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March 4, 2011

Jolette Law

Amber Moore

Karisma Penn


Illinois – 55
Michigan - 47

THE MODERATOR: All right. We're joined by Illinois, Coach Law along with Amber Moore and Karisma Penn.
Coach, would you give us an opening statement to start.
COACH LAW: I think my kids played hard. Very focused the first half. And I think once we got in the locker room I think we thought the game was over. But I gotta give a lot of credit to them down the stretch. When Michigan came and made their run, we stopped their run.
And like I told them, it's going to come down to every possession. Every possession counts. I know Michigan is a great team, and they wasn't going to let up. Even though they were down 20-plus points, they were going to come out and fight to the bitter end. And they did.
But I gotta give my young team a lot of credit. We didn't fold. We got stops when we needed to and we took care of the basketball down the stretch.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Either of the girls, can you talk about how a team can lose 12 in a row and come around and come up with a couple of big upsets come tournament time?
KARISMA PENN: We just really believe in ourselves. Even though we lost 12 games, we were never doubting ourselves. A lot of the games were close. We lost them at the last second, and we knew eventually it would break through, and it's happening for us now.
AMBER MOORE: Yeah, even with the 12 in a row, we still work hard in practice and we get better each day. So we're not hanging our heads. We're keeping, sticking together and just believing in each other.

Q. Amber, you didn't make any 3-pointers last night, and then you got really out in the first. How do you explain that?
AMBER MOORE: As far as shooting, I just had to find my confidence back. I wasn't shooting the ball very well. But during our little shoot-around, just getting the rhythm back.

Q. Amber, I know you said in the past this is a team that really starts with defense. That leads to offense. But seems like in the first half you guys started well on offense and then that kind of led to the defense in the second half. Could you talk about that a little bit?
AMBER MOORE: These past few games we came out really strong executing, just executing on offense. And when our defense is up, our offense gets a lot better as well.

Q. Can you talk about how important the start was for you guys coming out of the gate strong really?
COACH LAW: It was extremely important. You just have confidence, I knew what we were looking for, I knew Michigan was going to come out and probably be aggressive. And it was good to see that my kids, they stuck to the game plan. We set the screens. We moved the ball extremely well and we got open looks. And we played together. We played total team ball. We shared the basketball. And then that opened up -- when the outside shooting was good, it opened to one-on-one coverage with Karisma. And that's why Karisma had a little bit more. She didn't have to face double teams tonight as much.

Q. Karisma, you haven't trailed at all yet in this tournament. What's working for you guys?
KARISMA PENN: Like I said, I think our confidence is just up right now. Everybody believes in themselves and we believe in this team. We come out of the game and we just -- we try to attack the other team first. Before the game, we're really lighthearted. We just -- we believe in ourselves right now.

Q. Amber, three years ago this program was the No. 9 seed, got all the way to the championship game. I'm sure aware of that. Did you watch any of that on TV? Did you see it on TV back in high school when you were watching?
AMBER MOORE: I saw it. It was a heartbreaker. I know it was, coming down to the last seconds. And we try to get back to that, sticking together as a team and just trying to fight as a team.

Q. (Off Microphone)?
AMBER MOORE: Not really.

Q. Question for both you. Amber, seemed like you carried the load in the first half, and, Karisma, seemed like you really stepped up in the second half when your team needed to put the game away. Can you talk a little bit about like what having two players like you does for your team or just if you kind of felt like you needed to step up, really get that done?
AMBER MOORE: I just think our team has developed a lot of patience on offense. We're starting to figure out what we're looking for in our offenses, and just being a patient offense. So I think that helps a lot when we're rotating the ball or swinging the ball, we get it in and out, is what's helping right now.
KARISMA PENN: I agree with Amber. If Amber is on in the first half, they'll have to get up on her. So it will open up things more in the second half. And I think that's what happened today.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. So you've not talked about '08 with them and will you talk about '08 with them?
COACH LAW: I did briefly on Monday, when we went and had breakfast. I try not to put too much pressure on them. Just told them that right now the road that we traveled that year that we came in '08, we lost a lot of close games.
At that time I had more seniors and more leadership and only had one freshman, so I sort of tweaked it a little bit and told them now I have no seniors, all freshmen and sophomores.
So I told them right now these games we lost, a lot of people are looking at our record. Like Karisma mentioned we lost ten games, ten seconds or less, and it came down to 1.5. It came down to two seconds. It came down to three seconds. And each and every game I try to be positive with my kids and try to show them if we just carve out this, if we focus on this a little more, eventually we'll be able to put up a complete 40-minute game together.
And I think they started seeing, and I kept them light. We kept teaching, moving, moving forward, and now they're reaping the benefits because now they're starting to see it and starting to believe it.

Q. I think you guys are the first No. 11 seed to make it to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. Do you feel like you're playing with house money a little bit now, nothing left to lose?
A. Hey, like I told them, we were at the bottom, and right now that's something that I have to deal with. Like I said, I released the record a long time for them. I'm not happy or pleased; we were the losing record. I don't read the paper, but I know it was probably the worst season ever in a regular season. I'll live with that. I can live with that when I know my team's getting better and they're getting stronger and I have all of them coming back.
I think right now, I told them this is season three. You have nothing to lose, everything to gain. Everybody else is playing something, what are we playing for? We have to play for our respect. We've got to play for our pride. And we have to leave it all out on the floor. Sense of urgency.
If we can do it in chapter 3, play a 40-minute game each and every game for 160 minutes, we can be that Cinderella story to sneak into the NCAA. So that's what I challenged them with, and they're responding.

Q. You guys brought that up. I was actually about to ask that: See how confident you guys are that you can do this? You're two wins away, first game will be against a Penn State team that looked decent today against Purdue but they definitely showed some form too. How confident are you guys that you can pull this off?
COACH LAW: I have the utmost respect for Penn State. They're young as well, well coached, Coquese, and they're playing I think from the bottom of the pack to the No. 2 seed. But tomorrow we don't see a team. We don't see Penn State. We just right now have to focus on what the final line I have to do. And we have to compete. We have to be the best team tomorrow, the best team on that day. And we have to come and be focused and do all the little things, and, hey, we're just going for it.

Q. After playing last night and playing today, in the second half when Michigan's coming back, were you sensing maybe your kids were loosening their legs a little bit?
COACH LAW: I would probably put it on we were trying to play not to lose. We've never been in this situation. So I get it. I understand, and I know on the sideline I had to bring some calmness to them because we've never been up 20 on a great team and down the stretch.
So I was teaching them in every time-out situation score, and possessions, and I think we were trying not to make a mistake. First half we were playing loose and the ball was going. Being so young we've never been there before, I just knew that as a leader I had to make sure I calmed them down because they didn't know what to expect.
So I think we played very timid, very hesitant, and therefore the turnovers were coming and we were unsure. We worked against the 2-3 zone a lot and it looked like we had never seen the zone before. But that came with not wanting to lose, not wanting to make a mistake. I'll charge that more to that, then, the legs. Because they were in the huddle talking to me like I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I just had to give them a sense of calmness.

Q. Can you talk about Centrese McGee being out and how that changed how you played today and for the rest of the tournament maybe if she's going to be out?
COACH LAW: It caught us off guard because in the locker room she'll be fine. She took some medicine, had an allergic reaction. We thought we'd play it safe with her.
But it did. I'm looking down the bench and I'm like, okay, I don't have -- I only have like seven or eight. It did put a little pressure on us.
But that's what I talked to my team about. Those who wait also serve. You never know when the bell's going to be called. Eboni Mitchell didn't play at all yesterday. And today she played some huge minutes down the stretch for us, and she stepped in for us. Alexis Burke didn't play at all yesterday, but she came in and she in the first half played some key minutes.
Sometimes you don't know when your bell is called. I just challenged my whole team to be ready. It's unfortunate that Tee Tee couldn't play, but we held on for victory despite her not being there for the second half.

Q. They shot a lot of 3s, especially in the first half. Was that fine with you? Is that kind of what you wanted to do defensively on the perimeter?
COACH LAW: I know they were known for shooting 3s, their offense is based on dribble penetrating, making you collapse and kicking the ball out for 3s. But I think my guards, in the past we weren't keeping the ball in front. I think we did a better job with that. I think we forced them out a little bit. Most of the 3s were deep 3s versus standing there shooting the normal 3.
When they start missing, we're just going to contest, make sure we get out on this, contest and box out. So I know the second half I just told my team, I think in the second half we start relaxing and not playing as well and they got loose on two 3s in the second half that brought the game a little closer. But we knew that they were going to come in and shoot a lot of 3s, and we pretty much played them that way.

Q. Just a question, Macie Blinn didn't play a whole lot, struggled from the floor. How much are you expecting and how much do you need out of her if you're going to kind of make the run that you and your team want to make?
COACH LAW: I mean, Macie's key for us. And the last time we played Michigan and in the game footage, Macie was unsung hero in that game. She was there in the last couple of minutes. Today she was the first person I called off the bench, and definitely we need Macie to come in, be confident and play. We're going to need her.
Like I said, don't look at each kid like Eboni Mitchell, she didn't play yesterday. But as a Florida game I'm going to need everybody here, and I think Macie's been the biggest supporter, Coach, whatever you need me to do. I had her playing the 4 at one point, and nobody knew that. She has the best IQ in whatever I need her to do. She ran the 4 until Lana Rukavina came back in.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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