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March 29, 2014

Cierra Burdick

Isabelle Harrison

Meighan Simmons

Holly Warlick


HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Well, excited to be here.テつ Just looking forward to seeing all the teams play, obviously.テつ Our first‑ and second‑round games were challenging, but figured out a way to win and now we're here.

Q.テつ Coach, just kind of give me your general impressions of Maryland, what you've known about him, what the scouting reports have revealed about them and what kind of challenges you feel like you'll face?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Well, I think Thomas is one of the best players in the country.テつ They're very well coached.テつ They're quick getting up and upanddown the floor in transition.テつ They've got a young point guard that's very good that's doing a great job of leading their team, and I think they're one of the best rebounding teams in the country.テつ It's going to be a battle of wills on the boards because I think both our team and Maryland are athletic and they rely a lot on second‑chance points.テつ They follow a game plan.テつ They're very well coached.

Q.テつ As a follow‑up, is Thomas probably the most physical rebounder that you've seen?テつ Can you compare her to some of the SEC teams?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Yeah, I think she is.テつ I think she goes to the boards hard, and I think that's from her athleticism and just‑‑ that's how she plays the game.テつ She has a knack.テつ There's kids that just have a knack to go to the boards and they're always around the ball and rebounding.テつ She's one of those kids.テつ So yeah, I think she does‑‑ the SEC for us, it's physical, it's strong.テつ We rely a lot on our rebounding opportunities, and I think she fits that bill.

Q.テつ Going back to the SEC Tournament, the two games in Knoxville, you guys are 5‑0, but slow starts. テつCompetition is going to get tougher.テつ How much of a concern are the slow starts, and if it is a concern how much is it addressed with the team?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Yeah, we talk a lot about not quick‑shooting the basketball, and this team seems to be a slow‑starting team.テつ It's been that way all year.テつ But I'm more concerned how we end it.テつ You know, I think we had to get a little settled down.テつ It seems to be once we get settled in, we play our game, and I don't have an answer to why we're getting off to a slow start just as a matter of quick‑shooting the basketball and giving up quick scores from the other team.
But they've got a resilience about them, and they don't panic.テつ Now, I'd love for us to get out to a good lead and keep it.テつ That would help my nerves a lot.テつ But you've just got to go with it, and hopefully their focus will be early and get off to a better start here.

Q.テつ Holly, Thomas is probably one of the most versatile players you've coached against.テつ Who is going to match up?テつ Who will draw the defensive assignment on her?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Well, I think starting off with our starters, it would probably be Cierra, it may be Andrea, Jasmine Jones, Jordan Reynolds.テつ We're going to put a variety of people on her, Bashaara Graves.テつ I just don't think one person can guard her the whole game, and so we're going to mix it up and put different people on her, obviously put our best defenders on her.

Q.テつ With Meighan Simmons, who is she as a basketball player now compared to the kid who first came to Knoxville four years ago?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Yeah, well, we were just talking, Meighan started her career here.テつ She was a freshman and had a start, and we opened up the Yum! Center against Louisville and she had a great game.テつ I will say this:テつ I think we all know Meighan came in from high school as a scorer and known to shoot the basketball.テつ I've watched her game develop and grow, and I think she has come to understand and learn the game of basketball, and she's getting so much better on the defensive end.テつ She's become a really good passer, and I think Meighan now has a lot of trust in this basketball team.テつ I think Meighan in particular this year, at the beginning of the year, felt she was the lone senior, felt like she had to do everything, had to do it all, and I think now she understands that there's some ladies on the basketball team that want to help her, and it's changed her kind of whole demeanor or outlook of this team and her play, and so I think I can say now that Meighan is becoming a complete player.

Q.テつ Did you talk to Nikki?テつ Have you talked to her since she made the tournament, too?テつ Have you guys had a chance to talk or have you been too busy?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Well, we played phone tag last night a couple times, and then she called me with 10 seconds left during the game, the Tennessee game, so I didn't take her call.テつ What is she doing?テつ Is she not watching the game?テつ But we've gone back and forth, and I talked to her before the first and second round.テつ I know I'll kind of hook up with her today.テつ Proud of her.テつ She's taken a team that's depleted and injured and has done a great job.テつ I know this is a tough place to play.

