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April 8, 2014

Geno Auriemma

Stefanie Dolson

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis

Breanna Stewart


UConn – 79
Notre Dame - 58

THE MODERATOR:  Joining us from Connecticut is head coach Geno Auriemma, Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda‑Lewis, and Breanna Stewart.  We'll open with a quick statement from Coach Auriemma, and then we'll take questions from the student‑athletes.
COACH AURIEMMA:  Well, there really isn't much that you can say when we have a performance like that where your players are just really locked into what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it.
There's just an incredible effort by the entire team, especially these three.
And there's been a lot of great moments at Connecticut and a lot of great moments in our NCAA history.  But especially for our two seniors and the way these guys played, I couldn't be prouder of a group of players than I am right now.
THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, Coach.  Questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.  Stewy, you said you wanted to win four titles.  You're halfway there, two Final Four MVPs.  What does it mean for you to have two titles in two years and a chance to win a couple more?
BREANNA STEWART:  I think to be able to have two National Championships under my belt, I think it means a lot.  And I think that each team has been different.
And I'm really happy that we could send Stef and Bri off on this note, and they deserve it.
And when it's time to get back to work we'll do that, but right now we're enjoying this moment.

Q.  Stefanie, the points in the paint tonight were, I mean, huge.  Probably as huge as we've seen in a title game.  What is it like being in the post, knowing that you could pretty much do what you want on that night?
STEFANIE DOLSON:  It's pretty nice, I gotta say.  Right from the beginning of the game we went in, took advantage of the size we had against them.
And right when we realized what an advantage we had, we just kept kind of pushing it at them, and we never really backed down.
Give a lot of credit to my guards.  They got me the ball.  Stewy, we got her the ball a lot in the post, too.  When we got it, we just did what we wanted and finished it.

Q.  Kaleena, can you just put in perspective, I mean, with all the stuff you've been through this season, to play as well as you did tonight and kind of just put that in perspective for us?
KALEENA MOSQUEDA‑LEWIS:  It's a great way to end my season especially the way, like you said, it started out.  And I just can't say how happy I am to be able to win it for Stefanie and Bria and for all of us to play the way we did tonight.  I think this is one of the best team wins we've had all season.

Q.  Stefanie, when I was out on the court, I talked to Breanna.  She said you and her had a conversation last night, and she said:  We've got you; we've got your back.  Did you feel like your teammates had your back tonight?
STEFANIE DOLSON:  Absolutely.  I knew from the beginning of the season that we were going to have a great team and that we had a lot of talent and a lot of potential.  And coming to this tournament I knew this team had both mine and Bria's back.  Coach really emphasized with them kind of sending their seniors off with the right note.
And I couldn't have asked for better teammates my senior year.  We had a ton of fun this year.  I'm proud to be with these girls, and I thank them every minute of that game that they helped me get the National Championship my senior year.

Q.  Kaleena, there was so much attention towards Breanna and Stefanie leading into the game.  At any point did you feel like you were the forgotten piece and you couldn't make a mark tonight?
KALEENA MOSQUEDA‑LEWIS:  No, I didn't know that.  I was just still on the team.
STEFANIE DOLSON:  We never forget her.
BREANNA STEWART:  She's an essential.
KALEENA MOSQUEDA‑LEWIS:  There's 11 essentials on this team.  So I think all of us just went into the game trying to contribute as much as we could.

Q.  Stefanie, can you talk about what it is with this program when it's a National Championship game, this program plays its best?
STEFANIE DOLSON:  I mean, there's not much to explain about it.  I think it's just you come into every year knowing you have one ultimate goal, which is to win the National Championship.  So you know when you get there you're so prepared that there's no other‑‑ there's no other ending than winning.  So you just go into it and you prepare all year.
I think a lot of people said we had a lot of pressure going into this game.  But when you're prepared, we didn't feel the pressure at all.  We went into it knowing we had this game.  We had a lot of confidence, and right from the beginning we just never backed down.  And I think it's something that every year every team does when you're at Connecticut.

