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March 17, 2012

Markeshia Grant

Dawn Staley

Charenee Stephens


South Carolina – 80
Eastern Michigan – 48

COACH STALEY:  Well, I thought we came out ready to play.  I thought we represented our University extremely well.  I thought our conference put us in a position to play in an environment like this, which it's a big environment.  It's a big stage for our basketball team, and I thought we executed from the very tip of the ball.

Q.  Charenee, this game you tied for most points in the paint scored this season.  What was the difference in that?  It didn't seem to get going, but after the first five minutes it seemed like it was clicking.
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  Well, I think we kind of recognized that our post kind of had an advantage, and we just took it.  We took it to head, and went out there and just started to dominate.  I think our guards did a great job of putting us in the right position to give us the ball and give us opportunities to score.

Q.  Markeshia, just talk about the pressure you guys were able to put on the Eagles after the first five minutes or so.  It just seemed like you were wearing them down, and it progressed as the game went on.
MARKESHIA GRANT:  Before the beginning of the game, I just talked in the huddle about how Ieasia should start off the defense from an intensity standpoint and it'll be a trickle‑down effect.  And I think we carried that over into the game, and it worked for us.

Q.  Charenee, the EMU coach was just saying how physical the game was, much more physical than the style of play they're used to.  They're the physical team in their conference.  Do you think the fact they weren't used to that, do you think they were looking for calls that they would have gotten in their MAC games that they weren't getting today?
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  I think they did play hard.  I think the first few minutes of the game it was something they kind of‑‑ they had a run.  I thought their post player, Reddick, I thought she did well.  She was battling going up against me and our other post players.  But at the same time, like Coach Staley said, I think our conference prepared us.  We have played those big physical post players, and I think the conference really got us ready for this type of environment.

Q.  You guys forced 17 turnovers, 11 blocked shots.  As a player, do you feel more comfortable in the half court offense or do you feel more comfortable scoring via transition offense from that pressure defense?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  I think we like to run and gun more.  But we slow it down when we need to and execute in half court sets if we need to.  So I think either one is fine.
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  I like us in transition a lot because we have some athletic post players, myself included, and we do like to get out, and our guards look for us.  But at the same time I think we're really good in the half court set.  We get out and we do battle and we sit on people down low, and it's effective.

Q.  It's a big stage.  What did you think of the big stage, and how did you calm down your jitters a little bit?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  Well, we just came in here focused and ready to play.  I don't know if it was jitters, but I mean, we just came in here with a mindset that we're going to play hard and we're going to play our type of basketball, which is disciplined.  We just went out there and played.
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  Same thing.  We've seen a big stage before.  We just left the SEC tournament, and it was a nice crowd.  It was a nice stadium.  I think it prepared us for this year.  We haven't seen the NCAA Tournament before, but I think we were ready.  We had the mindset that we were going to go out and play our game because just like we had to prepare for them, they had to prepare for us, so we just executed.

Q.  Can you talk about the depth of your team?  Within the first ten minutes I think ten players rotated into the game.  You have a lot of people you can turn to at any time.  Does that help you guys for a full 40 minutes?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  It just shows you how versatile we are.  We can sub for defense purposes for any player, and I think it works for us best.
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  I like our bench, and the girls coming off the bench there, they work just as hard as we do.  I think we really do emphasize continuing the intensity.  If the starters aren't or are really doing what we need to do, we expect the same thing from the next rotation, and so on and so forth.  I think we practiced that way, subs in, subs out.  We go at each other hard, and this is what we put out on the floor.

Q.  You guys have already been to Thompson Boling and got the win on the road at Tennessee.  Now, you will more than likely play Purdue Monday night.  How do you combat being here in Mackey Arena with pretty much a Purdue‑dominant crowd?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  I mean, we're going to prepare like we do for any other team.  We're going to be disciplined.  We're going to be defensive minded.  I think playing at Thompson Boling, it helped us prepare for this stage, so we're just going to practice tomorrow and be prepared.
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  That win at Tennessee was unbelievable for me, and I know my team, and we worked really hard for it.  Just like Charenee said, we're going to go out and we're going to prepare.  We're going to do the same thing that we do for every single team.  We prepare for everyone the same, whether we're playing on their home court or they're coming to see us or a neutral site.  So we're going to prepare.  We're going to take this day, and tomorrow we're going to practice and we're just going to come out and play our game.

Q.  The first five minutes of the game where they were dominating, what happened with that a little bit, and how did you get them to turn it on for the rest of the game?
COACH STALEY:  We all know that a marathon is not won in the first mile, and we just had to transfer that information to our players.  We knew over the course of 40 minutes, I don't think they had the depth to deal with what we had, starting the game with what we had coming off the bench.  We knew the first four minutes were going to be hard minutes because they're known as a team that plays really hard in the first four minutes of the basketball game.  So we let our players know, and I thought they did a tremendous job of just holding serve.  They didn't get out to a really big lead.  But we just relied on knowing that we had a bench to come in and relieve our starters and not miss a beat from a defensive standpoint.

Q.  What did you know about Tavelyn James coming into this game, and was she a focal point for you guys?  Was she the one that concerned you guys the most?
COACH STALEY:  I mean, anytime a player scores, averages 24 points a game, no matter what league they're in, that's an eye‑opening average, so she was a highlight of our scouting report, but we also highlighted the point guard.  We felt like the point guard is key to engineering their offense and defense.  So what we wanted to do wascut the head off ‑‑ we call it cutting the head off and the rest will go.  If we can get to Thomas and wear her out a little bit and make James work for every single touch, I think it worked in our favor.

Q.  Can you talk about the ability of you guys as the game progressed, you went from settling for jumpers outside to being able to attack the paint with relative ease.  Could you talk about the progression of that throughout the game?
COACH STALEY:  Well, I think sometimes we get a little focused on just taking outside shots because the zone was pretty active, and it allows you to shoot a lot of outside shots.  But again, once the game settled down for us after the first time‑out, I thought we made a conscious effort to get the ball inside.  I thought we did a tremendous job at turning them over and getting some easy buckets in transition.  For us we balanced the amount of outside shots we took with going inside, and we executed.

Q.  The first five minutes it was kind of back and forth between you guys and Eastern Michigan.  What did you say to the team to get that defensive intensity increased, and as we saw the result, 17 turnovers?
COACH STALEY:  Well, I think any time you play on this stage, no matter what it is, it's the first time we've played in the NCAA Tournament, you're going to have some nervousness.  The adrenaline is flowing.  You just have to kind of calm down and get back to normal, playing basketball the way we're used to playing.  Basically I just told them that over the course of 40 minutes, you're going to see them get really tired, and throughout the first half I thought we kind of made them a little weary.  The shots that James usually makes, she wasn't making.  I thought that was due to our pressure, due to us making her work extremely hard, and due to giving her different looks on the floor.

Q.  Was this the kind of opening game that you wanted, a game that you controlled?  You were able to obviously bring in the bench and get yourself ready for Monday.
COACH STALEY:  You know, we really aren't a team that lets the game get away, either way.  Either we're losing by a large amount or‑‑ we're not a team that blows a team out.  So I was really concerned coming into the game because I wanted our players to play their best basketball.  Win, lose or draw, we wanted to play our best basketball, and I thought us getting out gave us some confidence, and then we widened the lead throughout the beginning of the second half, and I thought we just gained some confidence from that.

Q.  Can you talk about the depth of your basketball team?  Today there didn't seem like there was any dropoff from any substitution.  Whoever stepped into that spot seemed to play with the same level of intensity.  Can you talk about that?
COACH STALEY:  Well, I think all season long, our bench has been very productive.  Sometimes we shorten it, sometimes we play a full bench.  But I can honestly say they've always been ready.  They've always been ready to give us a boost, whether it's from an offensive standpoint, but mainly from a defensive standpoint.  They knew they were going to play, and I think when they know they're going to play, they practice a little bit better, have a little bit of pep in their step and have a little bit more focus.  I thought we just executed from Tuesday on, honestly.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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