April 8, 2003
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Obviously our basketball team and staff and I'm sure all of the great fans that were here to support us tonight are extremely disappointed. It was obviously a very intense competitive, hard-fought game. I thought our basketball team controlled the boards for the most part and we knew that would be extremely important to the outcome. Unfortunately we couldn't make the shots that they made. They made a lot of 3's. We didn't extend our defense at times and we lost people out of the zone. We gave them too many 3's. I thought Ann Srother played a great game. She was the one player that obviously upped her play. While we only had 11 turnovers I thought the they were very costly and obviously, we couldn't seem to get any breaks, we kept fighting and competing and these 2 young ladies I want them to know how much and I appreciate them and our Tennessee program appreciates them. They have become like two of my daughters. I hurt for them. I love Gwen and Kara, I know they are going to do great things after they leave here. They have been awesome and role models for our program.
Q. Kara, I would like to ask you since there have been so real battles with this Connecticut team what is it they that they do offensively that makes them this difficult to defend?
KARA LAWSON: Well, I think if you look at their individual players. They have players that can do a number of things. Obviously Diana can hit the 3, can take you off the dribble. Has tremendous size, they have a lot of big guards, Strother is big, Taurasi is big and they have so players with good quickness, good one-on-one ability. I thought at times we had good defensive pressure on them but we let them shoot too many 3's. I think that was the story of the game. For us defensively as we gave them too many open looks from their three best 3-point shooters, when you do you all that with the caliber of players that they have they are going to knock them down.
Q. Both players congratulations on a great career, can both of you or one of you talk about the challenges guarding Taurasi presented tonight. You mentioned too many 3's, she seem to have some big shots tonight?
GWEN JACKSON: Definitely. You got to give Diana a lot of credit, she has been playing that way all year. Putting up big numbers. The key to anyone guarding Diana is you have to bring a big attitude, limit your work, you are stuck in her mercy and I think tonight she got a lot of open touches and things like that. You got to give her credit, she knocked them down the whole game.
Q. To either one of you, are you disappointed to being this close to a National Championship?
KARA LAWSON: I mean being at the Final Four three times out of your career, you know, it's tough not to come home with a championship, both Gwen and I came to Tennessee to win one and that's hard, but you know we came a long way this year, I don't think a lot of people really expected us to be in the National Championship after losing some of the games that we did. There is a bright future for the program. I'm just excited and feel blessed I have been a part of it because it's a great staff and great teammates.
Q. Kara, it looked like in the second half you really came out with the intent of being more aggressive; is that something that you guys discussed at half time?
KARA LAWSON: Yes, I think we wanted to have more aggression on the offensive end. We like an up-tempo style. We felt we needed to push the tempo and get some easy baskets. And so I was definitely looking to be more aggressive. I played a lot of point in the second half. So I kind of controlled the tempo more of what we played than I did in the first half as opposed to running the wings. I definitely looked to push it a lot harder than we did the first half. I think that helped us offensively.
Q. Yes, this is for Gwen, you obviously had a very emotional month on and off the court. I want to know now that it's over what it's been like for you?
GWEN JACKSON: I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I love my coaching staff and teammates. I don't regret my decision not going to my brother's funeral; this is what I came to college to do. Not winning is a disappointment. I don't have any regrets about anything.
Q. Some of Connecticut's writers are talking about them needing another player to step up and hit some big shots; can you talk about what Strother meant to them today?
KARA LAWSON: Well, she hit open shots. Most of her 3's that she got were open. She had a couple of nice drives. I don't think we rotated well. I know a couple of times I rotated to the post and they hit her for open 3. I mean you got to credit her for knocking down open shots.
Q. Coach, in the middle 90s you were the program that everybody had to catch and right now Connecticut appears to be the program that everybody has to catch; you have made changes this year from your offense and how you shuffled your players. What else do you think you are going to have to try to catch Connecticut?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, I don't think there is that much difference quite honestly in the two programs. Obviously tonight they were the better team for 40 minutes. I'm not going to be making a lot of changes. The only thing that I can tell you is that we are going to continue to compete for the National Championships if I have anything to do with it and our staff has anything to do with it we are going to continue to work hard in recruiting because that's how you win. You have to have great talent. They obviously won this game tonight and they deserved it and that doesn't mean that Tennessee is not a premiere basketball program, or a team of the past.
Q. Coach, Kara only had 3 points in the first half and came out with much more intensity in the second; can you talk about the difference in her play in the second half?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think they did a good job on her defensively. I think Conlon got into her to have screens. It was very physical. I will have to look at the tape. Maybe we could have done something to get her more touches, we were going inside early. Both teams were committed to pushing the tempo and trying to get the ball inside and we had a lot of opportunities that we let our post touch the ball. And I thought in the second half when she went to the point position she got a lot more involved on the offensive end. But we tried to run some things to her and they did a great job of defending.
Q. Coach, it seemed like in the middle to late 90s Chamique was the one players had to catch; Diana Taurasi, is she sort of the hump you have to get over?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, fortunately she only has one year left. She's a player like that just sets them a part at times. She gives the team a lot of confidence, and she also is just a big play person. When we had Holdsclaw we thought every night we competed we had a great chance to beat anyone in the country and certainly Diana brings that to this Connecticut team. I think she has helped bring along a young team and provide them with the leadership and confidence and gotten them involved. But she is that type of player.
Q. Coach, you had many different lineups, some interesting arrangements out there especially late in the first half; can you comment on that?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Actually I thought our bench played really well. Our bench played better than our starters if you look at the numbers. I wanted to push the tempo. I wanted to play McDaniel and Fluker inside and for that reason it's not any different than what I expected it to be, what I put the numbers up at half time clearly our bench had been the better team.
Q. Coach, you talked about Ann Strother's performance. I was wondering could evaluate it in the context of her being a freshman and what she looked like out there?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I don't think she is your typical freshman. She played for Geno in the summer before she entered Connecticut, so obviously she learned the system early. I think as a high school play player of the year, she is like our freshman when we had Catchings and she came in and started playing, Ely came in and started contributing right away. She is a very talented player and a great competitor. I think she had a jump start before she got there and then had a chance to go in this summer like all of our freshman are able to do now which I think is a really great rule and a real advantage for a freshman to settle in and learn the ropes. But she, tonight, she certainly did not play young. She played confident and very mature.
Q. Coach, the first the nine minutes, Diana is scoreless, she is not going go scoreless the whole game, what got her going after that point?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think a couple of things, obviously they got the ball in her hands, and started running some things to free her up. I'm sure, as long as her teammates, she gets them involved and they are taking care of business, that's fine which feels like it's my time now. I got to step up and make the play, obviously she doesn't. That's who she is and that's what she does.
Q. From a coaching standpoint what do you see again that Connecticut is able to do that makes them difficult to defeat?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think a couple of things. They do an excellent job. They have excellent ball movement and player movement, really aggressive in their half court game. Because they have three players that can shoot the 3. They spread you out. It doesn't matter if you are man or zone, if you don't go out they make 3's. If you do go out they break you down off the past or off the dribble. They are a hard team to defend. In particular, I think this Connecticut team because they are shooting the 3 so well and their post people have really developed, that makes it very tough to switch a lot of defense on them. We tried a lot of different looks. Because of their ball movement and their player movement invariably they were spotting up and getting open. They are just a difficult team to defend in the half court. Obviously, at the other end we did not have the 3 point shooters that they had which I thought allowed them to really key off -- key a couple of people and help off a couple of people.
Q. Coach, you talked about Ann Strother's affect on the game tonight; what about the other players, Maria Conlon and Barbara Turner both in double figures tonight?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: It's a great team. They had great balance. Great balance offensively. Their post people were extremely physical. They certainly did a great job from the defensive standpoint against our posts, presenting a lot of problems for us on the inside. They just really had really good balance.
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