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March 29, 2002

Kara Lawson

Michelle Snow

Pat Summitt


COACH PAT SUMMITT: Obviously we're disappointed, our team, our staff. We were not as competitive as I'd anticipated -- as I anticipated we would be. You've got to give Connecticut all the credit. They out-played us in every position. All you have to do is look at what their guards, Taurasi and Bird did versus Lawson and McDivitt. Look at their front line game, and we got absolutely whipped in every category. I thought Asjha Jones continued to play big. They executed so much better, and they knocked down shots. They got a lot of better looks than we did, and that's something certainly I was disappointed in and I have to take responsibility for that. But hustle plays belonged to them, physical play, aggressive plays. And we're disappointed. And I'm disappointed we couldn't have had a better showing for our program and for the women's game. But I certainly will not remember this basketball team by this game. I still had a great deal of enjoyment and a lot of challenges, but I think our team this year came together and we're young. Snow is graduating, along with Shalon Pillow and Amanda Canon, our walk-on, and everybody else is back. So our freshmen tonight showed a lot of promise, and I told them afterwards that now you can see by watching a team like Connecticut how hard you have to work, and how much you have to want it and how you have to be able to make the plays. And they made the plays. And they were terrific. And again, I'm proud of this team. They got us to a Final Four, and they've improved. They're still very special to me and to our coaching staff. And I want them to remember this only when they go to the gym this summer to work, and then they'll know how hard they need to work when they get there.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about how tough it was to get good shots against their defense?

KARA LAWSON: I think it was tough at times. They certainly did a good job of keeping a hand in our face and contesting shots and they got a couple of blocks in there. I do feel like we had our share of hope looks, we just weren't able to knock them down.

Q. Kara, after the two games you had out in Iowa shooting, were you thinking that's got to end, that you were ready to bust out and have a big game tonight?

KARA LAWSON: I wasn't really pressing too much offensively, I don't think, going into this game. I knew that if I wasn't playing well offensively that my teammates could still win ballgames. And so I wasn't putting too much pressure on myself, just wasn't able to knock down shots tonight. Forced a little bit in the first half, but thought I took better shots in the second half.

Q. Michelle, could you talk about at what point you felt like that's it, we can't come back?

MICHELLE SNOW: I never really thought that. I just kept playing hard. Watching teams like Duke, the Duke men's team, I never gave up, I just kept fighting. You never know what may happen if you keep fighting.

Q. For Kara, do you see what Coach Summitt is saying that a game like this can make a better team out of you next season?

KARA LAWSON: Certainly anytime you end the season with a loss, you take some lessons from it. And each player individually can kind of reassess where they are with their skills and what more they can bring to the table next year. And like Coach Summitt said, we have a lot of players returning, and the future looks bright for our team. But for right now we just have to learn from our loss and try to get better individually in the off season.

Q. Coach, is there any solace in the fact that the four seniors from Connecticut are graduating?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I did have that thought long before the game was over. We've seen a whole lot of them, and they've been terrific. I told Geno, it's a great team. He's done a great job with them and they're big play people all across the board. And what I really admire about this Connecticut team is how hard they play and how inspired they are in every possession. I did not recall seeing a player not play hard every possession. And that speaks for their character and what they brought to the court tonight against us. But I may go to the graduation and cheer (laughter.) You think they'll let me go? I might be there.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about this team? You've really gotten them to be more competitive over the last two or three weeks, and what happened tonight that that really wasn't -- didn't show up in your team's play.

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think when your bench out-scores your starters, it says a lot about how we struggled early. It was very frustrating. We got open looks early. We didn't knock them down. We went inside and their defense was obviously just very tough, very imposing. They blocked shots, they played physical. And they had an aggressive style that we couldn't seem to get the looks inside that we needed. And I think that that is something that gave them a big edge and a lot of confidence is just they overpowered our post game. And then on top of that you've got Bird and Taurasi just knocking down open shots and playing with so much confidence. And when you have two great scorers like that on the perimeter, I think it runs through your whole team. I think it instills a team, and for us when Kara and April are not knocking down shots, I think we get tight and tentative. You can't play this game worried. And we looked worried at times. And again, for all the things we didn't do tonight, I just -- I've got to think about what we can learn from this and also what kind of year we had. We had a great year. And how young we are, and we will be back, folks, we will be back. This was just a hard lesson, but sometimes the hard ones last the longest.

Q. Watching you tonight I was wondering, what's it like to coach in a game like that? You seem to just be trying every option.

COACH PAT SUMMITT: It's a challenge. It's frustrating. I keep thinking how can I help the players. At that point it's all about them. I turn to my assistants and say what can we do to help them? Obviously Mickey and Holly and Al, we were all just trying to pull tricks out of the hat, because we couldn't seem to -- we'd call something or make a defensive switch and they'd exploit it immediately. And so it's frustrating. I had so much fun in the regional finals, only to get here and have this. It doesn't take away from how I feel about this team. I wanted to help them. If you're a parent and your kid is struggling, you want to help them. And we were struggling tonight. And in pretty much every phase of the game. And Connecticut had a lot to do with that. And I want to take nothing, obviously, away from them. They clearly were the dominant team. I wish I could have helped our team more.

Q. You spoke a little bit about the lessons that the kids can learn, and so much of college coaching is teaching every new player as they come over the four years, but you've also been coaching for a long time with great success. What did you learn this season?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, I learned that in order for us to be a great team we have to have a great commitment from every individual on our team. We have not been able to depend on players, and we haven't had the stability, if you will, on our team. We haven't had five go-to players on the floor at all times. We had to wait and see who would show up. And the one thing that I think I will take away from this is that as a basketball coach I have to do a better job of determining earlier who really has the heart and the passion and the skill and the mental game, who's going to show up every night. And we have some of those people on our basketball team. This freshman class is really special. I think they've got a National Championship written all over them. And hopefully they'll inspire everyone else. But to find out who really wants to play at this level every night, because it takes a lot, it's not easy. And some of our upperclassmen I think have -- they've had to learn that the hard way. And they've got some decisions to make with some players that have been up and down, just what kind of player do they want to be for this program, and how do they want to be remembered when they leave this program.

Q. Coach, I know in a lot of instances you always like to take positives out of a negative situation. Could you address that a little bit, about what you're going to come out with tonight?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: We got here by playing great defense and rebounding, we had enough big play people in games, and it wasn't necessarily Lawson and Snow. They did not play well in the BYU game. I think what we can take from that is that we have to have five people that can score and defend and rebound the ball. I think you have to have an inside -outside attack. The fact that we have a Brittany Jackson and Michelle Munoz play more minutes, has really helped us take some pressure off of Kara. We didn't have anyone consistently take pressure off of Snow, except for Ely. The rest of the post people have to step up. I'll take it away and watch it and see what happens. I will not hesitate next year if our freshmen are better than the juniors. Our freshmen will play the role they played this year. But I'd like to believe that everyone will strive to be better individually to allow us to be able to collectively play the type of basketball we need to play to win another National Championship. Thank you all.

End of FastScripts...

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