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March 18, 2012

Antionette Howard

Brittany Rayburn

Sharon Versyp


THE MODERATOR:  We welcome the Boilermakers.  Coach Sharon Versyp, Antoinette Howard and Brittany Rayburn.

Q.  Could you just talk about South Carolina's defense and what you've seen from them?  Obviously they are pretty good on that side of the ball.
COACH VERSYP:¬† Well, they have a lot of quickness.¬† They have long arms.¬† I think down low, they are a very physical basketball team.¬† They are a little under‑sized, so they use their athleticism and their physicality exceptionally well.
They try to disrupt you, so when they take chances, you have to make sure that you take care of the basketball and find the openings.  And you cannot allow them, obviously, to rally you and get turnovers to get in transition.  They love the transition baskets. 

Q.¬† Just their three‑point defense in particular is very good, I think just No.1 in the country, and allowing just 21 percent.¬† Why is it good and what do you do, obviously you guys have hit some three‑pointers before.¬† What do you do to counteract that?
COACH VERSYP:¬† I think how we set screens.¬† We are changing that a little bit for this game, how they are setting greens.¬† I think if they are switching on on‑ball screens, obviously you don't have to take the 3s.¬† You can have a lot of slip‑cuts and look for other opportunities.¬† They trap on ball screens, so that's why they take away the 3s quite a bit.¬† But if you can get a good rotation, and allow that double‑team to be dragged out a little bit, you might be able to have a wide open look.
But, you know, they are very quick.  They close out well.  But again, we have played against some pretty tough defenses.

Q.  The way your team screens, how does that all come together?  Are players coming out of high school like the best screeners in the world, or is it a situation you take some time once they are in the college game to master that art?
COACH VERSYP:¬† Well, I appreciate that you do think that we screen well (laughing) because I don't think we screen.¬† No, what we do, young kids, fundamentals, they are not working on screening.¬† They are working on handles in their one‑on‑one game.¬† They are working on their offense.
It's just understanding and trusting the offenses and seeing where the good shots are coming and where the rotation is for offensive rebounding and those type of things.  But you know, we have some very good screeners and we have some that are just in an area (laughter).
No, we have done a good job.  We really spend a lot of time on it, and we always try to get better at what we feel might be a strength.

Q.  I think Brittany would defend that some of your post players do screen pretty well; you're getting some openings.  How has that process evolved for a shooter, working off those screens?
BRITTANY RAYBURN:  It's amazing, you come off a screen or a double screen and you're wide open and you're like, oh, okay, somebody nailed somebody because you can't see it when you're trailing behind it.
But obviously we work on it a lot in practice.  A lot of our plays have a lot of screens in it, and the people that are setting screens are doing a great job to get everybody open that's coming off of them.

Q.  Just wonder if you can talk about how far Brittany has come in her four years here, because I remember seeing her start down at Indiana as a freshman, I don't know if you remember that game or not.
COACH VERSYP:  Well, I think any player that comes in as a freshman, having an opportunity to play as many minutes, they are just going to continue to grow and develop.  They are very hungry as a freshman to try to learn and try to do whatever they can for their team.
You know, everybody knew that Brittany was a scorer, but as she's grown through her career, it's understanding the offenses, playing one through four, being a better defender, taking charges, anticipating defensively and a rotation or help side.
Her growth of the game, but her leadership skills have obviously developed this senior year all the way through.

Q.  What's the advantage of having the game here at Mackey?
ANTIONETTE HOWARD:  Playing at Mackey, like I said in many interviews before in my three years here, it's like nothing I've ever experienced before.  Just having that sixth man is incredible.  Our band is the top band in the country I think.
So being able to play in front of them I think motivates us a little bit more.  When we get a little tired, we look up at all of our fans and the band, and we just get that extra push that we need.  For me, playing in my last game of my senior year, I couldn't ask for any better than that.
BRITTANY RAYBURN:  I think our band is amazing and our fans are amazing.  We can come out of the tunnel and you can hear them, the uproar that they bring.  It's a great feeling; it really gets you going and gets your team going entering the game.  As seniors, I think we both are excited to be able to play again in the NCAA Tournament and to finish out the year playing at home and hopefully push us farther in the tournament.

Q.¬† Can you talk about your guys's transition defense and how important that might be tomorrow night against a team that's pretty athletic and would like to get up‑and‑down the court a little bit?
ANTIONETTE HOWARD:  Well, we have been working on transition a lot lately.  We just have to get back, find shooters in transition.  I think that was really important, especially the last game.  But especially being able to stop the post players in the paint because their post players do run the floor well.
You just have to find somebody.  You won't always find your own man, but as long as you find somebody, I think we can slow them down a bit.

Q.  Your team has nine players who have been in the NCAAs and this is a first for all of the players of South Carolina.  What advantage does that give you that most of your roster has been through this before?
COACH VERSYP:  Well, any time you have experience, just have a little bit more confidence.  Sometimes when it's your first time, you don't think about anything, and sometimes that's a good result.  But you know, when you have experience, you have confidence.  And again, playing at home, obviously that is a big advantage for us.  You know, so it's different every year because you have a different team.

Q.  Where do you fall on the screening pyramid here?
ANTIONETTE HOWARD:¬† I might be in between.¬† I mean, sometimes I nail them pretty good and others, just slide right by me.¬† I try my best but playing with Brittany and C‑Mo and KK, you want to set good screens where you can get them open, because you know they will knock down the open shot.¬† So, it's a process.¬† It's a process.¬† But I'm definitely working at it and‑‑
COACH VERSYP:  She does a good job.
ANTIONETTE HOWARD:  Well, there it is.  (Laughter).

Q.  Brittany, before Senior Day, with those activities, you kind of knew maybe it wouldn't be your last game at Mackey Arena, but this will be your last game at Mackey Arena.  Your thoughts and how important it is just to come out and play well?  Obviously you want to advance, but your long four years playing here at Mackey.
BRITTANY RAYBURN:  I think it's exciting.  You always want to play at home, and to be the last game, we are blessed to be able to play two more games here.  Senior Night was awesome, and we did have that in the back of our mind I'm sure that hopefully we would be able to play here a couple more games.
For it to be realistically coming to an end, I think it just gives us that much more incentive to want to play hard and get that win.

Q.  Have you had any interaction with any of the players since South Carolina back in AAU ball?  Do you have any experience against any of these players that you'll be facing tomorrow?
ANTIONETTE HOWARD:  I've played with a few of them actually.  Being in Georgia, you play with a lot of different players.  And so a few of them play for the Metros and teams all around Georgia, and, so yes, I have played with them.
They are very physical, competitive.¬† I remember in AAU days where we stayed after and played five‑on‑five.¬† So I know where going to be really competitive.¬† Everybody wants to win.¬† Everybody is going to get on the floor and get after the ball, so it will be a good matchup for us.
BRITTANY RAYBURN:  I personally have not met any of them previous to this.

Q.  With 13 days between games, were you surprised how crisp your offense was early yesterday?
COACH VERSYP:¬† I thought it started out crisp, but I also felt like we were a little sluggish, as in just getting up‑and‑down and playing a game.¬† When you don't play for two weeks, you can't really simulate that in practice.¬† So even the players felt when we came in at halftime, just had to catch that second breath.
And then after the first four minutes of the second half, then I felt like we were totally back to ourselves.  But I thought that they totally understood the game plan and executed it to a T; being able to score 16 points that quickly, we did a fantastic job that way.  But I think it was more getting their breath back and their legs actually playing the game.

Q.  When you had a chance to watch South Carolina play and also watch a little bit of some of them, what stood out about them?
ANTIONETTE HOWARD:¬† Like I said, they are very physical.¬† They get up‑and‑down.¬† I think their on‑ball defense is really good and they are really scrappy.¬† It's postseason, so really anything can happen, but they played like a team that wants to be in the tournament and they want to go far.
BRITTANY RAYBURN:  I think the biggest thing that I saw is they are mixing up their defense, really throwing out a lot of different things, and that's confusing to play against foremost team and I think that's the biggest thing we are looking at, trying to get adjusted to how they play defense.  And like 'Nette said, they are a very aggressive team and just something that we have to look forward to.

Q.  Which of the Gamecocks did you play against when you were in AAU ball?
ANTIONETTE HOWARD:  Charenee and Markeshia, I played against those two.  But like I said, many of the other players, I played with them actually in practice.  Some of the other players I played against on the AAU circuit.

Q.¬† Are these two teams similar in a way where it's a defense‑first approach, and how do you feel about your defense going against their offense tomorrow?
COACH VERSYP:¬† We feel pretty confident.¬† I mean, both teams are defensive teams.¬† Both offenses have said they have been inconsistent throughout the year, but I think ours has really picked up the last‑‑ over the last two, three weeks.¬† You know, so I think it's going to be a battle of defense, a battle of the boards in transition defense.¬† I think those are going to be the big key, and if a couple people can knock down the 3s.

Q.  Three common opponents, Auburn, Penn State, Illinois; gain anything out of watching those games, or too far back in the season to really gain anything?
COACH VERSYP:  We looked at those games as a coaching staff.  We showed them a couple clips of things that we feel that we could be successful with.  But you know, they are a different style team.  They have improved tremendously.  We have improved tremendously, changing little things defensively that they have done.  So at least we have seen what our other conference teams, especially Illinois and Penn State, has been able to do.
But right now, it's just playing the game.

Q.¬† When you're playing a team that plays defense from the 3‑point line as well as they do, is it just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities that you might have a little bit of space when they present themselves?
BRITTANY RAYBURN:  Yeah, I think the key for us will be being patient, working within our offense, letting things play out and really going to the shot clock a little bit and really be patient enough to let the holes open up for us.
THE MODERATOR:  Good luck to the Boilermakers tomorrow evening.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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