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March 30, 2008

Gary Blair

A'Quonesia Franklin

Patrice Reado

Takia Starks


THE MODERATOR: Coach, would you make some opening comments about tonight's game, and congratulations.
COACH BLAIR: I just got a bunch of warriors out there, a bunch of warriors. You know, isn't it nice to be able to compliment the team that you play in because those kids are all such all-Americans and AAU and all-conference performers, but you want to compliment Duke for everything that they do. Chante Black is a load. We had as much trouble with her as we did with Courtney Parrish. But then we tightened it up in the second half and when we went to a zone a little bit in the first half.
But our program has dealt with Texas kids first. We might not be the national power to be able to recruit nationally like Duke or Stanford or some of those other teams right now. But we're built with kids right here that were good, solid players, but I am so happy for my staff because the best thing we do in coaching is we develop players. When you develop players, it's such a satisfaction for the coaching staff and these players here to see how far they've come.
The defensive effort was outstanding. We got in a little bit of foul trouble with Micheaux and we were able to play Reado and Buchanan and then we had to go small when Buchanan got in foul trouble we were 5'11" and below but we held on because we had a lot of good transition baskets.
Gant was playing out of sight like she always does. At halftime she came out and she felt dizzy on the bench. Radar, our trainer, came up and said, Coach, I think you need to hold her out for a minute. And then I said, Radar, if she's dizzy, I'm sick (laughter).
But she had to come out of the ballgame. Mo came in and made a couple of great baskets early because they had started taking control to start the second half, but all of a sudden Radar came back. He said, we have to put a second IV in. I said, all right, Radar, hurry. He came back in about five, six more minutes. He said, we'll have to put a third IV in. I was about to fire my trainer then. Finally he came back and said we're going to have to put a fourth IV in, and I don't think you're going to have her.
By then this little band right here did one heck of a job. I got on Reado at halftime there. I can get on her more than any other kid on this team because she's a Houston kid that can handle anything that I can give her or her mama can give her, right, Reado? And she had zero points and zero rebounds at half, and came out there and gave me the game of a lifetime for her at 5'11", handling her business.
I'm so happy for her and I'm so happy for these two guards here, my little general and my scorer right there. They're excellent ball players.
I'll open it for questions.

Q. How much did -- I think it was a mid-range jumper and the two back-to-back lay-ups, how much did your confidence go in and get you rolling?
PATRICE READO: My confidence went way up, but it was my teammates who contributed the ball. They set up the shots for me and gave me two easy buckets to give me the confidence to have a decent game.

Q. Takia, it seemed like Duke was kind of knocked back a little bit at the beginning with y'all's pressure. Did you sense that? What were y'all able to do with them early?
TAKIA STARKS: I really just wanted to get after them early and put as much pressure on them as we could. We started off with our defense and we pressed them. We felt we had the momentum, and for a second the game was going back and forth, score for score. But we basically just took control, we stepped up and got stops on defense and scored on offense.

Q. A'Qua, an advantage you think playing here in Oklahoma City? Did you notice more of your fans here? Just talk about that.
A'QUONESHIA FRANKLIN: Yes, sir. When we came out of the huddle -- when we came out for warm-ups, he turned to the crowd once we came out. He said, we want to thank the Oklahoma people that were behind us and our fans that came from College Station to be with us and support us.
TAKIA STARKS: Like A'Qua said, the fans supported us, they travelled with us. Earlier this year it was hard to get any fans to travel with us, but we were just amazed at how many showed today. We thank the state of Oklahoma and the big 12 for supporting us, also.
PATRICE READO: Same thing they just said.

Q. For A'Qua, can you talk about what's going through your mind, just talk about the second half when Danielle had such a big half and she doesn't come out. Just talk about what's going through your mind at that point.
A'QUONESHIA FRANKLIN: When Danielle came out she came over to the bench and he said, I don't think that she can go right now. I wanted to fire myself (laughter). She did a great job of stepping up, coming in. I think she buckled down the court and scored a driving lay-up. She stepped up really big for us in the second half, and Patrice stepped up hitting a couple of jump shots. We just did a great job of scoring without Danielle.

Q. Takia, Coach made a point of saying you're all Texas kids, you're playing against these kids with these big national reputations. Do you sort of have a chip on your shoulder a little bit that we couldn't get in with those big names and big reps, but we can play with them, too?
TAKIA STARKS: I think it's a chip on their shoulders for having big names and being all-Americans. Us, we come out and play how we play our game. It's not really pressure on us. There's a lot of doubters out there because we don't have big names, but we're right here proving it right now.

Q. A'Qua, can you talk about their full-court press the whole game? Why in the first half did you want to get the ball inbounds and let the trap come as opposed to just blowing right by them like a bit more the second half without letting them get set up?
A'QUONESHIA FRANKLIN: The first half -- I think the first shots I didn't expect them to come up as quick, and it was hard for me to see being smaller -- it was hard for me to see Morenike on the other side. So once we adjusted to it before the trap got to me I got the ball out of my hands and made the pass. In the second half we tried to get the ball in quicker. We were running different press attacks to apply pressure.

Q. Patrice, can you talk about the spark A'Qua provides when you see her knocking down three-pointers and coming down, taking charge as her shoe falls off?
PATRICE READO: A'Qua is the leader of the team so we know once A'Qua was ready to play she can come out on offense and we can go back on defense and we can get the momentum. She's the scorer on the team.

Q. Patrice, Takia was leading in rebounds by eight at half. You were leading everything else. Coach talked to you about the rebounds. What was the difference for this team rebounding in the second half?
PATRICE READO: I just think we just went ahead and tried to take control of the rebounding. At halftime Coach Blair kind of chewed me out because I had no rebounds, so I felt like I had to come out and help my team because Danielle Gant wasn't in the second half and she's usually the one in there getting the rebounds. I just tried to take control and Micheaux got me in and got some rebounds.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to dismiss our student athletes, and we'll ask Coach Blair to take his questions.
COACH BLAIR: On your stat sheet here they made a mistake. The ghost of Danielle Gant did not play in the second half. They've got her for 25 minutes, so if you will get that changed on the final book.

Q. I know it's hard to think about this right now because y'all are still going, but this tonight will go down as the biggest win in A & M women's basketball history as of today. There could be another one two days from now, but do you think about that? Are you too much in the moment to think about what this team is doing right now?
COACH BLAIR: My biggest win at Arkansas was against Duke in '98 to go to the Final Four, and this has been our biggest win right now. But we didn't come here to just win one ballgame. We came here because we've earned the right, and I think our style of defense -- everybody plays good defense, but our style bothers a lot of teams because it's hard to prepare for us because a lot of times they cannot simulate it during practice. You think you can, but give Coach Schaefer a lot of credit because he is passionate about that defense and the different ways we disguise it a lot of times.
But we're generally going to stop a team from shooting threes on us or at least contested, and I think they started shooting threes a little bit too quick for them because they were beating us in the first half by going inside or dribble penetration, which they were doing a great job. We wanted them to shoot threes because we just felt like they had been shooting 27 percent but then Waner got hot and hit a couple of them. She's a great player, plays with so much passion.

Q. We know your seniors are a great group, but when you look at the stats, three in double figures and a lot of rebounds. Do you recall a better group performance that you've seen from them?
COACH BLAIR: No, and I cannot remember a post player since I've been at A & M that gave me 17 points and eight rebounds and a couple of steals like Reado did.
That's pressure because nobody has ever heard of Patrice Reado except the people in Houston, and look what she did. She's the most unheralded out of my five starters, but she took up for Danielle Gant and gave us that extra scorer.
But I'm so happy for those seniors who believed in me first to say I want to come to Texas A & M, and this was after a lot of losing seasons in a row. It was Reado, Purdue and us, and then Takia it was Auburn and us, and A'Qua it was us and nobody. Nobody wanted A'Qua, and she just decided to come with us.

Q. I'll ask you what I asked your players. Before you got started you said we hope we can borrow some of those Oklahoma fans. Did you notice any advantage with the fans here in this game?
COACH BLAIR: I noticed there was a lot of crimson. A lot of them came over to our pep rally over there at Sheraton. I invite them back on Tuesday night because the pep rally will even be larger, and then we're going to import some more Aggies in. They're not all going to come from Texas but we've got Aggies all over that Big 12.
That means so much, but this is Big 12 area because we were an Aggie and Oklahoma was playing Oklahoma State, we would be here for our Big 12 team, and it's very special. I think Kansas on the men's side and us on the women's side and Colorado in the WNIT, I'm proud of all three of us, and we're going to represent our conference very well.

Q. After the first half ended, it was a pretty tight game and you really couldn't tell which way it was going to go. What did you think were the main differences for your team the second half that you were able to pull away and win pretty big?
COACH BLAIR: I think one thing, we were not ready to start the second half. I was looking over there feeling sorry for myself because of Gant. Next they ran an inbounds play and we were standing around and they scored over Gant real quick and then you come away on a breakaway and miss the lay-up. That was huge. That would have tied the ballgame, I believe, and then we got our second wind, A'Qua started finding the right people, Morenike, we did a better job on the boards, and A'Qua's three threes in the second half was huge, particularly the one that went down on the shot clock.
A lot of kids don't want that shot because their statistics go down when they're taking that last-second shot, but she wants it, and that's what makes her so special, all 5'3" of her.

Q. Speaking of Danielle, do you have any kind of update on her? Is she going to be available for Tuesday?
COACH BLAIR: She'd better be available or I'm not going to be available (laughter).
She'll be fine. She's over there smiling and encouraging her teammates. They're probably going to have to take her to the hospital now, and the same thing, A'Qua, we're probably going to have to get an IV in her. She was cramping during the ballgame. It was so hot in there. That second half lasted forever, particularly the last eight minutes. For precautionary we'll get A'Qua and DG a bag, but they'll be there Tuesday.

Q. Just about your defense, it seemed like your girls were -- maybe they're always that relentless, but it seemed like maybe they had a little extra fire tonight, and why was it so effective?
COACH BLAIR: Because of the respect we have for Duke. They are the best team we play that put the ball on the floor, and you saw that in the first half. They put the ball on the floor and they were going to the hole on us because we were taking the three away. Black got four fouls real quick on both of my five players, and I think that was the difference. But we had to hit the transition in the first half to be able to separate ourselves.
Then the second half I ran everything I had when they ran man, and almost every set we kept executing and executing and executing. But Duke was also playing very good defense, particularly I thought their man was a little bit more effective than their zone. But then we made plays, and our defense is just pretty special, but it's carried us all year, so that's nothing new for us.

Q. I almost hate to ask you this in the middle of a celebration, but your thoughts on Tennessee for Tuesday night?
COACH BLAIR: You want all of Notre Dame? Is that what you said? The luck of the Irish are staying at our hotel and we've become good friends. I had breakfast with Muffet over there. She was at the table next to me.
We're just pulling for a good basketball game out there, one that will go into five overtimes and wear somebody down.
I can't give a lot of thoughts right now because we haven't watched one film on -- maybe my assistant coaches have but I haven't, on either team. And we'll get back to the drawing board tonight and we'll pull an all-nighter and we'll break down a lot of film, but then film doesn't break down effort.
Our game is all about effort. Effort, effort, effort. And when we can play with that type of effort, it doesn't matter if it's Candace Parker or Charel Allen or whoever we're trying to stop.
You've got to play that effort and you've got to have trust in your teammates because it's not one-on-one ball, it is a team coming over to help because if you're 5'11" and you're fronting the post, you realize right quick you're fixing your butt to get in there and there's somebody on that other side there to help you, and we do a very good job of that.
When you don't have tremendous egos it's easier to play team defense. That's what we try to do.
Before I leave here, I told my wife, her birthday is Tuesday. She's got to go back and teach over there at Arkansas. We're doing a commuter marriage. So she gets to be back here for her birthday on Tuesday and I'll get a chance to give her a present on Tuesday.
I have a whole lot of pressure on me because she said, hey, if you're good enough, you'll be there on your birthday. So honey, I guess I'm good enough, and we'll see you on Tuesday, and we're going to teach those Arkansas kids over there a thing about nursing, all right? I'll see you on Tuesday.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Blair, we appreciate that.

End of FastScripts

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