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Postgame Quotes: UT 67, St. John's 51

March 25, 2014

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Tennessee Head Coach Holly Warlick

(Opening Statement)
"The kids have ice, I think I need some, I feel like I played. It is tale of two halves. Our defense was non-existent in the first half. We talked about it at halftime and we stepped it up. When we stepped it up and got steals, we shot layups and then we separated ourselves. Just proud of them. They just battled, they battle and just don't give up. I can get on them but they probably get on themselves more than I do. They are tough on themselves. But I am proud of the win.

(On playing down to opponents)
"I think that being off two weeks probably wasn't the best for us. I think our competition was things that we haven't seen, they are smaller, they are quicker. We are probably used to more physical and stronger, so we are just playing against different styles. I think it has taken us a little to get adjusted to it. And the outcome, you are one and done, so I am sure the nerves are a little high, we were nervous a little bit. I think once we settled down, we were missing a lot of putbacks, a lot of layups, free throws that we normally don't miss and I think that is focus. I think we can get them back if we get back to being more focused. I think they were prepared, we just seemed to go into a little bit of a trance at times. We either have to battle or come from behind, it is always a dog fight for us and I really don't know why."

(On Meighan Simmons' last game)
"I will tell you this, that kid has been under just a tremendous amount of pressure since she has been here. As a freshman we asked her to step in and start and score a lot of points. So everybody's expectations have just been greatness for Meighan. I have just watched her grow. I love her respect for this program, her love for this university, love for these fans. I have just seen her game just grow tremendously. She now understands what it means to get in a defensive stance, she understands what it means to move the basketball, passing, let the ball find her. I think at times, I think Meighan has felt that she needs to do everything so I think at times she has forced shots. I think now, especially in her senior year, I think she is playing the best basketball that Meighan can play. It is a complete game. I cannot say enough about her, I have enjoyed coaching her, she is one of the most hardest working kids that had been here at the University of Tennessee. And probably one of the kids that has been under the most amount of pressure, just because of expectations because we needed a scorer on our team. I am glad she went out the way she did, just expect great things from her in the next week."

(On Aliyyah Handford)
"She is a penetrater, she is small and she is quick. She can move in and out. St. John's was a very well coached basketball team. They had a game plan and they stuck to it. Handford, I thought she was phenomenal. She scored 23 points and she made it look easy, especially the first half. We were in man and we couldn't stop her, we were zone and couldn't stop her, we couldn't keep her off the boards. The score really is not, to me, any indication of how the game went and how it flowed so I just thought she competed and she was a tough guard for us."

Tennessee junior forward Cierra Burdick

(On what sparked the team early in the second half)
"I think we are a smart basketball team. We know when we are not doing what we need to be doing and I think we have been in every single situation possible throughout this entire season. I think we continue to weather every storm that we go through and we knew when we weren't getting the defensive stops we needed to get. We weren't being as active in the zone as we needed to be. That was the biggest adjustment; we started talking more, our hands were wide and we were just huge in that zone and we just made it extremely tough for St. Johns. I give credit to Izzy B (Isabelle Harrison) because she really gets that zone going, and she talks so much and that makes the frontline want to play even harder."

(On defensive improvement in 2nd half and overcoming 0-7 offensive streak)
"Oh most definitely, before we left our offense dictate our defense. That's why we weren't successful sometimes. Now, I think we have become smarter and really know that our defense and rebounding is going to win us basketball games. We used to just say it because it was the right thing to say but now we actually believe it and I think that's what mattered in the tale of two halves that Coach Holly was talking about. That was the difference in the 2nd half. We actually started to do those things we talked about."

Tennessee senior guard Meighan Simmons

(On playing fun basketball)
"All I can it say is that was enjoyable. I know Holly was getting into it and encouraging us to keep going. We did that today and when everyone is out there smiling, chest-bumping, and enjoying themselves I think that is when we are at our best. When adversity hits we can't get down on ourselves, we have to continue smiling through adversity and just keep pushing and the game becomes more fun and everyone is on the same page."

On again pulling away in the 2nd half)
"Yeah like Cierra said it's just one of those things that's going to test us to see how well we are going to handle adversity. At any point in time anything can be thrown at us, and I think we handled it very well and like Cierra said we have been in so many different situations to the point where its prepared us for moments like this. We know what we are capable of, and we know that we have all the talent in the world. We just have to go out there, play hard, and do the two most important things that Holly has preached to us as well as Pat before her; that's Defense and Rebounding. You know we do that and everything else will fall into place."

(On her final game in Thompson-Boling)
"I was speechless. I mean all I could do was smile. It's just one of those things that will be a memorable moment for the rest of my life. The fans were just amazing and that's one thing that helped me make my decision to come here was the fanbase, and I just couldn't be more happy how well I've played in the past four years, and how I've become the player that I am; with the help of my teammates, and the coaches getting on me and pushing me, and taking me out of my comfort zone. I couldn't be more happy with the relationship that I have with the fans and with my teammates and the coaches.

(On Cierra Burdick)
I mean I couldn't be more proud of her. She's worked so hard and she puts in extra time in the gym. She is always getting up extra shots after practice and she's always in the gym before practice. The depth on this team is just amazing. That's something we are going to need for the next two games. If we take it one game at a time we will be right where we want to be, and right where we need to be. It's just about proving people wrong, and doing the little things. Some people just don't know, the underestimate us because they don't know the secret weapons that we have and at any point in time anybody can step up. Cierra just happened to be the one to step up today. Next game it could be Mercedes, it could be Jordan, it could be anybody but like I said I just couldn't be more proud of how well she played today. I mean she stepped up to the plate and did an amazing job and I just felt like at any point in time she could do the same thing over and over again. We are just going to need her for the next two games, and take it one game at a time.

St. John's Head Coach Joe Tartamella

(Opening Statement)
"I thought obviously that it was a tale of two different halves as most coaches would say. I'm very proud of these ladies here. I thought we played a great first half outside of probably the first three minutes of the half. I thought we played really well. I thought we did the things we tried to. Our players worked our game plan. They stayed to it. They believed in it and that's what I thought gave us the opportunity to stay in the game and going down four with a great shot from Aaliyah Lewis at the half. I thought we got a little worn down in the second half and the things we talked about that we couldn't give up second chance points and rebounds- they hurt us with their length and they got on the glass on us. I think we gave us six or seven fast break points in the first half. I don't even know in the second. There were stretches where we didn't do a good job of getting back, but then we got the shots we wanted from them, we didn't rebound. Combine that with missing some shots at the rim and some free throws here and there- we didn't get to the line enough in the second half and that compounds your issues as you go through the game. They're a great team. There's a reason why their a No. 1 seed, but I'm so proud of these kids here who just fought their butts off to get to this point and from where we started to where we are now, I couldn't be prouder."

(On what happened during the second half versus the first half) "I think if you look at the second half and the way they went to their zone. The times we struggled all year were against teams with length. I thought they got in the passing lanes much better than anticipated or we hesitated for whatever reason. They did a good job of doing that. I thought they dictated the pace a little bit better too. Length is something you always have to adjust to when you are not moving the ball, cutting or replacing the ball with inside touches you have a hard time dealing with that because you are very stagnated. Lucky we scored 16 points that is probably part of that."

(On Aliyyah Handford)
"I think all of our players are very talented. I guess it is a compliment to say they play like a guy. She is athletic and had grown so much as a player as far as her basketball IQ. The things she has done the past few games and her ability to get the mid range jumpers, put backs and getting on the glass. She still has so much more room to grow. She could be a player that gets eight or nine assists a game because of how she plays. That is something we are working on. Her IQ from last year as a freshman to this year has improved tremendously. She is just a talented kid. She is one of the few kids I have ever seen that looks like she is guarded and then a second later she is open. She just does it. That is nothing we do as coaches. She is just talented. She just has that knack. She is someone who has going to be a cornerstone and has been a cornerstone even the two years she has been here. She is going to continuing to grow. She has the chance to become one of the most if not the most talented player we have ever had in the program."

(On not scoring on some crucial possessions)
"Every possession we give away we talk about as being important. This time of year you have to value every time you have the ball, every possession you have, every opportunity you have to score. When you are playing a team that is number one seed in the tournament you better do that even better than you have all year. They had 19 points off our turnovers. We talked about limiting live turnovers for them to score. When we give away opportunities offensively we are just compounding the issue there. It is has been a thing all year that we struggle. We go through droughts. We can't have big droughts during these kind of games. Unfortunately they did a nice job of creating some of those droughts for us in the second half. We could not get someone to kind of get us going to give us traction. Aliyyah (Handford) gave us that in the first half and we really didn't get that from anyone in the second. We didn't waiver we still kept working throughout that stretch. It is also a testament of what we have talked about all year defensively. They may not have scored but we didn't something to make them not score. We have defended well all year and it is what we have done to stay in games."

(On this team finishing their year at Thompson-Boling)
"It is something that has been a part of our team and characteristic over the past few years this team especially. I told our group in the locker room after the game I have been a head coach for two years. I could be a head coach for 20 or 25. Maybe if I make it to five I will be happy without falling over. I could probably look back 15 or 20 years from now and talk about this group as much as this early in the career. I got Joe Pellicane who has been coaching for 30 years he says there are very few groups you can talk about that you have that special feel. I don't know how many people gave us a chance the other night against USC and even throughout the year from where we started in getting here. For my three seniors who had a chance of finishing their careers in this atmosphere in this arena with those surroundings it is fantastic. We have played at UCONN and Louisville. They have played in every atmosphere known to man. This was one we hadn't been at yet. I think it is also a part of that building process. It is part of what we will be moving forward in the future. We have a lot of young players that got some great experience in these two games. That is another mark for us as we move forward. It was a great atmosphere and we really enjoyed playing here."

(On the drought time on whether or not it was the Tennessee defense or offensive struggle)
"Probably both. They upped their intensity. We got fatigued. We tried to search different lineups to spark something. Amber Thompson was playing as hard as she could. She was battling those big guys down low the entire game. I thought we got a little fatigue part of that and then poor decisions throughout the stretch. I knew that Tennessee wasn't going to go scoreless throughout the rest of the half. I was concerned every time we didn't score on a possession you know can we get another stop. There is so many things you can do before an offensive rebound or and1 comes into play. You make a run. Those thought go through your head. We also had the pieces all year to make a play. The times we had the opportunity during that stretch we might have missed a layup that we can't afford to miss."

St. John's Sophomore Guard Aliyyah Handford

(On team's offensive struggles)
"I think we were just turning the ball over too much and just out of it. The first half, we were together and we played together. The second half, I guess we were just out of it and not there."

(On when Tennessee got on second half run)
"I don't really know."

St. John's Junior Forward Amber Thompson

(On contending with Tennessee's size) "Obviously it wasn't easy, but it was just a matter of keeping a body on someone. It's a team effort. It can't be just one person or two people, it's a team effort and if everyone's not in tune with it, it's not going to work."

 

 

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