March 30, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the victorious Sooners, Coach Coale, Ashley Paris, Danielle Robinson, and Whitney Hand. Coach?
COACH COALE: First of all, I think every student-athlete who competes in the NCAA tournament should have an opportunity to compete in that environment that we were in tonight, I just think it's special.
I appreciate the people of Oklahoma for their loyal support and for the support they give us, and the kids that come to Oklahoma get to experience something special like that. I think it's unique and I'm very proud of our state.
Very proud of this basketball team, I thought our guard play was great particularly early on, Shavonte Zellous is great on the perimeter, and I thought we did a tremendous job of contesting her shots and being disciplined enough not to send her to the free-throw line.
We battled, did as good of a job on the boards as we have done all season long, block- outs, they are a very disciplined team. And up to the last 10, 12 minutes we took care of the basketball. We got a little lackadaisical at the end, maybe a little antsy, but I thought we played cleanly, and I'll toss it back to you.
Q. Whitney, this is two games that you've had a brilliant night at Ford Center, are you going to have the games moved here next year?
WHITNEY HAND: I don't think that's my choice. I think it's the environment and I was lucky enough to hit a couple of shots at the beginning and the way they were guarding us, it left us wings open and I'm glad the shots went down.
Q. Whitney, in regaining your stroke, do you have a better grip or regaining confidence?
WHITNEY HAND: I try not to analyze it too much. I think it has a lot to do with mental, on how to shoot the ball. It's a matter of getting your feet set and your elbows straight, a lot of things. I think I'm looking for it a little more now, a little more confident.
Q. Whitney, there was a moment early in the second half, I think it was a nine point game, Courtney just got her third, the shot clock was winding down, you got the ball out to Nyeshia and she made a three. Talk me through that play a little bit.
WHITNEY HAND: I'm sorry, I don't remember the play. It was huge. Getting past the 10-point lead is a big step and I think Ny is always clutch like that.
I don't remember honestly, but I'm sure it was a huge shot and I think Ny -- (Chuckles.) I don't know what else to say, I don't remember, I'm really sorry.
Q. Whitney, with so many big plays, it's understandable on that. Talk a little bit about in the biggest game you come up with your biggest games.
WHITNEY HAND: Once again, it doesn't have a lot to do with the biggest games, I don't think, I think it has to do with how they guard us, when they're coming out and double-teaming Courtney.
No matter where you are on the court, if I'm on her side, it makes it easy to get a shot off. It's my job to hit shots, and I'm really glad they went in.
Q. Whitney, maybe you'll remember this play, you hit a three and you come back on the next possession and you're falling down and you threw it up in with one hand, that was a big basket, y'all took control after that. Talk about what you were thinking there.
WHITNEY HAND: Really sorry. I do actually remember that one, because I remember Ashley told me she was proud of me. I mean, I think our game plan was to attack them, especially against their pressure.
And at that time they were giving us heavy pressure, so I'm glad the shot went in because it would have been a retarded shot if it hadn't.
Q. Ashley, does your night start with rebounding like you did or scoring points like did you? Talk about your night, please.
ASHLEY PARIS: I think it started with a few offensive rebounds, and I wasn't able to score a couple times, but I got in a groove and just for a freshman to be playing like that, feeding off of Whitney's energy, she fueled me the whole game and I started when Whitney started.
Q. Ashley, in the Georgia Tech game you got off to an 0-6 start, tonight you got off to a better start. Talk about that.
ASHLEY PARIS: I know how to make layups, and I blew it in the Georgia Tech game, and I think they say the guys believed in me, and they said you can finish and it gave me confidence in this game. And I missed shots early, but worked on leaving the misses and the passes and moving on to the next possession.
Q. D, talk about your game tonight. You had a tough defensive match-up and you had a good night offensively as well.
DANIELLE ROBINSON: Zellous is a great player, six rebounds? And she is a great player, and even though we contested pretty well, she got seven, eight shots. And being a point guard, you have to bring your game.
And even though I got some fouls, I had to lead from the bench and talk to people, make sure everyone is in the right spot. Even though I didn't play so many minutes, you still have to lead as a point guard.
Q. Whitney, the way you talk about the game, is it a blur to you at this point? Are you able to take in what you did tonight?
WHITNEY HAND: I don't -- I mean, I don't think it's about what I did. I think we all had a goal coming into this game. It was a goal of making it to the Elite Eight, no one on the court had made it there yet, including myself.
It was just a matter of taking advantage of how they were guarding us. I think I had a good game tonight, but shout out to everyone else out there. Danielle had a ridiculous match-up, that girl scored on me every time I tried to guard her.
And Courtney was getting double-teamed every time she touched the ball and she was getting hacked, so it's not about how great I played, I'm just thankful we're still alive and we get to play more games with Ashley, Courtney and Carolyn, so that's great.
Q. Sherri, help us out. Could you talk about Whitney's improvement in the last couple of games, she's gone from zero for the Big 12 Tournament to finding her stroke. Can you explain that?
