Pre-Tournament Quotes

March 21, 2009


Oklahoma Head Coach Sherri Coale

Opening Statement
“We feel like we are in grand land here, and we are walking around looking for statues of the guy (Bob Stoops). With me are Ashley Paris and Danielle Robinson and I guess I’ll turn it over at this time.”

On Prairie View matchup
“The same thing that they have done to win nineteen games in a row. They are a very, very good sixteen seed. I think [Coach] Coop[er] has done a great job with them in terms of getting them to play hard for her, as Danielle mentioned, they buy into the way they need to play to be successful, and they do a lot of full-court stuff. They do a lot of trapping at the full court and at the half-court, they use their athleticism, they spread the floor and duck their heads and drive it at the rim, and are hard to contain. They do a lot of really good things and I expect that they’ll try to continue to do that. There won’t be anything new, necessarily at this point, I don’t believe anyone pulls out any new wrinkles. You do what you did to get here, and I expect them to continue to do that.”

On playing in Carver Hawkeye Arena
“I have not. I have never coached in this arena or brought a team here.”

On team’s 537 turnovers
“Well my immediate thought was, ‘did you add all those up or did someone else do that?’ Did Jared do that? Holy Moses. Please don’t ever give me the cumulative number ever again.”

“You know we have been a much better team this year in terms of handling the basketball. We have had a number of games in which we have gone into the final three minutes of the game with single digit turnovers and there have been games where we have not handled the basketball particularly well, Texas A&M would be one of those. We turned it over 29 times in College Station, and that’s a number that sticks out in my head. Obviously you can’t do that. But by and large, Danielle Robinson has grown up dramatically before our very eyes. As a freshman she played too fast almost all the time. She knew one speed and it was full gear, full go. As a sophomore she has figured out how to go fast, how not to go fast and to go at the speed that’s most conducive to her success. A big part of team turnovers really stems from that point guard position because they have the ball in their hands more than anyone else, and so her ability to get that in check has helped our overall ability, and you always think about ball security, because value and possession becomes even more important with every game down the stretch. So that will be an emphasis tomorrow and if we are fortunate enough to play again, it will be the emphasis the next night too.”

On Hand and Thompson injuries
“Whitney Hand’s hand is much better. She had surgery obviously and has come back and played throughout the Big 12 tournament, a little bit out of rhythm a little bit out of sync individually and then we were collectively [out of sync as a team]. I think you have to play your way back into that, and North Carolina and Thompson may have to figure that out too. We love having her back and I feel like that exposure, her getting to play game minutes for two games in the Big 12 tournament will pay off this weekend, because you can’t just snap your fingers and magically make that work, you actually have to be on the floor. She is slowing down a little bit and getting some rhythm back, everything she did in the Big 12 tournament was way too fast. That’s trying to play the four games you missed all at once. Amanda’s foot, now to finish that with Whitney, she will be fine. She is full go. Amanda’s foot is a little bit more precarious, we won’t really know, it will be a game time decision. It’s a tendon issue, an old injury that flared up before the semi-final matchup in the Big 12 tournament, and has been excruciating for a couple of days. It seems to be getting a little bit better, but it will be a game-time decision.

On Courtney Paris scholarship promise
“You know what, I think the important part of what we are doing right now, is trying to make sure we focus on prairie view. We are in the NCAA tournament, we are a No.1 seed and it is so hard to become a No. 1 seed, to earn the right to get that, and this team over the course of not really just the three months of our season, but really the entire year has committed themselves to working in such a way that we might earn this No. 1 seed. I would just like our team to celebrate that. I think we should all celebrate that, and understand that that puts us in a great position in this NCAA tournament, but that it promises us nothing. You have to play games along the way, and our focus is on Prairie View A&M.

On tempo in Prairie View game
“You know that’s a great question, tempo I think has been an issue for us all year, and I think that for really great teams, that’s key in playing at a tempo that you can be the most successful playing at. We play teams who have tried to slow it down, and that’s not particularly the way we like to play, and then we have played teams like A&M that get it going too fast, and that’s not particularly the way we like to play either. I think every team has a rhythm that is special and unique, and conducive for success to them. That will be the key. We don’t mind playing fast, we are fine with playing fast as long as we are playing fast in an organized fashion, so I think point guard play often determines a big part of that tempo, and I tell you what, I wouldn’t trade my point guard for anybody’s in America.

On Bob Stoops attending games
“Yes he does. And he is a fantastic supporter and we are honored that he is a part of our Oklahoma family. As good as it gets he is.”

