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April 6, 2010
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
Connecticut Â– 53
Stanford - 47
THE MODERATOR: For our final press conference of the Final Four, I'm pleased to introduce Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, as well as student-athletes Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Kalana Greene.
COACH AURIEMMA: It's hard to put it all into words and in perspective. Just the feeling of helplessness we felt in the first half and going into our locker room at halftime and not knowing what we had left in us and what they were thinking, and to come out in the second half and make some of the plays that we made and have Maya make some of the shots that she made. It was a real testament to these kids and how strong they are and how tough they are and how resilient they are.
I'm really thrilled for them. And I'm really thrilled to be their coach.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for our three student-athletes.
Q. Maya, can you talk about the first half and the mood at halftime, what you guys were thinking? Coach said he didn't know what you were thinking. What were you thinking?
MAYA MOORE: As far as our motivation, I mean, we knew what we had to do. It was a new half. We had to just keep playing hard and executing what we didn't execute in the first half. Sometimes it's just that simple. You just have to focus in on the little things that we've been working on all year and things start clicking.
And we knew we weren't going to finish the game the way we started. And once we just kind of locked in on setting up our screens, rebounding, guarding the 3-point line a little better, and our defense was outstanding in the second half. And that's what really sparked it. Tina Charles in the lane, blocking shots left and right, and we never looked back from there.
Q. For all of you, could you just talk about the journey from day one and the things you had to deal with to accomplish this, another perfect season?
KALANA GREENE: I think the journey started in Tampa, when we lost to Stanford. And that was definitely like the trigger right there. We just wanted to come back and win a national championship. We were so close. And I think we knew what we had to do to get it.
And our motivation last year was to -- this year was to show everyone we had a lot of doubts at the guard position, what could we do without Renee Montgomery, and Tiffany and Caroline came in this year and did whatever we had to do to win.
And it's been great. It's just fun, and we're undefeated.
TINA CHARLES: I'll just go for what she said.
Q. Maya, could you talk about what Stanford was doing to you defensively in the first half and what changed in the second half? And, also, did you feel pressure, personally, that you needed to kind of take over things in the second half?
MAYA MOORE: I thought Stanford did a great job in the first half just being physical, trying to jam up our cuts, not letting us kind of move where we wanted to. And it forced us to have to work harder off the ball to get open and just being tougher with the basketball.
The second half, you can't really have any fear, any doubts. We all recognized that we weren't ourselves and we just had to leave it in the locker room, and that's what we did, and come out and be in the attack mode.
After we started executing our offense a little better and got our flow back, we started looking like ourselves again.
But I'm absolutely always trying to be on the attack, and that's what our team was in the second half.
Q. Maya, in that second half, it seemed like when you got your groove back was when you rose up and knocked down that 3-pointer that put the team ahead, to stay, as it turned out. I notice that you had this look of determination that you were going to knock that shot down no matter what. When it left your hands and you saw it go down, did you feel like, okay, we're on a roll now?
MAYA MOORE: That was a big momentum pusher. I remember just coming off of a screen from the opposite side. And I think it was you that kicked it out to me. And there was a defender right in my face, running to contest it. And I just didn't think about it; I just rose up and shot it and it went in and everybody had a little bounce to them.
I think when Kalana got that and one, too, was a big spark for us. Those 3-point plays sparked our line. And that's why we're champions. We rise to the occasion. And we love big-time games and big-time shots.
Q. Tina, Kalana, you pretty much only have about 24 hours to celebrate this before you get on with the next part of your life. Going to be in New York getting ready to be drafted by the WNBA. How do you both feel about that quick transition, and are you ready to move on?
TINA CHARLES: I haven't even thought about it. I'm sitting here fighting back tears because I'm going to miss this team and miss Coach. I'm grateful for everything he's done for me. I'm going to miss just everything about this program. Rosemary Ragle and the rehab I had with her, my shoulder, just all the little things that I'm just sitting here thinking about. That's far off my mind.
KALANA GREENE: Just going to celebrate as long as I can. That's it.
Q. Maya, this wasn't the typical UConn win, but you won 78 in a row, back-to-back undefeated seasons, two straight national championships. What are your emotions right now? What are you feeling?
MAYA MOORE: Kind of an awkward stage right now, because you go through the whole season always working for something, always working for something, and you finally get it and it's like: What now?
So I know all of us are just drained, I think, emotionally from the high and low of just that game alone. But there's a huge sense of satisfaction and knowing that we went out the way we wanted to and the way we did it, I think, and the way we believed and trusted in what Coach was telling us. And we bought into it. And it worked.
So we're just on cloud nine right now, and I don't see myself going to sleep anytime soon.
Q. Tina, Jayne went O-fer. Could you sense that she was struggling physically a little bit?
TINA CHARLES: Yeah, you know, just seeing the way her coach was subbing her in and out with No. 44. I know she was giving everything she had out there. I know this is her last go-around, both our last game. So we both gave our all out there. But we just came out and we fought harder.
Q. Maya, what's life going to be like without the women sitting next to you from the left to the right?
MAYA MOORE: It's going to be sad. I mean, I'm going to miss them. They have, I think, been the most improved players, just seeing Tina's growth from freshman year to now, and Kalana's growth from last year to now. They're leaders for our team, and we're going to absolutely miss that.
But I'm just going to take everything that they've taught me and everything that they've been -- they've been an example for me and I won't let them down and I'll take how hard they work and how they approach their senior year and I'm going to do the same next year.
But I'm always going to be in contact with them. We're family forever. And I don't think we'll ever forget this night.
Q. Tina and Kalana, every kid that goes to college basketball dreams of senior year, celebrating on the court a national championship. Could you put into words what that's like, knowing your last game and then you're national champions and you're leaving UConn as a national champion?
TINA CHARLES: I think you have to experience it to know the feeling. I could say a bunch of words, but I think the feeling, you have to really experience it.
And I think that's the best thing about this whole thing because we were able to experience this two times and just the hard work that we put into it and just the support we had from just everybody from the fans, from our student body back at school, just everything, I think this is for everybody and how special it is.
Q. (Question off microphone)?
KALANA GREENE: I just remember last year remembering how I felt. It was like I gotta get back here again. And I think that's what every senior wants, is to go out with a bang. And we did.
Q. Kalana and Tina, wanted to get your thoughts on winning the final 78 games of your career, two national championships, now walking away. What kind of legacy do you think you're leaving behind?
TINA CHARLES: I think we definitely set the stakes high. Coach did it. He set the stakes high for the people coming into Connecticut, because I know when I came in, we didn't win for a year, for like a long time. So the guys coming in now, the guys who is here next year, Maya, Tiffany, Caroline, they just gotta keep winning, because that's what Connecticut does.
Q. Maybe for Tina, if you could just reflect on the supreme satisfaction that you're feeling right now just because the fact that so many people maybe coronated you as champions well before this night, but tonight you guys showed what you had in terms of battling back, not only tonight but battling against Baylor as well. Is that where you derive your sense of satisfaction walking away? Not just from having won 78 in a row, but winning the 78th in the way that you did?
TINA CHARLES: Definitely. I think that's where we give our praises to our practice players and just how hard they always came out to practice and came out against us. There will be times when we'll be down and we fought through it. Coach wouldn't let us get off the court until we overcame that.
I think that's why we're able to do that when Baylor cut the lead down to 3 and when we're coming out of halftime and being down by 8.
So I think that's just the best satisfaction. And I know our practice players are just really happy for us, especially.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. In the first half, I was wondering, did you wonder whether either team was going to be able to get to 20 points? I've never seen a half like that. I wonder if you have.
COACH AURIEMMA: No, no, I've never seen anything like it. Ever. There was a point in time where it looked like we may never score again. And that's what I felt like. I remember turning around one time and just staring at the bench and looking at the other coaches and just shaking my head, and this feeling of we're not going to score any more points.
And I looked at the scoreboard, and I realized they were in the same situation we were in. And here I thought defensively we weren't playing well. We had to turn up the defense. Turn up the defense.
And it's 20 to 12 and didn't feel so bad. As bad as we played, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. And there was hope. There was hope for us. I didn't know what kind of hope. But there was hope.
Q. I know this might be too early for you to reflect upon this, but now that you have won seven of these and you've done it four times with an undefeated team, with what this team accomplished, as I said to Tina, winning 78 in a row, but 78th, is it supremely gratifying for you as a coach? And is this the greatest team, the championship team, you've had? Does it supplant the 2002 team?
COACH AURIEMMA: I don't know what to think of that. I don't know where I would put it in the context of who is better or who is not. I think looking back now at what we've done, if you make me look back at what we've done, I'm almost incredulous that it actually happened, because I can't imagine having done it.
It's almost like it never happened. You know, it's something that's there, and I know we did it. And I know it's in the record books. But I am so astounded that it's happened. When you make comments like that, you know, four undefeated teams, it's just too hard to comprehend. You know, it really is. It really, really is.
Q. Could you talk about Maya's game tonight. You've seen her do a lot of things, but did you get a sense from her at halftime that she was ready to take over? And what were they doing to contain her in the first half?
COACH AURIEMMA: Well, I was worried all year long that what exactly happened in the first half was going to happen. And I would always say to people, you know, we come out there and we don't make any shots, we're going to lose. And we kept scoring 90 points. 90 points. And it's like, well, that's never going to happen. So all of a sudden when nobody can make a shot, then all of a sudden we have kids on the team who didn't want to shoot.
And Stanford knows that. And they're going to guard Maya really hard. And they're daring everybody else to make shots. And we felt, I think, the defensive pressure that Stanford put on us. And I think for the first time all season, I think we felt the game pressure and the Final Four pressure and the national championship pressure.
That's the only thing -- that's the only way I can explain it, what happened. Stanford's defense was great. And we finally felt that pressure that comes from doing what we've been doing and being where we are. And to be honest with you, for Caroline to make those shots she made, that's just an incredible toughness on that kid's part, because she hasn't made a shot since Brian was a senator (laughter).
Q. Well played.
COACH AURIEMMA: That's why he came to say hi to us. He said: I remember you making a shot when I was senator.
Q. Maya, did you feel like she was capable of going off?
COACH AURIEMMA: I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure. Maya operates on two levels: one where she's in a complete zone and everything she touches goes in and you can't keep her from scoring, then Maya gets in another zone where she wants to win so bad or she wants to get it done so bad that she almost is her own worst enemy.
And that's, I think, one of the things that was happening in the first half. And I didn't know if we could get her out of it. That's why I said we need some other people to make some plays, to let Maya know, hey, I'm not out here by myself. And in the second half she was a little more patient. Moved a little bit better without the ball and just made some incredibly difficult shots.
And that's why she's a special player, I think.
Q. Did you think that Stanford's offense struggled as Jayne struggled?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, they're difficult to guard offensively. And we were determined not to double team Jayne and let Tina play against her one-on-one. Because it seemed like every time we did do anything that resembled a double team or helped, they were able to get off a couple of shots.
We knew we had an impossible matchup with Nneka and Jayne. Jayne we felt like Tina could handle. I just didn't think we had a matchup for Nneka. But we were able to move Tina over and we took our chances. And Tina was just incredible defensively.
But, remember, I think I said yesterday that the first team to 50 wins, right? Who knew, right? Who knew.
Q. In the second half, did you guys do anything drastically different defensively?
COACH AURIEMMA: Well, because we scored we were able to kind of set our defense a little bit better and apply the pressure where we wanted to apply it. And when you're not scoring and you're constantly running back, you're thinking about we didn't score, oh, my God, we didn't score again. We didn't score again. That weighs on your mind and then you make mistake defensively.
So because we were able to score points, we ran back with a clear head and we were organized. Put a little more pressure on the ball. Took away a lot of the outside shots, which is basically what we tried to do.
They didn't make as many outside shots until the end. Then I thought that they were going to win anyway, they were just going to keep making shots, make you bank one, and I was ready to kill myself.
Q. That six-minute stretch, the stretch at the start of the second half that Maya had, you've coached a lot of really good players, including Diana and whoever. Did you ever see one like that where she's hitting everything everywhere?
COACH AURIEMMA: Diana was the only one that resembled that at all. And I've seen her do it -- it is what great players do. And they do it at the most pressure-packed times. And that's what makes them who they are. That's what makes them great. Maya is a great scorer. And you get that reputation by scoring points under pressure. And she certainly did that.
Q. When is the last time that you looked at the Wooden book you've been carrying around? And I ask this tongue in cheek, but is there a chapter about what to do when your team shoots 15 percent in the first half?
COACH AURIEMMA: Geez, no. That's funny. I should have never mentioned that. But I happened to have that book in my briefcase because I went on a trip in September and I just have it in there. There's interesting scenarios in that book of how to attack certain things, and his philosophy on attacking a certain kind of defense or a certain kind of pressure.
But there's absolutely no chapters and no pages on here's how you can win a game if you shoot 15 percent in the first half (laughter). Maybe because this team's never shot 15 percent in the first half. So I should write that chapter.
Q. Now that you're free of the tunnel vision of one game at a time, will there be moments now that you'll have a chance to ponder what 78 in a row means and will there be a moment or two where you idly think of how close you are to 88 and UCLA?
COACH AURIEMMA: I'll probably think about the 78 and how it became a reality. And I'll just stare up into space like I always do and say I can't believe it. There's so many things that could go wrong along the way, and it's just unexplainable that that many things could go that right for 78 straight games and you would win.
But I don't think about 88. I don't think about any of that. I don't ever think about down the road, if we do this, this will happen.
I'm not looking at it as a goal. I'm not looking at it as something that I want to accomplish. If we're fortunate and it ever happens, I'll be astounded again like I am right now.
But I don't -- I would like to win another national championship next year, and I'll probably say the same thing I said before this year's team: I don't care if we have no losses or ten losses. I don't care. That's probably how I'm going to be thinking.
Q. Can you comment on Tina Charles's four years at UConn?
COACH AURIEMMA: I think it's all been said by a lot of people and by Tina herself, about how much she's grown and how much she's changed and how much she's elevated her game and how many different things she does well now, relative to before.
And as a person, she's a better person. She's grown up. She's a lot more mature now than she was then. And as you would expect someone to be after four years in college.
And Tina's Tina. Tina didn't want to sit up here today right now and talk about the game and the championship or the streak or any of those things. Tina just wants to sit in the locker room right now and kind of hold on to that moment and that feeling for another four years. She's not prepared to leave.
Q. You mentioned you won't be thinking about 88. But last year, after your win, people speculated about Maya maybe getting three in a row. There will be expectations on her next year. Could you talk about that?
COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, that just comes with the territory, you know? Maya is unbelievable in what she can do and how she can do it. I think Maya's greatest challenge next year is going to be that for the first time in her college career she will be the older leader and not have a lot of help, and that's going to really take its toll on Maya next year. I've told her that. We've talked about it. And that's my job to get her ready for it.
But, you know, people are going to expect us to win a national championship because we've got Maya Moore. And I would say: Good. So do I.
Q. Coach, obviously the 12 points the first half was part of the game plan, but, apart from that, can you talk about what was your game plan coming in; what ways you succeeded in executing that and which ways you didn't?
COACH AURIEMMA: I felt coming in we were going to have a real hard time stopping them from scoring. And I thought it was going to be difficult for them to try to stop every one of us. I didn't count on what happened in that first half.
I didn't think we'd be able to hold them to 20. And I never imagined that we would get 12. The way we guarded them is exactly the way I wanted to guard them. We played defense exactly the way I wanted to play it. You hold a team to 20 points, you're doing something special.
So that was the game plan going in. I didn't have any problem with the defense. The offensive game plan is the same as it's always been. And we kind of strayed away from it too quickly.
Tina didn't touch the ball. We didn't attack them at all. We just stood around on the perimeter. There was very little movement. And in the second half, all that changed. Our defense stayed solid. We got Tina a couple more touches in the lane, and got better movement. And as a result, more people touched the ball.
And then because of that, we were able to feel comfortable. We never felt comfortable in that first half. Never. It wasn't until I think maybe when Maya made that 3 to put us up that there was a certain comfort level; that, hey, we can come down and score now on three or four possessions in a row.
I think one time we got it to, what, 15? The lead was 15, I think. 16. 16. And I thought, okay, now we're comfortable. Then I look up and it's like six. It's not supposed to be easy, right?
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts