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April 1, 2007

Alexis Hornbuckle

Candace Parker

Pat Summitt


THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with a opening statement from Coach Summitt.
COACH SUMMITT: Well, obviously to win at this level I think you have to have great defensive pressure and influence. And I thought our defense was the key. And the fact that we played them tough on the boards, I think, what, we outrebounded them by one. And going into the game and we just kept talking about the importance of stopping their transition, making them spend more time in the court-to-court offense and just rebounding, rebounding, rebounding.
And defensively I thought a big key for us was Sidney Spencer's defense on Erlana Larkins.
The fact that Erlana, which is their go-to player, was 2-4, I think that's a very telling stat. And I give our inside people a lot of credit, as well as our perimeter people for pressuring the basketball. And at the 8-minute mark I basically said, We don't want to go home. They didn't want to go home. And I said, We're not leaving here without a national championship.
And I just saw a different -- I just saw a whole different attitude with this team, the defense, and it started with Alexis and obviously with Shannon in the back court. But it filtered throughout our team. Really, really excited that we have a chance to be in this national championship game and play for a championship.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Candace and Alexis, both, if y'all would just address, was it frustrating for you in particular thinking the ball was never going to drop for you there for the longest time?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: Well, it's frustrating as a player to get so many open looks and I had a lot of long layups that just rolled out. But at the same time I'm not the type of player that dwells on my offense. I just decided to pick it up on the defensive end and crash the boards and try to be a emotional leader for my team.
CANDACE PARKER: And I feel like without my game against LSU, where I shot 2-15, and had like five rebounds, I feel like I hurt my team. And I knew that although the ball wasn't falling for me, there's other things that I'm capable of doing. And I feel like I'm thankful that I learned my lesson previous to the NCAA tournament.

Q. When the game goes the way this one did for 34 minutes, when it may have seemed like you were slugging your way uphill, what changed in those last six minutes? What did you guys say to each other, what did Coach say to you? What changed?
CANDACE PARKER: To be honest with you we just did not want to go home. I mean, we were looking back and at each other and just saying all the stuff that we have been through to get to this point and not seize the moment would just be a total waste. And we just really wanted it. And everybody on the floor, on the bench, everybody in the stands wanted it. And when you have that, I mean it's hard not to fight for your team.

Q. To any of you, is that the kind of game you expected after having played them before? The turnovers and -- between two teams that are averaging like close to 160 points or more?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: It was the type of game we expected. In December I know Tennessee was a different team. We were the type of team we relied on our offense and we let our offense affect our defense and we just learned from that throughout the season and realized this team is beatable. They have weakness. We just need to exploit them. And we relied strictly on our defense tonight and let everything else fall into place.

Q. Candace, talk about the crowd and how much that helped with the momentum when you guys started cutting into that lead in the last couple minutes there?
CANDACE PARKER: Our crowd is huge for us. And they have been there for my whole career and for this whole season.
You always look up in the crowd and you can see a whole bunch of orange. And they were very big in our comeback.

Q. You guys are very familiar with Rutgers. Candace, could you talk about some of the special challenges that they present and especially defensively.
CANDACE PARKER: Rutgers is playing some of the best basketball right now. They have peaked at the right time. I haven't seen them play a lot previously to the NCAA tournament but I know that they're a very defensive-minded team. And they shot the ball great today. So obviously they have a lot of weapons in Matee Ajavon and Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn. So we have our work cut out for us.

Q. Candace, you said on TV that there's a drought, you mentioned a drought. Is that something you've talked about that it's been too long since Tennessee won the championship?
CANDACE PARKER: I think everybody wearing orange will say it's been way too long. It's been way too long since Tennessee has won a national championship. And I'm tired of going into Thompson Boling Arena and playing on the Summit and not looking up and seeing a banner that has all our names written all over it.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We'll take questions for the coach.
COACH SUMMITT: Nick, you got off. You did a good job playing defense, so.

Q. Both games today, you at the outset talked about defense, but I think the word suffocating defense might be the right word for both of these games. In fact, you may not know this, but your shooting percentage was the lowest ever for a team that won a Final Four. All four teams out there today just --
COACH SUMMITT: So we're in the record book again? I like that.