Oklahoma Sophomore Danielle Robinson
On Oklahoma Turnovers
“For the most part it’s us getting sped up, and not doing the simple things that keep us away from turning the ball over, like not making a simple pass or just telegraphing stuff. Other than that, like I said, it’s just us getting sped up and not playing at our pace.”

Changes since loss to A&M
“I think it’s both [offensive and defensive]. We’ve worked on the pressure releases we needed to work on; we worked on getting stops on the defensive end, so I think it’s both offensively and defensively that we’ve been focusing on different days throughout the week…”–Coach Coale “…and rebounding. Did you guys forget that one? How could they forget? They blocked it out…pun there.”

Expectations of Prairie View to Press
“They do pressure. They full court press man and in a 1-2-2 sort of thing. They are athletic though, and I think that’s what makes them so good. They buy into what their system is, they know how to run their defense, and their athleticism also helps.

National Media Perception of the Tournament
“Also, I don’t think you can focus on the national media when it’s about your team and how you want to play throughout the tournament. That’s what it’s about…it’s about us being together and us playing how we know how to play and competing on the national level.”

Oklahoma Senior Ashley Paris
Loss in the Big 12 Tournament
“Well, obviously losing is tough and even though it might help us now, I think all of us would have liked to play in the Big Twelve Championship, but for the most part if we can learn from it, then it was worthwhile and a lot of the teams will pressure us similar to how Texas A&M did. If we can learn from it, it was worth it.

National Media Perception of the Tournament
“Obviously UConn is very talented, but we’re here to try and win and compete with them and hopefully get to a national championship and win it. We should all just go home right now if we just expect them to win it all.”

Prairie View A&M Head Coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke
Opening Statement
“Good Morning. We’re excited to be a part of the 64 teams that are still playing. We’re in the NCAA for our second time so we’re very excited. This is Gaati Werema and Candice Thomas. We have a group of top players on our team and I could only bring two, so these are the two that I selected. Both are juniors and they were with us when we won our first SWAC tournament championship and we went to the NCAA’s and played the University of North Carolina. Now instead of wide-eyed freshman, hopefully they are serious and focused juniors. We’re excited to be here. We feel like we’re up to the challenge of playing Oklahoma in the first round and we’re looking forward to the game.”

On the excitement of the tournament’s challenges
“I view all opportunities as a challenge and this is definitely a challenge that I’m excited about. We played a tough preseason schedule, especially the SWAC tournament, just to prepare our players. We’ve seen Kia Vaughn out at Rutgers and we’ve seen other post players from teams like San Diego State and Purdue. We’ve seen several post players as strong and agile as Courtney (Paris) and I think we’re going to be as prepared as we can be. I think for the most part we have an uphill battle. We’re playing against a very tough Oklahoma team and we’re going to go out and execute our game plan on both ends of the court.

On adjusting from being a player to being a coach
“One of the biggest adjustments for me was to recognize that the players didn’t see the game and think the game like I did as a player, so I had to realize that I had to take a couple steps back and teach from a different level. Once I realized what their needs were, it was my job as head coach to fulfill those needs and try not to focus on me as a player and what I would do; it was more me as a coach and what my players and my team needs. That was probably the first adjustment that I had to make, but I’ve had to make adjustments the entire time. I’m a young coach and so one of the things that I had that some players don’t necessarily have is intensity. I was so intense in practice and in games that I had to realize that not every player is me and not every player brings that level to practice and sometimes not even to the games. Those are just some of the adjustments that I had to make.”

On changing the mindset of a perennial losing team
“I think my team has already changed their mindset in the first year. I think you change your mentality with experience and we’ve experienced a lot of success not only in our conference but in the preseason and I think that those experiences have changed the mindset of our players as well as the teams that play against us. Teams that would have welcomed a game three seasons ago, we find it very difficult to schedule those teams now. I see that as a very positive thing and not a negative thing, so my players have grown. They’ve changed their mentality. When you bring in the kind of players that want to win and are willing to do whatever it takes to win, then you’re able to teach them and transfer some of your mentality to them because as a player I was successful and now as a coach I’d like to be successful.”

On the quote from Courtney Paris
“Initially when I heard it was from ESPN and I thought, ‘Wow, what kind of respect does this girl have for her team and her coaches and her university and I thought it was awesome that someone would respect her team and her university so much as to say, ‘hey, you guys brought me here to win a championship and if I don’t do it, then I need to give you your money back.’ At the same time, I thought it may have been a bit unnecessary because I don’t think she meant it to get all of this media coverage. I really thought she just meant to make a statement that, ‘Hey guys, I really enjoyed my time here, I respect you all, I love you, I’m going to pay it back to you if we don’t win a national championship.’ I thought it was unnecessary because Courtney has done such a tremendous job for Oklahoma that I don’t think she needs to pay the money back. I think the fans, the school, and her coaches appreciate what she and her sister and the other players have done for them over the years. Courtney, I’m letting you off the hook. Don’t pay that money back girl, they love you anyway.

On the challenge of playing against Courtney Paris
“There are two goals for her: first limit her touches then second, we cannot allow Courtney to get the position she wants, when she wants it, where she wants it. We’ve got to limit her touches and limit her getting deep in the lane and getting those positions that she prefers. It’s been tough for every team that has faced Oklahoma, so we will be no different. You have to limit her touches, then you have to box her out. You can’t let her get those easy put backs and let her get on her double-double streak that she’s been on.”

On Courtney Paris’s accomplishments
“What Courtney Paris has done for the NCAA has just been tremendous. She’s really been a great ambassador for women’s basketball all over the world. I think every player respects what Courtney Paris has done because they know how difficult it is to achieve those goals. To be 30 rebounds shy of having 2500 points and 2000 rebounds, I just think that is a tremendous feat and she’s done a tremendous job all throughout her career. It is difficult to play in the Big 12. For any player to do what she’s done is an accomplishment. She’s just done a tremendous job and I look forward to her getting out of the NCAA and into the WNBA so we don’t have to play against her again.”

On the game’s tempo
“As a team we press, we’ve pressed all year long, we pressed during preseason and we pressed during our conference tournament. I’m not sure how we’re necessarily going to attack them; well I am sure I just don’t want to tell you guys! I know one thing that I don’t want to do, I don’t want to over think this game and I don’t want to start doing things that we’re not used to doing. We want to stick to what we do best. We want to defend, when we defend we want to rebound and after we rebound, we want to run. That’s what we did to win our tournament championship and that’s what we want to do this game. We’ve defended all season long and this is the one time that you want your best defensive team out there, so this would be a heck of a time to have a great defensive game, so that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

Prairie View A&M Junior Candice Thomas
On their tough non-conference schedulev”It gave us a lot of confidence. In a lot of those games we were in there from the beginning until the end and I think now playing against Oklahoma we’ll use a lot of that experience in this game.”

On Oklahoma Senior Courtney Paris’ Championship Guarantee
“I heard about it from a friend, she called me and said that she guaranteed a championship, but my friend said they have to go through us first. We’re just going to go out there and play our hardest and if we play our best game and they play their best game and they win, then that’s the end of it.”

On stopping Oklahoma’s offense
“I think we have to come out and just stick to the defensive plan the coach has given us. If we just come together and play defense as a team and help and rotate for each other, I think we’ll do well.”

On playing for Head Coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke
“I think it’s a great experience. Since my freshman year, I’ve learned a lot from her. Growing up, she was one of my favorite players, so now I try to listen to everything she says and I know she won’t tell me anything wrong. I just keep trying to listen and play hard.”

Prairie View A&M Junior Gaati Werema
On their tough non-conference schedule
“Those games definitely enabled us to realize our talent and how much we can play with other teams no matter what anybody says about us. A lot of times in the second half, we realized that and picked up our level of play. Throughout the whole season, we gained even more confidence and we’re just ready and pumped to play.”

On Oklahoma Senior Courtney Paris
“In our conference, haven’t seen anyone like her. We’ve played people her size, but not with that much talent for her size. Outside of our conference, we encountered a lot of big girls we had to deal with. We believe in our coach and her strategy against her.”

On Paris’ Championship Guarantee
“I heard about it prior to the selection and I feel like that’s her opinion. More power to her. We’re going to come out here and play fearless and how we know how to play and if that’s the decision she chooses, then good for her. We’re ready.”

On stopping Oklahoma’s offense
“Throughout the season, one of our goals has been to keep our opponents below 60 points and we’ve been very successful in doing that. This shouldn’t change just because we’re playing the University of Oklahoma. Like my teammate said, we just have to listen to our coach’s advice and follow instructions and we should be successful no matter who the opponent is.”

On playing for Head Coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke
“Foremost, it’s a wonderful opportunity because we see where she is and where she has been, and as a collegiate athlete we are all trying to get to that level, and that right there is a privilege. It doesn’t allow us much room to slack off because she knows as a former player when we are putting forth our utmost effort, so we don’t get away with much. It’s definitely a great opportunity and as long as we listen and pay attention to the details and the things she tells us to do, we’ll be very successful.”

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