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March 28, 2015

Alaina Coates

Asia Dozier

Tiffany Mitchell

Khadijah Sessions

Dawn Staley

Aleigsha Welch


Q.  Asia, it seemed like you might be hesitant to shoot from outside last night, were you trying to space out those possessions or did you just want to get a cleaner look?
ASIA DOZIER:  Our initial game plan was to go inside because that's what we've been doing all season and that's what's been successful for us.
Coach always says if you have an open shot early in the shot clock more than likely you'll have that same shot under ten.  That's when the shots are expected and that's when we had the best rebounding positions.  So I just wait patiently and it usually works out for the best.

Q.  Aleighsa and Tiffany, you have worked so hard to go to the Sweet16 and now that you're finally here, how do you balance the excitement of being in this point and with the focus of having to win one more game?
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  I think you have to maintain your focus because this isn't the point in our season that we want to be and as far as to say, okay, we got over the Sweet16 hump, we're satisfied.  We still have bigger and better goals for ourselves.  But we took in the win last night while we still could but when it came down to it, we are still focused and we have another game tomorrow.

Q.  Talk about, you've made a lot of big shots in your career, but the shot last night, can you just talk about, when it was all over, did you watch it again and just some of your thoughts on making that shot, and also how much you've grown as a player; that you want the ball in your hands in those situations all the time.
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  Well, yeah, people sent the video to me after the game, so I kind of got to see it.  Coach Staley just drew up a play to try to get the ball into my hands and Aleighsa set me a screen on the baseline, and I kind of just read it from there, and my defender, and saw an open lane, so I took it.
I think that the confidence just comes from Coach Staley and my teammates pretty much want me to take that shot, and the confident from them just rubs off on me and I feel comfortable taking that shot.

Q.  Aleighsa, how much did it mean to you last night when you were not playing one of your better games to are have your teammates pick you up?
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  It definitely meant a lot.  Like I said, it's my senior year and I definitely didn't have the game that I wanted but we had a lot of different people who stepped up, and one of the main people did who was a fellow senior of mine, which was Olivia Gaines.
So it just meant a lot that‑‑ and I think it just shows the depth of our team because like I said, I didn't have the game I wanted but we had a lot of different people who in the biggest moments of the game shined the brightest of the entire season.  It meant a lot that my teammates were able to pick me up with the game I was having.

Q.  Aleighsa, to follow up with that, since you didn't have one of your better games last night, how determined are you to come out tomorrow and make sure that your season doesn't end?
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  The determination factor is always there, but last night's game isn't going to be in the back of my mind as far as when we play tomorrow.  You've just got to let it go.  We are still able to play tomorrow so that's the most important part.  You attack the game with the game plan that we set up and you do what you have to do to get a win.
But I'm not really the type of person to harp on a bad game.  You've just got to let it go and you've got to continue to play because we're in a situation where we do have the opportunity to still be able to play.

Q.  Aleighsa and Alaina, Florida State's front line is pretty big; how much of a challenge will it be to try to keep them contained like you did against Mavunga last night? 
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  You know, they do have a big front line, and it presents a different challenge than probably what we've seen all season except with the exception of Duke.
I think the biggest thing is their rebounding.  They are a really good rebounding team.  So trying to contain that aspect of it and limit them to one shot on the offensive end.  But you've got to do your work early.  You've got to make them work for everything and you can't give them anything easy.  But we've just got to make sure we do what we're supposed to do heading into the game.
ALAINA COATES:  Piggybacking off what Aleighsa said, it's going to be key, we just make sure we do our jobs defensively and offensively.

Q.  Alaina, can you talk about where you are now as a sophomore, as opposed to a freshman?  It's always a big learning curve for a post player because you're a big target.  Can you talk about how you've progressed as a player with fitness, with your moves, with your mentality as a sophomore?
ALAINA COATES:  Last year was as a freshman, I didn't really trust in my moves as much as I do now.  I was a little impatient.  I just wanted to get a shot up and just getting on the court.
And now, I'm really just looking at things and seeing which shot is best for me, should I pass it out, should I not, just keeping a low head and making sure I stay in the game and don't get frustrated.

Q.  Tiffany, neither South Carolina nor Florida State has never been to the Final Four; does that make it feel more real or wide open that there is going to be a first‑timer going regard of who wins tomorrow?
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  I guess but our ultimate goal is win the National Championship so that's what we are going to try to do tomorrow‑‑ or get to the Final Four tomorrow.

Q.  Aleighsa, obviously the goal is to win; what would it mean to you coming from where you started with this program four years ago to make it in the first Final Four in program history?
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  It would definitely be a big deal.  That's something that I wanted coming in when I made my decision to come here.
So to kind of be staring it right in the face, I guess you could say with our game tomorrow; it would be something that I could just, once again say it was something I was able to accomplish in my career here in South Carolina.  Because even when Coach Staley first recruited me it was a goal I wanted to achieve with my team at some point in my career.
Of course we do have a bigger goal at hand but you savor the moment and something like that would definitely be something that's just big for me and something that I'll be able to take for myself years after I graduate.

Q.  Khadijah, people always talk about the depth on this team but could you address specifically the depth at guard?  Last night is a great example with Tina coming in and the minutes she played and Olivia.  Can you sort of talk about like how all season that's been the case; that you guys have kicked each other up offensively and defensively at the guard position?
KHADIJAH SESSIONS:  We have a lot of guards, a lot of guards are capable of doing different things, bringing different things to the table.  And last night, as you said, Tina Roy and Olivia Gaines stepped up big and contributed big for us on the defensive and offensive end.
It's just the best thing that, you know, sometimes it might not be your game and somebody on the bench can come up and pick you up.  That's what's so special about this team, and we've been doing it all season.
Talking about bench production; we're one of the best in the country, if not the best, coming off the bench and we take pride in our bench coming in and stepping in for the players that's not doing what they can that game.  We have a tremendous bench, tremendous depth in the guard and post position, so definitely a great thing about us.

Q.  Their front line is really big, really tall and they like to get up on the glass.  How much of a challenge will it be to try to keep them off the rebounds?
COACH STALEY:  It's a huge challenge.  It's something that they do extremely well.  It's going to be probably the No.1 key to the basketball game.  We just have to be disciplined.  Those hours that we spent pre‑season, the drills that we do every day in practice, the boxing out, and being deliberate and making sure that we don't give people extra possessions is going to be key for this particular game.
So hopefully our players will do that and execute that tomorrow.

Q.  You've talked about focus all season.  After an emotional game last night, getting over a hump they have been wanting to get over for so long and a team they have been want to go get over for so long, do you have to stress that more or is it so ingrained now that they know it instinctively?
COACH STALEY:  Our team has been a creature of habit.  We've been able to focus on the task at hand and we've been able to turn the page and focus in on the next task.  I think we'll stay in character when it comes to that.  Obviously it's a great win for our program.  It's a great milestone.  But it's not our destination game.  It's not what we intended to do this season.  It's along the way but it's not, you know‑‑ it's part of what we wanted to do.

Q.  Similar thing, I asked Alaina about her progress this year, both in the minutes that she can play and just how she's learned to be a big‑time post player.
COACH STALEY:  You know, Alaina, we sometimes forget that she's just a sophomore because it seems like she's been in our program for so long.  I think sometimes the game is played extremely fast from a post‑player's eyes and it needs to just slow down, and you need experience to understand it.  You also have to have the knowledge as a coach to get to your players.  You can say things but sometimes things can go over their head.
So you have to figure out‑‑ you know, we have to figure out how she takes in information and how she's seeing things.  What we've done is Coach Taylor, we just try to familiarize where she is on the floor.  She has to understand where she is on the floor and we give her certain moves to where she is on the floor.  And if she's off the block a little bit, she knows what to do.  I'm not going to say what she's going to do if she's in the paint, two feet in the paint, she knows what to do.
And she's not a selfish player at all.  She's probably one of our better passers, and I think A'ja Wilson has been the recipient of her passing.  So we look forward; we want her to have a tremendous postseason so she can feel that confidence going into summer workouts.  She's committed to staying all summer long.  So we are just looking for her to continue to grow and be a dominant post; be the best post player in the country next year.

Q.  You're familiar with Shakayla Thomas; how can they impact the game and how close was she to being a player for you?
COACH STALEY:  Shakayla will probably have to answer that question.  We recruited her extremely hard.  We felt like the same things that she does for Florida State; she is an incredible athlete.  She can rebound in traffic.  She can get down the floor fairly quickly.  She's got great basketball instincts and IQ and she has an incredible will to win.  She poses somewhat of a matchup problem for us.
Hopefully we can just use our experience against her.  She'll be going up against some someone like a senior, Aleighsa Welch, which hopefully we can use our experience against her youth and her athleticism.

Q.  Based on past experienced with Aleighsa, what type of performance are you expecting from her tomorrow with her coming off a bad game?
COACH STALEY:  I mean, she's about winning.  She's not about her own stats.  Because obviously we've got a team full of players, and you know, for her to play like she did, she's not one that always fills the stat sheet.  I think we have to credit her for some of the intangibles that she brings to the game.
So statistically, it wasn't, you know, where she normally is, but you have to account for the intangibles.  She had a tough defensive assignment where she had to clog up the paint for us while the penetration; so I think we probably wore her down a little bit to where she wasn't able to perform as she normally does on the offensive end.
But she'll be Aleighsa.  She'll be Aleighsa tomorrow.  She'll communicate.  She'll be our emotional leader, and along the lines, I think she'll be more of an impact coming off; she'll have more of an impact offensively.

Q.  How do you balance pounding the ball inside with your guards taking open shots when they get them, and were you happy with that ratio last night?
COACH STALEY:  I wasn't happy with it in the beginning of the game.  I think we have to be truly calculating at the beginning of the game and we have to let our opponents know exactly what we are trying to do and make them defend that.  Because for our perimeter players, you know, the more times that we get the ball inside, is going to lead to more open shots for them if we are successful.
The shots that we took early against North Carolina, are the same shots that we can get at the end of a shot clock, and you keep North Carolina or an opponent on defense for a little bit longer, especially when it becomes a possession game.  North Carolina wants a lot of possessions so if we are shooting quickly, you play into their hands and they got off to an 8‑0 run because of our quick shot.
So we just have to be a little bit more patient and a little bit more disciplined, and when we are, it puts us in great rebounding position.  And also puts our players in the position where they are taking practice shots, not contesting shots, not rush shots.  Calculating, expected shots so we can put ourselves in a position to rebound and to get back in transition if we can't come up with an offensive rebound.

Q.  What do you expect from Florida State:  Will they zone you like everybody else or because of their size will they matchup with you man‑to‑man?
COACH STALEY:  We've seen 95 percent man.  I think at this stage of the game you're going to do what you've done all season long so I anticipate them playing us man.  They match up with us on the perimeter and in the post, I don't see why they wouldn't play us as they have played all season long.

Q.  You had nine busloads of fans yesterday.  Any word on how many busloads you expect to make the trip tomorrow?
COACH STALEY:  As far as I know at the moment, nine, we'll probably be returning, but I'm sure‑‑ I have to check my Twitter account to see if anybody else is coming up or if we've got any more bus companies commit to bringing our fans to Greensboro.
But it was quite remarkable to see a caravan of buses coming to see us play and the excitement that was outside of this arena before they were allowed to come in the game, and then when they came in the game, and most of Gamecock Nation was the lower bowl, and it truly got loud in there last night and gave us the energy to get the win.  I'm hoping we can double the attendance for Sunday.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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