On this being a size versus speed matchup with Stanford:
|| Head Coach Sherri Coale
"That's a simple way to look at it. And I think most games ultimately do boil down to that. For us, we've had an ability all year, it seems, to play the way we need to play in order to win, whether it's half court or full court, or patient on offense or scoring quickly. We can do it a lot of different ways. Not necessarily real pretty whatever way we do it, but we found a way to be effective. So hopefully we'll be able to use our speed to our advantage."
Does playing in close games give OU an edge?
"Oh, I think it does, just because our kids believe we're going to win. Does that mean I necessarily want it close at the end? I'll take 12 or 15 points if we can get them. Our guys, when we went to overtime with Notre Dame, when I went to the huddle before the overtime, I knew we were fine. Our guys just believed they're going to win. And, again, that's a reflection of that schedule we played all year."
On how this team ranks with her other teams:
"I don't ever rank teams. I love them all. It's like asking me which one of my kids are my favorite. I love them all for different reasons, and this team definitely has a special fiber. And because of the way they're wound up with each other, they're going to have similar relationships throughout their lives like the 2002 group. That group, they get together every year whether they go on a trip or meet up somewhere, they just they talk all the time. This group will be like that. And some are a little bit more so than others. This one just happens to be maybe part of it is because of the small number. We don't have a lot of folks on our roster. Two, when you do things together, you have a tendency to become pretty wound up."
On playing a difficult schedule:
"You know, I think that's maybe one of the blessings of once being a high school coach and just jumping up to this. I didn't know you were supposed to worry about stuff like that. I just wanted to play the really good guys so I could figure out how far we had to go to become one of them.
And it seemed to work for a while. It got us into the NCAA tournament. Got us to the Sweet 16, and I thought this seems like a pretty good way to do it. Get me every tough team you can. Find me the best in America. I want to play home and home with them.
I just always had enough confidence in our kids that regardless of the tenacity involved in the Big 12, we were going to win enough games to get in the tournament.
And when we got in the tournament, we were going to be very well prepared to succeed there. Our goal was never just to get there; it was to get to the tournament and win. Even back when Phylesha Whaley and I were just dreaming about it, it was get to the tournament and win.
And I think that schedule has played a huge role in it. I know it's built this team's confidence. Not a doubt in my mind."
On recruiting California:
"I don't know that there's really any magic to it. Obviously when you get kids like Courtney and Ashley, who are so renowned, not only within the state of California but across the country, but when you get Cali kids I know when Geno got Diana, then that opened the door.
More people are looking at your school because there's that connection there. And I think that probably put us on the short list. I don't know that beyond that there's any real magic, except that there are a lot of Cali kids who love the way people support basketball at the University of Oklahoma.
And I know for Danielle, when she got there and saw how big of a deal it is. It's a really big deal in Norman, Oklahoma, to be on the women's basketball team. It's a really big deal in Norman, Oklahoma, to go watch the women's basketball team. I think for a lot of California kids that's very attractive."
On what has made this a fun year:
"It really has been a fun year, but really made it fun has been the willingness of these kids to learn and adapt and transform themselves. You know, coming into the year, we thought we would play in a certain way. And we were moving toward that when Whitney got hurt. And it had to be adjusted a little bit at that time. And from that point forward, everything from everybody's role changing a little bit when Whitney went down to making changes in the lineup. Jasmine moving into the starting lineup after Carlee had been starting. Playing different guys, guarding post guys, moving guys around on the floor, changing defenses, whatever kind of manipulation we needed to have in order to be successful, these guys are all about it. And I think you can ask any coach anywhere.
"One of the best things in the world is to be able to call a timeout and say, okay, we're going to do this. And it's something they've never done before and you draw it up and tell them to do it and they go out and do it exactly like that, it doesn't matter if you're coaching junior high or in the NBA, that's a pretty cool thing. d these guys are receptive in that way. So it's been really, really fun. We get to tinker and try things out and they don't always work. The things we draw up or the ideas we have don't always work, but our kids always dive in head first to try, and that's what makes it fun."
On the development of Abi Olajuwon:
"I'm glad you asked about Abi, because I think she's a fantastic story, because her story is refreshing. You know, kids these days play high school ball and they're All World on their high school team and they play every minute and they think they're the end all to the game of basketball.
