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March 18, 2012

Dawn Staley

Charenee Stephens

La'Keisha Sutton


THE MODERATOR:  The No.5 seed will play Purdue tomorrow evening.  We are joined on the dais by Head Coach Dawn Staley, also Charenee Stephens La'Keisha Sutton.

Q.  After watching the game yesterday, looks like you have interchangeable parts on defense, what's your approach, do you feel like you have a clear‑cut No.1 individual defender?
COACH STALEY:  I think collectively, we play defense as a team.  We do have some parts in which we feel comfortable on certain match‑ups, and we feel like Keisha Sutton is the one that really is the player that we use to stop our opponent's leading scorer.  She's done it time and time again.  She's done it ever since she got to South Carolina four years ago and we are comfortable with her having that duty.

Q.  How do you think going through the SEC season has prepared you for a game against Purdue, a team that obviously will draw a lot of fans today and has had a pretty good history in the NCAA?
COACH STALEY:  I think any time you're in an unfamiliar place, the NCAA Tournament against this particular team and being in the second round, you have to draw on some experience to keep it very familiar to you as much as possible.
We have talked to our players about playing Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt when they were undefeated at home; knowing that they were going to draw a large crowd; playing Tennessee in Knoxville, something that had not been done in a lot of years, a lot of decades for us.
And also playing in the semifinals in the SEC Tournament where we felt like Tennessee had a home crowd and we fared fairly well in all of those games and we'll draw on all of those experiences to help us with this situation.

Q.  For both players, you're taking on your 11th‑ranked opponent this season.  Describe the mind‑set you have going into games of this magnitude and against high‑level competition like a Purdue basketball team.
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  Well, I think we have been in this situation before.  Coach has said it best and we have said it; that we are going to prepare like we prepared for everyone this season.  We are going to go out starting today‑‑ we watched them a little bit.  We are going to go out today and I think our coaches have really put something together where we can prepare and put something out on the court that we'll get a win.
LA'KEISHA SUTTON:  I pretty much agree with Charenee.  We have been in these situations before against other basketball teams and we are going to prepare the same way.  Just different personnel.  We have to get familiar with their players, and we have done that a little bit last night and this morning, so we are pretty confident.

Q.  A couple days ago, you talked about your offense's inconsistency.  Can there be any carryover from yesterday with how well you played offensively, or is Purdue a different opponent and different defense?
COACH STALEY:  You know, obviously we scored the most points we scored all season long.  Hopefully we'll have some carryover from having scored the most points we have scored in that basketball game and the least amount of point the scored.
We know Purdue.  We are familiar with them a little bit.  We watched their championship.  For us, we just take each opponent, we know they play man‑to‑man primarily, so you know, we are prepared for the elbow; it's something we have not seen in quite some time.  So whatever defenses they throw out there, hopefully our offense can knock down some shots.

Q.  What does man‑to‑man present to you differently in how you guys might operate?
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  Well, honestly, I like when teams play us in man‑to‑man, because it gives us a chance to go out and show what we can do against one person; it's like an iso‑type of situation.
I feel like our guards, they really take on the challenge of man‑to‑man.  And I think I do a good job, and my fellow post players, we do a good job of sealing the paint and stuff like that.  So it takes a move and being confident and getting into the paint and getting a score.
LA'KEISHA SUTTON:  I agree with Charenee.  I like when teams play us man‑to‑man, as well, because it gives us opportunity to spread the floor out and use the one‑on‑one moves that we worked on in practice and that we've been taught to try to create from offense and get some points in the paint whether it's from our guards or our post players; so it's a good thing.

Q.  Last night Sharon Versyp said that they have got a lot of players that can score 20 points, and you don't really know where it's going to come from.  What kind of challenges does that present to a defense when you don't have‑‑ when you are facing that kind of a challenge?
COACH STALEY:  Well, you know, obviously Purdue has some very skilled players and they are pretty much‑‑ they are a machine when it comes to offensively.  They do have some skills.  They do have some players that they stretch you out a little bit.
I think that what has been our MO all season long is try to disrupt what they are trying to do.  So I'm very comfortable with the amount of ball pressure that we exert on basketball teams and I don't think we are going to approach it any differently.  We are who we are at this point.  I don't think we are going to abandon how we play; how we play the game, according to, you know, who they have as far as offensive power.
LA'KEISHA SUTTON:  Like I said before, we have been in situations playing SEC against the best athletes or the best guards in the country, so like coach said, we are pretty comfortable in our defense and we are just going to guard them the same way.  So nothing that we are going to do different defensively.  We just wanted to bring it the same way we have been bringing it all season.

Q.  I know we talked about it briefly yesterday.  But knowing game time is approaching, it's practice today; knowing you never have been past the second round, is there anything in particular you're trying to do differently this time around.  Maybe that you learned from your mistakes at Temple going into those type of games in a second round game?
COACH STALEY:  Nothing different.  I think we have to seize the moment.  I think, you know, the law of averages, we are going to try (chuckling).
For us, it's all about being familiar with and keeping the same mind‑set.  I don't think we would do anything differently at Temple as far as our approach and how we prepare.  You know, knocking down some shots really helps when it comes to getting your team to the next round and playing in the second weekend of the tournament.

Q.  Your impressions of what Courtney Moses did yesterday for Purdue.
COACH STALEY: (Laughter) Well, I mean, you know, any time a player is that hot, I think she was in the zone.  I think any time you break NCAA records of any sort, you know, it's an eye‑opener for you.
I will have to revert back to looking at what we do against three‑point shooters.  I like what we have done the entire year.  We don't allow you to get up as many three‑point shooters.  At some point‑‑ at some point you just have to stick with it.   You have to stay attached to it and you have to not let her take those outside threes.  And even when she's got it going on, maybe even double her at times at the rate that she was shooting the basketball.

Q.  From a player's standpoint, is there a different kind of confidence offensively today, knowing what you guys did yesterday on that end of the floor?
LA'KEISHA SUTTON:  It's a huge confidence boost because we hit shots and were able to score easy in transition.  Just knowing that we were able to hit shots, we are going to go and do the same thing on Monday and penetrate and kick it out or go inside to our post players.  So we are confident that we'll make the same kind of shots.

Q.  You had referenced the three‑point defense; you lead the country in three‑point percentage defense.  Purdue sets a lot of screens to free up those shooters.  Do you have a certain defensive philosophy you always use to defend the three?  Will you go under screens, over screens, or do you mix it up depending on the opponent?
COACH STALEY:  Well, I'm not going to tell you (laughter).
You know, for us, we like players that like to shoot three‑point shots and put the ball on the floor.  And I don't think there's any secret to that.  It's just not allowing them to take attempts.  That's our motto.  We like our chances and you two‑ing us to win basketball games than three‑ing us.

Q.  Is that a philosophy that teams try to use against you when you were a player, try to make you uncomfortable out on the three‑point line?
COACH STALEY:  Yeah, I think teams do.  You know, as far as my position, I wasn't really a three‑point shooter.  You know, they try to disrupt the point guard and that's how you can disrupt most teams is you cut their head off and the rest will follow.
But for us, you know, we know that they have a couple players that they play at the point, but you know, primarily, they usually play Houser at the point guard position.  We are going to try to get under her skin as we have done time and time again throughout the season, and hopefully that will have some lingering effect on those shooters.

Q.  South Carolina and Purdue have three common opponents, Illinois, Penn State and Auburn.  Do you draw anything out of those similarities, or is it too far back in the season to go back?
COACH STALEY:  It's too far back.  I think you do have to look at Penn State, because Penn State did have some success against them.  I think they split‑‑ or was Purdue 2‑1?  So they split.  We did watch a little bit of that.  But we know Purdue is playing their best basketball at this time.
So, you know, we have to be ready for them to play their best basketball tomorrow night.

Q.  Besides the man‑to‑man defense, what else did you notice about Purdue, some of the traits that they have looking at them, and are they similar to any teams you faced in the SEC?
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  Most definitely.  They have big post players who are effective with two feet in the paint.  And we have seen that; I know time and time again we have gone up against some really big post players who are really effective down low.  I think we are just going to try to push them out of paint and keep them off of the boards.  That's really the key thing by any means necessary.  No extra possessions.
LA'KEISHA SUTTON:  Well, as far as their guards, they have really good shooting guards, so we need to make them uncomfortable and really pressure the ball.

Q.  Just talk about the mind‑set defensively you guys like to play.  You guys like to maybe push teams around and be more physical, or do you see yourselves as more of a full‑pressure, like‑to‑run‑teams‑out‑of‑the‑gym type of mentality?
CHARENEE STEPHENS:  We like to mix it up.  Of course we like to hit first and we like to be the enforcers and we like to set the tone.  And also, we do have a lot of athleticism on the team, so we like to run and gun and we like to get the ball up the floor; post players running rim‑to‑rim, sealing; just showing that we are good athletes, but we are strong, as well.
LA'KEISHA SUTTON:  Well, I definitely think that we take pride in our defense, and we are committed to being defenders.  You have the best three‑point shooter, and we are going to commit to try to limit her production, or lock her down completely.  And I'm just thinking about Vandy and Foggie, their best three‑point shooter, and we did a pretty good job against her.
I'm just thinking about my first couple of years with Angie Bjorklund from Tennessee; so we are definitely used to it.  So it's going to be 40 minutes of battle tomorrow night.

Q.  Three out of past four games, 70‑plus from the free throw line, 11 for 14.  Anything going differently, or have I just jinxed it?
COACH STALEY:  I did notice it.  I think one of our coaches, Coach Boyer, doesn't like for us to mention when we shoot well from the free throw line.
I like to balance it because when we shoot a whopping 30percent from the free throw line, I say, wow, this is how we lost the basketball game.
But when we are shooting in the 70s, we increase our chances of winning.  And we definitely have to get to the cherry stripe tomorrow night in order for us to win this basketball game, and shoot 70 percent or above.

Q.  How important of a win would it be for this program to get become to the Sweet16 for the first time since 2002?
COACH STALEY:  Well, I think would be‑‑ you know, it's a tribute to our players being committed to something.  I think they really believe in one another, and it will go to show that once you have an incredible belief in something, that you know, it's tangible and it can take place.
So I say to our team, it's been a tremendous ride, and why not the University of South Carolina playing in the Sweet16.
THE MODERATOR:  South Carolina, ladies, thank you very much.  Good luck tomorrow evening.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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