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March 6, 2011
Tennessee Â– 90
Kentucky - 65
THE MODERATOR: We're ready with Tennessee. We'll start with an opening statement by Coach Summitt.
COACH SUMMITT: Obviously very, very pleased with the focus that we had coming into the game, just our intensity overall. You know, maybe a little slow start. But I thought we picked things up.
Obviously Shekinna and Angie, they're two key players to this team both on and off the court. Really pleased with what they brought. Shekinna obviously with 19. Meighan Simmons also came in and did a great job. It was great to see Angie come in, play loose, knock down the three ball.
Obviously Alicia Manning, she's the one that will do the dirty work and come in. I love her game. You know what you're going to get every time she comes in.
But great team win. We battled the boards hard. I'm proud for this team. They've worked so hard to be where they are. They deserve what they got today because they went after it.
THE MODERATOR: Shekinna, your thoughts on today's win?
SHEKINNA STRICKLEN: You know, I think we came out with a lot of energy. We saw that the game was going to be really physical and we made adjustments. We came back and were really physical. We were just knocking down shots, getting the ball to people who was hot.
Our defense, I think our defense worked pretty well. I think we still could have did a lot better on blocking out. They got a lot of offensive rebounds. They really killed us there.
But overall I think we did a great job.
THE MODERATOR: Angie, your thoughts on the championship today?
ANGIE BJORKLUND: Man, I'm just proud of our team. I'm excited that we won and I'm excited. It's fun to play when you have the entire team coming in with focus and energy and everyone's going for one goal. If we do that every single game, I mean, when we get better on the boards, continue to work this week, I'm excited where this team's going to go.
THE MODERATOR: Ready for questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Angie, how do you explain shooting like that from you and the team?
ANGIE BJORKLUND: Man, once we kind of got used to Kentucky, how much they were pressuring us, we played a lot more composed, we worked the ball. That gave us a lot of open looks. I think with composure, coming into the game ready to shoot, I was proud of our team. Everyone was ready to play, ready to knock down shots, so...
Q. Shekinna, you kind of hit one early and Meighan hit one to start off. What was working well from beyond the arc?
SHEKINNA STRICKLEN: I would just say we were in the rhythm. You make that first one, you just feel like you're going to make the rest of them. From the get-go, though, we were just pumped and fired up. When Meighan came out, she came out with high energy. She knocked down the first two shots. So that really got us going.
Q. Angie, Coach Summitt talks about Glory Johnson setting the tone in terms of energy. Seems she did this for the entire tournament. Could you comment on that?
ANGIE BJORKLUND: Oh, absolutely. I thought Shekinna and Glory, the focus and energy they brought the first couple games is what got us to this championship game.
I give Glory a lot of credit in that. She's always coming in, she's always going to be aggressive, she plays strong, she looks to score, she looks to rebound, and also defend. That's what we need from her every time and that's what she gives us.
Q. Angie, what does it feel like when you guys are shooting the three ball as well as you did?
ANGIE BJORKLUND: It's fun (laughter). You know, especially with the crowd that we had, I mean, it felt like a home game. I mean, I give our fans a lot of credit just helping us with momentum when we're hitting shots. I mean, we kept it going.
It's like Shekinna said, once you hit the first few, you just feel like you can't miss. We just shared the ball a lot, pushed the ball a lot, broke their press. That's what got us open looks.
Q. Angie, I think Coach Summitt was singing. Can you critique her performance?
ANGIE BJORKLUND: She's got a good voice.
COACH SUMMITT: I don't know how after all the yelling I've done (laughter).
ANGIE BJORKLUND: After that game, I don't know if I could sing (laughter).
Q. When you think about all the history of the Lady Vols, to be one of three teams ever to go undefeated in the regular season in the SEC, then win the tournament as well, to be part of that history, how does that feel? What does that mean to you guys?
SHEKINNA STRICKLEN: You know, it feels great. I think 'cause our class, we have been through a lot. We don't want to go down in the Tennessee book in a bad way, but to get in the book in a good way. One, go through the conference undefeated, then come out winning the tournament, it's a great feeling and I think we really needed it.
ANGIE BJORKLUND: Man, this team has worked for it, especially in the off-season. I mean, with Heather Mason, our conditioning, just getting in the gym. So I'm just proud of this team. Like Shekinna said, we've been through the highs and the lows. We don't want to give up. We want another championship.
Q. You went most of the first half with no points in the paint. I think you got four by halftime. Talk about the different ways this team can beat other teams, what you have in that arsenal that you possess.
SHEKINNA STRICKLEN: You know, teams really don't have to focus on two or three people. Our whole team, you don't know any given night who is going to have their best night. You don't know if the guards, who was hitting for us today, or if our postgame is going to be there.
We strong throughout our whole team. You know, today our shots was falling outside. But when we needed to go inside, our post did what they needed to do.
ANGIE BJORKLUND: I mean, we just have such a deep bench. All 13 players will come in and play. If one person is not having an on-night, someone else is going to step up. That's what is great about this team. Tonight it seemed like everyone had an on-night. When that happens, that's when we wins championships, when everyone comes in and plays like we did today.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, we'll excuse you, and we'll continue with questions for Coach Summitt.
Q. Coach, the girls talked about making bad records at Tennessee. When you were going through that, did you think positively that two years down the road you'd be sitting here?
COACH SUMMITT: After the loss to Ball State, no. I still can almost chew on it every day if I wanted to.
You know, I think it took something like that to wake this team up, their youth. Now you look at the experience we have in this junior class, 13 players. You know, they've invested. Heather Mason and her staff have done a great job off the court. Then on the court, us having Pratt Pavilion is obviously a tremendous asset to getting in extra shots.
We have a team, they've bought into what it takes to be a champion. I think they've held each other accountable.
When it's not coming from the coach all the time, it's coming from the coaches at practice only, I just think they're a lot better. Again, with the strength and conditioning, they've gotten a lot stronger. I mean, this team is strong. I just give a lot of credit to the people that obviously work with us outside of our coaches.
Q. When teams shoot as well as yours did today, you usually think of that team being loose. Kentucky put a lot of pressure on you early in the game. Does that make you feel good about maybe how this team will respond in the tournament to come?
COACH SUMMITT: It does. You know, I think this team, again, they're a very tight-knit group. We play a lot of different players. There's no selfishness involved on this team. It's all about teamwork works and everyone wants to be ready to play.
That's been a real joy for us as a coaching staff, to just know that we can call anyone's name at any time and they'll go in and do the best they can do. If they don't, they come out, they're going to be cheerleaders on the sideline. Again, I credit that to the overall maturity of this junior class.
Q. Obviously you've been part of many, many big games. Is this as good a shooting performance, especially from three-point range, as you've seen in a big game like this?
COACH SUMMITT: I'd have to go back and do my research. You know, I thought we played really well, shot the ball well, distributed the ball. Didn't play as good of defense early on, and I was concerned about that. The ball security wasn't where it needed to be.
But once they settled down, because Kentucky was really putting a lot of pressure on us, but once we settled down, I thought we were in a very good place. The communication, that's something we talk about all the time. You got to talk your action. They were doing that. So the communication I think gave them a lot of confidence and also got them where they needed to be.
Q. Can you talk about what Coach Mitchell has done with the UK program, making it to their second SEC championship game?
COACH SUMMITT: Matthew Mitchell has done a tremendous job. I don't know if you know the history with us. He came and worked our camp. He was late one day. I told him he was fired. Get out of here. You're late, you're fired. He came back that afternoon saying, Please give me a second chance. I thought he was the cutest guy I saw in a long time. You got to love Matthew.
Long story short, he was a GA that worked in our program. Just what he's done in a short period of time is pretty amazing. It's hard to do. I think he has done a great job and obviously has a great staff to work with. He knows how to hold people accountable, he knows how to teach the game. He's passionate about it. He loves it.
I told him before I came in here, I'm just so proud of him, what he's done at Kentucky. I know they're excited that he's there.
Q. Talk about this team's versatility, being able to beat teams inside, outside, you name it, you can do it.
COACH SUMMITT: They surprise me at times. But you never know who's going to step up on a given day. So the unknown kind of drives me nuts. But overall you know that someone's going to step up. If someone else is not shooting the ball well, you know, there will be somebody else that will take over.
You know, we've got a lot of good shooters on our team. There's no jealousy. They're just all about team, wanting to win. I just like the place that we're at right now. I don't think that, you know, who is going to play, this and that, that's not even an issue. I mean, sure, everyone wants to play. But everyone has to want to win first.
Q. Have you ever had as many players have the green light from three-point and beyond?
COACH SUMMITT: No.
Q. Does anybody not have it?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, depends on what day it is (laughter). Depends on how they've been shooting.
Well, let's say like Alicia Manning, you know, she just now has worked herself into being able to take that outside shot 'cause she was really a post-up type player, both offensively and with her defense she obviously is very good. With her offense, she knew she had to get paint points. Now she is knocking down some threes.
So once they show you that they can do it, then I have the confidence. Of course, Meighan, she's never seen a shot she didn't love, downtown or in the paint. But I'm glad we got her. She's a terrific guard for us. She's made a lot of other people better.
Q. Yesterday you talked about how winning today and finishing off this undefeated conference season was important to you, was a priority. Now that you've accomplished that and done that, how does it feel?
COACH SUMMITT: It feels great. First and foremost, I'm just so proud of our team, you know, proud for the university, our great fans, our administration. It's just great to the have that level of support.
But most of all just proud that this team pulled together the way they did. You know, there's no jealousy. There's great feelings as far as, you know, being a team that's not jealous. They're all happy for everybody.
I haven't had many teams that are just happy for everybody. I'm proud of this team, how they handle it. We got all the administration here, chancellor, president, Joan Cronin. I'm just fortunate we have such a great support system for women's basketball. I don't think anyone does it better.
Q. You mentioned different players stepping up. It looked like Alicia Manning probably played her best game of the year. She had a double-double. Got any explanation for why she played so well this afternoon?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, it's not just this afternoon. She's notorious for going in and being a difference-maker. She has a toughness about her. She'll do the dirty work. She'll play defense. She battles the boards. She's that utility-type player that you might not know it till you pick up the stat sheet and you think, Oh, my goodness, I didn't know she had such an impact. She's done that in a number of games.
I know our team has tremendous respect for her work ethic and just the type of teammate she is.
Q. How rare is it to have a team that's one big happy family? Usually you have as many players that can shoot the ball, there's not enough basketballs to go around?
COACH SUMMITT: Usually you say if I ain't happy, they ain't happy. But quite honestly, I think they had to grow to get to this point. It didn't start out that way. It was my turn all the time - not meaning me, but they were all wanting the ball, not getting enough touches, this and that. That was their freshmen year, really part of their sophomore year.
I think just doing a lot of team building with them, which we do, just talking to them individually, What are you going to bring, making them accountable for the best things they can bring for this team. Not everyone can bring everything.
That's where Alicia Manning, she brings that toughness. She's got a lot of grit. She's hard-nosed. She plays great defense. Obviously she's doing a better job on the offensive end.
We've gone through that with a lot of players. They just have to grow up and understand there's going to be role players and there's going to be go-to players. Fortunately we got a lot of go-to players right now. I love it.
Q. With 22 straight wins, a championship in a dominant fashion, could you ask for any more momentum going into the NCAA tournament now?
COACH SUMMITT: No, I feel really good about it. Again, we go into it, we've got to be ready, we've got to be prepared. We got a target on our back. We've had a target on our back for many years.
But I think it's giving them some time off, letting our coaching staff get some game plans. I have a lot of confidence in my staff. A tremendous staff. I think our team will do what they have to do.
I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited the first and second round is going to be in Knoxville, Tennessee. That's a pretty good place for it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH SUMMITT: Thank you. Thank you for being here.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports