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March 24, 2008

Morenike Atunrase

Gary Blair

Danielle Gant

La Toya Micheaux


THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the postgame press conference. I'd like to welcome the victorious Texas A&M Aggies. Coach Blair will have an opening comment and we'll have questions for the student-athletes.
Coach Blair, your opening comments, please.
COACH BLAIR: I thought basically our defense controlled the tempo of the ballgame and we were forcing them to making drives in the last five seconds. Their post player was doing a good job of hurting all of my post players on her drives at the end.
I thought our wings was doing a pretty good job. You got to give up something. We'll have that talk about our post players about giving up the drive to the basket, but 24 was doing a good job the whole night. I liked our intensity. I liked what we were doing in transition. We got a lot of easy baskets off of steals. A lot of that -- whoever scores the layup is not necessarily the one that created the turnover, she's the recipient, because we're a very unselfish team on giving up the basketball, like in the second half when we had a three on one, when it went from T.K. to Morenike back to Gant. These kids are very unselfish and they do the things.
Certain nights it might be Starks' night. She just got selected District 5 Kodak All-American today into the top 40. We're happy for her. On other nights it might be D.G. we have instant offense coming off the bench.
Eastern style of basketball is old school of basketball that I really admire because they have to play the game between the ears, not necessarily above the rim. You have to set screens. You got to run a good motion. And they are a very good team, just like you saw Marist earlier. I think ourselves and LSU were just a little bit too athletic for them. I think that showed. But what it didn't show was on the rebounding. Hartford came in and just kicked us on the boards just about the whole night because of just special effort. But as a result they were giving up something in transition. But I would just like to commend Hartford, what Coach Rizzotti has built over there in such a short time. You better enjoy the ride if you're in the mid-level schools.
But Marist made it last year to the Sweet 16. Perhaps next year it will be Hartford's time. We got a tremendous break when 23 got into foul trouble because she runs the show for 'em and does an excellent job. When she went out of the ballgame, it created a whole lot of more scoring opportunities for us.
But I'm proud of these young ladies up here, just like I am of the ones in the dressing room. But it was a very businesslike game for us. We're gonna play pressure. I thought the officiating was fair for both teams. We've got to get a little bit better at making the right decisions and do it consistently once we start going against the teams that will be in the Sweet 16.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Mo, can you talk about the evolution? Last year was one-and-done, two years was losing in the first round. To get to the Sweet 16, talk about how satisfying it was and your goals going forward.
MORENIKE ATUNRASE: Well, I will start out by saying we were still growing as a team. We were inexperienced. We hadn't been there before. We didn't know what it took to win games. We had the talent, but talent -- Coach Blair mentioned it to us before we came out to the game that talent doesn't win games. Every night you have to be smart, you have to play together as a team.
But I think this is a great win for us and we've grown over the years. This just gives us great momentum and we'll just keep growing as a team every game.

Q. Danielle, we quizzed you about going into the press table. On the first possession of Hartford, you went halfcourt for a loose ball that set the tempo. Talk about the defense and what you wanted to establish early.
DANIELLE GANT: We wanted to get a lot of turnovers. In the first half, we didn't do that. In the locker room we got a little, uhm, word from Coach Schaefer. He wanted us to come out in the second half and play great defense. And I think that's what we did.

Q. Danielle, Oklahoma City, you're going home. Talk about how that's going to feel to play there.
DANIELLE GANT: It's great. Always great to go home and play in front of my family and friends. Like I said, it's going to be great. We went there not too long ago. I seen all my family. But just to go back and see them there again, it's going to be great.

Q. Danielle, talk about the feeling of this team, the businesslike win here, on this winning streak, talk about the feeling inside the locker room, the confidence going on?
DANIELLE GANT: I think it's great. The four losses we got in the beginning of the season really got us going now during this part of the time. But it's great just to have all these wins. I mean, the team, at first we were a little down because we got those four losses. I think that didn't do nothing but help create this winning streak that we have now.

Q. Mo and La Toya, I notice there wasn't a whole lot of celebration out there. First trip to the Sweet 16 in 14 years. Is that because you're still looking at more business, more things to accomplish?
MORENIKE ATUNRASE: I think what was different is -- I'm not saying in the past years we haven't expected to win. Like I said, we have grown. We're smarter as a team. We play together. We expect to win big games. We're not the No. 2 seed, no one picked us No. 2 seed for no reason. We just go out and try to play like a No. 2 seed should.
La TOYA MICHEAUX: I think what Mo said was correct. We're happy inside. But we realize we have business to take care and we're looking forward to the next game. We're very excited to make the Sweet 16. I believe it was the first time in school history that we made that. No, since 1996. Much as we feel we're expected to be there, we worked hard. I just think that's something we deserve. When you look at the Final Four and stuff like that, you'll see a celebration there.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse the student-athletes. We'll continue with questions for Coach Blair.

