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April 4, 2015
THE MODERATOR:Â We're joined by Maryland head coach Brenda Frese, student‑athletes Laurin Mincy and Shatori Walker‑Kimbrough and Lexie Brown.Â We'll start with an opening statement from Coach Frese.
COACH FRESE:Â Thrilled, obviously, to be in Tampa.Â Place has extra special meaning for my husband and I.Â We were married in Clearwater about 10 years ago in August.Â So tremendous fun to be able to come back and take our team.
Obviously we're really thrilled to be one of the last four teams standing.Â When you talk about the preseason, I think the other three teams were probably predicted to be here.Â And for us to be able to come back‑to‑back Final Fours when no one expected to see us up here is something that I'm really proud of with this team.
You talk about losing five seniors, three‑time All‑American in Alyssa Thomas and new conference and a lot of question marks coming in.Â I'm proud of the growth of this young team this season, led by one senior with Laurin Mincy, three sophomores and their improvement every day.
It's a team that didn't let others define them and set the bar.Â It was really up to them in terms of holding each other accountable and setting their own bar.Â So I think it's fun when you talk about it.Â I think we're a really hard scout, only team down here that has no All‑Americans, and I think that's what makes us so dangerous is because we're a team.
Obviously we have great respect for Connecticut and everything they've accomplished.Â To be able to sustain it at a really high level is really hard to be able to do.Â But, however, as we're here, we're not going to concede anything.Â We're competitors, too.
And I think that when you talk about playing Connecticut, they're a really hard team to face, but at the same time for us it's the best way to be able to close the gap.
We want to play them as many times as we can.Â I liken it to when I first got hired at Maryland, we got to play Duke, a team that drilled us when I first got hired and then four short years later, actually to this day in 2006, we were beating Duke in the National Championship game.
So for us a big thing is understanding in terms of how to play a team and how to be able to close that gap.Â So we're looking forward to tomorrow.Â It's Easter Sunday.Â So we're hoping to be able to find a lot of baskets.
THE MODERATOR:Â Questions for the student‑athletes.
Q.Â Laurin, tough act to follow that comment by Coach about the baskets.Â When did you guys start believing this team could be back here?Â Last year you get back here with Alyssa and the goal‑‑ but when did the group think making it to the Final Four was something that was an attainable goal for you guys?
LAURIN MINCY:Â I think in the summer when everyone committed to come here and work out in the summer.Â Usually that's an option.Â But everyone decided to come back.Â The workouts we had and just to see how together we were during the preseason, I knew we were special.Â And then to go into the Big Ten Conference where we were not knowing who we were going to face and then to go through that undefeated, I knew we had a great chance to get back to the Final Four.
Q.Â Lexie, back court battle expected for tomorrow.Â What do you expect to see from Moriah against you?
LEXIE BROWN:Â I'm expecting a lot of ball pressure.Â She's one of the elite defenders in college.Â But I mean I think I'll be able to handle it.Â She's a lot smaller than me but a lot quicker than me also.Â But I'm hoping we get after it.Â It's going to be a lot of fun going against Moriah.
Q.Â Lexie or any one of you up there, what do you take away from the Stanford game, or was that for them or is that too far ago or even from what Dayton was able to do for a half against them last week?
LEXIE BROWN:Â Yeah, the Stanford game, you can't really think about that game.Â Every team is different than they were back in November/December.Â So that game, yeah, it was a great win for Stanford but UConn is a completely different team than they were then.
With the Dayton game we saw how Dayton played fearlessly for the first ten minutes.Â No fear.Â They were taking all their own shots.Â They gave UConn their best shot.Â So that's really the biggest thing we learned from that Dayton game.
Q.Â Laurin, just noticing Connecticut year after year, their opponents‑‑ you feel with some of them are sort of intimidated, almost beaten before they start, and why won't that happen to this team?
LAURIN MINCY:Â Yeah, I think a lot of teams get caught up in their respect of UConn.Â Obviously UConn, a great team.
When you go into a game, you have to go in confident and fearless, I like to say, when you're playing UConn.Â So we're going to go in there fearless and give them everything we have.
Q.Â Shatori, both teams like to run.Â Do you think Maryland has the advantage in the transition game?
SHATORI WALKER‑KIMBROUGH:Â Yeah, I do think we have a slight advantage only because of how deep we are on the roster.Â Connecticut goes seven deep.Â And I think we go 12 deep.
And I think just running them and tiring their legs out and us bringing in fresh legs and continuing to run.
THE MODERATOR:Â Thank you.Â Questions for Coach.
Q.Â Brenda, when you look at them on tape, I'm sure a lot of stuff stands out.Â But specifically what do they do really well?
COACH FRESE:Â Obviously they share the basketball extremely well.Â Within their offense, you know, they take great shots.Â And I think where they really hurt people is in their runs.Â If you're not able to be able to keep up with them from a scoring end, I think that's when the game's over.
Q.Â Same thing I asked Laurin, when did you think this team could make it back here, knowing what you lost, knowing what was done, when did you think this team could be special, back in the Final Four for a second straight year?
COACH FRESE:Â I think for me it was conference play, when you talk about we really had to grow as a team in our non‑conference plays and then when you talk about going into our new conference and going to Nebraska, going to Minnesota, you know, and playing in front of 10,000 fans and going in and winning, it was big.
And all of a sudden game by game you start winning more games, and it was really when this team kind of set the bar for themselves in terms of their expectations that they had.
Q.Â You have Lexie and Aja, both have dads that played in the NBA.Â What's it like coaching members that have family members in basketball?Â Is it more difficult coaching them than players that do not?
COACH FRESE:Â It's kind of a really neat story when you talk about that their families were both with the Boston Celtics at the same time.Â They were on road trips together.Â They obviously don't remember it.Â But neat for the families.
It's been anything but difficult.Â It's been incredible.Â I think, because you talk about these two girls have worldly experiences, I mean, when you talk about the number of games, press conferences, environment that they've been in since being an infant, I think they walk in just with a whole other element.
Obviously Lexie is our point guard, is poised beyond her years.Â And I think a big reason of that is the arenas she grew up in.Â So it's been really a neat feature.Â Obviously we didn't seek it out.Â It kind of evolved in terms of both players coming to Maryland.
But it's been a really cool experience to be able to have both of them.
Q.Â Obviously Connecticut's dominance sort of overshadows everything, even a year when you've got four No. 1s in the Final Four.Â When you look at the non‑Connecticut portion of tomorrow's crowd and even the country, do you think they will root for you?Â And is beating a juggernaut a good thing for this sport, if it happens?
COACH FRESE:Â Yeah, I mean, aren't we tired of it?Â I think everybody's rooting for us.Â I think we're ready for some new stories.Â And our sport needs it, to be quite honest.Â But at the same point it's up to us as coaches and programs to be able to develop our teams and our programs to that point.
And I know that there are a lot of people out there that are cheering and want to see Maryland be able to beat UConn.Â And I know for us and for our sport it would be a great thing to be able to have the teams out there.Â But at the same point it all goes in runs.Â Tennessee in past years was a team we talked about.Â Then we had a blend of other teams.
So, again, it's our job as coaches and teams to be able to get ourselves to a position to be able to beat them.
Q.Â Talk about the cell phone experiment, the fans, what effect has it had and do you recommend it to other programs to try?
COACH FRESE:Â Well, it really came about, I forget the year, three years ago, when we played Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 and went on to play in the Elite Eight.
And our players then had their cell phones and everything blew up after the Sweet 16 and going into the Elite Eight.Â And Brene Moseley came in shared with us as a staff how she was not able to manage it, that it was a lot of distractions, a lot of text messages.Â And from that we really talked about it as a staff and took it to our team last year and talked about wanting to go into the Sweet 16 game to turn their phones in and leave them off and with us until we finished our season or continued on after the Elite game, the Elite Eight game.
It's been huge.Â Our players bought in last year, then again this year when we brought it up and they were all on board.Â And we have a team rule just night before when we're on road games but just to keep it during this duration, I think helps them to realize they can minimize the distractions that are out there.
Q.Â I remember you said last year when you made it back how special it was you appreciated how tough it is to get back to the Final Four.Â Now you're back here for the second straight year.Â Is it more fulfilling that this program has been here two straight years as opposed to the time in between?
COACH FRESE:Â Yeah, I'm really proud of our consistency, because it is really, really hard to get here.Â And especially with a team that no one expected to be here.Â And when you talk about our youth, you know, to be able to accomplish what they did, pretty much we were written off after Alyssa graduated and our five seniors.
So no question, I'm really proud of that fact.Â But it is a different mentality coming back with this team.Â Last year's team was kind of that was their goal and they were happy to be here.Â It's not the goal of this year's team.Â They've set really high goals for themselves.
And although we're going to always enjoy the moment, we're never going to take it for granted.Â We're always going to be humble in this moment because it is truly an honor to be here.Â But at the same point we do have really high goals for ourselves.
Q.Â The Stanford win against UConn, can you use that as a blueprint in any way, or was that so long ago it doesn't matter?
COACH FRESE:Â I mean, there's always something that you can learn from every team.Â And I think Tara is one of the best when you talk about out there basketball minds and what she was able to do.
Obviously it was early in the season and every team grows within that season.Â But, yeah, no question, they beat UConn.Â And so you saw the confidence that they played with, took them into even overtime.Â Obviously we watched that game but they just did a phenomenal job in terms of having their team ready to play.
They played with a ton of confidence.Â And I thought they were really confident, really aggressive going at UConn.
Q.Â Along the same lines as your philosophy with cell phones, how do you view social media during the season for your players?
COACH FRESE:Â We try to let them navigate through it.Â But also some boundaries.Â I mean, during the season we have a midnight curfew in terms of being on any of it.Â So we want them to shut it down so they can get their sleep during the season.Â Obviously day of games or if we're on the road we take the cell phones.
So we try to kind of give them that balance and that blend.Â If something is tweeted or retweeted or something that doesn't represent our program, we'll communicate it should be taken down and communicate the examples.
But our girls have done a really nice job I think over the course of time.Â It's really something hard to navigate, like I can't imagine if I would have had all that when I was in college, because I think it's a lot that you're asking young people to have to be really professional with.
Q.Â You mentioned the runs that UConn goes on a little bit in your opening.Â I think they went on an 18‑4 run against Texas in the Sweet 16 and we saw them in the second half against Dayton come out firing and just separate themselves.Â How do you prevent that from happening to keep yourself in the game?
COACH FRESE:Â Call a timeout.Â Maybe ask for a few more.Â You know, I mean, I think you really have to have a pulse on the game.Â You can't take bad shots in those runs.
They're going to score.Â You've got to be able to go right back at them.Â You can't let their run take you down.Â You've got to be able to stay really strong within that and be able to keep your poise and your composure.
Q.Â How much do you think your winning a championship in'06 buys you with the players that are on your roster today and then beyond that, recruits, because there are not many people over the last‑‑ not many coaches I would say over the last 10 years who can walk into somebody's home and say I've been to the place you want to be?
COACH FRESE:Â Yeah, obviously it's something you're always going to be able to utilize in recruiting because there haven't been that many teams that have been able to win championships.
And I think for us most currently, though, is having the ability to talk about back‑to‑back Final Fours because I'm not sure how many recruits remember'06 compared to the last two years.Â So I just think when you're able to sustain it at a high level, be able to‑‑ now as I'm‑‑ what am I, finishing my 13th year at Maryland, that consistency level I think is really important to recruits.
Q.Â This idea that guard by wins championships in March, and the guard fight this season, a lot different than last season.Â Do you think that's sort of what separates this team from last year's Final Four team?
COACH FRESE:Â You know, I mean every team's built differently.Â But I love the fact that when we're going to see a lot of pressure, and you talk about the defense that we've had to face when you talk about coming through Duke and Tennessee and that defensive pressure and what we're going to see tomorrow night, it is critical to your success.Â And to be able to see ‑‑ in my opinion I feel like we do have one of the best back courts in the country.Â And when you talk about what these three have been able to do together, you know, they've been a huge part to our success this season.
Q.Â If you've watched enough tape on UConn, you've seen different ways to guard Breanna Stewart.Â Some teams double her.Â Some teams don't.Â She's obviously, given her length and abilities, a very hard check.Â Have you thought philosophically what you want to do in terms of how to defend her, whether it's doubling, zone or something else?
COACH FRESE:Â Yeah.Â I mean, obviously when you watch as much film as we have, you are able to see a lot of different things.Â I can't really tell you what we're going to do.Â But I mean obviously she's the most difficult matchup on the court when you talk about her length and her ability to post you up or her ability to step out and be able to shoot the 3, her ability to kick to Kaleena.
They have a lot of‑‑ what, they have three All‑Americans.Â So when you talk about the weapons that they have on the court and then you finish with the Player of the Year with Stewart, she's a really extremely difficult matchup.
THE MODERATOR:Â Thank you, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports