April 6, 2004
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Q. Shanna, you just came out on fire in the second half and it look as if you were single-handedly determined to pull your team back into it. Is it something you had talked to Coach about at half-time and what happened?
SHANNA ZOLMAN: Well I just I was just trying to play. We were struggling offensively beginning with and we made a late run in the first half and I just tried to set myself up and my teammates did a good job of finding me and I just tried to knock it down. We had to do something. We had to find some way to start making some runs because we were getting defensive stops here and there but we weren't able to convert on the other end. So it was just something that I just tried to do. Our coaching staff, they told me that they were telling me that's what they recruited me for and obviously it was shooting. So I made sure I took it upon myself to put that into practice. So it just wasn't enough.
Q. Shanna I would like to ask you the 11-0 run at the end of the half, to get you back within 6, did that give the team some feeling that, okay, we have taken their best shot and we can come out in the second half and still win this game?
SHANNA ZOLMAN: Obviously we had a lot of confidence when we made our runs. We were excited. We knew we had the confidence within ourselves that we were going to make runs. We are going to get back into this game. We wanted to own the game, we wanted to own the second half. We just needed to outscore them by 7 points. We just needed to get 7 points on them in the second half. That's all we needed. And we obviously like I said, had a late run in the first half, tried to carry that momentum over into the second, and we pulled together obviously being able to make a run from 17 down, but they just had an answer for everything we did. That's just a sign of a great team.
Q. Question for Shyra, Pat mentioned them going inside in the second half, I think they had 22 points in the paint. Were you surprised that they were able to score so well inside?
SHYRA ELY: Well I think we just knew that it would definitely be a battle on the inside on both ends of the court. They did a great job of executing in that area and defensively we just didn't execute the way we should have. But I just think that it was a very physical, it was challenging, they did a great job of executing.
Q. For either of you, could you talk about the sequence where you guys were down 2 and you had the chance to tie. What happened on that sequence?
SHANNA ZOLMAN: I don't know.
SHYRA ELY: I don't remember.
PAT SUMMITT: Well, we just we rushed our offense at that point in time and had a costly mistake. Tasha was out and if I'm right on this, I think that's when LaToya was at the point. Got a little overanxious and just a missed opportunity on our part.
Q. For both players, I know it's hard to look ahead at this point, but you've got a heralded freshman class coming in. Any thoughts on next year?
SHANNA ZOLMAN: We're obviously excited. We have a great talented recruiting class coming in. Everybody knows about them. They have made their mark in All-America games in high school and we're very excited to be able to try and acclimate them to Coach's system at Tennessee this summer and then on into next season. But it's a little away yet, and we're just looking forward to it, but still it's quite aways away right now.
Q. Shyra, if you could just talk a little bit more about that being an All-American and you're going to be a senior next year. Obviously tonight is not what you wanted, but there must be optimism heading into next year?
SHYRA ELY: I'm definitely excited about next year. And what we have in front of us. It's just a situation of players, the freshmen, buying into the Coach's system and being committed to that and just making it a goal of theirs. I'm definitely excited about it. It's going to be a challenge, leading a group of 6 freshmen, but it will be a task, but I think we can take care of it.
Q. My question is kind of along the same lines, both of you will have a chance to play the Final Four next year, kind of in your own backyard, how long will it take you to kind of put this one behind you, forget about it and start thinking about that possibility?
SHANNA ZOLMAN: It will take a while. I think when Coach talks a lot about learning from it, but forgetting about it. I think that's real important. But it hurts right now. Obviously it's been one of our goals and we have had a great season this year. We have come a long way. We have overcome a lot of obstacles and adversity, but it's not something that you can get over with too easily and I think that we're going to, I can speak for myself and for my teammates that we're definitely going to take this as motivation this summer to just work our tails off to improve and to again, try and acclimate the 6 new kids coming in. That's going to be a job in itself, but we're going to forget about it, hopefully, sometime here in the near future, but obviously use it as a learning experience and just try and improve and move on next year.
DEBBIE BYRNE: We're going to release these ladies now back to their locker room and let's give them a moment, please, to leave the head table.
Q. Pat, you were talking about that never quit, never say die attitude. Shanna seemed to epitomized it tonight. Talk about her performance and what she brought to the team.
