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March 30, 2010

Sherri Coale

Danielle Robinson

Nyeshia Stevenson

Amanda Thompson


Oklahoma – 88
Kentucky - 68

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by victorious Oklahoma, Coach Sherri Coale and the student athletes. Coach, your thoughts on tonight's game?
COACH COALE: First of all, I would like to congratulate Kentucky for being in the Elite 8 and performing the way they did. Early on their pressure defense gave us all kinds of trouble, and later when we counter-punched, I thought their youth and inexperience showed a little bit. But the job Matthew has done with that team in the short amount of time with that program, getting to the Elite 8, they'll be back, I couldn't be more impressed. He and his staff, the way they handled themselves and the way the kids handled themselves tonight, they were just a terrific opponent and really just appreciate the way they competed.
My kids, they just win. They just win. Grit, intestinal fortitude, never doubt. They just believe, and we talk about the eyes and the look you need to have in your eyes when you compete for championships. Even when we were dismal in the first five minutes, the look in the huddle was one of belief. They felt like they belonged here and believed in their ability to get the job done, and what a tremendous legacy already, and it's not over yet, but for these three seniors to guide their teams to back-to-back Final Fours. That puts us in a different league. That's a different deal. Those three kids will forever be known as the first to do that, and I love that for them because they're special.

Q. Nyeshia, it seemed tonight the game was almost like a mirror of your season. There was some early adversity you fought through and then you blew through at the end. What do you think it is about this team that's allowed you guys to do that?
NYESHIA STEVENSON: I think just throughout the season we had to fight, and after every loss that we had, we learned from it, and it was different every time. You know, all the tough games that we've won, it just showed, and it played a big prior in tonight's game when we were down early.
Like Coach said, we knew the game wasn't over. There was a lot of time on that clock. We may have had wowed or whatever, I don't know what was wrong with us in that first four minutes, but we turned it around and we played Oklahoma basketball.

Q. Danielle, I thought when you guys went to zone, that changed things up a little bit. Talk about that and how that changed the tone for you all.
DANIELLE ROBINSON: We knew coming in that we were going to have to use our zone a little bit. A lot of teams hadn't seen zone a lot this year, so we knew we could use that to our advantage, and I think that's the best zone we've played all season. So definitely happy that it worked.

Q. Amanda, it seemed to me like there was just a look on your face after that early start that was like, you probably wouldn't want to say what you were thinking inside. You just looked furious, and it looked like there was this huge burst of energy. You pulled down a couple of rebounds. Can you talk about what was going through your mind and how you think maybe that was sort of the jump start for you guys?
AMANDA THOMPSON: You know, when we first started and after I got that first turnover, I was like, Oh, my goodness, this is one of those kind of games. Then we got down maybe 10 or 12, and I was like, We're not about to have this. So the ball came off, I got a little energy, got a rebound and came down, got a little jump shot, just kind of released that pressure a little bit. Once we got those shots, they really kind of backed up for that little span or interval. Everybody kind of fed off that, and we took that lead and didn't give it back.

Q. For Amanda and Danielle, everybody says goals never change, always keep your eye on the prize, all that stuff. But back in November when Whitney went down and you didn't know what was going to happen, how much was this a legitimate dream that you could still do this?
AMANDA THOMPSON: We never took our eyes off the prize no matter what happened, who left, who got injured. We knew we could still fight. We just knew we had to double everything we did on the court, and everybody took responsibility for that, and it showed today.
DANIELLE ROBINSON: Like she talked about, we never took our brains and our minds off of going back to the Final Four. We felt that if we did, we would be settling. We'd make an excuse for something that's really uncontrollable.
You know, Whitney is not gone, she's still a captain. She's still at practice every day. She's just not playing. So we knew that we still had a special leader on our team, and she's definitely helped us out throughout the whole season.

Q. Nyeshia, just about a week after you played UConn, you were at K State, had a really tough start, I think you were down by 21 with maybe 16 minutes left in that game and came back. I don't want to say that was any kind of turning point, but that could have been a game where you guys might have easily lost, just the resilience in this game and how that reflects what this team has been like this season?
NYESHIA STEVENSON: Like I said, this team just never gives up. We had a rough start, and it just lasted way longer than four minutes. Halftime we were still -- before halftime we got some baskets and got stops, but we were still clawing, and at halftime we just looked at each other and said, Hey, either we're going to fight or this season is just going to rest up on this. So we just turned it around and decided that we didn't want to be what everyone said that we were going to be. We wanted to be more, and that's what we did. We changed it around.

Q. Danielle, what was said in the huddle? You guys were down 10 points. You have a time-out. You were settling for jump shots up to that point. What was said about driving to the basket?
DANIELLE ROBINSON: We just knew that we just needed to settle down. We were sped up a little bit, but we've been there before. So like A.T. talked about, we just needed to calm down, chill out a little bit, and that's exactly what we did.
THE MODERATOR: The NCAA has announced that Oklahoma Stanford will play Game 1 at 6:00 p.m. Central Time on Sunday and Baylor-UConn is at 8:30.

Q. Danielle, can you talk about it seemed like Carlee really gave you guys a lift when she came in. Talk about sometimes we just think of her as a shooter, but it seemed like she did a whole lot else this evening.
DANIELLE ROBINSON: Yeah, Carlee is a real versatile player, especially on the defensive end. She's long. She rebounded for us. Before she checked in, I mean, in the first half, I asked her, Are you ready? And she said, Yep, and I knew from then on that she was going to be great tonight.

Q. Amanda, after the game Sherri said that on that first time-out when you guys were really struggling, she said something like y'all ready to just get back on the bus, and you sort of said, no, Coach -- you sort of settled her down to some degree. She didn't say that, but that was my impression. Is that correct, and were you startled at what she said?
AMANDA THOMPSON: I wasn't startled. You know, when she says those kind of things, it's not really -- it's kind of like a blow to the chest, like we're not doing what we're supposed to. So I kind of told her, Just tell us what we need to do and we got it. She listened to me and she told us what we needed to do, and from that point on we made our run.
We had to play defense and we had to make baskets, you know, and from then on we went into that zone. Our two guards up top, they got touches, they got steals and we got back-to-back fast breaks. It was just amazing. They play awesome the whole game, and Kentucky was really -- they played really well, but we fought back, and we played together, and it paid off.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, congratulations on a great season and a great win tonight. Good luck in San Antonio.

Q. Sherri, I hate to give you absolutely no time to think about this, but Stanford coming up next, can you talk a little bit about -- you said in the Big 12 tournament, you said one of the strengths of this team is you can be a different type of team depending on your opponent, you have that versatility. Obviously, Stanford is a way, way different team than Kentucky. Can you talk about that match-up?
COACH COALE: Yeah, I think Stanford's offense is obviously an offense that is rhythmic, and you've got to break the rhythm. You can't let them get the ball where they want to get the ball. They're incredibly different than Kentucky, night and day. We do that in the Big 12. We play Texas A & M and then we go and play Iowa State. So we're accustomed to that.
I can talk for a long time about Stanford because I've seen them play several and I know what they do and I know Tara and I know how she teaches them, but with all due respect, I'd just like to talk about us for a while.

Q. Talk about Nyeshia, what an NCAA Tournament she's having.
COACH COALE: She was fantastic. I think she finally figured out that she's fast with the ball in her hand. You know, you tell her all the time and it sounds so trite, but she is a three-point shooter and she's a fantastic three-point shooter, but she has a great first step. And she got to the rim the first time, and you could just see the light in her eyes that she'd figured it out and she continued to attack the rim and that was really the difference. That's when we began to blow it open.

Q. You briefly touched on the legacy of these seniors. Can you expand a little bit more?
COACH COALE: Yeah. I just -- I think it's special when kids can lead a program to back-to-back Final Fours, and for each of these three kids, we talked about it along the way throughout this tournament, their personal growth individually as people, as basketball players and then their collective growth as leaders of a basketball team has just been a phenomenal thing to witness. This could not have happened to three more deserving kids than the three we have here. They're just so humble and they're so together and so fun to coach and it's been a very rewarding year that's not over yet.

Q. I think it was with those three you had in mind when you said, This puts us in a different league. But expand on that a little bit, too, back-to-back Final Fours and what it means.
COACH COALE: Well, I think if you look over the last decade, there are folks who are always there. Connecticut is always there. Tennessee is almost always there. And then you have those other two spots, and Stanford is there quite a bit, and then you have a new kid.
You look back in 2002 and it was Tennessee and Connecticut and Duke, who had been making the push, and then we were the new kid. And then last year you had Stanford and Connecticut and Louisville was the new kid, and we got back -- so back-to-back years, I can't say that it puts us in a Tennessee and Connecticut league because we haven't won it yet. But you can't win it if you don't keep going. I just think it separates us a little bit, and a very special moment for our program.

Q. Weird game, there's one lead change. They got ahead, you caught up and took the lead and they never caught back up. Could you see that once you got ahead the momentum had shifted and you were pretty comfortable at that point with the result?
COACH COALE: I felt like the momentum had definitely shifted, but I don't know that I was comfortable until somewhere around the eight-minute mark, and even then Danielle gets her foul until we made that little run.
But they were young, and you could sort of see the indecision coming in when we changed to the zone early on and turned them into passers instead of drivers. I felt like if we could just continue to score that we were going to be in great shape. But I don't know that I got comfortable for a long time.

Q. With two teams from the Big 12 in the Final Four, what's it say about the Big 12 conference?
COACH COALE: What we've been saying all year; it prepares you. It prepares you for postseason play. I think it speaks volumes about the Big 12. Folks are starting to catch on, and they're talking about it being the toughest conference in the country, obviously the most well-attended conference in the country, and for us and Baylor to both be playing there, I think the proof is in the pudding.

Q. You're going back to San Antonio where you played Connecticut for the National Championship. Talk a little bit about that.
COACH COALE: A little bit surreal, actually. For it to be in the same city, for it to be this team, you know, that group from 2002 -- the first time you go to the Final Four, it's an amazing, amazing moment, an amazing, amazing experience, and then the next time you're supposed to. From then on out, you're supposed to.
That 2002 team had this special spunk about them. I don't think at the start of the year anybody thought we'd be a Final Four team. I thought we were pretty good, but I don't know that anybody thought we could break in and go to the Final Four. Not only did we go there, then we competed in the championship game.
That group of kids just were a remarkable group of young women, who they've gone on to become and what they've gone on to do. All those kids have been texting this week while we're here and sent flowers to my room and texting each other and getting everybody together and telling our kids we'll be waiting on the River Walk, we'll hold a boat for you, come see us.
As a coach, God, it doesn't get any better than that. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Q. I forgot to ask the players this, but what was that silly basket with the eggs and stuff?
COACH COALE: It's not a basket, it's a trophy. I know it turned out to look a little like a birthday cake, but it's not, it's a trophy. Today was a long day. Playing a late game is tough, and you don't want to take the kids out and about. They just played an overtime game 48 hours ago. But you also don't want them sleeping all day. So we just found a way to occupy their time and bought a whole bunch of stuff and just junk and said, Make a trophy. That trophy we're going to -- and our deal has been go to Kansas City and get a trophy, and we didn't do it in the Big 12 tournament.
That's one of the reasons -- everybody asked us after the selection show when I said, This is perfect, everybody thought I was talking about my bracket. No, I'm talking about we get to go back to Kansas City and get the trophy. It had been our theme and it didn't work out and, okay, we still get to go. I told our guys you're going to get the trophy, but then we've got to put that out in the legacy court and do all that stuff with it at the Lloyd Noble Center.
These seniors need something really special, something that stays in our locker room that says they created a legacy all their own, so let's build our own deal, and they did, and every piece of it means something.
One of the reasons these kids have been so fun to coach, you can throw anything out there and they'll embrace it and they'll be all about it. They just dive in head first. We had to break them away from it. It's time to go to shoot around, quit building the trophy, and they just had to finish it and get it exactly right and then they carried this stinking thing around with them everywhere. I mean, they're so proud of it. They just embrace opportunities. I think that's one of the reasons they play so well when the game is on the line.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, again, congratulations on a big win. Best of luck in the Final Four.

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