Then they go to college, and if you get five of them and you've got some players left at all from the previous season, they're not all five going to play all the time. And for a lot of kids that's really, really hard. There are some who never get past it. They never get past the fact they don't start as a freshman.
"Abi didn't start as a freshman or as a sophomore or junior. Not only did she not start she hardly played. And she was willing to come to Oklahoma and not wait I want people to understand this, Abi did not wait. Abi got better from her freshman year to her sophomore year.
It took a year to figure how to work the way we wanted her to work in practice. From her sophomore and junior year she started to put the intellectual pieces of it together, the why you go here and why you don't go there and what the screening angle does and why we teach it, and it all started to kind of make some sense to her.
"And then going into her junior year, she started to figure out how to really compete and add all those things together. The missing piece was she wasn't in physical condition enough to play any significant amount of time. Her junior year, she could have played more had she physically been prepared, because all the other pieces were there.
And so she looked around and said, Courtney and Ashley aren't going to be here next year, looked at her teammates and I look like I'm going to be the center. Uh oh, I better take care of my business. And she did.
And look at what she's done. It's a fabulous story.
"I think young athletes everywhere should really pay attention to it, because that's the right way to do it. She was in it for the long haul. She was in it for the stuff that matters. If you ask her right now she wouldn't have had it any other way.
People keep asking what are you going to do with Jayne? Jayne's a fantastic player. I don't want to take anything away from Jayne Appel. She's may be the greatest interior post passer we've seen in years, and obviously an incredibly capable scorer in either direction.
But Abi has played Cokie Reed from Texas, she's played Tina Charles from Connecticut, she's played Brittney Griner three times. It's not like Abi has been the biggest kid on the floor all the time.
She gets this. She understands it, and she'll be ready for it."
What kind of motivation do you receive after being in the Final Four twice before and not having being able to win yet?
"Oh, good question from the juniors. Well, it's like being invited to this incredible feast. They just set the table and the food looks and smells fabulous, and there's just dish after dish after dish after dish, and you get to get in the room and you get to sit down, and then they take all your utensils away. And so we're still hungry."
On playing the nation's toughest schedule:
|| Junior Guard Danielle Robinson
"We see a variety of teams throughout the whole season, especially in nonconference. It prepares us well for the Big 12 conference, and that prepares us for the NCAA tournament."
On a rivalry with Stanford:
"I'm not really familiar with a couple. I just know the one that's the most recent. I mean, it's a great rivalry for women's basketball. I don't know how big it is. But I guess I could say it's somewhat of a personal thing for me being from California. But we're just going to execute our game plan against a great Stanford team."
"We have to speed them up, use our athleticism to our advantage. We definitely have to block out against them. They're extremely good on the boards, especially Kayla Pedersen. We know that we have an advantage with our athleticism."
On a turning point this season:
"I think one of our turning points was the loss against Texas at home. We knew that for us it was unacceptable, and we had to make changes. And we went into that locker room and that's what we did. And from here on out we've been playing that better."
On her teammates:
"Well, we're like sisters. We're like family. I can say this is probably the closest team since I've been here. We just have so much fun. And, I mean, we're pretty much together I feel 20 hours a day out of the 24 hours, regardless if you see somebody on campus, stop to talk to them, or at the gym or go to their house. We're like family."
On last year's trip to the Final Four:
"I feel like we got satisfied last year with just getting here, and this year we kind of learned from that and know that we're going to enjoy San Antonio, but we're here to do a job and we're here to get to the next game. And hopefully we get that championship. And just never taking our eyes off of it and just kind of live every game and play every game like you're not going to have another one."
On playing the nation's toughest schedule:
|| Senior Forward Amanda Thompson
"I feel like it's helped us a lot. We faced all different kind of teams, all different kind of styles. We've come from behind. We've had leads. It's just given us opportunity to experience different kind of play.
And a long time in the tournament, you know, you need that because when you're scouting somebody, you can say, okay, we can compare that to a team we played and it helps us go along and helps our game plan."
On what makes Coach Coale so popular:
"I think it's just the way she carries herself every day. I know she pays attention to more the little things. She's all about tradition and just doing the right thing.
