Postgame Quotes: Texas A&M 66, Lady Vols 62

March 9, 2013

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THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick and student athletes Meighan Simmons and Taber Spani.

COACH WARLICK: It boiled down to us getting stops, and we couldn't get any stops. You know, Texas A&M were persistent and they hit big shots. We didn't have an answer, so...

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student athletes.

You couldn't miss for most of the game. When Texas A&M made a substitution on you, put Tori Scott in there, did you do anything differently that prevented you from getting the ball easier, impeding your shot at all?

Taber Spani: I mean, not really. They're all athletic. First off, they just all play a great game. It was a battle. I think she was a little smaller than Williams. They're kind of face guarding after about 15 minutes into the second half. You know, similar, but I guess she's just a different player, too.

Q. As tough as this is to realize, all the things you have done well, one of those has been bouncing back and realize you have the NCAA tournament.

Taber Spani: Absolutely. This team is resilient. This one hurts right now. Probably going to hurt for a couple days. We have about a week and a half or so and we got to get ready. Honestly, we wanted to go 4 4, Kamiko and I as a class. NCAA championships is why you play. Hopefully we'll have up to six games. But we got to take it one at a time. Honestly I think the biggest part of our season is still left to come, but this one just hurts right now.

Q. Coach Blair stopped to talk to you. What did he say to you after the game?

Taber Spani: I mean, I know and my family knows him pretty well. He's just a very classy guy. He just said, That was a senior effort. I was trying to do everything I could to keep us in the game and hopefully with a W, but was just a little bit short.

Q. Meighan, one of the things that Texas A&M said they wanted to do was cut down on transition points from you guys by not turning the ball over very much. Did you feel the fact they only have nine turnovers was part of the difficulty of you guys not being able to get your offense going as well as you wanted to?

Meighan Simmons: Yeah. From early on we turned the ball over too many times. We couldn't take care of the ball. We weren't getting into our offenses like we should have. But I think after a while we got a couple transition points here and there. I feel like we take care of the ball a little bit more, we'll be able to get in our flow of the game and how we normally play from the get go.

THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. When you have a 50 to 40 lead, had the momentum, Spani hadn't missed anything at that juncture, then after that she went a really long time. Was Texas A&M doing something that caused you problems to get the ball to Spani?

COACH WARLICK: Well, I think Scott came in for a reason. I think she was denying Taber, not letting her have the basketball. That was a great move on Gary's part. Yeah, you're up 10, then we got comfortable. We just got comfortable. We've been preaching defense all year and rebounding. We couldn't get a stop. They went 9. Last 11 possessions and they scored. You can put yourself in a position to score, but it boils down to coming down and getting stops, and we didn't do it.

Q. They have a lot of height inside and they have a lot of depth. Does the combination of those two things make things tough?

COACH WARLICK: Well, yeah, I think they were bringing people in and out. You know what, we need five people on the floor. We need five people on the floor to get it done. We could not get a defensive stop. I don't care if we're freshmen, what we are. It boils down to getting stops. You got to make a play. We didn't make a play down at the end.

I thought Bashaara battles. She scores the basket, it got called off for a walk. I thought Kamiko got a good look at the end. But somewhere you got to change their rhythm and you got to do it on the defensive end. We just didn't get it done. A credit to them.

They hit big shots. That's what teams do. In your run, you got to hit big shots. They did. We tried zone. We tried man. We tried switching. We tried everything we had. We just couldn't get it done.

Q. When you mention the defense, even though you guys were up 50 to 40, did you feel uncomfortable? Were you still a little uncertain about your defense even with Spani having an unbelievable game?

COACH WARLICK: Yeah, I mean, you can't go 11 possessions and give them 9 possessions. I don't care what you're up. Thank goodness we were up 10. They just went to work and we got comfortable with the 10 point lead.

We've done that in the past. We've gotten up and we've just decided, Oh, we can exhale. You got to keep the hammer down, and we didn't.

We'll go back and learn. We're a young team. We continue to learn. I thought we missed Izzy today, we missed her height, her presence, her inside presence. It's just what we've been dealing with all year.

We've played without her, we've played with her. Just didn't get it done. We didn't finish the deal. We just didn't finish it.

Q. You know what went wrong, but you still got the NCAA tournament left. This group has been resilient. What do you work on for the next two weeks before the NCAAs?

COACH WARLICK: We go back to doing what we've been doing. We got to get better on the defensive end. That's the bottom line. We've got to get better and become a better rebounding team.

We only had six offensive rebounds. That's not a sign of a Tennessee team. We gave up 18 rebounds, offensive rebounds, for Texas A&M. We just really got to learn the importance of playing defense and rebounding.

