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April 5, 2009
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
Louisville Ã‚â€“ 61
Oklahoma - 59
AMY YAKOLA: I am pleased to be joined at the podium by Louisville head coach Jeff Walz as well as student-athletes Candyce Bingham, Angel McCoughtry and Becky Burke.
Coach, when you're ready, let's have an opening statement.
COACH WALZ: Thank you. Well, I'm not sure what to say. Just a group of kids in that locker room that I challenged at halftime as much as I could have challenged a group. I told Angel McCoughtry it was the worst I've seen her play. She was an embarrassment.
And that's the way we do things in our program, we're honest. And she came out in the second half and played the way she's supposed to play, and I'm so proud of her, and Candyce Bingham sitting next to me, she played for all -- every second she was on the floor she played.
It was a game that we just had to dig down. I thought we did a good job in the first half of defending when we got them in the half court. But, unfortunately, they scored on transition point after point, and that was just killing us.
So it was just a crazy game. And I gotta give a lot of respect to Oklahoma and Coach Coale. Those kids came out and battled, too. It's one of those you hate to see anyone lose, but we're really excited about things, and we're playing on Tuesday.
AMY YAKOLA: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Angel, how are you feeling? Holding your heart?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I'm feeling great. Gosh, nobody expected us to be here right now. It feels so good to prove everybody wrong. I'm not going to call anybody out this time.
But I'm so proud of these girls. And we believed. Halftime we were down. That shows a lot of heart to come back and play against this Oklahoma team who have a lot of great players and to come out with the win. It's a lot of heart right there.
Q. As a follow-up, Candyce, you talk about those last free throws and the last couple 10 seconds or so in the game?
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Well, I am a little mad that I missed the last one. But Mo hustled and she tipped the ball, which took a couple of seconds off. But, I mean, it was great, when the Oklahoma players -- we went in and out, we were so excited.
So like Angel said, this team showed a lot of heart. I mean, we did not give up and we believed in every single person and Becky came out and hit big shots. It was a great team win.
Q. What was going through your mind, Angel, when you saw that last shot in the air?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I said, oh, Lord, I said, I need to be over there. And all I could do was just pause and watch and pray and hope that it didn't go in, because if they made that, that's another Rutgers game for us, type game. And that would have been devastating. But at the same time I would have had no regrets, and I felt like we all laid it on the line. I've had a great season and no complaints.
Q. Could you talk about the first nine shots you guys missed in the game and what was going on and what you were feeling as you're getting into a hole there?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: Well, I think that just shows you that we're not aliens, we're human. And I'm so glad to know that we are human. But you know what, they played great defense. I think we just had those jitters that we just had to relax and get out of. And I think it took us to the second half to get out of it, which is sad.
But we cannot allow that next game. We gotta come out strong for the next game.
Q. Angel, I want to follow up a little bit and talk about Oklahoma's defense in the first half and specifically Whitney Hand. I think people would look at an All-American being defended by a freshman and think that that might be an easier task than it turned out to be. She really battled a lot, especially in that first half.
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: Yeah, she's the heart and soul of that team and a freshman isn't going to start for no reason.
She hit three 3s on us, and, I mean, our job was really to contain her, because she makes that team go.
And I totally commend Oklahoma. They're a great team. And Courtney Paris is a great friend of mine, and I really respect her. So I just had to like settle down and just take my time. Second half I said to myself, you know what, we got this, let's just take our time, do what Coach asked us to do because we weren't following the game plan in the first half. Once we followed Coach's game plan, then things started going our way.
So we believe you now, Coach (laughter).
Q. Candyce, what was the plan to stop? They have such great players, what were you trying to do to slow them down in there?
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Well, we were trying to locate Hand and obviously we didn't do a good job of that in the first half. Then just when Courtney Paris got on the low block to double them, and just trying to keep them off the boards, and they got some really quick guards, so just kind of tried to contain them, too.
Q. Becky, what were you trying to do against Whitney, particularly in the second half, and the two 3s you hit, you guys just throw from the outside, talk about those shots you made.
BECKY BURKE: In the second half we played a little claw and one -- or I mean claw and two and box and ones. And I was on Hand. These guys had to get their screens, just stay on each other, try to let her not let her touch the ball as much as possible.
And as far as my shots, I wasn't hitting anything, but in Raleigh I got a little upset when I wasn't hitting shots so Coach got on me. I was going to stay positive and kept shooting because that's what I'm out there to do is to shoot and I eventually I knew one was going to go in. And I'm glad a couple went in at the end there.
Q. Candyce, can you talk about what was the feeling in being in the middle of that celebration there? And you've had a lot of celebrations this year, but this one is to go to the final game.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Again, I'm kind of speechless. But, I mean, it feels great. Knowing that we were down 12 at halftime and we always looked to Angel and she didn't even have a good first half. But to know that we were still pretty much in the game.
I mean, we didn't even play a great first half. We were only down 12. So just to know everybody came together and we played a good second half. I mean, it was a really good feeling. And nobody believed in us, so that makes it even better.
Q. Candyce, what did Coach say to you about the free throws before you took them, if anything? What did he say in the last huddle? And just being from Louisville and having Louisville play in this game, how did it make you feeling?
CANDYCE BINGHAM: He just winked at me and said knocked them down and smiled. And I'm sorry I missed that second one. What was your second question?
Q. Being from Louisville.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: It's great being from Louisville and being a part of this. Words can't describe how I feel right now.
Q. Angel, during the first half, there's something that played on the big screen and each of the players were shouting out little things about this team and one of the comments was Cinderella Team. What's your response to that now?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I wouldn't really say we're Cinderella, because I think we're just as good as any of these teams. Even though I was mad about the commercial. They're going to have to change that for the next one, okay? I mean, they were spoiling us from getting a national championship, too.
But I wouldn't think of us as a Cinderella, we're just as good as any of those teams and we want to be considered just as good as those teams, even though we weren't.
Q. Angel and Candyce, if it is Connecticut that you're playing, given the two previous games, what kind of a different mindset do you have to take into this one?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: Well, we know Connecticut is a great team. And a big upset, Big East, and if we have two Big East teams in there it's really good for our conference. We're glad to have two Big East teams in the national championship. We have a lot of respect for Geno and his program, and we're just going to come out, play hard. We know what to expect. We played them twice, we're going to come out and play hard and hope to win.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: UConn is a good team. If they do come out and win, we'll just approach it like any other game. Coaches will put a good game plan together and our job will be to execute it.
AMY YAKOLA: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. It's easy when you've got the stage that we're playing on tonight to forget that these are very young ladies we're talking about here. Talk about the emotion of your players. I'm thinking about the block that Angel got and her reaction and the anger that we saw in Byrd's face when she picked up her fourth foul, and how you kind of used that to your advantage without letting it get out of control in a situation like this.
COACH WALZ: We are on a huge stage. And I told the kids when they came out for the first hour, when the court opened, to just kind of stop and take four or five minutes to look around and enjoy it, because it's an opportunity that we hope to get back here many times. But I've got two great seniors on this team. This is it for them.
So I wanted to make sure they really soaked it all in and realized what we've done. And we play with emotion all season. We do a pretty good job of trying to corral it in to make sure it doesn't get overboard.
That's why I took Angel out in the first half. I knew her emotion was getting the best of her. And I sat her down, you know? And I thought after she came out, then she went back in, I thought she started to let things come to her more.
Q. Just talk about your emotion, what you were thinking as Mo tried to get that -- kind of took a little time there for them to get the ball and then when the shot was in the air?
COACH WALZ: Monique did an outstanding job. I thought Mo came in and played her tail off, especially when Keshia picked up that fourth foul. She was doing most of the work on Courtney Paris.
And I thought Mo was going to be able to grab that thing and if they could have got it they're going to foul her and we're back at the line. But the one thing that concerns you about that is exactly what happened to us, is Mo is out there scrambling for it and my other four decided to watch her.
And Oklahoma gets the ball, throws it up the floor and we've got nobody within about eight feet of her. And she got a great look. And it was one of those all game, when we went our triangle and 2, I was going to make Stevenson beat us. And she had some clean looks, and she made a big 3 late. When that shot went up, I did think it was going in because it looked good from where I was sitting.
Q. There's a guy from Louisville named Ali who had a Rope-a-Dope strategy. Was that a little bit at least the way the game started, do you think? You think you maybe got Oklahoma lulled a little bit?
COACH WALZ: That's not exactly the way I scripted it, I will tell you that. But I told my staff before the game started: I was concerned about the first five minutes of the game. If we could stay within -- if we could stay within the first five minutes I felt good about things.
And they were up I think 11-0. And at half we go in 34-22. So we're only trailing by one after that first five minutes of the half. I felt good about things. I told our kids if we'll follow the game plan, we have a chance to win.
And we came out in the second half and followed it and knocked down some shots and was more patient at the offensive end. So I promise you on Tuesday I hope we don't come out like that.
Q. Jeff, again, if it is UConn that you play Tuesday night, how do you, I don't know if convince is the right word, but how do you take these girls into that game knowing what's happened in the two previous games?
COACH WALZ: Well, you know, it's one of those, you're playing for the national championship on Tuesday night. So it doesn't matter what the scores have been in the past. We have to come out and play. Our game at UConn, you know, we played competitively for 12 minutes, which is encouraging.
So we've got to just look at some of that and take the positive from it. And our game in the Big East finals, they got us right from the start. It's the same thing, I told my staff at that one, too: First five minutes is going to be crucial.
And they really took it to us, and we missed some shots that you have to make if you want to compete with a team like that. Because they're a special team.
Q. What was your focus during the halftime message and also did you change anything defensively in the second half?
COACH WALZ: No, I can't repeat what the focus was. To be honest with you, I told them -- I went in there. I just said, If you all want to play your own game, that's fine, and then we'll pack up and go home.
You know, because we put a game plan together as a staff. And I thought it was a solid one. And I told them, If you want to come out here in the second half and compete and follow our game plan, tell me.
And they're all like, Yeah, we will, we will. And I thought we did a great job. We held them to a 27 percent shooting in the second half compared to 42 in the first.
Q. Coach, you took two timeouts early in the first half. The first I think at 11-0 didn't seem to work, then called another one at 16-2 which I think was the low point. What happened in that second timeout that kind of turned things around?
COACH WALZ: You know, I tried to talk to them about their body language. Deseree' Byrd, who has been a leader for us the entire tournament, was starting to show frustration at the point. When she starts to show that it rubs off on everybody.
I tried to calm her down. I tried to calm Angel down. Candyce was really the only one that stepped up the entire night and played. And we had some good shots. I mean, Keshia Hines who played her butt off gets 10 boards and 19 minutes of play. She air-balled a 1-footer. We couldn't have gotten her any closer.
I knew it was just tightness. It was jitters. So I was going to burn them off. I had to, just to try and get our team calmed down. And I just am really, really proud how we responded.
Q. You're talking about how you felt sort of at halftime, did you draw back to 2006 when you were actually in worst shape against Duke in that title game with Maryland?
COACH WALZ: No, you know what, I didn't even think about that at all. It was just one of those that I felt good that we were only down 12, because we could have been down 20.
So I felt good about things, because when we got them in the half court, we actually guarded them. The problem was their transition game was killing us. And then we lose Whitney Hand three times in the first half and she hits three 3s and then we hold her -- I think she got two points in the second half at the free throw line, because I thought that kid was the key to their team. And we really contained her. And then that kind of stopped their offense from going.
Q. What do you think the key was to limiting Courtney Paris's touches?
COACH WALZ: We did a great job of playing in front of her. We had help coming from the backside. That's all we did all night. We talked about it. We worked on it for four days. And that's why I was so upset in the first half because we spent four days on a game plan, and I promise you, I guarantee you half the fans out there were wondering what we had done for four days, because it was embarrassing.
Q. You had a couple of freshmen and you have so many young players coming up and doing things in such a magnitude of a game. What accounts for that and these freshmen being able to make the plays they're making?
COACH WALZ: It's a group of freshmen -- I told them when they came in I wasn't going to treat them like freshmen. You know, it was going to be tough. And it's been a tough haul for some of them. But they've gotten a lot tougher over this past three months.
And Becky Burke is one, you know, she missed a 3 and coming out of the timeout she goes, Coach, I'm going to make one. I said, I know you are, keep shooting them. She went back and hit back to back from that corner that really gave us a lift.
And Monique Reid played so well for us. You know, we just got kids -- I told them, everybody has a role and they're starting to believe if they do their role we have a chance to win.
AMY YAKOLA: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts