March 28, 2014
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Prior to making their way to Louisville, Ky., for the NCAA Sweet 16, the #1 seed Lady Vols met with media on Friday afternoon.
Head Coach Holly Warlick, senior Meighan Simmons, junior Isabelle Harrison and freshman Jordan Reynolds spoke with members of the media before UT's 1 p.m. ET departure. The team and staff took buses to Louisville.
Tennessee (29-5) will face #4 Maryland (26-6) on Sunday for a 12 p.m. ET contest in the KFC Yum! Center. The game will be televised on ESPN, live streamed online via ESPN3 and can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.
Head Coach Holly Warlick
(On UT's tough road experiences this season)
"I think you said it. We've played some really tough games on the road, and we've played well. We tend to be a little bit more focused, so I think we're battle tested. We've had tough games at home, away from home, and in a tournament setting so I think we've put them through every scenario and situation that they've needed to be in."
(On keeping players focused)
"I think we've done a great job all year. We talk about having a goal and we see the big picture. I think we understand how we need to get there and that's one game at a time. They've done that, so I don't think they're looking ahead to anybody else except Maryland. That's actually how we've prepped for it."
(On learning from the NCAA First and Second Rounds at home)
"I think you've got to come with your "A" game all the time. You take no team lightly, limit your turnovers, and have to get second chance points. I think when you're in the tournament, your shooting percentages tend to go down and you rely on second chance points. I think defense is going to be a major key for us. The games we had that were close and we pulled away, we played great defense. I think that's what we have to do on the road."
(On Meighan Simmons)
"I think Meighan has just been so loyal to this program. She is going to go down as one of the best shooters in Tennessee history. I think she's brought her offensive game when our backs were against the wall. She started out her career in Louisville as a freshman and was the team's leading scorer. I think she has been very valuable for us in terms of leadership, competitiveness, and obviously what she brings to the table offensively."
(On difference in Simmons compared to last year)
"Each year I think she understands the game a little bit more. She trusts her teammates and doesn't feel like she has to do it all. She's embraced the defensive end and what type of defense is being played against her. She doesn't get rattled now, I think she use to get rattled when somebody was face-guarding her. She's now used to that and doesn't seem to get rattled, and she is playing a lot more now within the team concept."
(On confidence in freshmen point guards)
"Experience, they've got game experience. They were thrown in really quick when (Ariel) Massengale got hurt, and they had to produce. We went down to play Texas A&M, who was at the time ranked No. 1 in the SEC, so I think they are very resilient and figure out how to get the job done. I think for them, it's not going to be their first start. Both of them have a lot of confidence in each other and this team has a lot of confidence in both of them."
Senior Guard Meighan Simmons
(On Sweet 16 emotions)
"It's kind of nerve-wracking a little bit because you want to get out there and you want to win. I try not to think too far ahead, but I'm excited to play. We've waited too long to get out there on the floor and play. We're really excited. We just have to take one game at a time."
(On road games)
"It's prepared us for adversity. A lot of the games that we've played away from Thompson- Boling have been very intense, have been very close games, but we always seem to pull out and I think we just keep that momentum going and keep that same attitude and just go out there and play hard and everything else will fall into place."
(On getting to Final Four)
"It would definitely mean a lot. It's something that I've had to face all three years. Being it my senior year, I would love getting over that hump and just to get out there and play and know what it feels like to get out there and play for a Final Four, so just take it one game at a time. Do the little things, making sure everyone is sticking together and fighting through adversity."
"It brings a little bit of confidence, but I feel like a lot lately, I've been overthinking and psychologically that can mess you up when you're trying to play to your fullest potential. I just need to be mentally prepared, be more excited more than being serious and just take one game at a time, not overthinking anything, not overthinking my shot. Just get out there and play, because when I don't think and I'm just playing, everything is good."
(On personal growth)
"I think I have and I think knowing that my teammates have my back and are willing to be there for me for everything and give it their all to help me get to a Final Four and to help the team get to a Final Four allows me to get rid of my butterflies and stay focused and just get prepared to play."
(On freshmen playing in the Sweet 16)
"I think they are. It's just a matter of coming out and playing hard and not getting too nervous. When you get out there and play and give it your all like they have been the last couple of games, it's not going to be easy, it's not going to be the games that they're going to think they're going to be able to play early on in the season. They're going to be playing against some bigger girls. They're going to be playing against bigger guards and they just have to come out and be confident and play hard.
"Really just to stay focused. It's going to be a little nerve-wracking at first because you want to get out there and want to play so bad. It's hard to get in position and you know you're only two games away from getting to a Final Four, so it can be very hard to not think to far ahead, but just letting them know to not think to far ahead. Think one game at a time. When they do get a chance to come out there and play to just play."
(On Tennessee men's basketball)
"Yes. It really is. I think we have great coaches and great coaching staffs. This program is depending on us to come out and play really hard. I'm excited for the guys. They haven't been in this position for a while. Coach Cuonzo [Martin] has done an amazing job with these guys and making them become better men on and off the floor. I think it's just a really unique situation. I think we both get Ws and continue on this journey, everything will fall into place."
(On starting career playing in Louisville)
"Yes, it's perfect timing- very perfect timing. I told Maria in another interview that I'm a very special person and I think being my freshman year, we had the No. 1 seed and we played in Knoxville for the first two rounds and we got to the Elite Eight. This year, we played the first two rounds here, going back to where my career started and back to Tennessee where I need to finish out my career. Everything is just falling into place and it's God's sign."
(On first career start at Tennessee)
"I just remember Pat [Summitt] just encouraging me to come out and play hard, telling me not to be nervous, not to be worried, that she was going to play me. I told her, `Coach I'm a little worried,' but I knew I had the ability to get out there and play. I just needed to hear that from her to get that extra oomph so that when I get out there on the floor I gave my 110 percent."
Junior Center Isabelle Harrison
"They're definitely a great team. They have good size and they have great physicality to them. I think our post presence is really good against them."
(On UT's road games this season)
"Going to the SEC tournament, it was rough and tough. I think it made all of us, especially as players, grow and expect what we are going to face going on to our other games. I'm glad we're able to take that and apply it to our games we have coming forth."
(On what was learned in NCAA First and Second Rounds)
"It's March Madness and anything can happen. There are a lot of upsets that have been going on and everybody is going to give you their best, so we have to understand that and make it a priority for us to come out strong and play a full 40 minutes."
(On staying focused on current opponent)
"I think we just have to take it game-by-game and respect every opponent that we have and realize that they are trying to get to Nashville too. We have somebody that's in our way and we've done a good job scouting them and we have to take what the coaches give us and apply it."
(On watching film on Maryland)
"We've been watching them play, honestly and other than that, Dean [Lockwood] has walked us through them and given us personnel on each of the players. We haven't necessarily watched film yet."
(On Maryland's players)
"Their post [Brionna] Jones and [Alyssa] Thomas - Thomas can even be a post, so we're going to have some crazy match-ups on defense, but I think what Dean [Lockwood] gave us today, we should be able to guard it."
(On Alyssa Thomas)
"Not reminding me of anybody, but as far as a mixture of a guard and a post, and for her to be that big and be able to move and be mobile like that in a guard position, you don't see a lot of players like that. She's definitely a different kind of player, so we just have to match our intensity to limit her."
(On UT's fan base)
"I just want whoever to come out and support us. Whenever we're in Thompson-Boling Arena, it's a great feeling and when you have the fans behind you, you feel like you can do anything. I just want them to come out and support us."
(On Meighan Simmons)
"She's not playing as tense as she was and I think she used to have that mentality that she had to do everything and it just makes you think too much when you think you have everything on your shoulders. We have divided everything that we need to take care of and not put it all on Meighan [Simmons]. We don't want to put it all on Meighan. We all want to help and be able to play with no worries either, so I think we're able to help her with that."
(On Tennessee's men's basketball team making it to the Sweet 16)
"I think both the boys and our team, we just want to go as far as we can and put Tennessee to a place where we haven't been to in a while. I've talked to Jarnell [Stokes] a lot about it and he just wants to do his best for his team and his coaches and I'm definitely in the same position for our team."
Freshman Guard Jordan Reynolds
(On this being your first NCAA Tournament on the road)
"I'm very excited; you know just to get on the road and just finally playing this Sweet 16. I mean I've been watching this my whole life and just to be finally playing in it, it's just awesome experience I think."
(On the biggest difference she's experienced between the postseason and SEC play)
"I would say no one has given up because no one wants to go home. It's the end of the season, you either win or you go home so I think that the fight in all of these teams has been greater because it is more at stake now."
(On what her teammates with NCAA Tournament road experience told her to expect this weekend)
"They told us to expect, like I said, for no one to give up. Even though, teams get up by 20 or 30, teams will always fight back and no one is going to give up and roll over just for anybody."
(On any nerves since she will be away from Thompson-Boling Arena)
"I think my excitement will take over just because I'm just so glad to be here. The nerves will come obviously because I'm a freshman and never been here before, but I think the assignment will take over."