We got the offensive punch. We just got to play at the other end of the floor. We're going to bounce back. We're going to go back to work. We've got two weeks to get better, to improve. I'm confident that our staff will go to work and we'll get these young ladies prepared. I hate it for Taber today. I thought she played an outstanding game. I hate it for all our players. I thought we put ourselves in a position to win. We just couldn't finish it out. Hats off to Texas A&M. They could have given up. They didn't. They kept battling. A credit to them, as well.

Q. I know that Taber has had so many different injuries. Today looked to me she was the player she can be.

COACH WARLICK: I think so. I think she's battled injuries her whole career here. She still has a little bit of a back problem.

Taber is a competitor. Today she found a way to get her shot off. She just played an all around game. We got down by 7. That was a huge turning point for us when Taber hit some big baskets.

Yeah, I don't know. I wanted to get the ball in Taber's hands, but they were teeing in on her. I thought we had an opportunity to step up on some other areas.

But Taber, I mean, she played a great game. I don't know how much more she could have done for us. She played 40 minutes for us.

Q. Also in that second half at times she was guarding Kelsey Bone. I don't remember her guarding a player of that size for a pretty long stretch. What was your thinking on that? Did she do okay in that regard?

COACH WARLICK: I think so. At times when Bashaara sits out in foul trouble, we're small. We're just small and athletic. Taber is going to have to play inside on the zone or guard somebody big. She was one of the biggest players we had out there, so...

You know, I tried everybody. I tried Nia Moore, who came in. She played two minutes. Came up with a rebound. I don't know. We're just low in numbers. We got to get healthy. I think the next two weeks will help us as far as getting healthy.

Q. Do you have any projection for Izzy?

COACH WARLICK: I thought we had a chance to get her back this weekend. We had a practice on Thursday and somebody ran into her and tweaked her knee again. I don't know. We can't catch a break. I thought she would be ready to go. That kind of set her back. I think we'll have her for the NCAA tournament. I think the next two weeks will be huge for her to rest and for her to rehab and get her knee solid.


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Texas A&M coach Gary Blair and student athletes Courtney Walker and Kelsey Bone.

COACH BLAIR: How about those Young Aggies? We keep finding a way. We might not have had Johnny Manziel, but we had some freshman step up. I had leadership out of Pratcher in the first half, knocking down shots. Bone second half was just very, very good. I think she's the best post player in the nation and she's hard to guard. When her mind is set, she's scoring easy, she's awfully tough to defend.

But Tennessee, they're just not a team, they're an institution on what they've meant to this game all the way back to 1977 when I met Pat Summitt for the first time at North Texas at a summer camp and I played three on three with her. She kicked my rear from one end to the other. I remember that. I was just a high school coach at the time. She found Mary Ostrowski for the first time at that summer camp.

Holly did a tremendous job. They were hurting us with their dribbles and kicks. Then all of a sudden we were not putting them at the foul line the last seven or eight minutes. They were going one and out and we were getting some great boards.

But Spani, give her a lot of credit. Williams, their Energizer Bunny, give her a lot of credit. But I've got two seniors in Bellock and Pratcher. They're my Energizer Bunnies and I'm proud of them.

You have two new ones up here today, Courtney Walker, a great freshman. She made life a lot better by hitting those two free throws and not letting us have to go down and play hope they miss defense.

Bone, appreciate the effort coming back from getting banged up yesterday on that meniscus. You stepped up like a trooper. Just appreciate the effort of my basketball team.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student athletes.

Q. Kelsey, how much was the knee bothering you?

KELSEY BONE: In the beginning I was thinking about it a little bit. We had a walk through this morning. It was only a walk through, so today was my first time. Game time and warmups was my first time going full speed on it. Once I got comfortable and my adrenaline started going, it didn't bother me a whole lot.

My teammates stayed positive with me. Coach Blair told me, When you come out of the game, don't sit by radar. I sat accidentally by our trainer, so I didn't have a time to think about it.

Q. Kelsey, how did you think the crowd played into this one? You went to Tennessee and they have their crowd. It seemed like you had the Georgia fans in attendance rooting for you guys.

KELSEY BONE: It's funny because we came Thursday to watch South Carolina and Alabama play. And we said, Gosh, all the orange everywhere. We knew coming in once they won last night there would be more orange than blue.

When you look around, the other SEC teams are rooting for us because we're the underdog.

We roll with our fans. We roll with who was cheering for us. We tried to create our own energy. We knew nobody really expected us to come in and win this game. All the odds were against us.

This is our sixth straight conference tournament championship game. The last time we won a conference tournament we were a 4 seed. We're hoping we have some history and some magic on our side.

Q. Courtney, can you talk about the importance of taking care of the ball. COURTNEY WALKER: One of our points in the game today was stopping their transition because that's something Tennessee does very well, especially with their great guard play they have.

One thing we focused on was turnovers that lead to points for them. That was something we did at Tennessee that I don't think we did too bad of a job on. Here today we did it very well. Really taking care of the ball, running our offense, knowing what we're looking for so we're not scrambling, turning it over for them to get a score.

Q. Courtney, you were down 50 to 40 fairly early in the second half. You came down and hit a couple of baskets that kind of seemed to turn the momentum. What was your mindset at that point?

COURTNEY WALKER: I can't even tell you for sure. I mean, I just feel like we've been fighting so hard and we've been staying together. KB and Pratcher have been preaching at us for our seniors and the people that we need to fight for, this is their last chance, so we need to get it for them.

Our back was back against the wall down 10 in the second half. Somebody just needed to turn it up until everybody got going. That's what I was trying to do.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Coach Blair.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to put Tori Scott on Spani in the second half, how that affected the game.

COACH BLAIR: She came in for a few minutes just to slow down, because Williams was not able to guard her. I don't think nobody was able to guard her. We just had to change pace.

Tori is the quickest kid we got on the team, along with Jordan Jones. We said, Don't leave her, don't let her breathe. She gave us a chance to relax and get Williams' head on there. Sometimes the best equalizer is the bench. You don't have to say a word to them. I'm not sure that Spani scored the rest of the game, even when Williams came back in there.

Scott gave us next man up. That's what the 12th man is all about. 12th man is all about somebody ready to come in if needed. Scott came in. At the same time Gilbert came in in the first half, was not as effective as yesterday. A lot of that was Tennessee. Gilbert has to learn to pin the ball. We were shooting the ball instead of pinning the ball, forcing the defense to have to guard us. But we learned in the second half.

Q. Kristi's game, having a double double today. How important was that for you?

COACH BLAIR: Bellock, sometimes she gets the quietest double doubles you've ever seen. Sometimes I'm hugging her, loving her or cussing her. That's all about Kristi. She just gives me that smile every time.

She's just a kid that's waited her time. You wait three years to play, play behind a door, all of a sudden you're limping down, your parents aren't calling to transfer, you become the best student on our basketball team. Good things are happening to her.

She'll get a chance to keep playing ball after that. But Bellock's a great midrange shooter. She is just a low maintenance kid. Just a whole lot of fun. I would love nothing better to take that kid back to New Orleans. To do that, that's where she's from at John Curtis High School. I'd love to take her and Scott back to New Orleans.

Right now we got Kentucky or Georgia. I'd like to put in a special plea for the Tennessee fans. If I'm not mistaken, Kentucky borders Tennessee. Georgia borders Tennessee. You're not supposed to like somebody you're bordering. So we're the new kid on the block. I want to see that Tennessee orange there pull us through, and I hope they'll stay. Even if they don't cheer for us, I want them to cheer for women's basketball because this is a special place. We've been treated great here. The hospitality, the management of the facility. The crowds have been very good.

I do not want to see Tennessee pack up and go home. I want them to stay and root on the next team. That's what we heard when we first came into this league. If they couldn't get the recruit or they couldn't win the game, they started pulling for SEC. So that's what I'd like for them to do, is hopefully stay over and pull for us.

But I was proud of my 250 Aggies that were there against those 6,000 Volunteers.

Q. I noticed after postgame when you were shaking hands, you stopped and spoke to Spani. Can you tell us what you said there.

COACH BLAIR: Well, first she turned down my letters when I was trying to recruit her years ago. At the same time I appreciate that kid. She could have stayed in the Big 12 where her sisters played and her dad played and everything like that, probably been the biggest show on whatever team she decided to come to. She came to a place where she could be a value role player and continue the tradition that Tennessee has. A lot of kids will not do that. A lot of parents won't let their kids do it because they want their kid to be the whole show.

Now she's stepped up. She's going to lead them deep into the playoffs. The kid's just a winner. I just appreciate what she's brought to the game.

Q. Other than getting in her face, when Spani was having this hot of a game, did you give any special instructions to stop her from going left or whatever?

COACH BLAIR: It wasn't her driving that was hurting, it was her spot up shooting. How many girls catch, release and go up? All post players got to bring it down. Most guards got to bring it down, check the description on the ball or something.

She catches it, she goes up. She knows the game, okay? That's where our game has to catch up to the men's game, is on basketball IQ. But our role models now should be women's players.

We don't need Michael Jordan or Dennis Rodman anymore or whoever. We need to have the role models of the WNBA players that are playing the game, the elite women's players, and the coaches that are in the game. I beat one Hall of Famer yesterday, beat another one today. I guess it would be Andy Matthews got to wait awhile, but he'll be in it pretty soon.





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