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March 28, 2016
Connecticut - 86, Texas - 65
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student-athletes.
COACH AURIEMMA: Trying to get a triple double throwing the ball to the other team the last five minutes. I would just say the same thing that I said to our team going into the game and then coming out of the game, and even during one of the huddles, that this game is the most difficult game I think to win. I say that every time we're in this game, and it's true, and it showed tonight. You're playing against a really good team that really tested us at both ends of the floor and it forced our best players to play great. That's exactly what you need at this time in the tournament. You don't want to be going to the Final Four thinking that games are easy. And in spite of the score today, this was by no means easy at all. I'm just really -- I'm excited for our seniors.
I've been thinking about it all year long, how I really want it to end, and they say being there is half the battle, right? So great things can happen next weekend, but you have to be there to make it happen, and we did the hard part.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Stewie, they cut it to 12 in the third quarter. I think they hit three straight three's, and then you Morgan and Moriah took over. I think you had all but two of the points until you left the game. Did you notice or go, okay, we got to step up our game and take over now and put this game out of reach at that point, if you remember?
BREANNA STEWART: Yeah, they came down and had however many threes in transition and during one of the breaks, dead balls, that kind of stuff, it was me, Morgan, and Moriah saying, all right, we have to do this, we have to take over, we have to take control. We're the most experienced, and we're the ones that should do it.
Q. Morgan, curious whether early on when you were asserting yourself as much as you were offensively, was that just a question of matchups and something you guys saw, or was that a plan going in, or if that was something that you decided to take upon yourself? And Breanna, I noticed you addressing the team prior to tip off, I was wondering what you said to them.
MORGAN TUCK: Well, I just tried to read how the game was being played. We had talked about whoever Imani was guarding that me or Lou would have a little bit of a mismatch. So I think we just tried to take advantage of that as much as possible.
BREANNA STEWART: And before the game, just, we do it every single game before the game, just talk to them. And today, just saying that we know that this game leads to the Final Four. The winner of this game gets a ticket to the Final Four, and we want to come out on the other side victorious, and we were.
Q. Morgan and Stewie, Geno talked about you guys did the hard work, you made a lot of things look easy, but was a lot of things hard this year to get back to the Final Four?
MORGAN TUCK: Well, I think whenever you have a new team it's hard. Nothing comes easy and especially playing for him, playing at UConn, nothing is easy. And we had to build that chemistry, to rebuild the chemistry with our entire team, to show the young guys how we do things, to become even better leaders, take on bigger roles. It wasn't easy, but the experience definitely helps.
Q. Breanna, how important, or how much of a motivational fact was it when Moriah went down with a potential injury. When she came back, how great was that for you to maintain the momentum and ultimately come out with a victory?
BREANNA STEWART: Well, when Mo went down, we knew she was going to get back up. We knew that our senior guard, our point guard, she wasn't going to leave the game unless she was unable to move, unable to walk, that kind of thing. She wanted to be out there with us because she knew that we needed her help.
Q. Stewie, can you talk about the importance of Moriah's presence on the defensive end, especially heading into the second half there?
BREANNA STEWART: I think when you think of Mo as a defensive presence, a defensive presence, she's all over the place. She's getting in the passing lanes, she's swarming the ball. There was one point where we switched, and she was able to knock the ball away from the other 6'-5" post player, which was unbelievable. And it was a huge play for us.
But the fact that no matter who she's guarding, she's going to do her best to make sure that they don't score.
Q. For both of you, in the lead up to the game, having your names announced in the state of Connecticut for the final time, I'm just wondering if both of you thought about what that might feel like and what was going through your mind at that time.
BREANNA STEWART: I think that for to have my name be called for the final time in the state of Connecticut it's kind of a big deal. And you don't really think about it then, because you're thinking about the game. But looking back on it now, walking off this court, the fans here have done so much for us. And to be able to play our regional game here in Connecticut, where we're really fortunate that they're able to come and see us play one last time, because our fans are like no other.
Q. Morgan, going back to the fourth Final Four in your career. Is it possible to just play these games like they're other games and block out all the external static that goes around the Final Four? Can you just approach it like normal during the season or is there some other formula?
MORGAN TUCK: I think once you're in the game, I think you try to play it as not necessarily just a normal conference game, but that it could be the last game.
But I think that with the approach, we all know that these are really important games, so the nerves might be there a little bit more than an average game. But no matter what, I think once the game gets going, then you just kind of forget about that.
Q. Stewie, you guys get out, you run, that's the way you guys play the game and it's part of UConn basketball. You had two fast break points today. You guys had to play a different style because of the way they got back on defense. How easy an adjustment was it? It seemed to be seamless. Did you guys just immediately were able to execute in the half court about as well as possible shooting 60 percent at one point in the first half?
