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NCAA WOMEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: OKLAHOMA CITY


March 30, 2013


Taber Spani

Holly Warlick

Kamiko Williams


OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA

THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll start with head coach Holly Warlick, then we'll take questions from the floor.
COACH WARLICK:テつ Excited to be here obviously.テつ Our team has worked extremely hard to get to this point.テつ We, as everybody else, have dealt with injuries, and we're young.テつ But that has not played a part in our struggles.
We have I think the majority of our team, everybody back, except one young lady, excited about that.テつ Really love this team.テつ They work hard.テつ For coaches, that's half the battle.テつ As a coach, you want to be able to coach and not coach effort.テつ For the most part, I've not had to coach effort this year.
Excited to be here in Oklahoma City.テつ Everyone has treated us very nicely.テつ We've been here before.テつ It's just a great place to play.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you, coach.テつ We'll take questions from the floor.

Q.テつ You talked about being here before back in 2008.テつ Pretty eventful regional.テつ What do you remember from that weekend?
COACH WARLICK:テつ Well, we won, so...
Had Candace Parker.テつ She dislocated her shoulder.テつ We won.テつ You can't forget that opportunity we had here.
Yeah, great crowd.テつ We played Texas A&M in the finals, so...
Very eventful for us.

Q.テつ Can you talk about the journey this team has been on just to get here, the ups and downs, what has made it such a special ride so far.
COACH WARLICK:テつ Sure.テつ Starting our season off with a loss on the road to UT Chattanooga.テつ When you look at our schedule, I know as coaches it made us very nervous.テつ First three out of the four games were on the road.
I think this team, they've worked extremely hard in practice.テつ We've had to deal with injuries, but we just seem to keep going and different people step up, just play different positions.
Kamiko Williams has played anywhere from the 1 to 4 position because we had to move around.テつ We start off ranked 24.テつ We've just played with a chip on our shoulder.テつ As I said earlier, when you play hard and you have a lot of effort, great things happen.
I think our practices have been very competitive.テつ They listened.テつ Haven't had to coach effort.テつ I think they understand the importance of hopefully now defense and rebounding.
We're an offensive‑minded team trying to teach them to play on the other end.テつ So I think they bought into it when we got into our season.テつ And I tell you, I have an unbelievable staff.テつ When I got hired here, the first thing I thought was important was to go out and get the best staff I think for the University of Tennessee.テつ I went out and got Kyra Elzy, Jolette Law, Dean Lockwood stayed.テつ It's amazing how my staff has formed relationships with the players, has a great knowledge of the game, obviously great recruiters.テつ But we put a lot of time being around our kids.
I think it has paid benefits for us.テつ It's a fun team to be around.テつ We get upset with them every once in a while, but they are a fun group to be around.
I think we've put in time and a lot of effort in giving them confidence.テつ I think it's paid off.

Q.テつ Holly, defensively this team has not always gotten it.テつ You've talked about that.テつ The last game against Creighton you said may have been the best defensive performance of the year.テつ After that result, can you sense this week in practice maybe the team is a little more excited about practicing and learning defense than they have been prior?
COACH WARLICK:テつ I hope so (laughter).テつ Every time I get up here, I'm preaching defense and rebounding.
I do.テつ The worst thing we did in defense is we couldn't guard the three ball.テつ Creighton was second in the nation shooting the three ball.テつ Something had to give.
I think they understood that like Texas A&M, we had a great offensive night, but we couldn't stop them.テつ So I think after that loss, then what we had to do the first and second rounds, I think they get it and understand that we have to play on the defensive end.
You got to make stops.テつ I mean, Meighan Simmons can score 20 points, but if her player scores 30 points, it's not helping us.テつ I'm just using her as an example.テつ Any of them.
Just try to make sure they understand the importance of defense and really team defense.テつ You got to lock your player up, but it is a team defense.テつ I think they're getting it.テつ It's only taken the whole year, but I hope we got it.

Q.テつ Coach, I know you're not inside Oklahoma's locker room, but as you watch film and digested them, talk about what you see that make them go.テつ They weren't really expected to still be playing at this point.
COACH WARLICK:テつ I think they were motivated to get back here to play, number one.テつ I think they're extremely resilient.テつ They're dealing with a ton of injuries.テつ But I think Sherri is a great coach and they play hard.テつ I don't care if they're dealing with five people, six, seven, eight, they play extremely hard.
She's got them representing Oklahoma.テつ At this point you got to be doing something right to get to the Sweet 16.テつ I think Ellenberg has stepped up her game.テつ I think McFarland stepped up her game.テつ I think they play extremely well together and feed off each other.
I don't care what their record is.テつ It's survive and advance, and that's what they've done.

Q.テつ What are your advantages in the matchup tomorrow, what advantages do you have?
COACH WARLICK:テつ Well, we've got a little bit more players to play, number one.テつ I think with Isabelle Harrison back, it really helps us inside.テつ Really takes a lot of pressure off of Shaar Graves.テつ I think we've got quick guards.
Our thing is we tend to quick shoot the basketball.テつ I just think we've been seasoned and have all different styles, so I hope that we're ready for their style and how hard they play.テつ I want to make sure we match their intensity.
It has been really good to get our big kid back just because we needed a different presence inside.
I think Izzy has brought us a lot of confidence since she's been back.テつ I would hope that we'll use our inside game 'cause of our height and our physicalness.
I hope I answered your question (smiling).

Q.テつ Holly, whether it's you, Sherri, any women's basketball coach, there's a very good chance you're going to have at least one ACL or some tough injury.テつ On the women's side, it's almost like you have to go in with the mindset of I know we're not going to have everybody we start off with.テつ How much of that has to be a mindset that you never let be a mental block for you?
COACH WARLICK:テつ Well, it is.テつ You have to have 15 people on scholarship because you got to count on, unfortunately, injuries.テつ We got into the NCAA, I've got to where we didn't go against each other a lot.テつ Any kid that hit themselves and fell down, you get nervous.テつ I think at times your philosophy changes when your numbers are down.テつ You don't want to make contact but you still have to keep them in shape.
You have to understand, like this year, Isabelle had two knee injuries and hurt her ankle.テつ Cierra Burdick broke her hand.テつ Kamiko Williams sprained both her ankles in one game.テつ I don't know how you do that, but she did that.
It's just part of our game across the board.テつ It's part of the game.テつ I think as coaches, I know for our team, we're going to recruit more players so we have enough to play and play the way we want to play.

Q.テつ Holly, I don't know exactly where to go with this question, but I'd like for you to reflect on succeeding a legend.テつ It's not easy.テつ Are there easy parts of it that you like very much or difficult parts that are difficult?
COACH WARLICK:テつ Well, I think if you think about it, it's difficult to follow a legend.テつ I just don't let myself go there.
Pat was my coach.テつ She was a mentor for me.テつ Now she's a great friend of mine.テつ So I see Pat in a different light than probably everybody else, which is a great thing for me.
She's still around.テつ I still love her around.テつ I want her at every practice.テつ I talk to her daily.テつ But I can't let myself go there.テつ When I think you're coaching at the University of Tennessee, following Pat Summitt, it blows my mind a little bit.テつ So I don't let myself go there.
I think there's one thing that stands out for me that Pat taught me, is you surround yourself with great people.テつ I think when I got my staff, administration, on down to assistant coaches, I allowed them to do a lot.テつ That's what Pat afforded me.テつ She let me do a lot of things.
So I don't feel like it's me, it's all me, and I have to make every decision, because Pat didn't make every decision.テつ She taught me that.テつ So it's a group effort.テつ It's a team effort.テつ That's how I look at it.
I just try to focus on every game, each game at a time.テつ I still use her as a resource.テつ I'm thankful that she was a part of my life as far as teaching me her philosophy and what's important in basketball, what you need to focus on.テつ I think that has helped me in that transition.
But I think probably what's difficult has been not having her in the light that I'm used to seeing her, her sitting there and watching our team.テつ But it brings to light for me knowing that she is there and I still have her to bounce things off, and our kids still have her around.
It's been a great ride for me and a great opportunity.テつ It has been tough, as well.テつ So it's a little bit bittersweet.テつ I just relish every day she's with me and the opportunity to still have her on staff.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Coach, thank you very much for your comments and best of luck tomorrow night.
COACH WARLICK:テつ Thank you.
THE MODERATOR:テつ We're now joined by our student‑athletes, Taber Spani and Kamiko Williams.テつ We'll take questions from the floor for our student‑athletes.

Q.テつ I know that you guys were chosen by SEC coaches to finish fifth in the SEC.テつ I know your coach was just in here and said she feels like you're just now getting completely invested in defense.テつ With that in mind, how did you go 14‑2 in the SEC?テつ What allowed you to sort of take off as a team?
TABER SPANI:テつ Well, I think I do agree that we're just starting to kind of finally buy in completely.テつ I think during the SEC, we would have some really great spurts of defense, but we just wouldn't be consistent.テつ I think with a young team, consistency, being able to sustain that for 40 minutes was something we had to struggle with.
I think offensively our ability to push the ball.テつ We were scoring pretty much between 75 to 80 points a game.テつ I think that helps you.テつ But I think the fact that now we're buying into defense is just going to hopefully make us all the more dangerous.
But I guess it's the fact when we could turn it on, we could turn it on.テつ With a Sweet 16 appearance like this, you can't do that.テつ I think we're finally buying into that.
KAMIKO WILLIAMS:テつ I mean, I completely agree on that.テつ I think also, too, we watch film, watch our bad clips where we can learn, and we watch our good clips on what helped us defensively win that game.テつ We go back with our practice guys and do it on the court.
We're winning games.テつ Like she said, offense has helped us.テつ Especially Coach Elzy stressed that defense was the key to the game.テつ We won the first two rounds, we're about to play a good team, four players scoring in double‑digits.テつ We're buying into it.テつ I'm pretty sure in practice we're going to prepare for it.

Q.テつ Can you both talk about how tough it will be to slow down Aaryn Ellenberg.
TABER SPANI:テつ Well, we have a lot of respect for her.テつ I've watched her throughout her career.テつ She's a great flat‑out scorer.テつ She's not limited on anything on the offensive end.テつ She's going to get a lot of attention from us, we'll key in on her and limit touches.テつ When she does catch the ball, make sure we're in her space and pressure her because she shot the ball very well up in Dayton.テつ We're going to have to understand that.
We'll adjust throughout the game depending on how it goes.テつ But she definitely has our attention and we respect her a lot.
KAMIKO WILLIAMS:テつ I agree with Taber.テつ At the same time coming from a defensive mindset, I'm probably going to be the one guarding her, I'm going to have to not get discouraged.
Just constantly staying after her, don't give her space, try to limit her touches, keep my confidence in guarding her.テつ I think that's going to be key.

Q.テつ You mentioned you were playing a great team.テつ I don't know how many people would have said that about Oklahoma two weeks ago, a month ago, six weeks ago.テつ Do you really see a great team, and how do you make yourself continue to look at them that way so you bring your best game?
TABER SPANI:テつ There's 16 teams left.テつ At this point, especially if you won two in a row, you can get hot.テつ When you start winning and gaining confidence, every team is dangerous.
I think, you know, collectively we haven't watched a ton of film on them from the entire season.テつ But what they're doing right now, that's what's making them great.
As for us playing them tomorrow, that's all you can focus on is the here and now, how they've been playing lately.テつ They have great players.テつ They have great elements.
In the last few weeks, they're starting to really gel and come together.テつ Like I said, we haven't seen their earlier season, what was going on, but right now, they're kind of starting to find their way.
So whenever you have great talent, great players like that, a great coach who has been to a Final Four, has experience like that, then you have a team that's dangerous.
KAMIKO WILLIAMS:テつ Like what Taber said, they have more than one option they go to.テつ A lot of teams we play, there's one or two people we have to focus on.テつ They have a lot of people that can score.テつ That means more than one of us will have to play defense.
Like she said, they just have more options, a lot of elements, a lot of people they can go to.テつ There's 16 teams left, they're one of them, and they're in our way.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Good luck tomorrow night and thank you very much, ladies.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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