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March 31, 2000

Tamika Catchings

Kara Lawson

Pat Summitt


COACH PAT SUMMITT: Obviously, it was a very tough, competitive, hard-fought game on the part of both teams. I thought both teams brought great intensity defensively, really battled the boards hard. I was really pleased that our basketball team could continue to play on the offensive end when they weren't shooting the ball particularly well, get on the glass. We were able to push tempo. Kara Lawson deserves an awful lot of credit for the position that we put people in, and we got the ball and I thought -- to certain people, but I thought she just did an excellent job of breaking down the defense and running our offense.

Q. Kara, was it a matter of adjusting in the second half or did you just step up the execution in the second half for your team offensively?

KARA LAWSON: I think for us in the first half we really played on our heels and we weren't in an attack mode and we let Rutgers dictate how we were going to play offensively. And so in the second half we really wanted to push tempo, even after baskets, try and put them on their heels and work the ball around. We thought if we got some ball reversal, we'd get some open looks, and we knew we could be aggressive, that's what happened.

Q. You talked yesterday about not wanting to take quick shots, were you too patient in the first half?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I think we were. Like she said, we played on our heels and sometimes I can help and sometimes I can't. But in this case, we were trying to be patient and not quick shoot it but everybody wasn't watching the shot clock, and that hurt us.

Q. Do you like these more physical games? Do you like playing in games like this that are more physical?

KARA LAWSON: You know, it doesn't really bother me either way. I like playing in the Final 4, and I like playing on this stage and I like playing in a tournament where, you know, if you lose, you go home. And so I think our team likes this type of atmosphere. I think our team thrives in this type of situation. We come out to play whether the team we are playing is physical, whether we play zone, whether they play man -to-man. We're just happy we're going to be in the championship game.

Q. In the second half you looked a lot more assertive than in the first. Did you or coach tell you to step up your game at halftime in?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Obviously the first half, I think Rutgers played great defense, and, I mean, I just couldn't get open. I couldn't get the ball, and it got kind of frustrating, but halftime, Coach Summitt would just tell me you've just got to make sure you move around and that was for our whole team everybody was standing around so it was hard to get good shots like we normally do. She just told me to move around and be more tactical. I started hitting the boards more often and just moving around, getting the ball.

Q. What is this about Kara's play that made her seem older than a freshman?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: She did it all for us. She stepped up her game definitely, just drive and penetrating in, penetrating the gaps. That's what we really needed. We could have easily just stood out there and quick shot the ball and shot 3s all night but Kara made it a point to go in and draw a foul and hit free throws.

Q. In the second half which engine was driving the horse, defense making it easier on offense for you guys would you say?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Definitely. We feed off of our defense a lot. In the first half we didn't get a lot of easy shots because we weren't playing great defense but we stepped it up in the halftime, we came out in the second half and thrived off our defense. We got some easy baskets and were able to push the ball out.

Q. Was their defense doing anything to you that confused you or that you had to kind of get used to in the first half that you were able to break down in the second half?

KARA LAWSON: I think their defense is obviously something that we haven't seen a lot of this year. So I think it took us a good five or six minutes to just get used to what they were doing. And then I think in the second half we were able to really pick them apart. We were able to exploit the baseline in the middle which were areas that we thought we could get good shots. I think once we got more familiar with what they were running and how they were -- the angles they were running out and they were getting out of traps and I think we were able to break them down.

Q. In the first half, Ace got in foul trouble early and had to sit out 13 minutes, how did that affect you and the team, and what she means to the team?

KARA LAWSON: Ace certainly is our best defensive perimeter player. She really got off to a good start shooting the ball. I think you have to credit Kyra for coming in and doing a great job on Tasha Pointer and really affecting their perimeter on offense. I think Kyra stepped in and gave us a lot of energy and forced them into some opportunities and forced them to play fast.

Q. Did any one player take charge at a certain point to push it around?

KARA LAWSON: I think halftime was the key for us. I don't think it was one player. I think collectively we said if we come out and we play Tennessee basketball, we can put ourselves in the championship game and that's how we've done things all season, we do it as a collective group and we're excited to be in the Championship game.

Q. You talked about the mental toughness, was this an indication of that tonight?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Clearly I felt as the game wore on we became a more determined basketball team. We focused less on what we didn't do and more on what we needed to do. We were obviously much more committed to rebounding, I thought much more aggressive offensively when we talked particularly in the second half after our halftime discussion. I thought we stood a lot against their zone and we were running a lot of zone offenses and in the second half, we ran a lot out of our man-to-man offenses. And I thought that was a real plus for us, because typically, when you run your man patterns, I think you just have better player ball movement and you're more aggressive, at least for our basketball team because we see a lot of man-to-man, so that's what we went to in terms of our offensive scheme in the second half and again I thought we moved better and had better looks at the basket.

Q. In the second half, the key play, about midway through you went up about nine, what made you able to get the lead and maintain it throughout?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I think once you get it, I think it's important that you go back and continue to play the kind of defense you want to play. I think just extending our defense was important. I thought we had some opportunities there to get a quick shot and be able to come up with a rebound and go the other way, and also during that time period, I felt like we were able to push tempo and really be -- and Kara said it best, in the attack mode on the offensive ends and stayed aggressive and got some good looks and put the ball in.

Q. At this point, does this kind of game out of Kara Lawson surprise you?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: No. Nothing Kara Lawson does surprises me. I have very high expectations of her. She's a winner. She's the type of competitor when the game is tight, she wants to make the plays and she wants to distribute the ball. When we call something, I know she's going to make good decisions for us offensively, and, you know, we took her off the point and it took us just a very short period of time to put her back there because she can beat people off the dribble, she can knock down the 3 and she can run a basketball team in a halfcourt game. As a freshman, I haven't had one quite like her in a halfcourt situation. She's got a great mind for the game and makes great decisions.

Q. What did you all do defensively, specifically in the second half? What were you running?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, we ran a variety of defenses. We played man-to-man when we needed to stop; that's our trademark and that's our bread-and-butter defense. I thought we did on Pointer and Stewart a great job, particularly picking up the ball early, making other players handle it up the floor. I thought they had to work hard to make plays, and you're not going to stop great players, but if you can influence and make them work for an extended period of time, then I think you have a chance to make some stops, or at least wear on them. But I thought other players handled the ball, and also I thought when we took them away, I thought they kept going inside to Sutton-Brown. She took a lot of shots and we wanted her to take a lot of shots, because if you go down the lift, she certainly was No. 1 and No. 2 priorities we felt we influenced and we thought we could give her some shots inside and get some help.

Q. Coach, you talked about your discussion at halftime. What did that discussion center around, and at the start of the second half, in your first possession, they scored a field goal and then you got the ball and Kara went right up and took it right all the way in all by herself, was that part of that?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, the first thing that I said is, you know, our two all-Americans Tamika and Semeka, I looked at them and said "This is life for the all-Americans, people key on you." They double-team you. You have to learn to do other things, and you have to be more aggressive. And also, while being aggressive, you have to hit open teammates when that happens. I thought Tamika was too tentative in the first half in particular. And so we talked about soft spots in the zone or open spots on the baseline, and at the elbows, and also told the guards, you have to penetrate the gaps, you've got to be aggressive. And that's all Kara needed. She had the green light then to penetrate, and I thought that -- that helped our basketball team understand that we wanted to play aggressive and get on our toes and push the tempo, and then we got a lot of energy from that, that one particular play.

Q. Michelle Snow had seven blocks. Talk about her contribution inside?

COACH PAT SUMMITT: I thought she had a real presence for us and had some great defensive series. Got some key rebounds. Just her presence alone, I think a lot of times is more of a factor than you really realize, just sitting and watching the basketball game. But if you're a player playing the game, you go in there knowing that you have to score over Michelle and that's obviously something that's a challenge at times. She's become more active defensively. At first she was a liability defensively and now she's a real presence, and that's probably the biggest improvement in her game in probably the last probably three weeks of play.

End of FastScripts….

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