BREANNA STEWART: It didn't feel like we were shooting 60 percent. That's for sure. But coach shows us the importance of playing at our tempo. And the fact that they were really pushing the tempo, trying to run up-and-down, especially offensively, we want to make sure that we kind of controlled the ball, took our time. And there was times where we were shooting a little too quickly into the shot clock, and they did a great job getting back in transition, and they didn't let us get any run outs.
Q. Morgan, obviously, the National Championship is still out there for you guys. But as a senior class, how much does it mean to you to be back at the Final Four for the fourth straight time?
MORGAN TUCK: It means a lot. This is a big part of us reaching our goal, and we have to go to the Final Four to do that. So I think that as a team, we're just really excited to be able to go and enjoy the Final Four and then, hopefully, win two games.
Q. Stewie, the same thing that Morgan just answered.
BREANNA STEWART: We're really excited to go to the Final Four. I think that any time you go, it's a lot of fun, there's a lot going on, there's -- coach is talking about this is our last trip with this team. Last time to be with this team. And I think we're just going to enjoy it. Especially as seniors. Last time it's going to be like this.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you. We'll take questions for coach.
Q. With everything that went on over the last 48 hours, the way the Texas came out and played, especially in the first half, is that the best thing, aside from how good your team is, for women's basketball?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, I mean, when they were pushing it, and they were really attacking us, I think we got up 17-6 or, I don't know, maybe we got up eight or nine early, and then they came right back and knocked in some shots. One kid made a three in transition and it was like her fifth one of the year. That's what happens at this time of the year. People make shots they don't make the rest of the year. Everything that's just -- you have to expect the unexpected.
So, during their run, yeah, during their run, when they were going really good, I remember sitting down and going, you know, this is really great for women's basketball. Now those guys can shut the hell up. I was thinking that. Not really. Not really. I'm thinking, you know what's good for Connecticut basketball? We need to go on a 12-0 run.
Q. A game of this magnitude, did you expect that the seniors were going to play like they did tonight?
COACH AURIEMMA: Of course. Of course. If you remember last year how well we played in the Sweet 16 game, and then what a struggle it was in the game against Dayton. That's -- nothing that happened in this game surprised us. Like we know. And we said what happened Saturday, that's not really life. That's not realistic. That's not the way the NCAA Tournament goes at this time of the year.
Today is more realistic. Today it was a struggle. It was a struggle physically, it was a struggle emotionally, because I probably should have got some players out of the game more, but I just didn't feel comfortable doing that. And because of that, some of the kids played a lot more minutes than I wish they would have played. But it takes its toll, because already emotionally your adrenaline is going. And then physically you're tired. And it caught up to us a little bit at the end.
But this game played out exactly the way I thought it would. None of us thought that we were going to have a repeat of what happened Saturday.
Q. Could you talk about Napheesa's play off the bench, especially at the end of that first half. Six minutes, seven points, four rebounds and really helped you get that separation going into the locker room.
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, you know, we like the kid. I think if you asked her, like, name a play that Connecticut runs, she might say, you know, Bye Bye Birdie or something. She's young and she knows one thing. If we shoot it, I'm going to go offensive rebound it. If there's a lane open, I'm going to drive it to the rim. Those are the two things that she knows that she can do.
So, at one point we said, listen, you guys are playing with the three best players in the country. And at one point when both freshmen were in and Mo was on the bench, or Morgan was on the bench, I should say, and we made a point to say that. You're playing with the two best players in the country out there, relax and just enjoy it. Because I could tell that there was a little bit of anxiety in the freshmen. Just do what you're good at. And the two of them, both Lou and Napheesa were really, really good tonight. Napheesa did exactly what I would expect her to do.
Q. With two more wins it will be a 11th title. It doesn't seem to be a whole lot left for you to accomplish. How long do you want to keep doing this?
COACH AURIEMMA: Based on the way I felt this afternoon coming into this game, I'm trying to come up with something that will keep me from going to the Final Four and let the other coaches coach. I don't know how much longer I can do this.
Everything comes to an end, you know that. Every coaching career ends, whether you win a lot or lose a lot. Every coaching career stops at some point. Every run of championships ends at some point. Always has, always will.
I'm not thinking about anything other than what we have to do in the next eight or nine days. And then after that, obviously, you kind of regroup, and you look at the team that have you coming back next year, and you know it's going to be completely different story.
So, I've been doing this for so long. I've been doing this for so much years, 40 years, I think. I still get antsy and that's a good sign.
Q. Katie Lou kind of struggled a little bit early and bounced back as part of that big run in the second quarter to end the half. How big was that to see her adjust and be a major player and shake off some of that anxiety?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, you have to play through the first five minutes. You have to -- Stewie did too. We didn't make the shots that we were making in the past. And the game's a little more physical, and you have to run harder back on defense, and you have to cut harder and every box out becomes more difficult. And a lot of times when you're a freshman that's the first time that it hits you. That this isn't January, and we're going to go to practice and work on this. No.
