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April 1, 2008
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the Lady Vols and Head Coach Pat Summitt, along with the student-athletes.
Coach, your thoughts?
COACH SUMMITT: I've got a lot of thoughts on the team. It was a hard-fought game, and basically when Candace's shoulder went out, it was something you're not ready for, and we faced adversity, but I thought our basketball team came through.
I thought Alexis and Nicky, they were key for us, and we didn't shoot the ball well, and when you struggle offensively, as in our first game here, sometimes it affects your defense. But I'm proud of this team for just the grit and the determination that they had on the defensive end when things were not going well for us offensively, and with Candace obviously on the court, and just the extent of her injury unknown at the time, and pleased with how we fought through.
And certainly down the stretch we did a much better job with controlling the defensive boards; I thought that was key for us. Our basketball team, it's something we talked about, when you're not shooting the ball particularly well you've got to get to the glass, and obviously on the defensive end it's got to be a one-and-done mentality.
I'm really proud that we didn't give up. We fought through and found a way to win, and Alexis couldn't make a layup, but she made a shot from, I don't know, seemed to be almost half-court. So that wasn't planned but it certainly -- it was huge at the time because that put us up by five and, again, I think that took a little pressure off of us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. We'll take questions for our student-athletes.
Q. Alexis, can you talk about that three. Have you hit one that big in your career, and did you know it was going in when you let go of it?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: I haven't hit a shot that big in my career yet. When I let it go, honestly, I didn't think I was going to miss it, but I'm not going to sit here and say I knew it was in. I was going to give it a chance to go in. I stayed with my follow-through and just stayed with the ball.
Q. Alexis, as you took that shot, were you aware there was no time on the shot clock, too? Or did you figure it was an open shot, you should take it?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: When the ball was kicked out, if I tried to put the ball on the ground it was a contested jumper.
Q. Alexis, did you feel like it was the dagger it seemed to be?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: I don't know. Ask my teammates. It relieved a lot of pressure. I knew if we came down and gave them a three, it would have been void.
Q. Could you take us through the sequence when you hurt the shoulder going back, hurting it again, your thoughts, getting it wrapped up. What was going through your mind and how much pain you were?
CANDACE PARKER: Honestly, when my shoulder went out the first time, it was the -- I couldn't get it back in myself, and that's the first time that has ever happened, so I was just trying to find somebody to give the ball to.
Alexis is running after me trying to get it, and I was trying to find somebody to give it to. Then I kinda rushed the recovery and came back in and reinjured it, and it came out again, so the second time she put it back in, and they found a sleeve, and I was able to find my muscle and things like that, but I just want to reiterate how proud I am of my team. They held it down, and obviously our shots weren't falling, but defensively that's something that we brought to this tournament and that's something we need and that's the reason why we won.
Q. Candace, 10:39 to go you were sort of reluctant to kind of mix it up, and all of a sudden you just sort of let it hang out; were you in pain? Did you decide, "I've got to go for it now because we're getting down here and we may lose"? What was your thinking?
CANDACE PARKER: Our starting lineup is obviously filled with five seniors, and I just remember sitting on the bench, watching them play and just thinking to myself that I was just -- if I got out there again, then I was going to play as hard as I could and not think about, you know, my shoulder and my situation, because I didn't want this to be the last time that we played together.
So that was just -- and then my teammates, we just kept talking and kept just getting energy, and I think I just fed off of that.
Q. Nicky, the team huddled up to start the second half when you were going to have to start with Candace in the locker room.
Can you talk about what you guys were saying in the huddle?
NICKY ANOSIKE: When what?
Q. Before the second half started, you guys huddled up. Candace was still in the locker room. What were you guys saying to each other in that huddle?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: Nicky was doing all the talking, I don't know how she doesn't remember. Basically she looked all of us in the eyes and said, you know, "We're not going home. And the only way we can do this is with defense, and we have to stay positive," and everyone responded well.
