Tennessee's quotes from pre-Notre Dame news conference
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “Obviously, I am very proud for our team. Thank goodness we had a second half yesterday instead of just the first. I thought we came back at after halftime and did a great job defensively – on the boards and just sharing the basketball. I am proud to see them close out that half.”
Q: You guys have been hearing these fire and brimstone speeches at halftime all season. Coach Summitt got a lot of mileage out of you guys yesterday. The speech is on ESPN and they keep showing the high points. How was this halftime speech different than others and from your recollection was this the most fire and brim stone one you have heard?
TABER SPANI: “Obviously coach wanted to motivate us at halftime. She, as well as us, don’t want to get to that point in the future where we have to have a halftime like that, but she is one of the greatest motivators in sports. After that speech we came out and played a lot different in the second half, and we needed to.”
GLORY JOHNSON: “The less talking at halftime the better. It just shows us that we need to talk to ourselves and each other and be more positive with each other.”
Q: Was this speech any stronger than some of the others you heard this year?
GLORY JOHNSON: “It was because the fact that she said everything in the second half has to be positive. She was telling us she had faith in us and we needed to stay positive. We needed to forget the negative things like turnovers and carry on in the second half with a positive mentality.”
Q: The fact that Notre Dame has played Tennessee 20 times and never beaten them; will it mean anything additional to them to be the first to beat you guys?
SHEKINNA STRICKLEN: “It would be important to any team to be the first to beat Tennessee. For them not to beat us, we need to buckle down and play great defense and play as a team.”
MEIGHAN SIMMONS: “We need to use speed to our advantage and be able to take care of the ball when we need to. As long as the post players do the work, that will open up a lot of options for us.”
Q: The bench was such a big part of the game yesterday and has been all year. How do you prepare yourself when you don’t know when you’re going in and then you are called and it is time for you to perform? What goes through your mind?
ALYSSIA BREWER: “Mental preparation is done before the game. You have to be ready whenever coach calls you to put you in the game. Having that mental preparation is one of the biggest factors. You have to be ready anytime and know that we just have each others’ backs and continue what was going on on the floor or even bring a bigger spark to the court.”
TABER SPANI: “Our depth is such a great advantage for us. Whether we are in the game or not we have to be ready because we can be put in for extended minutes whenever. We have had so many different starting lineups and so many different players have played key minutes. Like Alyssia said, it’s a mindset and going forward we all have to have that mindset.”
Q: Yesterday, Notre Dame was very impressive in beating Oklahoma. They got on them early and never let up. What concerns you the most about Notre Dame?
SHEKINNA STRICKLEN: “Watching the first half of the game, we saw Notre Dame came out really strong. They were penetrating and knocking down 3-point shots. Our defense is key and we need to be able to stop penetration and locate where the shooters are. We struggled in that against Ohio State. They (Ohio State) got a lot of 3-points shots off. The key is going to be locating the shooters and contesting the shots to make sure they shoot bad shots.”
MEIGHAN SIMMONS: “Like coach says, we need to have our hands up in the passing lanes and play good defense, non-stop. We need to close out long instead of closing out short and be able to get rebounds and box out all the time
ALYSSIA BREWER: “It’s going to be a fight between two teams that have the will to come out with the win. It’s whoever has the biggest heart.”
GLORY JOHNSON: “Transition is key – their guards are quick and have a speedy transition. We need to match-up early and slow the ball down in transition. If we can do that, I think we can be pretty successful.”
TABER SPANI: “At this point, everyone is good and everyone wants to get to the Final Four. It all depends on who wants it more and who is going to go out and take it. It comes down to who asserts themselves and is going to be the dominant team.”
Q: Alyssia, can you talk about the inside game and how big a factor physical play is going to be?
ALYSSIA BREWER: “I think it will be a big factor, but we have the size and advantage on the posts. We are going to play how we played yesterday and use our attributes and I think that will be a big key in the game.”
Q: When you first came off the bench knowing you have limited minutes, was there the need to impress and try to do too much?
ALYSSIA BREWER: “No. I have always been the person that will do whatever is asked and what needs to be done. I will do whatever for this team. Personally, I don’t think it matters if you start or come off the bench. You are going to play a big role no matter what. The five people on the court are the people that have to get the job done. I go out with the mentality that I have to get the job done and get the rebound or score. I don’t let coming off the bench rattle my mind.”
TABER SPANI: “You understand that it’s a match up game. We are such a diverse team and we can put in bigs or come out quick, so we understand that we need to be ready to bring what you can to the game. However many minutes you play, you just have to go hard and that is a mindset the entire team has.”
Q: Meighan, can you reflect on your freshman year and what you learned during the course of the season?
MEIGHAN SIMMONS: “I did a lot of learning to be patient. My teammates are always getting on me to get back on defense or go for the rebound and little things like that. My shot selection has gotten a lot better. Just being able to have the mindset to be a leader out there on the floor is important. Also, as a point guard having a good vision on the floor is key.”
Q: Can you talk about the important of being able to locate Devereaux Peters?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “She was a key to the team in the Oklahoma game. I know our scouting reports going to reflect that. I think they have good balance and are a good team. They are mindful of their defense and board play and they share the ball very well. I was very impressed with them.”
Q: I realize its 2011, but the history of Notre Dame having difficulty with Tennessee is still there. Looking back at your career, can you talk about a team that Tennessee maybe had trouble getting over the hump and beating them?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “There have been a lot of teams – like when we play Stanford – which I think about the previous match-ups with that given team. We play a lot of teams outside of our conference so there will not be the unknown as we go through this tournament. That is the good part and the reason we schedule the way we do. We don’t schedule to win every game, but we schedule to get better. We hope to learn a lot from our team and our opponents.”
Q: Do you think their coach will use that to inspire them by saying look this would be the first time Notre Dame has beat Tennessee?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “Absolutely. If I was in the situation, I would do the same. I think for us, we have to take care of what we do best. I was so impressed with Notre Dame’s play and I know our team took note of everything. I think tomorrow is going to be a great game. If we don’t bring our defense and board play and take care of the basketball, it could be a tough night for us.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Notre Dame’s play? How will you stop all that penetration they did against Oklahoma?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “We will mix up our defenses and switch a lot. Switching helps keep people in front of us. Notre Dame does a great job of getting paint points and attacking the base line. Our defense must be first and foremost the toughest part of our game. We need to slow them down and take away any penetration into the paint. Heavy help is going to be important as well and we work a lot on that.
Q: You really got a lot of mileage out of that half time speech, but you have made a similar speech a lot of times this year. Was this speech any harsher than any of the other speeches?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “It was a little more desperate. At that time, our coaching staff was desperate to get this team to step up and do what they had to do. A lot of it came from they hadn’t been there and hadn’t been at this level. This team has a number of players that hadn’t gotten past this game and it was important that they got past this. We needed to get everyone to step up and not be concerned with a turn over, but just get back and hustle. We needed to get everyone committed and talking. I thought that after halftime, they took that ownership and you hope they’ll take it all the time.”
Q: ESPN is showing the fire and brimstone part of the speech, but your players say you were encouraging them in a positive manner. What do you think your speech was like?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “You aren’t going to beat them down. You are going to challenge them and inspire them. You tell them that certain things are unacceptable when trying to win a game at this level. I was upset initially, but immediately you have to give them the confidence and the direction they need to do the things that are most important for us on the floor.”
Q: It seemed like yesterday that Skekinna (Stricklen)’s performance took you all to the next level. How important is Shekinna tomorrow?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “As she goes we go. Yes, Glory has great energy and Shekinna is a little more laid back. Sometimes I think I have to pull her out and get her step up her game. I tell her she is an All-American and she needs to play like one. She responds to that and when she does she gives everyone else confidence and energy. We need both those. This group of people has not always had the confidence or been as invested, but now they have reached a different level.”
Q: Can you talk about the inside match-ups and if you think Notre Dame can be physical against Tennessee?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “They can be physical. From the opening tip they were aggressive and physical. I hadn’t seen that up close. Just sitting there watching that, I was very impressed. They have toughness and they really share the ball. They have size and skill, but they really get the ball out of their hands. I also like the guard play and how they play off the dribble. That’s a hard thing to defend, but hopefully we can be prepared for that.”
Q: Are you concerned about the match- up with Meighan and Notre Dame?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “I have a lot of confidence in Meighan. Initially, she never saw a shot she didn’t love and still probably hasn’t. The one aspect of her game that has really improved is her defense. I can tell you I’m just glad we have Meighan at Tennessee because we don’t have a true point guard and between Meighan and Kamiko we have managed to get through. Hopefully we can continue to have the confidence and commitment.”
Q: What are you most pleased with in their development throughout the season? Is there an area that still is a concern?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “A concern that is always number one in my mind is ball security. They need to take care of the basketball. Our advantage is our depth and our inside game. Although, we are changing our line-up a bit, it is by design. We are trying to go a little more mobile against Notre Dame. I think our mobile players will be our most effective.”
Q: What are the intangible things Megan has brought to the team?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “She makes everyone else move at a different pace. If you are going to keep up with her, you better start early. She goes a hundred miles-an-hour at times and we have to calm her down, but when she does she forces everyone else to go at a different pace up and down the court. Her defense improvement has also triggered other people to step up and defend. She came in as a freshman and started, but our team has been open to that. They don’t care who starts as long as everyone gives their all.”
Q: Can you talk about the match-up between Skylar Diggins and Meighan Simmons?
HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: “They are both great players and athletes. They have toughness and I think it’s going to be one of the best match-ups to watch. I myself cannot wait to watch it. You have to appreciate what they both bring to their teams. I can’t imagine us not having Meighan and what she has brought to Tennessee. I’m sure Notre Dame feels the same way about Skylar.”