Q.テつ You were talking about Meighan's maturation.テつ Your team in general, this is familiar territory for you.テつ Where do you feel like they are now compared to last year's tournament team?テつ Where do you feel like they're growing, and maybe with having those two tough games, where do they kind of grow from that?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Well, you know, we're a year older, and we're still young as far as playing time.テつ Isabelle Harrison was‑‑ she's a junior, but this is really her first year of being healthy and getting an opportunity to play.テつ We've got freshman point guards and Cierra Burdick is now getting playing time, and Meighan is probably our most‑seasoned player.テつ Bashaara Graves is a sophomore.テつ I think we're more mature.テつ I think we understand that we've got to do.テつ We're a more focused team.テつ We're a together team.テつ We've spent a lot of time together off the court getting to know each other and understanding that we have obviously different personalities, but we've got to trust each other on the basketball court, and I think what we've done off the court has helped us tremendously in our success on the court.
I think that the SEC has prepared us and has challenged us in just about every aspect of the game as far as it being athletic up and down, physical, going against zones, going against mans, getting pressed.テつ I just think that we're at a better place, and we feel a lot better about each other.
You know, and I probably‑‑ they're more comfortable with me.テつ I mean, last year is the first year as the coach, and maybe I'm more comfortable.テつ I've been there but haven't coached in NCAA Tournament games.テつ I think I've evolved, as well, just along with the team.

Q.テつ You mentioned watching a men's game last night and the last 10 seconds, and I saw that you guys posted some video of the girls watching it.テつ What has this run been like for both of you guys?テつ How have you fed off of each other?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Well, our team, the men's and women's teams are very close teams, and I personally have a lot of respect for Cuonzo and what he's done and how hard he works and what he makes his guys do.テつ We feed a lot off of each other, and the whole community is excited when both teams are playing well.テつ It gets our fans fired up when the guys do well and vice versa.テつ I was hoping they could move forward, but just really proud of them, and we ask our group if we wanted to watch the game together, and we didn't hesitate.テつ We spend a time of lot with them, and I know our players spend a lot of time with the guys, as well.テつ Great run.

Q.テつ Going back to what you were saying before about spending time off the court, anything specific?テつ Is it like movies, more dinners together, just taking in activities like that to kind of bring them together?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ Absolutely.テつ Well, I had said this earlier.テつ We made a decision last year to move everybody back on campus, number one.テつ That was the biggest thing for us.テつ We moved everybody back on campus.テつ We put them in the same dorm.テつ You know, they were spending time together on the court, but when they left, they were going different directions and staying in different places, so we thought it was important for them to live with each other and be around each other, and so that was probably our first step.テつ We've done a lot of team building.テつ We've stayed up in the mountains and did a ropes course.テつ We do a lot of dinners together.テつ Especially when we're on the road, we eat every meal and we do everything together.テつ You just get to know a kid and they get to know you away from the basketball court, and I think that's where we've changed our philosophy as far as we want to be around our kids as much as possible.
I want to know what's going on with them outside of basketball, and I want to have them in an environment where they can actually sit down and we can have a conversation, and it's not a‑‑ there's no pressure.テつ We're just sitting around talking.テつ That's the environment we've created, and I think it's paid dividends for us.

Q.テつ Cierra has been such a consistent player for you rebounding.テつ Her offense has been kind of up and down.テつ What is her role right now in your offense, because she just came up with a big game against St. John's.テつ How do you see her role?
HOLLY WARLICK:テつ I just want Cierra, like you said, she's so consistent, and she's one of our best rebounders.テつ We talk a lot about her, getting rebounds and controlling the boards.テつ Cierra has a beautiful shot, and when it's going in, Cierra is the type of player that you think, man, I don't really see her playing, and she has, whatever she had, 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and you're like, really?テつ So she's that type of player.テつ She's just kind of a utility player for us, and when we need something big she seems to come up with a big lay‑up, a big rebound.テつ She's been very consistent for us.

Q.テつ Cierra, Alyssa Thomas for Maryland is probably one of the most versatile players you've ever played against, and Holly said you would start out on her defensively.テつ Did you draw the short straw or how did you get that assignment?
CIERRA BURDICK:テつ Well, I think we both play the same position.テつ We play similar.テつ She's a great player.テつ I have a lot of respect for her.テつ But I think my teammates and my coaches have done a great job of preparing me for the assignment that I'll have at hand.テつ I've watched some film on her.テつ I know her tendencies.テつ Our practice players have done a great job of playing similar to her.テつ So I'm looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead of me.
I think I'm prepared.テつ I think my teammates will have my back and will be able to limit her touches like we want.

Q.テつ Obviously the Final Four is the goal, and I'll say for any of you to answer this question, you all really need to kind of just get over that hump, what thing did you look back on last year or past trips here and think if you can do that we can get over that hump and get to the Final Four?
CIERRA BURDICK:テつ Just looking back at last year when we were defeated by Louisville in that Elite 8, the feeling we had, I still remember it to this day.テつ It was an awful feeling because we were so close.テつ I think we should have won that game.
From the day after that, 360 days from yesterday is when we got knocked out by Louisville, so these past 361 days we've been working for this moment, for these next two games, to get over the hump, to get to Nashville.テつ That's been our goal, that's been our dream, and I think we've put in the time.テつ I think we've done what we needed to do, and now it's just a matter of executing and playing our ball.
MEIGHAN SIMMONS:テつ I think it's just, like Cierra said, that feeling, that gut feeling of knowing that we were doing everything that we could.テつ We fought back.テつ Our huddles were so tight.テつ We were communicating with each other.テつ We never one time got negative in the game.テつ We stuck together.テつ I think it's just one of those things where we just have to continue to tell each other to never give up, to push for 40 minutes straight until that clock hits 0:00 and not letting up if we do get a lead, not letting up, and just continuing to have that fight, and this team is completely different from last year's, and I think we just need to just go out and give 110 percent if we want to get to a Final Four.テつ That's what we need to do, each and every one of us have to give 110 percent.
ISABELLE HARRISON:テつ I think we just need to focus on our next game.テつ We can't get to where we want to go if we don't focus on the game at hand right now.テつ I think in years before, we've to the Final Four, but we can't overlook who we're going to play next, and I think if you take every game as a full 40 minutes and take advantage of that and know that they have to play Tennessee, and once we get that confidence about ourselves and know that we're coming to the gym to play and play our hardest game, I think it's going to be the turning point for us, and definitely last year was a terrible feeling.テつ I remember thinking this time next year, remember how it felt, and you don't want to lose again, so we've been having that bitter feeling on our shoulders for a while.テつ Now is the time, and we can't back down from it.

Q.テつ Isabelle, Holly said you guys watched the men's game together last night.テつ That must have been an emotionally exhausting experience for you the way the game went?
ISABELLE HARRISON:テつ Yeah, it was a terrible turnout because I know how hard those guys work and how much it would have meant for them to go even further in the tournament.テつ You just don't want to see it happen to a group of guys like that.テつ You don't ever want the refs to call a game for you, especially when it comes down to the last play like that.テつ That's why it's important to play the full 40 minutes and kind of dictate where you're going to go, don't let it be in the hands of the refs.テつ I think the guys did a great job this year with Cuonzo and the rest of the team.

Q.テつ Meighan, Holly was talking about your first game as a freshman was in this arena.テつ Can you maybe think back to then, that day, and just the transition from freshman to senior year and maybe your emotions then versus maybe your emotions tomorrow?
MEIGHAN SIMMONS:テつ Oh, man.テつ My adrenaline is still‑‑ is flowing like from walking into the arena and just having flashbacks of where we were sitting to the locker room that we were in to the hotel we're staying in.テつ I mean, everything is just coming back to me.
I just remember being very, very nervous.テつ I didn't know whether or not I was going to play.テつ I didn't‑‑ I had so many different emotions, but I knew I was confident enough that if I did get out there and play, I would give my 110 percent.テつ Just now the feelings are a little bit different because there's something else that's at stake.テつ I want to finish my career trying to get to a Final Four and just take it one game at a time.テつ I'm just trying to enjoy this moment and just that feeling of being here, and this is the first time opening in the gym, this is their first game, as well, but I remember Pat telling me be confident in you, and everything else will fall into place.テつ When I put you out there, I expect you to give me your 110 percent.テつ I will never forget that that game was just something I will never forget, and I just played my hardest, and I didn't want to lose that game.テつ I didn't want to let her down, and for my teammates, for Cierra and Izzy, just for speak for them, I don't want to not give my 110 percent.テつ Being the only senior that's what I have to do, and I want to take them to a Final Four just as much as they want to take me to a Final Four.

Q.テつ Meighan, when you look at the teams, you've got Maryland, yourself, Louisville, we're talking about teams that can score.テつ How do you kind of‑‑ when you face a similar team that can score, what has to give?テつ What kind of things do you have to do on defense to really kind of negate that, especially with Maryland being a top 20 team in scoring?
MEIGHAN SIMMONS:テつ I think just for us, I think it's just playing as if we're playing against us.テつ Everybody on our team can score at any point in time.テつ I think it's just a matter of who's going to want it more, who's going to play harder, who's going to get the 50/50 balls, who's going to be more gritty, have more of a swag and attitude about them that when they do get out there on the floor everybody is on point and everybody is clicking together.テつ Like I said, it's just a matter of‑‑ everybody is going to try to score, it's just a matter of who's going to want it more and who's going to do the dirty work besides just scoring, like getting the rebounds because we have excellent rebounders, getting to the free‑throw line and just continuing to attack out there on the floor.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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