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March 27, 2015

Alaina Coates

Olivia Gaines

Tiffany Mitchell

Dawn Staley



COACH STALEY:  We're just truly excited to still be in the NCAA Tournament and moving to the Elite 8.  It was a great game by both teams.  We do take our hat off to North Carolina.  I know it's a shame that someone had to lose a game but we're glad it's not us.  We got great contributions, especially from the three players that are sitting next to me to my left.  We're just excited about continuing to be able to play.

Q.  Olivia, have you ever shot a three‑pointer that kind of nicked the backboard, hit the rim and still went in?  And Tiffany what was your mind‑set on the final drive?
OLIVIA GAINES:  Three, well, I never shot a three ‑‑ well, I never shot a three that was for that moment, but I was just ready when my number was called like always and I just knocked it down.
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  I think Coach Staley drew up a play kind to just run the clock down and to take the last shot.  I think I kind of shot too early because they still had another possession.  I just think we made the well (ph) in last possession.  Ijust saw how the defense was playing and just drove it to the basket.

Q.  This was a game with a lot of lead changes and runs.  How tough was this one emotionally throughout the game for you guys?
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  I don't think it was ‑‑ I mean, it was kind of emotional, but we just stayed the course and kept our head.  We knew North Carolina was going to give us their best punch and we knew they had runs in them.  We just had to answer them and keep our head.
ALAINA COATES:  I just think that to piggyback off of Tiffany, we kept a level head and made sure we executed and did what we needed to do.
OLIVIA GAINES:  I just think we executed the game plan and we came out to win.

Q.  You seemed to have a really special drive tonight, 18 points, ten rebounds but you were ten of ten from the free throw line; is that the thing you were most proud of?
ALAINA COATES:  I do take pride in free throws.  We are a team that's trying to do better with that, and just being that I was able to go a 100 percent from the line; that's a good feeling just knowing that I was able to stay in my rhythm and knock down the shots.  They ended up working out for our team and when we needed them.

Q.  What does it mean to finally get over that hurdle and be one of the final eight teams standing?
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  It means a lot just because North Carolina ended our season last year.  We talked about not repeating history in that manner and them beating us again and just making history and just making it to the Elite 8, which we did this time.

Q.  You were saying you tried to stay the course and focus on what you were doing, but was it hard not to get a little bit tense or nervous considering it was 90 seconds and you're down three and very close?
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  Just a little just because of how the game was going back and forth, but Coach Staley calmed us down and I think we just executed when we needed to.

Q.  Were you trying to pick up a foul with that shot?  And do you think that was the‑‑
OLIVIA GAINES:  Yes, it may have been one of biggest shots of my career.  And I wasn't trying to pick up the foul.  Somehow she fouled me but we just got the points and (inaudible‑coughing) was set.

Q.  Were there nerves at the start?  With that racket at the beginning of the game, can you talk about what it took to get you guys going?
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  I mean, North Carolina came out pretty aggressive.  I think we came out slow.  She just told us to kind of take a deep breath and let the game settle down some and then we were going to be good, and I think that's what happened.  We got in a rhythm and it was good from there on.

Q.  Seemed like you were maybe aggressive and I think you had a calf injury.  How did that affect you?
ALAINA COATES:  It didn't affect me.  It was a cramp, after training, I massaged it and I was good to go.  It wasn't hurting or anything like that.  Just kind of was a little lull in the game, but besides that it was fine.

Q.  You guys held Mavunga to 12 from the field and Gray to three; how big of an emphasis did you put on‑‑ obviously you were double‑teaming, but how big of an emphasis did you put on limiting those players?
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  We made a huge emphasis on trying to take those two out of the game.  North Carolina, a lot of stuff runs through those two players, so we knew we they were going to get a lot of touches.  So we knew if we could limit their touches, North Carolina was going to have a hard time putting points on the board.
ALAINA COATES:  We just put a lot of emphasis on them, especially with Mavunga and the game she had against Ohio State.  We knew if we let her keep going, she was going to keep going and we had to nip that in the bud real quick.
Same thing with Gray.  We know they have got their key players and it's hard for the rest of the team to revolve around difficulty.  So we just made sure we made it hard for them to be able to do such a thing.
OLIVIA GAINES:  What she said.  We just tried to eliminate Mavunga's touches and keep Gray off the three‑point line, and I think we did a good job of that.

