March 24, 2009

Recap |  Box Score |  Notes

Oklahoma Head Coach Sherri Coale
Opening Statement
“Obviously I’m very proud of our kids. Very very proud of the way we fought. Proud of the way we handled the pressure that Georgia Tech applies. I thought they did a terrific job of scrapping and fighting and being without their leading scorer. It’s a tough situation to be in for a young team. They will be back and they will be one to be reckoned with over the next few years. I just thought Coach Joseph has done a great job with them and they gave us all we wanted tonight. But I was proud of our kids, our resiliency. We missed some shots early, and then missed some shots late, but in the middle we made enough and handled the basketball well enough to give ourselves a bit of distance from them. I thought we defended extremely well in the second half, and rebounds win championships. That was the difference I thought.”

On offense with Courtney Paris in foul trouble
“I think particularly, when she got in foul trouble, we did extend our lead, and I think it was everybody taking responsibility. But we have been in that situation before, and I do think that’s what gives us an edge, a leg up on people. We have so many different weapons and ways that we can score, that we don’t have to depend on that and rely on that solely.”

On traveling back to Oklahoma City
“I will first say that we feel very blessed to have the opportunity to go back there and play. I am very proud of our kids for earning the right to go back there. We have an unbelievable fan base in Oklahoma, a group of fans that we feel like we let down in the Big 12 tournament. We wanted another opportunity to perform for them, and we feel very very blessed about that opportunity.”

On feelings at halftime
“Irritation. No trepidation. It felt like we were getting great shots, we were breaking the press. We lost our defensive focus about the final third of the first half. We had gotten away from the game plan and that sometimes happens. You begin to unravel a little and lose your focus, lose your concentration in phases when you’re missing open shots. I felt like that affected us on the defensive end. What we discussed at halftime was sticking with the game plan, and following the strategy in defending Georgia Tech and finishing easy shots. But if you happen to miss a shot, you can’t let it effect the next play in the game. No matter what we had to rebound better and we had to limit their attempts in the paint. Our focus was that in the second half and I really think the ability to knock down a few shots gave us the juice. It’s hard to tell which game first, the chicken or the egg, but the shots came and the defensive stops came and we were able to distance ourselves.”

On second half defense
“Well we’ve had spans of defending very well this year and adherence to the game plan is the thing. It’s five guys being on the same page and doing what we discussed and employing that strategy. Again, I think when we made shots it gave us life and when we were two inches shorter in our stands and a little bit more active. Danielle (Robinson) jump started us, there’s no doubt about that, you can’t over look that. When she runs through a passing lane and gets a wide-open lay-up then everybody goes a little bit harder the next time.”

On limiting Georgia Tech in the paint
“Well, that was the idea. They had 46 points in the paint against Iowa and several from the free throw line, and very few from beyond the arch, and we knew that their best offensive threat from the perimeter, obviously, wasn’t playing, she was injured. So we tried to take advantage of that as best we could. They are very good inside, they are very physical, and they are maniacal rebounders. So, it’s not quite as simple as ‘hey, let’s not let them shoot in the paint’ it’s a little tougher to do than it actually sounds like it might be. I thought our kids were relentless with that in the second half.”

On Carlee Roethlisberger and Abi Olajuwon
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about them and especially Carlee. I just think in both of these games she was that X factor. The kid that comes in the game and plays virtually mistake free, makes things happen, adheres to the game plan, makes big shots, just did a lot of really good stuff. You know, my favorite play of the game was when they set two back screens that they burned us on, I don’t know five or six times, Nyeshia (Stevenson) defended it appropriately, Carlee covered. Then it happened to Carlee, she defended it appropriately and Nyeshia covered. That was my favorite possession of the game. That’s just guys paying attention, being aware and doing it together, defending together. I thought Carlee was just fantastic and continues to be in Amanda’s absence. You know we do need to talk about her too. She is a pretty darn good player and we didn’t have her really. She played a little bit in the first half, but we really didn’t have her services either game. And Abi (Olajuwon) again, great minutes. I know I can count on her when I tell her to go in and get this rebound, she will go in and get the rebound, I know that about her.”

On Oklahoma Campus this week
“I hope it’s absolutely crazy. Maybe the President will all let us out of school or something. You don’t know him like I do. It will be, fortunately in 2002 when we did this, we made a run to the Final Four, and our men made a run to the Final Four, and it was absolutely crazy at the campus of the University of Oklahoma. There were basketballs in the seed-sowers basket and decorations all over the place. It will be nice to share this with our men and with Coach Capel and the job he has done. That makes it really special, and it’s really sweet to be able to share that with your brother.”