But the really good ones, they regroup, and they summon up whatever they have to summon up to be good. Lou and Napheesa are terrific talents, and they're tough kids, and I think what they did today is going to be great for them for next weekend.
Q. What does it feel like to look at the other side of the bracket and see Syracuse and Washington on that side of it, especially Washington, the first 7 seed in 12 years to make the Final Four?
COACH AURIEMMA: You know, in 1991 when we went to our first Final Four, the other teams that were there were Stanford, Tennessee and Virginia. And I'll bet you that not one media person, not one coach, not one anyone thought these guys have a chance. And what -- how did they get here? What happened? It must have been a fluke.
A lot has changed since then, and I think that Washington finishing fifth in their league and going to the Final Four, that's kind of stuff that happens in men's basketball.
Syracuse, they didn't win their league. They don't have people that everybody's talking about them being All-Americans. They don't have conference players of the year on their team. But what they did is no fluke. They came out, and they beat really good teams. That's the kind of stuff that happens in men's basketball.
So maybe it's taken awhile, but there are a lot of good players out there and there's a lot of really good coaches out there, and I'm glad that everybody in the country got to see two teams that maybe you don't get to see much at all. So I'm thrilled for them. I know exactly what Mike and them are going through. I know exactly what they're thinking right now. I know exactly what they feel. And I know exactly what they're going to be doing the next seven or eight days. They're going to come up with 75 ways that they can win the National Championship. That's what you do. They have got it all figured out. If we do this, this, this, and this, we're going to win a National Championship. I know that's what they're doing, because what I'm doing is coming up with 15 things that they're going to do that's going to beat us. So I know how this works.
Q. Are you ever amused by the ease with which you can get people who ignore the women's game to spend an entire day screaming about it?
COACH AURIEMMA: Did I do that?
Really? I thought I was on my best behavior yesterday. I thought that was one of my better answers to a question. I usually -- was anybody on my side? They weren't? Not that you heard?
You know, there comes a point in time -- remember last year when I, dumb me, I was asked a question about men's basketball, and I said it's a joke. Because I was just repeating something that a men's basketball coach told me like five minutes earlier. Bad choice of words by me.
Well, during the summer they changed a lot of rules, right? And the game's never been better, right? So sometimes when a woman's basketball coach opens their mouth, all the geniuses out there have to have a reason to slam the game. And unfortunately, I've given them a lot of reasons to do that. Not my intention, believe me. But you know what? Go tell my three seniors that it doesn't matter what they do. Because as long as it matters to them, then it matters to me and it doesn't matter to me what those people say.
Q. Along those lines, you said before you've been to a lot of Final Fours, nine straight now, how does you still get excited and motivated to keep doing this? Nine in a row is crazy, three straight titles is crazy, just how do you still get excitement out of doing something that's become routine?
COACH AURIEMMA: It's not -- I kind of just the same thing I just said to Mike. Like, when I go to practice every day, for me, there's this overwhelming desire to make sure that whatever these players want to accomplish, it's like my job to help them accomplish it. So they set out to do something when they came here, they set out to do something great. So, every year there's a group of seniors that they're going to leave, and you want them to leave from the Final Four, preferably with a National Championship.
So, the motivator for me and my coaching staff, I think, is the players. It's the players. They don't want to hear that it's old hat for you. They don't want to hear that it's routine. It's like a mother and father that have three, four, five kids, that fourth and fifth kid doesn't want to hear it's routine. They want to be treated with a lot of respect. Like, hey, what about me? I already did that with four other kids, I don't care.
So, we have put ourselves in position as coaches that these kids ask us, coach, can you help us do this? So that's the motivator.
Q. So much has been accomplished by this program. A lot of numbers that have been thrown about, but yet, this is nine straight Final Fours. Is it a number that you appreciate?
COACH AURIEMMA: You know, I appreciated the first one incredibly. I appreciated the second one. And this one right here, when I wake up tomorrow morning, I'll have the same excitement about preparing our team for what's going to happen next weekend. I think for -- I can't speak for other coaches, but the hardest thing about coaching is September to March. That's really hard. Because every day you have got to go there and work with these guys and there's a lot that happens during those months. Now, when you get to here and you know that it's only three weekends that you have left, if you're lucky, the excitement and the preparation and everything that goes with it -- I mean nine times is a lot. That's a lot of Final Fours. Nine times in a row. That's a lot. That's a lot of players over a lot of years and it's not easy to do. It's not easy to do. Mike, that's one of the things that does keep me going though. All those people that call in to the talk shows? You know the sad part about it? I guarantee you, none of them have ever been half as successful at what they do as Stewie's been. Because the guys that are really good, the guys that are great, they don't have time to call stupid radio stations. They're busy being great. They're busy being great. You should see when our guys are around the NBA players how much those guys appreciate what these kids do. I have never ever met someone who is great at what they do, criticize what these kids do. Because they understand how hard it is to be great. So maybe that's what keeps us going, too.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports