and so it's just a little surreal for me right now."

(On Massengale climbing the ladder with an ice bag and on crutches)
"Yeah, we won, but we almost lost half our team. It's just what we've been battling and dealing with all year. Our team was pretty upset, especially right after Izzy (Harrison) went out, to have two of our players go down. Some of them were crying, or upset, but they held on and that's the resilience of this team. They've been hit and knocked down and they just keep getting back up. It's amazing as to how they perform in certain circumstances like they have all year."

(On injuries)
"I don't know, I know that they've been checked out, but I'm honestly not sure."

(On having trouble covering Texas A&M early)
"We did. I thought what was key for us was that we started putting more pressure on the ball. We were pressuring he ball and leaving Bashaara (Graves) and Izzy (Harrison) to defend (Kelsey Bone) one-on-one. It's difficult, though and you can't do it. She's strong, she's physical and we needed help. So we fronted her with help side and we played behind, but I think the key for us was moving out and putting more pressure on the basketball."

(On Cierra Burdick)
"She was awesome today. I thought she came up with key offensive rebounds and then down the stretch, she hit those two jumpers at the free throw line. If you didn't look at the stats sheet, for Cierra, you'd think she's having a good game and then you look at it and she has 14 rebounds, 9 offensive, she's scored and has a great percentage and she's just a steady, go-to, reliable player. I asked her tonight about Kamiko (Williams) starting with her being a senior and she was just totally on board and I thought she was key tonight as well."

(On if this was Kamiko Williams' best game)
"I think it was the best game by far. I think she had to play more minutes, I think she was tired, but she battled back. Any other game earlier in her career, she would have come out, she would have been tugging at her shirt to come out. But she didn't do that tonight, she didn't want out. We got her out to give her a couple of breathers, but she competed. She had to be huge on defense for us, then we were asking her to come down (on offense) and she was making layups. I think it was her best game to date, and that's our expectation for Kamiko. As she's had a really good year, she had a great game tonight.

"I thought she was really focused in practice. I think from the jump off and the get go, I thought she was really in-tune with what we had to do. She was very receptive on the bench, was very attentive on the bench. She wanted to be out there to play, to make plays, to be a part of this. When she does this, she's reaching her potential. She was awesome."

(On if winning the SEC Championship provides a sense of validation)
"I think it's a sense of validation for these young players. We're mainly freshmen and sophomore and we`ve asked them to play big roles. They're trying to live up to a tradition, and it's tough. There's a lot of pressure on them, but I'll tell you this, they have battled and done what we've asked them to do. You've seen everyone play an important role. It's just a tribute to - they didn't like being picked fifth (in the SEC), and they had a little chip on their shoulder. And they went to work and I think this is the one team that has been the most focused, and was the hardest-working team in practice that we've had in a long time. When you do those things, you get great results, and it's been a huge, huge team effort."

(On if Bashaara Graves deserves SEC Freshman of the Year)
"I'm biased, I think she should be freshman of the year, absolutely. She's been big for our team. Her stats and the way she plays speak for themselves. But, again, I'm biased, I'm her coach."


(On Senior Night being a distraction)
"We definitely shut it out. We talked about it in shootaround, and we just wanted to get this win and get this championship for the other players and of course for us as seniors. We shut it out."


(On her promise to "shock the world")
"The only people who believed in us from the get-go were the eleven players, four coaches, and our support staff. We have great fans, and they stick behind us. We were picked fifth in the SEC, not ranked in the top 25 nationally, and we've just come out and worked so hard. We've made great strides towards becoming the team that we were capable to be. I'm just so excited that we're finally reaching milestones and we're finally proving to everybody that this is the team that means business. We are here to win championships, and that's what we plan on doing."

(On her "two minute warning")
"We have battled so much and we've had so many injuries throughout the entire season, and to see Isabelle and Ariel go down like that, I got very emotional and wanted to motivate my teammates about two minutes and that's it-we'd be champions. Just the fact that those two minutes were the last two minutes of the game, and that's all we had to get through to win, it was that motivation to finally reach your destination. I just wanted to let them know that two minutes was all we had to buckle down for."

(On Texas A&M being a good team)
"I think the sign of a great team is the willingness to fight, no matter how many points you get down. Texas A&M is a great team. They have great coaches. Kelsey played tough tonight. We just tried to keep it at them. We always talk about coming through the finish line and winning in the last four minutes and the first four minutes. We take the game as four-minute segments and we play in four minute segments, and I thought we did a great job with that."


(On physicality of game)
"It was hard because Bone is a great player; she's very physical. It's hard playing around her. She plays hard, so we just had to box her out. I think I did a great job of it."

(On Cierra in the post)
"Cierra did a great job on the boards. I don't even know how many she had. She had about ten in the first half. I'm just proud of Cierra. [she had 14, nine on offense]. Dang! C! She's a beast. That says it all."

(On Kelsey Bone) "She's 6-4, big body, that just keeps working. She got all her points in the paint, so when she goes up for it, she'll take you with her."


(On losing players right at the stretch)
"Obviously, it was difficult because those are two of our sisters. If anybody goes down, they're such a critical part of our team. But I think the fact that almost everyone has gone down to some sort of injury this year at some point has helped us become fighters. I just said, "We've been here before; we've had crazy different lineups, depending on who has been out of the game due to injuries," and we just find a way to win. We were also going to use it as motivation to do it for Ariel and do it for Izzy and do it for Draya. Anybody who has been out, we've wanted to do it for them. It's a testament to, and really shows, the spirit of this team."

(On more emotional than previous SEC Championships)
"It's special. It's Holly's first one. It's a lot of these girls-besides myself, Kamiko, and Meighan-it's their first regular season championship. That's special. But this team has, overall, a different feel about it. I think we're more competitive and more motivated to do something special than previous teams. I think the fact that we accomplished our first check on the checklist, it felt really good."

(On senior night expectations)
"I think it's very similar because we've been a part of two other senior nights-one year we had no seniors. It's similar, but it's also surreal. It's just crazy. And the fact that we had so much on the line, with this game, we focused so much more on the game. You had to block out senior night and remember that this was the SEC Championship on the line. That was a bit different, but I think it made it all the more special."


(Opening remarks)
"Just like old times, and I brought a better team in here than any of the teams I had at Arkansas. We brought a gutsy little team that's playing with four freshmen in our top eight, and they're growing up in a hurry. I thought we played as well as we could offensively. Defensively, we were getting killed on, they weren't really running an offense as much as they were putting the ball on the floor, just creating off the deck. Burdick, we didn't have anybody that could stop her. Kamiko Williams, God I wish my senior year could've been like that at the end, but I flunked out after my freshman year in baseball, so I never got to have a senior year. Give the kid a whole lot of credit. I mean the first couple of jumpers were wide open. The last shot at half really hurt us because I had one post player switching off and taking Massengale on the drive which we should've slid under the thing and got there, and then I had a 6-5 post player in the corner coming off of a shooter, and the senior stepped up and hit the shot in the moment. Spani played very well; their whole team played well. It was as good of a basketball game as you're going to see in the SEC. Quit worrying about it being physical; you out-rebounded us by 17. So, don't feel sorry that girls are hitting the floor. Our girls hit the floor too because if we don't screen you, we're never going to get open in the first place because your on-ball pressure defense is that good. This is big-time basketball. ... But, when you come here on senior day and you play against a well-coached team. Holly deserves all the credit. She's got the hardest job in America. ... My freshmen missed a couple of crucial layups at the end that we had to have when the ball was reversed when they were doubled."

(On the SEC coaches voting Tennessee to finish 5th)
"Not me... I picked Tennessee second behind Kentucky because of what Kentucky had coming back."

(On the youth for both teams, the future of this series being fun)
"Sure it is. Can you find two better freshmen than Graves and Walker for us? Williams played pretty well for us on the offensive end. She's going to get better and better. ... It's going to be great. Tennessee's got good freshmen coming in again next year. Folks, the reign isn't over for Tennessee. You all get behind them and start putting that 14,000 or 16,000 in the seats because I want to play in front of big crowds."

(On his take on Kamiko Williams coming into this game)
"I watched what y'all said in the paper that she would be out there stirring y'all up, and I had no idea she was going to be doing that while the lineups went on. She was everywhere. I'd love to have that kid. She is a program kid. She is an energy kid who's come up tough. She's had tough love all her life. Now she's responding."


(On Bashaara Graves)
"Oh, it's incredible. I've watched her from afar. I know Bashaara through USA Basketball. She's doing things because she's surrounded by such great players. I'm familiar with a lot of them as a whole. When you as a freshman can come in and get playing time, and then your team is depending on you in certain instances, you have to grow up. You have to be able to produce. I'm really impressed with what she's been able to do."

(On her easy baskets early, Tennessee adjusting its defense)
"I think, yes, they did, and then that's why the easy baskets didn't come so easy anymore. I think they were more focused on their help-side with me, and a lot of times as a post player my back is to the help. I don't see that extra defender."

(On Burdick's contributions)
"She came in and she capitalized on offensive rebounds. She flew in from the high post on big shots and she got rebounds out of nowhere. Cierra is a guard who is having to play post because of some injuries, and she was able to capitalize on playing against post players."


(On if there was any extra fire for her playing Tennessee being from Memphis)
"Not really. I mean coming back to play in your home state is always fun. We went to Vanderbilt last week, and I had family come to the game, but I knew they weren't going to be able to make it to this game because it's way farther than Vanderbilt. Like I said coming back and playing in your home state is always fun."




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