April 4, 2011

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and student athletes Maya Moore and Kelly Faris. Coach, an opening statement.

COACH AURIEMMA: You know, it’s never it’s never easy when you don’t win your last game, because that’s kind of the thing that you remember going out on.

So I know how difficult it is for Maya and for [Connecticut senior guard] Lorin [Dixon]. And I just wanted to remind them in the locker room that when they were freshmen, the same thing happened to them.

And they end their senior year with the same outcome, but what happened in between is something that only the really, really, really fortunate can ever experience. And what Maya and Lorin experienced in the two years between their loss in the Final Four and the loss tonight is something that that’s what I’m going to choose to focus on when I think about those two, especially Maya. I’m going to think more about the best player in the history of the Big East and maybe the best student athlete in the history of college basketball.

And I’m not going to let her be defined by what happened tonight.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.

Q. Maya, about six minutes ago you sat down 12, about a four minute stretch there you went on about a 13 point run yourself. Just your thoughts that period of time when trying to cut into the lead.

MAYA MOORE: I thought we all did a pretty good job of really just trying to score, trying to find a way to win by just I was just trying to attack, trying to score.

The ball went in, so my teammates could do a good job of screening for me. And, you know, I was just focused at that time, just trying to score.

Q. Maya, those who have watched you for four years now know how you love to compete and how important winning is for you. Will it be tough for you to come to grips with the fact that your career ended this way, or will you be able to rationalize how things went in the larger picture?

MAYA MOORE: There are always positives and negatives out of everything. So like Coach said, I’m going to have to choose to remember the great things and really how fortunate I was to be able to be a part of so many record breaking seasons, games, whatever it may be.

It’s just tough that this is the current taste in my mouth right now, but we’ll deal with it.

Q. Maya, was there a helpless feeling at times in the second half? Seemed like no matter what you tried to do or got done. They just kept making plays.

MAYA MOORE: Notre Dame came to win. They came to play. Every single person that they brought in I think came in and did exactly what they could do.

So it’s definitely tough when we’re back on our heels a little bit on defense and they’re knocking in shots. Of course it’s going to take the wind out of your sails.

So that’s a defensive mental breakdown on our part. And when you’re playing a great team at this time of the year, if you don’t execute and play good defense, you shouldn’t win the game.

And I thought our defense wasn’t as especially my defense wasn’t as good as it needed to be to win this game.

Q. Maya, you’ve had an amazing career. As you look back on it, what was the pinnacle moment for you, and why?

MAYA MOORE: I love my whole time here. I can’t really pinpoint a moment. A lot of people would think the national championships, but there’s so much that goes into the national championship. It’s just the whole journey. The fact that I have a whole new family that I didn’t have four years ago is probably the highlight.

Q. Kelly, you played Skylar a few times, have been on teams with her. Talk about what you wanted to get done, what you saw from her, how she was able to take the game over when she needed to?

KELLY FARIS: Yeah, she’s a great player. Very smart player. And tonight she was hitting everything. She came out with the mentality that this wasn’t going to be her last game, and she carried her team tonight.

And, like I said, she knew when to get in the lane and when to pull up. She’s extremely smart with her body and how to use it and how to get on the line. And she reads her defender very well.

So when I was guarding her, I’m disappointed with the way I guarded her. I don’t feel like I stopped her the way I should have.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies. Questions for Coach.

Q. I just want to follow up on that last question. That was a pretty extraordinary performance by Skylar Diggins, the player who really controlled pretty much the entire floor. From your end, if you can just evaluate her performance and the fact that it didn’t seem like maybe nobody could have had an answer for her tonight.

COACH AURIEMMA: You know, in the first half you could see that there was going to be a problem guarding her the whole game.

But we did a pretty decent job on everybody else. And in the second half, we allowed her to get everybody else involved, and then it was not just having to guard Skylar, but it’s the plays that she made for other people.

And you know that’s what great players do. They take control of a situation, and she did. And I think because she played like that, some of the other kids made shots. They made jump shots that are tough to make, especially in this environment. And they made them.

Shot the ball with a lot of confidence. And I think that fueled some emotion on the defensive end as well. And I said going in, they’re an impossible team to play defense against. And we hold them to 26 in the first half. But then things just went a little bit awry in the second half.

Q. What do you make of what happened here tonight? There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to look at these two games and wonder what happened. What do you think happened here tonight?

COACH AURIEMMA: I think what happened is what happens in all not all what happens in a lot of NCAA tournaments, the team that plays better that night wins. Not the team that everybody puts on the board that is supposed to win.

That’s why I got a kick out of all season long about you don’t want to have to play Baylor and Stanford back to back, you better get the No. 1 seed so that way you only have to play one of them, not two of them.

The whole time I’m thinking these people are out of their minds. Like it’s a given.

I think what people have to understand is nothing’s a given. You play really well and you get a chance to win. You don’t play well, you lose. I don’t care whether you’re a 1 seed, 2 seed, the best player, not the best player, it doesn’t matter.

I think what this night proved was there are good teams, and those teams are not just named Connecticut and Stanford and Baylor.

Q. Coach, there was a 20 point swing in the second half in a 10 minute span. We accounted for seven points of that from Stefanie Dolson having to go to the bench with the fourth foul. Could you describe from your perspective just what happened, where the wheels came off?

COACH AURIEMMA: Well, I mean, we don’t foul. And in the first half we proved that. We just don’t. And we spent an entire year not fouling.

Then all of a sudden the first 10 minutes of the second half I guess we just decided to start fouling. And once we started fouling, then everything kind of fell apart for us.

Q. The two point play was a big part of Notre Dame’s offense in the second half. How much do you attribute to their ability to get the ball down low and just your team’s being out of position?

COACH AURIEMMA: Yes, once we got once we took Stefanie out we just didn’t have much of a presence physically inside, and they took advantage of that. They drove the ball into the lane and they forced us to make as Kelly said and Maya said, we made some mistakes defensively, and sometimes teams can’t capitalize on your mistakes. But Notre Dame did tonight. The last three times we have played them, we may have made similar mistakes but they didn’t make shots.

So today I think we lost our aggressiveness in the second half. I think in the second half, I think it was Maya Maya said that we played tentatively. We played on our heels.

We allowed the calls and what was happening to kind of affect the way we played. We lost we really did; we lost our attacking mentality on the defensive end.

And you can’t do that against Notre Dame.

Q. Coach, do you attribute the fact that you just couldn’t get that second score to Notre Dame’s defense, or just people like Tiffany just didn’t show up at all and you just couldn’t get that second score to give you some offense?

COACH AURIEMMA: Yeah, I thought Notre Dame you know, Notre Dame’s team, I thought, was really involved in the game. And I thought for us I think it happened in the Stanford game.

It might be the only other time that it’s happened to this extent. I think some of our players got caught up in the bigness of the game.

And, you know, Tiffany that’s kind of been her MO. You know, when she doesn’t get off to a good start, when things aren’t clicking for her, she kind of disappears on us sometimes.

And that happened tonight. And that’s something that we’ve tried to address with her, and she understands it. And I’m sure she’s probably more disappointed than anybody else that it happened tonight.

And [Connecticut guard] Bria [Hartley] played like a fighting little freshman, not really wanting to attack on the ball screen, not really it wasn’t until late, late that it looked like I saw somebody that wanted to make a play, instead of just hoping not to make a bad play.

And that’s why I said going in, you know, we’re a vulnerable team because you’re asking players to do something they’ve never done before. And Kelly played almost the same kind of game last year in the Final Four. And she was a real star of the game. And today, you know, we needed a whole lot more from her.

Yeah, one great player can’t beat a really good team. Not this time of the year.

Q. How good do you think both games were tonight for exposure of women’s college basketball?

COACH AURIEMMA: Well, I saw some of the first game, and early on it was apparent that unless Texas A&M lost the game that Stanford was going to be in for a dogfight. It was going to be hard for them to win because Texas A&M’s style of play and what they do to you.

So I thought it was a great contrast in that game between two completely different teams. And I think it played out that way. And, you know, A&M made some plays at the end to win it, as you’re supposed to at this time of the year. People want to see people make plays to win games, not people fail to make plays to lose.

I think that’s what’s exciting. And in our game, I think something similar happened. Whoever was watching the game saw Notre Dame kids make big plays and make big shots, and I think people enjoy watching that.

You know, whether anybody is disappointed that Stanford and Connecticut aren’t playing Tuesday night, that’s irrelevant. The two teams that played the best today and the two teams that deserve to be playing Tuesday night are the two teams playing Tuesday night.

And I hope a lot of people enjoy watching that game. I think it’s going to be a heck of a game.

Q. How do you think that game will turn out?

COACH AURIEMMA: How do I think the game will turn out? I don’t know that much about Texas A&M. Obviously, we don’t follow them and we don’t see them as often. But, you know, it’s difficult to put a lot of pressure on Notre Dame, because their guards are so good and they play so well together.

And A&M’s team thrives on the kind of pressure that they can put on you defensively, and I think that’s why everybody in the coaching fraternity knew they would give Stanford trouble with their guard play.

But I don’t know that you can do that to Notre Dame. And it will be interesting to see how it plays out, because you’ve got two teams with a lot of confidence right now that have beaten some really good teams up until Tuesday night.

And it’s not like one team snuck in and the other team, you know, is a heavy favorite. I think you’ve got two really good teams that are both playing with a lot of confidence right now.

So I’m anxious to see how it plays out. But I’ll be rooting for Notre Dame, obviously, because they’re in our league and I know them. And I like a lot of their kids and their coaching staff. Not to say I don’t like Gary. But I don’t. I don’t like Gary as much as I like Muffet.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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Connecticut Locker Room Quotes

Freshman Stefanie Dolson

On playing Notre Dame for the fourth time:

“Their defense was still as aggressive as it was the first few games. They just out toughed us. There was a point in the game where we had to make defensive stops and we didn’t. Defense is what got us here and when we needed to make stops, we didn’t. Maya stepped up and made some shots, but we needed more people to make shots besides her. They (Notre Dame) had a great offensive game today. They were attacking the rim and executing well. But at the defensive end, we let people get by us and didn’t help enough. But give credit where credit is due – they played a great game. No one was tentative for them.”

On lessons learned:

“A game like this just goes to show you can never give up. We gave it our all and it wasn’t enough. For those people coming back, we got something to take to the future.”

Freshman Bria Hartley

Overview of game:

“When you set a goal to win a national championship, and then work as hard as you can all year to accomplish that goal, and then you come up short of that goal, it hurts. I think maybe familiarity played a part in it. It’s hard to beat a team four times in the same season. Unlike the other games, defensively, we didn’t get the stops we normally do. They hit a lot of big shots and also made their free throws.”