Q.  For most teams playing in a game just 45 minutes away from the opponent's campus, you might thinkthat might be a road atmosphere, but didn't seem to be the case.  Did you notice how much fan support you had tonight and what did you think about that?
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  We knew coming in we were going to have a lot of fan support.  It's not that far from Columbia, so we knew they were taking buses and bringing probably, what, six bus loads of fans‑‑ nine?  Nine bus loads.  So we knew it was going to be a lot of fans and we were going to see a lot of garnet in the stands, just going to try to give us as much home‑court advantage as possible, even though North Carolina was so close to home.
ALAINA COATES:  Just piggybacking off what Tiffany said, we were pretty much aware of how many busloads of people we had.  We just wasn't expecting, you know, that great of a number, you know, nine busloads.  You don't really know.
But we just really appreciate Gamecock Nation and just the fact that they have our backs and they followed us all the way out here to Greensboro.
OLIVIA GAINES:  Fan support means a lot.  They always have our back and I'm glad they came tonight.

Q.  Piggybacking off of that, to get the win over North Carolina in North Carolina‑‑
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  It means a lot.  They ended our season last year, so being that it's a huge win that we get to go on to the Elite 8, and I think it's even better and a program win for us, being that we lost the past few times we played them.

Q.  During the time‑out before the winning basket, can you talk about what you wanted to get in that play?  And was Olivia in the play for defensive purposes?  Was the clock running out or did she take it on her own?
COACH STALEY:  In that time‑out, we knew we had one time‑out left.  So we made it very apparent that, you know, we had that just in case they denied us the ball.  What we wanted to accomplish was a play that we had run a lot at the end of the game, and it's a play that we run our ball screen into a screen for our shooter or our post entry.
We wanted the ball in Tiffany Mitchell's hands, and we thought Tina Roy did a great job of just running our basketball team so she was the one that was going to initiate it.  We tried to get her to delay it to where we took the last shot, and Tiffany probably went a little bit sooner than we wanted her to; but if anybody get a basket, we'll take the basket and rely on our defense.
And then Olivia was in the game for energy.  Obviously she does a really good job at defending, but she also does a great job of just spotting up and being ready to shoot the ball and she doesn't second guess it.
Thankfully as we were walking in, I didn't know if she heard me when she was in front of our bench before she took that three.  I just told her to be ready to shoot the ball.  Being ready to shoot the ball for O means shoot the ball.  She shot the ball.  (Laughter).
It was getting down there, probably around ten seconds, so it was time for us to take a smooth shot within the flow of things.  But our first look was to get the ball inside.

Q.  Tina Roy had a lot of big buckets.
COACH STALEY:  She was huge.  I thought she ran our team extremely well.  It's something that she has done for us for many years, and I thought she did not take as many shots as I would have liked her to take because she got in the flow of, you know, being the point guard and running our team.  For us, she's one that can stretch the defense out and I just thought she should have been a little bit more aggressive, like she was in the second half.
But thankfully she made some shots when we needed to make the shots, and that's what you want.  You want to call on the senior in those situations, and you know they have been through a lot in our program, and I was happy she just came through and always stayed ready.

Q.  Can you just speak to your confidence in Tiffany in a situation like that and the way she could execute and make it look effortless in the process?
COACH STALEY:  Any time that the game is on the line, Tiffany Mitchell will be around the ball.  If she doesn't have the ball in her hands, if she's not a decoy of some sort, she is going to be involved in the play.  We knew that.  She can create her own shot at any time, so we drew up the play to put the ball in her hands and for her to, you know, put the "S" on her chest and be our Superwoman.

Q.  Can you talk about the contribution that Alaina made tonight to help you get to the Elite 8 and how nerve‑wracking were those Final minutes for you personally?
COACH STALEY:  You know, she's been big for us all season long, and we understand, any time she has big games for us, we usually win the basketball game.  And we wanted to make a concerted effort to get her the ball, because I believe she made a matchup‑‑ she gave us a matchup advantage against North Carolina.
You know, the end of the game, it is nerve‑wracking because you don't want your season to end.  But I thought our team was really resilient.  I thought there was a certain calm over the game where we weren't‑‑ we were poised and we didn't feel that the moment, in a way that we got too high emotionally.  I thought we just stuck with things.  When you're able to stick with things and stay poised, you're able to see a lot of options out there on the floor and things don't get cloudy.

Q.  Talk about the atmosphere and how amazing that was from your vantage point.
COACH STALEY:  Gamecock Nation has truly been a blessing for our program.  Gamecock Club does a tremendous job any time that we're at home or on the road.  They figure out a way to bring more people into the games.  You know, we don't win this game if we didn't have our fans creating that home‑court advantage, giving us the extra energy that we needed to finish the game, allowing us to feel the presence of their energy.  We can't thank them enough and we just hope that they show up in droves on Sunday afternoon.

Q.  Obviously it's big because of how the season ended last year; but do you think you can play anybody as physical as North Carolina down the road?
COACH STALEY:  Our potential opponents, Arizona State and Florida State, I think they can play very similar, both of them.  And I think for us, it's good that we saw the physicality of this type of game and we were able to have some success.  Probably a little bit too close for my comfort.  But at this point of the season, you just want to survive and advance, and that's what our team put ourselves in a position to do.

Q.  Free throw shooting, ten of ten at the line, to have a post player as big and physical as she is, but as focused and talented enough to convert at the free throw line as well, how much of a luxury is that?
COACH STALEY:  That's a huge luxury.  I was looking at our stats earlier today and I saw that she was shooting 70 percent.  She's probably got a big boost from shooting ten for ten tonight.  But she's got a soft touch.  We've been trying to get her to shoot those outside shots, those high post shots all season long.
Obviously she's very good at it and she's able to get a little nerve to shoot it during the game, I think she can be someone that can shut the floor out and protect what she's able to do in the paint.

Q.  You played Olivia Gaines a lot in this tournament, how special is it for her to hit that shot after earning this time?
COACH STALEY:  Again, I'm truly happy for Olivia.  Olivia has been a player in our program that deserves to play more; that deserves to get a lot more minutes than we have been able to give her.
But it's a true testament to the type of person she is to be able to sacrifice; to be able to sit and wait until your number is called and have the nerve, the energy and the execution to make plays every single time that we call on her number.
You know, I don't think she gets credit enough.  She does get credit when she's able to make plays for us, but I think the credit comes in her ability to be ready; to when she's not‑‑ when her number's not called and she's just waiting and she's cheering and in sports, you don't have that very often when you have players who are as good as everybody but doesn't get as many reps as they deserve.
Obviously Olivia deserves a lot of credit for what she was able to help us do tonight.

Q.  Her teammates say Mitchell is a gym rat and how hard she works by herself.  Can you talk about that and how she's improved?
COACH STALEY:  Tiffany Mitchell is a two‑time SEC Player of the Year, one that she got in her sophomore year, which is unheard of, playing in our league.  But when you see what she's been able to do from year one until year three, the work that she's put in; I think in her first year, she was just attacking the basket.  She very rarely shot threes or pull‑ups.
Then she started working on‑‑ she changed her shot between her freshman and sophomore year to where she got under it a little bit more.  She got in the gym and worked before and after practice and in the off‑season.
If there is a blueprint for becoming an All‑American, I think she sets the stage for having the outline for how you become great at your sport.  And it is sacrifice; it is figuring that‑‑ she was at least a 3.8 student, so she does her work so she can get in the gym and work.  When you're as balanced and driven as someone like Tiffany Mitchell, you're going to be successful.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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