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March 19, 2012

Markeshia Grant

Dawn Staley

Aleigsha Welch


South Carolina – 72
Purdue – 61

COACH STALEY:  Just very happy for our team.  You know, it was a very hard‑fought battle.  Purdue gave us everything that they had, and I thought our players took their hits and kept on moving‑‑ not literally hits, just making baskets, making runs.  They were an incredible opponent.  The atmosphere was incredible.  So I appreciate all they've done to put object a great first and second round.  Fortunately for us we played well enough to steal a win on their home court.

Q.  Just seemed like the game plan was just to keep attacking, keep shooting.  Was that pretty much the mentality going in against a defense that was tall he than you?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  The game plan was to get it inside, if not attack the basket.  We're good at getting to the basket and we can use our speed and quickness.
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  And also to get them in foul open up the game for us, so just to be able to drive the ball in the paint and if their post players came up to dump it off on to get post touches and just really play our game, and when you have a good inside game, that opens up the outside game, and that's what it did for us tonight.

Q.  Do you think they were ready for the kind of physical game you presented to them tonight?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  I think they're a really physical team, so I'm pretty sure they were ready.  They're known to be physical in their conference, and we're physical in our conference, so I think it was a well‑fought game on both sides.
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  Just like she said, they threw hits at us, we threw hits at them.  We fought, and we knew that we had to come out here and be physical and play our game because they are a physical team, no doubt about it.  They come out, they play hard.  They wanted this game just as bad as we did, so we knew we were going to have to out play them because we were on their home court and they did have that advantage.

Q.  Markeshia, can you just talk about what it means, Sweet 16, you guys are going?  What does that mean to you?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  It means so much to me, especially because I'm a senior, and I've worked so hard just to get to this point, and growing up you always see the Tennessees, the Stanfords, the UConns playing at this level, and just to see what we did was just incredible, and then this is the first time Coach Staley has ever been to a Sweet 16, so it's even more special.
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  You know, the same thing.  Me being a freshman, it's just everything I saw throughout the recruiting process coming true.  I saw a lot in this team that I loved, and I knew that we could be a great team, and we're just going on and we're proving it practice by practice, game by game.  We've done a lot of successful things this year, but the run is not over.

Q.  Can you talk about the poise which you played with?  They tried to apply pressure, you guys just didn't seem to panic.  Obviously you had a big bucket inside and then the emotion just erupted.  Can you talk about the panic‑free basketball you played with?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  It started in practice.  I think we were well prepared.  Our coaches prepared us very well, so we're used to this environment, and we play in the SEC and we fight day in and day out.  We're used to it.
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  I think all the coaches do a good job of just calming us down when it is the heat of the moment or they have the crowd on their side.  They do a good job of telling us to calm down and play our game.  At the end of the day if we play our game we know we can compete with any team.  Just being able to handle it because like they said, game in and game out, it's nothing we haven't seen before.

Q.  It was rather warm in the arena this week and tonight.  Was it warmer than it was on Saturday, and also, how did you guys deal with that?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  It was quite warm, but we stayed hydrated.  I took some electrolytes before the game and stayed hydrated in timeouts when I came out.  I was warm.
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  And they made sure we were drinking fluids at all times having wet towels, just making sure we stay hydrated because this wasn't the type of game we could afford to have somebody come out with cramps and being dehydrated.  Everybody, the managers, the coaches, the bench, did a good job making sure we stayed hydrated and stayed on track.

Q.  At this point in the year making it to the Sweet 16 knowing you had to turn up the defensive intensity against these guys, would you say this was your best game as a team so far this season?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  I would it was one of our best.  I would say our best was against Tennessee just because it was the first time in history we had ever beaten them at Thompson Boling.  This match was one of the greatest games we ever played.
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  I agree with her.  We played great team basketball, and that's the thing that we go out and strive to do every night.  I wouldn't say it's our best team effort this year, but it's definitely up there in the top three, top five, but being that the stage was so much higher, I think it's one of the best we've had of late.

Q.  Can you both talk about the team's elevated play?  I know you sorted hinted on it, but offensively‑‑ we know what you can do defensively, but offensively we've seen such an outburst from you in the last two tournament games that we really haven't seen down the stretch of the season from you girls.
MARKESHIA GRANT:  I think we're just being confident and executing a game plan.  As I said, we talked about going inside to the post, and if they weren't getting it, we would drive.  I think we're just getting confident with what we're doing.
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  And defense has been our staple for the whole season, so we know that we can bring defense night in and night out, but when we bring both to the table, defense and offense, I think we're a really hard team to beat because when we're making buckets but also getting stops that's the best of both worlds.  I think we're starting to click more.  We are starting to click more now, and we are getting up shots, we are getting up good looks, and we are hitting shots.  When we have the defense that we bring every night and then also bring out a consistent offense, we're really hard to beat.

Q.  I know coach has a 24‑hour rule.  Do you think she'll let you celebrate this a little longer?
MARKESHIA GRANT:  I think she will but we've got to get back to class tomorrow, so classes first.
ALEIGHSA WELCH:  I think we might get like 26 maybe.  We've got to go ahead and look forward to the next game.  Right now it's just win or go home, so we can't really dwell too much on this win.  We'll celebrate it for tonight, go into tomorrow, but once it's back to practice we've got to prepare for the next team we've got coming up.

Q.  Markeshia alluded to it, but can you talk about what it means as a coach to make it to the Sweet 16 and also what it means to the program, first time in ten years?
COACH STALEY:  Well, obviously this was a game in which in my coaching career I could never get over the hump.  Part of the reason was at Temple I thought we were a player or two away from being able to get over this hump and get into the Sweet 16, and I think that the coaching, coming to this University of South Carolina, being in a position to play against some of the best talent, the best coaches, I think it prepares you a lot better when you play in a bigger conference and you're able to recruit a different type of player.
So I'm very happy what it does to our program.  Does it legitimize our program?  To a certain degree.  I think our program has been through so much in the past four years that I'm very happy because it goes to show that we've done it the right way.  I don't think we've cut corners.  I think we stood by our principles, and our kids really bought into the process of doing things the right way, so I'm very happy, and they as student athletes, especially our seniors, will be able to go on when they leave the University of South Carolina and know if you do things the right way, success will come your way.

Q.  I have to ask, what was going through your mind as you saw the clock winding down and the zeros finally?
COACH STALEY:  Well, the clock could not wind down any quicker.  I was looking at it wanting the time‑‑ Coach McCray and I always give each other a little look to speed the clock up, and it wouldn't go down any quicker.
But just very happy.  You know, just very, very happy for our players, very happy for our coaches who have worked extremely hard to put our players in a position to be successful.  It's a happy time.  It's a great day to be a Gamecock.

Q.  Those two games in Indiana you've really shot well, put up a lot of points.  How do you take that on the road with you to Fresno?
COACH STALEY:  Well, we're going to keep doing what we're doing.  I think our preparation has been good, our focus has been good, and I think the fact that we're not playing inside our conference.  When you go outside your conference you're seeing a little different competition.  They don't know you as well as some of our conference teams, and I think we find some mismatches on the offensive end and we're able to capitalize on them.

Q.  Coach Versyp talked about what was different in this game for them was when your forwards pinned their forwards back on rebounds, usually they were getting the calls in the Big Ten and they weren't getting them tonight.  Did you get a sense at all that that was a little different and is that different in the SEC, how that usually works?
COACH STALEY:  Well, I mean, we have to play a certain way.  We're smaller.  I think our post players, my hat goes off to them because they give up inches and pounds every single night, so we try to do things to offset some of the deficiencies that we have.  You know, I mean, we've done it all year long.  I thought they did get a couple of calls in the second half when it came to sealing.  But for us we can't change who we are and what we've done to get us here.

Q.  Sort of a two‑part question.  Can you talk about the poise with which your team seemed to play in that second half?  You got the lead and Purdue kept trying to punch back.  Also talk about how you have so many different players who seem to step up in key moments when you need the most?
COACH STALEY:  Well, I think part of the reason we were so poised, we've been working with Ieasia Walker for the past three years and running our basketball team, and I think she played probably her best basketball game as a point guard, just controlling the tempo.  She took shots and took advantage of taking shots.  She was aggressive offensively.  She D'd up defensively, so I think she had a lot to do with how poised we were down the stretch.
What was the second part of your question?

Q.  Just the depth of your team.  A lot of different players seemed to step up at different moments when the team really needed someone to take control.
COACH STALEY:  Well, all season long I think we've been that kind of team, it's just this particular weekend I thought all of our players rose to the challenge, and I think we were just hitting on all chords, Markeshia, La'Keisha in the first half, Ieasia in the second half, taking advantage of what was given to us and just knocking down shots.  We haven't really been that efficient, but we were efficient tonight and we rose to the challenge of beating a very good Purdue team on their home court.

Q.  Have you had a chance to speak to your team?
COACH STALEY:  I spoke to the team.

Q.  What did you tell them?
COACH STALEY:  I told them I thought they were special.  They executed the game plan incredibly.  I've said that a lot this particular year, but to do it on this stage, a stage which they've never been, was incredible, because we fought with them, they fought with us, and I think they finally get to see when they stick to a game plan at this stage of the game, they find some success.  I know they're going to listen a little bit more, okay, they're going to listen a little bit more because when you find success in something, it's tangible, and they're tangible kids.

Q.  I asked the players about that 24‑hour rule we always talk about.  Is it going to get an extension?
COACH STALEY:  We're going to enjoy it.  We are going to enjoy it from a coaching standpoint.  But we do have to turn a page.  We have to prepare.  I think Stanford won.  Stanford will be our opponent.  We're already halfway through the scouting report with that.  We are going to enjoy it.  We've enjoyed the journey thus far, so we will continue to do that, but rules are rules.

Q.  Halfway through already?
COACH STALEY:  Meaning halfway through enjoying this moment.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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