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April 7, 2009

Candyce Bingham

Deseree' Byrd

Angel McCoughtry

Jeff Walz


Connecticut – 76
Louisville - 54

AMY YAKOLA: Pleased to be joined up here at the podium by Louisville head coach Jeff Walz, as well as student-athletes Angel McCoughtry, Deseree' Byrd and Candyce Bingham.
Coach, when you're ready, an opening statement, please.
COACH WALZ: Yes, ma'am. First, I'd just like to congratulate Geno and his staff and all of his kids for a game well played.
You know, it's one of those when you sit there and you look at it as the game was unfolding, we did a lot of good things. We had the tempo of the game going the way we wanted it to go. Unfortunately, we just, you know, missed some shots we normally make.
And, you know, it's the big stage. It's our first time playing in a championship game. And I felt really good going into the game. The first five minutes, again, was the one I was most concerned about, and I thought we came out and Angel hits the first 3, they come down and score, then we score again.
I mean, we went back and forth and I felt really good about things. And then we just started to rush some shots. Tina Charles did an outstanding job of intimidating us. I thought she made us alter a lot of shots that we really didn't need to alter.
And, you know, we couldn't -- we had no answer for her. I mean, she's the one I told you all two days ago that I was most concerned about. She's so active in the post. We can defend post players that like to stay on the block and just try and post up, because we've got some kids that will work and battle and fight to do that.
But what she does so well is she just moves from block to block so quick that at her size we have a hard time trying to keep up with her. And then when you can't throw a 6-4 body at her, it just makes it really difficult for us to slow her down. And, I mean, the kid gets 25 and 19. I'm not sure you can do much better than that.
But with all that said, I am really proud of this group of kids. No one expected us to be here. No one really gave us much of a chance in this game. But I thought we fought. I thought we competed. And unfortunately it just did not go our way. And those are the things you're going to have to deal with. So that's it.
AMY YAKOLA: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Des, I know it's a difficult moment, but when you look back on this whole experience, what will you think about?
DESEREE' BYRD: Me, I'm just blessed. I'm blessed to be here. Just coming from where I'm from, I'm just blessed to be here, again, with these two girls on my left and right. I mean, it's still an amazing feeling to be here, like you said. Unfortunately, we came out with a loss, but I'm blessed. I'm truly blessed.

Q. Candyce, just talk about you guys, the shots, like Coach said some shots you normally would hit just didn't fall for a good stretch of that first half.
CANDYCE BINGHAM: I mean, yeah, just shots that we normally would make or we practice every day in practice, and we just didn't make them. I guess we just, like Coach said, got a little intimidated, just didn't concentrate. She just altered some shots. We usually make those and we didn't.

Q. Angel, can you tell us what is it that -- the emotion you take away from this? Is it pride? Is it disappointment after the way you guys played in this game versus the game the last time you faced them in the Big East championship?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: We have nothing to be disappointed about. We're going to hold our heads up high, and we're grateful to be here. Unfortunately, we couldn't come out and be national champions. But we have so much to be proud of. And they're going to be a great squad next year. I'm excited to see them next year. We're just going to hold our heads up high.

Q. Angel, after your hot start, did they run a lot of different defensive looks at you?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I mean, if they did it wasn't nothing I wasn't used to already. I know they switched it up, went 3-1 a little bit, then they went back to man. But it was nothing I wasn't used to.

Q. Angel, I think you scored 10 of the first 15 points. Was it a mission of yours to get the team going quickly and to come out that quickly?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: I just wanted to help us keep up, because they can score so fast. But the main thing is also get the teammates involved, and that's another thing too, to get my teammates involved. So it's just a matter of we just wanted to win.

Q. Just for any or all of you, what has these few days been like with the number of fans that you've had here and the number of people that you've probably drawn to the program just through all of this?
CANDYCE BINGHAM: Words really can't describe. It's a really great feeling. I mean, unbelievable feeling. I mean, I'm sure we probably had more than -- you know, tonight than we did the other night. And just seeing all the fans at the hotel just cheering us on, and I'm sure we'll still have more when we get back there and others, but, I mean, it's just a really good feeling.

Q. Angel, you talked about the TV thing a little bit and about not wanting to be viewed as underdogs. Through the course of this tournament, particularly making to it the championship game, do you feel now like you've shown why the program deserves respect?
ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY: Oh, yeah. I definitely believe we've shown why we need some respect. And I know people are going to -- next year they're going to look at the schedule and say, Look, we've got to play Louisville. It's going to make a big difference next year as well.
AMY YAKOLA: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. Jeff, what does it say that a team can go through an entire season and no one gets -- every win is by double figures?
COACH WALZ: They're pretty good. I'm not sure what you want me to say. They're a great basketball team. I said it the other day. I'll say it again today. They've got three State Farm All-Americans on it. There's 10 of those players selected each year. They have three of them. That's pretty darned good.
And Geno does a great job with them. He gets them to play as hard as any team we've played against. And it's just a tribute to him and what he gets his kids to do.

Q. Coach, you were called for a technical after Candyce Bingham scored a basket. What was it that you were objecting to on that play?
COACH WALZ: I was a little concerned with the amount of contact that happened on the shot before that. I think Mo may have actually scored on that. I think Candyce went up or went up for the first shot. And I just thought there was a lot of body contact.
And I just tried to voice my displeasure, and they obviously didn't like it, which is okay.

Q. Was it your strategy to try to ride Angel today?
COACH WALZ: You know, no, not really. We came out and our first thought was when they put Renee Montgomery on Des was to go flat for Des and let her back her down.
And Des got six great looks to start the game that she normally makes. She's not your typical point guard, has some good size to her, can back you down, and normally makes that little turnaround jump shot. Then she split it once and had a layup, and unfortunately we couldn't get one of those to go.
And then we came out and we ran some things for Angel, and she was patient and stayed within the offense. And I thought she did a very good job.

Q. Coach, it's pretty remarkable for you to have gotten as far as you have after just a year or two at that school. Is there anything existing at University of Connecticut that doesn't exist at Louisville to keep you from doing exactly what Geno's done there at UConn, and is that sort of your goal to have a consistent team that's going to be here every year?
COACH WALZ: I think that's every coach's goal. That's why we do this. It all comes down to players. I mean, you can be -- everybody wants to say you can X and O and you can draw stuff up, but we drew the same stuff up tonight as we did on Sunday night.
Unfortunately, we just didn't make it. So, you know, we have to get out there and continue to recruit. That's the biggest -- that's the most important aspect of this game. If you don't get players, it doesn't matter what else you do.
So, you know, he continues. And Geno continues to get great players, and that's why they're back here year after year. So our goal is go out there and compete with them on the recruiting trail and hopefully get one or two away from him and see if we can't continue to build this thing here. No problem.

Q. Jeff, you had nine freshmen and sophomores play in this game. When you look at the future, how valuable have these last three weeks been to that group of players?
COACH WALZ: It's been a great experience for all of them, to have the opportunity to play in a national championship game, to make the run that we did through the NCAA tournament as a freshman and a sophomore; should give us a lot of confidence and a lot of excitement to carry over to next season.
And, you know, that's one of the things that I challenged the returning players with in the locker room after the game. We have to find out who our leaders are going to be this spring and this summer to get in the gym when I can't make them get in the gym.
That's the difference between your great programs and your good programs, because, I promise you, Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery weren't going to the beach all summer. I mean, they spent hour after hour in the gym. You don't become the players they are if you aren't a dedicated player.

Q. I was going to ask you about the post game and what you said to the group as a whole.
COACH WALZ: I first just told our two seniors, Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham, I think both of them, to have the opportunity to have your first head coaching job be with two players that are seniors like those two, they've made my first two years very enjoyable. They've taken a lot of responsibility upon themselves to be leaders. And that's what you need if you want to be a successful program.
Then, you know, I talked to our freshmen and sophomores, just talked to them about the opportunity of getting back here. I told them the story: You know, at Maryland we started two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior when we won a national championship in 2006. And everybody thought this is easy. We'll get back here every year. And, unfortunately, you know, those kids never made it back to a Final Four.
So you've got to get in the gym and you've got to be willing to work every single day so you can get back to this. And I'm hoping our freshmen and sophomores heard that, because it's tough.
I mean, I got a really nice text from Marissa Coleman today wishing us luck. And I know how bad that young lady hurt after our game in the Elite Eight. And it's a feeling that I hope our kids don't have to experience. But it's one that you can't take for granted the opportunity to get here and you can't take for granted you'll ever get back here either.

Q. Coach, you've been staying with them throughout the first ten minutes of the first half, and there was a lot of motion and energy in your offense at that point. From that point forward throughout the first half seemed like you were settling more into half-court sets and sort of a lot of standing around. Was that a fatigue factor setting in or was there something different they were throwing at you?
COACH WALZ: There wasn't a fatigue factor. They weren't throwing anything different at us. When I look at the game and I watch the game, I actually thought we got some really, really good shots and missed some 1- and 2-footers.
Yeah, our goal was to try to run with the ball when we had numbers at our advantage or if we got a steal off of our press. But if we didn't, our goal was to run the shot clock down and try and cut the game down to possession by possession.
Like I said, we got really good looks. I was proud of our kids for the way we executed. But, unfortunately, we just could not put the ball in the basket.

Q. Coach, I just want to ask you about Deseree' Byrd. And we've seen all week that this is a young lady with an awful lot of pride. Just lost what has to be a very devastating game, and she shot 1-for-10. And instead of sitting there with her shoulders slumped over and instead of making excuses she sat up straight and looked us in the eye and said "I'm blessed" after shooting 1-for-10 and losing a game that must have been so difficult for her.
COACH WALZ: That's just the way all our kids are, Des included. It's like I've told you from day one, we're honest in our program. And, you know, it hurt Des. There's no question. I know she wanted to play a lot better. But she played hard.
And I told her before the game started, if we can come in the locker room after the game and look each other in the eye and say I gave it everything I had, then that's all you can ask for. And I thought Des did. I thought all the kids did.
Unfortunately, the ball just did not go in the basket for us. You have those games. And you just really don't want it to be your national championship game, but it happens. For us to get a 68 field goals attempted, 10 more than they attempted, and we get 19 offensive boards and only turn the ball over nine times, I mean, you look at the stat line, and we played a pretty damn good game. Unfortunately, we just didn't make them.
AMY YAKOLA: Thank you, Coach.

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