On Whitney Hand and Danielle Robinson under pressure
“Danielle’s change of speed was the answer to the press. That’s where she is just a sophomore and she has faced Texas A&M six or seven times in her young career and she has gotten speed up, and has figured out how to avert that now. There were two or three times she turned it over tonight because she went a thousand miles an hour and then she immediately corrected it and handled it single-handedly. She just ripped it apart. I thought she was fantastic and unflappable, even when she got the unfortunate technical, and she is the nicest kid you would ever meet. She had no intention there obviously; she was just showing emotion there with her team. I thought even then, she didn’t let that take her focus from what comes next and I can’t even put into words Whitney Hand’s composure for a true freshman. In her first ever NCAA Tournament, she started the game making baskets. That gave us life, gave us confidence and then just her presence, even when she is not making baskets, when she wasn’t late in the game, she just wants the ball. She wants the ball and she will go get the ball, and that changes everything.”

On motivating team away from home
“Well, it’s not really a motivational difficulty because of what’s at stake. Our guys would be motivated if they locked the doors and kept everybody out and we were just playing Georgia Tech with a couple of officials there. I do think it’s unfortunate for student-athletes at this level to play in a game of such magnitude, with so much on the line, in front of so few spectators. I know that’s one of the challenges of the tournament and we continue as a body of professionals to try to find answers for that, ways in which we can grow the game. But for our kids, sometimes, it’s very difficult, because we play in front of 10,000 plus at the Lloyd Noble Center. When you compete in the Big 12 Conference, almost everywhere you go five or six thousand people. So rarely do we ever see an environment like we saw tonight. So sometimes that can be difficult. Fortunate we had enough maturity and our 100 or 200 people, however many were out there, fought like crazy for us and we were able to do the job anyway.”

Oklahoma Sophomore Danielle Robinson
Courtney Paris’ foul trouble
“Oh yeah, well I think we had great play from Abi Olajuwon coming in. Even though Ashley missed some shots in the first half, I think she definitely came out with a different type of swagger in the second half and really played with her heart. I definitely think that stuff that makes our team so special in that we can come in, we have depth and people just play hard and compete for each other.”

Technical foul and the impact on the team
“I wasn’t trying to get a technical, but I kind of just said ‘Let’s go’ and I kind of looked at her and I guess they took it as I was taunting her. I wasn’t trying to, but I mean you just have to make light of the situation and we all just kind of laughed it off and continued about the game. It kind of did give us some momentum though.”

Meaning of going to Oklahoma City
“We’re definitely excited about it. I mean, it’s always great to have sort of like a home court advantage with our fans, and last year we were in the same position and we fell short. That was also another motivational factor.”

Her shooting stats
“It was all about just being aggressive. There were kick outs; one time Whitney kicked it out to me and we were shooting jump shots. Pretty much just being confident and like I talked about. We all had that offensive swagger and I think it’s just a matter of knocking down shots.”

 
Oklahoma Freshman Whitney Hand
Team’s urgency in the second half
“Yeah, we went in tied 29-29. We all knew that if we make shots we’re up 20. So I think we just came out with the mindset of ‘We’ve got to get back home and we’ve got to win this game as handily as we can win it.’ I think we did a great job fighting. Our defense stepped up and our defense created our offense in the second half. That’s why we went on kind of a run.”

Second half as good as the first
“I think so, and I also think that making shots gave us even more momentum than it did in the first half. I think missing shots was kind of just like ‘Ugh.’ Every time we missed, it was just kind of like a breath out of our bodies, but I think in the second half we kept making them. We got those offensive boards. We only had three going into the half and we knew that wasn’t okay. Ashley stepped up big in the second half and I thought that gave us a big spark.”

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Georgia Tech Head Coach MaChelle Joseph
Opening Statement
“Well obviously, I’m very proud of the way my team competed, especially in the first half.  I really thought that we got down, battled back and we showed a lot of character in that first half.  I was really pleased with our interior defense; I really thought that we did a great job on the inside against the best post player in the country, in Courtney Paris.  I also thought that, with Ashley (Paris), we did a good job of guarding her primarily with the two freshmen and a junior.  I thought that they played extremely well.  It’s one of the things we’ve talked about all year, against the number ones, number twos, numbers threes, top five teams in the country; we’ve been able to compete for a half.  It seems like we get in foul trouble when we win the first half or the second half.  We have to be able to put two halves together, like we did in the first half, to go to that next level; to go from being a good team to a very, very good team.  The fact that we’re losing one senior that played a lot of minutes in Jacqua Williams, that makes us excited about the future of this program and where we’re headed; to be able to compete with a team like Oklahoma for 20-25 minutes.  We know the work we have to do to get ourselves in position to get to the sweet sixteen and beyond, and that’s one of the things that we’re going to focus on over the course of the next six months.  You have to give Oklahoma a lot of credit, their guards really stepped up huge tonight and made a lot of shots from the perimeter, we just weren’t able to match those three’s.  When Jacqua got in foul trouble, it was obvious that our youth and our inexperience really showed up.  But again, I’m very proud of this young team and what we’ve been able to accomplish this year.  I told them in the locker room that they showed a lot of character and perseverance because a lot of people wouldn’t have even had us here in this game tonight, so I’m really proud of the year we’ve had.  Again, matching our most ever wins in the history of our program in back-to-back years and winning only our second game of our history in the NCAA tournament, we have a lot to be proud of.
 
On defending Courtney Paris
“I thought Sasha Goodlett, in particular, did a very good job.  For a freshman going against the best post player in the country, I think this is only the second game that she hasn’t had a double-double, and that’s just a tremendous compliment to Sasha, and that’s something that we can really grow off of in the off season.  I also thought that Brigitte Ardossi, Iasia Hemingway and Chelsea Regins, those freshmen and sophomores really did a great job in there, and like you mentioned, their perimeter shooting was just phenomenal.  I thought Whitney Hand was huge for them, especially the first five minutes of the game, I think she scored the first eight points and really got them going offensively.  Ironically enough, that was one of our focuses; trying not to let her hit a three.  The first five minutes of the game she scored the first eight points, but on the interior I was really pleased with the way we defended, the way we rebounded.  I really thought that if we could rebound with them, we would have an opportunity to be in the game and to have a chance to win.  We ended up getting 18 offensive rebounds to their nine, so, you know, that’s one of the best rebounding teams in the country.  I was just really pleased with our effort on the boards and our effort on the interior defense.”

On confidence of the programs future
“Yeah, we’re very excited about the future of our program.  I mean, why wouldn’t you be.  We lose two seniors, one senior that plays significant minutes, and we have one junior that will be a senior next year that plays significant minutes.  Everyone else are freshmen and sophomores, so we obviously like the future and what they’re bringing.  We also have a top-20 recruiting class coming in as freshmen, so we have a lot to look forward to and we’re very excited about this off-season.  We’re excited that we’ll have Alex (Montgomery) back, she’ll be 100% by next season, and we’re going on a foreign tour in May with this team.  It’s going to be an exciting time for us to grow this program and grow this team.”

On the value of the NCAA tournament experience for this young team
“Well I was looking out on the floor one time tonight and we had four freshmen out there and a sophomore and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re playing the number one seed and one of the top teams in the country with freshmen and sophomores.’  You know, that gets me excited, I had to smile right then, I mean, we’re down 15 but I’m smiling.  Throughout the course of the game that’s what I was thinking, ‘I couldn’t be more proud of these kids’.  We’re out there competing against some of the best players in the country, and they’re freshman.  They probably don’t even know what they’re doing half the time.  They just know that coach said to do this, so we’re going to go do it.  You know, Sasha Goodlett is guarding the best post player in the country and she’s getting defensive stops and getting rebounds and I was just really excited to see that.  Metra Walthour, who only played one minute against Iowa, came into the game and played 24 minutes with no turnovers against a very good defensive player in Robinson from Oklahoma.  I mean, that’s a credit to her.  Her ability to hold the ball for 24 minutes against such a tremendous competitor, you know, that gets me excited to have a point guard come back that is just a freshman that was able to go out there today and get us in our offensive sets and just really be able to run the offense without turning the ball over.

On Oklahoma’s defense in the second half
“Yeah, we shot 17% in the second half and obviously that was the difference in the game.   When they made that run, we couldn’t score.  I think a lot of it was that they were sagging in the paint.  They played a saggy man-to-man, they guarded the ball, but everyone else was in the paint.  One of the things we rely on is our dribble penetration and we were going to have to pull up and take jump shots, you know 15 feet, and that’s not really our strength.  Tonight you saw where we missed Alex; she’s able to stretch the defense with her three-point shooting.  That’s one of the things with Oklahoma, I have to give them credit, their defensive game plan was exactly what they needed to do, to stay in paint and make us shoot jump shots.  We weren’t able to get to the basket and one of the things we’re really good at is getting to the rim.

Georgia Tech Sophomore Deja Foster
On Oklahoma’s 15-4 run at the beginning of the second half
“I feel like we got back on our heels.  They delivered a punch and we didn’t deliver one back.  We didn’t battle back like we should have.  That’s it.”

Georgia Tech Senior Jacqua Williams
On being forced to shoot more three-point shots
“Their post was having their way inside.  We took a lot of shots outside rushing. I think we should have gotten the ball inside a little bit more.  Sometimes they fall, and tonight they just weren’t falling.”