March 7, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Tennessee who recorded a 71-67 win over Florida, they will meet Auburn tomorrow night in the semifinal at 5:30. We're joined by head coach, Pat Summitt, Angie Bjorklund, who tied a season high with six three pointers, 25 points, four rebounds and Shekinna Stricklen 18 points and three rebounds. Coach?
Obviously we knew this was going to be a battle. Having played them earlier in the season, we felt like we had to do a much better job of getting paint points.
And obviously in that game at Florida, we went to the free throw line eight times and they went 29 times. So that was, for me, looking at the tape, I thought we've got to be a lot more aggressive, we've got to go inside more, we've got to find a way to get to the free throw line.
And obviously tonight we got 14 out of 21. We shot the ball better when we got there, but at least we put a lot of pressure on the defense. They did the same to us at the other end of the floor with their dribble drives, and obviously playing off the dribble as well as they did.
Dotson and Brooks were terrific. Overall we played 'em tough, but they just come at you so hard off the bounce and we were fortunately no one else really went off on us in that situation. So this is a big win for our team.
It obviously gives us a chance to play against Auburn, and they've been the best team in the league pretty much every night, night in and night out, so a real challenge for us. We'll get in cold whirl pools and then we'll go home and hopefully get to bed and get some rest.
Q. Coach, last night you talked about how you were concerned about the players being laid back in terms of their approach to the first half and their approach to Alabama. Tonight looking at the first half, was the second half, was there a case of being laid back or was that just a good team coming at you?
COACH SUMMITT: No, I don't think we were laid back at the time. We may have missed some defensive assignments and had some turnovers, but I think they were focused and Angie and Shekinna did a great job with the guard play.
I thought getting the ball inside was a tougher challenge for us. Obviously Alex was 0 for 2, Kelley Cain is 4 for 4, but she needs a lot more touches and Florida did a really good job of trying to take away our inside game. And we had a lot better looks from the outside than we did from the paint.
Q. Shekinna, I wondered if you'd been knocked down that many times in a game, and can you go over your various injuries and how you feel after the game?
Shekinna Stricklen: I think every game I get knocked down and I just got to stay tough and get back up. My body is sore, I'm hurting, and I'll get in the whirl pool and get ready for tomorrow.
Q. Coach, Angie's performance tonight, game high 25 points, none last night, talk about her effort.
COACH SUMMITT: I don't know that we could have won without her playing at that level. Obviously she moved much better without the basketball tonight.
So much of having great guard play and great shooters like Angie and Shekinna tonight, they got to constantly be working and trying to figure out how they can come off a screen. And I thought tonight she was so much better in that aspect of the game than last night.
Low energy last night, I don't know why, just watching the tape, I don't know why, I felt like she didn't have the same pep in her step that she did tonight. I think this team was very focused and they wanted to win this game, and that's why I think she played the way she played and she was a big time player tonight.
Q. Angie, just to touch on what Pat said, your mind set, you can be a prolific scorer, last night no points and coming out tonight?
Angie Bjorklund: You have to take it one day at a time. I couldn't let last night's 0 for 7 affect tonight. And it's a new game, new day, and I just had to work a lot harder to get open shots. And I thought our inside presence with Kelley and Alyssia and Alicia opened things up for me on the outside.
Q. Talk about what it was like in that second half to withstand the pressure they were putting on you and the challenge that it presented.
Angie Bjorklund: They put a whole lot of pressure and, you know, we were expecting that and our guards needed to do a better job of playing composed under that pressure, and we'll probably see that in the future.
And we can learn from that to set and use screens and gettin' open and, you know, bringing the ball down the court, you know, against the pressure.
Q. Coach, in Auburn you're facing a team that's veteran and the girls have been together for a long time, opposite of what you face. What are the qualities that you face and what does a team like that bring to the table in terms of veterans that have been there before?
COACH SUMMITT: I think when you play a veteran team, you're playing a team that obviously they have a good feel for each other. They obviously I think this Auburn team has great rhythm on offense, they defend well.
You know, I think it's going to be a real challenge for us and we know that just because they've got great inside/out and they can play off the bounce really well.
I haven't watched them that much because you're living one game to the next in terms of video and trying to figure out your next opponent, what you want to do. But certainly we'll start that and invest in our scouting from tonight on, and we have to have a lot of composure against them because when you play a veteran team, they're going to have composure and come after us.
And we got to stand up and take care of the basketball and run what we want to run, both offensively and defensively, and just play to our strengths.
Q. Have any concern such a tough game tonight might have taken too much out of you to come back and play one of the country's best teams tomorrow?
COACH SUMMITT: Auburn played they played their starters a lot of minutes and, yes, we've had two games, which obviously we've had to fight in both of 'em.
But I think now it's more of what's in your head and your heart, you know? You've got to be mentally strong and not give in, and you've got to have the heart and desire to go play every possession.
Playing them, if we could get a win, it would be great for this young team and that would mean that obviously we would move toward a championship. There is a lot invested for Auburn, there is a lot for Tennessee.
All we're going to do is come in and hopefully we're going to play hard and we're going to play, you know, with a great competitive desire.
Q. Pat, a follow up on injuries, Kelley seemed to be limping more noticeably tonight than she has in a while. What do you think her condition might be for tomorrow, any idea?
COACH SUMMITT: I don't know. But I would anticipate Kelley will be ready to play. Tonight she could been in longer, but I took her out and I wanted to go with a little bit more mobility in our defense in the paint. But she was good to go if I needed her.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you, ladies.
THE MODERATOR: Joined by Florida, Coach Amanda Butler, Marshae Dotson with 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals. Sha Brooks had 22 points. Coach, if you will start with opening comments?
Obviously we're disappointed in the way we played the first half. Tennessee is exceptionally well coached, they're very talented, and you can't put yourself in a position versing this team in a program with a program like that, you can't put yourself in the position that we did in the first half. And it's going to be miraculous to be able to come back from that, but we weren't too far from miraculous because of our fight.
I was very proud of our second half effort. I think we had opportunities, just got to be okay with Tennessee in losing, a lot of people have, but that's not this team. They battled and fought and weren't going to go down easily. And obviously we won the second half but the ballgame is two halves.
Q. Sha, you were obviously hurting in the first half after Kelley Cain fell on you. Looked like something was wrong with your neck. Can you tell us what the injury was and how much it did bother you?
SHA BROOKS: She fell on my neck, and I just had to get over that. The coach said we have a ballgame to play. I did kind of let it take me out of my game, but I'm fine right now.
Q. What was the difference from a Tennessee perspective in the way they played tonight and the way they played against you in Gainsville?
COACH BUTLER: Um, you know, they're a team and a coaching staff, that it doesn't make any difference what the make up is of the team, they're going to continue to get better.
And this is the time of the year that Tennessee seems to play their best basketball, which is absolutely a credit to Pat and why she continues to reset all the records she does.
But Angie Bjorklund played a fantastic ballgame and did a great job leading the team and coming off a night last night where she didn't score a point but we knew that wasn't going to happen again.
I don't think there was any one thing in particular, it's hard to look at it, analyze the Tennessee perspective. We didn't play two halves of basketball tonight, but when we were in Gainesville we did.
Q. Sha said it bothered her, the injury, what do you think about that? Did you think about maybe taking her out of the game completely in the first half because she wasn't shooting the way she normally does?
COACH BUTLER: There was no question that Sha was going to play in the ballgame and that's not because of a decision that I made, but that's because how competitive and tough Sha is.
Our game was very physical tonight, and these two guys battled. Marshae seems like she gets fouled on every single play. There is going to be bumps and bruises and falling down and sometimes somebody lands on your head and sometimes they land on your neck, and that's one of the things that makes these two so special is they do get back up and keep fighting.
I think Sha displayed tremendous toughness and she might have missed a few shots but I don't think her neck had anything to do with it. I think Tennessee defense might have a little bit to do with it as well, and I don't think anybody on our team, certainly not our coaching staff, had any less confidence in her because she got a little shook up in the ballgame.
Q. Marshae, could you talk about defending Kelley Cain. It looks like her presence inside, she draws so much attention it opened things up for Bjorklund on the outside.
MARSHAE DOTSON: We had to stay low on her, planning to play baseline on her to help out with our guards, but I guess they kind of got held up in helping us and get her some free shots.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.