Connecticut Postgame Quotes

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
APRIL 01, 2002

Coach Geno Auriemma: I really think that there's really not a lot that I could add to this game. I think the game speaks for itself tonight. The way that it was played and the way that the two teams competed, the emotions that were involved on both ends, I'm not sure that I'm eloquent enough to put words to that.

Q. Sue, how beaten up are you? You looked like you took several knocks to the face, slammed to the floor. How tough was it out there? Was it unusually rough and how do you feel?

Sue Bird: I don't think it was necessarily rough, I just happened to get hit in the face a few times. It was flailing arms, it wasn't anything I don't think intentional. But it was a rough game, you know. I don't know how else to describe it. I'm just really happy that we won, that's all I'm thinking about right now.

Q. Sue, obviously team effort, but the shot that Diana hit, you guys were only up 6, talk about that sequence.

Sue Bird: That was huge. We actually ran a play from, I think we stole it from another team -- yeah we did (laughter) -- Di was backing in, backing in, she's got such great ability, embody control that she was able to take hits, foul Dales out, which is huge, and make the bucket at the same time. I think that play as well as Asjha's, like -- she was like on the block or something like that, that jump shot Asjha hit was huge, also. Those are probably the two biggest plays of the game.

Q. Swin, you and Tamika were incredible on offensive rebounds. What was the secret? You guys -- much bigger, that much quicker, more athletic, in positioning, what was it?

Swin Cash: We were going after the ball. I don't think we really emphasized trying to block out. They were doing a good job trying to block us out, but we were spinning out. Sometimes you can get those easy rebounds sometimes, but we were working hard on the offensive end and focused on that.

Q. Do each of you players talk about the emotions of a perfect season, pressure, relief or whatever you're feeling right now and being seniors?

Sue Bird: It's difficult to put in -- you know, it hits me like in phases, in waves. Like sometimes I have practice tomorrow, and then we just went undefeated and won a national championship. I don't think it's hit us yet. I'm definitely excited. All this hard work the last four years, to see it all payoff and to do what we did in this game and win, I think is incredible. And it's just a very fulfilling feeling.

Swin Cash: Basically what Sue said. I can't put it into words. When the buzzer went off, you can't describe -- I think all the emotions and different things that run through your head. It was very emotional, but I was very joyful about it. And I don't know, I don't think it totally has hit us yet. It hasn't totally hit me yet. Give it a week or two, and I'm wondering what time are the workouts and we don't have any anymore, and that's when it will hit you.

Asjha Jones: What else is there to say?

Sue Bird: Asjha is happy.

Q. Sue, can you talk a little bit about what is going through your mind on each of those trips to the foul line in the last minute, did you have a sense that you were winning it right there?

Sue Bird: Yeah, obviously when a team is in desperation or whatnot they have to foul. And I'm really confident on the foul line. It's hard to explain, you just step up and knock them in. There was nothing else I was thinking about, make this foul shot, no big deal, I've made it every day in practice, why not do it in this game.

Q. You kept Oklahoma at arm's length pretty much the whole game. But talk about the battle that they put up against you guys today?

Asjha Jones: I think they came out very aggressive. They're a very determined team and they have great guards, and I think for myself I got caught too much in the lane, and so I think they came out determined to win the game, but we were too much for them today.

Q. Can you talk about Swin's performance tonight and how she might have helped you guys in the back court?

Sue Bird: Swin was incredible tonight, from the get-go. She kind of set the tone for the game, I think. Right away she took it down low and she was really just pounding all day. She showed you tonight why she's the one of the best rebounders in the country. When she's aggressive there's no stopping her, and the fact that she was hitting her free throws, I'm very proud of her on that, also. She definitely is deserving of the MVP because she played like that tonight in the biggest game.

Q. Geno, could you just talk about what you feel for these seniors, and what pressures they've been under this year, and what they've gone through to complete this season?

Coach Geno Auriemma: I don't think they've been under any pressure. We talk about that every day. We talk about pressure. And pressure is something that I guess the media or it's been associated with sports. I've never associated pressure with sports. I've associated my nervous energy, anticipation, anxiety, lots of emotions, but the pressure to have to win, that's never been there, ever. What has been there is a tremendous belief in themselves that if we did it right we're going to win the National Championship. And that's been there every single day since we lost to Notre Dame last year.

Q. Geno, more about your guys offensive rebounding. That's something that obviously was going to be Connecticut's strength. But the way you guys were able to exploit it tonight, in different ways, athleticism, quickness, luck, bounces, height?

Coach Geno Auriemma: Yeah, all those things, probably. You know, what Oklahoma was trying to do was play a lot of the time with four guards and try to counter with bad matchups down at the other end. And I understand that. And what you give up on this end is you lose a little bit of the ability to block out. They're a very good rebounding team. Oklahoma is a very, very good rebounding team. Against another team we might have had 30 offensive rebounds tonight. But I think the challenge going into the game was for Swin, Tamika and Asjha to dominate the game. We knew they were going to take Sue and Di out and not allow them to get as many looks as possible. They've got good guards, they can do that. But we felt our three guys up front had a huge advantage, and it turned out that way.

Q. Talk about their defensive schemes. It looked like you guys had trouble getting into any kind of an offensive flow, talk about what they did, defensively.

Coach Geno Auriemma: Well, they played man-to-man the whole game. And we did what we have been known to do sometimes this year, we tried to play too fast. Oklahoma likes it when it's frenetic. They just run up and down, shoot the three, get you to help. And we went into the game and it's almost like they baited us, you know, and we fell for it. And we started playing quickly. And then when we settled down in the second half, we started getting any shot we wanted and got up 15, and we were on the verge, you know, and then they made a pretty good adjustment. I think Sherri did a great job changing up. She made one change, they went to a zone and they did it in the first half and we got a lap, and the second half Di and Asjha got impatient.

And all of a sudden it's nine, seven, and we let them back in the game. That's when we get in trouble. People asked me during the season, what are your weaknesses, we get impatient. We want to hurry up, take quick shots, make quick decisions that are impulsive decisions, don't communicate real well all the time defensively, and give up eight 3's against a team we said we don't want to give up any 3's. And in a game like this, every little mistake seems to be magnified. The game was going to be over, and then Ros hits a 3. I don't know if it hit the rim, the back court, the shot clock. I don't know what it hit, it just went in. That's what happens in these kind of games.

Q. Now that it's over, are you now, do you think the best winningest basketball team ever, and where does this go?

Coach Geno Auriemma: It can go wherever it wants to go. They can debate it as long as they like or as little as they like. I've always said that -- We were the best team this year. You can't say best ever, because it's a different era, a different time, different circumstances. We were the best team this year, by a little bit, over a really, really good team.

Q. Could you take us into the huddle at 73-67 when Diana hits that shot? And do you see the irony that a sophomore ends up taking the biggest shot of the season for this senior class?

Coach Geno Auriemma: Well, what was happening was I thought -- it was getting very physical in there, and it was getting very, very tough to cut and move. And it was just getting really congested, also. And I don't want to just leave it up to let's shoot a 3. We would have if we had to. So my feeling was let's put the ball in Di's hands, she's got a little bit of a mismatch, we're going to kill some clock, and she's going to get in the lane. And when Di gets in the lane, you're either going to have to foul her or she's going to put the ball up on the rim. And nobody came to help, so that's what she did. Stole that play from Harry Peretta, Coach of Villanova.

Q. Along the same lines when Sue Bird was a sophomore she had a breakthrough presentation in the semifinal match, really dominated. You've got Diana obviously for two more years. What's your outlook for your team over the course of the next two years with her at the helm?

Coach Geno Auriemma: I don't think this was one of Diana's better games. I thought -- the one thing about Di is she gets all jacked up for big, big games, and she gets crazy sometimes. And I thought she was a little bit ahead of herself today, because she wants to win so bad. Next year, you know, can't possibly be like it was this year. You know, we won't have any seniors on the team, number one. About four new pressure men coming in. So it will be challenging, it will be fresh, a lot of responsibility on Di's shoulders. I think she can handle it. And we'll see what happens.

Q. Can you elaborate on that leadership potential, relative to how Sue was able to step it up?

Coach Geno Auriemma: It's different. Sue had three High School All-Americans as her running mates. Di doesn't. So it's going to be harder on Di, but Di's going to handle it. I mean, can she get us back here? I don't know. I don't know. I guess that's what will be fun next year about playing.

Q. Geno, can you just talk about the poise of the team? Asjha Jones hit the jumper there when things seemed to really be coming apart a little bit for you, and Diana making the big shot and Sue really calmly stepping to the foul line at the end.

Coach Geno Auriemma: I think one of the things that -- I know, and I know why, I'm not criticizing anybody, but one of the things that's obvious is how are you going to react in a close game when you've never been in one? And I try to react to those situations, I try to relate to my players like real life stuff. Those people that we send overseas, how do we know how they're going to react when they get shot at the first time by somebody trying to kill them. You don't know, really. And on a way smaller scale, how are you going to react on the foul line when you have to make free throws. If you're a kid that practices every day making free throws and you make them and you believe in yourself, then you're going to make them. I never had any doubt that we'd be able to play great in the close game. We've got kids that pride themselves on doing that every day in practice. Because we haven't had a chance to show it during season, we might have given the impression, what are you going to do in a close game. There's no doubt in my mind that Sue was going to make those. Now, if you'd have told me that Swin was going to go 10 for 12, I'd say -- mm, you know -- Swin has worked hard on her free throws. And that's how you can tell she's locked into the game is when she's making free throws. In the biggest game of the year, the kids did what we've been doing every day in practice and that's what you have to do at this point in the season, obviously.



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