March 28, 1999
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Wow. I guess that's the best way to describe it. Tell you what, Duke is a great team. They are. And I think the world of Gail Goestenkors. But I tell you, this team of mine, the Purdue Boilermakers really, they have hung tough together all year long. Now, these are the four starters. And there's one that's not here. A very important one. Stephanie White-McCarty. And I think it's an ankle. We're not sure what. But she's going for X-rays. But let me tell you, she's a very happy young lady. And I tell you, this whole team, the rest of the 14 players that were here stood strong behind her when she turned that ankle. And I'm proud of this team for that. When I first came to Purdue, there was a picture frame, and we put in it reserved for Purdue's first national championship team. And a picture of these young women will go in that picture frame. You made history ladies, and that's awesome. Congratulations.
Q. Just for Ukari and then Camille, can you talk about not only winning, two championships during your basketball careers.
UKARI FIGGS: First and foremost, you have to give all the honor and glory to God for us being here and, you know, sticking together as a team. And this team was just so special. And I think that anytime you win a championship, it's special. But it means so much more just because of the closeness of this team. And, you know, Steph got hurt and went down, and everybody just rallied around her. And that's just the way our team flows. Somebody goes down, we rally around them. And I think we did a great job at the end of the game.
CAMILLE COOPER: I'm also very grateful to God for the opportunities that he's opened up. But to echo Ukari, our team, we pulled together. And that's the biggest thing we learned, is that together we can do anything. We dreamed about it. We believed in each other. And luckily we're here and we came out with the win.
Q. Ukari, what happened at halftime? Could you kind of describe what happened at halftime with you?
UKARI FIGGS: Nothing really happened. I just went into the locker room disappointed in myself. I felt like I let my team down. I wasn't aggressive. I wasn't attacking the basket. I just knew I had 20 minutes to be either a winner or a loser. I don't like being a loser. And I just came out and wanted to spark the team.
Q. Katie, we know what Ukari did in the second half, coming up with 18 points and all. There was another player that had a big second half. Would you tell us what you did in the second half?
KATIE DOUGLAS: I was really disappointed in myself. I thought I also let my teammates down in the first half. I picked up three quick fouls; so I had to be careful in the second half. But yet I had to come out and play hard. And I was really trying to attack them because I wasn't doing it in the first half. And I just wanted to come out and be the attacker on Duke.
Q. Carolyn, you were the first African American woman to win the NCAA championship. Your feelings about that and knowing this is your final dance with these folks.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Well, I think that you know, it's an accomplishment but there are several other African-American women that have allowed the opportunity for me. A lot of women in general. I didn't win a national championship because of the color of my skin. We won a national championship because of the 15 young women that are on our team and how hard they play together. These five teen women are great examples for student athletes. These young ladies are heroes because they do other things besides play basketball that are heroic.
Q. I understand before the game you were obviously very nervous. Could you describe what was going through your head before the game. I understand you were almost ill; is that correct?
UKARI FIGGS: No. I wasn't sick. I don't even know what I was feeling. There where were a lot of emotions going through my mind and I was thinking about a lot of things, and I think that might have been one of the reasons I came out and was not as aggressive as I unusually am. But at halftime, we pulled it together and we knew we had 20 minutes to play.
Q. Ukari, can you draw an analogy between what happened with Steph getting hurt and the final surge in the Iowa game in the Big-10 tournament game where you had a similar surge like that?
UKARI FIGGS: Every time she gets hurt -- I don't know it just fires me up. Steph and I have been through so much together, and, you know, we dreamed about it. We talked about winning the national championship and I knew that it was hurting her probably more not being on the court than her ankle or her foot was, but I just wanted to go out and win it for her and myself and the rest of this team, but just more for her at that time.
Q. You have a very close-knit team but was there one moment within the last two seasons where you just kind of thought to yourself: I've got something special here, I've got a group of kids so tight and that might have the potential to go all the way?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: It happened three years ago when we first came to Purdue. And when you have captains and a commitment from these two, from Steph
White-McCarty and Ukari Figgs and came in, when Nel came in and said: Look we're going to make it work and Nel came in and she was the one that said, All you've got to do is believe. And these two had to be leaders for this team as sophomores, and they convinced the rest of their team to believe. When you saw this from them, you knew they were special.
