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March 17, 2016

Holly Warlick

Diamond DeShields

Bashaara Graves

Tempe, Arizona

COACH WARLICK: Today is a really special day for us as we are here getting ready to start another quest in the NCAA Tournament. It also is Bashaara Graves' 22nd birthday, so we are really excited and happy, and she thinks this is her day. So as soon as we get out of practice, we're doing everything she says that she wants to do. So that's the request of -- that's what happens when you get to be a senior.

We are excited to be here. It's been a good road for us and we're ready to get started, anxious to get started. We had, really the last two weeks, have been really positive for us, played hard, so anxious to get on the court and get going.

Q. For the players, can you just talk about what's gone right for you in the last four games, and kind of how this preparation period has been leading up to this tournament?
BASHAARA GRAVES: We've just been playing great, playing together, doing the right things, the little things that we need to do these last couple of games.

I think in practice, we've been focusing on these little things also, just get those little things right. Coming in with a lot of energy, I think in the SEC Tournament, we came in with a lot of energy and that helped us a lot.

Q. For both of you players, have there been -- especially Bashaara since you've been here for so long, has there been a burden of expectations given the great heritage of the women's Tennessee program, and how does that affect your optimism coming into this situation when you're a lower seed, rather than one of the high seeds you've been in the past?
BASHAARA GRAVES: I think we always have great expectations every year. I mean, we're University of Tennessee and with that, it comes a lot. Everyone that came here, we know what those expectations are and this year, we haven't had the greatest year and we know that's what led to this seeding.

We're going to -- we got into the tournament. So it's always a positive and we're going to take that and just run with it. We know we can win these couple of games and just coming in with that same energy and the same fight we had in the SEC Tournament, we can do great things.

DIAMOND DeSHIELDS: Yeah, basically, the same thing that Shaar said. There's always expectations when you play at the University of Tennessee but we knew that, and granted we might not have lived up but we're still here. We're still fighting.

So we can definitely make more out of the situation that we're in. That's all we're really focused on is today and the future and we're not really dwelling on the past. So we're just going to continue to bring the same energy and intensity and focus that we've had over the past couple of games, that's worked really well for us, and I think that's got everybody feeling pretty optimistic about this tournament and where we are.

Given our low seed, we're very -- all the girls, we like where we are and I guess it's been good for us, this low seed. So we're going to see how that works out and go from there.

Q. First of all, you've got to love the 90-degree weather, but what do either of you know about Green Bay and the way they play?
BASHAARA GRAVES: Well, first, they are shooters. They are kind of like, in our conference, a Missouri-type team. They like to spread the floor and hit those threes. I mean, we are definitely going to have to close out long and make them dribble, try to keep the one-on-one. They are great shooters so we definitely have to stop that.

DIAMOND DeSHIELDS: We understand that Green Bay is very capable of beating us, so we are not going to take them lightly, first of all. Granted, we might not have seen much of them. We do understand that, like Shaar said, they are very capable, a great shooting team.

So for us we are going to have to really get out in the passing lanes, and ball pressure, we can make them uncomfortable with our length and with our quickness. If we can do that, we feel pretty confident about the outcome of the game.

Q. Does this almost feel like a fresh start for you guy, considering the season didn't go the way that you want, just a chance to -- okay, we know what we can do when we play well and now we're going to do that?
BASHAARA GRAVES: I definitely think so. Going to the NCAA Tournament, everybody's record is 0-0. We are starting over. I mean, we're going into this game with a very open mind, and knowing that we can do great things in this tournament.

So just starting fresh, we're definitely starting fresh.

DIAMOND DeSHIELDS: Same. This is a new season for us. It's kind of like a breath of fresh air honestly. Trying to get out of the SEC was stressful, at times. So for us to have a fresh start, 0-0, I mean, the stakes are higher.

We understand you lose or go home. But we're okay with that. I think we have a team full of winners and we know what it feels like to be here. I'm very confident in us and our coaches and just Tennessee in general in this tournament.

Q. You mentioned you like the seeding where you're at. Do you feel like the chip on your shoulders may be a good thing come tournament time for you ladies?
BASHAARA GRAVES: I definitely think so. This team, we know what we're capable of. We know what we can bring to the table each game. So I mean, I think it kind of helps us with our fight. I mean, we wanted to prove people wrong, also.

DIAMOND DeSHIELDS: I think having a chip on the shoulder come tournament time is huge for any program, but especially for us, given the year we've had. We've all tried to stay away from media and all the negativity but you can't help but see some things, especially around this time of year, and I think everybody is just pretty fired up and ready to prove people wrong.

Q. Given what you just said, does it make any difference that you're this far away from home, or is it almost a relief in a way to be playing out here?
BASHAARA GRAVES: I don't know, I mean, it's kind of great to have a different atmosphere. But I mean, we're so used to -- I mean, since I've been here, we've always started off in the tournament playing at home. So it's kind of different, but I mean, it will help us down the line playing in a different environment.

DIAMOND DeSHIELDS: I mean, the dimensions of the floor are the same. We're going to be playing basketball. That's what we came here to do. It doesn't really matter where we are. Goal is still ten feet high and we're going to be inside. Doesn't really matter.

I'm enjoying the sun. My dad and my brother are here for spring training. We've got some girls who have got family out here. So granted, we are far away from Knoxville, but all gyms feel the same pretty much. Doesn't really matter too much.

Q. You mentioned you had some family out here and stuff, not sure how long you ladies have been out here, but what are your thoughts on Tempe and the Phoenix area?
BASHAARA GRAVES: The weather's great. I've been loving it since we've gotten here. That's amazing. Just being out here in this weather and just getting to walk outside and just enjoy that sunshine, that's always great.

DIAMOND DeSHIELDS: Personally, I like it, being able to get out of Knoxville sometimes is a good thing. The weather here is awesome, incredible.

But we're here, we're on a business trip. Everyone around us is kind of on vacation and we see kids running around the hotel and everything, and we can't let that distract us from our ultimate goal, which is getting two wins here and moving on.

Q. This last group of games, beating Texas A&M, even though you lost to Mississippi State, feels like the momentum and progress you've been looking for, it's been coming together?
COACH WARLICK: Yeah, the energy and the effort was outstanding and that's something that we've been looking for these kids. We've been so up-and-down. We've had a tough schedule. We played on the road pretty tough teams. We've been at home.

The SEC was extremely difficult. You look at, we lost -- we went in overtime a couple of games. We lost one or two. We lost a big lead.

So to say it's not been a testing season would be an understatement, but I think when these young ladies put it all together, which they have at the end of the year, we've got a chance to be a really special team. And that's what I've loved. I've just loved their focus and energy and their effort going down in the late stretch.

Q. How have you handled the burden of expectations, given you've been in the Top-25 forever and all that?
COACH WARLICK: Sure. Look, when I took this job, I knew what the expectations were. It wasn't a surprise. They didn't hide that from me and I've been there all my life, and so my expectations for myself and this team are high, too.

Our fans have probably been spoiled, yes, but they are very loyal fans. And they should be a little disappointed in this year, as we all are, but you've got to put it in perspective. And all I know to do was go to work every day with a huge amount of energy.

But I can't get caught up in what's being said and no offense to you all. I don't read a lot of the media and listen to the radio, and good or bad, but I just know I've got to come in every day and have the same attitude and have the same expectations I have win or lose.

I'm just trying to get these young ladies focused and this year has been a lot of firsts, and it hasn't been probably good firsts for us. But we have great kids and great talent, and it's up to me to get them in the right direction. I think that we've turned the corner.

We've dealt with a lot of injuries, a lot of kids in and out of the lineup because of that. But I think we've gelled. We're a team that's gelled late but I'm okay with that because I like how we're playing right now.

Q. Can you talk a little more specifically about what your team has done in this late stretch that's allowed them to make this kind of improvement?
COACH WARLICK: Gosh, well, I think our loss to Alabama was a really low for us -- Alabama is a very good basketball team but it was low for us because of how we played. It was about us. And I think that our kids just had had enough.

So when you get these young ladies and this generation to focus, to zero in on what's important to them, and I think they did just that. I think they went to practice with a different sense of urgency. I think they went to practice with a respect for the game a lot more. And I think they went to practice with a lot more respect of themselves and this program.

They were under-achieving, and I can tell you this. After the Alabama game, our practices were turned up about five notches and we competed. You don't always win with talent but you've got to win with effort. I think we understand that.

Great kids work hard, work hard in practice. We're probably the most -- the best practice team that I've coached in a long, long time. But we haven't carried that over on to the floor, and I think that right now, they are extremely focused.

And look, we can teach them and coach them up, and they have got to make that decision. And I'm going to give them total credit. They took it and ran with it, and they have been really, really outstanding in practice and in games the last three weeks.

Q. Your players give a nice scouting report on Green Bay. What are your observations of this team and how they play?
COACH WARLICK: Well, extremely well coached. Coaches a system, spreads the floor, shoots threes, can spread you out, going to make you defend deep in the shot clock.

Defensively, they are going to find ways to not less us go inside. We're big. We're athletic. They are a little smaller and extremely intelligent. So they are going to pack it in a little bit.

This is my thoughts. Now whether he may come out in a full court man-to-man, I hope -- I hope you read your paper tomorrow that I said that. I think that they play within his system, and he does an unbelievable job. And it's different, the SEC conference in general is very athletic, very physical, and I think they are on the other spectrum.

They are more precise and they shoot threes like crazy, like they said. Everybody on the team shoots a three. It's a different -- it's a difficult -- it's a different team than we are used to seeing. I think that's why we choose the schedule that we do and away from the SEC because we want to make sure we defend all types of teams.

And as Bashaara said, they are like Missouri; they are a little bit like Vanderbilt; they are a little bit like Albany that we played. So hopefully we've had the opportunity to play their style, because it is different. You're going to see two different styles of basketball tomorrow.

Q. Could you just -- Diamond was such a high-profile player. Could we get some thoughts from you on what it's been like to have her transfer, come in and kind of where she's at right now?
COACH WARLICK: Absolutely. Great question. Diamond came in with a pretty tough leg injury, and for her to sit out was big. It took her that long and a lot more months into this season to recover.

And you're talking about an unbelievable athlete that has played the game at an extremely high level, and then when she came back, had not played in a year and -- gosh, year and a half, I don't think her body was letting her do what she was used to doing.

It was a process for her to come back and play the game where she needed to be, and I think the beginning of the year, until really I think until the last month, it's like being able to jump and touch the ceiling and then when she first started playing again, she couldn't touch the ceiling.

So I think she had a lot of doubt in her mind. I think she had a lot of, am I ever going to get back to where I was, and I know she was frustrated because she's an extremely competitive young lady.

So I think now, she's within the last month, she's gotten everything back, and I think you see the different level that she's playing, if you watched us earlier and you watched how she's playing now.

I think she's gotten her confidence back because now her body has healed and she can trust that it's not hurting and she can do the things she used to do. And she's really zeroed in on this team.

I think dealing with that and then coming in and having the profile that she had, it was difficult. And I think now, she understands where she is and she's been -- I think you see the success of our team the last couple games, and a big part of it has been how she's played and how she's played together with this team.

I love it out here, just telling you, I love it out here. Thank you all. It's humid in Knoxville, so I don't know which is worse. Thank you all.

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