April 1, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Courtney Paris and Danielle Robinson and Coach Coale. Coach?
COACH COALE: Thank you. Proud of our kids, our second-half effort, the resiliency, their refusal to go away. I challenged them at halftime, 22 points in the first half, that means we better have 55 in the second, darned if we didn't have 52, we got close.
Defensively I thought we were really good all night long against a team that's difficult to defend, and even though we missed quite a few in the first half, we made the ones that mattered in the second, and we were terrific from the free-throw line. And somebody will ask about those turnovers, we had 11 and that's good for us.
Q. Courtney and Danielle, talk about the first half when you could have gotten frustrated because shots weren't falling for you and how you kept it together and regrouped in the second half.
COURTNEY PARIS: I think whenever shots aren't falling, that's the biggest issue in a situation, and we knew we could come back second half and finish plays and that's what we did.
DANIELLE ROBINSON: We knew we weren't shooting particularly well, but we were playing great defense and points came from the foul line, so if we stopped fouling, things would change.
Q. Courtney, you played a complete game. Was it just the kind of desperation to keep this season going?
COURTNEY PARIS: Yeah. I'm a senior, I don't get another chance. It's the Final Four. You want to make sure you give everything you can and leave everything out on the court no matter if you're struggling or not.
Q. Courtney, what's it mean to go to the Final Four?
COURTNEY PARIS: I'm happy, I finally get to go with these guys, so it will be a lot of fun. It's been a long four years, but it makes it all worth it. I'm not surprised.
I think we got here the way we've been playing and that's together. And just having fun out on the court. At no time were we up 20 points, but it felt like it, and I think that's the most important thing for us.
Q. Courtney, there was a point when you made a pass to Ashley and she got a 3-point play. They had just cut the lead down to four. How big of a play do you think that was to answer that three? They had come out of a time-out and got a good shot and scored.
COURTNEY PARIS: I thought it was a huge play. They kept trying to double with the other post player so Ashley would be wide open. And I knew they were helping with the guard, so she was able to get that shot off and draw the foul. It was great for our momentum.
Q. Danielle, Coach Coale talked about yesterday how during the off season and during practices you bring a notebook and write down what you did wrong and what you can work on to get better. Talk about that dedication and how it's led to you tonight making the points and keying your team to go to the Final Four.
DANIELLE ROBINSON: The Coach does such a great job with all of us, making sure that we're getting better every day, and that's what makes the program special, is buying into the system and that we do it together.
Q. Danielle, seemed like your motor was running a little fast at the first half, and I would assume the halftime the Coach talked to you about slowing it down.
DANIELLE ROBINSON: She talked about not being surprised that I was open. Malone was guarding, but then she would let up and I was surprised that the room was there and I was open.
So she said really just focus on the target and be a point guard. There was only 20 minutes left in the game and we had to adjust.
Q. Courtney, that's about as animated as I've seen in you a game, celebrating during the game. Is that as animated as you've been, the magnitude of the game tonight?
COURTNEY PARIS: I think we were having fun, and we weren't up by 30 or 20, didn't have the game blown away, but it felt like it. We were playing as a team and it's fun when you do that.
Q. Courtney, could you talk about that run in the second half where y'all ended up with the great defensive pressure to control the game, and it looked like Danielle and Whitney were a big part of that run.
COURTNEY PARIS: Definitely. We tried to go inside and get some shots and we got a lot of little fouls and adjusted to it.
And Whitney came out and knocked down that three off one of those magic plays that Coach Coale has, and D-Rob hit some shots and got to the rim so fast. I don't know, I'm just happy we have that one.
Q. Courtney, what was the crowd like tonight and how much of a different did it make for you guys?
COURTNEY PARIS: It's amazing and I don't think they realize that. The other team, when you were at the free-throw line and our crowd is going crazy and that energy and they're looking and saying it's not just them you're playing against, you're playing against all these people, too. So that manager was amazing.
But they're back there backing us up and keeping us going. I think we have some of the best fans in the nation and I hope they stay like that.
Q. Courtney, would you talk about your defense, you had six blocks, talk about going up against the big players and being able to go head-to-head.
COURTNEY PARIS: Lindsay is really good, I've had the opportunity to play against her in USA basketball and she moves well off the dribble and has a nice jump shot. I thought our "scout" was good and we were able to make a few plays.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, good luck at the Final Four. Thank you.
Q. Sherri, during this era of the Paris twins, there have been frustration in some ways, Courtney was just named All-American, the first time a player has done that, talk about the difference at this point, getting to the Final Four a year in the making and the dedication that has gone into it at this point, especially with the twins as seniors.
COACH COALE: Sometimes it's going through the valley that makes standing on the mountain top worth it. It hasn't been easy, hasn't been easy for any of us. You have to earn your way, though.
I think particularly at the close of last season guys had to make a commitment, you know, either we're going to commit and do this thing, or we're going to end up disappointed. And I think a lot of our commitment began with Ashley's commitment to her physical body. And Danielle's commitment to improving her perimeter shooting. And A.T. being in the gym.
And you can't discount the addition of Whitney Hand and the spirit and the life that she infuses us with, not to mention a good stroke from behind the arc. So it's a lot of things and very rewarding.
I wish I could think -- I'm still too emotional from what went on, but there is a great quote by Tony Dungy that I have on the side of my computer that talks about how being tough makes it worth it when you get there. "Quiet Strength", that's the name of his book.
Q. Sherri, when you hit the two 3-pointers, you guys were clicking, talk about that.
COACH COALE: I've said a number of times, true freshman. When she hits a three, we feel like we're invincible, and that opened the flood gates because at that point she hit the three, we ran a play for Danielle to get to the rim, and turned around, ran a play for the post and then went back to Whitney and she hit the three from the top of the key. It was huge and it opens up everything and changes the flavor and complexion of everything.
Q. Coach, Courtney said she felt like you guys were up by 20 the whole game, I didn't get that impression.
COACH COALE: I don't remember feeling that way.
Q. I didn't think so. How tough was that game in general? The expectation to win with all the fans here, was the pressure as much as maybe you've ever felt?
COACH COALE: No, didn't feel a single bit of that. Honestly, Purdue was good and I didn't say anything about that in my opening comments, and I sure should have. What a well-coached basketball team.
Every time in the second half that we had a chance to put them away, they came down and made an incredibly difficult shot. Possession after possession after possession we could not stretch seven. We got it to nine once, I think, and we could not stretch, five, seven, five, seven, and that's because they came down and made big plays.
They're confident, tough, and well coached and down the stretch they did exactly what they had to do. They were fantastic from the free-throw line, 31-of-34, goodness, we need to quit fouling people, don't we?
Q. Coach, would you talk about halftime. Were there a lot of adjustments, a little bit, could you not wait to get there to get to some things?
COACH COALE: Well, sometimes you don't like to see halftime come in because you're on a roll and you don't want to stop the rhythm, and sometimes when you don't have any, you can't wait for it to get there so you can stop and regroup. I felt like it was one of those.
I think of Barry Switzer a lot when I go into the locker room, and he is one of the most revered coaches in college coaching history, and he has a Super Bowl ring, but aside from that, if you're not careful, you can convince your team into thinking they can't win.
And I remember that we played against Cal Berkeley, and tonight when I walked into the locker room I knew there were a couple of adjustments we needed to make offensively. I thought we were guarding the heck out of 'em, they had 12 free-throws in the first half, and that's how they got to 27, so we were really guarding them.
I thought it was the most important thing I could do was to convince our kids that we could win, and that's what I spent my time talking about not much strategy, we called a couple of plays to start the second half, told 'em to continue to do what they were doing defensively, but spent most of my time trying to infuse them with confidence and get them to believe that we could win.
Q. Sherri, congratulations. Comment on Amanda Thompson's contributions tonight. She gave you guys minutes tonight.
COACH COALE: Thank you for asking about her, and I told my team in the locker room before we had our team prayer, "How about Amanda being ready when it was her turn?" She handled this injury with grace and stayed engaged.
We ran two new sets that we put in for just in the tournament in the last few days, and she hadn't had an opportunity to do them because we've been limiting all of her reps.
We put her in to make the pass and she's just been watching it, and she went in and threaded the needle and hit the exact pass. No jumper probably bigger than her contested jumper that she made on the wing when we were making our run. She plays with no fear. I said all year we get our toughness from A.T. and she gave it to us when we needed it most.
Q. Sherri, against Georgia Tech you were tied at halftime and not good on offense, and after the game you said you were more annoyed than worried, was it the same way tonight? Or were you more worried than annoyed?
COACH COALE: I don't remember ever being worried, seriously, concerned, maybe? Not worried. And I wasn't annoyed at halftime, not at all. I felt like we were playing too fast. We would foul and then come down and try to make up for fouling really fast.
Everything was too fast, D-Rob's penetration was too fast, Whitney's three's were too fast, finishes were too fast, no one caught it before they shot it, I thought that was trying too hard. You don't get annoyed with kids for trying too hard, you get annoyed when they're not playing hard. We were playing hard, we just needed to calm down a little bit.
Q. Would you talk about Courtney getting to this point? I know it's been the one thing missing for her.
COACH COALE: First of all, let me just say that it may be the one thing missing, but winning a National Championship isn't the whole deal. I just left a sea of players out there who gave us their guts for four years and didn't get to go to the Final Four and didn't get to play for a National Championship, who had wildly successful careers at the University of Oklahoma. And they had experiences that have fueled them and make them some of the best people on the planet.
I think it's awesome that Court and Ash and Carolyn Winchester get to end their careers with a trip to the Final Four, and I hope it gives us the opportunity to hoist a National Championship trophy, but it's about so much more than that in collegiate athletics.
Q. Coach, talk about your two young guards stepping up in a big way in the second half. They played like seasoned veterans.
COACH COALE: Whitney and Danielle have been fabulous and our team has taken on their personality, their demeanor. Whitney, when I took her out, started yelling immediately, "I'm going to make the next shot." It was the cutest thing I've ever seen.
She is 18 years of age and she started screaming at me, "I will make the next shot ," and I said, "I believe you, but you can rest for a bit now." She is just wide-eyed and Jasmine and her think this is what you do, you practice and go to the Final Four, this is what you do. That's neat, you have that mixed in with the older guys who know what a climb it is and how hard it is and it's been a nice combination.
Danielle Robinson is the engine. There is no doubt about it. She runs the game, manages the game, gives us our energy, gives us our confidence, give us life. I can't say enough about the way she managed the game on both ends of the floor in the second half. I thought she was fantastic, confident, tough, resilient, all of those things that you want your point guard to be.
Q. Nice hat. You came out before the game standing in front of the bench and it looked like you looked around and you had this look on your face like "I really can't believe this crowd." Do you remember that moment?
COACH COALE: Yeah, I wanted to make sure that I took it all in. These things are special and you can get so zeroed in that you can miss some of the neatest stuff.
I probably knew a lot of those people way up high that I couldn't quite see, and I wanted to take it in because I knew as soon as they began to announce starters, I wouldn't think about a single soul, it would be about what happened between the lines. So I wanted to take a moment and make sure I never forgot.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Coach, best of luck at the Final Four.