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Postgame Quotes: Lady Vols 74, Oklahoma 59

March 31, 2013

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TENNESSEE

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by coach Holly Warlick from Tennessee. Coach, your opening thoughts.

COACH WARLICK: It was a really hard fought game for us. I'm extremely proud of these young ladies. We talk a lot about where we start and then where we are now. I keep saying this, but this team, they play in the moment. They play each possession like it's their last. As a coach, you don't want to coach effort. I have not from day one had to coach effort. We've actually coached and taught.

The credit is to them and how hard they've worked, the hours they've put in, just their listening and wanting to go to practice. I know it starts with practice.

The only time they didn't want to go to practice was the day before yesterday. They keep thinking we go too long, but I'll let them slide on that one.

I thought Oklahoma, a great crowd, a tremendous crowd. I think Sherri and her team have done a fabulous job with the amount of injuries.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.

Q. Kamiko, you kind of set the tone for the game when you got that first steal. Can you go over that play.

Kamiko Williams: I mean, she smiled at me, so I knew I had to get low. She swings the ball in front of her, I happened to stick my hand in there. I just kind of reacted to the ball.

Q. Kamiko, generally being able to slow her down for the game, take her out of their offense, can you talk about the impact that had.

Kamiko Williams: I think it had a great impact. I think it started in the locker room. Coach Elzy challenged me to guard her, bring my best defense. My teammates helped me out. So it wasn't just me.

Most of the time I was on her and I just tried to live up to that challenge from Elzy, because if not, I was going to hear about it later. Didn't want that to happen (laughter).

Q. Taber, talk about how the tone is set with your team on the defensive end?

Taber Spani: Well, I think obviously everyone knows Tennessee is defense and rebounding. We've stressed that from day one. I think Holly's style is she really wanted full court pressure or get into the ball and pressure them.

I think that just plays right into the personnel that we have, with the athleticism we have, especially at the top with Kamiko or with Jasmine or Meighan up there on the ball.

We wanted to come in, set the tempo early, dictate to them that we were going to be the ones pressuring. We were trying to get them out of their offense because they're a great offensive team when they're able to run their sets.

I think that helped us on the offensive end because we got steals, kind of got into a little bit of a rhythm. I thought we did one of our best jobs all year of really passing the ball, being unselfish, making the extra pass. We got into a really nice rhythm in the first half.

Q. Isabelle, talk about the rotation of the guard, the post situation. Certainly McFarland, she's going to get her rebounds. Talk about the rotation that you have in the post position.

Isabelle Harrison: I think for this game it definitely brought a challenge for our posts to actually have to step out of the paint and guard on the perimeter. That's something we're not used to.

Coach Elzy and Holly talked about that today and yesterday, that we have to go out and get out of our comfort zone and guard the perimeter. I think we did a pretty good job on that.

Q. Taber, can you talk about how your young posts have developed.

Taber Spani: It's been tremendous for us. I think as a player, you see them in the off season, you see the talent, the potential. We've seen that ever since they stepped foot on our campus.

The maturity, Izzy has done a great job of taking the post under her wing, she really kind of owns that group. She wants them to get better collectively and it will help us as a whole.

Cierra came in and made really big shots. Both of them have done a tremendous job of rehabbing in order for them to get back to this point.

I think Bashaara is just mature beyond her years, the big baskets, the big boards she provides for us.

Q. Can all three of you players talk about, again, the next game is going to be played, but certainly you played Baylor, there's no guarantee they're going to win, but talk about going into that game, just preparing and how you have to get ready for that team.

Kamiko Williams: I personally think, I mean, Brittney Griner, she looks like she's going to get hers, but we have to shut down their guards, shut down Odyssey, shut down Hayden, she killed us when we were at Baylor. Get after Madden and Destiny Williams, the other post player.

We can't focus so much on Brittney. She's going to get her rebounds, her points. I think if we can shut down the perimeter, we should be in business.

Taber Spani: I think it's a mindset, us included, so many times we've played them, you go in and you feel like you have to change your entire game plan because of Brittney. Granted, she's one of the greatest players ever to play our game. I think it's our mindset going in, we're not going to be scared. The power of belief is really big for us. We believe in each other, what we can do, who we can be. I think that confidence level is going to help us.

Especially having the experience of going down and playing at their place with this team this year, we didn't have Izzy because she hurt her ankle that game. So our mindset is going to be go in and attack, and whatever happens, happens. But we're not going to go in and let down by any stretch of the imagination.

Isabelle Harrison: I think, especially being y'all's last season, we're going to play with a chip on our shoulder. I'm having a lot of flashbacks from last year that may be the case. If anything, I want to prevent that feeling, because I don't want it to come back.

I'm going to give it my all, play hard for these guys, Holly, the rest of the team, Pat, of course. I'm just going to go at it.

Q. Isabelle, it looked as though you were moving better today and seemed more comfortable on the floor since you had your injury. Was that the case? How good did you feel out there today?

Isabelle Harrison: I felt really good. I was doing a lot of rehab on this trip. Me and (indiscernible) have been basically roommates. I'm glad I can get out there and do the best I can. I need to talk to her when I'm hurting. I'm feeling really good.

THE MODERATOR: Okay, ladies, congratulations on your win. We'll continue with questions for coach now.

Q. Holly, when your backcourt struggles shooting the way they did, yet you still controlled this whole game, talk about how many other things you did right.

COACH WARLICK: Meighan Simmons, 1 for 15, that's obviously unusual for her. What I loved about Meighan and what she did, she didn't let her offense affect her defense. I don't think any of the players did. We've stressed so much on the defensive side and the rebounding side, I just don't think they had time to think about what they were doing offensively.

That's a different mindset than we've had. It's a different mindset that Meighan has had. I know she wanted to play, and play so hard. But I love that she was still in the game and still defending.

We had some players step up. Meighan didn't play well, then we had Jasmine Jones, who I thought had a great game. So we had people step up, Cierra Burdick. That's the sign of a solid team. Massengale didn't shoot the ball well. We moved the ball. 14 assists was good for us. We found a way to win.

Q. Against the predictions of many people, you've earned your way back to the same position where the season ended last year, going into the Elite 8, probably to face Baylor. Assuming that's the matchup that you get, you have a younger squad this year than last. What do you have to do to have a different outcome?

COACH WARLICK: Well, we should be familiar with them because we've seen them three out of the last four years in the NCAA tournament. I think we have some familiarity with them.

You know, you have to make shots at the outside. You've got to make shots. You've got to take care of the basketball. As Kamiko said, Griner, she's in a league of her own, so you can't get caught up in what she does. I think you've got to take care of everybody else. You got to make shots.

I think when we played them down there, we played a better second half because we settled down. Hopefully playing them, especially on their home court, has given us the opportunity to see her and play against them. It's not our first time, which hopefully will help us.

Q. The deeper you go into the season, it seems Kamiko keeps raising her game. Couldn't you almost make a case that she's the most valuable player on the team at this point?

COACH WARLICK: Absolutely. I totally agree with you. We're asking her to lock down the opponents' best offensive player, then we want her to make plays on the offensive end as well.

She has stepped up. She has a maturity about her. She's just taken this team. She's wrapped her arms around this team and said, Let's go.

I will tell you, at the beginning of the year, if I had to say Kamiko was going to be our leader, I would say no. But our players love her. She's done a heck of a job on and off the floor being a leader for them.

So my hat is off to her. She has exceeded my expectations. I knew what Kamiko could do. It was just a matter if she was going to commit to do it, and I think she has. She and Izzy both have stepped up and played big for us. She's done a heck of a job.

Q. In this game in particular, it seemed like she not only limited Ellenberg, but she was responsible for entry passes.

COACH WARLICK: I think Kamiko Williams is an extremely talented young lady. When she puts it all together, she gets a great mindset, she can do just about anything.

I think Kyra spent a lot of time with her preparing her for this game and she had a mindset of what she needed to do and she did it.

When she gets zoned in, she understands that our success relies on how she plays, how hard she plays, what she does on the defensive end. I think she has now stepped up and taken a lot of responsibility.

Four years ago, she would not have been mature enough to step up and do the things she has now. She's a senior. It's her team. It's her and Taber's team. She's leading by example. I can't tell you, I'm really, really proud of her. I knew she had it in her. We're just right now getting it out of her. Very proud of her.

Q. Can you talk about your bench and your rotations, substitutions.

COACH WARLICK: Yeah, I think to bring Izzy off the bench is huge for us. Cierra Burdick, too. Both those young ladies started, then they both went out with injury. I think they give us a punch, especially Izzy on the defensive end, Cierra is very consistent offensively.

So the thing about this team is they have not complained or had a hard time about starting, who is playing. We've got a good thing going, a good rotation, and they know they're all going to play.

So actually I've wanted to get Izzy back in the lineup, but I didn't know where I could put her because everybody else is playing so well. And Jasmine Jones, I thought she had a great game for us. She's a freshman athlete that doesn't know how good she can be.

I just think we stepped up and did some really good things when we needed to.

Q. Can you talk about the baton that you gave to the girls, the significance of it, where it came from.

COACH WARLICK: We have a new coach, a new staff, so we talked about passing the baton on from Pat's regime and what she has built, the legacy she built, the tradition she built. There are differences, we understand that. But we have the same heart and the same drive, the same commitment.

We just wanted Pat to pass the baton on to our players and understand that we represent the University of Tennessee, and what Pat built. We want to make sure we carry on that tradition. There is a new group, a new staff, but we still have the same belief that we're Tennessee, and we're going to represent Tennessee and Pat Summitt to the best of our ability.

Q. How big a deal is it that Isabelle will be back for Baylor? She couldn't play the last time.

COACH WARLICK: I think it's huge for us in any game. Any big game we have played, we really didn't have Isabelle. She played maybe about five minutes in the Notre Dame game and was not very effective coming off one of her knee injuries.

She brings this team a lot of confidence. I think she's huge to our success. I've said it all year. I think when we get her healthy, we have her availability, everybody else, we're a different team. We're a different team with her, we just are.

When you have somebody back there, she makes up for defensive miss assignments or getting beat on the drive, she makes up for her presence inside with being able to block shots. She's a huge difference for us, huge game changer for us.

Q. So did Pat actually give the baton to them?

COACH WARLICK: No, we came up with the baton. Actually our staff came up with it. We just wanted something to represent what was and what's going to be. Everybody that touched our program, academic advisors, our president, our athletic director, our associate athletic director, everybody that is part of our program got a baton, our administrative assistants, because they're just as much a part of our program as our team and staff.

We just thought it was important that everybody get aboard. We're not going to be able to survive unless we have this big huge family. So we gave everybody a baton. We've just been passing it around. It's been huge for us.

So it's something that we identify with. Like I said, it brings back our tradition. But we know we got to move forward and pass the baton and get our own identity. But we're never going to lose the identity that the Lady Vols have

OKLAHOMA

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by coach Sherri Coale from Oklahoma. Coach, your thoughts about this afternoon's game.

COACH COALE: First of all, I just want to congratulate a very, very good Tennessee team. I thought they played extraordinarily well today. First half they really made a bunch of baskets early, kind of punched us right at the beginning.

But I am incredibly proud of our basketball team. Thought the final five minutes of the game they just fought with a passion and spirit that defines our program.

Even though we didn't win the game, the season is over, I could not be more proud of a group of kids.

These guys have done amazing things this season against really unbelievable odds. To lose Mo in the first nine minutes of the game, a kid that plays 40 minutes for us, to survive, hang around, keep fighting, just depicts the character of this team.

I have loved coaching them and I am so sad that I don't get to coach them tomorrow.

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

Q. Joanna, you seem pretty emotional. Can you talk about what the last few weeks have been like for you and the emotions you were feeling as the final seconds ticked off.

JOANNA McFARLAND: Well, it's always sad at the end of something. This is just the end of a part of my life. This team means so much to me that it was really sad. But I'm looking forward to the future and I know this team's going to be great next year.

Q. Sharane and Joanna, if you could talk about the offensive struggles today.

SHARANE CAMPBELL: I mean, you can't stop shooting because the ball's not going in. You got to keep trying. I mean, you just got to keep trying. That's what we did. I mean, eventually we started making shots. But by that time, it was too late.

JOANNA McFARLAND: We did everything right execution wise. We got open shots. They just weren't falling. I don't know if you could call it nerves or a different backdrop, I don't know. But sometimes the ball just doesn't go in the basket. We did everything we possibly could. It just wasn't our night shooting.

Q. Joanna, you were so excited to get to come home. Can you talk about the atmosphere.

JOANNA McFARLAND: It was amazing. Just running out on the court and hearing people scream and yell for us, that was really, really awesome. I think just coming home and playing my last game, our last game of the season at home, was really special and it's something we'll cherish.

Q. When Morgan had to go out of the game, how did that affect you guys in the immediate aftermath of that, emotionally and on the court?

SHARANE CAMPBELL: You got to find a way. I mean, that's the only answer. You can't panic. We still had basically the whole first and second half to go. I mean, if anything, play hard for her. She doesn't want you to feel sad, dig a hole just because we're emotional. You just got to play through it.

JOANNA McFARLAND: Yeah, Morgan is our point guard, she plays, like coach said, almost 40 minutes a game. She's kind of the floor leader, gets us in the offense and everything. We kind of missed that.

At the same time we had Jasmine. She's a fifth year senior and can run the offense just as well. It was kind of both ways, just a different feel in the game with Jasmine in, but at the same time, we trusted her completely. It wasn't that much of a...

Q. With all the ups and downs of the season, the emotion after the game, did you hear the ovation your crowd gave you at the end of the game?

JOANNA McFARLAND: It was really, really special. I really appreciate them all staying and cheering and everything. It means a lot to be appreciated for what we've done this year.

SHARANE CAMPBELL: Yeah, I agree. It was just great. My first Sweet 16 and I got to come home and, you know, just see this crowd. It was just an amazing feeling. I want to do it again. I am going to do it again. We're going to do it again, so...

Q. Joanna, last time we talked about Tennessee you said they were really quick. Was tonight different from last time? Has anything changed? Did they just seem like the same team?

JOANNA McFARLAND: Well, I think at first they had a couple quick transition baskets, and I think it kind of shocked us a little bit. We stopped their transition. I don't think it was the quickness so much. We got a little uptight, wound up, and I think that's what really affected our offense.

Q. Joanna, if Baylor wins this second game, you know Baylor's post as well as anybody, you went against the Tennessee post today, can you give us a comparison between those two post players?

JOANNA McFARLAND: Obviously Baylor has the size advantage. I don't know. I think it's going to be a physical game between the two of them. They're similar in some ways, but very different in a lot of ways.

I think Tennessee is probably quicker. Baylor, it's hard to get around Brittney.

Q. Joanna, obviously disappointing to have it end this way, but is this a thing where it may take you a little time to appreciate what you've been able to accomplish?

JOANNA McFARLAND: Uhm, probably a little bit. We've kind of across the year taken a step back and, Okay, we're doing something special right now. But at the end I guess now, it might take us a little while just to really bask in what we've accomplished.

Q. Joanna, if one of your younger teammates comes to you in the next few days and says, I want to make the kind of jump you made in your career, what would you tell them?

JOANNA McFARLAND: First of all, I'd tell them to get in the gym and work, because that was a big part of it. But also just to play free and to play to have no regrets because that's the way I played this season.

Q. What do you see from this team next year? Do you think a game like you had today, Sharane, can catapult you toward doing this kind of thing box score wise next year?

JOANNA McFARLAND: We're going to be great next year. The league is going to be somewhere where they could win the league, I think. They're only losing one starter and they're going to get a lot of people back. They're going to be a force to be reckoned with next year. They're going to be really good.

SHARANE CAMPBELL: Well, I feel like I can make an impact. This game alone has taught me a lot, just this one game. I mean, after the game, I realized these seniors taught me something. Whitney Hand taught me how to be a leader on the court. Lyndsey taught me how to play with emotion. Jo taught me how to be tough, crash, rebound, want the ball. Jazz taught me how to love defense.

I just learnt all these things from these seniors. I'm going to be a junior, but I'm going to show all my teammates that we can do this. I'm going to take this role as being one of the leaders and try to bring us back here, bring us further.

I think next year is going to be great. I can't wait.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies, congratulations on a great season. We'll now take questions for Coach Coale.

Q. Could you talk about the impact Kamiko Williams of Tennessee had on the game.

COACH COALE: Big, strong guard. Gives us a matchup problem. Try to keep Sharane on Simmons because she's a prolific scorer, that puts Vegas on Kamiko, which is a bad thing size wise.

Great athlete, good rebounder, really strong defender, hard to get around, plays really hard. Yeah, she impacted it in a variety of ways.

Q. Right now, is it hard to embrace don't cry now but be happy because it happened? COACH COALE: Not really. When you're proud of your kids and they did everything you asked them to do, not really. I would love to be going to New Orleans to play in the Final Four. The thing that makes me most sad is we don't have practice tomorrow. I don't get to be around them in the same environment together that we've been in up to this point.

That's sad, but at the same time, wow, what a ride they took us all on. They were unbelievable. I got to be a part of that, so... No, not that hard.

Q. Sharane's game was inspiring, how she played. I know she's given you so many tough minutes throughout the year. When you think about what she could provide for you, you have to be pretty optimistic about her coming back and leading this team next year.

COACH COALE: You know as inspiring as her play was for 40 minutes tonight, I think that little speech she just gave might have been more so. Now you see how we were able to do this. They get it. She'll be back for two more years.

Q. This game and this tournament, the emotions run so high. Close games, emotions peak at the end. This got away from you early. Can you describe how you manage your emotions during a game when it's clear early on that it's not your night.

COACH COALE: Well, that's the difference. You thought it got away from us and it was over early and I had to manage my emotions. I didn't. I didn't think it was over. With four minutes left, I thought, Stranger things have happened, let's go make some baskets. You're in the moment.