COACH COALE: Well --
Q. Is it mechanical?
COACH COALE: Less we forget she has a couple of screws in her finger, and that's probably the 0-12 that you refer to.
I disagree with Whitney a little bit in what she says, it doesn't matter the magnitude of the game. I think she's an extraordinary collegiate basketball player already, and you can spot the great ones because she shows up when the lights are brightest.
I thought she was fantastic, yes, she had great shots, she rebounded, played great defense, made extra passes driving into the lane, made the leaping layup that you guys were discussing. She just made plays, and guards have to do that in order to survive and advance at this stage.
So don't let her humility -- I love the kid and I love the humility and appreciate it so much, but I can tell ya, she's big time.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH COALE: Obviously at the beginning, receiving the ball cleanly was the toughest thing when she came back with that hand, had a splint on the outside of her finger, but the actual reception, the tactile reception felt different and unless she got a perfect pass, it was difficult for her.
As her fingers continued to heal and she has gotten accustomed to adjusting with that splint on, she's gotten better and better. A little bit is physical, but a little bit is mental, you miss four games and every human -- Amanda Thompson comes in tonight and you want to make up for all those games you missed and you can't do it that way. Even though you know you shouldn't try to, it's human nature.
Q. Sherri, could you talk about how it feels to be on the doorstep of the Final Four, and it seems like your team is firing on all cylinders at the right time.
COACH COALE: It feels great, the Sweet 16 had been a brick wall for us, and Randy Pausch told us in "The Last Lecture" that it's -- a brick wall is there for a reason. They're there to give us an opportunity to show us how badly we want something. It gave us an opportunity to help drive us through something.
Q. The three that Nyeshia hit with the shot clock going down, one play out of many, but how big of a deal was that considering the situation of the game at that point?
COACH COALE: Considering the situation that we were in from a personal standpoint, it was tremendous. But I think the biggest part of that play is what it does to the opponent.
You know, it's like -- we always tell our guys, offensive rebounds give life, and when you don't block it out, it takes life away. Our guys were competing, we're trying to stretch that lead, and Pitt is doing everything they can to try to chip away at it and we hit that.
And their defense -- we've been on the receiving end of that before for, the defense, it's sort of deflating. So as much as it fueled us and gave us energy and life, it probably took that much away from them and it was definitely a turning point in the game.
Q. Sherri, as soon as I asked Ashley, where did tonight's rhythm start for tonight's team, it seemed you had four people open on the defensive rebounding side and that just started things from a rookie standpoint, but where did your rhythm start tonight?
COACH COALE: I think our offensive rhythm emanates from 3-point shooters, honestly. When we make early three's, we feel good, invincible. It's like lancing a wound and releasing the pressure.
For everyone, okay, we're going to be okay. Whitney is making shots, we're going to be okay. I know it's a ridiculous amount of pressure and I don't like the word "pressure", but expectations, maybe, for a freshman, but she is extraordinary and she can handle it. I always feel like when we hit early three's we have great rhythm on offense and we feel like anything is possible.
Q. Sherri, you guys did a great job of sharing the ball, five players in double figures, talk about that.
COACH COALE: At halftime we had 11 assists and that was one of our goals because we knew if we shared the ball and moved the ball, we could have success against the defense.
We wanted to play inside/out and knew they would be focused on Courtney and be able to get cutters going to the rim. In the second half we fell off in the end, but we built on that early on.
Q. It probably doesn't surprise you by now, but you're without Amanda, your starting forward, Courtney doesn't have your typical production, but you're up by 27 in the second half, could you talk about your team at this point advancing to the Elite Eight?
COACH COALE: I'm proud of them obviously, and I think our depth and our bench is something that has been talked about intermittently but never on a consistent level.
As teams across the country have been competing in the NCAA tournament without key guys seems to be stuff talked about and written, and there hasn't been much talked about us.
Amanda Thompson is an outstanding collegiate basketball player. She is a defensive stopper, we get our toughness from her. And all of the sudden we don't have her, after not having Whitney and getting her back, all of the sudden we don't have A.T.
So I think it's been remarkable what these kids have done in terms of their mentality and their intestinal fortitude, for lack of a better term, just saying, "it doesn't matter, we're going to find a way to keep playing anyway."
And one other thing, I think Amanda deserves credit for that, too, because the way a kid responds to being injured and unable to play has a resounding affect on her teammates. And for Amanda to not whine and be in a cave and not feeling sorry for herself is remarkable, and she is a remarkable young lady.
Q. Sherri, can you preview Purdue for us?
COACH COALE: They're good. I wanted to be focused on what we wanted to do. I saw eight or 10 possessions, at the most, but I watched them earlier in the year, watched them while their point guard was out and thought they were very good in her absence.
They can all score, they have great size, Sharon Versyp has done a great job with them. I think offensively their rhythm is their key, and intangibly what makes them special. And the reason they're alive in the Elite Eight is because they're really a team, they're really together and you can feel that and we'll have our hands full.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach.