March 27, 1998
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, I thought the first half our defensive intensity was right where we needed it to be. I thought our up tempo in the offensive game was right on. But I thought our shot selection was poor. We missed a lot of easy shots. But I thought we took quick shots. In the second half, really pleased with our play for THE most part on both ends. Better job of decision making and transition and getting the ball inside, if we didn't have anything in our early offense. We're right where we want to be. We wanted to be in a position to play for the National Championship, and they put themselves for that position. Now we'll get ready for that game.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about that first half. It seemed like they tried five or six different players on you. Was that a little bit of a factor in your first half performance? Talk about how you went from the first half where you were struggling, to the second half.
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: I thought I came out and played. I didn't try to force the issue. If I wasn't open, pass to one of my teammates. I was talking to the assistant coach, he mentioned that the game the first half was played in spurts on both sides. It was kind of sloppy.
Q. Could you comment on what it's like to be a part of an amazing freshman class. The freshmen had the first 15 points for you guys in the first 26 of 39. And could Coach Summitt also comment on the freshman class, please.
SEMEKA RANDALL: It's an honor to be in this position, play for a National Championship, and just be considered as one of the best teams. Right now I haven't really taken it in and actually thought about it. Right now I'm just concentrating on competing and looking forward to the next game.
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Best freshman class I've ever coached. I'm looking out tonight, four freshmen on the floor with Chamique, I see that a lot. Here we are in the semifinal game of the Final Four and we have four freshman making big plays. We had four freshmen that kept us in the regional finals and helped us get here. And certainly they have a great future. But, really, the only future I'm thinking about for these four freshmen will be on Sunday night.
Q. Semeka, can you talk about guarding Christy Smith and what the difference was with her back. It didn't seem like it made a difference, that she was fully recovered from her knee surgery tonight.
SEMEKA RANDALL: Well, it was mentioned in our pregame that she had played 79 minutes, she hadn't turned the basketball over, and our goal tonight was to come out and force turnovers and force her to play fast. And at the first half I know she had the two turnovers, so I did my job halfway through the game, and it was a matter of coming out and forcing her to make more turnovers.
Q. For any of you, did they seem a bit tentative and scared out there? Did you see anything different in their eyes?
SEMEKA RANDALL: Actually, I know for myself, I didn't pay any attention. All I focused on was getting the job done and concentrating on our team.
Q. Can you guys talk about the beginning of the season; you beat Louisiana Tech in the first game and now you are playing them in the final game, what the differences are with you guys at this point?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I think we've improved a lot, just like Louisiana Tech has improved a lot. I think we need to go out there and basically do our job and play the game like we're coming out. We can't look at what we did in the beginning of the season. It's a new game and, obviously, anything can happen.
Q. Chamique, will you comment on Kellie Jolly's 3 pointer she hit right before the halftime, it kind of took the wind out of Arkansas's sales. And will you give us a rundown of what Coach Summitt told you.
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: It was the kind of shot that makes you go in the locker room, that could come back to haunt you. But in the locker room, coach got on us about -- what did you get on us most about?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: It must have been really important.
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: Our offense. What was it? I can't remember, really.
COACH PAT SUMMITT: That's a good sign, isn't it folks? I'm not going to bail you out.
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: Quick shots and rebounding, and how she was proud of our defense. Because we didn't give up any transition buckets, but move the ball and work on offense. Sorry.
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Make sure you remember it Sunday.
Q. For Chamique, how much of a comfort is it knowing that if you struggle, you have talented teammates that can pick you up?
CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW: I feel special. I feel lucky. A lot of good players and top players in the country don't have such a good support staff. And when I'm struggling, I don't have to panic or rush. I play within my means and someone else is stepping up. That's just a mark of a great team. You have other individuals making big plays.
Q. Coach Summitt, can you talk a little bit how you plan to defense Alisa Burras and Amanda Wilson? They've both shot about 63 percent on the season, how are you going to deny them the basketball?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Obviously they have a great inside game. We feel like in order for us to do anything there we have to influence how many times they touch the ball. We can do that a number of ways, perimeter-wise or front end the post. I think it's a matter of we have to step up and really defend. They do an excellent job. If you just play soft on the defensive end. We'll get after them, like we have everyone else. I was really impressed with what I saw tonight, their ability to move the basketball, and, obviously, make the outside game very, very effective, as well as their inside game. As long as they shoot the ball from the outside, they really can stretch you out as far as your defense is concerned.
Q. Since Chamique kind of lost her memory there, could you expand on what you told them at halftime? And could you also comment on Kellie's three pointer going into the half?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I complimented Chamique on the decision she made at the end of the first half. And I told them that if we were going to play up tempo we had to, number one, make better decisions, and needed to be lay up or set up. We missed a lot of easy shots. I really thought that Chamique and Tamicha got caught up in the pace of the game. We needed to switch gears and have some poise. We talked about if we didn't have anything in the transition game, we needed to switch gears and execute our offense and needed three to five passes, unless we were getting a look inside. I thought our ball movement, player movement was better transition in the second half. Because of the pace of our game, we get caught up in making quick shots. And you have to have better shot discipline.
Q. Coach, Arkansas only turned the ball over a total of 45 times in their regional games. That was a real key. But they had 28 tonight. How important was that and what was the emphasis there?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think it was important. The emphasis really came on the ball and out of our press. I thought Semeka Randall did a terrific job. She's had three straight defensive games that I think have been solid for us in terms of her ball pressure. Our press was better tonight just because we did a better job setting our traps and playing the middle of the floor out of our traps. But that's where we placed our emphasis from the North Carolina Regional Final to today's game.
Q. Was there ever a moment where you thought you would not be playing the National Championship game this season?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: No, I don't think there was ever a time that I thought we wouldn't make it. Certainly when we were down by 12 with 7:19 to go in the regional tournament and knew something had to happen. But I'm not the kind of coach, and, hopefully, we're not the kind of team that thinks about losing. I think you need to think what you need to do in that particular moment in a pressure situation and go out and execute one possession at a time.
Q. Pat, would you talk about the depth of emotion and the rivalry between Tech and Tennessee.
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, there have been a lot of changes in the game. But the interesting thing, you have two teams that are very familiar to the Final Four Championship play in Tennessee and Louisiana and Tech. We certainly go way back. In the early years of my career, we lost many, many times. We use them as a measuring stick in terms of what type of players we thought we had to have to compete against them, knowing that they were a national powerhouse. We've maintained that rivalry and played that nonconference game, one per season. And I think we have really benefitted from the rivalry. And, also, just in terms of playing a team like that, because they will exploit your weaknesses, and that is something that makes us a better basketball team because of it.
Q. Coach, do you talk to the team ever about history or being a part of history at all or are you just concerned with we have a chance to do something that hasn't been done? Do you ever remind your team of that or do you just not talk about it?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, we've mentioned it throughout the season, and it's come up maybe on a scouting report. I think take care of today and you have a chance to do something very special. But, really, what I told this basketball team is that this is your team. What has happened in the past two seasons, that's part of the Tennessee tradition. But now we need to take ownership of what's going to happen this year. And I think you certainly have a chance to do something no other team in the history of our program has done. And we've really compared it more to Tennessee than to the women's game, and tried to really focus on what this team could do that would be very special and would be a great opportunity for them,. And they could make their place in the history books, not only nationally, but I think specifically in our program, which that's pretty significant.
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