March 28, 1997
DEBBIE BYRNE: The format of this press conference is that we will allow Coach Summitt to make an opening statement and then we will take the players and then release them and have the Coach back for individual questions.
PAT SUMMITT: I thought our basketball team tonight played great on the defensive end, a lot of intensity. You know, while it is a team game, I do have to point out that I thought Kyra's defense along with Chamique and Pashen and Tiffani. We made a lot on the defensive end. Had a hard time breaking this game open, as well as we played. Both games shot well in the second half. Really proud of our basketball team. Their intensity when the shot is not falling. On the defensive end, we still kept playing and making plays.
DEBBIE BYRNE: Any questions for the players? Questions.
Q. Chamique, there was a spurt there in the second half -- she isn't there?
PAT SUMMITT: She is coming.
Q. Can you address how frustrating it was when the Coach was talking about how you had a hard time breaking the game open? It seems as though they kept staying the game. Can you talk about how frustrating that was for you?
ABBY CONKLIN: Well, it was frustrating. You got to give Notre Dame a lot of credit because they are a talented ball club. They have a lot of good shooters and played defense. In the first half they were controlling the tempo. We came out in the second half and got our game going by some steals and were able to break the game open a little bit.
Q. Abby, to what extent does the back court position, to what extent does that help you out?
PAT SUMMITT: I told the basketball team --
DEBBIE BYRNE: The question is for Abby.
PAT SUMMITT: I was talking.
ABBY CONKLIN: I think it helped us a lot. We came out relaxed tonight. In warmups we were relaxed. It may not look like it in our shooting in the first half, but I think our experienced players knew what to expect and our three freshmen, Kyra is not playing like a freshman right now. It helps a lot and they follow our lead.
Q. Tell me about your feeling for the players. Did you notice any tightness on Notre Dame's part? They never made it this far. Were they nervous at all?
TIFFANI JOHNSON: Actually not. They played like they had been here last year and the year before. They came out just as aggressive as we thought they would be.
Q. Chamique, would you talk about your performance tonight? 31 points, you pretty much took control.
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: I played relaxed and I ran the floor and I think the best that I have all year around. I was excited, and I haven't let down on my end. I just went out there and gave it what I did.
Q. Chamique, were you trying to be a lot more aggressive on offense? It seems that you were not as aggressive during the year on offense. Were you trying to be more aggressive?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: Definitely. The Coach kept telling me to go inside. Sometimes I faked on offense and she told me to stay inside.
Q. Tiffani, can you talk about Chamique's role on the team this year? It seems like tonight's game was just about the kind of effort she gave throughout the season.
TIFFANI JOHNSON: I can't say enough about what Chamique has done for this team. By her being so aggressive, I think a lot of times a lot of teams tend to focus on Chamique and it opens up a lot for us. She has done a lot for the team. She scored, rebounded. She has done a lot. When she goes out in the game and opens it up and when it comes to the steals, and puts it back, and shows emotion, that gets the rest of the team pumped up and we all feel it.
Q. Where would you be without Chamique? Would you be here tonight?
PAT SUMMITT: Don't answer.
ABBY CONKLIN: Spring break.
Q. Chamique, did you really want to come out and shut down Beth Morgan and get into her early?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: Definitely. It was a challenge and I was playing my best defense in the tournament. The Coach told me not to let her score 30 points. They were not slacking and they were in our face.
Q. For Kyra. Can you define what the first half and the second half was different that made you all able to blow it open in the second half in comparison to the first half?
KYRA ELZY: We came out very excited and ready to go. Our shots didn't fall the first half and our second half we picked up our defense.
DEBBIE BYRNE: We will release the Tennessee players at this time and continue the questions for Coach Summitt.
Q. Coach, obviously your team has improved as the years have gone by. You continue to work defense. Is that the key to getting this far?
PAT SUMMITT: Well, I've always been a defense-minded Coach. You should never have an off night in the defensive aspect of the game or on the boards. I like consistency. I like to play the percentages there. It is something that we really have tried to emphasize. We have not shot the ball this year as I would have liked. Actually in post season we have shot a little bit better. That's because we have been able to get some easy looks off of our defense and get some good shots as well.
Q. Pat, you have been around long enough to enjoy this one. Can you talk about Old Dominion.
PAT SUMMITT: Old Dominion have impressed me. When you talk about winning and not shooting the ball well at times. The know-how to make plays, certainly are a great defensive team, great rebounding player. Machanguana came up really big, played one of their -- and Ticha came in and played well. Certainly they are playing well right now they are playing with a lot of confidence, have an attitude. I think they are mentally tough. So it is a big challenge for us. I'll tell you. I will enjoy this one for a few more hours. You folks have no idea what we have been through this year, and I just cannot tell you how proud I am of our team. We have 48 hours to prepare, and we will work as hard as we can to be the best Tennessee has been all year long when we play on Sunday. We know we have a huge challenge because we are playing a great team, and a team that has already beaten us once this year.
Q. Coach, a lot was said about how tough it was to rebound against the zone, getting 20 offensive rebounds. Tell us your efforts on the boards.
PAT SUMMITT: We left our post on the blocks and let Chamique work the middle of the zone and worked the baseline and Kyra and Kelly penetrated, and I told our post people to stay home and rebound. It was something I watched in the Alabama game and they kept running the high-low and talking to Coach Moody, that's one thing that he said. I didn't leave my two posts on the blocks. And one thing I would do differently, I would rebound. So I have to give him credit.
Q. Gaither had 28 but in the first 15 minutes of the second half I think she had only two or four. Did you do anything in the second half to contain her?
PAT SUMMITT: Actually I was very upset at half time about our lack of defensive intensity. I really thought Kyra set it from the very beginning of the second half. We knew we had to front more, and we really had better ball pressure. Pashen did a tremendous defensive job, and late in the game Kyra and Tiffani was trying to defend Morgan. She is a great talent and will make a lot of plays, and made them down the stretch. In the second half, our ball pressure in Pashen's ability to get around her and tip away the ball and front her more in the first half was big.
Q. Coach, you have the opportunity to defend a national championship. Do you think it will be harder to win the second time or will last year's experience help you as your players have been in the big game before?
PAT SUMMITT: Well, in the last two years we have been in a championship game and we clearly understand the difference in being number one and number two. We are not going to talk about defending a championship. We are going to talk about winning a fifth. You know, in something that I think this is a very different team from a year ago. And so this is a new team, this is a new Final Four and a new opportunity. We are not last year's team. But we are a Tennessee team that wants to go out and see if we could make history big time for our program. But we have a huge challenge in front of us because we are playing a great basketball team.
Q. Coach, therefore, when you all went from 58-50, you scored on first four possessions. What went on defensively at that time?
PAT SUMMITT: Again, I just kept telling them, we never made a stop. I go back to Kyra, Chamique, Kelly, Pashen, Tiffani, they all came up and made big plays. We did a good job on getting our hand in the passing lane and doubling on the post as well. Chamique, her defense is getting better. I am ribbing her all the time, she doesn't guard any more. But she is starting to really like the defensive aspect of the game. I thought tonight she had some big steals for us. During that time I know she had at least one.
Q. Coach, there was a stretch in the second half where Chamique literally took over the game. Can you talk about what she showed you during that phase?
PAT SUMMITT: Well, not anything new. Chamique can take over the game. She is that type of player and she wanted to win and she wanted the ball. Basically I'm always telling her, "No one can stop you. You are the only person that can stop Chamique." I give Notre Dame a lot of credit. She came out and ran boxes on her for a while but she needed a break at that point in time. But before then, she just went to work. She got at the ball. I told her, you got to get inside their defense. When she worked off the dribble, she did a good job of cutting inside their zone. Just made big plays. She got tremendous concentration on the offensive end.
DEBBIE BYRNE: That concludes Tennessee interview. Thank very much, Coach Summit. We will be ready momentarily.
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