Q. Can you talk about shooting. If I would have said you weren't going to hit your first three till nearly halfway through the second half, would you have been pretty concerned going in?
COACH BLAIR: They were doing a good job of denying us out. I just said, Get the midrange shot, hurt them inside. We started doing that at the start of the second half. I said, We do not have to shoot the three. It's something that we do very well, is defend the three. It's something that Hartford does very well also.
Most of the time we were shooting a three on the end of a shot clock situation. We were short on almost every one of them because they had a great high hand in our face. The rest of the time we got to create, put it on the deck, go to the hole, try to draw the foul, kick out or something. Our ball-handling skills was not very good today at end-of-game situations.
There's some things we did well. When you look at the assist-turnover ratio on Starks and A'Qua, they might not have had the best shooting game, but they took care of the ball and set it up for other teammates. The best thing we could do is to use our dribble-penetration, get it inside. And that's what Gant was doing a number of times. Reado played well in spurts.

Q. Obviously now this is your third program to take to the Sweet 16. What is different in a program when you reach the Sweet 16? What happens? What's different?
COACH BLAIR: Well, I would love to be facing a bunch of Cinderellas in there. But I don't think that's gonna happen.
You expect to play the best. That's what it's all about. We're the lowest No. 2 seed, but we're there. Everybody else is trying to play to get there. We want to represent the Big 12. But what we want to do is represent that you can get to the Sweet 16 without a bunch of parade All-Americans all the time. Sure, we'd love to have 'em. But all of a sudden you can get there with just pure basketball players that know how to play the game.
I think we play both ends of the floor very well. That's our strength. Other teams play one end of the floor well or they might be great on situation plays or they might be good on the other end. But we play both ends very well. And we've got a tremendous bench that gives me the luxury of staying in the press a little bit longer than we normally do. That's what I did today. I stayed in the press, trying to wear out and make their point guard have to make some decisions. As a result, we were able to get a couple of charges on her just because she had nowhere to go.

Q. What about the program? What does this do for the program?
COACH BLAIR: There's room for people to jump on this bandwagon at any time. I don't think we have our spring football game for at least a couple weeks, right? Okay, baseball's doing fine. They're doing fine. Our men had a great season. They went right down to the wire on another tough call.
Right now it's just about women. Isn't that great? The front page of your sports page is going to be about women, either our swimming team finishing fourth in Nationals. Shoot, we might even have a woman president. You never know what's gonna happen.
But right now isn't it good for women's athletics? Right now all across the way, people actually do care. That's what this program is all about. We want to go to that next level. We don't just want to get up there and play hard, everybody pat us on the back. We're in this thing to win now, okay? When this hair gets gray, I get greedy, and I'm ready to win.
Hartford, you got a heck of a basketball coach. I don't know how much longer you can keep her, but keep her just having babies and she's just going to stay closer to home, okay, because you've got one heck of a basketball coach. And you don't have to go to University of's to be successful. I had a great run at Stephen F. Austin, which is very similar. Take care of your coach. Take care of your assistants. Keep her there.

Q. Danielle had the hot hand. Your thoughts on how she came through?
COACH BLAIR: Danielle Gant never takes a bad shot, okay? She's very left shoulder orientated, but at the same time try to stop it. I mean, it's hard. We ran a couple of set plays for her on a lob early to start the ballgame, then they made the adjustments, we went to something else. She's just very good at putting the ball on the floor. Her first step from defense to offense is the quickest I've ever coached. So when there's a steal about to happen, she's already down the court. She anticipates very well.
The kid is a next-level player. The best thing about her, she's a junior. Sort of like Archie in the comic books. He never was a senior. He was a junior for all those years. That's how that comic strip kept going.
I love Danielle Gant because of how hard she plays. She makes the rest of us play just as hard because she does the same thing in practice every day. It never stops.
THE MODERATOR: I think that's a wrap, coach. Good luck in Oklahoma City.
COACH BLAIR: Appreciate it. You've done a great job of running this tournament. Thank y'all.

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