Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tennessee Postgame Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement by the coach and then go to questions for the student athletes.

COACH SUMMITT: Before our game started we talked about the importance of playing defense. And rebounding the basketball. And I've always believed that obviously rebounding wins championships. And today or tonight I think we saw the effort on the board was significant in this win. And our defensive play was obviously a difference maker. We have struggled to knock down shots. We struggle because Rutgers has a fine defensive system. And it was probably two of the best defensive teams in the country going at it.

Obviously the boards really separated us out and it was great to see us execute when we had to and be able to take some time off the clock and obviously get to the free throw line and make free throws down the stretch.

I am so proud of this basketball team. It's hard for me to put into words what they have meant to me personally, to our coaching staff, to the university, to our fans. They have just been one of the best groups because they decided they wanted to be good in the off season and worked really hard and came together and they have been very, very coachable and we have just grown as a team and obviously our goal all along was to win a national championship. I just felt like they were a team that did not want to be denied and they did what they had to do to make it happen.

THE MODERATOR: And questions for the student athletes first.

Q. Candace, you said all along that this was never a one woman team and sometimes we didn't believe you. But Nicky Anosike's 16 rebounds and Shannon's four three pointers and Auguste's play off the bench in the first half and all those 3 points by Shannon, is this the best proof that perhaps Tennessee could have given that this was a whole team effort?

CANDACE PARKER: All year it's been pick your poison. I think if you take one option away we have four others and I was just proud at how everybody came together and fought and made corrections and adjustments and we just took it to them.

Q. Candace, can you just describe your feelings overall? Did they kind of just run the gamut of everything from joy to relief, I would imagine too. I mean, this is a big thing for you to accomplish in your career.

CANDACE PARKER: This is something that we have wanted from day one. And we set our minds to it and Nicky said on the way over here, it's weird because we said take it one game at a time and we really did just that. Our focus was just one game and then the next and the next and then we looked up and we were in the national championship game. And I can't describe the feeling. It's amazing. It's something that we have all wanted and I'm just happy that we did it.

Q. Candace, about the 12 minute mark in the first half you started really calling for the ball. Did you see something and did you really want the ball to go through the low post to work your offense a little bit more?

CANDACE PARKER: Our philosophy is inside out. And I think that we did that. And it opened up things for outside. I know when we did shoot the ball from outside, Nicky did a great job of getting early position and rebounding and things like that. So we really tried to run the ball through inside out, whether it's paint points, whether it's us ducking in and posting, things like that. So it worked out.

Q. Candace, could you just specifically talk about their defense against you. I guess they had Carson and pretty much playing you man to man at the perimeter and maybe kind of switched off when you went in the post to kind of a zone.

CANDACE PARKER: We knew that Rutgers is a great defensive team so they were going to throw a lot of different looks at us. Sometimes they came out and doubled when we got the ball in the post. And sometimes they came out and zone. So I think we did a good job of just moving the ball and just finding the open person. Once we settled down.

Q. Candace, will you be back next year and how difficult of a decision has it been?

CANDACE PARKER: Yes, I'll be back. I answered it. I've answered like I have answered it a bunch. I'm coming back to Tennessee. I answered it like a lot, so I guess I'll just say it one more time. I'll be back wearing orange next year to hang the banner in 2007. So that's all I can say.

Q. Nicky, was there something in particular that you saw in Rutgers, was there a soft spot that allowed you to get position all these times and get all these rebounds, especially on the offensive glass?

NICKY ANOSIKE: No, I don't think there was anything like that. I just think that Coach said before the game, offense sells tickets, defense wins games, and rebounding wins championships. And that really just stuck with me throughout the whole game. And I just tried to go out there and rebound to the best of my ability.

Q. Sidney, being the senior up here, speaking for you and Dom and Elizabeth being seniors, what is it like going out on top like this?

SIDNEY SPENCER: It's definitely a dream come true. Right now the feelings are all surreal and I haven't really let it sink in, it hasn't sunk in yet. But, I mean, it's just amazing and I'm so glad for this team and all the hard work has really paid off.

Q. Shannon, talk about those sequence earlier in the second half, seemed like you hit a 3 pointer, got a couple plays that not just ignited your team but yourself, you get a steal, couple of just a that whole little fury there that really allowed you guys to separate and get some breathing room.

SHANNON BOBBITT: First, I would like to say God is good and I just took what the defense gave me. And I just wanted to leave everything out on the floor. And that's what I did tonight.

Q. Candace, can you tell me what was the first thing that went through your mind when you realized you guys were going to win?

CANDACE PARKER: Just I think that at first it was just excitement. Realizing that we won. Obviously relief, obviously, because we ever done so we worked so hard to get to the point where we're at right now. We're just really excited that we're national champs.

Q. Alexis, can you talk about just the commitment to offensive rebounding you guys made tonight and could you sense a frustration on Rutgers' part because of that?

ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: Well, I think Nicky said it best. When Coach said just emphasized that rebounding wins championships. And we have to allow ourselves to get second and third chances. We're not we hadn't shot the ball last night too well and we didn't really expect things to change. And if you go in like that, you're going to get the offensive rebound. Rebounding is not all about the height or who can jump the highest, it's about the heart and hustle and who wants the ball the most. And that's how we approached it.

Q. Shannon, Coach Stringer was a little bit frustrated that Epiphanny Prince didn't close down on you after you made one three and two threes, but she said the girl was shooting from four point range. You better get out there on her. Were you surprised that you wound up with that much room after you started getting hot?

SHANNON BOBBITT: I just definitely took what the defense gave me. I felt like I had enough room to release the ball. I stand five foot two, so I definitely got to create space. And I felt like I had enough space to shoot the ball and that's what I did.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. All five of you. Take questions for Coach now.

Q. Rutgers prides itself on their man to man. Were you a little bit surprised that they kind of fluctuated back and forth in the first half and the second half primarily went zone?

COACH SUMMITT: I expected to see some zone. I think that our basketball team just with our offensive execution versus man has been pretty sharp. And I really anticipated that we would see zone. We spend some significant minutes on just working and rehearsing all of our zone action. And because I told had our team even before the game, it won't surprise me at all if we see a lot of zone.

I think we'll see man in the initial stages, because with Candace Parker, in the offensive schemes that we have for her, she's much more difficult to defend if we're going against man. Because we can play her at all five positions. And get some good screening action.

In the zone, it's a little more difficult because they really packed it in. The good part of that is that's when Shannon hit her threes. I thought that was a key time in the game to really take some pressure off of us. And then our defense stayed where it needed to stay. But I wasn't surprised we saw a significant amount of zone.

Q. Do you think it's possible that next year we could see Candace elevate her game to a even higher level simply because she will have this whole pressure of winning a national championship off her back, she will have that relief and be able to play more freely even?

COACH SUMMITT: I think Candace is very serious about her game. So I think she will get better. I don't know that the pressure really affected Candace in a negative way.

I think she got a little frustrated today, but I think that had more to do with Rutgers' defense. We had some possessions where we really couldn't get her on the block. They did a nice job of playing from behind and forcing her out somewhat. And she's accustomed to and that came more in the zone than the man. And I think that probably caused her to face up more and fade a little bit in her shooting.

But Candace will be better next year because Candace is very serious about her game. And she's constantly working on it. And that's why this team sat here tonight and won the national championship is because of their dedication in the off season. And I just preach that over and over and over last spring before they went into their summer school that if you want to win a national championship, you're going to do it in the offseason.

Q. That said about Candace obviously not having a great offensive night, what does it speak to her maturity that she found open people, she rebounded, she did everything else despite her frustration?

COACH SUMMITT: I think that's a big part of her maturity as a player. A year ago she might have been more frustrated by not being able to be as efficient on the court and having double team action on her. Her composure this year is has been significant to the success of our half court offense when teams elect to double team her. It's like pick your poison if you're going to double her. She will find players and get the ball into the open hands and it's very unselfish in that regard.

I think that that's been a big part of her maturity and not getting frustrated. There have been some there were games early on that Candace got very frustrated because she would not only get double teamed, she would get triple teamed and people would really bring physical play against her. And she just matured as we have gone along and our schedule has had a lot to do with our success in post season.

We played North Carolina and having played North Carolina, I think that helped us on this stage. And obviously having played against LSU and the North Carolina team, I thought about going into this game against Rutgers, who they reminded me of from just a defensive standpoint and their ability, obviously, to run the floor and make plays, and those two teams came to my mind.

Q. You had said yesterday that you had been back so many times to this Final Four and you hadn't had the best player. Is that what happened tonight? You still had the best player, is that partially why you won?

COACH SUMMITT: I think Candace Parker is the best player in the country. And she makes everyone else better. And having Candace Parker, yes, you got a Candace Parker, you got a chance to win a national championship. But it's not because she's the only player on our team. It's because she makes everyone else better. And this team takes a lot of pride individually and being a part of the plan of attack and the success.

Nicky Anosike has great pride in her game. Alexis. Alexis didn't shoot the ball well in recent in our last three games in post season. But just her leadership. We needed her leadership. Shannon got open looks because I really think because they paid more attention to what was going on on the inside than the outside.

Q. Two things: One, Alberta Auguste in the first half and, two, while you talk about all your sets and all the things you played, a couple one on one plays, one by Alexis, and one by Sidney Spencer really there late went baseline and just kind of pulled up. Can you kind of address those, because those kind of separated you as well.

COACH SUMMITT: Well first of all, Alberta Auguste had a great game. She's had a great tournament for us. And she's I probably have been harder on her than anyone else on this team. Other than Dominique Redding. It's been Dominique and Alberta. As coaches I guess sometimes you just got the ones that you think you have to stay on. But the reason I stayed on the two of them is I knew that one of those two players had to be ready to contribute and contribute in a very positive way for us in post season. And Alberta was the one that had the biggest impact. And I think that she played with a lot of confidence and I kept telling her, I'm on you for a reason because I really think that you can make a difference. And if a Alexis is in foul trouble or if we want to go with our quickest lineup you're going to be on the floor. So obviously she did a great job.

Q. The steal and the

COACH SUMMITT: You know, I think that both those players understood that they had to step up and contribute. Obviously they had not shot the ball particularly well. But I thought that we got really aggressive when we had to be aggressive offensively, and those were big plays for us.

Q. From a personal standpoint, is this one a little sweeter or more special because of the time that had past since the last one?

COACH SUMMITT: Actually, no. And I'm just being honest with you. This is not about winning No. 7. This is about this team winning their first. And I think it's different for me now. And all I can tell you it was like another game. When I came here today it wasn't like we were playing for a national championship, it's like we went through our same routine. But my thought was, and I told them, we sat in the center court and in Stokely in our hot gym that we practice in, because we're not in our main arena. And I told them, I said, I want this so much for you all and our staff is going to work hard for you. My assistants have just been incredible in their preparation, their motivation, and just how they have helped manage the game as it went along.

But for me tonight it was all about helping this team. And that's why in our game against North Carolina I said we're not leaving here without a national championship because I really believe this team deserved to be national champions. And so it's, you know, it's obviously great for the university, the state of Tennessee, and our fans, and I'm proud, very proud.

Q. Given the parity that's gone on in women's college basketball in the last ten years, did you ever think it might be almost impossible to get that 7th one?

COACH SUMMITT: Well, I knew it was going to be difficult. And I think that it's going to be difficult to win another championship. Because there is more parity in the game. And certainly on a given night, I mean, if you're in the ready to play, in post season, you look at all of the upsets this year, and certainly I recognize the fact that you just can't count on it every year by any means. And we had some great runs at Tennessee. And obviously in '96, '97, '98, I don't know that we'll see that in the women's game again.

Q. When you pulled Bobbitt in the first half, didn't look like you were real happy with her. What did you say and how did it help turn her around?

COACH SUMMITT: I just wanted to get her focused on what we needed to do and I wanted a little bit more structure and leadership from her offensively. And I I think Shannon just really needed to kind of calm down. I think she was pretty hyped up. And she did a great job from that time on. And she wants she aims to please and wants to do exactly what you want her to do.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you. Congratulations.


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