This team has done incredible things this year in the face of situations where most people would just succumb and say, All right, let's get 'em next time. Not these guys.

As their leader, I don't get to do that either. We just played a possession by possession game. You think in a minute, those shots Vegas was getting, they would go. They did go eventually, just too little too late.

Q. Could you talk about when you lost Morgan, what that did in terms of putting all the pressure on Jazz.

COACH COALE: Yeah, that was one of those where you're like, Really? Seriously? After everything, now we're going to drop another one right here in the Sweet 16?

I had a feeling when Morgan hit the floor it might be a concussion because she hit really hard. Fortunately Jazz has experience leading the basketball team, though most of the season when she has subbed in, she's not subbed in as point guard, she's played anything from 2 that 4. Morgan plays 38 to 40 minutes a game. There was a lot of pressure on Jazz. I thought she handled herself really well. What hurt us worse was Tennessee changing defense.

I was really proud of her. I thought she fought like crazy and defended and rebounded and did all the things we asked her to do.

Q. Talk about the senior class, the legacy they're going to leave here.

COACH COALE: Well, we have on our locker room door in every entrance, Leave your story better than you found it. It's what we challenge our kids to do, every single class that comes through. That's your charge.

We've had some pretty special people and some pretty special classes at the University of Oklahoma. That gets to be a rather daunting task after a while. You leave your story better than you found it. Most of them find a pretty good story these days.

These four kids did. The fiber of who we are, the character that they displayed, their belief, their trust, their faith, admiration in one another is off the charts. All things that are good they left us.

Q. It's a really young post crew for Tennessee, but they're developing quickly. How would you gauge them, specifically Burdick and Harrison?

COACH COALE: Really, really good tonight. Really good from the high post. Really athletic. Have perimeter skills as well as great length. They gave us trouble. Against the zone, they make good decisions. Against the man, they were very physical. I thought they were really good.

Q. Even though Morgan left the game, she seemed to stay in it emotionally. Can you talk about her on the bench after her injury.

COACH COALE: I'm sorry, I was into the game and I didn't really pay attention. I expect her to be in the game. She's a leader, she's a captain. It's what she does. I know she was incredibly dizzy. I know she was capable of doing what she was supposed to do.

Q. It seemed like you had a lot of momentum when you came out of the locker room. Can you talk about the adjustments you made at the half?

COACH COALE: I think we were a little bit like a boxer who got stunned in the first half, disoriented, shaky, we lost Mo. They popped us pretty good. For a little bit there they were shooting 85%. Like seriously?

But then we steadied them at halftime, talked about having been there before, having come back from behind before, made a little adjust on ball screen coverage, talked about establishing Nic in the post. I thought she came out and performed as a different kid in the second half.

You know, we had ourselves right there. Would love to know how the story might be different had we made a couple of those open shots early in the second half. We got stops. Crowd was behind us. We got exactly the looks that we wanted and they just didn't go in, two or three of them, all the way into the bottom of the basket and back out.

It takes life from you when you have those, especially when you're behind, and they don't go down. Yet we battled, continued, we just couldn't dig ourselves out of the hole we put ourselves in early.

Q. Considering the narrative of this season as a whole, it didn't end up the way you wanted it to, did this team climb every step to the ladder? COACH COALE: You know what, they did and then some. The way I feel about these kids will fill me for years. The young guys who got to see the examples set by the senior class, what a gift they've been given. Whitney and Lyndsey were absolutely unbelievable this year.

They're two guys that they don't get to play any more, they show up every day, they stay invested. That is so hard. The easiest thing to do is just seal up, maybe be there, but not really be there. Those two guys were all in every day.

I know that left a gaping, open wound inside their heart, and they did it anyway. Those kids they did it for, they know. They'll be forever indebted.

Now they'll treat their future teammates in the same manner. They know what it means to be right. Preach it all you want, but until kids feel it, it's hard to get it done. That's the gift the senior class gave these guys. Did we climb up the ladder? Yeah, I think we did.

Q. Can you talk about what it was like going against Holly, how she does or doesn't resemble Pat Summitt?

COACH COALE: I don't think they look a thing alike (laughter). Thank goodness I wasn't going one on one against Holly. I'm a little irritated I didn't get any asks on where would I be on the one on one tournament.

Here is what Holly has done. Honestly, what a tough job. Seriously, do you want to follow Pat Summitt?

Holly has put her personality on that team. She jumps around the sidelines, has a lot of energy, passion, yet she's fun, has some humor wound up in all that. I think her team is feeding off that. I told her that at halfcourt, what a difficult position, yet what a fantastic job she had done with this team.

 

 

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