Q. Now that you have a national championship and a 34-1 record, have you guys considered your place in history?
UKARI FIGGS: I don't know. We're so excited we haven't really thought about making history yet but I think it's great that you know we were able to bring a national championship to Purdue. You know, the program has been on the up and coming you know for the past couple of years and it's great to be able to bring the championship to Purdue.
Q. Ukari, did Stephanie say anything to you going out on the floor the second half, and also did you say anything to her when she got to the bench when she was injured?
UKARI FIGGS: She didn't really say a whole lot not directed to me at halftime or anything. But I said a few things to her as she was walking off the court or getting carried off the court. And I just told her, you know, we've been through this before and I'm just going out there and lay it on the line for her.
Q. This is for any of the guards. You guys played really, really good defense on their three big cards and held Schweitzer scoreless. What can you say about the defensive effort that you played tonight?
KATIE DOUGLAS: I can't say enough. I got a lot of help from my teammates. We rotated extremely well on defense, and we were quick to help each other out when we needed it. I can't say enough about our defensive effort, and I think that's what really stepped up our game.
Q. Did Duke's defense in the first half have a lot to do with why you all were struggling so much on the offensive side?
UKARI FIGGS: I think Duke came out and played great defense. I think that it was more us not attacking the basket. We were settling for outside shots and our outside shots weren't falling. I think that we kind of just kept shooting outside shots instead of taking to the basket. I think once realized that and we attacked the basket, the game turned around.
Q. Coach and any players, it seems one of the strengths of your team, I especially think of the Rutgers game and today, is your ability to make adjustments on the court on the fly at any given time. What did you attribute that to? We hear things like pull together and those kind of thing. Are there any specifics on this team that makes them so good at being able to do that?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: We start the beginning of the year; one of the things we do in practice is trust. It's a lot easier to run splits or run-- when you've got the rest of your teammates pulling for you going: "You can do it." So when we get into tough situations that's exactly what a team does they pull together. We don't come into a game and start doing things different than we do in practice. There are things that we do in practice that we can pull from and then convert those things over when the game starts.
Q. Ukari you mentioned you needed to realize you needed to attack the basket. How did that realization take place? Were you surprised once you did it? Looked like you could go there any time you wanted in the second half.
UKARI FIGGS: I think our coach kind of helped us with that at halftime. But also we knew -- our perimeter players, you know we can shoot the ball. But we're also I think pretty good penetrators, and we knew we were settling for the outside shot. And we just said, Hey, let's attack the basket and see what we can get from that. Our shots weren't falling from the outside; so, let's attack inside.
Q. There was a play with about two minutes to go when you stripped the ball from Nicole Erickson, and I believe she immediately fouled out. Could you talk about that play and did you anticipate her spinning? What happened on that?
UKARI FIGGS: I was just trying to play tough defense. I think, Nicole is such a great player and such a great shooter I was just trying to stay up on her from hitting the 3 because she's so accurate from out there. I don't think I knew what had he was going to do. I was just trying to pressure her into doing something she didn't wanted to.
Q. Camille, did you plan on stopping VanGorp like that? Did it come to your head that you were going to stop a girl that was bigger?
CAMILLE COOPER: Yes, I think with the help of my teammates, I knew that I had to stop her. She's a key player for Duke, very good. She's versatile around the basket, and I really had to focus on my defense for stepping up, and I also thank my teammates who help me. Sometimes they would double down and that's always nice to see. I had to stop her and I knew that would be key to our success. I dreamed about her and knew I had to stop her.
Q. When you see Stephanie go down was it at that moment like we are absolutely not going to lose this basketball game? You're all nodding your heads. This is good. What made you say -- and I know you say you pulled together and everything like that. Was it just some win one for the Gipper thing or what?
MICHELLE DUHART: Steph has meant so much to this program and to me as an individual. We fought hard all season to get to be in this situation and we just -- it's just something I know and everybody, as soon as Steph goes down, the game is over. We're not going to lose. And that's just how we rally around each other. We just play for one another.
DEBBIE BYRNE: There is no fracture. She has a severe sprain and we will get an additional look at her when they get back to Purdue.
Q. Coach, yesterday I asked you a question about -- you said your goal was to win a national championship. Now you've won. Would you please comment on what the achievement means? Is it just a notch on your belt or something for your resume or what really did it mean to you personally to have won the championship?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I tell you what it means -- what means the most to me is to watch these young women pull together and set their minds to accomplishing goals. And we have talked about taking one game at a time and when we did that that allowed us to be the Big-10 regular season championships to win the Big-10 tournament and then to become national champions. To watch these young women set their minds to achieving a goal and watching them achieve that, that's what means the most to me.
Q. Coach, can you think of a moment in your life that feels any better than when that buzzer sounded? Can you tell us maybe what you were feeling at that point?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Right now I can't think of a better moment. And when that buzzer went off, I thought about our two senior captains, and I thought about the fortitude and the toughness, and I thought about the first time I was named the head coach. And I sat with them in the office and they said, "Carolyn, we can do this."
Q. Two teams that had never appeared before in a national title game. Do you think there is nor parity in women's college basketball, and do you think that having new teams in the Final Four every year is good for the advancement of the game?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Absolutely. I think there is a lot of parity if women's basketball. I think there are a lot of talented women playing collegiate basketball. I think that with having two new teams her it spreads the interest. Everybody is still going to watch Tennessee and Connecticut and Louisiana Tech play. But I think now they will watch a Purdue and a Duke and a Georgia play as well.
Q. Through your playing career, coaching, like I asked you yesterday being assistant coach at Tennessee, all the things that you as a coach had to pull together to coach your team you've now won a national championship. In a couple weeks you'll be preparing for a draft and putting a new administration together. What is the one thing that when you sit in your new office in Orlando and you look back and think about everything, what are what are the two most important things to come to your mind?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Two most important things to what?
Q. As far as coaching and playing in the collegiate level.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: First and foremost, two things. There's going to be a lot of things. I think that the two things it's got to be fun. It has got to be fun. And everybody has got to be doing whatever they can do for the best of the team.
Q. Two-part question. When did you remind Ukari that it might be a good time to drive to the basket, because that obviously was a really big part of the second half. And Gail mentioned that you guys really caused them problems by switching on the screens, and when did that idea come about? It was something that you had not done obviously because they weren't quite ready for it.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: First of all, I asked our perimeter players to penetrate from the start. If the openings are there but the shots weren't falling, and I thought they were doing that. Once we penetrated and hit that penetration basket, everybody else would go: Let's settle in and let's go. And when they started doing that in the second half, that's exactly what happened. As far as switching on screens, we started doing that in February. Because Michelle Duhart is so quick defensively and as a post player we trust her to defend the perimeter players out on the perimeter and with the size we have from Katie Douglas and Stephanie White-McCarty, we trust them inside to guard the four player.
Q. I hate to ask this question.
COACH CAROLYN PECK: Then don't.
Q. Women's basketball is on top. Packed house. There's not even a local team here and it's sold out. The fewest points ever scored in a half in a game. Did tonight's performance for the national audience watching, did it at all hurt the women's game? What's your perspective on that?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: I don't think it hurt it at all. I think it was great. It's not always about dunks or 3-point shots. It's about team work and playing the game of basketball. And that's what these two teams exemplified today.
Q. Did Ukari -- I was watching the second half. Her face just lit up. Does she always just take control of the game when she needs to? Has she been doing that all year?
COACH CAROLYN PECK: All year long, and especially if something happened to Steph. When she helped Steph over the sidelines she gets that look in the eye. And the rest of the team just follows her. She's a great player. Both of them are. They have been the dynamic duo in all year long and I feel like they are the best backcourt in the country.
DEBBIE BYRNE: Thank you very much and congratulations to your team.
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