Q.  This is for Stefanie.  You guys now have nine titles, and I wonder if you could talk about what it means to be one of the people who gives this to Coach Auriemma?  He's now the all‑time leading winner in terms of titles in women's basketball.  What that means to you?  And also to have it be a perfect season, kind of the cherry on top?
STEFANIE DOLSON:  Yeah, he's not bad.  He's all right.  I don't know if he'll say it or whatever.  But we're proud of him, and having nine national championships is such an amazing accomplishment, and for us to have kind of that two out of the nine seems like a small little piece, but it's a piece of history and a piece of a legacy that he has created here at UConn.
And seeing all the old players here back to kind of cheer us on in this game was something that I'll never forget.  It's just a family, whether you're here 10 years ago, three years ago, or now.  You're just connected.
You bleed blue.  But literally you're all connected as a family.  And it's something that not a lot of people can say they're a part of.  And obviously it's pretty solid, too.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, ladies.
Questions for Coach Auriemma.

Q.  You probably couldn't write a better script than for women's basketball and for you guys, 40‑0, perfect season.  When your ninth title break record with Pat in Tennessee, what does it mean‑‑ you said you weren't a numbers guy yesterday, but what does it mean to have No. 9, to cap off another season against another unbeaten team here in Tennessee?
COACH AURIEMMA:  I honestly believe this:  That where it happened, whether it's here or some other city, really doesn't have any significance for me.  That's never entered my mind.  When you get reminded of it all the time about what it means, you start to think about what it means.
And it means we've done something that no one else has ever done.  So you're flattered and you're grateful and you're all the things that come with this kind of accomplishment.  Of course.  That's not the driving force.  That's not what motivates us at Connecticut.
As Stefanie said, we try to do the right thing for the people that are there.  If it means winning a National Championship, great.  If you come up short, there were a bunch of ex‑players in the locker room after the game, and there were six players in there and four of them had played on undefeated National Championship teams.
As you start to look back, you see them sitting there, you're just more proud of the legacy that exists of what is Connecticut basketball as opposed to the number of championships.

Q.  Looked like you were a little emotional when you brought Bria and Stefanie off the court.  Can you talk about them and what this night meant to you in relation to them?
COACH AURIEMMA:  I probably haven't felt that except a few times.  But there's always a moment that kind of brings you‑‑ kind of brings you to your knees sometimes.
When Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson played their first game at Connecticut, it was win No. 79 in a row.  That's a lot to be thrown into as a freshman.  And the second game of the year was Baylor.  And then we went on to win that record 90 in a row.
And ever since that day, ever since that day they played their very first game, I can't think of two people that have given every ounce of their energy and everything that they possibly have to give for the basketball program and the people at the University of Connecticut.
That just doesn't happen very often.  So when they came off the floor, I think we all knew exactly what was coming to an end.  And even when it's as great as the ending was tonight, it's still coming to an end.  And it really hit me.  Hit me really hard.

Q.  In terms of game planning, it was very clear that you made a point of emphasis to go into the post.  And you knew Achonwa wasn't there, but I imagine even in your wildest dreams you could not have thought it was as effective as it was.  But specifically heading into the game, was that the point of emphasis, was to attack them low?
COACH AURIEMMA:  Yeah, it was.  We thought that there was some advantages that we had that whoever was guarding Stewy was going to have a tough matchup in the lane.  And Stefanie, the same thing.
They then changed up a little bit defensively and played the triangle and 2 where they were guarding Stewy hard and Stefanie hard‑‑ I mean Kaleena hard.  And as we spread those guys out all over the floor, then it just left a lot of openings in the lane.  And we took advantage of it.
But you don't go into the game thinking that you're going to outscore another team by 30 points in the paint.  You have an idea what you want to do, but kind of went back to some things that were working earlier this season, tried to get real comfortable.
We hadn't been shooting the ball great coming in, so the last thing we wanted was to come out here start firing jump shots.  And we knew we had to score.  We knew we had to get a good possession every time down, because they're so hard to defend.
Our defense today was unbelievable.  It was incredible.  I mean, to hold that team to 20 points in the second half, that's incredible.

Q.  Coach, if you could also address with Kaleena sort of the, I guess, emotional, mental, physical hurdle she's had all this season to play as well in the tournament and to cap it off tonight.
COACH AURIEMMA:  Earlier Rebecca asked me:  There's always themes that run through a season, and what was this one?  And I really think that K's season represented exactly what this was all about.  It started with the injury in the Stanford game and then all of a sudden we're down.  Now we've got to play without one of our best players.  And then she comes back and it's another injury.  And then it's mono then one thing after another.
I'm most proud how she handled that whole adversity; that for her to play her best basketball‑‑ we talked about it before the NCAA Tournament started.  I said if we're fortunate enough to play six games, these six games could wipe out how frustrating the other four months were.
That's exactly what happened.  She was unbelievable the entire tournament.

Q.  Coach, on Sunday night, Markisha Wright was the person who probably more than anybody, other than Kayla McBride, stepped up to fill some of the void left by Achonwa.  Tonight you held her virtually scoreless and I think two rebounds.  How much did that factor into your game plan containing her?
COACH AURIEMMA:  There wasn't any particular big guy that we were focused on.  I think it was more what were we going to do with their shooters, how we were going to guard Kayla McBride and how we were going to guard Jewell Lloyd and how were we going to guard when Mikaela Mabrey came into the game.
In the first half we did an okay job, then did a terrible job towards the end of the half.
We just knew we had to rebound the ball.  We knew we had to outrebound them by a lot.  Not by a little.  And because we scored so many points, I think Muffet had to go to offensive players on the floor.
So she probably played those other guys to try to get points on the board more often than the way they played the other night.  When points were just coming so easily, you can afford to have someone in there that maybe isn't an offensive player but is just going to crash the boards.
But Stefanie Dolson played the game of her life and got every rebound.  And that was the key.

Q.  Geno, you talked yesterday about how probably there are more eyeballs on this game because of the two undefeateds and perfect season the casual fan would watch it.  The last time I remember something like that might have been the Stanford game a couple years ago when it was 20‑12 at the half.  It seems tonight the first half was really entertaining, both teams scoring.  Big picture, do you think this may help what you guys are looking at maybe that could transcend the game and get more people interested?
COACH AURIEMMA:  I think the final score probably maybe, if that had been different, it could have been maybe even more.  But anybody who watched that first half had to really admire both teams, the way we played, how hard we played, both teams, how hard we competed.
I said this the other day:  Notre Dame's the best team we played all year.  No one else is even close.  And I knew it was going to take an unbelievable effort for us to beat them.
I told Muffet after the game, I don't think she got enough credit.  She won Coach of the Year.  But I don't think she even got enough credit for how her team performed all year long.
That was an unbelievable team we played tonight.  And we played about as well as we played at any other time in the season for sure.

Q.  Geno, this is Nashville's first time to host the Final Four.  How did the city do?
COACH AURIEMMA:  Well, it won't be the last time.  It won't be the last time.  We were talking earlier.  I know there were some circumstances that why they haven't been able to have one here earlier, but now that you've got the building, you've got the hotels, you've got‑‑ I could probably count 50 people that traveled down here with us that don't want to go home.  They said that they want to move down here.
And I think it's just perfect.  It's not overwhelming.  It's not a place you're going to get lost in.  You don't have to travel around for half an hour, 40 minutes in a car to go find stuff.  It's all right there.  And the people have been absolutely amazing.
As you knew they would.  This town has a great reputation.  I'm sure they host great events.  They're used to it.  And I hope this becomes a regular destination, and I hope we come back here.  I hope we're back here the next time they have it here.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.  That's all the time we have.  Thanks.
COACH AURIEMMA:  Thanks everybody.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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