Q. Well, I probably should have brought that up.
COACH SUMMITT: It ain't pretty, but we're there.

Q. But what about -- I don't think there's a coach on the face of this earth, male or female, that doesn't always talk defense first. But is it a cliche or does it always come down to defense at this time of the year?
COACH SUMMITT: I think it is really two-fold. I think that it comes down to defense and rebounding.
Obviously I really feel like in some of the championships that we have won we have not shot the basketball particularly well. But we have influenced how our opponents played and how they shot the ball as well.
Defense is obviously given us a lot of offensive opportunities and it did in this game. It gave us a chance to make the kind of run that we made. Again, I just -- I felt like we had a influence on North Carolina in this game. We didn't have any influence on them when we played them at North Carolina. They pretty much had their way with us.
I would say this, I just thought our team about midway of the season decided that they were going to allow their defense to be a number one priority. More than their rebounding.
Fortunately, that's what's happened for us. And without that, we couldn't have beaten this North Carolina team. They're a great basketball team and we did some good things, if you look at the number of shots that some of the players got and also some of the percentage, they struggled like we did to make shots.

Q. We can talk about withering defense all we want. But it was kind of ugly out there. Both games. And this being the showcase for women's sports, the nation watching, what have you, is there any concern that this is except for those last few minutes which were very exciting but even then still a little messy, any concern that you have as a -- one of the legend of women's sports that this would be what would be displayed for the nation today?
COACH SUMMITT: I am not the least bit concerned about that style of play. I think people that understand basketball would have a great deal of respect for the intensity and the defense that these two teams brought to the court. And also understand that we influenced each other because of our defense.
And it seems like I watched the men's game last night that wasn't quite as fluid early on. But I think that if you understand the game, then you understand what happened tonight. Yeah, people like to see a lot of points put up on the board. But they may not be people that really understand the game.

Q. Obviously you faced one of your best friends now for the national championship. It's early, but any thoughts about what it would be like to go up against Coach Stringer with these stakes on the line?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, Sylvia Hatchell was on my staff at Tennessee as a grad student. We're both in grad school together and she coached my junior varsity team. Sylvia and I have been great friends. Vivian and I are great friends. I have tremendous respect for both of them and really have just enjoyed the friendship that we have shared, but certainly I know Vivian is going to have her team ready and prepared. I know how much that she wants to win. And she wants her team to win a national championship. And I feel the same way.
Regardless of what happens in that game, we'll be friends. I'm proud for what Vivian has done. She's been great for this game, she's won and brought teams to the Final Fours from three different programs. And I've stayed at the same place for 33 years. So she's done a lot more things than I have, but at the same time it will be great to see Rutgers in that game and see Vivian Stringer on the stage because she's certainly deserves it with the job she's done with a young basketball team that she has just really brought along and she has them believing they can win a national championship. And obviously their defense is really, really tough. So it should be a great game.

Q. With, what, little over eight minutes it's 48-36, at that point the way the scoring's going there's not going to be much scoring, you're down 12, are you thinking it's still doable? And to get back you practically had to shut them out and that's what you did. And kind of a follow-up to that, where does this rank in the comebacks you've seen your team have and in high-stake situations like this?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, I really felt like that at that time there was a lot of time and a lot of possessions left. And I knew that we had some players that were a little frustrated, but we just -- we brought a lot of energy from the bench. Our staff, my staff was tremendous. We kept talking about we can do this. We will do this.
As I said, we just talked about what we had to do on the floor and they responded. And in trying to keep everyone really positive, because Alexis was really struggling. She struggled in the last couple games with her shooting. But I said, We have to win this with defense. We're going to have to win this with our defense. And our rebounding. In order to get easy scoring opportunities. And at that time I definitely thought, I mean, I thought it was doable and then I started to feel with our defensive pressure that it was beginning to be effective and we were starting to see the momentum change.

Q. Where does this rank maybe in some of the comebacks?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, you ask me today, it's probably one of best wins of my career, since you asked me today. But it's all part of getting to the national championship game. And obviously this was huge today. The main thing is I'm just proud for this team. Because they have played the toughest schedule in the country, they have been tough, they have been together, they're committed to defense and rebounding. And they're committed to each other. And I just -- I want it for them.
More than anything, I want it for them. And they know we're working hard as a staff and I've got a tremendous staff to help not only teach and coach, but inspire these young women and we just got to be ready to play and hopefully we're a little more efficient.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow.

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