Q. You guys, as Candace said, held things together when she was out, but how much of a relief was it to see her on the side lines? You guys as a class are so close.
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: It's always a relief when you have a teammate go out; it's like one of your sisters, so when she came out of the locker room, we were relieved that she was okay.
And we know she is a tough soldier, so we knew she would be back. And she's able to play through pain and we never doubted her return.
Q. Nicky, how excited is this team to get to Tampa? I know it was your season-long goal.
NICKY ANOSIKE: I think we're definitely excited to get to Tampa, but we're not satisfied yet, and we know we have a lot of work ahead of us.
You know, we have to play a great team on Sunday. But we're definitely excited; we just know that it's not the end and we have to keep pressing forward.
Q. Candace, I know you said before that your shoulder subluxes a lot, and I can't imagine that being a normal thing. Were you freaked out by this, or is this a normal course of action?
CANDACE PARKER: Honestly, when it subluxes, it's all right. I'm like, whatever, but it actually went out and stayed out, so I was a little worried, but Jenny Moshak is the best trainer in the world and, you know, so I wasn't worried after that.
Q. Alexis, can you sort of tell when -- you know, Texas A&M has never been here before as a program, is that something that kicks in with you guys? Those of us who followed Tennessee back when you were a baby watched Tennessee do this to people, but did something kick in with you guys where you're not going to lose the game and maybe a program that hasn't been there doubts themselves?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: If they were doubting themselves, they didn't show that at all. They're a great team, and they showed no quit at all. And as far as being there before, we had this attitude that we don't want to go home. I've fallen short twice, I didn't want to do it again.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, congratulations on tonight's game, best of luck.
Q. In the back of your mind, are you worried about Candace, and trying to be focused on the kids on the court? How focused were you?
COACH SUMMITT: When it first happened, as soon as I saw it, it was like, this is not good timing, and I did -- I did feel like at that time she would be back, just knowing I dislocated my shoulder a couple weeks ago trying to knock a raccoon off the back deck, and mine went right back in.
So I thought, at my age if I can come back, she'll be back. It was interesting, because that flashed through my head, she'll be back. I didn't have Jenny Moshak there, but I did have a team physician come put mine in.
So when I saw Jenny go right to Candace, I felt like she would be able to return. What bothered me was when it went out the second time. That really scared me and I thought, well, she may be finished for the game. I really liked just the mentality of our team. I can't say enough about Nicky Anosike. When you face adversity or when the game is tight, she's just got a warrior's mentality. She just fights to the end, and she challenges everyone on the court to step up.
You know, she's the best coach we have in adversity, and I just saw her step up and, you know, I felt much better just knowing that the message was being delivered, that there's not going to be any quit in this group, and there hasn't been.
I mean, we've had some tough games, and even in our last with Stanford out there, I thought we fought to the end. The only game we crumbled was against LSU, and that was a valuable lesson for us. I was worried, but who is not going to be when the best player in the country goes out and, you know, you've got to get everyone else focused, and I tried to stay as positive as I could.
My coaching staff did a great job, because in the back of my mind I kept thinking about it. But between Nicky, Holly and Dean, they were so positive it was good for our bench.
Q. Pat, with your experience with the raccoon, can you kinda go through what level of pain Candace might have been going through tonight? And second question, with all of the stuff that she does, is her toughness maybe one of those things that gets overlooked in her game?
COACH SUMMITT: First of all, let me tell you, it is very, very painful! I can't imagine the fact that, you know, she went through that twice tonight. But obviously she's a lot stronger than Coach Summitt, and so she's got something to protect her a little bit better, I'm sure, just from all the weight-lifting that she does.
But it was hard to, you know, just move forward, and I didn't want to do anything that was going to be detrimental to Candace, but at the same time I trust Jenny Moshak. I think she's the best in her profession, and I had a lot of confidence and I felt like once she got the sleeve, which was another interesting story.
I think they were under the bus, going through laundry to find the sleeve, and I'm like, about to have a fit as to why we don't have it right there, but at any rate when I saw the sleeve on her I felt like she would have the protection she needed.
Then she shoots that air ball, and I'm a little doubtful about what's going on. But she goes to the free-throw line and makes a free-throw so, yes, people sometimes they see Candace as more of a finesse player but I think sometimes when you see finesse players, you don't realize just how mentally tough they are until you see them fight through the adversity that she fought through tonight.
Q. Coach, your players mentioned that they thought A&M fought to the very end, and Gary said he thought your team won the game tonight rather than his team losing the game. Would you agree with that?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, I think we closed out the game, and I think when Candace came back, I thought we made some big shots and big plays. But, of course, I do think when Candace returned, we were more confident and had more composure offensively and made some shots to win the game. Take nothing away from Texas A&M.
I'm very impressed with their team. I've known Gary for years, I respect him, I respect how he can -- no matter where he goes, where he coaches, he always assembles a very strong program and a team that can fight you to the end. What he's done here in the amount of time is very, very impressive.
I knew it was going to be a really tough game for us to win. We came in with tremendous respect for their basketball team, and I think that helped us in the end.
Q. Coach, you said that you were a little worried after the second time it dislocated. Were you at all reluctant to put her back in, perhaps, with the risk of something else happening? At that point what was your game plan going forward? Were you trying to formulate something without Parker in the game?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, my first response was when I saw -- when I saw the sleeve, I felt better, but I had to hear from Jenny. Candace, I knew the answer she would give me, but I asked Jenny, and she felt like that she could go. What was the last part of your question?
Q. Just if your mind maybe was spinning.
COACH SUMMITT: Absolutely!
Q. Trying to find a game plan --
COACH SUMMITT: Absolutely because, you know, Vicki Baugh came in and couldn't seem to get on track. I went with Alex for the beginning of the second half, and we were struggling, struggling offensively, and at that point in time I was thinking probably more about what we wanted to do defensively.
And that's when we put our heads together as a coaching staff and decided that we would extend our defense a little bit more and try and take a little more time off the clock, more of a delay-and-disrupt type of pressure in the three-quarter, because I was thinking, I'm not sure we can open up man-to-man and go at 'em the way we want to. We need a different presence on the inside.
So probably just more what we wanted to do defensively. Offensively I thought we would -- we would have to get paint points, and we would have to get our guards to penetrate more, and that's where I challenged Alexis and she had gone -- she went to the paint but didn't score in the paint. I think of the layups that we missed there, and she got frustrated, so I felt more like a cheerleader tonight at times than a coach, but that's okay, if that works, that works.
Q. Coach, can you talk a little more about Alexis' shot? She released that in front of you, dunk it was good?
COACH SUMMITT: It was interesting, no, I had no idea that shot was going to go in. I was just hoping it would hit the rim so it would have a chance to rebound and put it back. She released it in my view of it, I thought, you know, it could go in, but it wasn't the shot that I was counting on.
Q. You're about to go play in the Final Four in a city that's never hosted it before. How good is the diversity of the local for the women's game and after being here in Oklahoma City, do you think Oklahoma City could host a Final Four?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, to answer your second question first I definitely think Oklahoma City could host a Final Four. I'm impressed with the people that came out and supported this. With Oklahoma not coming back, and like I said, I've been in that situation when we were hosting the Final Four, and our fans came out, Oklahoma fans came out as well.
I just think when you can find locations, where they support women's basketball, it's a place that can, having been to Tampa and played earlier in the year, what a great place, and it's a great venue, and obviously the Final Four is the biggest stage for women's basketball, and I'm really excited.
I was excited when Tampa became the host for our Final Four, and I think the people that go there, they're going to have a great time, it's a great area and I think there will be a lot of excitement for women's basketball there. I appreciate what the fans did here.
THE MODERATOR: Pat Summitt congratulations to you and best of luck to you in the Final Four.
End of FastScripts