And people see that. And they feel that and they just gained a lot of respect for her. And I gained a lot of respect for her for doing that. And it just makes everybody else follow in her footsteps, and she just makes great players and she plays great games and she's not afraid to challenge us. That's why she's so popular around.
So she's just a great person."
"They have really tall posts down there, and they just execute very well. So we definitely have to take away their cadence and disrupt what they do and outwork them and just play hard.
I think everybody's going to be good at this time of the year, so we just to do what we do well, to stop what they do well."
On a turning point this season:
"I think we've had several turning points throughout this year. You know, those are definitely one of the key ones. But I think that great basketball, it has a lot of changing points. In order to be a great team you have to go up and down and go through struggles, and when you overcome them, that's when you get to points like this, times in the Final Four. You don't really look back on them; you just build on it and learn from them and keep going."
On her teammates:
"We're pretty close. And a lot of teams it's hard to have fun and be honest at the same time and take constructive criticism and encourage at the same time.
I think that this team, we can do that and also have fun. You kind of learn from each other and just enjoy every moment. I think I've enjoyed every moment with these guys all year. And I'm just thankful that I have them as teammates."
On last year's trip to the Final Four:
"last year we settled. We got here, we went into halftime with a 12 point lead. And we just came out flat. And we know how hard it is to get here, especially back to back, so we're just going to go out there and fight like we have for our whole season. We're just going to play for each other and go out there and have fun."
On playing where her father played and the success and playing in some great games going 3-0 here.:
|| Senior Center Abi Olajuwon
"I definitely have memories of that. Hopefully he left some luck here for us for our side. I think it is a great experience to play in San Antonio. It is a really special place. This is the first place where they went to the Final Four. There is an Oklahoma legacy here. We not only have to play hard, but also play for the people who played before us."
On something about this program where you have children of professional athletes and a different perspective or something in common that has brought them all here:
"Maybe genetics. Good genetics. I don't know. It's surely a coincidence. I know it just seems like there are too many athletic parents who have played here. When your parents played professional or in college, obviously sports are going to be something that is a primary focal point for your kids and obviously for the next generation, sports will be a primary focal point. Coach Coale recruited us as players not bloodlines."
On coming to grips that she wasn't going to be playing in the Final Four and still be a part of the team:
|| Sophomore Guard Whitney Hand
"It took me a while to get over it and the fact that I am not going to be at center stage and playing for what I have worked for. I think everything happens for a reason. God has a plan for me, and my plan is to be on the sidelines encouraging and motivating. That has kind of been my goal for myself this year."
On ever having any kind of serious injury before a season-ending knee injury:
"I broke my finger in conference last year. I was out the last four games of the conference and I was back for the tournament."
On finding the team's identity after playing back-to-back games against Arkansas and Marist and losing Whitney Hand:
|| Senior Guard Nyeshia Stevenson
"We knew when she went out that we were going to have to add a piece of us to the game so we could try to make up as much of her and we did that. We showed that we could stay in the game and win close games like Arkansas and Marist.
On doubts about who they were going to be this year:
"Yeah, definitely, as we never doubted ourselves. It's something that we vowed within each other to not care about what others thinks just as long as whoever is for us and wears Oklahoma across their chest, that's all we need."
On similar feelings to last year's Final Four:
"It's feels different to me only because we were the underdog and are the underdog this year. No one thought we were going to be here and last year if we weren't here then it would have definitely been an upset. We were kind of picked to be in it last year and this year we weren't as I think that was the difference to show how hard we worked this year."
On if being the underdog provides more motivation for these next games:
"You kind of feel the same way Louisville felt against us last year. We came in thinking we were supposed to win and things like that as it opened up doors for them to be successful. Maybe it will play in our part this year as hopefully we'll get a win when no one expects us too."
On how it feels to be in her hometown for the Final Four:
|| Freshman Center Lyndsey Cloman
"There's no words to describe it. You touchdown in the airport and there's just a different feeling and spark that you have as it feels weird to stay in a hotel in San Antonio. But there is no words to describe just being home, being in the Final Four and just having all your family and friends you grew up in high school with as it is such a huge reunion.
On seeing the Final Four in San Antonio and beginning to dream of being here:
"Absolutely. The sky is the limit regardless of what happened regardless of our season as we've learned to fight for each other. Individually we all have our own things we have to work on throughout the off-season as we love this team and each other."