PAT SUMMITT: Well, I think Shanna's stepped up and really been a go-to player for us offensively. She's really studied tape and we have worked on all the different screening options to get her open and she just played a lot better without the basketball to be able to catch and shoot and score for this team. I just told her she's grown up tremendously as a player and just her maturity overall and she's the kind of player that wants the ball. As a Coach, you just feel very fortunate to have a player that can shoot the ball as well as she can. But she wants it every possession and I think she's learned how to get it more consistently and she stepped up and knocked in some big shots for us tonight. She's got a great future here.
Q. One of the things that seems evident is that there was a difficulty for Tennessee in trying to create shots tonight. And a lot of times the offense took a while to evolve, to where it could get a shot off. Is that something that the incoming class can help with or is it something that your kids have to develop over the summer?
PAT SUMMITT: Well, I think first of all, Tasha Butts had a bad shooting night. And I think that we got a little overanxious because of it. I think she got a little overanxious and it's only because she wanted to do something to help us. And Connecticut played off of LaToya Davis. Sidney Spencer was really not looking to be as aggressive offensively and I thought that hurt us. If you look at our bench, we had five points off the bench. And I really thought if we could get something from Spencer and Brittany, that would take a little pressure off of Tasha, as well as free up Shanna even more. But we didn't score well from those positions. And I thought that's what caused us to really struggle. I give Ashley a lot of credit. She stepped up and did some good things for us offensively and got some points that typically in some of these games she hadn't been able to produce as many. But at the other end I thought we gave up too many easy baskets. This Connecticut team is, they're a great passing team, they really got great vision. They see the open players and deliver the knockout punch. And they see it and they complete it.
Q. This might not be your most talented team but talk about their tenacity.
PAT SUMMITT: Well, I told them, and I hope that when they reflect on this year, they will realize how they grew as a team and they are tenacious. They're one of the gutsiest, most determined, most ambitious teams that I've coached in a long time. And I think that goes, for the most part, the credit goes to our seniors, because they just more or less said we're going to do this. And it was like they pulled everyone along with them. And they have gone through a lot of adversity. I'm not going to think about this team this summer and think, oh, they just failed. No, they really, I think, by most people's standards, they overachieved. By my standards they found a way to win and they're champions in that regard.
Q. Sorry if you've been asked this already, but much was made especially yesterday of your relationship with Geno. And I'm curious, it seemed like you had quite a conversation with him prior to the game and then after the game. I'm curious if you could tell us what you talked about.
PAT SUMMITT: I'll leave that up to Geno. It was a cordial conversation. I'll leave it up to him if he wants to tell you. Good luck getting it out of him.
Q. To follow up, could you describe what you believe his strengths are when you looked at, for example, how he coached today's game, what you think about his place in the women's game.
PAT SUMMITT: I think Geno has established himself as one of the very best teachers and coaches and bunch of the most successful coaches in the women's game. His teams reflect his personality. They have a toughness about them and aggressiveness, and obviously a confidence. I think that they obviously get from their coach as well as I thought Diana brought that to the court as well. Clearly they're one of the best passing teams in the country. I don't think they get enough credit for their defense. They have great support defense, he mixed up his defenses, but whether they run zone or man, it was hard to really get the good open looks early and they just kept bringing a lot of different looks at us. So I have a lot of respect for Geno and I have a lot of respect for this Connecticut program.
Q. Could you talk just briefly about Taurasi tonight and what it was like competing against her these last four years, maybe where she would fit in in your mind in the history of women's basketball.
PAT SUMMITT: Well, I think that she's one of the best -- one of the most skilled offensive players that we have faced. Skilled in terms of making everybody else better with her passing. Making obviously the big shots from the three, the versatility in her game is tremendous whether she's posting up, taking you off the dribble or coming off the flare screens and knocking down NBA 3's. Obviously she's a tough competitor, and steps up and makes big plays under pressure. One of the best that we have gone against in my career.
Q. Just looking ahead to next year with the freshmen coming in with Candace Parker, can you talk about the excitement as you look forward to next year and maybe getting back to the Final Four with those guys?
PAT SUMMITT: Well, I'm really excited about the talent that we're bringing in. On paper they look great. But we have a lot of work to do, obviously to get them ready to step in and play the kind of schedule that we play. But right now to be honest with you, I'm still thinking about this team and appreciative of what they have done and I know that they're in a lot of pain tonight and I want the pain to go away so they can realize what they accomplished this season.
DEBBIE BYRNE: Thank you.
End of FastScripts...