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March 26, 2015
GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA
Q.Â Winning close games in the NCAA Tournament, how much does that develop you for winning more close games, as opposed to winning close games in the regular season, what's the difference there?
COACH HATCHELL:Â Well, it makes a big difference.Â It makes a difference in the way that your season is over or you're still playing.Â But I'm hoping that mentality‑wise, it just toughens you up and helps you grow and get better and better, because a lot of people didn't think we would be here.Â But I think it gives you confidence and just it's part of the growing process that our team has definitely gone through.
Q.Â You weren't at the game last year in the Sweet16 last year, but judged on what you saw from last year's team to this team, does your game plan change in terms of how you want to attack them?
COACH HATCHELL:Â First of all, I still have some dents in the furniture in my den from watching the game on TV and jumping around and throwing things and all that.Â But South Carolina is an excellent team.Â I mean, they‑‑ Dawn and her staff have done a really great job rebuilding that program.Â And gosh, I mean, they have got kids sitting on their bench that would start at most DivisionI schools.
So they really have depth.Â I think they are talented at every position but they have so much depth.Â I mean, none of their players really average that many points; I'm sure they could.Â But they are so balanced and with all the kids playing and everything like that.
So I just think the depth and then their size, there's no doubt that A'ja Wilson has added a lot to their team.Â But they are experienced.Â Yeah, I don't see any weaknesses really.
Q.Â The players from South Carolina earlier said last year they are a one‑dimensional team and they have added more and it's made them tougher to beat.Â What have you seen on film from them as far as that goes?
COACH HATCHELL:Â I'm not sure what they meant by one‑dimensional because I thought they were pretty balanced last year because they had the size inside and then the guards, the shooters and everything.Â But they are, they are very balanced and everybody talks about their inside game but they are pretty good on the outside, too.
Like I said, I don't really see any weaknesses.Â Our kids have to really step up and play to a really, really high level.Â And I guess last year they were probably favored.Â They were the No.1 or No.2 seed or whatever‑‑ No.1 seed.Â Anything can happen.Â I've watched them all year, and they just destroyed about everybody they played, and they are just pretty tough.
But them being one‑dimensional, I don't know.Â I'm trying to figure out why they would say that because I thought they were pretty doggone good last year.
Q.Â All the players said that revenge was a big motivating factor for them having UNC end their season last year.Â Are you guys aware of that and on guard against any additional motivation‑‑
COACH HATCHELL:Â What was the first thing you said?
Q.Â The players said that this game, there was the revenge factor, UNC having ending their season last year.Â Are you guys kind of aware of that and ready for the emotional‑‑
COACH HATCHELL:Â Well, I guess if we were in that situation, we would feel the same way.Â But you know, it's a new year, different teams.Â We are definitely a different team than we were last year.Â I guess if we were in that situation, we would probably say the same thing, what coaches use for motivation and all.Â I can understand that because we would probably be the same way.
Again, it's different year and a whole different platform.Â I'm sure they will be very, very motivated to play us because of how it ended last year.
Q.Â You've always been so successful at recruiting players out of South Carolina; is that a challenge now with Dawn in Colombia?
COACH HATCHELL:Â Well, you have to understand my background, because I've got probably more houses and real state in South Carolina than I do in North Carolina, and my husband is from down there.Â I won two national championships at Francis Marion with all South Carolina players.Â My camp staff in the summer is‑‑ probably half my camp staff is South Carolina high school coaches.Â I have a tremendous background and relationship down there with a lot of people; you know, I'm South Carolina sports Hall of Fame.
I've always just referred to the Carolinas, because I do claim South Carolina a lot.Â I've always just said the Carolinas because I couldn't be at North Carolina for 29 years and have had the success that I have had if it wasn't for what happened to me the first seven years in South Carolina, and I don't want to ever forget those people because they are so important to me, and like I said, my husband's from Florence.
So I have tremendous connections and all with South Carolina.Â And the South Carolina kids, I won two championships with all South Carolina kids, so for me the high school coaches there are my very, very good friends.Â And success at anything is about relationships with anything and I have tremendous relationships with very many people in the State of South Carolina.Â And we've had some really good players.Â I have two of my assistant coaches are from South Carolina:Â Andrew Calder, and Ivory Latta is from McConnells, South Carolina.
But there's no doubt that Dawn and her staff have really rebuilt that program.Â We've always gone head‑to‑head not just with South Carolina but a lot of people but because there's been a lot of good players out of there.Â I noticed in my 40 years of coaching that things go in cycles like this.
So there have been some years that South Carolina is just loaded with great players and then there was some years that it was pretty thin, and then all of a sudden there's great players again.Â And they have done a really good job keeping a lot of those players there.
Of course we have Xylina on our team who is not playing and we have really had to adjust to her being out; and Latifah, our starting point guard, is from South Carolina; our starting forward player is from Goose Creek, N'Dea Bryant.
I just recruit kids that I think fit me, you know, that are good kids and‑‑ the relationships, a lot of times it's with their high school coaches everything.Â But recruiting has always been tough, but like I said, Dawn and them has done a great job of keeping the local kids home.
I mean, you look at the roster, I was in the room back there a while ago and I was looking at their roster and all of a sudden, I went down the list, and I thought, man, half their team comes to my camps.Â Really, at least five or six on the roster that came to my basketball camps.Â But a lot of that's the relationships that I had with our high school coaches and everything like that.
But that's a good thing.Â It really is good.Â Recruiting is always tough.Â Your basic question was about, is it tougher‑‑ well, okay, it is.Â But recruiting is always tough because if it's not South Carolina in there, it's Tennessee or Connecticut.Â You know, we thought we had a great shot at getting Kalana Greene out of there and Geno comes in and takes her out.Â And I never thought a kid from that part of South Carolina would end up in Connecticut, but she did, had a great year there.
When you've got great players, you're going to have all the top schools there, but there's no doubt Dawn and her staff have done a good job.
Q.Â Talking about McDaniel being out‑‑ is she anywhere near being close to playing a couple months from now when the season is over?
COACH HATCHELL:Â We were hoping she was going to be where she could play but she's not.Â We're going to try to get a year of eligibility back for her because she's right on the borderline with the time period.Â It wouldn't make a difference if she was out there the whole year.Â Really proud of my team for adjusting.Â First three or four weeks that she was out, we were trying a little bit of everything.
We lost a couple games during that time that we probably should not have lost but we were trying to adjust to her being gone.Â But now we have adjusted.Â I think N'Dea Bryant from Goose Creek, South Carolina has done a good job.Â Danielle has stepped up in there.Â Sometimes we put Allisha Gray at the fore position.Â So we tried a lot of different things but our kids have adjusted and I really am proud of the way probably the last three or four weeks, how we have played.
But there's no doubt that Xylina would help if she was in there but she will not play.Â She's not going to be ready for probably another six weeks or so.Â But hopefully we'll be able to get another year back for her.Â And she wants to play so badly in this game.
I mean, the other night after the game in the locker room, she was begging the doctors, begging them to let her play in this game but they said she's not ready.
Q.Â Is your team probably more versatile than it may have been if she had been out there the whole year?
COACH HATCHELL:Â That's a good question.Â There's no doubt that those kids have gotten better confidence‑wise, everything.Â Those players filling in there have definitely improved and gotten better, our team has a little different look and all.
So that's a positive for all them.Â But we definitely miss her being in there, how tough she is.Â She's just so physical and tough and the mentality that she has.Â She plays like her dad.Â We definitely miss that.
Q.Â Is there a difference between coaching against Coach Staley as a player and her as a coach, because she still seems to carry that same dynamic personality?
COACH HATCHELL:Â Well, when Dawn was playing at Virginia is when I was just getting started at North Carolina, oh, Lordy, those were some nightmare games for me because we weren't very good, you know, and Dawn was I guess maybe the best player in the country at that time, I don't know.Â But those Virginia teams were Final Four teams, even though they never won a National Championship, but they were Final Four teams.Â She was pretty dynamic as a player.
Of course I know Dawn well.Â We were in the '13 class for the Naismith, she as a player, me as a coach, so I know Dawn well.Â I'm sure she carries that personality into her style of coaching, as well.
Q.Â You mentioned N'Dea Bryant.Â How have you seen her progress as a player, as more has been asked as the season has gone on?
COACH HATCHELL:Â Her confidence level, no doubt‑‑ she has a really, really good jumpshot from like 10, 12, 15 feet.Â She can just knock them down and knock them down and knock them down.Â The one thing I want her to do is go to the basket more, be more aggressive, taking the ball to the hoop and getting on the foul line.
But she has really, really nice sweet jumpshot and she can make threes but that 12‑, 15‑foot jumper, as people‑‑ lots of teams have tried to double Stephanie, and N'Dea has had that shot.Â She does, and then also Danielle, as well, has that shot.Â But N'Dea has a really nice shot.Â She really has.Â And she's just gotten better overall.Â I think a lot of it is her confidence.Â Great kid.Â Great kid.
Can I say one thing?Â First I want to say a great big thank you to Greensboro because no one does it better.Â We've had our ACC Tournament here for years and it's great to be back.Â We were here a couple weeks ago.Â But these folks do a fantastic job, and I've been coaching a long time, and trust me, I and everybody else, we appreciate the commitment that they have made to NCAA women's basketball.
Again I just want to do a shout out to the Greensboro Sports Council, the ACC and everybody involved, because they just do a tremendous job.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Q.How much does playing South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament game mean to you?
LATIFAH COLEMAN:Â It means a lot.Â It started as a rivalry between the Carolinas and it's always a fun game to play in.Â A lot of talk back home about the whole going to North Carolina and not going to South Carolina thing, so it's always a pretty good game for me.
Q.Â What do you remember about playing South Carolina last year obviously during the regular season and then in the Sweet16?
THE MODERATOR:Â Let's start with Allisha.
ALLISHA GRAY:Â It was definitely a very intense game, very fast paced.
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA:Â I remember both of them were very competitive games.Â It was a game of runs, both games.Â They got their runs on us and we got our runs on them.Â It was just really competitive, and it was just two fun games and two great teams competing against each other and we just happened to win both of them.
LATIFAH COLEMAN:Â Yeah, exactly like they said, it was a very competitive and very fun game to play in.
Q.Â What have you noticed they have changed in their team and also have you changed in the last year?
THE MODERATOR:Â Same order.
ALLISHA GRAY:Â From what I've seen, they are a better team than what we were last year but so are we.Â Wait, what was the‑‑ oh, we definitely‑‑ yeah, we definitely became a better team.Â We are definitely more aggressive.
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA:Â I think that we have just matured on the court.Â We are really blending and we are really‑‑ just we are faster, too.Â Everything is just flowing.Â Though we have lost two players, one to injury, one to a transfer, I think that we are still strong.
And I think that a lot of people don't realize that it affected us to begin with not having Xylina around whenever she got injured.Â But I think that now we are really coming together and now we really settled down and really know each other's games now and we look like we have played together for much longer than we really have.
And if South Carolina, they have gotten a lot better.Â I think they are a little more post‑oriented than they were last year, and they have gotten quicker, as well.Â They just look like they are really flowing out there.Â They really know the tendencies of one another and they just really look like a real team, like a real unit, and I think that that's kind of scary, as well.
LATIFAH COLEMAN:Â And I can't really follow that up.Â Pretty much said everything.
Q.Â You said you're a better team than last year and I agree with you after watching both of you play a lot of games yet you lost an All‑American player early and you've been able to compensate for that.Â Why do you think y'all have been able to make yourselves a deeper team and also more of a versatile team?
ALLISHA GRAY:Â This year we definitely played with a chip on our shoulder because from the start we've been doubted.Â Many people didn't think we would make it this far from the beginning of the season, and we just came together as a team to show and prove people wrong that we are a better team than what we were last year.
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA:Â I agree with that and also I think that now we are much more of a team and we don't really look to one or two individuals to just really show up every single day, and I feel like maybe one player is going to have a bad game every now and then or such.
But I feel like on any given day any given player can step up on our team and that's really big for us.Â It's not always one consistent leading scorer; it's not always one consistent leading rebounder, steals, whatever.Â We have someone that leads in every category in different ways and different games, and I think that's really big because we look for five people on the court at once, not just one or two players now.Â We really play as a team, as a unit and we are all together, rather than broken apart, and I think that really shows.
Q.Â Considering this is almost like a home game, do you think y'all have an advantage for this game‑‑
ALLISHA GRAY:Â Not necessarily.Â I just think that being North Carolina is neat just because people don't really have to drive as far as maybe they would have had to as other teams playing in places in the Sweet16.
But South Carolina has brought a lot of fans to their games this year, so I think that it's going to be pretty even in terms of fans that they are bringing to the game as we are.Â So I think there's going to be a lot of red and there's going to be a lot of blue, too.
Q.Â Stephanie, you mentioned South Carolina's more post‑oriented this year.Â Already in the Tournament you faced a lot of height and physicality and a really fast post player in Ohio State.Â What specific challenges do this team's post players bring?
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA:Â They have more height than Ohio State this.Â I think they have more height than just one person, whereas Heart for Ohio State was their tallest player and maybe their fore player wasn't as tall.
With South Carolina, their starting post is tall, their bench players are tall and they all really come in there and just really pose a challenge in the post.Â But they are really poised and they really know exactly how to guard a post player.Â And so it's going to be a nice challenge but then again we'll just see how it goes.
Q.Â Talk about the fans‑‑ the rims and the shooting background and the floor and things like that, having played in here so many times, should have be a big advantage?Â Is it usually?
LATIFAH COLEMAN:Â It is an advantage like being used to the gym.Â I don't think they have ever had to play here so it should be just kind of an edge for us, just coming off the ACC Tournament here, so it should be kind of an edge.
Q.Â For any of the players, when you played Stanford this year, do you have any feelings‑‑ from your season last year that those feelings may be the type of feelings that the South Carolina players had‑‑ can you remember back to that?
STEPHANIE MAVUNGA:Â You always really come out with a different attitude when you're playing someone who has previously beaten you, especially when it's a season‑ending loss.
When we played Stanford earlier this year, of course we really wanted to beat them to sort of give us a type of revenge for them beating us the year before.Â But then again, it's not the same Stanford team.Â It's never the exact same team that you're playing, because Stanford lost some players and they are a whole different basketball team when we played them down in Hawai'i than when we played them at Stanford last year.
So of course it always feels good to beat Stanford because it's still the Stanford program.Â It's not the same exact team or same situation; otherwise you would have rather beat them in the Elite 8 and in a tournament game.
But here, I think that South Carolina has the same exact situation, four seed, one seed; Sweet16 game against the same exact team.Â So that game is really set up like the same exact way that the one last year was set up.Â Of course I feel as if they really want to beat us, and in a press conference I heard the different quotes and some of them saying that this is exactly what they wanted.
I think it's going to be a really good game.Â It's going to be a tough game, of course, and they are going to be out to get us and they are going to play with a chip on their shoulder just because we ended their season last year and that brings a lot of pain from that experience last year.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports