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April 5, 2015

Alaina Coates

Tiffany Mitchell

Dawn Staley

Aleigsha Welch


Notre Dame ¬Ė 66
South Carolina - 65

THE MODERATOR:¬† We're joined by head coach Dawn Staley and student‑athletes Tiffany Davis and Alaina Coates and Aleighsa Welch.¬† Coach, an opening statement.
COACH STALEY:  We gave God the glory when we made it to the Final Four.  We'll give him the glory for the defeat.  I feel that our team did what they had to do, put themselves in the position to win the game.  Unfortunately for us, it came down to them making a play when they needed to make a play and we didn't.
But really proud of our effort.  Proud of the women that represent the University of South Carolina women's basketball team.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.  Tiffany, on the final drive, was it air ball from the tip?  What were they showing you on defense?  Looked like you never got a look on that final try.
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  I came off the ball screen.  They were making it hard for me to try and find a shot.  And on one of the passes, they deflected it.

Q.  As much as you fought back tonight again and again, how much tougher is this one to handle?
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  Anytime you end your season, it's a tough pill to swallow.  I credit us, I credit my teammates for still fighting and never dropping their heads.  And I think a lot of people thought we were down and out in the second half.
But it's always tough to swallow when you put so much effort and energy and you don't come out with a win.

Q.  Tiffany, can you talk about kind of the flow of the game.  They would push out to a lead and you guys would push back.  Did you feel it was an uphill battle for a lot of the game?
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  I mean, it started out slow the first half.  Second half I think we came out with a better start.  But it's always hard to kind of come from behind especially against a team like Notre Dame.

Q.  Tiffany, when you have to come back like that again and again, how much does it take out of you in a game situation?
TIFFANY MITCHELL:  We put ourselves in that position.  So at that point it doesn't really matter how much it takes out of us.  We still have to do it.  We have to play.  I don't think we're thinking about being tired.

Q.¬† Alaina, can you tell us a little bit about the first Final Four experience?¬† Did you feel like the big stage ‑‑ do you think it was nerves at the beginning of the game was why you guys got off to a slow start?
ALAINA COATES:  Same story.  I do credit nerves a little bit, but I do feel like we were able to just suck it up and just get over all that.  We're used to playing in front of big crowds, and we knew our fans were there and we saw the energy, and we just went with it.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Questions for Coach.

Q.  Can you talk about the start of the game and did you think it was nerves?
COACH STALEY:¬† I don't think it was nerves as much as just‑‑ as much as we started the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight, that's kind of what's been happening to us‑‑ I mean, it's just bad plays, bad decisions at the beginning of the game.¬† And you think with the five that we do start, they've been in situations like this last year and this year.¬† And we put ourselves in a position to overcome a slow start.
So I don't know what the answer is.  But I don't think it was nerves.  I think our players were really ready to play.  They just made bad decisions like they would at any point in the game.

Q.  Aleighsa hits the putback and you lead for the first time in the day.  Especially when you got the ball back, did you feel like you pulled another one out?  And what happened in the boxout at the end?
COACH STALEY:  We were in the game.  We fought our way back.  We got the lead.  At that point you don't exhale and think you have the game won.  Because we've been in some tight ones the last three times out.
It's just they made a play.  We defended pretty well.  I think the shot was kind of short that Loyd missed, and I think it was Cable that got a beat on the ball and did the same thing that happened on the other end.

Q.¬† You talked a little bit about the play in the front court.¬† They had a couple of ‑‑ Notre Dame had ‑‑ their front court players had a pretty good game against you guys, and there might have been a lot of folks who thought you would have had an advantage there.
COACH STALEY:  I mean, you know, I think they're not bad players.  They're very good players.  I thought what we were able to do over the course of 40 minutes, I thought we equalized what they were able to do early in the basketball game.
It's going to take for us a rotating post play in the depth that the post play kind of beat teams in the 40‑minute period.¬† So they got off to a really good start.¬† When the game settled down, I thought we made them miss a couple of easy shots at the end of the game to get ourselves back in the game.¬† And that is our death over a 40‑minute period taking its toll with their post plays.

Q.  Can you set up that last play for us, what were you expecting to see from Notre Dame and what was the play designed?
COACH STALEY:  It was just horn's action, a play that was pretty effective for us all game.  What we wanted Mitchell to do was to kind of turn a corner, see if she can get an angle to get inside, maybe get to the basket.  But they were hedging out and they made it difficult for her to have an angle to get to the basket.
They did a really good job of shading her and forcing her outside of the paint.

Q.  How much are the missed free throws going to haunt you?
COACH STALEY:¬† That's key.¬† We left a lot of points at the free‑throw line.¬† But, you know, still we overcame that to put ourselves in a position to take the lead, had another possession after that.
I thought if we could get that possession to fall, it gave us a little bit of cushion.  But we couldn't.

Q.  You have a lot of talent coming back, but how hard will it be to say goodbye to Ibiam and Welch, especially Welch who's been here for the beginning of this?
COACH STALEY:  It's truly hard.  They leave a big void in our program.  They won a lot.  But what's great about the senior class that's leaving us is they're leaving us with a legacy of leadership.
They didn't come in as the best leaders in the world, but they leave as probably one of the best leaders, one of the best class of leaders that we've had come through our program.
So I think our players have taken note to how they led our basketball team.  And if they're half the leaders that Elem and Olivia and Aleighsa were to our basketball team, our program is in a great place.

Q.  I know it's a team moment, but can you give us a sense of what you said to your team after the game already?
COACH STALEY:  I told our team that we came up short.  Obviously we wanted to win the National Championship.  But I just hope they take note of how hard it is to get to this point and how hard it is to win a semifinals game and also how much it took.
And we're not far off.¬† We're not far off.¬† We just have to‑‑ we just have to continue and get the experience of playing in the Final Four.¬† So our experience is going to have different outcomes.

Q.  You've been in their shoes.  How long does it take for the sting to turn into those warm memories of what they were able to achieve this season?
COACH STALEY:  It takes a while until you get back, till you get back to a place where you can at least compete for it and taste it a little bit.
But I'm glad our players got a chance to experience this so they can get in the gym and work hard, so they become better students of the game so if we ever got to this point again, we're going to have different results.

Q.  Obviously you guys had at the beginning of the year a goal to win the National Championship, and it was a loss tonight, obviously.  But when you look back when the journey started with training camp back in September and October, how would you describe or how are you going to remember the journey of this season that you guys win an SEC Tournament for the first time and making it to the Final Four for the first time?
COACH STALEY:  We did a lot of firsts for our program.  They have a very memorable year.  And I want us to enjoy the year, but I also want us to have a certain hunger, a certain bad taste in our mouth from experiencing and being so close to competing for a National Championship that it will fuel us to be better individually, to be better collectively so we can get back to this point.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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