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March 5, 2012

Geno Auriemma

Stefanie Dolson

Bria Hartley

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis


Connecticut – 74
St. John’s – 43

THE MODERATOR:  Joining us from Connecticut is head coach Geno Auriemma with sophomore guard Bria Hartley, freshman forward Kaleena Mosqueda‑Lewis, and sophomore center Stefanie Dolson.  Coach, an opening statement, please?
COACH AURIEMMA:  Thank you.  We just talked about it with the players in the locker room that it's been a while since we've had an opportunity to kind of be the team that we think we are.  I don't know where we kind of lost it, but we kind of became very walk‑it‑up, stagnant kind of a team.
We tried really hard tonight to make sure that we were more of what we were accustomed to being in December and late November.  I thought the kids responded great.  We really asked them and challenged them to set a tempo and set a tone for the game those first five minutes, and then being able to sustain it for the entire game, and they were great.  They were absolutely fantastic.
It's one of the better games and more complete games that we've played in a long time.  I'm glad to see it.  I'm happy for them, and I know they feel really, really good about it.  When you beat a really good team like St. John's, it feels good.  We feel good about the way we played almost as good as the win itself.

Q.  Kaleena, you said last night that you were certain that St. John's was going to see a different team than the one they saw in February when you guys lost.  What gave you so much confidence that you would turn the corner?
KALEENA MOSQUEDA‑LEWIS:  I just know how my team is.  I know they're strong, and I know we're looking to head in a new direction.  We're looking to be a more confident team.  And I knew coming out today we weren't going to let anything stop us today.

Q.  In your first two games of your career against St. John's, I think you had a combined six points and today you were up for 23.  Talk about your effort and what spurred you to go off like that today?
STEFANIE DOLSON:  Me personally, I think I came out with the right mindset tonight.  But I give most of the credit to my teammates.  They were able to really pass me the ball today perfectly.  I don't think there were many passes that they threw into me that weren't on point.  So I give most of the credit to them.  I think we did a great job of screening for each other, and with that came splits.  It was just able to get me wide open and I finished.

Q.  For Bria and Stefanie, how much fun do you guys have when you're out playing with rhythm like that and everyone's touching the ball, everyone's moving and everyone's making their shots?
BRIA HARTLEY:  I think it's great.  You could tell we were out there having a lot of fun when everyone's in sync and we're getting the shots we want.  And yes, Stef's scoring and Kaleena's scoring.  It's great for our team.  We get a lot of assists and we love sharing the ball.  When we play like that, you can tell that's Connecticut basketball.
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:  Pretty much what she said.  We all get excited when everyone's scoring and everyone's playing so well.  So to go out there, and like she said, to play UCONN basketball it feels great.  I don't know, yeah.

Q.  Stefanie, we sat here a week ago tonight after the Notre Dame loss, despondent may not be the word, but at a loss to what went wrong in that game.  What's changed from last week when you put together two really good games back‑to‑back in the tournament?  What's changed for you?
STEFANIE DOLSON:  I think we just come out with the right mindset.  We've come out and really executed on offense and played great defense.  I think with our team, the most important thing is defense, and that's really what sparks our offense, which we did a great job tonight of getting steals and pushing the ball up the court.
I think we've come out with the right mindset of really being aggressive.  And like Kaleena said, confident with ourselves and our shots.  I think we've been doing a great job of it, and hopefully we can keep it up.

Q.  Bria, tonight you guys only had 12 turnovers.  Can you talk about how important that was to limit them after the game in Stores where you obviously turned over more?
BRIA HARTLEY:  Every time we're playing we want to have not that many turnovers and make sure we're getting good passes and getting the ball to the right spot.  So we took pride in taking care of the ball today.  Even when they pressured us, we made sure we were strong and got the passes where we needed to be.  So we just need to make sure we go out and play like that all the time.

Q.  Geno, a week ago tonight you guys sat here and you just lost.  We don't know what's wrong.  We took a punch and didn't respond to it.  The last two games since then you've played 40 good minutes last night.  Defensively tonight I think 40 more good minutes.  What's changed in this team the last week that's got them the confidence and swagger back from the team we've been missing a week ago tonight?
COACH AURIEMMA:  You know, we'll know more after tomorrow night.  We're playing one of the top two teams in the country, I think, tomorrow night.  I think the challenge ahead of us is much greater than it was last night or tonight, not to minimize the two wins.
But it's not easy playing at Connecticut when you're not good enough.  It's not easy when you don't have what it takes to win the way other teams have won, because then you start to get down on yourself, and you start to feel like you're inadequate.  Then when Notre Dame does to you what they did to us last Monday night, it just reinforces that maybe we're not good enough.  You know, maybe we play Baylor at Baylor, we had a chance to win, and we did.  We played at Notre Dame.  We had a chance to win, and we did.
So if you're not careful, you start to doubt.  You start to think maybe we're not good.  So I think this past week was more about when I said it didn't matter if you win the Big East tournament or not, I don't know that I feel any different right now.  I think it's more about getting back that Connecticut mentality that you're talking about.  That's what last night and tonight and tomorrow night hopefully will be about getting back to who we were.  Getting back to what we think makes us good.  We had lost that.
So to me, that's a lot more important than losing the Big East regular season championship.  Losing our identity, losing who we are and what we do and how we do things.  That to me is much more of a loss than losing a regular season championship.  Tomorrow gaining back our identity, gaining back who we are is way more important than winning another trophy.

Q.  That said, do you enjoy the fact that you're probably not the favorite?

Q.  Why?
COACH AURIEMMA:  Pisses me off when we're not the favorite, because, you know, that's where we're supposed to be.  We always are.  Why would you not want to be?  I'm not one of these guys that‑‑ don't you love when coaches and players say all the pressure's on them?  There is no pressure on us.  We can just go out and play.  There is no pressure on us.  Every time I read that, I can't wait to beat that team by 30.
We've got nothing to lose.  Really?  Then why are you coming out here and playing if you've got nothing to lose?  So I don't like that underdog stuff.  When you're a real underdog, that's great, and we might be.  But for that game tomorrow night, we are.  We are on the other bench.  We're wearing the wrong uniform.  We're in the wrong locker room.
So, yeah, everybody expects Notre Dame to win.  They're talented.  They're experienced.  They're really good.  They play well together.  They're tough, physically and mentally.  They're exceptionally well coached.  We've got nothing to lose.  I just want to show up and make sure that we play hard (laughing).

Q.  Coach, you've had so many good young players that have stepped in as freshmen and sophomores that have played key roles in this program, yet there have been ups‑and‑downs.  I think of a young Tina Charles and that sort of thing that's probably driven you nuts.  Where does Stefanie rank on that nuts meter, if you will, and talk about how she played tonight.
COACH AURIEMMA:  The one thing that we're always looking to identify in kids and the sooner you identify it the better, is whether or not they have a certain competitive spirit.  Tina had so much ability that even with a non‑competitive spirit her freshman year, she could still get 15‑10 every night.
Stefanie doesn't have that kind of ability.  She doesn't have Tina Charles' ability.  She's not the same kind of athlete like Tina.  She doesn't have Tina's size and quickness and all that other good stuff.  So she has to rely more on basic skills and a competitiveness that's going to make her better.
For long stretches at a time this year, Stefanie's competitive spirit went away.  I think last year she kind of used Maya as her competitiveness, and this year she had to find it within herself.  A lot of times she couldn't find it and got frustrated.  And in the Notre Dame game last Monday, it was there.  Tonight it was there.  Last night it was there.  So that's important to me, to her, to our team.
Because when she has that and she's playing with that kind of confidence and that kind of competitiveness, then we're a whole different team.  We're a much different team it takes much pressure off our players when she's playing like that.

Q.  It seems tonight was going like redemption tonight.  It seems the games were very similar, both you and Notre Dame got off to quick starts and they made a little run, and you run the game open like Notre Dame did.  Was that just the natural course of thing that's the two better teams took care of business as they needed to?
COACH AURIEMMA:  Well, winning the regular season championship isn't as hard as it used to be in a lot of ways.  It used to be really hard going into the regular season because you have to play everybody twice home and away, and it was a bitch.  So you could identify back in the day who was the best team in the league, because they proved it over a period of time.
Now with the schedules being what they are, you have schedules of all the top 20 teams on the road, sometimes you have them all at home, it kind of clouds what that means.  But having said that, the best team in our league is Notre Dame.  They've proven it.  They've proven it since day one.  They're the best team in our league.
We're the next best team in the league.  I would think that we're the two team that's should be playing in a championship game tomorrow.  What happened in the regular season where West Virginia won and Notre Dame and St. John's won at Connecticut, that's supposed to happen.  That should happen more often throughout the league, and I think it did this year, more so than before.
But when it comes to the Big East tournament and the two best teams that should be playing tomorrow night, the two best teams are playing tomorrow night.  Sometimes in a tournament it doesn't work that way and there are upsets, but in this case tomorrow night the number one and number two teams in the Big East are playing and as it should be.  They deserve it and so do we.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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